I never was an animal person. It's not that I dislike animals it's just that because I didn't grow up with any I didn't understand them. Aside from two dime store fish named Tex and Rudy that my younger sister and I owned briefly - for many years we were a petless family of four.
It wasn't until years later did we all realize what we were missing. When I was away at college my freshman year, my mother suffering from empty nest syndrome back home took things a bit too literally. At Thanksgiving I came home to a cardboard box by the woodstove in our kitchen housing three chicks and a duck. By Christmas my parents had purchased a jet black Chow puppy. Come summer vacation I was afraid to come home. I couldn't imagine what would be waiting for me next. A cow? Some ugly snake? Who knew.
In my previous relationship, my husband at the time decided to buy a cat so I (me - the person with no pet experience) wouldn't get lonely when he traveled. Somehow convinced this was a good idea, I went with him to a house in the country where a woman was selling kittens. I watched as he reached his long arm into a cardboard box of kittens all looking quite cute but sort of like how I thought of other people's babies. Cutest for an hour or two and then it was time to go home. He decided to pick one, the wildest one in the bunch. The orange tabby male that clung most to his arm trying to scratch and bite him and I thought to myself...great. When we got back to Brooklyn I got a call from the woman who sold us the kitten. She was crying because she 'missed her baby'. I thought the woman was nuts but I listened politely on the other end of the phone.
It was a good cat. Well. Maybe not good. A loving cat but a wild, knocking over the garbage and the flowers and the magazine pile devilish type cat. It was a cat meant for the country not the urban indoor life of Brooklyn. It felt cruel never letting the cat go outside. Not to mention the fact he grew into a HUGE cat - just enormous the kind of cat you'd bring to the vet and everyone working there would go 'WOAH'.
When our marriage broke up the cat went with him. I told him to take it because I didn't want him to get lonely. During the break up a friend reminded me of years ago - the night before our wedding when I was trying to sleep and awoke repeatedly to the sound of the cat crunching on something. At the time I flicked on the light and was finally able to catch the cat in the act. It was chewing on a tiny wooden box of Guatemalan worry dolls a friend had recently picked up for me on a trip and had given me the night before the wedding. A sign? Perhaps.
All I know is that in the midst of the breakup I felt pain and loss on so many levels including my loss of having a pet. Somewhere along the line had I turned into that woman that had sold us the kitten way back when? Maybe. Pets are amazing and on some level when you bond with them they are like your babies. You get used to their funny little quirks and they yours. They give you little signs for everything. As crazy as it sounds, I had a bond with that cat and the two of us had a little routine that was different from the one it had with my ex. I felt guilty when I passed him the cat carrier. I felt like a mother having her child ripped away from her.
When I moved in with E he and Jane - his orange tabby female had been living together for many, many years. Believe me. Jane let me know this was the case. At first, Jane gave me the cold shoulder and liked to remind me who was boss with a few scratches here and there. Now it's hard to believe that was ever the case seeing how we seem to love each other equally. When I come home she runs to the door. When I sleep a minute over my alarm she jumps up and lets me know it. When I am sick she curls up right next to me. When I am cold or sad she licks my cheek and rubs her head against me. She lets me pick her up and spin her around while singing crazy songs. She even lets me call her stupid names that make me laugh and E cringe such as 'Fluffy' and more recently 'Bobby Christina' (child of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston).
Watching all the Katrina coverage has been devestating on so many levels. Hearing a best friends tales of her missing father. Hearing tales of another friend unable to still find her mother. Watching the footage of people suffering and the poor animals. Animals stranded on rooftops or driking contaminated water. Today I made a donation here because I began to cry when I saw a little orange tabby cat swimming for it's life to the nearest landing. It's the least I could do to give back to the animals that have given so much to me. The animals swimming, hungry and tired, sad and searching for the people they once loved and that loved them back.