Gandalf the Great.

Before there was Wednesday and Berlioz, there was Gandalf.

It was early 2003. I had just moved into a small apartment, alone. I really wanted a cat to share my new space with. I grew up with cats my whole life, and as an adult on my own, I decided now was the time to have a cat that was all my own.

I had a few guidelines for the cat I was planning to adopt:

  1. Must be from a shelter. This one was easy, being there are so many shelter kitties looking for a home.
  2. Must not be a kitten. This was also easy – there are way more adoptable adult cats out there since most people want kittens. I, on the other hand, did not want to come home everyday to a destroyed house, so I was hoping for a feline that was a bit more mature, preferably 1-3 years old.
  3. Must be male. This was getting a bit more specific, but pretty easy too, however it eliminated half of all the cats out there.
  4. Must be gray. Ok this one was going to be challenging. But I was not going to budge. I wanted a male, gray cat, so I could name him Gandalf the Gray. Yes, I was very into Lord of the Rings. No, I’m not embarrassed. Yes I also have a LOTR tattoo. I’m still not embarrassed. (ok,maybe a little).

So with my criteria in mind, I began my search. I found a ton of “almosts” – females that were gray, kittens that were gray, males that were 1-3 but not gray. And then, one day, I found him.

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Baby Gandalf.

This was the photo where I first saw him. Yes, I downloaded it. Yes, I’ve saved it for 17 years. It’s small, grainy, and has another cat in it. But when I saw it, I knew. THIS was my Gandalf.

He was in a foster home at the time, so I drove to someone’s house to pick him up. He was 6 months old, so not quite a kitten anymore, but slightly younger than what I was looking for. I arrived at the house, and knocked at the door. A man answered, and a gray cat was there to greet me. He seemed super friendly and almost happy to see me. “This is definitely meant to be!” I thought.

I had brought my own carrier, and bent down to put the gray kitty who greeted me in it. A woman in the other room said, “oh, that’s not him. This is him.” Surprised, but not swayed, I walked over to another carrier with a smaller, scared, gray kitty inside.

“Open your carrier,” the woman said. She and the man then proceeded to turn my carrier so the door was open and faced up, and literally had to dump the kitty in from the other carrier, as he gripped the sides for dear life. This cat clearly did not want to go home with me.

It was too late, I had already made my choice, so I closed the carrier door, closed their front door, and opened my car door and placed Gandalf on the passenger seat, with the carrier door facing me, so we could get to know each other as I drove him to his new home.

I talked to him. I sang to him. I tried to put my hand into the door and pet him. He remained frozen, in the back of the carrier, staring at me, with dark beady eyes. He made no sound for the entire ride home.

I hoped that it would change when I arrived home and opened the carrier. I set it down, opened the door and….

nothing. He remained in the carrier, as far back and he could squish himself, and wanted no part of me and his new home. I tried food. I tried treats. I tried toys. Nothing helped. After a few hours of this, it was getting late, so I put out a bowl of food and water, set up the litter, and sadly, went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, I jumped out of bed and hurried out to find Gandalf. The carrier was still in the middle of the floor, with the door opened, but Gandalf was no longer in it! This was good – he finally came out. He also used the litter box! All good signs. I called him. I began looking for him. Now this was a really small one bedroom apartment, however I could not find him anywhere. I began to panic. Did he somehow get out? I continued to search, frantically, and then finally I saw him. He was under the sofa, all the way up against the wall. He was silent, and again staring at me with beady eyes. I had to go to work so I had to leave him there, and hope for the best.

When I got home, he clearly had eaten and used the box again, but I still didn’t see him. I checked under the sofa, and there he was, in the same spot where I last saw him. He didn’t come out at any point that evening while I was awake, however he again appeared to have emerged while I was sleeping, only to return to his safe spot under the sofa when I awoke.

This went on for two weeks.

I was sad. There was no way I was going to return him – I could never bring myself to do that – but this was not the Gandalf I was hoping for. He didn’t even like me or want anything to do with me. I never had a cat like this growing up. I decided I would get a second cat, one that liked me.

