Hi everyone. It’s “Mama” here. Siouxsie, Thomas and Dahlia have let me have the Paws and Effect podium today to honor Thomas on his adoption anniversary. Amidst all the sadness, grief and chaos in Japan following yesterday’s earthquake and tsunami, we here at the Paws and Effect Palace have a reason to celebrate.
On March 12, 2004, I signed the papers officially welcoming Thomas into our home. This is a note I wrote to Thomas on the first anniversary of that auspicious day:
I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I brought you home from the shelter! Today, as we celebrate your A-Day (the anniversary of your adoption) with yummy food, catnip, toys, and of course, the obligatory and joyfully given loving petties, I want to take a look back and remember how you came to be a part of my family.
I’ll be eternally grateful to the managing editor of the newspaper where I worked at the time, who, knowing that I had a “thing” for cats because of the weekly advice column I published on the paper’s website and my ability to answer just about any cat-related question in the known universe, asked me if I knew anyone who’d be interested in fostering a cat. It seemed he had a friend who was on the board of directors at the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League. This friend had recently brought three cats into the shelter; they had formerly lived with an employee of hers at her “day job,” but the employee had needed to move into a long-term care facility due to health problems. The cats were siblings — two females and a male — all of whom had gotten sick when they came to the shelter, probably due to the stress of the huge change in their lives.Thomas, your sisters made a pretty quick recovery from their “kitty colds,” but you had a much rougher road. You were closest to your human, and your grief literally broke your heart. I remember when I first went to visit you at the shelter: your nose was covered with black crusties and snot, your eyes were runny, you sneezed constantly and your breath wheezed in your lungs. Despite being so sick, you were so kind and loving to me, so happy to see anyone who would give you love and tell you that everything was going to be OK. You even managed to be able to purr for me — even though you could barely breathe — and your purrs just about registered on the Richter Scale!
You were in isolation because of your upper respiratory infection, and so you didn’t have any other cats to keep you company. The shelter staff tried to give you love and affection as much as they could, but they were very busy too, and they couldn’t take the time to hold you and love you and soothe your pain. I visited you as often as I could, but I had to leave too — I had to go back to work — and when I closed the door of the isolation room, your cries of loneliness just about broke my heart.
One day when I came to visit you, I found out they’d rushed you to the vet, where you were on IV fluids and barely alive. I had all I could do not to cry when I thought you might not make it. I sent you Reiki and I communicated with you, and I promised you that if you survived, you could come live with Sinéad and Siouxsie and me. (Of course, I had discussed the whole possibility of adopting another kitty thing with them and gotten their approval first.)
You survived that crisis and actually made a full recovery. The next time I called the shelter to check in on you, I found out that someone else had adopted you and your sisters. I was saddened that I wouldn’t get to see you again, but I was happy for you because I believed it would be good for you to be reunited with your siblings and live together with them again. I was happy that there was a human family willing to adopt all three of you and keep you together.
I made my peace with the fact that you wouldn’t be coming home with me. I told you that I loved you and that if you ever needed a home, the Ladies and I would be here for you.
Three weeks later, I got a call from the animal shelter director asking me if I was still interested in fostering you. “Absolutely!” I said. I asked what had happened with your previous situation; after all, it had seemed so perfect. The shelter director told me that you and your sisters were fighting constantly, and that your new humans were having a lot of trouble dealing with you. I said that given your brush with death and the resulting isolation and massive amounts of vet care, I wasn’t surprised that your sisters didn’t recognize you anymore, and I’d be more than happy to take you home and see if you’d get along with the Ladies.
Oh, Thomas, I felt so sad for you! You’d been through so much trauma and change, and you were still grieving about your human. The vets and shelter staff got you physically healthy again, but your emotional wounds were just as raw as ever. Not only that, but the trauma of getting “kicked back” to the shelter after thinking you might have a home only served to cause you even more grief. Sinéad and Siouxsie told me they were still fine with letting you live here, so I set you up with your own private room with a litter box, dishes, bed, etc., in my office.
I went to the shelter on my lunch break, signed the foster papers, and put you in the kitty carrier. You visited my work with me for a while, and then I drove you home with me. You cried all the way. When I got you home and opened the door to your carrier, you huddled miserably inside it. I don’t think you even left your carrier, except to eat or go to the bathroom, for a couple of days. I spent a lot of time sitting quietly in the room with you, stroking you as well as I could while you hunkered down inside your carrier. After a couple of days I gave you some Ignatia, a homeopathic remedy that helps to heal grief and trauma. Less than an hour after getting the remedy, you were out of your carrier, exploring the room, eating, drinking and peeing, and sniffing under the doors to find out more about those Other Cats who lived here.After a few more doses of Ignatia, you decided that you’d had enough of being kept in one room and it was time to let you explore the whole house. You slunk around the edges of each room for a while and did the standard hissing/growling thing with Sinéad and Siouxsie. When you got some more confidence on board, you tried to fight Siouxsie for the Top Cat position, which really wasn’t a good idea. The disputes resulted in some behavior issues, but with the help of love, communication, and Feliway, harmony was restored in the Palace of the Pampered Pussycats.
It didn’t take you too long to make friends with Sinéad. I figured she’d be your first “buddy” since you are so similar in temperament. In fact, when I caught you snuggling with her, I knew that everything was going to be OK and that you had absolutely made yourself at home here.
Thomas, you’ve utterly won my heart — and the hearts of the Ladies, too. Siouxsie likes you, even though you still growl at her sometimes. You’re one of maybe three good things that happened to me during my tenure at that newspaper job. You’re a blessing and a joy, my little stripey bandit. Thank you for becoming part of my family. I love you to pieces!