Ten years ago my boyfriend-at-the-time and I decided we were going to adopt a pet. We had just moved into our first apartment together, and purposely picked a place that allowed pets. We decided we'd adopt from a shelter, one because it was cheaper and we were poor college kids, and two because we wanted to rescue an animal.
We decided on a cat. Not a dog (even though I come from a family that ALWAYS had dogs) because we just didn't have the time for walking AND we lived in a small apartment on the second floor. Not a kitten, because neither of us ever had a cat as a pet, and didn't know the first thing about litter box training.
An already trained, adult cat was the pet for us, so off to the shelter we went.
The shelter had a "cat room" that was full of cages where the cats were kept, but every day for a few hours, the cats were allowed out of their cages to socialize with one another and any prospective adoptive parents. Of course we decided to arrive during social hour, so we could have a chance to interact with all of the cats, so we could decide who was "the one."
But after half an hour of playing with a roomful of cats, we were more confused then ever. How do you choose? WHO do you choose? We didn't know. They all started tugging on our heartstrings and before we knew it, we had five different cats we thought about taking home.
So I did the only logical thing I could think of.
I walked to the front desk and asked for help. "Who's been here the longest?"
"Huh?" the girl asked.
"Who's been here at the shelter the longest? We are having trouble deciding, so we'll just take whomever's been here the longest."
She looked at her paperwork and said, "well, Midnight's due to be put down tomorrow...."
"What?" (For a second I had totally forgotten that the animals didn't get to just live there forever...that they had a expiration date on their heads, and if they didn't get adopted, they had to be put down. Especially the adult cats.)
I followed her back in the cat room and she pointed to a small black and white tuxedo cat who was lying in the corner. She had beautiful green eyes, and perfect little white paws. Her generic shelter name was "Midnight."
"She's beautiful! Why wouldn't anyone want her?" my boyfriend-at-the-time asked.
"She's shy. She doesn't come out to play. We think she was abused by her previous owners, so she's skittish. Just make sure you approach her with your palm facing up, she gets scared otherwise," we were instructed.
Needless to say, she was the cat we chose.
Vivienne Belinda Bijoux Mirjafary
(Yes, I named her.)
The next month was interesting. She wouldn't come out of our back bedroom, she was painfully shy, and just having another person over to the apartment would send her into hiding. But we worked with her, and slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, she finally started getting used to her new home.
And actually came out to play with us from time to time. :-)
I remember one night, I woke up in the middle of the night to this strange sound. At first I couldn't figure out where it was coming from, but it sounded like some sort of animal...I woke my boyfriend-at-the-time up and we discovered it was coming from the cat. We checked her out to try to figure out if she was okay...it sounded like something was stuck in her throat, but she looked fine! Could she breathe? Was she choking? We were freaking out...trying to decipher if she was okay or not, when suddenly I realized.
We had never heard her purr before...our sweet girl was finally happy!!
Over the next ten years she was the sweetest thing.
When my boyfriend-at-the-time and I ended our relationship, and had to decide who got to keep her, I was terrified that I had to give her up. But she remained with me.
When I found out my mom and my step-dad were divorcing, I remember snuggling Vivi when I got the news, she was my constant confidante.
When I moved out of that apartment, it was a bittersweet time. I remember after everything was moved out, sitting in the empty apartment with Vivi, just taking it all in. She was with me when I left.
When I bought my first house and worked to make it a home, Vivi happily found her niche, sitting contently on top of the sofa.
When I suddenly developed an allergy to cats, we made it work. I'd vacuum like a crazy person, and wash my hands compulsively, but I never gave up my Viv Cat.
When we prepared for the birth of Sadira, a jealous Vivi climbed into the baby's bucket seat and took a nap.
And once Sadie was born, Vivi would come running whenever she cried. She hated hearing the baby cry and would meow (LOUDLY) until we could calm Sadie down.
She never was a big fan of football, though. All the screaming and jumping up and down worked on her nerves, poor thing.
When Snowmageddon occurred and Sadira and I were snowbound in the house for 8 days straight, Vivi was the one plaything that didn't get boring. She even allowed Sadie to dress her up in baby doll clothes time and time again.
As she's gotten older I've referred to her a "stuffed animal that breathes." She was just easy going and content to be left on her spot on top the couch. She never cared for toys, or catnip (that required expending too much energy), but she loved to be brushed, and anytime you scratched her head she'd purr and purr.
Just don't touch those white marshmallow paws---they were off limits!
But the person she absolutely loved the most was Sadie. Sadie was her girl, her own little person, closer to her size than I was, and always willing to snuggle, or kiss her head, or brush her.
Over the past month I could tell we were nearing the end with Miss Viv. She was around 6 or 7 years old when we adopted her, and I've had her for 10 years, which put her in the mature cat category. She was sleeping more often, eating less, having litter box issues, and then finally this past week she started pulling out her fur. I knew it was time to let her be at peace.
I told Sadie last night, and the avalanche of tears made me feel horrible. She cried and cried and hugged her and cried and scratched her belly and cried and brushed her and gave her treats and cried.
This morning I dropped Sadie off to gymnastics, let her say goodbye, and took Viv to her appointment. I walked into the office with my sweet kitty, and left with an empty cat carrier. That's when I lost it. She had been with me through all of my twenties, all of those life events and she was by my side. I couldn't believe she was gone.
I was a bit of a mess. :(
Then tonight as we were driving to Father's Day dinner, Sadie said from the backseat, "Mommy, tell me all of the things Viv Cat used to do when she was a little kitten cat." So I told her how she used to run around the apartment, and jump, and play, and lay belly-up in the sun for hours, and snuggle, and rub her little face on anything she could find, marking it as her own.
And then Sadie said, "Mommy, she's going to be doing all of those things tonight in heaven."
"Tonight, sweetie? Why not now?" I asked.
"Cause God's not done fixin' her yet. But he probably will be tonight, and she'll be up there playing with Ray Cat, and Elsie, and Mr Bow....she's gonna be so happy, Mama."
And so tonight when I came home and the house felt so empty without her in it, I remembered what Sadie said. That Vivi probably had the best night of her life tonight, running around like a kitten again in heaven with her other kitty friends. And even though there's a hole in our hearts tonight, I know it was for the best.
Goodnight, Viv Cat. Sleep well, sweet girl.