It’s 7am on October, 2010 and the house is quiet, well—except for our new feline addition, Pumpkin. She is investigating every nook and cranny, every hanging and dangling thing she can in her ongoing fantasy that she is a wild jungle cat on the prowl. No throw rug is safe. No pencil can escape. No bit of dust can hide from her eagle eye. Every ledge that is at least 2-inches wide has to be conquered, and every open drawer is a cave to be explored.
I swore, just a few months ago, “NO MORE CATS! I am not the old cat lady!” I love cats. In fact, I love all animals. Well, maybe that’s not exactly true. I can’t say that I’ve ever really warmed up to hyenas after a trip to the Houston Zoo on a hot, sticky summer day. If you’ve ever smelled a hyena, you know what I mean. Also, warthogs aren’t on my cuddly lap list either. And, since I am usually compelled to give three examples of anything I give examples for, I will add camels. Having almost made the mistake of riding one in Egypt, I can say that camels are on the bottom of my list of animals that I would opt to share my life with.
Back to Pumpkin. Before she charmed her way into my life, I lived happily with only two cats—Elmer, an owl-eyed tuxedo kitty, around 15 years old, and 2-year-old, Gabby, a dusty grey with jade eyes. They hate each other but are on the road to tolerance. Life with them has a routine. I know what to expect, even if I don’t like all of it (furniture scratching, table sitting, and other cat habits that show a lack of table manners and civilized behavior).
One morning a few months back, my mother summoned me outside—where she fed every stray cat on the planet. At her feet was a scrawny, little orange and white kitten, meowing loudly between gulping down the food my mother had dutifully placed on a paper plate under the lime tree. When the food was gone, the pitiful little creature rubbed soulfully against our ankles, then looked up at us with huge, jewel eyes, pleading with yet another heart wrenching meow. You know, the kind that is partly silent and partly cracked with the angst of misery.
OMG! I thought. This isn’t a feral cat. Feral cats will take food but never let you near them. This cat was either abandoned or lost. She was so angular, hungry, and scruffy, it looked like she’d been on the streets for a while. You can probably guess what’s coming. I dusted off the cat carrier, put her into it and released her into the downstairs bathroom with food and water. Next, I called the Vet. My intention was to have her put down and out of her short, miserable life.
“We can’t see you until Thursday of next week,” was the answer from my favorite, but way too popular Vet. I didn’t want to wait three days. I didn’t know if the cat was carrying any diseases. I couldn’t keep her in the bathroom for three days and I knew my two cats would gang up against her. Even as I was pondering options, her meows turned into YEEOWLs. Banging and pounding on the door was also added.
Okay, okay. I called Acacia Animal Hospital, a gleaming, large, slick, way-too-expensive-place. It has a fancy tile floor and polished counter sporting efficient assistants clicking away at computer keyboards and wearing headsets as they talked with customers on the phone. They have multiple Vets who are all lovely people, but Acacia is not the cluttered, homey, smelly place that a Vet’s office should be, in my never-to-be humble opinion.
While the phone was ringing and I listened to the long list of recorded information—hours, address, and such, I thought about how I felt betrayed by Dr. Bart, my slightly eccentric but incredibly talented Vet who oozes caring and love for each patient. Okay, okay, enough gumbling.
My attention was brought back to the moment when a friendly female voice answered, “Acacia. How can I help you?”
“I’ve found a cat in my backyard and want to bring her in….er…for examination.”
Why didn’t I say “to be put down?” Why didn’t I just take her to the shelter? Why? Why? blah blah blah. I don’t know. Guided by a higher power? Denying my feelings? Who the H#%% knows.
“Bring her right in,” said the bright, cheery woman.
Relief and dread competed for my feelings. So I had Mother stand guard (lotta good that was going to do) while I forged into the bathroom to bundle the pitiful creature back into the cat carrier. Needless to say, the cat protested with every ounce of her waning life energy. I have a great carrier. It is large enough for two or three cats, with towels in the bottom, lots of “windows” and wheels with a long handle for pulling it. I’ve had it for a billion years. It’s the Astoria of carriers. But did this little ingrate appreciate it? Maybe. She was pretty quiet for a moment before starting her “LET ME OUT!” routine of clawing, chewing, and loudly protesting her imprisonment.
At Acacia, I checked in, sat down on one of their hard benches, waited and waited, and listened to the echoing distant meowing and barking from “the back.”
