Friday, September 9, 2016

Here, Kitty Kitty

Kris Fletcher

When I was growing up, we always had pets. There were dogs: Tinus the boxer, Bingo the Shepherd mix, Tipper the indescribable blend. There were cats, too, mostly wild ones that lived in the abandoned barn behind the house, but at least one - Waldo Kitty - that was our housemate.

I loved my animals. I was a preschool when Tinus died, so I don't really remember her, but I have great memories of running and tumbling and snuggling my dogs. I also remember how much it hurt when we lost them.

When I was 18, I traveled to Guyana on an exchange program. While we were there, I got the dreaded letter from my mother: Tipper had died. She hated to tell me when I was so far from home, but she didn't want me looking for him when I returned. And then she delivered the final blow.

The cat is fine.
I believe I hated cats in that moment.

I knew it was irrational, that the poor kitty hadn't done anything, but dagnabbit. I loved that dog. I would have traded a hundred cats to have my sweet Tipper back again.

The years (decades) passed. I got married, bought houses, had kids. Every once in a while my boys would ask about getting a dog, but I always told them that we were not a pet family. They were too much work, I said. We travel too much, I said. They're too expensive, I said.

All true. But in my heart of hearts, I knew those weren't the real reason for my reluctance. The truth was, I was afraid. My chief memory of having pets as a kid was of the pain of losing them, and - like a romance novel heroine who's been burned once already - I didn't want to relive the experience.

But heroines earn that title by facing down their fears. Our characters earn the love of their partners by taking chances, by putting themselves on the line, by choosing to take a path that they know could hurt them like nothing else. They do it knowingly. Willingly. They do it knowing they will undoubtedly end up crying, but that the reward is worth the risk.

A few months ago, we decided that it was time to move. There were many attractive reasons to make the leap, but one big loss: we would lose our wonderful neighborhood. Hard on all of us, but especially for my Tsarina, who had built up some wonderful friendships with the neighbor kiddos. We talked up the house, mentioned the fun of living in a more rural setting, pointed out that a smaller place means less housework for everyone (can I get an Amen?). The kids liked all of that. But Tsarina still didn't want to say goodbye to her friends.

Tsarina loves animals.

It took a while for me to come to terms with the obvious solution. All those reasons I had trotted out for not being a pet family ... they were all still true. But my kiddo was hurting. And I knew there was a way to help. The only thing standing in the way was my fear.

Was I really selfish enough to let my own fear stand in the way of my child's happiness?

Well, I defy any of my kids to come between me and a box of Tim Horton doughnuts, but this was a totally different matter. I screwed up my courage, pulled my husband aside, and said, "I've been thinking ..."

We agreed that cats were a better fit for our lifestyle (read: laziness). We sat on our decision as long as we could, until a day when the girls were especially morose over the impending move.

To say that they did a complete and utter 180 is putting it mildly. From that moment on, they were excited about the move. There were still worries and sorrows, because loss is loss, but now there was joy mixed in.

A week after the move, my husband took the girls to the local shelter. After much cuddling and weighing of options, the decisions were made. Fidget (aged five months) and Caesar (three years) became the newest members of our family.

Am I still a little anxious, a little worried about the inevitable? Yeah. I am. But when I see my girls running up our new hill to greet their kitties after school, I know that this was the right step.

Someday, there will be sadness again. But for now, we are all purring.

EDITED TO ADD: I just saw a teeny tiny little mouse in my front hall. My inner rational adult knows it's good to have two felines in the house. My inner four-year-old is whimpering and hiding in her office because she's afraid it's going to be Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom in the hall at any moment.


Christy Olesen said...

What a great analogy. I've had dogs and cats, too. Mostly cats. Your ginger cat on the bed reminds me of my ginger cat. He's so sweet and I ask him all the time to stay with me a long time.

Tammy Y said...

I have had dogs and cats, just dogs and now just cats. Pets ass to our happiness.

Mary Preston said...

With pets I do try to enjoy the now rather than dwell on the inevitable.

kris said...

Christy, I love your approach. I bet your ginger cat does, too.

Tammy, I do believe you hit the nail on the head.

Mary, that's very sound advice. I'll try to follow it!

Colleen C. said...

Oh that is touching... I love animals... I have adopted dogs, cats, birds, and rodents over the years. Love seeing each ones personalities shine!

Tammy Y said...

LMAO sorry Pets add to our happiness - sorry for my typo

kris said...

Colleen, it is such fun, isn't it?

Tammy, LOL. I knew what you meant. I speak typo :-)

Jo's Daughter said...

I love cats and after great pain of losing beloved felines, I decided four years ago it was time to have a new cat. No regrets, just joy!! I think you made the best choice in adopting some pets :D

Laurie I said...

I loved this post so much. It resonated with me on many levels. I still talk about our beloved German Shepherd, April, who died 31 years ago!! How I adored her and still miss her. You're right, it's so hard losing a cherished pet. I have a cat who's almost 16 and has been ill. We almost lost him, but he's still here and even though the thought of losing him is hard, I'm glad we've had him to enjoy for all of these years. I'm happy you decided to make the choice to get a couple of cats. I hope they bring your family years of great memories. And congratulations on the new home and move!! I'm still looking for a new, smaller place. ( :

kris said...

Jo's Daughter - good for you for taking the leap. I am so glad you're able to focus on the joy!

Laurie - oh, I'm so glad this was meaningful for you. (Music to an author's ears :-). I love that you have so many memories of April, and hope you still have many days of happiness ahead with you kitty. There's still a lot of post-move chaos, but we're getting there. Fingers crossed for you in your search!

bn100 said...

cute pics

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