That Sunday morning, my boyfriend at the time and I were hanging out, and again trying to get Gandalf to come out. With treats in hand, we went to the sofa, and peered under at him, calling him to come, like we’d been doing.

He came.

He came out from hiding. And never went back.

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Let the fun begin.

For the next 13 years, Gandalf was my soul kitty. We laughed (sometimes at his expense).

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why do you do this to me?

We cried.

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Life is hard sometimes.

We sulked.

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surly.

We played.

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frisky.

We loved.

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soul kitty.

Gandalf was with me through 5 relationships, 3 moves, and 2 jobs. No matter what, he was waiting for me when I came home, meowing at the door, peering at me out the window. He jumped on my lap when I was sad. He was goofy, smart, soft, shy, surly, picky, loving, cuddly, and charming. But above everything else, Gandalf had one trait that set him apart from most other kitties – Gandalf had fangs.

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vampire kitty.

He never bit, but man, if he did, he’d definitely have hurt someone. He looked like a little vampire. I loved everything about him. There was no kitty quite like Gandalf.  He was purrfect.

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who, me?

Gandalf died on March 25th, 2016, at home. He had been sick for almost three months prior to that. I took him to the vet many times. They tried surgery. It seemed to work at first. They tried meds. They seemed to work at first. But he was slowly eating less and less. He was slowly moving around less and less. He began hiding. He began having coughing fits. But the worst part to me, was that he began to look sad.

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His last photo.

I couldn’t help him. I tried. I still feel today (over three years later) like I didn’t try hard enough. That there was something I should have done differently or something else I could have done that I didn’t.

The day Gandalf died was the worst day of my life, and I will never forget it.

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my favorite picture of him.

However, I have been able to realize that although there will never be another Gandalf, there can be another cat who I can love. Who stole my heart at our first meeting. Who’s goofy, funny, loud, and not at all shy. Who follows me around the house no matter what I do. Who loves me with his whole heart, like I love him.

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I love you, mama.

Although the hurt never goes away, love eventually starts to outweigh that hurt, and that, my friends, is a truly wonderful thing.

The Luck of the Cat.

Earlier this year, I started volunteering with a local animal organization (The Burlington County Animal Alliance – Cat Division, also known as BCAA Cats). I help out at the adoption center in PetSmart, once a week. This is wonderful and rewarding for me, but also heartbreaking at times, when I see the same cats there week after week, just waiting patiently for their future adopter to happen to walk in and find them, whisking them away to their magical mystical furrever home.

Just a few of the cats that are waiting, as we speak:

They are all wonderful, loving cats who deserve an equally wonderful, loving home. It causes me to contemplate the luck of the cat – both of our cats are from shelters, and both were chosen after we arrived at the shelter, mainly because they both seemed to also choose us. How does that work? How did our cats get so lucky, that they spend each day spoiled and pampered and petted and well-fed (probably too well-fed).

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Can I have some more?

I wish I could take all the cats from the adoption center home, too, and spoil them, but unfortunately, that’s just not possible. Our house is small, and it barely meets the size requirements for the two that already live here.

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This place isn’t big enough for the both of us.

Our guys got lucky – they were in the right place at the right time, and we found each other. Now they get to spend the rest of their lives doing whatever the heck they want, in complete comfort.

I am concerned sometimes, that maybe this isn’t enough, and they are missing out on life outside of these four walls…

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And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

But I see the cats who don’t have a home yet, and I see my guys, with their bright eyes, shiny coats and full bellies, and I know at the end of the day, these are two very lucky felines, and I’m pretty sure they know it, too.

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We love you, mama.

I am a strong believer that all cats (and all animals for that matter) deserve a home as loving as ours, and that those homes are out there. So if you have a loving home that you can share with a fine four-legged furball of fun, please visit your local shelter. Your purrfect pet is waiting for you to come and find them.

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How could you say no to this face??

We Can Work it Out.

The other day, I went upstairs to run on the treadmill. Berlioz followed me, as he often does. I set up the treadmill, and stepped out of the room momentarily. Upon my return, I was greeted by this sight:

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You shall not run.

