by Mary Gulivindala
Do you have a big mouth? Can you keep a secret? I can’t. My son turned 11 recently. The next day I and my big mouth told him I was going to give him a kitten.
I can keep most secrets, but when it’s about gifts, hold your tongue. I’m a grown woman trapped in a kindergartener body. Actually kindergarteners keep secrets better than I. I was the kid who shook the Christmas presents that I investigated like Nancy Drew.
I have always had a multi-animal household. If I have one dog, why not another? I still have to walk the one; right? Well, now it’s kitten time! I started my family when I adopted my beloved dog Lucy and cat Thomas 17 years ago at the same time. To this day I don’t know why I got two animals at the same time. It was a divine intervention for all of us.
Eight years later I added Henri, our Papillion. If you’re a softie, don’t watch the Westminster Dog Show; like many, I fell prey to their adorable dogs. Both years I adopted my two dogs, guess what? Their breeds won “Best in Show.”
Lucy died in 2010 at the wonderful old age of 14. I had planned a few more years with her, but I forgot that I’m not GOD. In August last year Thomas died at 16, same deal. As any pet owner will tell you, the death of a family animal is heartbreaking. I think grief is a beautiful thing. It changes, but it doesn’t have an expiration date. I remind myself of that when I call out and say, “Lucy needs a walk,” and my son says, “Mom, you said ‘Lucy.’” It has been 15 months since Thomas died, and I’m still waiting for him to come sleep on my head.
I will never forget the feeling the first time I looked at Henri and realized he was the only dog in the house. It broke my heart. My first thought was: “I have to get him a companion.” My second was: “No, I can’t; I’m not ready.” My heart was just not ready. Pets aren’t a novelty, a toy that is played with for a bit and then put aside. They are a privilege and a responsibility that I take seriously. If and when the time came, I would be prepared. Now I am.
With my mind made up, I called Len Lear, the notorious animal lover and Local Life editor of this publication, to ask if he knew where I could look for a kitten. Within a second or two he returned my email with names of organizations that rescue cats. My journey began with Green Street Rescue, greenstreetrescue.org.
I filled out the adoption papers and was sent photos of cats and kittens in need of good homes. Here’s where it gets tough; they all need homes, and I can’t adopt them all, and that sucks. I was ready to see a litter of three male kittens. I emailed the foster mom and set up an appointment. That happened last night. (My son James just bounced down the steps at 7:37 a.m., and the first thing out of his mouth was “kittens,” with a big smile.)
We had to meet the kittens to make sure we would all be a happy family. Could I have waited until James’ birthday and given him a KitKat candy bar with a photo of the kittens? Yes, but when I saw the photos, I was hook, line and sunk. Also I had to prepare James, you know, videos and shopping lists to prepare our lair? OK; label me a big mouth with a big smile. I’m guilty!
Now comes the next soul-searching dilemma. Are two cats better than one? My plan was one, only one, but when I asked my trusted friends on Facebook, they all came back with “Get two.” The reason why flooded in. Happily resigned to getting two kittens, James and I drove to meet them. After we got there, we sat with our new babies, grateful to find out the third kitten in the litter would be adopted too. I could not get three. NO, MARY, YOU CANNOT GET THREE!
Now we are waiting for the arrival of our two new family members in a week or so. Can we wait? We have to. How will we spend that time? Looking at the pictures, reading articles and watching videos on the how-TWOS of kittens.
There is a saying that you’re only as sick as your secrets. I was love-sick the minute I saw the photos of the kittens, so I could not keep the secret from my son that he would be getting two new family members as a birthday present. That is my defense. I rest my case.