Earlier this year, the hubs and I lost our prized kitty Milo to some sort of mysterious medical phenomenon. We’re not exactly sure if it was an actual phenomenon or if they just told us it was so that they could spend 10K trying to figure it out. Apparently the hubs and I have “I’m with stupid” tattooed on our foreheads, because they milked us like a wetnurse. For money we didn’t even have. I didn’t blog about the experience at the time because I was so mortified at how emotional I was about the whole thing. I was like one of those dry wombed women. I would well up with tears every time I saw a Jewish BU girl in sunglasses walking down Newbury St. You know, because they all look like owls, and owls love mice, and Milo loved those little, furry, catnip-filled mice from Target. Everything in the world was an emotional trigger.
After I watched my 10K dead cat get carted off by the vet, I had an unexpected moment. I hadn’t made my way through the (however many) steps of grief, but I can say that in addition to being overwhelmed with sadness (he was, afterall, only three, and it was totally unexpected), I was overcome with the urge to have him taxidermied.
Now, you may be thinking “what the fuck is wrong with you, Caroline?” But truthfully I was in a very fragile emotional state and the only thing pulling me through my cloud of grief was imagining all the ways that I could use his marble-eyed, sawdust-stuffed body to scare the piss out of people. Ala Scrubs, I would probably have him done with his little arms hooked up in front of him so I could hang him over the back of a chair, or over a door– peeking over to see everyone. Then when people saw him, I could say really fucked up stuff like, “Silly Milo, he just LOVES being a part of the conversation” or “Oh! Be sure to scratch behind Milo’s ears; he goes CRAZY for that sort of thing.” Not unlike those women who have life-like baby dolls made to look like their departed children. (You think I’m fucking with you, Google it.)
Alas, my willingness to spiral out of control is always cut short by the hubs’ refusal to go down with me, so Milo was donated to a class of sniveling Ruskies at the Tufts vet school. C’est la vie.
In the weeks that followed, I made dramatic statements about how we just weren’t ready to bring another cat into our lives, or how we just weren’t sure that any other animal was going to be able to fill the void. Ultimately it was just that we had a few pre-planned vacays coming up and we were pretty sure we couldnt find anyone to care for the new addition. Just for fun, though, I made inquiries to all the shelters, letting them know that my husband and I were “just starting our search” and if they had anything to please let us know. (Let me tell you, Madonna thinks she had it hard? Try adopting an animal in Massachusetts. Children can go home to their crack whore mothers and eat moldy Wonderbread three meals a day, but if a productive member of society wants an animal, they better call in Chavez or whatever the fuck his name is, because unless your home is a nest of love and 12-hours-a-day free time to love and cherish your animal, you are going home empty handed.)
We were put on a list of “potentials” and occasionally I would get a call that Garfield or some such stereotypical nonsense was ready to start interviewing potential parents. The system–quite literally– involves a two-hour animal interviewing process wherein an animal psychologist assesses the compatibility of pet and owner. If you fail, you’re name is going down to the bottom of that list, right above Michael Vick. Eventually, my liberal and earth-loving facade started to crack and I was dialing up kitten mills up and down the eastern seaboard. There was not a one of those ten-children, twenty-cat households that was going to deny me a cat because I had a day job. A familys gotta eat.
We were looking for a 6-9 month old orange cat. We didn’t want a kitten because the brutality of having a small being in our midst made the hubs think about children and then his nuts would shrivel, and quite frankly anything that needs “love” in order to make it through the day isn’t going to last long around here.
Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To that point my loving mother called me one afternoon with a wonderful surprise (ironically, I was standing in a cat house about to do a good deed and adopt an antisocial curmudgeon cat when she called). She found us a cat. Better yet, he looked like Milo and had a bunch of extra toes like Milo.
It wasn’t that we were ungrateful, but like a couple who has waited years for a little Asian baby, only to find out that they’re getting an accident from Kansas, we felt like we weren’t in control anymore. This new cat was coming into our home with no pre-interview. There was no pet psychologist to sign off on the acquisition. What happened if we couldn’t love him.
Well, we were about to find out.
Stuart Wayne George Beaulieu was brought to Boston in September. Not only was he not orange, he was not 6-9 months. He was so young that is age was mentioned in weekly increments, which meant that in addition to food and water, he needed the one thing the hubs and I couldn’t give him. Love.
Unlike his noble predecessor, he was not a couch-loving, prim-time-TV watching kitty. He didn’t have any catastrophic health problems that were unknowingly responsible for limiting his motor skills, thus making him the greatest animal ever. Stuart was young, vibrant, and totally vocal. The cat has a voicebox that wakes the dead.
In addition to his twelve meals a day, he likes to sustain himself during the long, lonely hours by snacking on paper products. While he particularly enjoys the subtle flavors in a roll of Viva papertowels, he’ll gladly take down an $8 birthday card, or even a semster-long drafting project. Super.
Sometimes the hubs and I will stand in the kitchen, staring blankly between his full food bowl, overflowing water dish, scattered neon plastic toys, and his small meowing body.
“What does he need?” we’ll silently ask each other.
And so the hubs will pick him up, sling him over his shoulder, and continue cooking dinner. As Stuart watches silently. Loving every minute of it.