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Sunday, July 11, 2010

For whom the Bella tolls.

As I mentioned in my last post, losing Grady is not something I'll ever get over. I am deeply grateful and beyond fortunate that he shared his 19 year long life with me, and I never lose sight of that.

One thing that I started to do when the numb wore off after Grady went to the Bridge was volunteer more actively with a local no-kill rescue, The Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation. They have an adoption center in my local PetSmart, and that's how I got involved. It started with simply volunteering at Sunday adoption events. That moved to a shift caring for the cats in the adoption center (PetSmart adoption centers are attended to by volunteers who come in two to three times a day to play with center residents and clean their enclosures, refill their food & water, etc.). That moved to becoming a foster caregiver. I turned my office in the house into a "foster room" and hosted various kittens and cats on their way to their forever homes.

In very late October 2009, I got a call from the foster coordinator asking if I could take in two 2-year old cats who were being returned to the rescue. They were siblings - a brother and sister - who had been adopted together as kittens. Their humans told the rescue that one of the cats had had a problem with bladder infections and that they simply couldn't afford to care for them. I contacted the human in question and told him to bring the cats to the Sunday adoption event and that, if they weren't adopted, they would come into foster with me.

He did show up. With one cat. He told me, basically, that his children couldn't bear to part with the brother cat so he had just brought the sister, Bella. He said that she was shy and "not very nice". He signed overall the paperwork relinquishing ownership (I hate the concept of "owning" a cat, by the way) and turned Bella over to me in a cold carrier with nothing soft for her to lay on.

I took her out of the carrier - she was TINY - she was TERRIFIED. We made it through the adoption event (I wanted to take her home with me right away, fearing the stress of the event was too much for her, but I was overruled) and I packed her up and brought her home to the foster room. I spent a LOT of time with her in the following days - encouraging her to come to me, to let me pet her, to try to play a little bit. I fed her great food and slowly built a relationship with her.

I didn't take her to the adoption event the following week because I just thought she would do better with a little more time to acclimate to her new circumstances before throwing her back into the mix. By sheer coincidence, I had resigned my job on October 31 and was due to start a new one on November 16. This gave me a LOT of time to spend with Bella, and I made sure I gave her that time.

She was a lovely kitty. Petite and mostly black with the cutest white toes and a little bit of white on her tummy. She came to me freely as the days passed, accepting love and giving it back.

As the day fo the adoption event I was supposed to take her to approached, I knew I couldn't give her up. My husband came into the living room and asked if Bella would be going to the event two days later. I hesitated - he said, "We can't keep her."

I burst into tears.

Basically, after holding out for 17 years and not allowing my husband to get a tattoo, I arranged a trade: I get Bella, he gets a tattoo. Truthfully, he would have acquiesced regardless because he knew that I loved Bella and she loved me back.

What commenced was a trip to the vet for a health check (healthy) and a long transition period where I introduced her to the other three cats. The other three are all very outgoing - rambunctious, chasing each other, you name it. Bella is different. I don't believe she was abused per se - but I do think she spent two years with her previous family basically hiding and largely ignored. It was obvious to me from the start that she didn't know how to play, which was really weird. She would watch the other cats play and slowly learn herself. Where she would always run from my husband or another cat, she started hanging on the edges of the activity, keeping an ever-watchful eye on everyone but me.

I can't say that she fell into the cat groove in the house - but I can say that she didn't disrupt the cat groove in the house. She made (and continues to make) progress every single day. She plays more, trusts more, and gets more social with each day that passes.

Until about three weeks ago.
Sidenote: Bella's brother was surrendered back to the rescue by the same family three weeks ago.

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