The loss of a pet is devastating.
Everyone’s different, of course, and I admire people who can open their hearts quickly to adopt again, but I’m a person who needs time to heal. After my 21 year old feline companion Noel died, it took me almost two years to feel the yearning to bring a new one into my life.
I don’t know how I knew I was ready. Maybe it was one of the hilarious cat videos my husband and I often watch before bedtime. Maybe it was a new friend’s cats who nuzzled me upon first meeting – cats that, she had warned me, hate strangers.
I’ve always loved all kinds of animals and feel a strong bond with them. I can’t remember a time I never spoke Animal. I’m not alone in that.
Noel lived an extraordinarily long life. Together, we survived the loss of my immediate family – and what a comfort it was to share sad times. Of course, she was there for one of the happiest moments, as well: my marriage to Michael.
After Noel passed, Michael patiently waited for me to determine the time for us to adopt again – our first together.
Several weeks ago, we began to visit local animal shelters. Each time we went, I felt hopeful and curious. I wasn’t sure how we’d know, but I knew we’d recognize our next companion.
We saw one kitten who literally bounced off the walls. We couldn’t stop laughing at his energy and antics, but my husband vetoed him, saying we’d never have a moment’s sleep.
On our fourth visit, a tiny female tuxedo caught my eye. An abandoned kitty, she’d been fostered for 6 weeks before being put up for adoption. She was asleep when we approached her cage; her spindly front legs extended a good four inches through its grate. Her black and white paws were spread open, beckoning for a tickle, handshake, or maybe a peeled grape.
We asked for some alone time with the kitten, so the attending volunteer took her out and led us to a small room where we could play with her a while. She was spirited, for sure, but not whack-a-doo. As Michael sat on the floor with his legs crossed, the kitten repeatedly crawled under his knees, and then popped up in the middle like a jack-in-the-box.
She pranced over to me and I picked her up – all 2.2 pounds – and cradled her in a sitting position, with her spine to my belly. She looked up at me…and then the most offensive odor wafted up.
“I think she farted,” I said.
The attendant looked distressed. “Wow. She sure did!” he said.
My husband said, “She’s the one.”
I said, “We’ll take her!”
And so in that moment, one day before Mother’s Day, Maggie became ours. The timing was extra sweet because I’d been feeling particularly sad about having lost my own mother at such a young age. There was something about finding Maggie that lifted my heart.
There’s some compelling research about the benefits of keeping a pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat or some other critter. It doesn’t matter whether the person has a lot of human friends or not. Our pets help lower stress and blood pressure, alike. Cat owners in particular may be less likely to die from heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events, according to research from the American Stroke Association.
Dog owners, meantime, get a fitness boost from their walking, plus the benefit of social time in bonding with fellow dog-owners. What better icebreaker than sharing stories about your beloved pooch? Some also share their joy by bringing certified dogs into hospitals for pet therapy.
Yesterday, to our surprise, Maggie found one of Noel’s toys under the sofa and started batting it around. It must have been there for two years. That’s when Noel went to kitty heaven. I’d like to think it’s Noel’s wink of approval for Miss Maggie Meyer-Wong.