THE BOY WHO SAVED ME
rescue: (verb) save from a dangerous or distressing situation.
Five years ago I lost the love of my life. I cannot, not feel the pang of loss every time I think about him. Can’t fall asleep at night without feeling the absence of him there next to me. My last thought before I drift away is of him, will always be him. And no day without him, will ever be the same.
Because time, is one thing you can never get back.
Diamond, my sweetest love. His life was a triumphant one, one that deserves to be written. It’s still too, raw, an open wound. Someday… At the young age of One, Diamond was hit by a car. My cats will forever now be indoor cats. It was a three month long fight for his life. Three surgeries, a feeding tube, reiki sessions, prayers and love, saved him, us. I knew he was hanging onto life for me, I could feel it. Story for another day, I just can’t go there right now. Anyhoo, from Diamond’s first day home from the hospital and from there on, his favorite place was in my arms, especially at night. Even years later when he’d be snuggling with one of the kids, I’d climb into bed and call “Dimey come lay with me”, and hear a thud, and his pitter-patter of feet hurrying down the stairs and into my arms. It’s how we rolled…
Diamond lost his life to cancer 15 years later. Everything hurt without him, every ounce of my existence. He was my little prince, my best friend. But I did my best to carry on barely hanging by a thread. He was there around me. VERY around me, and wanted me to know it. Again, story for another day..
I have a thing for cats. Always have, always will.
Winters can be hard here in New Hampshire, not Wisconsin hard, but New Hampshire hard. Freezing below zero temps, with biting winds. Dangerously cold winters. The year after I lost my Diamond was one of those winters. On a cold January day I was walking out of my salon, Bombshell’s to get something from my car when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black mass. A cat, eating a broken egg shell it must have fished out from the nearby dumpster. His nose pushing the broken shell around trying to get any morsel of food from it. So of course I tried to approach the kitty. Umm yeah, no. He was having no part of that. So I ran up the steps and back into the salon and pulled my dinner out from the fridge, popped my leftover chicken in the microwave and heated it up, for smell of course. Cut it up and scraped it onto a plate, and back out into the cold I went. Kitty was still pushing that eggshell around so I casually ignored him being there and nonchalantly put the plate down on the pavement, and walked away. You’d have thought this kitty had never smelled such a delicious thing ever before. Maybe it hadn’t. Either way, it was clearly starving. I crept closer as it was fully indulged in the deliciousness. Slowly reached down and touched it’s mangy head, ever so softly. He stopped eating, in slow-motion looked up, and I thought one of two things; this cat is rabid and going to attack me or, this cat is going to run away so fast I’ll never see it again. Neither happened, it instead backed away so afraid at what just happened it broke my heart, but he was so hungry, too hungry to just run away it seemed. I watched him lick the plate clean and disappear into a hole under the building. That explained the scent of cat urine we could smell from below, and inside the salon.
I posted pictures on facebook, called local shelters, nobody was missing this cat.
So I did what any other true cat lover would do. Bought a boatload of wet cat food, tuna and sardines, and was on a mission to save this (clearly homeless) kitty from starving or freezing to death. My now husband, Dan wasn’t going to love this. He’s not (wasn’t) a cat person. Actually Dan hates (hated) cats. A strain in our relationship, as I had a void in my heart, and wore it on my sleeve. He always joked saying “No more cats! They steal the breath from babies!” Something his late mother always used to say; clearly she wasn’t a cat lover herself. Insert eyeroll…
The thing about owning your own hair salon, is that you get to hand pick your coworkers. I’m beyond blessed to work side-by-side with my best friend, Lindsey. But Linds was about to kill me, ready to jump off the deep end and go batshit crazy on me. The stench of wet cat food, microwaved sardines (once I set the timer too high and they exploded in the salon’s microwave), was so intense and poignant it was nauseating. My bad. I was saving a homeless, starving cat for crying out loud, deal with it! Every morning and night whether the salon was open or closed I fed this scrawny, dirty, matted, and hungry kitty. My soon to be husband was anything but impressed with my shenanigans. Absolutely no way in hell was I allowed to even consider the thought of bringing this cat home.
Yeah, okay Dan.
I was bringing this cat home.
