"Honey?" My husband said the other night, "There's a cat in the house." This probably wouldn't have come as such a shock if we actually owned a cat. I looked around the corner and sure enough, there sat a pretty little gray and white kitty, perched quietly by the front door.
Holy feline, where did that thing come from?
Before I could blink, our 5-year-old (who had been in bed for two solid hours) rushed out of his room, took one look at the kitty and exclaimed, "Rucifer! What are you doing here?"
(In case you haven't seen Disney's version of Cinderella lately, "Rucifer" is what the mice call "Lucifer," the evil cat. Nice, I know.)
The little kitty was so starved it could hardly manage a meow. I cracked open a can of something, fed and watered it, and in no time he was purring and loving on us like one of our own children.
We've never owned a cat before. At one point we had a beautiful black half standard poodle, half golden retriever (affectionately called a Goldendoodle), but when our wonderful dog was barely a year he was hit by a car and killed. It was devastating. We cried like babies and vowed to never, ever love an animal again (until the kids were older and we lived on a different street).
By midnight the cat thought he was a permanent resident. We almost kept him inside, but what if he belonged to someone? Besides, we don't need a pet right now. We're moving half way around the world, an animal will only complicate things. We decided if he was still there in the morning, we'd re-evaluate.
Thanks to my loud little 5-year-old, my children sat by the window off and on the next day, talking about Our Cat. They discussed names, fought over his sleeping arrangements, and waited. And waited and waited and waited.
It was a school night and I finally had to put them to bed. I made one more pass by the front window, just in case, and what do you think I saw sitting in the courtyard? Oh yeah, the cat came back.
For two days I fed him at night, and turned him out in the morning. I checked the ads, asked the neighbors, but no one was missing a little gray and white kitty. Finally I did the only thing I could think of: I called the Animal Master of the Universe, my friend, Caroline Clark.
"Caroline," I said, "this cat keeps coming around and I have no idea what to do with him." I ran through the details and waited for instructions.
"Oh, the sweet little kitty, take him into the vet for tests, make sure he doesn't have an owner's chip, and if he looks OK, bring him out here and I'll fix up his coat."
A pet? Now? All I could think of was the plane ride overseas !-- four kids and a cat. Circus material.
The next morning I drove to the Heartsong clinic in Clearfield (they handle basic vaccinations and "fixings" for a great price). The receptionist took one look at our little kitty and yelled for their cat expert.
"Hey," she said, "Look at his ears!" The tech took a look and asked, "Where did you get him?"
I told her the story and she smiled. "Looks like you won the cat lottery, this little guy is worth at least $600, you could probably get $800." She left me, mouth ajar, and took him back for testing.
When they emerged again, she asked, "Are you sure you want him? He's a sweetheart, if his tests come out clean our vet would really like to keep him."
"I really don't know," I said. I took the kitty from her and sat down to wait for his test results. Maybe giving him to someone more stable would be best. I couldn't bear the thought of our family getting attached and then losing him.
As I sat there thinking about handing him off, the door bell rang and in walked a dog. Not just any dog, my dog. The dog we had loved and lost. A big black goldendoodle.
And my cat sat there happily, relaxed as a blanket and purring like a vacuum.
Holy kitty litter, it was a sign.
In that moment I knew it was time to love a pet again. Yes, sometimes it's a gamble, and sometimes they leave us too soon, but that kitty on my lap needed us.
My mother always says that the right pet will find you when you need it most. Rucifer, I hope you know what you're in for, because you've got us now.
Annie Valentine is a Layton wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.