I have always been an animal lover. Growing up, we were limited to one cat for most of my life (Taffy, a Siamese), but when I was a teenager, we ended up with two in the house... Tootie and Louie. Tootie was mine, and Louie, my brother’s, but they both ended up being my mom’s when I was out of the house.
Once I moved out on my own, I started collecting more cats. My first boy of my own, Miles, was my sidekick. He came from the Terre Haute Humane Shelter. He had been taken from his mommy too soon, and I would wake up to him “nursing” on my t-shirt or blanket. Other times, I would wake up to him attacking me to play. I was hooked. He would go places with me, riding on my lap in the car, and looking up at me lovingly the whole way. And he was such a beauty, silver and sleek, and I loved him deeply for all of his 16 years.
A year later, we decided he needed a friend. I adopted Benny from the Clay County Humane Shelter. He was a tuxedo cat. He was gorgeous, but always a tortured soul. We loved him so much, and he was a wonderful friend for Miles, as we had hoped, but he was temperamental and didn’t adjust well to change. And he went through a LOT of changes with me through his 15 years. He was always a challenge, and went through valium, kitty Prozac, and more, but he never really was a happy or well-adjusted cat, though very loving when he felt like it.
A few months after Benny was adopted, I came home from work one day to find a little orange ball of fur curled up on the back of my couch. He was a surprise from my boyfriend at the time, acquired from one of his friends whose cat had kittens. If you are keeping track, that’s three cats now, all close in age. We named him Ike, a.k.a. Ikey, a.k.a. Ike E. Pants. He went on to be a loving companion to me and eventually inspired my daughter’s first word, “kitty,” many years later when they became best friends.
My next pet was Greta, an apparent Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix, who showed up in the Terre Haute Days Inn parking lot when I was working there in my college years. She was about 4 months old and I loved her fiercely. I had never had my own dog, or a dog indoors, and she was extremely intelligent and loyal, crazy strong, and more than a little frightening at times. It was an interesting journey with Greta, and she lived to be 12. I felt bad about her later years, as we could not trust her around our children so much, though they remember and love her still.
Next was Ollie, an 8-week-old goofball of a dog, who we adopted from a friend’s cousin, who found him near the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana. He was crazy at times, but that was part of his charm. He was the sweetest dog a person could ever ask for, even though a bit wild and clumsy, a challenge to potty train, and he loved to get in the trash. Nevertheless, he was wonderful. I will miss him forever. During my divorce transition, he lived with my brother and his family. I am eternally grateful for the unconditional love they gave him during that time. We finally got him back when I bought my current house, but unfortunately, he wasn’t around long after that. We all went through a terribly rough time with losing him at age 11.
Next were Fred and Ted, who came along at four days old, along with their sister. My ex-husband brought them home from his work, where they had been born in a Caterpillar machine that had to be moved for rental. I bottle-fed them and nurtured them, planning to find homes for them when they were ready. The little girl, unfortunately, died at a few weeks old. She just wasn’t eating and there was nothing I could do to save her.
Fred quickly became my daughter’s first love (she was 3, almost 4) and Ted became my son’s (he was 1, almost 2). So, obviously, I had no choice but to keep them. Fred and Ted are now 8 years old and still flourishing, though I, sadly, no longer have them. Luckily for the kids, they still get to spend time with their precious kitties at their dad’s house.
Add all of these up… we now had seven pets. Seven. In a two-bedroom house, and if you noticed, I also had two children by this time. In 2011, Greta got lung cancer. She was filled with tumors when the vet discovered it. She had to be euthanized to save her from suffering any more, and I held her as she died. I will never forget it, and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, up to that point. She had been with me through some of the best and worst times of my life. I did not think I would have the heart to adopt another dog at that point, but Ollie convinced me otherwise.
Ollie had been with Greta since he was a baby. She wasn’t always the nicest to him, but he loved her so. After she was gone, his howling would wake me in the night, and I would cry again over our shared pain and loss. It was not long until we decided he needed a friend. That is where Ella came in, in 2012.
There are no words to describe how much Ella has meant to me and my children since she came into our lives. She is gentle, patient, kind, and a beautiful soul. She has been with us through a divorce, loss of our other pets, three new pets, 19 and counting foster pets, multiple moves, sickness, health, great times, low times, and everything in between. She has been a rock to our little family – a source of boundless love and joy – and the thought of losing her terrifies me. She is around 11 or 12 now (she was four or five when we got her), we think she’s going deaf, white hair has taken over most of her formerly black face. She is amazing, and she inspires me to continue in our journey of helping animals to have better lives.
This is already long, so I am going to stop for now… stay tuned for my next blog, when I will talk about how we got started fostering. If you have any interest in fostering or adopting animals, feel free to contact me for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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News Writer: Lucy Perry