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To love a cat

To love a cat

Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

As an adult, I have never wanted a pet. If I didn’t have children, I wouldn’t even own a pet … ever. Some of you can’t fathom such heartless indifference to four-footed creatures. Many of you don’t even trust people who don’t claim a profound love for animals. I definitely don’t claim a profound love for animals. But don’t judge too quickly and harshly. Things aren’t always as they seem.
Our boys, like most children, have always loved animals. In our six years of living in the country, we’ve owned five chickens, four dogs, a myriad of cats and other woodland creatures. Some of the pets we chose. Most of them chose us. Part of living in the country is realizing that animals “come up” or get dropped at our place quite frequently. Our family has chosen to look upon such random events as acts of providence and we have taken in all who have needed our care. The massive yard has sometimes seemed like a rural zoo. 
As a “non-animal” person, you might think I’m angry at the boys for bringing such chaos into our lives. I guess I am angry. But not for the reasons you might think. I’m not angry because of the endless amount of pet food, the constant noises or even the vet bills. I’m angry because the boys’ love for animals has brought me pain. Pain I never expected. Pain I wasn’t prepared for. Like the time this summer when our five chickens escaped from their pen while we were on vacation at Yellowstone National Park. Our animal overseer called us with the bad news. When she had come to feed the chickens, she saw that they had somehow escaped their Fort Knox-like pen. They were nowhere to be found. The chickens were never seen again. Right there in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we sat on a bench and cried a thousand tears over five country chickens. Our youngest son’s words to my husband expressed it all, “But Daddy, I loved them. I fed them. I watered them. I was a good chicken farmer, wasn’t I?” Daddy’s words, “Son, you were a great chicken farmer. You loved them well. We can’t control everything that happens in life.” No truer words have ever been spoken. The shock for me was not that the chickens perished but that we were so unbelievably attached to them and that our grief was so profound.
Butterscotch was a tiny orange and white kitten when we brought him home two years ago. The boys loved him from the beginning. He was their constant companion. He even followed my husband around when he was working outside, often walking with him to the mailbox like a trained hound dog. When he died this week, their grief was beyond consolation … and so was mine. I cried when we first got the news. I cried all afternoon. I cried even more when I watched my tearful husband bury his body out by the redbud tree. Every time my husband or one of the boys cried, I cried with them. We cried ourselves to sleep that night. And all over a cat. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve tried to understand how a small animal who can’t talk can bring such joy and pain into one’s life. But I can’t fully grasp it. Maybe it’s not meant to be understood. One thing I know — a little orange and white cat was buried under the redbud tree … and I miss him.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her Web site lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.27.10

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