By Sondra L. Shapiro
Who would have thought two abandoned kitties we recently adopted would come to symbolize a new lease on life for all of us.
As most of you know from this column, my husband, David, and I lost our beloved 20-year-old cat, Falene, in September. The numerous letters and e-mails I received from readers attest to the love and attachment most of us have for our pets.
For more than 25 years, we shared our home with at least one cat — most of that time we actually had three living with us: Frodo, Delf and Falene. Because Falene didn’t like sharing space — or us — with others of her species, we promised her that after the other two died, we would focus all of our attention on her.
So it was that when we went home to an empty house after Falene died, not only were we heartbroken, but also the house seemed so big and lonely without the presence of any four-footed family members.
During dinner about a week after Falene died, I carefully broached a topic I had been mulling over. Was David ready to consider contacting shelters? He surprisingly said yes. We agreed our desire to do our part to aid needy animals was separate from the grief we were experiencing.
We didn’t want to replace our irreplaceable girl; we just wanted to fulfill a need that was put on the back burner while Falene was alive. We decided we would adopt two cats, preferably ones that might be less desirable to others. Our Internet search led us to Safe Haven, a no-kill animal shelter in Wells, Maine. The cat we initially had gone to see didn’t work out; instead, we met five-month-old siblings, a brother and sister, who had been discarded in a Styrofoam cooler in front of a thrift shop.
Because the kittens had gone through so much and were extremely attached to each other, we were told they could not be separated. In this economy, we were concerned that most folks wouldn’t want to adopt two cats together, so these two precious lives might have been destined for a very long stay at the shelter.
The two babies warmed to us immediately. And the heavy hearts we had been carrying around seemed a bit lighter as we spent time playing and cuddling with the brother and sister. So we canceled all the appointments we had made at other shelters and began the adoption process for the kittens, or as they are now known, “the kids,” Spencer (named after David’s home town), a silver Maine Coon cat boy and Chloe, a sleek, gray calico girl.
Our gloomy house transformed into a sun-filled haven the moment the kids arrived. Each day since has been filled with our laughter over the antics of these two precocious and loving kitties. I had forgotten what it’s like to be met at the door each night by an excited furry presence looking for a belly rub or treat. Or to trip over toys scattered around the floor as a result of rambunctious play. Or to awaken each morning to whiskers brushing against my nose because “someone” wants food. Or to watch in wonder, as these “kittens” experience a growth spurt, the likes of which we are so unaccustomed to.
David and I frequently are content to sit for long periods watching Spencer and Chloe find new ways to entertain themselves or sleep tangled up in each other. We even get a kick out of their mischievous and sometimes destructive escapades. They are never far away from us or each other. We are grateful that they are as attached to us as we are to them.
We still grieve for Falene, we think of her every day. And often shed a tear. But rather than waking each morning with sad uncertainty that the day might be her last, now we greet the day in awe of two new lives that have so many adventures ahead.
Once in a while, Spencer or Chloe will display a bit of familiar behavior that just takes my breath away and spurs pensive recollection. But I never see them as replacements for Falene. I am grateful for the opportunity to share our home with two little kitties who could have easily died a terrible death, but instead, have a chance to thrive and live long lives. Or as our friends like to say, “be spoiled rotten.”
David and I feel blessed to have such youthful energy in our home. It gives us a feeling of optimism and purpose. These two young’uns do keep us on our toes. The laughter and joy keeps us younger, too.
Sondra Shapiro is the executive editor of the Fifty Plus Advocate. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or read more at fiftyplusadvocate.com.