Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two extraordinary cats

Believing in love and redemption isn’t always easy, but the following stories of two very special cats help.

Sirius lived under Calliope’s loving umbrella for two years. “How is this gem being overlooked?,” we often wondered. His FIV+ status explained some adopters’ reluctance, even though he was healthy and symptom-free. Or perhaps his larger-sized tuxedo frame didn’t show as well in his website photo. (Hey, I identify! I confiscate the camera of anyone now who shoots below my collar bone.)

What his website profile had a harder time capturing was his unique spirit. After three years on the street, Sirius could have given up—on humans and on himself. Instead, he embraced life, meeting new people and experiences head on with the calm demeanor and studied observation that became his trademark. During adoption events, he would recline inside his large cage with one front leg stretched out, waiting for his public. And his public adored him, though still he remained under Calliope’s care.

Then one day, an application came in. His new family arrived to meet him, and Sirius stretched on the couch in the same relaxed pose. One by one, he carefully examined each stranger. The slow blink, the steady gaze, the gentle encouragement to the young boy to keep dragging the feather toy his way—within five minutes, Sirius and everyone else knew he was going home that day. As the car pulled away with Sirius in the backseat, did the two years of waiting mean anything then? Only perhaps that patient, wise Sirius showed the rest of us the power of faith.

Next is little moo-cow-spotted Pirate. A serious heart condition made him a prime candidate for the kill list at his first shelter, but this delightful cat escaped such a fate. He became a Calliope cat, charming all who met him. As adventurous as pirates of old, he wore his natural black eye patch with pride. But Pirate’s long-term prognosis was uncertain, so much so that one vet gently suggested that putting him down might be the best choice. Instead, Calliope put Pirate on medication to improve his heart function and restricted him to less energetic types of play. And he thrived, living in a loving foster home with his mom Mermaid.

Yes, we knew what he was facing. Pirate, however, did not. What he knew was how absolutely glorious it is to be a cat—to purr, to pounce, to feast on fish, to groom, to hear a familiar voice, to watch birds, to sun, to curl under blankets to sleep. In every way, Pirate celebrated his feline life. And those around him celebrated in response.

Today at the hospital, Pirate’s heart failed him. But it did not fail any of us. For two years, he lived with obvious joy and quiet dignity. He was well loved and well respected. His life span was short, but not another single thing about him was similarly constrained. Pirate leaves behind a reminder that meaning is measured in experiences, not in days; in overcoming limitations, not in the limitations themselves. You remain in my memory, little Pirate.

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