I’ve always been allergic to cats. Really allergic. Not just a-little-sniffle-and-itchy-eyes allergic, but eyes-swollen-shut-wheezing-and-help- I-can’t-breathe allergic. Never did I ever plan to be a cat owner. Not just because of the allergy, which by itself was enough, but because I never really liked cats much. They seemed arrogant and aloof and a bit too prissy and stand-offish for my taste. I always preferred a playful pooch — one who would run up to me, tail wagging, drooling on my shoes and demanding to be played with. If you would have told me a year ago that I would share my home with four (yes four) cats, I would have said you were crazy. But the joke is on me because apparently I am the crazy one– the crazy cat lady, that is!
It just sort of happened. Last December, my husband and I moved into a place that was frequented by several stray cats. One of them, a fluffy gray and white Norwegian Forest cat took quite a liking to my husband and the feeling was mutual. Every time we would sit outside this cat came running, jumping up on my husband’s lap purring and kneading and cuddling. My husband’s face would light up. He loved her, I could tell. It didn’t take long before he mentioned that he would like to keep her. Seeing them together melted my heart. If there was anyone on earth that deserved something good in his life, it was my husband. He’d worked so hard to keep us afloat as the sole bread-winner ever since I became disabled. He stayed by my side through physical illness, depression and anxiety. He was my rock and never complained. I wanted this for him! So far I’d been able to hold this cat a few times and not have any problems.I didn’t understand it but I hoped that it would continue to be OK if we brought her inside. After all he has done for me, I figured I could put up with a little discomfort to give him this gift. I told my husband I was willing to try and as long as I could still breathe I’d be OK with it.
We took the cat in and gave her a name. Daisy. She quickly became my little buddy. She kept me company all day when my husband was at work. Sitting by my side or at my feet, following me everywhere I went. Every morning when I finished my bowl of yogurt I would put it on the floor and she would lick it clean. She would sit on my lap and purr and knead my soft belly and suck on my shirt. The empty-nested nurturing mom in me loved that I was able to provide her with the suckling comfort she clearly did not get from her mother as a stray. I didn’t care that she made me soggy. We were bonding. Much to my surprise, I began to love her too. That’s not all that surprised me though. I still didn’t have so much as a sniffle. Even though she was long haired and shed like crazy, I had zero allergic reaction. I decided at that point that we were meant to be. That God, knowing the needs of me and my husband, had performed some miracle to bring her into our lives. Not just the allergy miracle though. There’s more.
For all of my adult life I swore I would never have a pet. Part of me always wanted a dog, but the part of me that didn’t want one always won out.When my kids were small I said it was because I was a nurse. I took care of people all day long, and then I came home to take care of six kids. I didn’t want another living creature dependent upon me for survival. It was too much. It was a valid reason. But as my kids grew older and I was no longer a single mom, those arguments became less valid. I had plenty of people around me who could share the burden. But I still refused to have a pet because I was unwilling to allow myself to be vulnerable. I knew that in all likelihood I would outlive a pet. I would fall in love with it and then have it ripped away from me again. I’d suffered enough loss in my life. My soul could not bear the thought of any more suffering. Any more loss. I did not agree with Tennyson’s proclamation that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to love at all. Not anymore. Nope. I would skip the love if I could skip the loss.
Ok, back to the Daisy story. By the end of the first month we had her, Daisy ran off for a weekend of frolicking with the other neighborhood cats. She came back pregnant. On March 4th she began pacing around the living room. At one point she stopped at my feet and howled, locked eyes with me in a look that clearly meant “Do something!”. After that she ran under my heavy couch and disappeared. I tried everything but I couldn’t get her out. I was not able to lift the couch, and she was just back there howling away. I knew she was in labor but I didn’t want her to do it alone. “She needs me”, I thought. She didn’t agree. She stayed under that couch giving birth (actually it was in it, if truth be told. She crawled into a rip in the lining ) and I — the woman who refused to let a pet in my heart all those years– laid on the hard tile floor in front of the couch singing Bicycle Built For Two to her. (It was our song, after all). Who was I??
I’ll tell you who I was. I was a woman that learned it was OK to let love in her heart. That sometimes loving is worth the risk. I learned that Tennyson was onto something after all. The ice in my soul had melted, and my grinch heart grew three sizes. Oh– and in case you were wondering. We still have three of the four kittens (the fourth was adopted by my son so he’s still in the family!) They bring lots of joy to my life, and still not a single sniffle.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29