When Love Walks In

This may not be your typical Valentine's Day love letter, and believe me I'm just as surprised as you to find myself writing it, but somehow it happened all the same although even now I'm not quite sure how. The whole thing started with a status update that went a little something like this: "I think my husband might kill me. Just emailed him a picture of a pet I plan on adopting today without his consent." What was the big deal, really? I mean it's not like we haven't had pets before. We had hermit crabs. But even those presented the challenge of persuading my husband, and apparently you can't really cuddle with hermit crabs. After the crabs' untimely deaths - it might have been a joint suicide pact, I don't know - I considered allowing the kids to get a fuzzy, little critter, something tiny whose natural habitat was a cage and who didn't require much in the way of attention from me. A hamster sounded good. The kids were old enough, and I thought caring for a pet would teach them about responsibility, consideration and selflessness, three areas in need of a little improvement. And my son? He needed one. He has a lot of love to give. But I wasn't going to squander an opportunity to get something out of it. I promised them a pet if they A) didn't fail out of 6th grade, and B) tried some sort of new activity. I know these are lofty goals, but if you don't set the bar high, then where will you be? The first requirement was for my daughter who intensely wants to get straight A's but who intensely doesn't want to put forth any effort to do so. The second requirement was for my son who is hesitant to take on any activity unless he can be instantly successful at it without any previous experience. I try to convince him that everything takes practice, but he'll hear none of it. Instead, he whimpers and bellyaches, refusing to even try. Until you force him, that is, at which point he discovers a new passion. So my daughter pulled up her grades, and my son tried out kickball at recess, and I was stuck having to honor my word. But none of that is the real reason we got a pet. The real reason is this: I saw a picture on the internet. I caught sight of this cute, little kitty on a local website by complete accident. I hadn't been on the site in months, and it typically didn't featured animals for adoption. It just so happened on that day at that time a little kitty was on the site, and she happened to remind me of the cat that materialized one day, as if by magic, in my backyard over the summer. After that first day, the cat began stopping by regularly for visits, and he quickly became our loaner pet. The cat clearly belonged to someone. He was super soft, perfectly groomed and well fed. But he didn't have a collar so we had no idea to whom he belonged. At first we thought he accidentally got locked out of his home, but then he started showing up several times a week. He'd come right to our screened back door and meow for us to come out, which we always did. He'd let us pet him, and he was very purry. Then he would pick a nice, comfortable spot on our deck and lie down in the sun for a nap. It was like he owned the joint. We even started buying him food because we couldn't be sure he was still being fed. Plus, he meowed - a lot - and I thought maybe he was trying to tell us he was hungry. We bought him the good stuff, too. Wet food that ensured he'd be back. And he was. His visits continued into the fall, and we eventually learned he was the pet of a neighbor on the next street. But that didn't interfere with his visits. Eventually, I began to believe Bruce - that was his name - was just using us for our Meow Mix. His owners must have only fed him the cheap, dry kitty food. One day I saw Bruce lurking around another nearby home and wondered whether he'd lured other unsuspecting families into his little scheme, too, tricking them into buying him even more expensive cat food. I bet he toured the neighborhood, stopping at the homes with the tastiest treats. That was just like Bruce. But Bruce had a positive effect on the whole family. The kids got so excited whenever he stopped by, and my husband started calling me from work for Bruce updates. And then I saw the picture. It was a mini female Bruce, and she needed a home. I started calling her Bruce II even though her real name was Ryan. I also read the lengthy article about her that accompanied the photo. It was dictated to a typist, but it was all in Ryan's voice. "I’ve been at the shelter for such a long time watching people pass me by, and I just don’t understand why since I’m a really good kitty, and I’m well behaved. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve got the cutest little face, and I’m tiny like a kitten. Its almost as if I never grew up, I look forever young! Yet I’m still waiting here for someone to notice me just once and think that maybe I’m worth giving a chance." How can you not adopt a kitty after reading that? You can't. The next day we were on our way to the animal shelter. My status update went a little something like this: "So we did it. We got a kitty. Actually, we got two. I'll explain later."

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