by Julie Hennrikus
in a city apartment, looking at the Boston skyline
[To celebrate Liz Mugavero’s publication of Kneading to Die, we are blogging about our pets this week.]
“You made me love you.
I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it.”
When I put my cat Max down in 2007, I decided I couldn’t go through that again. Ever. Anyone who has ever made that decision knows the feeling. Just. So. Hard. And I held firm to that decision for a long time. Even when my nieces adopted “the boys” I didn’t give in and get my own cat. I enjoyed theirs, and cat-sat, but the wall around my heart remained.
Then, in August 2011, I went to a fundraising seminar. I was early, so I was chatting with people. The woman two seats over told me she ran a no kill shelter on the North Shore. I mentioned that my sister thought I should get a cat, but I was resisting. The woman’s eyes lit up.
“OK, this is weird. I have a cat who really needs a home. . .”
“I’m not interested. . .”
“See. she has been raised by an older woman who recently went into a nursing home. She couldn’t take Ashley with her, so I agreed to take her in. But the problem is, she doesn’t like other cats, so I can’t leave her at the shelter. And she is older, so she is tough to place. And she has some quirks.”
“Quirks?” I asked.
“She is pretty set in her ways. And she hisses when she gets pissed. She doesn’t get on furniture, you can’t pick her up, and she won’t sit on your lap. But she’s a sweetheart,” the woman said. “She really is. That is what is so hard. I would love to keep her, but I have cats. I have to figure this out, and I don’t know what to do.”
To this day, I don’t know why I agreed to meet the cat. Ashley. But I did, as long as I could bring my nieces with me. If she made them at all uncomfortable, this wouldn’t work. The woman agreed, and I got directions to her house. The nieces and I went to meet her, and we brought Ashley home the same day.
For a long time, I thought I had saved Ashley, because she needed a home. But now, almost two years later, I realize that I needed Ashley as much. I may have thought that I wanted a short haired young cat who cuddled, but this long-haired, then 11 year old Maine Coon cat was who I needed. She still won’t sit on my lap, but does sit on furniture, close to me. She loves me, really likes the nieces, tolerates my sister, and ignores everyone else. Her purr sounds like an outboard motor, and I hear it a lot.
So the moral(s) of my story? You can fall in love again. Older cats are imprinted by their previous owners, so it takes a while to get in a groove, but once the trust is there, it works.
And if you fall in love with a long haired cat, invest in a really good vacuum.
J.A. Hennrikus J.A. (Julie) Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource. She has published several short stories, including “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” in Level Best Books’ Blood Moon. Julie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppies. She is a board member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime.