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New Beginnings

November 4, 2012

Young Sally (1996)Just about a year ago (December 4, 2011), I wrote a post about the various pets I’ve the pleasure of sharing my life with; at that time, I was enjoying the company of a single tabby cat named Sally.  I first ‘met’ Sally in August 1996 at an ‘open house’ at the local no-kill animal shelter where my eldest son volunteered after school.  She had lovely markings, a regal bearing (for a young cat), and a ‘knowingness’ in her eyes that drew me in; still, I already had two cats (recently down from three) and wasn’t looking for another one (additionally, one of the shelter volunteers had said that Sally had a ‘rather nasty’ personality; I didn’t notice it myself, but I had no reason to doubt the woman).  However, when we ran into Sally again three weeks later at the local pet food store (where cats were often ‘on display’ in the hopes of getting them noticed and adopted) she quickly took to my youngest son (and he to her) so we drove over to the shelter that afternoon and signed the papers, then returned to the store with ‘proof of adoption’, and took her home.

Bandit and SallySally adapted fairly quickly to our household.  She took up residence in son #2’s bedroom, got along well with five-year old Bandit (who was still young enough to be a playful companion, and easy-going enough not to mind a new addition to the family), and generally ignored the aging Puff (who didn’t care one way or the other; he was something of a recluse who spent the majority of his time in son #1’s room).  She refused to allow anyone to pick her up (we always assumed it was because the only time she’d been picked up in her early life was to be put back in a cage at the shelter) and didn’t care overmuch for human interaction or attention (except from son #2). She didn’t travel well (we’d been in the habit of taking Bandit with us to visit the Grandparents – a two hour car journey – but we only took Sally once; it wasn’t a good experience for any of us) and she fought ‘tooth and nail’ over trips to the vet.  She was independent and generally aloof, but we loved her anyway.

Sally - Home AgainThen, in the fall of 2000, she ran away from home and was gone for two full weeks.  The house where we’d been living had been sold and the adults were going their separate ways.  The day my ex and son #1 (who was going to live with his Dad) moved out, they neglected to lock up the cats (by then, Puff had died and Luckee had moved in), and Sally had obviously slipped out the front door unnoticed.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the next day (when I was back at the house) that I realized she was missing and we began an all-out search for her.  There was a park on the street with a large wooded ravine behind it and we assumed that’s where she’d gone.  For days we roamed the neighbourhood and scoured the park, calling her name (although she was never one to come when called, so I’m not sure why we thought it would work).  We even took Bandit down to the park (on a leash) several times to see if Sally would recognize her old friend and come to her (she didn’t).

Sally and LuckeeWe plastered posters on nearby street signs and dropped them off in mailboxes; several people called to tell us they’d seen Sally in the park but we knew that she’d never go to a stranger (since she wouldn’t even come to us).  The boys and I were heartbroken, but we remained hopeful that she’d find her way home before the big move at the end of the month.  Then one night, I got home from work late (after dark) and when I opened the front door to go out to retrieve the recycling bins from the end of driveway, there on the front step – looking aggrieved and impatient – was Sally. She came into the house, hissed at me several times, and went up to my son’s room in a huff. She barely spoke to us for the next few days (clearly she’d been back to the front door several times in the two weeks she’d been gone, but no one had been there to let her in).  Surprisingly, she weathered the move a week later fairly well, and settled nicely in to the new house (with Bandit and Luckee), none the worse for wear.

Sally and Bandit WrestlingWhen son #2 moved out, Sally went into a bit of a funk, but she gradually accepted the fact that ‘her human’ was gone, and began to take part in household activities.  Bandit had reached the age where she wasn’t up to wrestling with her younger ‘sister’ anymore, but Sally and Luckee (a male) were the same age and they began to regularly engage in a game we quickly dubbed ‘tear ass’, where they’d chase each other up and down the stairs (with one waiting – ‘hidden’ at the top – for the other to come up so s/he could pounce on her/him) and around the upstairs and/or the family room downstairs.  At times it sounded like a herd of elephants was stampeding through the house. When Luckee died (in early 2007), Sally was left without a playmate, but she’d begun to mellow somewhat in her ‘old age’, and was soon spending her days lying in the sun watching the squirrels and chipmunks through the sliding glass doors.

