Pawprints on my heart

By Jeanne Reynolds

It’s taken me more than a month to be able to write this. It’s just been too hard to talk about or even think much about. In late July, we lost our beloved cat, Walker.

When I say “lost,” that’s not entirely accurate, because we know exactly where he is: galloping across kitty heaven, hanging out on God’s screened porch, purring loud as a motor boat as an angel’s hand reaches out to pet him.Walker on porch

Like any loved one, he was only on loan to us. But it’s still been so hard to give him back.

I know anyone who’s lost a fur baby has felt this pain. The staff at the animal emergency room – who see it all the time – were especially caring and thoughtful. They sent us a card with sweet notes that bring back my tears even as I read them six weeks later:

“Cats may be small in size but their spirits are large.”

 “Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

 “They leave our homes but never our hearts.”

“Some angels have fur instead of wings.”

They also enclosed a printed page with a wonderful message. Maybe it will someday also help you, a friend or a family member with tender paw prints on their hearts.

Our Friend, Our Family

WalkerFolks are born so they can learn how to live a good life. This takes a long time. Pets already know how to do this, so they don’t have to stay as long.

These are some of the things our pets have taught us:

  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch your heart.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Walker on couchAlso on that card was written this note: “Our furry friends never leave us. They run ahead and wait.”

I’m looking forward to our next faux-wrestling match and hearing that motor boat purr again one day, Walker. I know you’ll be waiting.

One Cat Away

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

In keeping with the animal theme that we have seen of late, I figured I might as well fess up…

I have become the crazy cat lady.

Ok, maybe I haven’t completely become the crazy cat lady, but I’m pretty close and I seem to be getting closer with time. I have no shame. I love four-legged animals.  Puppies are cute, but a kitten will suck me in. Every. Single. Time.

Truthfully, any cat will suck me in. I would take in every single stray cat if I could afford to do it. If love could feed them, I would have far more than I have now. Our number of cats, for several years now, has been three and I was adamant. No more cats.

Well, until I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page . . .

Adopted cats“This is Teenager Tom, formerly known as Tom Kitten. (My husband) recently caught all the neighborhood strays and got every one of them fixed with the helpful low cost at Pawmetto Lifeline. Tom is a lovely but skittish boy, has had all his shots, but the female cats don’t like him and smack him if he tries to eat or get any attention. He is used to small dogs. Will you help me find Tom a home? I don’t want him to go to just anyone. I am thinking of asking for a $20 donation to Pawmetto Lifeline for him but if I know the person I would be just fine with giving him to you.”

You need to understand something here – my first cat, when I was very young, was a white male tomcat named Snowball. He was a scruffy, scraggly-looking critter, but I loved him and carried him around everywhere. I’ve had more cats that I can count. I can wrangle a stray kitten like a boss and barely wince when they bite me or leave a menacing scratch on my arm. When I was pregnant with Pierce, I owned a male tabby cat named Beau who was the most loving cat (He was also the biggest cat I have ever owned, weighing in at 26 pounds).

Unfortunately, after getting sick numerous times over a few months, he was diagnosed with severe kidney failure, from which he was unable to recover.  I swore that one of my next cats would be a male.  Life happens and I didn’t fulfill that promise to myself for over eight years.

Childhood pet

So, I was sucked in by a handsome face and the fact that I wouldn’t have to fight off tiny claws and sharp kitten teeth in the middle of the night. So, we went and undertook the task of trapping this cat because he wasn’t too keen on being picked up and taken to a new home. But trap him we did, and we took him home.

Cat

He is christened Thomas Rhett Kirby – keeping his original first name, but changing his middle name to be called name to “Rhett” to fit in with the Dixie and Scarlett that we already own.

At first, he spent all of his time hiding in my bedroom closet, all of us too afraid to let him out into the general craziness of my house. Afraid of what the other cats would do. Afraid he would run out the door. Afraid that utter chaos would ensue. He was skittish at first and would only allow us to pet him for short periods. The littlest noise sent him running for the depths of darkness beneath my dresses.

But, over that first week or two, things began to change and he began to venture into other parts of the house. First my bedroom, then the boys’ rooms, then to the den and kitchen, and then, finally, into the mudroom where the other cats are fed.

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Nowadays, Rhett splits his time between eating, sprawling on the floor begging for someone to pet him, weaving himself between our arms and legs whether we are standing or sitting or lying in the bed, and playing chase, tag, and hide and seek with the new dog, Knight (another story entirely).

Proof positive that a little bit of love by a crazy cat lady really can go a long way.

For the Love of Fuzzies

By: Lydia Scott

A year after adopting our first two cats (a story for another day), we decided it was time for my son to care for a fuzzy of his own. I was kind of hoping we might find two kitties, and that one of them would like me. I was feeling kind of left out of the fuzzy cuddle world by this point, since my husband and daughter both had kitties who loved them. We found a couple of gorgeous blue-eyed babies that a family was trying to re-home after her female cat reproduced unexpectedly. I’m pretty sure mama was a seal point Tonkinese mix, or something close to that. We saw dad, too. He was a HUGE gray tabby. I immediately went to the biggest, plushest, calmest, mitted blue lynx point kitty and started snuggling up to him. He was so calm and laid back. “Floppy,” is a good word to describe this kitten. He was just what I was hoping for! A relaxed, huge, lap kitty.

