Friday, November 19, 2004

Essay #1: Nigel

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I’d been wanting to adopt a kitten for while. The flyer I had picked up told me that there would be an adoption fair on Valentine’s Day, and that was where Ben and I were walking now. I held a small pet carrier, which I had found on trash day. It was in fine shape- I suspected a pet had simply outgrown it- and after a through cleaning, I deemed it fit for any new companion I’d be bringing home. Ben was horrified by this, but had given up trying to tell me otherwise. As we walked, I imagined the kitten I’d adopt today; she would be orange and white, with long hair that worked itself into spiky little peaks. She’s have a look on her face that could not be mistaken for anything other than a smile. And she’d have spunk; she’d never run under the couch wimpily when company came over. Instead, she’d meow graciously at them and set herself upon their laps, charmingly purring and looking up at them coquettishly. This cat, I had decided, would be the feline version of me. I would name her Ruby. Ben and I arrived at the pet adoption fair 15 minutes after it had begun. On our way in, we saw a happy couple passing holding a cardboard box with holes cut out of it and pitiful mewls issuing from it. They smiled at us, and we all chuckled at their terrified new pet’s screeching. This only made me more excited, and even Ben, never one to betray perceivable emotion, seemed mildly interested. Little did we know. All of the kittens were gone. Not a one remained. There were plenty of dogs in cheerful yellow felt capes with the phrase “Take me home today!” printed on the back. But kittens were not an option. I was in tears, and Ben saw fit to pat me on the back and suggest brunch. On the way there, we ran into a couple who Ben knew, and they suggested that we check out a local veterinarian who offered some cats for adoption. After eating in order to raise my blood pressure to the point where I would not weep bitterly on the spot, Ben and I took off to the veterinary office. The window of the vet’s offices displayed a bunch of cubbyholes from floor to ceiling. There were no metal cages, and the cats were able to roam about. One cat, a gray Siamese mix, regarded us coolly from her perch, where her tail hung down and in doing so, provided a chubby calico with a toy to bat at. One grey tabby walked back and forth, silently meowing at us through the glass. These were patients of the clinic, and I liked that they were treated so well. This place seemed like it would do. We went inside. I asked the receptionist about any cats for potential adoptions. She started to shake her head, but then, called in a vet’s aide, who reminded her that yes, there was one cat that was available. The receptionist pulled out some papers and gave me some information. This kitten was older; 6 months to be exact. He had been abandoned at a low cost spay & neuter clinic (his previous owners were at least half responsible). He was shy. Would I like to see him? I was uncertain. I had wanted a younger cat, and I wasn’t sure about a male, either (sexist, but true). Plus, he sounded like he may have a less than desirable personality, which I was concerned about. Ben tilted his head at me kindly and suggested I take a look at the cat, just to see. I nodded, not quite convinced but feeling guilty for being so dismissive of this one animal out of thousands in need. The receptionist disappeared into the back of the office momentarily. I sat down, held Ben’s hand and felt torn. And then I saw him. The receptionist had him in her arms, and he looked terrified. His yellow eyes bugged open, and he shrunk his tiny body against her chest. She walked up to me and said, “Now you can get to know him and see if he’s a good fit”. I reached out and put my hands around his heaving rib cage. I could feel his little heart beating frantically against my palm. I placed him gently on my lap. He looked up into my eyes for just a second, and then, shivering, burrowed in between my arm and my side, trying to meld himself into me. Like a four legged ostrich, he shoved his head under the hem of my down vest to hide. And he broke my heart, just like that. Without any hesitation, this tiny creature had demanded that I hold and comfort him. And how could I say no to him? My eyes teared up and I whispered to him, “It’s going to be OK, little guy. It’s all going to be OK now.” Ben was up at the reception desk, making polite conversation with the receptionist in a shared attempt by both of them to give me some privacy while I evaluated the kitten. Now, the receptionist peered from around Ben and asked politely, “OK, so maybe you can think about it-“ “I think I’ll take him” I said, cutting her off. Ben laughed, surprised by my sudden certainty. I filled out all the papers, Ben paid the vet’s adoption fees as a Valentine’s Treat, and we loaded the kitten into the recycled carrier and started back home. Ben, saddled with a giant bag of cat food in one hand and a bag of toys in the other, laughed as the kitten cried miserably. I had decided to name him Nigel, and no matter how much I tried to soothe him, he wailed in utter horror. I cooed to him, “I promise, you’re OK now, Nigel. You’re mine, and it’s all OK now.” And I hope Nigel knew I meant it.

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