Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Adoption

I adopted out a kitten today. I found him a home. I placed him with someone I’ve never met before and know almost nothing about.

I’ve never done this before. And I find myself feeling tearful, a little depressed, a little empty. And struggling not to doubt myself.

I think he’s got a good home.

Does he have the perfect home? I don’t know. I don’t even know what that means or if it exists.

I know I want him to be loved, to be happy and to be safe and to have a good home for as long as he lives.

I’d hoped to adopt him out with his sister but the woman only wanted one.

We never even named him. He’s a beautiful gray kitten who’ll be five months old at the first of the year. His birth was, like his two sisters and several other kittens we’ve given refuge to this year, unplanned.

I am in the middle of this as I help my mother manage an outdoor cat population. We’ve given refuge to about three litters this year as we try to capture and “fix” the parents who’ve made their home in my mother’s otherwise empty barn.

Since summer, I’ve slowly fallen in love with this kitten or that. I’ve already taken in four, only expecting to take in three. My mother has accepted one to join her house cats but there had to be a cut-off somewhere.

Until today, five have been enjoying a little kitten-ville in her heated breezeway. It’s comfortable enough, but not the home they deserve.

For months, I’ve been looking for homes, posting signs, sharing images and information via email and asking almost everyone I encounter if they might be willing to adopt.

In all these months, the only two kittens we’ve adopted out until now went to a good friend from high school and her husband. That was October 1. I suffered a little separation anxiety when she drove off with them, but I trust them completely. If only they would take a couple more.

It’s agonizing enough to let them go when you become attached. It’s harder when you aren’t sure of the person. When you realize you may never see that animal again, may never be sure they are okay.

I’ve said no to people, too. I mean, we could have probably let go of all these kittens had I not asked questions, didn’t care if they were adopted out in pairs, didn’t really want to know their fate. I told my mother to let me handle it. I wanted to be the gate keeper.

Not that I have the time. But I have the commitment. I do not know another way. I wish I did.

We also could have taken them to a no-kill shelter but why not just foster them ourselves? Maybe we didn’t want to let them go.

I’ve lost some faith in people in the process. Or maybe just got scared of them.

First was the girl at the pet store who told me never to give them away for free. “People sell them for medical research,” she told me. Now that’s always in the back of my mind.

And so I decided to tell people I’d charge them $50 or $100 which I’d refund when they sent proof they had taken the kitten to the vet. I don’t want their money. I want loving homes.

There was the almost perfect home. The woman who saw my sign a few months ago at the hardware store and thought it must be destiny. She told me she’d put it out to the universe, or something like that, that very day to find two needy kittens to adopt when she stumbled upon my flyer. She sounded perfect. She and her husband were recent empty nesters who’d lost their beloved cat not long ago. She was even volunteering with Leader Dogs for the Blind. We arranged for her to see them the next day.

Then she called back. Her husband wanted two girls, specifically sisters. I didn’t have that. I had two girls, not sisters. No deal. Her husband was set on that. I was as annoyed as I was crushed. But in the end they adopted a couple of needy cats from a shelter. And in that way, that was okay. I just kept hoping to find more people like her.

Mostly, I seemed to find the wrong people. Or they’d find me.

There was the man with the two-year-old from the other side of town — too far I thought — who told me they had to “get rid of” the last kitten because it kept scratching their daughter (immediately I pictured her pulling a kitten’s tail). Then he wanted to know “how much?”

As I told him about the refund arrangement, already sure I was not interested in him, I mentioned a woman I knew who was trying to adopt some kittens that already had shots. He’d already called her, he said bluntly. “That didn’t work out.” Apparently he didn’t have the money “that month” to pay her. I think all she wanted was maybe $50.

Didn’t have the money “that month”?

I politely told him I’d let him know and knew I’d never call him back.

Then there was the eager but simple sounding woman who was also from a town too far and not a good part of town at that. I tried not to be judgmental. She saw my sign at the pet store when she went there with a friend. Her heart was in the right place, it seemed. She had two rescue cats and two small dogs already.

