How I came to be rescued by my cats
The Tale of Jeannie and Marilyn
I was just starting my adult life when Jeannie and I came into each other’s lives. I was 21, just days away from turning away from 22. And I had had the year from Hell.
My grandfather passed away in October of the previous year. Then, less than 2 months later, my beloved cat Madeline, whom we had had since I was seven years old was discovered to have cancer and put down. I was heart broken. She had been in our family for 14 years and her illness was very quick and unexpected. My grandfather was 80 and had liver cirrhosis so his death was not unexpected but Madeline’s was. A month after that, the neighbor my sisters and I had grown up next door to and was like another grandmother to us died.
I was reeling from 3 deaths so close together. Then I got sent to do my student teaching in an extremely traumatic setting. That is the topic for a different piece-suffice to say it was so traumatic that it resulted in me being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
After the longest 10 weeks of my life, I was done. I was thrilled, and was graduating college the next week. However, my hell was not completely walked through. My boyfriend broke up with me. It was totally out of nowhere. That is also the topic for another piece, but after all I had been through in the past 7 months, I had nothing left. I shattered.
After about a month, I started pulling myself together and actually found a good job in my field as a speech therapist. It was in a town 2 hours away, so I had to move there. The first day outside my new apartment, I saw a little girl with a cat. I asked her if it was hers and she said yes. Then she asked me if I wanted a kitten-her cat had had kittens and they needed to find homes.
The first time I saw Jeannie, a tiny furball (she was the runt of the litter) with extra toes on her front feet it was love at first sight. I picked her up and she fell asleep in my arms.
Even though Jeannie was not in a shelter, it was still a rescue. This family was struggling financially and at age 5 months, Jeannie and her brother and sister had not been to a vet, gotten their shots, or gotten fixed. They were eating food from the dollar store, which while adequate, is not what kittens need for their growing bodies. Jeannie weighed only 4 pounds at 5 months old. The family said the cats were eating them out of house and home. It was a rescue. I have no proof but I suspect if they hadn’t found homes for the kittens they might have abandoned them somewhere.
Once I got settled in, the oldest girl of the family, probably about 18 at the time, brought Jeannie over to my apartment. It was a studio apartment, with a big room that served as both living room and bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. I put her litter box in the bathroom and her food and water in the kitchen. She was exactly what I needed after a year of such hell. She would-and still does-greet me when I got home. She loved to play with catnip toys. She slept on my feet, chest or back every night.
Several years later, I began volunteering at the local SPCA. I had recently bought a house, and it seemed lonely with just Jeannie and I. I was thinking about adopting another cat. At the SPCA, they had me play with the kittens to get them used to people. One little one, a black and white kitten they had named Marilyn due to a black dot by her nose like Marilyn Monroe, climbed up on my shoulder like a parrot.
“Aw, she likes you!” one of the workers said. “Why don’t you adopt her?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, “I already have a cat.”
“Come on!” they persuaded.
“Okay,” I replied. They’d twisted my arm.
That Friday after work I went to the SPCA, filled out the papers and took Marilyn home. She stayed in the crate for a while, then began to explore. Jeannie was not pleased about a new sister.
“Now Jeannie,” I reasoned with her, “we have a house now. We have so much. There are so many cats out there that need homes. We can open our hearts and home to Marilyn.”
Jeannie did not subscribe to this point of view. I reminded her she had once been a kitten in need of a home. She responded by going into the basement.
Eventually Jeannie came to grudgingly accept Marilyn. Three years after adopting her, something terrible happened at my job and I was had to leave. I got a job in Washington State, on the other side of the country. I could only take one cat with me-I took Jeannie. Not just because she was older, but because she is extremely shy and reclusive and barely tolerates anyone who isn’t me. Marilyn is at my parents. I still love her and hope someday she and I will be together again. I live in a small apartment and my parents have a big house, complete with enclosed porch, so she has about a hundred times more space there then with me. But as Jeannie is now 13 and has had a few health issues this summer, I know that at some point she will no longer be on this Earth. Even if Marilyn does not come live with me, I will adopt another cat from the SPCA. After being saved by Jeannie after being so shattered, I can never be catless.