Shoveling years of memories out of the way in order to reach back in time can be both painful and rewarding. So it was after I posted The refrigerator game, part deux. Seeing that last photo dredged up remembrances of the day Kako and Kazon were adopted.
Autumn turned cold early that year. With the chill came bitter rain and drizzle that kept the world a wet gray for the entire season… until winter arrived.
Henry‘s death had struck me with unexpected force. In the wake of his sudden absence, my heart wept great tears both silently and aloud, all the while struggling to fill a void only he could occupy.
Grendel and Loki already had been adopted. Their presence lessened the pain created by Henry’s death, yet I longed to fill that newfound hole with something else. Do not for a moment assume The Boys were somehow insufficient. Nothing is further from the truth.
Nevertheless, home seemed to contain less than the whole it once embodied. That vexed me for some time, and I increasingly pondered adopting another cat.
My heart eventually begged to offer its gifts to another feline family member, someone to keep Grendel and Loki on their toes while simultaneously providing me with some tiny crumb of what had been lost. So I began the search.
A brief visit to the local SPCA chapter turned ugly, an unfortunate event that has since made me entirely set against that organization.
A few days later, Derek and I headed out to visit the local Humane Society. A mutual friend joined us while her husband wasted some time at our house.
It was a cold and misty November day as we pulled into the parking lot at the shelter. Glum as my mood was, arriving at that tattered building lifted my spirits enormously. Perhaps it was there I would find someone to fill the vacancy created by Henry’s death.
One of the volunteers working that day greeted us the moment we arrived.
“Hi,” I said before he could offer more than a cursory welcome. I reached out and took his hand while adding, “I’m Jason.”
“My name’s Brian. How can I help you?”
“I recently lost a cat of more than 21 years and am interested in adopting another one.”
By this time, several resident felines were intertwining themselves between all of our feet, rubbing first against this leg then that one, contentedly waiting with expected patience for a bit of affection from the visitors. I obliged, as did we all, and much purring and happy meowing ensued.
“I’m sorry to hear about your cat,” Brian continued. “And 21 years!? Wow!”
I glanced up at his face as he spoke. There was sincere empathy on his face that mixed with a bit of amazement at Henry’s age.
“My mom and I always said he’d outlive us all. He certainly gave it his best shot.”
“I guess he did.” His voice was meek yet fervently sincere.
We continued petting the various free-roaming cats for a moment as silence fell between us. He obviously knew the fur people were enjoying this as much as we were.
Finally I continued, “I’m still not over it completely, but I do think there’s room in the inn for us to save another. But I have two young cats at home. They’re not kittens, but they are juveniles in the context of age…” My voice trailed off as I glanced down the hall. There were a lot of cats waiting about hoping for a chance to visit a bit. I stood. “Look at all the cats…”
Brian glanced over his shoulder in more of an acknowledgment of their location as opposed to trying to determine what I was referring to. It was a gesture I’m sure he’d made many times before, probably as part of very similar conversations. He remained silent as I walked into the hall and began greeting as many cats as I could. Derek and our friend followed and did the same.
“I wish I could adopt some of these guys.” I was talking to no one in particular.
Brian immediately explained, “These are all the cats with FIV, and in that next room are those with FeLV. If you already have healthy cats at home, you wouldn’t want to adopt any of these.”
My heart broke again and again as I made my way along the corridor. We visited with each cat as we came to them. So many adult animals who had insufferably fewer chances of being adopted than whatever offspring they and others of their kind might have to offer. I knew I could not bring home a grown animal considering I already had Grendel and Loki. As kittens, they had renewed vivid living within Henry during his last years. He loved them. Of course, this came after he demonstrated and enforced his dominance.
Kittens are more malleable and adaptable, and because they do not already have solid living expectations and habits, they easily fit into households with existing feline populations. That explains my continuing surprise with Vazra‘s integration. But I digress…
Because I already had two cats at home, I could not adopt one suffering from any feline maladies (such as FIV, FeLV, and FIP). That did not stop me from first visiting with the many cats in the shelter’s sick ward. There were so many lives in those rooms. Each of them had a story, a tale to tell. Not one of them shied away from affection. It devastated me to know so many otherwise healthy cats who were wonderfully dispositioned and loving could languish in such a place, each of them awaiting the home that might never be offered. How I wished I might adopt all of them or, lacking an ability to do that, at least one or two of them. With The Boys already at home, however, I could not do that. I had to bring home a cat who was healthy and did not have a deadly communicable disease that might spread to all of The Kids.
Having spent much time in those rooms, eventually I realized we had to move on. I could have spent hours giving a bit of time to each of those sickly animals who would appreciate it more than I would ever understand. Doing so would not address the reason for our visit, though.
We eventually followed Brian to the room of (relatively) healthy kittens. Again I wondered why there were so many. After all, how could I possibly make a difference when so much need would go unanswered?
Still, I knew I must try, must attempt to give what I could give even if it meant leaving so many others behind.
The room was full of cages, each of them housing one or more kittens. The raucous meowing echoed in my soul with the incalculable need that permeated the space. Each of those little creatures wanted and needed so much, and each of them responded immediately to the presence of humans. They begged to be touched, to be held, to be loved—even if only momentarily.
Brian held the door open as we filed through in a lordly chain, me in front, Derek behind, and our friend bringing up the rear.
I stopped only a few steps into the room as my eyes filled with tears at the sight of it. My voice held no strength to communicate what I felt at that moment. To see so many tiny lives struggling to be free of their cages, wanting nothing more than a home and a family.
“Let me show you our two most recent arrivals,” the volunteer mentioned as he walked by us.
I watched him step over to the cage directly in front of us. Its bars were cold and silver and exact, the terrible constraints unyielding to emotion and uncaring for the lives it held hostage. Its job was simple: to contain and to restrain. That it did with absolute efficiency.
Inside its heartless web of metal were two small kittens, each of them black. They looked like twins, although their sizes were slightly different and their coats revealed upon closer inspection the kind of diversity I’ve come to expect from these loving predators.
Brian watched me as I approached his position, my eyes never leaving the inhabitants of that jail, and then he said, “These two arrived less than a week ago. They were left on the doorstep in a box with two other siblings. We don’t know how long they were out in the cold and rain until we found them the next morning. They have fleas and ear mites and upper respiratory infections, but they’re sweet and lovable and full of vigor.”
Meanwhile, much oohing and aahing had commenced from the three of us as the kittens reacted to our presence with utmost glee. Their heartfelt joy hung thick in the room like a fog.
“Can I hold them?” I asked meekly. Already I wanted to scoop them up and flee, to run from that place where they were loved and cared for, yet where they didn’t have a home and didn’t have a family—at least not the kind they deserved.
“Of course,” he immediately responded.
I believe I heard sincere hope issue forth from his lips. Despite knowing they do all they can to protect lives, he also knew the best chance for any of the shelter’s animals was to find someone who would adopt them and care for them with the zealous abandon the beasts deserved.
The moment the cage was opened, I reached in and took hold of the first kitten I could get my hands on. The moment I pulled her from her cell, she meowed loudly, began purring, and climbed right up my arm. Once she reached my shoulder, she turned, rubbed her face against mine, meowed with fervent delight, and wrapped her front legs around me in an elated hug. A hug just like the one you see her doing in the last picture of that post.
That’s when Derek said, “Oh, look who’s gonna be a Daddy’s girl.”