(From the April 8, 2010 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)
Last weekend I fell in love at a store in Muskegon. I wasn’t looking for love. But that’s just the way love is. You walk around a corner, your eyes meet, and boom!--love. My wife was next to me when it happened.
We were running some errands on Saturday. They were relatively boring errands. As we were out and about, we stopped in at Pets Mart. We had no reason to be there. We haven’t had pets since our two cats died over a period of two years from 2006 to 2008. Since then, we would occasionally go to Pets Mart just to look at the cats brought in every other Saturday by Cat Tales Rescue, a no-kill shelter and adoption center.
Our visits were part of the grieving process. Just being able to see cats helped a little bit, since we missed our two so much. But we weren’t quite ready to adopt again. It takes a while to get over lost pets. Pet owners know this. Pets become like children. Their antics and habits are every bit a part of your home and life as all your other routines. When they die it takes a long time to realize they are not there—just like with people. You see an object out of the corner of your eye and think it is a cat. You sit down in a favorite chair to read and wonder why there is no cat on your lap. Every time your mind plays these tricks and brings back memories, you grieve a little more.
But you can’t just replace pets. They aren’t mechanical parts. They have personalities that add to the reason you love them. Getting new pets too soon can make you feel more guilty than comforted. It’s like getting married soon after the death of a spouse. It just doesn’t seem right.
So when we went into Pets Mart, it was always just a casual visit. It was a way to be with cats since we didn’t have them at home anymore. In the back of our minds we thought we would one day take in cats again, but we didn’t know when.
Now we know that a year and a half is too long of a time to be without cats.
When we walked in the store last Saturday the first thing I saw was a cage with two orange kittens. I had always wanted an orange cat. Maybe it’s a subliminal effect from those “Morris the Cat” ads. For whatever reason, I just find orange cats compelling.
Also, we had grown used to having two cats in the house. We had one at first, which we adopted from my sister-in-law when her roommates didn’t want a cat around. The second one came along as a stray and just hung out under our porch so we adopted her. It was nice to have two cats. They entertain each other when we’re away, and they entertain us when we’re home. So I always thought when we adopt again we’d get two, preferably siblings so they get along with each other. These two orange cats at Pets Mart were five-and-a-half-month old brothers.
But what really sealed it was when we held them. Judy Austin, the woman who runs Cat Tales, was happy to encourage it. And she told us how loving these two little guys are. They proved it when they started purring even in the strange atmosphere with we two strangers holding them.
We had no chance. We had no choice. We told Judy we’d take them.
Of course, we hadn’t planned on going home with cats as well as all the groceries and other items we picked up on our trip. So we arranged to pick them up Monday. That evening and in the few days since, the bonding process has progressed rapidly. It’s nice to hear meows, purrs, and the pitter-patter of padded paws. They are fun to watch and play with. I can tell they are happy to have a permanent home. We named them Humu and Nuku. That’s a play off the name humuhumunukunukuapua’a—which is the name of the state fish of Hawaii. It’s complicated, but let’s just say that has special meaning for us. Plus, it is kind of funny to name our cats after a fish. I also doubt anyone else around here has cats by that name.
Now is a good time to adopt cats or other pets. Spring is when new litters are born, and often they are separated from their mothers. Also, at all times of year people move or for some other reason can no longer care for their adult cats. I would encourage you to visit a no-kill shelter like Cat Tales, which has 40 cats on site plus volunteer “foster parents” dedicated to finding permanent homes for cats without euthanasia. Take in a cat, or two (or dogs if you prefer), and provide a good home for an animal. You’ll find they will in turn make your home a better place as well.