We’d gotten snow, a lot of it. The plow guy at the salon had plowed right up to the hole under the salon! Not good. I frantically shoveled out the hole looking like a crazy person, went inside, and heated up a wafting scrumptious plate of wet food. De-lish! This cat wasn’t going to come right out and eat it, so I put it halfway under the building, stepped back and watched it squeeze itself through the hole, devour every bit of it, then slither back under. Day by day he’d let me get closer and closer, but not close enough. Broke my cat lovers heart. We did this daily. I’d talk to him all the time, from up above inside the salon (when I’d be alone in there), and every time I’d walk out to feed this poor thing. Kitty needed a name if I was going to start making any real progress.
Every night was turning into an argument at home. My cold-hearted fiancé was making this extremely difficult. There was no way in high hell he was going to allow me to bring this cat into our home. He was certain that the thing was rabid. Every night in bed I’d lay the guilt on thick. “Are you warm? Good, at least you are, because the cat is probably fighting for life slowly freezing to death. Hope you sleep well”.
Then, a light bulb went off in my head. Before I met my husband, he lost both of his parents, his best friends. This man has absolutely suffered daily heartache without them. They live on with us, in stories and in daily chat. His dad loved Van Morrison, like, LOVED. We love Van Morrison, who doesn’t? Nice masculine name for a cat too assuming it’s a boy, wink wink. The next day, crawling over the snow pile and over to the hole with a plate of food I called out, Morrison, to see how it felt. Kind of a mouthful but doable. That freezing night, as we lay arguing in bed about he cat, “Just to let you know your dad thinks you’re an asshole. Even HE thinks poor “Morrison” deserves a warm, loving home”… That’s all it took. There was no arguing that one. Long story short, Dan gave me one week to catch the cat. YES!!!!!
That next day I brought Morrison home.
I left early in the morning to plot my stakeout for the rescue mission. Set up the havaheart trap, grabbed a blanket to “hide” the oversized cage that easily could’ve held a small human, and off I went. Placed some wet food on the trigger to close the door, FAIL, ooops. Let’s try that again, and again. Okay, think I’ve got it. Gently drape the blanket atop, carefully climb out from the snowbank to hide arou… SLAM! Oh shit! Was that the… Couldn’t have been the… OMG. I think I just caught Morrison! My adrenaline is at an all time high. What the hell do I do now?! Well, it’s done now, so I pick up the cage still draped by the blanket and into the empty salon we go. I put the heavy metal cage now holding a life inside on the salon floor and pace around trying to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to do now.
I calm myself down and lift a corner of the blanket. At the same moment I hear a growl and hiss. Crap. I pace around the salon some more until I realize I’m just wasting my time. Let’s get this show on the road. Literally. So, I load up the backseat of my car, like, the whole backseat with this cage and live animal. The entire ride home I sang the first song that I could think of and that seemed reasonably appropriate to calm both of our nerves. You Are My Sunshine.
The deal was, if I caught this kitty, Morrison. He had to go in the basement until he could get in with our veterinarian incase he had, you know, RABIES. But it was Saturday and that was just too much stimulation for us both. That, and little to my knowledge, our vet didn’t have any openings until Monday afternoon. Home sweet home-ish. I guess I never really thought this whole rescue mission through. I was just too excited. So down into the basement I go looking for our boxer-pit Shayna’s old puppy training dog crate. Set it up and lay some soft blankets and a makeshift litter box inside. Okay, back upstairs to lug this big old havaheart trap with kitty-in-tow, and back down the basement stairs. I set the kitty rescue crate on top of or air hockey table so it wasn’t on the floor and could have a good view of the new surroundings. Dan was nowhere in sight and was having nothing to do with the whole endeavor of mine. Open the crate door, release the trap, and in kitty slithers!
And so this sweetish, dirty and stinky kitty curls into a ball, and sleeps, for two days straight! Was beyond content with the warmth alone. Timid of course, and shy, but warm. In my heart of hearts I believed he was already beginning to trust me after weeks of hearing my voice above him at the salon to feeding him, this kitty knew I wasn’t going to hurt him. You would think this kitty, presumably a boy, Morrison was lavishing life in a five star hotel. He lounged and ate, drank and slept as peacefully as I’ve ever seen any creature before. He was silent though, now meows, no purrs, just silence and a watchful eye as he was trying to figure out this new world. But one thing was for sure, he seemed very content. I got up enough nerve to reach in and touch him slowly, tenderly. He let me. He was so relaxed and so warm, with belly full of food, it was homeless kitty bliss.
Monday came and it was time to get him the vet. Crap, how am I going to get him out of this crate and into a cat carrier? Never thought about that… Number one, I didn’t want to frighten him, didn’t want to lose an ounce of any trust I’d worked so hard at building. What to do… I lifted the massive crate and brought it into an empty in the basement, opened up the crate door into the cat carrier thinking he’d willingly just go from one to the other. Well that didn’t work. Eventually, I got him into the cat carrier. Took a bit of coarsening, and a gentle nudge out of the corner of the room and into the carrier he went. Back in the car and singing You Are My Sunshine, and off we go!
Our vet put heavy gloves on because well, I know absolutely nothing about this kitty other than the obvious, and opens the carrier door. Dr. Williams tilts the crate and pulls Morrison out and quickly wraps him in a towel to get a good look at him and gives him an exam. Skinny, yet mostly healthy. Dirty and hungry, mangy but beautiful kitty, clearly needs a home and love. And, IT’S A BOY!!! I knew it! And he’s not just a homeless, 10 month old (give or take) kitty, he’s feral… and will have feral tendencies. What?! What exactly IS feral? Is this legal? Dan is going to kill me… The thing is, some feral cats just can’t ever be house cats, or tame. Often times they don’t ever purr, or pick up other traits that most domesticated cats do. Whether Morrison was going to become part of the family or not, was going to be up to him. Either way he needed to be neutered. Booked that appointment for the following day. Homeward bound we go, and back to his five star hotel to rest from the exhausting adventure of today.
Neutering went great! Check that off the list! Loopy Morrison peed all over himself after waking up from anesthesia, but that’s okay. I love my stink dirty kitty-beast anyways. Back down to his kitty hotel to rest and recoup. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide how to introduce this feral beast to the rest of the family. Did I mention we have a dog? Oh, and a cat, Bella? Well we do… yikes! I let Morrison rest in his safe little haven until the next morning and I mentally prepared for the meet ‘n greet.
I decide to just do things naturally; meaning just open his hotel room door and allow Bella access to the basement and see how it all goes. It doesn’t. No one makes the first move. Morrison is way too content in his happy warm place and Bella is just Bella, clueless to the commotion that’s been taking place in our home the last four days. Well, up he finally comes, like a stealth panther, silently. Eyes are as big and wide as an owls. Nobody moves, then GRRRAAWLHISSSS. A demon, a pure demon from hell just possessed the soul of my chubby little Bella. The sounds this round little body was creating were horrible. Then there’s Morrison just staring at her, like love at first sight. Mesmerized by this tiger striped goddess, completely ignoring and oblivious to her snarls and growls. Off she runs, down to the basement and after her he goes, shit, this isn’t good. Morrison is trotting after her like its a fun game of hide and seek. Now shit is crashing in the basement and Bella has launched herself up onto a shelf so high I can hardly see her. Morrison thinks he’s a panther still and that nobody can see him. He sits below her, and waits.
This is how things go for the next few days. We watch Morrison venture through the house while Bella hides, hisses. He’s not afraid of anything. Silly Shayna is the sweetest dog ever and he goes right up to her in what I can only explain as excitement to have a friend. It’s adorable. Until it’s not. Any sudden loud noise throws Morrison into a tither, and no matter what the noise may have been, he blames the dog. Runs right up to wherever she is and growls, I mean deep growls. Shayna runs away in fear while this feral beast chases after her and attacks. So naturally I yell, “NO MORRISON!!” That was the dumbest thing to do. He then turns to me, slowly. Like, creepy movie slow. We lock eyes and he takes a few quick silent steps towards me. Shit shit shit. I again firmly say “NO’, and he lunges at me with a hiss. I back up, he lunges forward like he’s going to jump at me. I turn to run and he chases me. I scream, he screams, growls as he’s chasing me through the house. I run to the bathroom and slam the door behind me. Silence. I breathe, my heart is racing, pounding. Is this cat rabid? Did his tests come back wrong? I slowly open the door an inch and peer out. He growls and hisses. Shit. I slam the door closed. I’m trapped in the bathroom being held hostage by a feral cat, in my house, that I brought in. I call Dan, thank God my phone was in my pocket. It does me no good. He laughs and says this is my fault and he’s not leaving work to come home to help me. Great. I’m on my own with this one. For FORTY minutes I’m in the bathroom, afraid of the feral beast on the other side of the door. I’ve learned something though, he reacts to my behavior. If I run, he chases. If I yell, he hisses back. If I stare, he stares. What the… After forty minutes of this crap, I’ve got to get out of this bathroom. I decide to self sacrifice if I’m ever going to get out of here. I open the door slowly, no eye contact, no running. I step out from behind the door and he’s still there, staring at me. Watching me. My heart is pounding in my throat so hard I’m pretty sure he’s sniffing out the attack to kill. I walk to the kitchen, he follows. Silently, because the pads of his feet are tufts of fur. He is the silent killer feral cat, that is now inside my house for all to be eaten. I can’t even look at him. I’m too afraid. I go outside with Shayna and we sit and breathe and thank God we are still alive. It’s winter, and cold. We can’t stay out here! This cat has literally taken over my house, and now I’m the one outside in the cold. This is ridiculous. The rest of the day goes by and I pretend Morrison doesn’t exist. But he follows me everywhere. I can’t even look at him, my spirit is wounded, devastated. Slowly, silently he follows my footsteps and lets out a soft meow. Again, a soft melodramatic meow. What is he doing?! It’s like he’s apologizing or something. Am I hallucinating? Still, I can’t look at him. My sprit is bruised.
