“Never again,” I said.
We had lost our dog, Bert, and less than a year later, our cat, Spooky. Both had lived very long lives. Bert was around 15, and Spooky 19, but the pain was just too much to contemplate another pet.
During the days that followed our cat’s departure, I would think that I heard her mewing at the door, or had seen her out of the corner of my eye. I would wait for her to brush against my leg or jump up in my lap, but it wasn’t to be again.
Time passed, but missing my pets didn’t. Every time I would want another dog or cat, I would think about how losing them made me feel.
But the adage, “Time heals all wounds,” has some truth to it. I would see other people’s animals and felt the wall between me and another pet begin to come down.
And then the neighbor mentioned that her barn cat was expecting.
For those who’ve never lived in the country, dogs and cats are not just pets, they’re also workers. They earn their keep. Dogs are security systems and cats are mousers.
Law enforcement will tell you that one of the best defensive tools you can have when it comes to home security is a loud dog. Thugs are tough until they hear a guttural growl. Even the toughest bad guy will need a change of underwear if he thinks there’s a large mongrel in the dark between him and the door.
And cats? There is no better pest control in the country than a cat. Mice and other varmints can decimate your crops, vehicle and tractor wiring, and (I found out recently) plastic gas cans.
That’s right. Plastic gas cans. It was after my neighbor mentioned that her barn kitty was about to give birth, and I discovered holes chewed in the handles of my favorite gas cans (the old, good ones without all of that ridiculous EPA stuff that makes the gas harder to pour) that I began planning to get a kitten.
My neighbor and I didn’t collude, but we were on the same page. She texted that there a was female in particular that reminded her of Spooky and was still docile. If we were interested, she would spend time with the kitten before she became like most barn cats – feral.
My wife and I agreed.
When the kitten was about a month old, our neighbor knocked on our door. There she stood, holding this little fur ball. The kitten was the color of a Coke, except for a white triangle on her neck. She looked like a priest.
Her mewing filled our front porch and our ears. We invited them both in.
We all petted the dark-colored kitten and I talked to her in my high-pitched animal voice. I have no idea why I have a voice I use to talk to animals, but I’m not the only one. I’ve heard others do it. It’s similar to the voice people use when they talk to infants. Maybe that’s where it came from.
Our neighbor and the fur ball went home. My wife and I both said that our neighbor should be in sales.
We agreed to take the kitten, but knew we’d have to wait until the she was weaned. It would be at least another month before the kitten could leave her mom.
I’m not going to lie. It was a long month. From the minute I saw that kitten, that wall had crumbled.
The weeks passed. One Saturday night, my wife and I were having an easy evening in the man cave. We were grilling a late dinner and catching up on each other’s week when I decided to text the neighbor to see if there was a kitten update.
I received back a photo of the priestly-looking kitten standing on an outside table, with the accompanying words, “She’s ready for a home.”
It was 8 o’clock at night, we had no kitten supplies, save for a small bit of food we keep on hand to put out for the neighborhood barn cats, and we were in the middle of cooking dinner. But the neighbor offered an extra litter box, kitty litter, and to meet us on her front porch.
My wife was hesitant due to the late hour and dinner, but I said that then was just as good a time as any. I texted back and said we were on our way.
Within a few minutes, our newest family member was home. At first, she was evasive and was mewing. A lot.
I went down to finish cooking dinner and then close up the man cave, and when I came back in the house, the kitten had slowed down a bit. Slowly, she came out of hiding and came closer to us. Within hours, she was sitting on the arm of my wife’s chair – with my wife in the chair.
“What shall we call her?” I asked.
“How about ‘Cola’?” my wife said.
The cat is the same hue as a lump of coal and a glass of Coca Cola. My wife had nailed it.
“Perfect,” I said.
After 48 hours, Cola felt much more at home. Today, she owns the joint.
Lots of interesting fun has taken place since Cola’s arrival.
Did you know that a kitten can rapidly, and without notice, climb the back of your legs and posterior?
I had forgotten that.
There are a few more things we will need for our new family member. We got some toys, but I still need a flak jacket and 12 boxes of Band-Aids. But, for the most part, we’re good.
I’m real good. Cola filled a spot that was empty, and helped me to remember that loss is necessary.
Loss is a reminder that what you had mattered.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.