There are multiple examination rooms in Acacia, all lined up against one long wall. Once in a while one would open and a patient, accompanied by its “servant,” would saunter out. Some had the cone of shame around their necks (see the movie Up). Others were trussed up in bright and fancy ways. One large dog had a bandaged and splinted tail that frantically wagged, “I’m so glad to be going home!”
I love dogs. I’ve only briefly shared my life with one, I have a soft spot in my heart for them. To me, it seems that dogs have such an overwhelming capacity for joy it’s awe-inspiring. I want that.
As I write this reminiscence of Pumpkin coming into my life, she has finally decided to curl up into a powder puff ball and take a nap. Good. It gets tiresome to try to type while she plants her furry butt on my desk, right in front of the monitor, while pondering how she can walk on my keyboard and create lovely kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkwwwwwwwwwwwwwbbbbbbbbbbbbbs. And, of course, like the boob I am, I look around her instead of moving her. Ahhhh well, such is life.
Well, back to my tail, er tale. One of the receptionists came over to me and squatted down to peer into the depths of my big blue plastic carrier. Pumpkin dutifully responded by pressing her nose to the front grate and blinking.
“Oh, my, what a beautiful face,” said the young woman, as she looked up at me with an equally beautiful, animal-lover face. “What’s her name?”
Uh oh. That was the beginning of the beginning. Without even thinking to say that she doesn’t have a name, that I was just here to have her put down, I opened my mouth and said, “Pumpkin.” Well, that did it, I was hooked. She had a name. She was mine.
I realized I was in love. This was painful because I really felt the pitiful little thing was on her way out and that the doctor would tell me there was no hope. Squeeze my heart a little more.
At last, we were called into the exam room. More waiting on a hard bench. More waiting. More waiting. Finally, an assistant came in and we dragged Pumpkin out of the carrier. Funny how they don’t want to go in, but once in the Vet’s office, they won’t come out. She was weighed, and a gazillion questions were asked. Assistant left. More waiting. More waiting. More waiting until the doctor arrived—a young woman who looked intelligent and compassionate. I relaxed a little.
After poking, prodding, looking, and more prodding, she said that Pumpkin had a lump in her stomach. A big one. X-rays? Could be cancer. Oh no, I thought, my intuition was right. Oh well, at least she would die with loving hands on her and not in the streets in the cold.
“Okay. X-rays.” Waiting. More waiting. X-rays back. Not cancer. Pregnant. But not just pregnant, dead kittens in a uterus that was twisted around them like a hard candy wrapper. She would have died from decaying kittens within a few days if I hadn’t brought her in.
“Surgery?” Okay. They would remove the kittens, and the uterus. I left Pumpkin in their care overnight wondering what had happened to my no more cats resolve.
The next day, I retrieved Pumpkin from the clinic. Still skinny but now clean and shaven like a poodle. She was too tired to make noise or protest in any way. So, to the tune of over $1500, we were on our way home with a stitched incision running from stem to stern. I had pills, more pills, liquid vitamins, ointments, cans of cat food, a long list of “to dos” and poor Pumpkin had a kitty sized cone of shame around her scrawny little neck.
Next, she needed a safe place to recover, away from the other two cats who would, I was sure, not be happy about her arrival. My upstairs office had to do. I placed a litter box on the floor, gave her food and water and posted a “Keep out!” sign on my door to keep my mother from letting her out. As she slept, and slept, and slept, I fell deeper and deeper in love.
Now she rules the household. She is beautiful and plump. Her soft, glossy fur is impossible not to touch. And, she loves to be pet. Her intensity at demanding attention can’t be ignored. Pumpkin is loving, smart, beautiful, funny, and a source of outrage and angst among the other cats, Gabby and Elmer. She is into everything, curious, happy, mischievous, impish, haughty, and joyful. I’m so glad that something other than my sense of logic guided me to save her life. She is a delight and we all adore her. But, I swear, when these cats have finally gone to the catnip field in the sky, NO MORE CATS! Maybe a goldfish or a robo-dog.
Two years later: Gabby never adjusted to life shared with others. She needed to be an only cat. We found her a loving home with a woman who had just lost her kitty to old age. She is as happy as can be. Elmer, now showing his age, has a thyroid condition that is slowly killing him. I watch for signs of stress and will have him sent to the forever heavenly farm before he becomes sick and miserable. Then there will be one—Pumpkin. I’m sure she will be thrilled to have all of our attention.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about your pets. Any stories?