Sunday, August 7, 2011
My Four-Legged Mentor
When my husband and I first thought about starting a family, we decided we would start with a cat. We assumed that if we didn't kill the cat, we could probably handle a baby.
Joe and I went predictably crazy over our new addition. Because we lived in Manhattan, we decided to adopt a cat from the ASPCA. Samantha was a cute little thing that was found wandering the streets of New York. We took one look at her sweet face and we were hooked!
Many, many people made fun of how crazy we went over Samantha the cat. I'll never know why.
Perhaps it was because she had more toys than most children. Or perhaps it was our decision to feed her only the speciality cat food that could be found only in pet stores.
But, well we had to do that. The one time Joe had the nerve to pick up a grocery store brand, she picked out each inferior piece and left only the fancy brand in her dish. Did I forget to mention she was a genius? How could we feed her Tender Vittles when she so clearly was telling us her preference?
Maybe we were a tad obsessive.
It didn't help that poor Samantha had a chronic viral condition, so she frequently got eye and respiratory infections. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I remember one night at 12:00 a.m. Joe and I got into a cab with our "baby" so we could take her to an all night vet because we were so worried about her.
Samantha had a plethora of prescription drops and antibiotics. We became quite skilled at getting her to take each and every one, and the skills have been put to good use with three children!
Nights that previously were spent reading or watching a movie were now spent playing with our cat. Joe would take her out into the hallway of our apartment building and run back and forth with her.
We especially loved it when our neighbor’s three-year old son would knock on the door to play with Samantha. She may have looked like an ordinary cat, but to us she was our baby.
She was also a great comfort to us at one of the saddest points in our life.
Each of the four times I miscarried, it was Samantha who would sit with me in the dark as I mourned my loss. Holding her and feeling her warm fur helped with the devastation I felt over our losses.
When we moved to Queens, Samantha kept me company and made the move less traumatic. I could focus on her adjustment to the new house and not think about my own.
Looking back, I crack myself up about just how crazy we went over our cat. But Samantha did what we hoped she would do, she helped us get ready to be parents. And, in her own way she made us a family.
A little more than two years after our first miscarriage my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. If you thought we went nuts over the cat, you can only guess what a fuss we made over our beautiful newborn son.
In the months before Tom was born, I diligently got Samantha ready for the changes that were coming. What I didn't anticipate is that our son would be extremely allergic to our first baby!
Luckily for us, my father-in-law was only too happy to give Samantha a new home. The two of them became great friends for the next 12 years.
This August 30 would have been Samantha's 16th birthday. But last fall, she had to be put to sleep after a long illness.
I always do my best to keep my feelings in check and in control around my kids, but when I got the call that Samantha was gone, I just sobbed. I missed my friend.
I have been blessed with many mentors in my 45 years. People who challenged me to become the person and parent I wanted and still want to be. With the risk of causing my cousin, Donna, a laughter-induced heart attack, I consider Samantha "the cat" one of them.
Samantha got me ready to be a parent like no teacher, parent, or friend could. She gave me first-hand experience in caring and loving something that was totally dependent on me. I will always cherish the sweet memories of her and how she helped Joe and I get ready for the adventure of raising the three wonderful children we have now.
Authors Note: My four-legged mentor was the first essay I ever posted on my blog. The original version was first published on Momster.com back in November, 2010. Next week, I will go back to publishing new essays.