Welcome Home, My Little Sunspot
I had been watching her for months. Even though I said I didn't want to get another cat after Phoebe died, I found myself occaisionally browsing the Humane Society website.
In the last days of Phoebe's life, and the first week after her death, I kept getting this vision of a gray cat. I felt as though Phoebe were showing me my next cat companion. Still, I thought I would not get another cat until after Joker passed away, which hopefully will be many years from now. It wasn't as if I was "catless" after all, and I knew introducing a new cat into the family would stress Joker out. After the initial shock, she seems happier with Phoebe gone.
Still, there was something healing about visiting the shelter to cuddle cats. I think I needed the reminder that there were so many wonderful cats waiting for love out there in the midst of losing my own wonderful cat.
When my new cat arrived at the shelter, she caught my eye on the website right away because her name was "Phoebe." She had a little descriptor alongside her photo that said, "I got lost, and now I need a new home." In the type of semi-black humor that has cropped up in the midst of Phoebe's passing, I said, "Oh, so THAT's what happened to Phoebe. She just got lost!"
As the weeks went by, I noticed that she was not getting adopted, and I started to worry about this poor little lost kitty. When my parents were in town two weeks ago, we visited the shelter, and I went to meet her. I thought perhaps she would be unsociable, since at this point she had been at the shelter for over two months. But I found quite the opposite to be true. The moment I picked her up, she started purring like mad and melted into my arms, putting her head on my shoulder.
She captured my heart immediately, but I did not feel ready to take the big step of adopting her. I decided that if she were not adopted by that weekend, I would bring Ivan by to meet her. Sunday rolled around, and she was still at the shelter, so I took Ivan over. We spent a couple hours there as I agonized over the decision about whether to adopt her. I was waiting on payment from several clients and my checking account barely had enough in it to cover her modest adoption fee, and I knew I would need to get her spayed within a week of bringing her home. In the end, I got cold feet and left without her.
But I still couldn't stop thinking about her. So I told myself if she made it through another weekend without being adopted (lots of animals get adopted on weekends), I would once more consider bringing her home.
She made it through another weekend. (What in the world was wrong with these people that made them keep passing her up?!?) I knew then that she was "mine." I wanted to pick her up on Monday because I had the day off, but the shelter was closed. So yesterday, I got my hair cut, got a tooth filled, and then went to the shelter. I was not indecisive this time -- I knew that the fact that I still couldn't stop thinking about her even after "deciding" not to adopt her the week before let me know how much I really did want her. I went straight to her kennel, removed the adoption card, did a cursory visit to the other cats, and marched to the front desk to announce my intention.
As I walked out to my car with her in my kitty carrier, I felt elated. Elated that I was taking her home after all. Elated that I was saving her from her life at the shelter. Elated that the unknown adventure of getting to know her and falling in love with her was spread out before me. This was my first time adopting a shelter cat -- my first time choosing my own cat -- and I was giddy.
I've been thinking about my yearning to add another cat to the family even though Phoebe's death didn't leave me "catless." I know that I can never replace her (and I immediately changed new kitty's name to break that association), but after 11 years with two cats in the household, I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was "missing." It was as if I had a vacant room in my heart -- it had been conditioned to accommodate two cats, and it felt empty with only one.
I also realized that I think adopting another cat is an important part of the grieving and healing process. I'm glad that I didn't rush into anything -- although I don't think I would have lasted three months if Phoebe had been my only cat; for me, a catless home doesn't quite feel like home. But the only "silver lining" in losing a beloved animal companion is that it gives you the opportunity to give another worthy animal in need a good home. I had a good home and extra room in my heart, and thousands of cats needed that. So a period of adjustment for Joker seemed a small price to pay.
I really believe that if we are open to it, some "higher power" acts as matchmaker to bring the right animals into our lives. Ivan is dismissive of my "vision" of a gray cat (although the orange spots were a surprise!), claiming that it just created a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think others might be put off by the fact that I adopted a cat that had the same name as the one I recently lost. But instead, I feel like these were all signs pointing me in her direction because, even after the second guessing and initial backing out, she and I were meant to be together.