I keep telling people that I want a dog, but I know good and well I’m not nearly grown up enough to own one. Dogs need to be walked and socialized and trained and, most importantly, you can’t leave them at home alone for any length of time. Cats are so darn easy…it’s really hard to break them, and they have so much attitude that they keep your on your toes.
Anyone who knows me understands that I love cats. That does not, however, mean that I’m a ‘cat lady’…one of those old gals whose house reeks and who are featured on Hoarders (“Oh my god…there’s a petrified calico under this pile of Ladies Home Journals from 1938!”) Okay, so I admit that I’ve camped with cats, driven across country with cats, and have had at least one at all times during the past 30 years, but I like to think of myself as a cat loving lady.
My current roommates are Buffy and Pickle. Buffy is bossy, but she loves everyone. She’s cool and collected most of the time, and everyone pretty much thinks she’s the ideal cat. Pickle is…well…I like to refer to Pickle as my ‘special’ cat. When an old cat I’d had for 16 years died, I waited a respectable amount of time before going to the Humane Society. When I got there, I had it in mind that I needed a male cat, and I needed him THAT DAY. I walked through the facility checking out all of the males, but there weren’t many, and they were all either old or rough-looking, and one actually had a BEWARE sign on his cage. I asked the attendant if they had any other males.
“Well, there is this little boy in the back, but…” she hesitated, “…he’s pretty…shy, and he has an upper respiratory infection that we’re treating.”
She left me in the ‘meet your potential new pet’ room, and returned a few minutes later with a pitifully scrawny, wide-eyed black and white cat that looked like he might be down a few lives. There was a card taped to the cardboard carrier he was in that had the word “PICKLE” scrawled on it. Pickle? Seriously?
Left alone in the room with the Pickle carrier open, I sat quietly until he poked his head out. After a while he finally ventured out…creeping around the room waiting to be eaten. He even brushed up against me for just a second. He was still scared, but I got a good feeling about him. After a few minutes he seemed to warm up to me a little, so I decided that he was ‘the one’. (I didn’t hear any screams of joy after I left the building, my ‘prize’ in his cardboard carrier strapped into the back seat of my Jetta…but I bet those ‘humane’ workers were whooping and high-fiving.)
To say that I ended up with a ringer would be a bit of an understatement! Once I got that kitty home, he hid under the bed, and then in the basement, for almost a month before I saw him again. He snuck upstairs to eat only after I went to sleep at night, and Buffy and I just went along with our lives as if I’d never even found a boy cat to bring home.
One day, about two months after coming to live with us, Pickle just walked into the living room and sat on the couch to watch TV with me…just as though he’d always been there. I could tell that his breathing was still labored, but trying to get him into a carrier and to the vet to get it checked out was a bit of a challenge. After 4 missed appointments and some badly scratched arms and legs, I finally got him to the doctor, who put him on steroids. It turned out that the ‘upper respiratory infection’ Pickle had been diagnosed with by the shelter was actually asthma. No wonder he was so scared…any time he got excited he couldn’t catch his breath and thought he was dying! Hell, I’d hide in the basement too if I thought anyone I saw was choking me.
I won’t even go into the details of having to give a critter a pill every day for the rest of his life, and the fun of learning to use a kitty inhaler (yes, they exist…look it up). It’s been about four years now, and Pickle is a happy boy these days. He’s huge and has a high, squeaky voice (well, he’s juicing!), is obviously neurotic, and is still scared of pretty much everything except me and Buffy, but we’re okay with that. After all…he’s special.