What I don't remember is how much I loved them. Did they sleep with me? Did I talk to them and play with them? While many young girls were developing their love for animals - through horses it seemed - I was developing a love for Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. I liked our pets and I could not watch any film where animals were harmed. As a matter of fact, to this day, I can't get through Bambi or Dumbo without bawling. But did I really have a strong love for the animals in my life? I do not remember that I did.
In 1987 I took a giant step and moved into my very first apartment. And for some reason never known to me, I decided I HAD to have a cat as soon as I got settled. So off to the shelter I went. I was suddenly overwhelmed. Cage after cage of cats who needed homes and me - not able to take them all. I visited with a few and when one actually curled up on my lap and fell asleep I knew who was coming home with me. I named her Emily. She was a sweet little calico - double-clawed on all four paws. Because her only daytime friends were chipmunks, she began communicating with me using the clicking noises chipmunks make. She was so adorable. But she was also pretty sick, which I did not know. I didn't have for her quite a year when I lost her suddenly. I was so heartbroken.
Not long after I lost Em I learned of a young female who had been abandoned at the Stoneham Animal Hospital and was ready to be homed. She was the office cat and at only 6 months old and they wanted her to be in a home, but so far no one had been interested. I went to meet her and fell in love. I took her home, named her Allie, and spent the next 18 years as her companion. As I think about many of those years, I honestly don't think I fully appreciated her. She met me at the door every night - how many nights did I just drop my stuff and walk by her? She also slept with me every night - not just on the bed but either up against me or on me. Did I understand how lucky I was? No. I recall it bothered me sometimes and I would put her out of my room and close the door. How undeserving was I. I didn't deserve the gift of her but she never gave up on me. I finally did learn to appreciate her, though. As we both aged I saw what a blessing she was. Together we dealt with terrible relationship issues, two moves, a break in, cancer and death. No matter what was being thrown at me, Allie was right there to remind me that I was not alone. During the spring of 2006, she got sick. She was almost 19 then and she didn't linger long. I buried her in the yard at my parents' home and I visit with her there often. I placed a small stone to mark her resting spot - it depicts a dragonfly with the words "time passes - love remains". I always think of her when I see a dragonfly. Dragonflies live short lives and they remind us to make the most of the short time we have.
To say I was heartbroken after losing Allie is an understatement. For two weeks I was unable to touch any of her things. I finally asked my mother to remove her favorite blanket while I was not home, because I didn't have the heart to do it. I still have her little bowl - I could not part with it. I cannot think of her without missing her even now.
In late spring of 2006 I knew I needed another companion - I lived alone and missed having another breathing creature in my apartment. This time, I wasn't letting myself miss out of anything. I would find a new cat and make the most of all of our time. Claire, from the Melrose Humane Society, had a male who was looking for someone like me. Arthur needed a quiet place - no kids & no other pets. I prepared to meet him and to take him home. When you go to meet a pet in a shelter or in a foster home, you really need to be ready to take them. So I picked up a nice blue place mat & blue bowls along with a sweet little blue blanket. Thing is - Arthur didn't really care for me. He actually hissed at me when I met him. Was he in touch with the men I had been dating??? Hmmmm
Claire told me about a female she had. Two years old - had been abandoned right before she had a small litter of kittens. Her kittens had all been adopted but she was having trouble being placed. It seemed she was kind of shy and wasn't good with other animals - they bullied her and she did not defend herself. I met her and that was that. I brought her home, renamed her Camille, and she still rules my life. I felt badly that all she had were blue things - I did get her a pink blanket. She had been abused and flinched when I reached for her. She spent the first three days with me hiding beneath my dresser. She eventually came around and filled the gap Allie's death left. She's very social and lovable & has become even more so as we enter middle age together.
Thing is, I thought her easy-going personality would be right for me to bring another member into our family. A couple weeks ago, almost against my own will, I found myself typing into PetFinder "female - special needs" I honestly think it was some kind of out-of-body experience. I wasn't looking for another cat. I had not even discussed the idea with my husband. I just did it and there was Winnie. I first fell in love with her face then her name then her story. Her face is precious. Her coloring is beautiful and her eyes are so green. Her name - my aunt's mother was named Winnie and I took it as a positive sign. Her story - she was rescued from a kill shelter with one day left, lived with her saviors, was adopted then returned, then she moved to a foster home. This little girl needed a place where she could settle down. She has mild cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) which isn't really causing any issues. She wobbles & sometimes falls over but she's fine on the stairs and she can jump up on the bed or onto chairs & she can get around OK. She has made herself completely at home and we're very glad. Camille is very s l o w l y coming around to her - we still have quite a way to go - but I have faith in my girl and I think she will come to love Winn.
Before I met my husband I declared - out loud - that I was done dating and would get the requisite number of cats to qualify as a crazy cat lady and live my life out with them as my only companions. I know that I can just be crazy - I don't need cats to confirm that. I also know that Cat Lady has many negative connotations but I have two and I love them so whatever. I also know I'm not worthy. They really do give me so much and I try hard to give it back but I don't think I quite make it. I will always try to make up for not appreciating what I had before - that's my tribute to Allie.
If you think you're crazy or you think you don't have enough love to go around - I say to you - remember the lesson of the dragonfly. Life is short - live yours as best you can.