Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting a Pet

Pets and new houses go together like fleas and flea dipping.  After years of living in apartments with “no pet” policies, part of the appeal of owning a house in Los Angeles was that finally we could have a dog.  I looked forward to the day when Mr. Wonderful and I could join the hordes of Angelinos walking their pooches in the park, on the beach and down the aisles of Petco.

In this world there are dog people and there are cat people.  My husband and I belong to the dogs.  I grew up with a friendly German Shepherd and when Mr. Wonderful was a boy he had a lovable mutt who was his constant companion.  Both were sweet, tail-wagging pets who filled our childhoods with countless hours of fetch and happiness.  After we moved into our fixer upper house I revealed my canine wish.
“You don’t need a pet to come home to,” Mr. Wonderful said plastering a wall. “You have a house needing work to come home to.”  And there was the truth: A) He didn’t want a dog; B) because we needed to focus on the house; C) A house that required 10 years of fixing, give or take a decade.

The next day my colleague, Carrie, cornered me at an after work event.
“Your house needs a pet.  And I have the cat for you,” she said poking the lime wedge in her Diet Coke with a straw.  I don’t like cats.  They’re egotistical, suffer from superiority complexes and are frustratingly independent.  I’ve known prisoners in San Quentin nicer than cats.  I shook my head, “No can do.”
“I work for the local Cat Rescue,” she said flashing a business card with her email address and a smiling cat logo.  I don’t know where she found a smiling cat logo because cats don’t smile.  Their facial expressions range from sleeping to pouting to more sleeping.  She continued, “I have a cat in need of a family.”
“My husband and I are dog people,” I said pressing my back against the wall and sliding away.  She pursued.
“He’s five years-old and neutered.”
 I don’t care.  Cats are selfish animals!  I wanted to shout.  Instead I slid along the wall until I hit the corner of the room.  Trapped.  Carrie’s face got so close to mine I smelled the lime on her breath.
“Adopt him,” she said.
“My husband dislikes cats.  A lot—”
“Peggy found him when he was just a kitten.  She raised him and he lived with her until…” 

Carrie and I exchanged a look.  Despite her pushiness even she couldn’t bear to say it.  Our dear friend and devoted cat fancier, Peggy, had passed away five months earlier due to a short, painful bout with cancer.  Two of her cats were immediately adopted by her family, which left this one cat to place. 
“Don’t adopt him for me,” Carrie said with big brown eyes.  “Do it… for Peggy”.

We hugged.  We cried.  I agreed to a Sunday drop off, which gave me exactly 36 hours to break the news to Mr. Wonderful: We were now cat owners.