As we chatted I learned she was on a fixed income, which didn’t sound too terrible as at least she had a steady source of income. Then I learned she didn’t drive and had bad arthritis. I wondered if she was able to handle that many pets. I’d decided it wasn’t a fit but didn’t want to be rude. So as I lied that my mother was also talking to some people, I asked her name again in case I thought something might work out.

When she told me her last name, I said, “Oh, yes, I saw that on the caller ID but it was a man’s name.” “That’s my fiancé,” she said. I found it interesting she used his last name. Something was just odd about that. Then she offered up: “He’s going to be home by Christmas.”

Now I don’t recall exactly how the rest of what she said came about, but I definitely classify it as: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

“He’s in The Local Jail,” she blurted out.

I was simultaneously shocked and not at all surprised. As I learned the offense involved alcohol, I tried to sound exceedingly normal.

“Oh, was he driving or did he get in a fight?” Somehow I pictured this man I know nothing about in a brawl.

“He got in a fight and pulled a knife on someone in a bar,” she said.

“Oh, he can’t do that,” I said as if talking to a little child. I pictured him threatening her pets to get his hands on her fixed income check each month.

“I know,” she said. “I think he’s learned his lesson.”

Clearly, I was never calling her back. I said a little prayer for her pets and her two new rescue kittens she called the next day to inform me about.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching as our kittens get bigger. With that I keep hearing my mother’s concern: that people want kittens, not cats. I’ve been losing sleep worrying that we’re not trying hard enough.

So in the last two weeks I printed off a new slew of flyers and posted them half-heartedly around town — grocery stores, the hardware store, the bookstore — hating myself a little each time, as if I’m prostituting the little babies.

Why couldn’t I just keep them? Why couldn’t a trusted friend just take one more?

But the reality is this: You can’t push them on your friends if they are not ready. And we are near our limit with what we’ve taken in and what we may be left with.

And here is the most painful reality: no one has been calling.

Then I got the voice message last night.

A woman, married with two teenage daughters and two cats, just a couple of miles from my mom’s house where the kittens are living, saw my sign at a grocery store.

She wanted a boy, ideally with short hair. But that was it. I hoped she might take two but it didn’t sound likely. At least she had two cats so he wouldn’t be alone.

I was happy at first, but then in the middle of the night and as morning neared, I began to get slight pangs of regret, mostly feelings of loss.

She came by around 1:30 today with her two daughters. They were not fancy people but they seemed like decent, even good people. They seemed devoted to their other cats.

I tried to smile as I showed them our beautiful kitten, gray with an almost elegant face. He's more unusual looking than either of his parents or sisters. I likened his coat to a cashmere sweater and wondered what I was doing. A kitten like this doesn’t come along every day, I felt myself saying inside. But I couldn’t listen.

It’s hard. I’m like my mother. I’m really not cut out for this. Not when it comes to strangers.

She asked if he was affectionate and liked to be held. I told her he’s been spending more time with four other kittens than in the house so she’d need to find that out. But yes, he’s sweet, I said. He’s very social and playful. A great kitten.

I told her if for any reason he did not work out as she hoped, or he did not seem happy, or her cats did not get along with him, I would — and wanted to — take him back. No questions asked.

As they got ready to leave, I petted him and said good bye as I looked at his little body toward the back of carrying case. I imagined what he must be thinking: What’s going on? Who are these people? Where are my friends? Where am I going?

I prayed he was not scared.

I asked the woman if she minded if I called to see how he was doing. She wanted my vet’s name anyway. I went to the window and watched them drive off in a gray minivan.

And then the woman called a little while ago. She wanted to know what food he’s been eating. She didn’t want to disrupt his routine too much. We chatted a while. She told me they have him in the bathroom until he gets adjusted and the other cats can sniff him through the door.

One wants to play with him already, she said. One also likes to bathe her other cat. I liked that. My gray boy is used to that. I hope he gets a nice bath from her cat.

“He’s purring,” she said.

Did I find a perfect home? I don’t even know what that is.

But I hope I found a good home.


Tracy Donohue said...

I'm allergic to cats, but I love this story. You're my favorite crazy cat lady - keep at it! : )

Only the Half of It said...

