Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Answer was YES

Ten years ago today, I adopted two kittens from the Pinellas County Animal Shelter. My heart was broken at the time due to losing my beloved 20-year-old cat, Oliver, and the way it happened. I wasn’t at all sure I could allow any new furkids into my heart after that. I had a dog and a cat, but they were grandfathered in. I didn’t know if I could open my heart to anyone new, what with it being shattered into a million pieces, as was my very faith, too.

Because of the way Ollie went, I had gone to grief counseling to try to cope with it, and it was only after going through the whole course of that, that I drove to the shelter on October 22, 2005 to adopt a pair of Maine Coon kittens they had, which I had seen on their web site. Of course, I didn’t end up adopting those two kittens. But we’ll get to that.

On the way to the shelter, I burst into tears and pulled over. I almost did a U-turn and went home. I thought it might be unfair for me to adopt new pets, as what if I couldn’t love them? What if my heart was beyond repair? It sure felt like it was. But I decided to keep going. Just go to the shelter and see the kitties. If it doesn’t feel right, you can leave.

Well! The second I got there, I heard my little Kioko meowing pitimously—this unbelievably pitiful meow (more like a very traumatized, very high-pitched “MEW!”). I was set on adopting the Maine Coon kitten siblings I’d seen on the website, but first, I thought, someone has to do something about that poor tiny black kitten! She’s so upset! She was standing in her water bowl just crying her eyes out, and even though she was the tiniest being in the whole place, she was definitely the loudest, too.

Hey, hey—someone! What is wrong with this kitten? Oh, she’s just upset because her mother and siblings are all gone and she just got spayed. She’s fine. Fine? SHE’S HYSTERICAL. Let me hold her for a second. So, I get her in my hands and she immediately stops crying, cocks her head in what I later realized is her signature, INTELLIGENT, observant, sense-of-humor-possessing way, and gave me a look of: well, HI, who are you? Are you here to get me out of this place? Little did I know the answer was YES.

I then calmed her down for a moment or two, put her back in her cage (at which point she commenced her MEWing again), and went, half-heartedly at this point, around to the other cages in the cat area, looking for the Maine Coon sisters. Instead, this little white, strikingly GORGEOUS kitten comes barreling fearlessly at me from the back of a cage and meowed a confident “Hello! Will you pet me?!” I had an idea.

Excuse me! Excuse me: can I put the white kitten in with the little black one? I think I might adopt them both, but I need to see if they will be okay together (really, I wasn’t planning to adopt them, I just wanted to put someone in with Kioko, poor little thing! She needed another kitten in there with her, she was missing her family so much). Well, I don’t know, the shelter worker said, we usually don’t do that…but if you are thinking of adopting them both…okay. So, they unlocked the cages, I stuck Harmony in with Kioko, and Kioko immediately stopped crying again. At that point, I think my heart already knew what was going to happen, but STILL I went looking for the kittens I had seen on the web site.

What a heartbreaking place the shelter is. An adult cat in a cage at floor level tried to get my attention by sticking her front legs out through the bars at me. When I petted her, she was SO affectionate and definitely BEGGING me to take her. I only knew her for a few moments, but ten years later, I still remember her. I’ve thought of her over this decade and thought: I so hope someone adopted that affectionate cat. Every cage contained a special cat like that. And I could only take two. I already had two at home.

I finally saw the Maine Coon sisters but, by then, my heart and my focus were on Kioko (who, it turns out, is also a Maine Coon, though I didn't realize it at the time) and Harmony. Honestly, I was mainly concerned about “the little black one”—I KNEW she was meant to go home with me. She was sure meant to go home with SOMEONE immediately, or she was going to spontaneously combust! And, by the way, there was a Category Five hurricane swirling offshore with the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in any Atlantic hurricane (it was Hurricane Wilma), so I was the only FOOL in the animal shelter considering adopting animals that day—everyone else was at Home Depot buying plywood and generators, or getting the hell out of town. If I didn’t take Kioko, she would be there through the hurricane, and I knew she wouldn’t be okay in that place even for another hour. I had to get her out of there. “I’ll take these two.”

Kioko and Harmony proceeded, once adopted, to do what had seemed to me before I adopted them to be the impossible. They came into my shattered heart and healed it. They wove themselves through the broken pieces like cats purringly weave themselves through our ankles, and in doing so, they wove my heart back together again. I can’t believe it was ten years ago that I walked into the shelter and heard Kioko crying. She had me at “MEW!" Yes, Kioko, it turns out I was there to get you out of that place. I rescued Kioko and Harmony. Yet it's equally true that, when I said yes to them, when I let them into my heart, they rescued me.

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