My daughter and I were mid-conversation about animals recently when she suddenly laughed.
“I just realized something about you,” she said. “It’s probably a miracle I exist. Other women get baby fever. With you, it’s dog fever. Or cats or rats or rabbits.”
“Or birds,” I said.
While this particular realization was news to Celeste, it wasn’t to me. Every so often, I get this almost urgent need to increase the size of my family by means of adoption. The pull can be strong, and when it is, the cosmos provides. Kitten at the doorstep. Pup dumped in traffic. Wild hare digging under my fence to visit the old maid rabbits who once lived in my yard.
I don’t send out specifics — nothing more seems required than to utter the words, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a ...” and allow the blank to be filled in, whatever it might be.
Be open to a furry or feathered little grab bag, and one will soon be provided. Our eyes will meet across a crowded ... something. And I’d know.
I’d just know.
I put a question on Facebook, asking friends how their pets came to join their family.
Marilyn Wrenn of Charleston (who, a few years back, adopted the orphaned starling I’d raised into her own personal flock), told how their family came to include a gorgeous black cat.
Kids: “Mom, can we get a cat?”
Kids: “Mom, pleeeease?”
The discussion continued along that same vein for weeks.
Marilyn, finally broke down: “OK. You can have a cat if 1) it finds us; 2) is aesthetically pleasing; 3) comes pre-litter box trained; and 4) speaks French.”
Continued Marilyn: “A few days later, we hear meowing at the back door and there stands this gorgeous, sleek black cat we’ve never seen before. He comes in and enjoys a can of tuna and a nap while I borrow a litter box from my sister — because as the kids point out, he has met two of my screening criteria. The box is set up waiting for him when he wanders over to it, knowing exactly what it’s about.
“As he’s carefully covering his deposit,” Marilyn said, “I point out he has not yet spoken French. In fact, the cat hasn’t made a sound at all, but at that moment, he looks up and says, ‘Miaou,’ as if he’s spent his youth in Paris.
“We became Oscar’s family that day.”
You’ve gotta love an adaptable cat.
Wrote my buddy Mike Kirtner of Huntington: “As I went to retrieve the newspaper, a malnourished kitten flopped at my feet. ... I picked her up ... petted her ... really liked her. Turns out my wife had the same experience previously and told our daughter not to tell me.
“The next few days, every time I opened the garage door, the kitten would come bounding over ... leading to me keeping the door raised enough for her to enter on her own ... which led to leaving her food ... which led to me bringing her into the house when my wife would go to bed ... which led to a kitten scratching on the door to get in ... which led to a husband/wife moment with Rita saying, ‘I don’t want a cat’ ... which led to me saying, ‘That cat deserves a good life’ ... which has led to us both loving Harpo.”
Lee Ann Patton of Charlotte, formerly of Cross Lanes, told me how her old dog had died in its sleep back in 2006, while she and her brother, Don (my boyfriend), were out of town, camping at Holly River State Park.
“I was devastated,” said Lee Ann. “A year later I was at a restaurant having dinner with a friend when another friend came up and asked if I would like a dog.”
The family had adopted a shelter dog, but their son ended up being allergic, so they needed to find her another home. Lee Ann said no. Said her heart wasn’t yet ready for another dog. Still, something about that encounter stuck with Lee Ann. An entire month passed before she broke down, called her friend and asked if they were still looking for a home for the dog. They were.
I have no doubt Belle was meant to be Lee Ann’s dog. They fit in that once-in-a-lifetime sort of way.
As for us, we remain at one dog and one cat. Our long-legged boy, and bratty, sweet girl. They’re enough for us.
For now anyway.
It’s a different sort of biological clock that I have. And I’m getting the feeling it’s about to go off.