Is That a Squirrel?

Tonka - false advertising!

Tonka – false advertising!

While we were looking at all the other cats the family had milling around, there was another kitten climbing pretty much everything she could touch, scrambling around the house madly. She was really small, with charcoal gray paws that remind you of a koala, and lynx point coloring, and was INSANE. My husband, of course, thought she was the best thing since peanut butter and after chasing her down, he picked her up and tried cuddling her. The family she lived with had named her Squirrel and said she was the runt of the litter. And like a squirrel, she basically climbed up and down my husband. My husband loved her wild, spunky attitude and fell in love with her. Little did I know, he had decided that this crazy kitty was perfect for…ME. Yep, she was going home with us, too, he announced as I eyed him incredulously. Ummmmm…okayyyy. Fine. This “Squirrel” and my big, floppy, kitten. Hopefully my son would like Squirrel, hahaha! We carried them out to the car and put them in the kitty carrier in the back seat. I sat in the back with them to try to help them feel less lost and alone.

Tonka trying to pounce without being noticed

Tonka trying to pounce without being noticed

I shouldn’t have worried. Enormo-kitty cried, but wasn’t horribly upset. Crazy Squirrel on the other hand, fiercely battled every inch of that carrier. Did you know cats can bark? Loudly? Yeah…she was barking her head off and at one point, I’m pretty sure I saw a scene from the Exorcist replay in that carrier. Our little squirrel kitten was TICKED OFF. There was nothing I could do to console her or calm her. By the time our 45 minute ride was over, both kittens were exhausted. We took the carrier out of the car and snuck in the house to surprise my son. He was so excited! Of course, the idea was to hope that one of the kittens would take to him, and become his buddy. I was hoping it would be squirrel kitten. She was just way too crazy for me, I thought. But, as it turns out, enormo-kitty and my son became buds. Enormo was officially named Frankie and is now about 20 lbs of floppy handsomeness. And Squirrel…

Unbreakable

Tonka the squirrel perched atop a curtain rod. Brother Frankie staying close to the ground.

Tonka the squirrel perched atop a curtain rod. Brother Frankie staying close to the ground.

Squirrel was dubbed Tonka, like the truck that runs over things. And like the Tonkinese breed she seemed to take after so much. Tonka was an “I love everybody!” kitten. She also loved everything, and therefore spent as much time as possible pushing, pulling, chewing, climbing, and destroying all the things she loved. Like lamps. And curtains. And boxes. And dishes. And fridge magnets. And spots on the wall. And earrings…while you’re wearing them. She also knows what coffee tastes like, because she stuck her paw all the way in my cup one morning. She knows what the inside of the fridge feels like, because as I went to close it one day, she darted in and I shut the door on her. She screamed the Tonka-Banshee scream and I thought I’d killed her, but she was fine. I sobbed and shook and held her, apologizing profusely. Not long after, I went to carry her out of our bedroom, and started to shut the door behind me and yep…Tonka-Banshee scream. I had not seen her tail near the crack of the door and it started to close on it. Again, me sobbing and shaking, terrified I’d broken her sweet little kitten tail. I had not broken my kitty, thank goodness. She forgave me immediately, both times. And thus…I was hers. Before I even realized it.

Tonka baby napping

Tonka baby napping

Tonka is very easily startled and extremely vocal about it. She sleeps hard, although a good bit less than the average cat, and when you nudge her to wake her, she will “cuss” you out for it, while petting you lovingly. We believe she is hard of hearing, but not totally deaf. She is the first to greet me when I come home and will yell at me if I don’t head to the bedroom fast enough for her. She loves nothing more than to curl up in my lap for her naps, except maybe batting at the dripping faucet in the bathroom, after she’s looked for the tweezers to drop down the sink so she can see where they go (wonder why the sink gets clogged?).

She Cray-Cray

Tonka thinks there's a magical world behind that cabinet

Tonka thinks there’s a magical world behind that cabinet

Tonka is the reason we have no decorative knick knacks or breakables. She is the reason we have nothing pretty perched atop the cabinetry in our kitchen. She is the reason you hear us say “you better put that away,” at least 50 times a day. And no, a drawer is not good enough. Despite knowing she’s not allowed on counters, when we aren’t looking, she will hop up there and use her paw to slide a drawer open. Usually it’s the utensil drawer, so she can get a spoon out to throw on the floor next to her “kitty toys” she has to play with. If you only knew how many times we’d been awakened during the witching hours by a crash. Always a result of my Tonka, misbehaving while the other cats eye her sleepily. You can practically hear them saying “dude, she’s crazy…isn’t there a little white coat you can put on her so we can sleep?” But she’s SO cute. And she’s SO loving. And she’s SO social, and engaging, and smart. How can you not love Tonka? Even when she shoves your coffee to the floor, and then walks over it to come cuddle you?

Indeed. How can you not love these fuzzy wonderments of ours? Thank goodness for them all!