I tried to get him to budge, but no dice. I thought standing on the treadmill myself might give him the hint that it’s time to move.

It didn’t.

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I can run too, mama.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, he moved out of the way, and I went for my 7 mile treadmill run, but not without him coming back into the room more than once, and getting dangerously close to the moving treadmill belt. I had to yell and throw tissues at him until he finally left the room.

As soon as I finished, I went into bathroom to grab a glass of water. When I returned, he was right back where he started.

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Happiness is a warm treadmill.

I was finished running, and sort of tired myself, so I figured if you cant beat ’em….

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…join ’em.

It was actually quite warm and relaxing. Plus the sun was shining in right on us, so I put on some chill music, and before we knew it, one of us had drifted off to sleep.

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cat napping.

These cats are living their best (nine) lives. We can all take a few tips from them on how to relax, how to snuggle, and how to love.

For Love or For Warmth?

This past week, the cats have literally been all over me. Laying on top of me while I’m sleeping, jumping up onto my lap whenever it’s open, and even snuggling more with each other! I can chalk it up to one of two things: my husband has been away for work  and they love me and don’t want me to be lonely, or they’re cold. So, I’m going to share a few shots from the past week, and you can decide for yourself – is it for love or for warmth?

#1. The middle of the night sleep snuggle.

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Love or Warmth?

#2. The coffee and pajamas nap.

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Love or Warmth?

3. The underarm curl up.

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Love or Warmth?

4. The synchronized cat nap.

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Love or Warmth?

I’m going to have to go with Love here, folks. Sure it was in the single digits this past week, but they love me, ok? THEY LOVE ME.

PS – they also love each other.

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Love.

Frenemies.

Sometimes I think the cats hate each other. They run around the house, hissing, clawing, biting and wrestling. But then there are times when they think I’m not looking, that I catch them in the act of being best friends.

Here, they were in the middle of what appears to be a very important conversation, which I so rudely interrupted.

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plotting.

And one time I woke up, and they were totally snuggling. That is, until they realized I was awake, and all heck broke loose.

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we’re only sleeping.

Another time, I walked into the dining room, and found this. I’m not sure what exactly they were doing, but it was clearly some kind of bonding ritual.

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bonding or just plain weird.

And then there was the day I found them watching the birds together, and I knew once and for all, they were secretly best friends for life.

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BFFs.

Time to drop the facade guys – the cat is out of the bag 🙂

 

Wednesday, meet Berlioz.

Wednesday was here first.

And she won’t let anyone ever forget this. Especially Berlioz.

Wednesday was about 5 when Berlioz arrived on the scene, a mere 3 month old kitten.

Wednesday had been an only child for 2 years. She ran this place – the beds were all hers (including ours). The laps were all hers. The food was all hers. She was fine with this. Except that she often attacked her own tail and seemed to have some anxiety. And she bit us. All the time. But she stayed away from the plants, didn’t try to eat any people food, and only destroyed one particular spot on the couch. Not too shabby, for an odd-eyed cat from the streets of Philadelphia.

But that all changed in July of 2018. I was anxious to introduce Berlioz to her. He was upbeat, had no fear, and loved to be near people and other cats. This was not Wednesday. It’s not that she’s unfriendly – she enjoys being in a room where people are and she is not afraid. She’s just kind of aloof. She likes her space, and is going to let you know when she’s had enough of you being in it. Berlioz had no concept of this, and I knew this would be trouble. But I hoped his extroverted-ness and naiveté would rub off on her, and that her laid back persona and chill attitude would rub off on him, to form one perfect Uber-Cat.

Nope.

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Haters gonna hate.

It was certainly not love at first site. Well, that’s not entirely true. For Berlioz, it was love at first site. For Wednesday, it was more like hate. For about a week, it was absolute torture. She hissed. She growled. She hid. But he kept coming back like nothing happened. He tried to love her. He tried to play with her. He thought they were best friends. I don’t know if she got tired of fighting, or actually found his persistence charming – but one day, without warning, she had a change of heart.

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Acceptance.

And best friends they became.

A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.

— Ernest Hemmingway