Sally - January 2012It wasn’t until Bandit’s passing (October 2008) that Sally’s ‘true’ personality emerged (or, perhaps, re-emerged) and she became my near-constant companion – rubbing against my legs when I was in the kitchen, sharing my ‘in-front-of-the-fireplace’ chair with me, lying on the arm of my chaise (and leaning heavily against my arm) when I was reading, sleeping beside me in bed at night. Clearly she was meant to be an ‘only’ cat – bonded to a single human (my son had served that role for ten years but Sally had been ‘side-lined’ when he’d moved out; at the time I was clearly bonded with Bandit).  I still couldn’t pick her up, but she became an affectionate and loving friend, always by my side.  Needless to say, I was devastated when she died (of old age, at 16) this past February.  I swore (as I had once before) that I was never going to go through that kind of grief and pain again; I would remain ‘cat free’ forever more (I also knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t hold myself to that claim for very long – I’m a cat person, through and through).

Claire and SylviaEight months have passed since Sally’s death, and yesterday I took the plunge and visited the Humane Society to pick out some new friends.  Originally torn between getting a single ‘older’ cat or two already-bonded ones (to keep each other company), I was ‘chosen’ the minute I walked in the door of one of the (five) adoption rooms by two sisters – Claire and Sylvia (they are five months old, a calico and a tabby/calico).  As enthralled as I immediately was by them, I visited all 60 cats available for adoption (and, honestly wanted to bring them ALL home), but was drawn back to Claire and Sylvia and their plaintive entreaties to ‘pick me, pick me’.  After a ten minute visit in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ room, I was hooked; the paperwork was completed and I brought them home.

They’ve been in the house for almost twenty-four hours now, but have yet to leave the ‘exercise’ room downstairs (I let them out of the cages there, as that’s where the litter box is), despite the fact that the door is open and the entire house is accessible to them. Having spent the first five months of their lives in a cage – only getting out to wander around a 12’ x 12’ room while their cage was being cleaned – they’re naturally nervous to have the run of a room three times that size (not to mention the curtained off crawlspace that gives them a ‘safe place’ to hide and endless nooks and crannies to explore and play in).  Out From Behind The CurtainThey’re eating well, using the litter box (YAY), and playing endlessly. Claire (the calico) has emerged as the more adventurous, and was the first to come for regular attention (I’ve been spending a lot of time down there with them); Sylvia (the tabby/calico) is a little more reticent but clearly likes her new home.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they’re both exploring the family room, then venturing up the stairs to see what ‘creature comforts’ await them on the upper level (kitchen! dining room! living room! three whole bedrooms!)  I hope they are happy here; I know I’m happy having them here.  (ADDENDUM: since writing this, I spent some time sorting through photos down in the family room and was soon joined by two mischievous kittens; they returned to ‘their room’ to have a nap but they’re definitely getting curious about what lies beyond!)

The death of a family pet is a very hard thing to face; I’ve gone through it several times and sworn each time that I wouldn’t go through it again. But I gradually come to the realization that there are more cats out there who need good homes and that loving them (for years and years) makes up for the despair that comes at the end.  Hopefully, Claire and Sylvia will be with me for a very long time and I’ll have the pleasure of knowing even more cats throughout my journey here on … the other side of 55.

Love Of A Cat

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9 Comments
  1. November 8, 2012 3:20 pm

    Congratulations! They’re beautiful. I love this post. I’m not a cat person, but I’m a pet person (dogs, fish, corals and invertebrates) and love my critters.

    • November 8, 2012 4:29 pm

      I’m certainly enjoying their company. As much as I grieve whenever one has passed on, I really can’t imagine living without pets under my roof.

      Margo

  2. November 4, 2012 9:17 pm

    Congratulations on your new family additions. While I am more of a dog person, I do understand very deeply the ties that bind us to the adorable creatures we open our homes to.

    • November 5, 2012 8:40 am

      Thanks. It’s almost like getting two new children (at least they won’t need a college education!)

      Margo

  3. Cathy permalink
    November 4, 2012 7:23 pm

    What a lovely piece. I feel exactly the same way Margo. I’m a cat lover through and through. I’m looking forward to meeting them face to face.

  4. November 4, 2012 6:27 pm

    Hi Margo–how nice it is that you have a cat named Sylvia! I’m sure she’ll be a sweetie, as are all creatures with that name. I think she and I even look a bit alike–the eyes, maybe, or the jawline…enjoy your new companions.

    • November 4, 2012 6:34 pm

      She definitely has a certain ‘spark’ about her that obviously goes with the name (I didn’t pick the names; they were christened at the shelter). So far she’s proven to be the slightly more ‘refined’ of the two, as well (just like her namesake?!?!?!?) They’re sure to provide me with some enjoyment and some challenges!

      Margo

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