Growing up I was a dog person. Still a dog person, for the most part. Five years ago I started dating a cat person. Oh she likes dogs also, but not quite the same. At the time I was living in a one bedroom apartment. I started to get this crazy idea. In lieu of being able to have the blue eyed Siberian Husky I really wanted because, well apartment, I thought to give me some companionship in my solo dwelling when Paula wasn’t visiting I would get a cat. Because easy. Cats don’t require much. Throw a little food down, some water, clean the litter occasionally, the rest as they say, is cake. So I do what I always do when I’m attempting to learn something, head to the Googlecopter. Because research.
I spent several weeks reading about cats and all they had to offer. I told Paula what I was thinking. The response I got was something like, “Are you nuts?! You hate cats”.
“I don’t “hate” cats.”
“Mmmhmmm, ok. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“It’s going to be great! You’ll see.”
But I was focused. I also saw this relationship heading towards something permanent, and knew I would end up having to be around her cat. Shyanne and I had already had gotten off to a rocky start. Ok, maybe that’s an understatement. She had bitten me in the face just a inch or so away from eyes and I had essentially tried to strangle her before Paula intervened. Because eyesight.
Shyanne was my first experience with being around an animal that didn’t unconditionally love me. Remember, dog person. That’s what dogs do. I didn’t know how to handle that. Clearly I had a lot to learn. From that point forward for the next few years Shyanne and I in the same room, er house was like gasoline and matches. You get the idea. Because volatile.
But I pressed forward with my idea to get a cat. I discovered the Central Oklahoma Humane Society and started browsing their cat pics. I kept going back to the cutest one. Cassie was her name. I went to visit her and thought she was a good choice. $75 later and I was a cat owner. Paula warned me not to pick her based only on cuteness, but what did she know, maybe she’d been a cat owner only her entire life, but I’d spent weeks riding the Googlecopter, and I knew what I was doing. Once again, no unconditional love. Without going into too much detail we’ll just say our personalities didn’t mesh, and she went back to the Adoption Center. Because safety.
I was disappointed on many levels, but undeterred. I began my search again. Because persistent. Determined to learn my lesson, I modified my approach. No longer would I only look for cuteness, but I would spend several times interacting with them to see the ones that took to me. Essentially let the cat choose me. I found a beautiful Russian Blue on the Adoption Center website and began “stalking” her. I made my first visit to the PetSmart she was at and learned the cat in the cage next to her had figured out how to open the door between their cages and slept with her. They happened to be running a two for one at the time so we played with both cats at the same time. They related so well with each other. Paula thought it was a good choice so I got both of them.
The first few weeks were rocky for me once again. Neither was the cuddly cat with me that Shyanne was with Paula. Once again, hurt feelings. It took time, but I worked through my issues with them. Rosie, Iris and I eventually bonded, well sort of. Shyanne was a different story, however. Our relationship was as tumultuous as ever. When I moved in with Paula it only escalated. It got to the point where Shyanne essentially lived in her son’s room. Paula’s cat wasn’t really her cat anymore, and it was my fault. Because immature.
A year or so after we had moved into our new house Shyanne and I had another “disagreement” and the rage spilled over to Paula. Rarely do she and I have disagreements, much less fights, but this one of the few ones. It was ugly, I was completely responsible for it. Because jackass. In that moment I realized that my issues weren’t healthy and I was tired of it. Something had to change, and the only one to do that was me. I made an effort to avoid Shyanne and to blow off the things she did that would irritate me. Primarily that meant her hissing. That sound would send my rage to stratospheric levels in an instant. It wasn’t easy at first, but I kept at it for the sake of everyone’s happiness.
Weeks went by, no blow ups. That turned into months. Eventually we could be in the same room together. Time went by and I got to where I could occasionally pet her without issue. I was always on the defensive, and ever careful. That turned into the occasional hop into my lap. Progress indeed. It got to the point where she would walk through my legs and Paula would say she wanted me to pick her up. I finally got the courage to do that and she laid over my shoulder just like she did with Paula. It was the pinnacle of a momentous journey for me. It had taken many days of searching for answers for me to realize that jealousy was the cause of my “cat issues”. More specifically, jealous of the relationship Paula had with Shyanne. Not that I thought she loved her more than me, but that was the kind of relationship I’d had with all of my dogs and wanted with my cats. My cats weren’t like that, though. I had to learn that was ok.
Our relationship continued to grow to the point where I truly began to love her. One day while I was holding her over my shoulder Paula, with a smile on her face said to me, “That’s all you ever wanted wasn’t it?”
“Yep…I just wanted to love the kitty.”
I actually joked to Paula that this was all part of Shyanne’s grand plan. To get me to love her and then she was going to die once I did. Because devious.
Last Tuesday morning we lost our Shyanne to age and most likely leukemia. In the last few months she had taken up residence in my chair and on my desk in my office/music room. She would sit in my lap for hours just like she had always done with Paula. She would lay on my arm making it nearly impossible for me to type when I was trying to write more of my book. She and I had actually bonded. I’m sorry it took me having to travel such a broken road before it happened. A lot of wasted time that I can’t get back. That’s the lesson here. It’s not always easier to love than it is to hate, but it is infinitely more rewarding.
She may have only been an eight pound cat, but her presence in the house was immense, and the lesson she taught me equally so. The house is a little emptier without her. So is my life. No doubt I will continue to miss her, and hope I can continue to practice the lesson she taught me. Because love.
We love you.