Here I am at PetSmart. Me and my empty cart, looking at all the things you’ll need if you adopt a dog, because my best friend adopted a dog. She loves that dog. She said I need a dog. She said if I come to PetSmart, see all the cute dog products, I’ll fall in love with the idea of adopting a dog, too. Except, I’m a cat person. I’ve always been a cat person, and that will never change, so why am I here?
I’m still at PetSmart, wandering down one aisle after another, looking at dog products to make my best friend happy. The friend who wants me to adopt a dog, who forgot I grew up with cats. I’ve always had cats. I have cats now. I love my cats. I need to tell my dog-loving best friend this isn’t going to work. It isn’t. Just. Not. Working.
Although tiny Chihuahuas are cute. You have to admit. In their little dog outfits. But I don’t need to adopt a dog. I just need to leave. I am leaving. I’m leaving this empty cart behind. And walking out. I’m walking out of PetSmart without any dog supplies. I’m walking out without adopting a dog. I’m a cat person. Cats make me happy. Happy is good. I don’t need a dog. I just need to leave. I’m a cat person. And I always will be.
Happy is good. I’m trying. Trying. Trying to be happy. I am.
Coming back from the grocery store on a Sunday morning, my husband driving, me in the passenger seat, talking about something, I can’t remember what, we reach the top of Harbison bridge when I see a feral kitten, just six or seven weeks old, dart like a flash of tabby out of the bushes into heavy traffic, into the wheel of an SUV, bounce off, terrified, and begin to drag its injured body toward the other side of the bridge, while I scream for my husband to “STOP THE CAR!” while I leap out, while I dodge traffic, while cars screech to a halt until I reach the kitten (finally!), scoop it up in my arms, dash back to the car, jump in, cuddling the frightened kitten to my chest, while my husband yells, “What should we do!” and I shout, “Take me to the Emergency Vet!” since it’s Sunday, and my vet is closed, but even though I spread a fabric grocery bag on my lap to make a soft bed for it, and even though I shower it with love and assurances of a long life, the little tabby passes away before we reach the end of the street, so we turn around and drive home, where I hold a beautiful funeral for this sweet babycat to let it know without a doubt in those last moments and in death it was loved, it was loved, it was loved by me, and always will be.
It’s not easy being in feral cat rescue. But I’m a cat person. I want them all. I love them all. I can’t have them all. Well, I could if I lived in the country. On a farm. But I’m not a farm person. Horses? Cows? Pigs? Chickens? HORRORS! Not happening. I’m not a farm person. I’m a forest person. Give me green. Give me trees. Lots of trees. Green and trees. That’s me.
Fact: My husband would divorce me if I lived on a farm with a hundred cats. He tells me that whenever I show him a photo of a cat. Like I’ve forgotten. Like I could. With him reminding me every day. Right.
Fact: Can’t irritate the husband. He’s a good one. Took too long to find him. Had to throw a few bad-news boyfriends back in the pond first. Okay, they threw me back in the pond. First. Just tossed me away. All of them. Back then. Back in the dark days. But who’s counting? Besides, it happens to everyone, every woman, doesn’t it? Of course, it does.
But. But. We cope. And keep moving forward. Move. Forward. I’m trying. Keep. Trying.
Back then, back in the dark days, there was a corner in my hairdresser’s salon just for books. Still is. Two bookcases full of novels. Mostly romances. Used paperbacks from the flea market. She sells them for a dollar. Something to read while she cuts and styles our hair. The dollars go into a coffee can on top of one of the bookcases. Once a month she takes the coffee can to the flea market to buy more romance novels. It’s a strategy that works. For all of us. Next to the bookcases is a cat tree. Also from the flea market. Also used. This is where Oscar lounges, his favorite place to nap. Oscar is a ginger cat with the most unusual fur. It shimmers a vibrant shade of tangerine. He’s a tangerine dream. No one knows where Oscar came from. He just appeared at the shop one day and stayed. That was five years ago. Now he’s the shop cat. The cat that naps. All day. One afternoon back then, back in the dark days, a Monday afternoon, I walked through the door of the salon, grabbed a paperback, dropped my dollar in the coffee can, petted Oscar, and sat in an empty swivel chair. “What can I do for you today?” my hairdresser asked. “This,” I said, pointing to what I wanted. She covered my body with a big plastic apron. “Are you sure?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “This is what I need.” Tying the apron ribbons securely around my neck, she pumped up the chair with her foot. “Okay,” she said, “Let’s do it!” After my fiancé left me at the altar, after I recovered from the resulting funk, I decided to shake things up. It’s what I needed. Three hours later my hairdresser whirled my chair around to face the mirror. “Done,” she said. No longer drab brown, my hair glowed like a ripe tangerine. Like a sizzling sunset. The flaming coals on a grill. A blazing book of matches. The flare of a candle. Now my hair was the same shimmering shade of tangerine as Oscar’s fur. Now I’m a tangerine dream. Just what I wanted. Just what I needed. “It’s purrrrrrfect,” I said. She laughed and shook her head