When a young(er) woman starts to worry about having children before she gets too old, people say that her biological clock is ticking. So what’s the phrase to describe someone who wants to get a pet before she’s too old and arthritic to lift the jumbo bag of Purina? Whatever it’s called, I’ve been going through it for at least a year.
Despite the fact that we live in a town home with no grassy yard, I felt that if so many of my neighbors in the same situation can have dogs, why not us? In the winter, I can recognize these neighbors only by knowing who owns which dog because they have their parka hoods up and scarves wrapped around their necks to keep out the cold as they watch the little darlings do their business in back of our development. But I also thought about how much exercise I’d get…and fresh air. And wouldn’t it be nice to come home and be greeted by a creature that’s excited to see me? To be fair, my husband serves that purpose now. I’m blessed.
And speaking of that husband, as much as he wants me to be happy, he wasn’t sold on the idea of a dog. A cat? That was different. He’s had lots of experience with cats and loves them, so he warmed to the idea of adopting one, maybe. I’d had a cat in the ’70s, and it wasn’t a great experience. As one daughter puts it, “He was the worst pet ever!” I wouldn’t go that far, but he was demanding, he sprayed around our living room, causing us to pull up the carpeting to remove the smell, and he insisted we let him outside. “Who’s the boss?” you might ask. When a cat is nipping at your ankles and trying to trip you while you’re getting ready for work if you don’t let him out, he’s the alpha.
Nevertheless, I started looking at web pages for shelters that had cats for adoption. But I still wanted a dog. Then my daughter and son-in-law took jobs in the San Francisco area and rented a house there. When they learned they could bring only two of their three cats, I got a phone call. “Mom. I have to ask a favor of you. A big favor.” I was about to ask “How much cash do you need?” but decided to wait and see what she actually wanted. You know where this is going. We were asked to take Maude, one of their three 12-year-old cats. She chose Maude because this cat didn’t play with the other two, even though the male cat was her litter mate. Maude is more timid than the others and prefers to find a hiding place by herself.
We talked it over and agreed to take her. On Monday, April 8, Maude arrived at our house. We made sure we had the litter and food she was used to, as there were so many other adjustments she had to make. She purred when we petted her and seemed pretty content. Then there was bedtime. We got into bed, and she found a nice dark hiding space in our master closet. We all fell asleep. A couple of hours later, the meowing and mrrowwing began. She made so many different sounds, I swear one of them was “Uh-oh.” Probably not, but in my middle-of-the-night stupor, it sure sounded like that. I felt bad for Maude, who was searching for either her former owners, her former feline roommates, even though she didn’t have much to do with them, or her old surroundings.
Thankfully, this was a one-night experience. the next night, she was curled up on our bed, although she still preferred her closet space for serious sleeping. Now, 22 days later, she seems content. She’d sleep with us all night, every night, if I were not such a restless sleeper. One bout of tossing and turning from me and she bolts off the bed. Sorry, Maude. I’m too old to change my nighttime habits.
My reaction during Maude’s first week in her new home was, “Did we need this? Do I need another family member to worry about?” I even worried about staying away from home for too many hours, lest the little darling miss us or wonder where we went. Even reminding myself that my daughter and son-in-law both worked full-time, so there were long stretches of time that Maude had to be without human contact. But…she had two other cats in the house, whether she cared to socialize with them or not. The truth is that Maude, at 12 years old and a with a sedentary nature, sleeps almost all day. I bet she doesn’t know we’re gone most of the time because when we return, we find her curled up on our bed right where we left her.
Even better? Maude adores us—or at least trusts us. I know this because she’s purrs loudly when we pet her, head bumps us often, and even falls asleep with her front paw resting on one of our arms or legs.
As for wanting a dog…I think I’ve changed my mind. On her first night, when Maude was making homesick noises and keeping us awake, I said to my husband, “If she were a dog, we’d have to put some clothes on, get the leash, and take her outside.” In my dog-wanting days, I remember vowing that I’d be willing to do that, but thinking about it now when I’m half-asleep, I’m not so sure. For now, I’ll be content with just having to empty the litter box (we bought a Litter Genie!) and providing fresh food and water…and lots and lots of love.