Yesterday, Dan and I attempted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our first date. That might sound ridiculous, considering that we have an actual wedding anniversary in January, but I would simply say, “Pish-posh. There’s always a reason to celebrate!”
If only, though, the celebration had gone as intended. We should’ve known how the evening would fare when we were getting ready to leave the house. We had simple plans: steak and beer at the Big Buck Brewery and Steakhouse, followed by a round of mini-golf. But then a thunderstorm manifested, and we knew that mini-golf was out. Not to worry – dinner was still a go.
So, we drove twenty miles to Gaylord, Michigan – only to discover that the Big Buck had temporarily lost its liquor license. Dan looked as if someone had punched him in the face, and the shock had yet to wear off. “What? The brewery has no beer?”
Needless to say, we left. Still ravenous, we decided to settle on a nearby Applebee’s. Big mistake. Dan received a martini in lieu of his ordered margarita, our steaks were more gristle than meat, and a fellow customer spent most of dinner singing bad ‘80s songs at the top of his lungs... until, that is, he started to croon “We Built This City,” and I shouted, “No, that’s it! No Jefferson Starship! I can’t take it anymore!”
When we left the restaurant, the rain had yet to cease, so we decided to call it a night and head back home. But I refused to be dismayed – or read some sort of symbolic meaning in the fact that our plans never seem to go as planned. After all, the evening was pretty hilarious.
What helped most to dispel the disappointment, however, was the sweet face of our ten-month-old cat, who was waiting for us back home. Not long after we walked through the front door, she bolted from upstairs, where she’d presumably been hiding during the thunderstorm, and, with a plaintive squeak, hopped onto her pillow-covered chair and begged us for some lovin’.
Ruby Azazel – so named because she’s part-angel and part-demon – came into our lives last November. She was, in fact, my birthday present – if you can call an animal a “present.” The short explanation is that, when I met Dan back in 1998, he was already the proud papa of a rescued cat named Pawws, truly the sweetest cat I’ve ever known. When Dan and I started dating, she became my “daughter,” too – and I loved her madly.
Nearly three years ago, Dan and I had to put Pawws, who was suffering from renal failure, to sleep – the hardest thing that either of us has ever had to do. Afterwards, Dan vowed to never adopt another kitty – if for no other reason than, as a self-described “dog person,” Dan was unconvinced that he would ever again find a cat as tender, as affectionate, and as non-temperamental as Pawws.
For a while, I respected his wish. I knew that he missed being a papa, but he’d decided to make a dog his next pet. Unfortunately, our nomadic existence made having a canine rather problematic. Eventually, knowing that it might be years until we could adopt a dog, and even longer until we were ready to have kids of our own, my maternal instinct overwhelmed me – and I begged him to reconsider his decision.
I found it especially difficult to deal with being kitty-less when we moved into an apartment on Decatur Street in the French Quarter – an apartment that was just around the corner from a pet shop that also served as a pet-rescue facility. Every day, I had to pass the storefront window and stare at the little feral felines just waiting for a nice home. One kitten, in particular - a domestic shorthaired tabby with leopard spots on her belly - made me swoon, and I was devastated the day that I noticed she was gone.
Then came my birthday – and as with any other afternoon, I was sitting at my computer when Dan hollered that he was going to “run downstairs to get some Diet Coke” from a nearby liquor store. When the front door opened sometime later, I didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly, I felt a presence behind me. For an instant, I just thought it was Dan, bending down to give me a kiss. When I turned, however, I was shocked to see a little feline face staring back at me... the very face of the tabby that I thought someone else had adopted.
As it turned out, the as-yet-unnamed kitty HAD been adopted – by Dan, in fact – and she had only disappeared from the window in order to be treated and “fixed” before the actual adoption could be finalized. I couldn’t believe it, and my heart swelled with gratitude – for Dan, who had finally succumbed to my whining despite his own trepidation, and for the little kitty, who was leaning toward me with evident curiosity.
In the following months, we came to realize that Ruby Azazel was no Pawws. She hissed whenever we tried to trim her nails, bit my extremities at random, and sought out trouble like a heat-seeking missile. But, most of the time, she was sweet, affectionate, and capable of serenity – and despite one fleeting moment of weakness, when I considered that she might not be a good match for us, I fell deeply in love. Every day, in fact, I love her even more.
Despite the occasional struggles to trim her nails or apply her flea medication, the random “attacks” on my arms (yes, I have the scars to prove it), and her obsession with the kitchen countertop, I feel so blessed to have her in my life. Living with her, in fact, makes me realize just how stressed out I felt during the intervening years between Pawws and Ruby.
Nowadays, I fully agree with the various research studies claiming that pet owners live longer than those who don’t have pets in the house. For, even on a day like yesterday, when the best of intentions fall apart, all I have to do is look at Ruby – sleeping on a pillow, nibbling treats from my palm, staring at a chipmunk outside the window, leaping up and down the stairs, or doing one of a dozen other favorite activities – and I feel a great sense of calm, love, and perspective. Because most things – save for perhaps death or the knowledge of some terminal illness – aren't worth all the worry through which we put ourselves. One look at my crazy, little girl, and I know that’s true.
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