Later that night after Dan is home and we are sitting in the living room, in comes Morrison pretending to be invisible and letting out a quiet meow when he happens to catch my eye. Dan says “Look at him, its like he’s upset and worried about you, he won’t stop watching and following you. Stop being afraid of him I think he feels bad about today.” Oh, okay Mr. Cat lover genius husband… Moments later as I’m avoiding eye contact, Morrison slowly walks in front of my legs. I freeze, and he carefully reaches up and climbs ever so gently onto my lap, curls into a ball of fur and looks at me…
That was it, he was sorry! This feral beast was showing more emotion than most humans I know. The thing is, we quickly learned Morrison reacts to our emotions like a mirror. If one of us raises our voice he comes running, sliding in on his fuzzy feet and yowls at us. As if he’s saying “Hey, what’s going on in here?” If we are worked up, Morrison is worked up. If things are calm, he is calm. After three weeks Bella is starting to come around. He follows her around like a puppy in love. She’s not super impressed but starts to warm up, a little. He just wants her affection. He just wants our affection, all the time. The most loving and thankful boy.
Dan is in love with Morrison. I am in love with Morrison. Bella, is starting to love Morison. We spoil him rotten like a king, and he knows it. A little too much, as he now in all seriousness, rules to roost. Funny thing though, he has no desire to go outdoors. I was prepared to have to watch him 24/7 for escape. Nope, he’ll sit on a windowsill and look outside, at the snow and the cold, go near him and away he’d run off. Definitely no desire to go back out there again! Even when the cold of winter is has gone, he lounges in the sun of our screened in porch and watches the birds and chipmunks with no desire to step foot beyond.
I never thought I could love again. Morrison nor any other living being will ever replace my Diamond, that place in my heart stays forever reserved. But this kind of love is hard to put words to. He needed saving, and so did I. As if he found me more than I found him. A young kitty surviving alone in the world, traveling from who knows where, until our paths crossed. It’s been four year now since both being saved, and right where we belong as a family full of love. I’ve since rescued three more cats who’d found safety and shelter under the salon. The most recent, a mama and kitten. The kitten is now one week into finding love and a home with Lindsey. Mama who is currently pregnant again and looking ready to give birth soon, has been safely rehomed to a beautiful barn with a loving family awaiting her to decide if she’d like to come into the house when she’s ready. It’s perfect. But most importantly, it’s giving her a safe place to have her babies, and not add too much emotional stress right on now. Mama Cat has a special pace in my heart, as it took months for her to trust me, then leap up for a face nuzzle, and roll over for affection. She’s doing well and warming up to her new family and children at the farm, and the goats too. It’s the setting I dreamed of for her. I’m able to visit her as often as I want, give her kisses and watch her flourish in the beautiful place she so deserves. Another story of love and rescue…
So my point to this story is, if there’s a cat that needs saving, save the cat. If one finds you, follow your heart. It may be lost with an owner crying at night, and just need help getting home. Or it may not have a home at all. With a little time, patience and understanding, something beautiful can happen. The world is a big scary place to be alone. Observe, and listen to the tug at your heartstrings.
Because it could heal you too.