In a world of cat and dog people, I am most definitely both. Marrying a man who loves animals was a no-brainer (and the inability to become absurdly besotted by four-legged children was a deal-breaker). When I was twenty-three and met a man who was willing to carry a wounded bird two miles back to our house so we could call a vet and who took it upon himself to drive an especially huge black widow spider twenty miles outside of town so it could live out its life in a field, well… Yes, Reader, I married him.
And then life happened.
When we were in our thirties, my husband helped me care for my terminally-ill parents, three rescue dogs and my father’s twenty-two-year-old cat that regularly awakened us at six a.m. with ear-piercing howls to demand moist food and decided that the stroll to the litter box was too much bother, but that the bathroom cabinets would do nicely when he needed to relieve himself. During a drive to the vet, Snowflake was on my lap, unfortunately facing my husband when he projectile vomited like I have never witnessed before or since. Poor kitty. And, oh yes, poor husband.
It’s understandable, I suppose, that Tim decided to take a hiatus from all dependent creatures: “You can have dogs and cats if you want to, but please do not involve me. I’m done. I’m not kidding.”
I was disturbed. I was disappointed. I was totally disbelieving that he meant what he said. On the other hand, I, too, wanted a break from litter boxes and incontinent animals and things that could die and break your heart.
We still had a beloved dog, but decided No More Cats. Seriously. And, since I had adopted the dog, we’d consider her my responsibility. Tim would be as free as that bird he’d rescued all those years ago.
|Phoebe formerly known as Dumpster Kitty|
DK lived in the basement apartment of the house next door. Our neighbors there found her in a trash can and brought her home, but she was frightened of their cat (and of everything else either moving or stationery), so she spent most of her time alone under the stairs. She was especially afraid of men, so when the couple who found her split up and the woman moved out, DK relocated herself outside to an area beneath the porch--in November, during a series of thunderstorms. She emerged only to eat, darting out from her hiding place, her belly so low to the ground that her “run” looked more like a slither.
“I feel terrible for that cat,” my husband said.
“Well,” I offered, “the neighbor doesn’t really want her. Do you—“
When our neighbor went away for a few days and asked me to put our food for DK, I tried to befriend her, but she was simply too frightened. I gave up.
But one day, when I pulled up to the house after work, I saw my husband crouched on our front porch in a torrential downpour. He was wearing a coat and appeared to be something inside it.
“What are you doing out here?” I shouted, running through the rain.
“Shh! You’ll scare her.”
Dumpster Kitty was huddled on his lap, her huge green eyes staring up at his face, one paw extending lovingly toward his chin.
“How long did it take you to get her to come to you?” I asked in amazement.
“In this downpour?”
He nodded, gazing as sweetly at the cat as she was gazing at him. “She’s very gentle,” he murmured. “We’ll need to take her to the vet.”
Dumpster Kitty was a year old then. She’s twelve now, renamed “Phoebe.” Our friends call her “Invisa-cat,” as she still has a tendency to hide and few of them have ever made her acquaintance. She is, however, quite the cuddler when she’s with the family. And her favorite place is still Tim’s lap.
I really love that guy.