One weird cat inspires a lifelong interest in senior pets

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Callie, a “special” cat in many ways

During my life I’ve had many cats. All but one were normal
and well-adjusted. But the first was not. It was this one weird cat that prompted
my lifelong interest in senior pets. Here is our story.

When I was in college I saw an ad in the paper for a free
cat. She was a 16-year-old Calico named Callie. I thought we were a good match.
I could help a cat in need and get her love in return. And, because of her age,
I figured she’d pass away before I left for graduate school. Perfect timing for
both of us.

Her owner had died, and she was the one pet his family
wouldn’t take in. I might have inquired why they didn’t want her with an open mind
and understanding heart, but instead, I was simply aghast (just a wee bit
judgmental). After all, I was 20 and issues of animal welfare were pretty black
and white.

I’m far too stubborn to be a hypocrite, so over the next
months, my noisy criticism of her previous family strengthened my resolve to
make this strange cat love me. For four months she lived in the kitchen cabinet
(actually in my lazy Susan) only to come out to relieve herself on the carpet.
Wall-to-wall became bare wood.

In Month
6, she moved into a new space, under my bed. Eventually, she began to sneak out until her
days were spent with me instead of the dust bunnies.

In Year Two I let her go into my fenced backyard, and her
world expanded. Day after day, she basked under a canopy of golden hickory
leaves, transfixed by their shimmer, and she began to blossom in the dappled
sunlight. Time and a taste of nature transformed her into an almost normal cat.

Now she purred and sought an extended hand
for a few rubs on the chin. Late at
night, I would lift her onto my lap to watch Magnum, P.I. reruns (she couldn’t
jump onto the couch, but we shared a mutual “thing” for Higgins).

Remember how I said I thought we’d be perfect together
because, let’s face it, I didn’t presume she’d live long enough to see me go to
graduate school? Ha! That decrepit cat moved with me from state to state — through
graduate school AND my first three “real” jobs — content, if not happy, up to her
final days.

Luckily, Callie, who was very slow to warm to me, is not at
all the norm. My other senior pets have moved graciously into my life.

my experience with Callie taught me a good lesson: Adoption doesn’t
come with guarantees. All
pets have their own personalities and idiosyncrasies. Adopting an
elderly pet can be somewhat like
bringing your elderly parent into your home: Expect them to be rather
set in their ways. Don’t expect them to bend to your needs, but
do try to meet theirs. Value them for who they are and learn from them.

Your reward will come as mine did with Callie. She graced me
with her presence, and I knew I had done right by her as her time on earth
wound down. I was fulfilled by that.

Senior pets continue to make my life full. My old man,
Harper, is a gorgeous and silly 38-year-old Quarterhorse who spends his senior
days bossing my goats around. Senior farm animals may be the most needy of our
concern — but that is worth a whole blog of its own.

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