When I took Sophie to the vet for her mid-year check-up yesterday, the 'cat cage' was sitting in the waiting room as it often is. Our vet places kittens or cats who are in need of homes out in the busy practice, and I always love playing with them as I wait for our appointment. Yesterday was different, though, as something about the Tortoiseshell cat in the cage today spoke to me. She seemed so very sweet as she stretched her paw out of the cage to me and gently gripped my finger. I took a few photos of her and sent them to Dan, all the while knowing that we weren't ready to adopt a new pet quite yet so soon after Kasey and Cooper's deaths. Our hearts are still hurting.
As I left the vet's office, I told the receptionists that I would ask my husband about the cat, but I didn't think he'd be open to the idea. I went about my day, continuing to think about the Tortie with the big eyes and sweet nature. That evening after Dan's yoga class, we went up to the top deck to talk and enjoy the beautiful twilight into evening views. The subject of the cat came up, and Dan told me he thought I'd bring her home with me. I assured him that I would never do that, as I knew he wasn't ready yet, and I wasn't quite sure I was. Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, "Honey, go bring her home." What?!
We had talked earlier about when the time would be right to bring a new dog and cat into our home. Normally I would have wanted to move sooner, but both Dan and I are still hurting from Kasey's loss in the spring, and Cooper's sudden loss just weeks ago. We wanted to make sure that we were not replacing either pet, putting expectations on them to have the characteristics of the two animals we loved dearly for so many years. We wanted to be able to accept the new animals for who they were and be happy with the new personalities that they brought into our lives. We agreed that a cat would probably be first, thinking that a cat would be more easily integrated into our home with our busy lifestyles, and hoping that it would provide Sophie with some companionship that we know she is missing without her constant companion, Cooper. It seemed that this little Tortie was possibly the one that seemed meant to be.
With each animal that I have had, it always felts if they had been sent to me, from my soul dog Guinness locking eyes with me at the Tampa Humane Society, to Bailey the big chicken Doberman coming after my home was broken into, to Kasey having kittens in our dog house, to Sophie calling to me at the Birmingham Humane Society as I searched for a dog for my mother, and to Cooper, running in front of my car in the alley as a tiny puppy during a terrible storm. In each case, something clicked and felt so right. We get the animals we are meant to have when we need them. Each one of those animals brought great joy into our home, our companions through good times and bad. Our family. It was time to open our hearts again it seemed, time to bring this little two-year-old girl home if she hadn't already been adopted.
I had a difficult time sleeping, anxious to call the vet's when they opened at 7am to see if the cat was still available. She was, and I asked a few questions about her and asked them to hold her for me so that I could go to the pet store and prepare our home for her. It felt like getting ready for Christmas, and in a way, it was. If this cat was the right one, she would be a part of our family for many years to come. I filled the Mini with cat food, litter box, litter, a large bag of food, a new collar and tag, toys, and headed home to get things set. I had butterflies when I got back into the car to head to Oxmoor Animal Clinic. Am I doing the right thing? Following my heart has rarely failed me before, and hopefully this time would be no different.
I decided that her name would be Shiva, after the Hindu diety (a yoga connection for us). However, the Jewish meaning of the word, a week-long period of mourning (Shiva translates as seven), resonated with me as well. I loved the significance of coming out of a period of mourning and having a new life join in with ours. I have every hope that Shiva will be a healing presence in our home, and help to bring life and laughter to us after all of the sadness.
Our first day has gone amazingly well. She has explored the house non-stop, and she and Sophie have seemed to reach a detente of sorts. Mainly, Sophie is scared of the cat and does her best to avoid eye contact, but I think they will work it out pretty quickly. Shiva is fearless (until a sudden noise, like the air conditioner coming on happens), and gets closer and closer to Sophie between running up and down the stairs. I sat quietly with Sophie at my side for much of the afternoon, letting our new family member get adjusted to us and the house. After a couple of hours, Shiva jumped into my lap and immediately began purring and kneading bread with her paws, and I smiled. This was the right thing to do…I hope.
My family together for the first time…
One day at a time. I feel in my heart that Shiva is the one that we were meant to have with us. We will do our best to give her a wonderful life, and I know that she will help prepare our hearts to bring a dog into our home in the coming months. As for now, I'm just hoping that we'll get some sleep tonight with our constantly roving feline. No matter what, things will settle and we will develop new routines and habits and new memories, adding to the rich treasure trove of memories we have of our years with Kasey and Coops. We are both grateful…and we hope that Sophie will be eventually, too. May Queen Shiva reign over Chez Gainey for many, many years to come, making us smile with her antics and warming our hearts with her love.