Friday, April 8, 2011

The Best of Birthday Gifts

As another birthday comes to a close, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the best birthday gift I ever received.  This particular year was the first birthday I got to celebrate with my new husband, and as such he wanted to get for me something I would love.  We never suspected it would come wrapped in a long, silky fur coat.

Let me rewind a bit, and also warn my readers that this post will likely be the length of a small novella, but the story bears telling in its entirety.  At the time, my hubby and I had but one "fur child," my three year old calico, aptly named Callie.  And though I loved and raised this cat from a wee kitten, she chose to love my handsome new partner.  I was feeling quite snubbed.  What is that old saying?  Oh yes, you're nobody until you've been ignored by a cat.  Well, in Callie's case, I must have been President.  

One of the things hubby and I did on occasion was to visit the kitties at the Humane Society, not because we were necessarily looking to adopt a new family member, but because it was about halfway in between destinations on a back country road we traveled almost daily.  I was impressed with the set up of the cat room.  Though the cats were caged, everything was clean and well kept.  On this particular day, April 4, we happened to be passing by and decided on a whim to stop in to visit with the cats.  

On a typical day, there was an over-abundance of cats sheltered in the lobby of the facility, in addition to the cat room.  We waggled fingers at the twitchy feline noses that yearned for attention as we passed by.  We were informed by the attendant on duty that a family of cats had recently been surrendered by an elderly owner's family who had passed away.  She showed us to the cats that were included in the group.  My heart immediately melted for the uncertainty these kitties surely faced.  What would happen to them?  Suddenly, I felt as though I was being watched...

I turned to see a young tortoiseshell cat with huge gold eyes staring me down.  She continued her unnerving stare until I walked to her cage to talk with her.  The coloring on her chin gave the illusion at first of a severe under-bite, as though she was a bull dog.  I distinctly remember telling her, "You don't look like a very nice kitty," and walking away toward another calico who was part of the abandoned clan.  This cat's relentless stare continued until I could almost feel her gaze penetrating my skull.

Intrigued by the tortie with the golden eyes, I walked back to her cage and stuck my finger in between the bars.  She immediately started to rub against my hand and the bars that separated us.  Hubby noticed I seemed to have found a friend, so he joined me in the exchange.  I quickly discovered my first impression of her couldn't have been more off-base.  Hubby and I decided to spend some time in the visiting room with her, to attempt to get to know her better, determine her personality, and if nothing else, give her some love and attention.

Once we were in the visitation room, this kitty that the shelter had named "Luna," turned into a completely different cat.  I am convinced to this day she saw the uncertainty in our faces and did all she could to make us fall in love with her.  She covered me in sandpaper kisses, purred so loud I thought all of the town might hear her, and rolled over on her back for tummy rubs.  The attendant told us what she knew of Luna's past.  She was surrendered and adopted out.  She bore a litter of kittens, which we understand the other owners kept, and Luna was surrendered and spayed.  Over the course of a half hour, I became smitten with this cat, and I knew I needed her.  Hubby and I placed her on hold for 24 hours while we discussed the impact of bringing another cat into our home.  How would she and Callie get along?  

We sat up into the wee hours of the morning, discussing Luna's fate in our family.  At one point, we decided to not bring her home, but it weighed heavily on me.  I cried, agonized by the argument between my head and my heart.  Finally we slept on it.  We would make a decision in the morning.
When we awoke the following morning, I had already decided I could not live with myself if we didn't at least try to bring Luna home.  The wait for the noon opening was torturous.  Knowing we were making the right decision, we drove to the shelter and were there pretty much when it opened.  We walked into the cat room and saw our red "Reserved" ticket on the front of her cage.  My heart sang with delight!  In just a little bit, she would be ours!  A little boy, there with his parents, poked his fingers into her cage.  I noticed she was not at the front of the cage this time, but huddled in the back looking withdrawn and maybe a little sad.  When the boy moved, I walked over to the cage to see her.  As soon as she heard my voice, and saw me she was on her feet and looked so very happy!  If I was looking for a sign, that was surely it.  

To this day, Luna, who we renamed Tika, remains the best gift anyone has ever given to me.  Tika was part of our family for 12 1/2 years, until cancer ended her life in November of 2010.  I won't say that celebrating this birthday, my first without her, has been easy.  But she is with me in spirit, and I know she's watching from Rainbow Bridge, waiting to see me again someday.

I miss you Munchkin, and still love you so very much.  Wish you were here.

 Tika Marie
October 25, 1995 - November 2, 2010

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