My little buddy Larry, the little black cat, gave me the slip on Sunday. I went to the animal shelter, as I do every week, and headed straight for his little den.
I liked to give him some treats and take him out to the big room where he can explore and chase his toys.
Or we would just sit and meditate.
But the cat condo was empty.
A quick check with the receptionist confirmed my suspicions. Larry had found his forever home.
Just that Friday, I had mentioned he was bound to do that to me someday. I was lifting him back up into his bed where I had tossed a few extra treats as an apology for leaving him there. It was our little ritual. I also snuck a little kiss.
“I’ll come to find you someday, and you’ll be gone,” I told him. He looked at me with big green eyes, as if to say, “Probably so.” But it was the same look my pets have given me when they knew we would never see each other again.
I shook it off in denial.
I don’t know how much of my seemingly subconscious thoughts really come from silent communication with pets, but I know I went back to see him again that day – something I never did before. And I took him out of his cage and sat with him for another 20 minutes. He lounged by my feet hunched over a little with his back to me, the way old friends sit in a train station, when one is leaving on a very long journey.
Adoption is a happy ending when a pet lands in a shelter, and this little fellow had been through hard times. He’d lost most of his fur on his legs, paws and back due to a flea allergy. He’d been a stray; then someone took him in; but they decided to surrender him. He stayed at the shelter a long time, too.
I would have liked to adopt him, but Larry is only 3. And I’m a lot older. Would I live long enough to see him safely through his life? Would I be able to take care of him in my old age?
As it turned out, he found the best of homes with a family and two little children who already treasured him.
Their poster had appeared the day before covered with Larry pictures and stories counting all the ways Larry is unique.
I met Larry soon after I started volunteering. After avoiding shelters for most of my life on the fear the experience would be too depressing, I decided to help homeless pets as a way to honor Charlie, my black cat.
Larry was also a black cat. But even if Charlie hadn’t been one of a kind and irreplaceable, Larry wasn’t anything like my Charlie. Charlie was a panther with luxurious velvet fur. I loved his quiet, calm and dignified expression. He was family from the minute I met him.
Larry may have weighed five pounds soaking wet. He was little and madcap with big eyes and an expressive face. He did recognize me when I came to visit, scolded me if I had stayed away too long, looked on in horror if I offered any other cats a treat and showered me with pet therapy.
Oh, yes, I know, I was a volunteer dedicated to helping him, but the little chores of changing his water bowls and cleaning his litter box probably helped me more than any kindness I ever did for him.
So, I was “happy sad,” as that new – new for me, anyway – expression goes to sum up the mixed feelings of losing contact with a pet. Of course, I was happy for him – but more than a little sad for me about losing a favorite little playmate.
When I went back to the shelter later that week, though, I overheard another volunteer saying much the same.
“My little buddy,” she cried.
Say, what? Her little buddy?
And it went on like that for much of the afternoon. Larry, it turns out, had wrapped a lot of volunteers around his little paw. He was everybody’s little buddy. We were all happy sad.
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Margo Ann Sullivan is a pet columnist who has written for ZooToo, and numerous publications in New York and in New England. She’s had pets all her life, starting with a rescue collie named Lollypop. The Gabby Dog column chases the news that helps pets and people. It also chronicles the adventures of Gabby, the peke-a-poo, and Asia, the tabby cat, and their many pals, hitting the high spots between Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH.
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