I'm trying not to be a crazy cat lady. They keep sucking me in. Can you believe the woman who told me her fiance WAS IN JAIL?? And for pulling a knife!? Like, I'm going to say: Oh sure, please, take two of my angels. Jeez!

Susan said...

Once again Ellen, you manage another tearjerker! Brings back memories of when our dog had six precious pups for which we had to find loving homes.

This is a very big job, but how wonderful that you care to this degree. I wish everyone in this position would. Bless you and your cats.

Only the Half of It said...

Well I sure was in tears last night. Finding homes would be a lot easier if there was not such a pet overpopulation problem. There are just so many animals in need of homes. I feel lucky to find any takers.

Lauren said...

That kitty is realllly cute. People that like animals are not crazy :)

Anonymous said...

Beauty of a kitten, and a few days in your life, E.

And all the nutty people. Well. There's them, too.

Been through it with pups born under our porch. There's only one word for the hurt I felt when I had to let go of that super special last one:


And it's supposed to be worse with kdis? Yiy.

Anonymous said...

Aww Ellen you have always been a sweetheart. I did something similar in Boston. We lived in a bottom floor Condo with a patio door which I put food out for the strays. There was one local cat all the neighbors called Mama Ho! Well she always go pregnant and would leave her kittens to die in the cold so one day my kids and I decided to catch her and keep in the apt till she gave birth and could raise the kittens till they were old enough to be adopted out. Well she gave birth and there was 3 beautiful kitties. We eventually found them all good homes. Mama Ho ran away one day when the boys left the patio door open we never saw her again but we did manage to save her kitties. So it was a small victory yet a good one. Sad how people don't care about the animals. Salem has been a God send in my life and if it wasn't for him there were nights all I did was hold him and cry. He just sat there and gave love back. With no conditions attached except to be fed and loved. :)

Anonymous said...

Forgot to tell you the comment was from Cousin Bobbi.

Only the Half of It said...

Bobbi, I realized it was you when you mentioned Salem. Wow, that is a great story you have! I never knew that. You should write more about that. What a name to give a cat. No wonder no one helped her. The name shows a lack of respect. Poor thing. But aren't rescue kittens just wonderful? I can't believe what little angels all these little kitties are. I wish you could take one.

Sharon said...

You found the kitten a good home. The woman was taking extra care in how she introduced him to her other pets, which shows an awareness of what animals need. Let's hope he enjoys the holidays in his new home. Merry Christmas to you, too!

Lori B said...

Aw, Ellen... I have to agree with Susan, anothe tear-jerker! And I think it's more so because we ARE animal lovers. I have an FIV+ kitty we've been 'wanting' to find a home for and I just can't make myself go the extra mile. I've hit everyone I know, but as we are, everyone is full (so unfortunately!). I've been told to post at my vets, but I can't even bring myself to do that. Who would let her sleep on your hip? scratch at your armpit to get under the covers (ouch!)? come into the bathroom with you no matter how many times you visit in the middle of the night? and you can play hide-n-seek too and she knows her name.

You did awesome. I too hope she has a perfect home; sounds like she's on the right track. Are you going to check in again?

Only the Half of It said...

Awww to you! I love that you have a little FIV+ kitty that sleeps on your hip and under the covers! So you are keeping her?
As for my adoptive family, yes, I have chatted with her and emailed her about "Hiro" (his new name, Hee Row) -- her husband is half Japanese so all their cats have cool names like that. I love it. They are all "in love" with him, she said. And he's very cuddly when it's sleep time and very playful as I already knew. I'm going to send her some pix and asked her to send me some as he gets older.
I'm just so happy and feel able to "let go" in a good way.

Anonymous said...

So glad you found a home for this little sweetie. A tearful, heartwarming story. So glad to know there are other cat lovers out there with such big hearts! Happy New Year to you and thanks for being so good to the animals who've needed you!

GardenVixen said...

I'm catching up on your blog (I'm way behind - I've abandoned my gardening blog) and this really hit me in the gut - in a good way. I so admire the work you do. *goes off to hug my old cats*