Last Thursday on June 13th I entered into my first serious and committed relationship.
I adopted a cat.
Her name is Daisy and I already love her more than words can express (yes we’re moving pretty fast but what can I say…when you know you know). Though she’s only been a part of my life for a week I truly can’t imagine life without her. However, adopting her was an impulsive decision (to say the least). Though I love animals and jump at any opportunity to spend time with them, I didn’t think that I was ready to make that kind of commitment yet.
Yet here I am. Ironically, I never really considered myself much of a cat-person. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that my eyes were truly opened to the majestic quirkiness that cats seem to possess. Nearly all of my closest friends had adopted cats, giving me the opportunity to get to know them and their habits on a deeper level. I had even obtained a new cat roommate since my move to Santa Monica (her name is Phinx).
So when my roommate Britney (Phinx’s mom) asked me to go to the Healthy Spot down the street from our house so that she could get Phinx some new food, the last thing I suspected was that I would be walking out a new mom myself. But sure enough I saw Daisy and I knew I had to take her home. Daisy had been in the shelter for 2 months. She’s grey (but she has bursts of tan fur throughout her coat) and she has huge green/yellow eyes. Though the vet suspects that she’s around 2 years old, she’s nearly the size of a kitten and she has the shortest, most stubby little legs I’ve ever seen. Her meow is the quietest, sweetest sound. She loves to cuddle and play. And best of all, every night before bed she grabs my head with both of her paws (claws retracted) and licks my forehead, nose, and chin. Though she steals my pillow occasionally, sharing my bed with her has become the new norm and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, the first couple of days with Daisy weren’t all cuddles and kisses. The first 2 nights that Daisy was home I had panic attacks. Even though she was very mellow and sweet, I still felt overwhelmed by my decision to take on this role. I am a firm believer that once you make the choice to adopt a pet, that pet is yours until the end. Though I know that there are desperate times and situations that people face, I can’t help but feel sick and disturbed when I hear of someone re-homing or giving away their animal. However, because my belief in this is so strong, my own anxiety was triggered as I over-thought the permanence of this decision. Endless thoughts and scenarios flooded my brain: “What if at some point in the future I want to move to Paris?” “What if I get hired on a writing project that’s overseas for 2 months?” “What if my future baby is allergic to cats?” “What if she runs out of my apartment one day and never comes back?” “What if she gets sick?”…The list of possible scenarios went on and on and on as I felt my heart race out of my chest at the thought of any one of these things happening.
Thankfully, living with a friend who’s already had a cat for 2 years helped. Though Britney and I can be quite different (she’s a pisces sun and I’m a virgo sun), I’ve never had another friend who’s mind works as similarly as mine. As I sat in our living room expressing the negative spiral that I was going down, Britney looked at me and said, “Allie, you don’t have to be perfect.”
It wasn’t until I heard those words that it hit me. I was panicking because I was scared of messing up. I was scared that somehow I already messed up by adopting her. I was scared of not being perfect. Though I no longer feel the pressure that I used to, attempting to attain perfection is a battle that I’m sure I will face on and off again for all of time.
I also realized that in regards to this situation specifically, the need to be perfect stems from a past that doesn’t event feel real anymore. Growing up I didn’t have the best experience with owning animals. Throughout my childhood I had over 4 dogs and 2 cats (though not all at the same time). My first dog, Romeo, ran away when I was 10 and I never saw him again. The next two, Hercules and Rocky, were best friends, though neither of my parents cared for them. My mom wasn’t consistent with taking care of them and even though she loves animals, the toxic place that she was at in her life reflected in the way that she treated them. My dad on the other hand simply didn’t and doesn’t care for animals. Though it’s something I can’t really understand, he genuinely just never really has. Growing up with this lack of compassion and empathy toward these creatures that I loved more than life was incredibly stressful and draining as a child. Once when I was 12 years old I spent an entire summer in complete fear that the next morning I would wake up and my dogs would be gone. My mom had continually threatened to give them away, but this time she sounded serious. At one point she cracked and told my dad to take our dog Hercules to the shelter. I remember screaming and crying as I crawled into Hercules’ cage with him, refusing to get out. I felt so powerless and helpless as my dad took him out of the cage and put him in the car, forcing me to say goodbye.
Then, by some act of divinity, my dad returned about an hour later with Hercules in hand. All of the shelters had been full. Though both Hercules and Rocky stayed in the house from that point on, they didn’t live the lives that I wish I could have given them. After my parents divorce my dad begrudgingly kept the dogs, mainly for my brother and I. They lived life with the necessities, but not much else. I moved out of my dads house when I was 18, and though I would go back to see the dogs, it always seemed to leave me with more feelings of guilt and sadness than it did joy. Then two years later, about 3 weeks into my move to Santa Barbara, I got a phone call from my dad saying that Hercules had died, leaving Rocky alone. Last year, about a week before going back to Texas for the first time in a while, I called my dad and asked how Rocky was doing, as I had done each time we talked for about 5 months prior. He said that he was fine. After we hung up I received a call back from my dad in about 2 minutes, saying he had something to tell me. “Rocky ran away about 6 months ago,” he said, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you but I didn’t want you to be upset.” Though I was heartbroken and anxious at the thought of Rocky being gone, after more than 12 years of anger, sadness and stress, I almost felt relief, telling myself that maybe he was picked up by a family that would give him the love he deserved. I still tell myself that when I think about him.
All in all I have been able to forgive the damage that was caused by those memories. I have not only had to forgive my parents, but myself as well. Though I was a child and many things were out of my control it’s always easy to look back and think that you could have done more.
Regardless of if I was truly ready for it or not, having Daisy has already assisted in healing those fragmented memories from past. It is so interesting to see how life really does come full circle, providing us with the opportunities to re-write old timelines and heal the not-so-happy endings that we never wanted to see. Though I know that cats are relatively self-sufficient and don’t require an abundance of effort, I am determined to give Daisy (as well as all of my future animals) the best life possible. From the food they eat, to the toys they have, to the importance of their healthcare, and to the bed they sleep on, I refuse to settle. Though I know that some people find this notion ridiculous, or feel that they are “just a cat” or “just a dog” it is those people that I truly feel sorry for. Animals are gifts, each one bringing forth a message or essence that you will hear and feel if you take the time to listen.
Daisy is sleeping right next to me on her pink pillow as I’m typing this.
As I look at her I can’t help but wonder what messages she will bring me in the coming years of our friendship. Though I chose her it is also her that chose me, and for that I’m so thankful.