This is another 'I don't want to be downstairs without him' post...... Although I've got to admit that the feeling of being punched in the stomach isn't quite so ghastly today. I know Mark also found getting up and going to work without small feline company a little easier the second time round. We're getting there...
Last night we talked masses about the whole situation. The most unexpected part of the day was that we were contacted through Facebook by a very ex-colleague from my school in Solihull. She left way before me to work in the Bristol area. In her message she explained that her current partner is just about to move in. He has a lovely-looking black cat called Harry. Sadly Harry is looking for a new home because my ex-colleague is allergic to cats. She tells me that he's friendly, laid-back and really good with children, so in many respects he could be an excellent 'third' in our little family. However he's 12 years old. That's a bit of a sticking point for us. I don't think I could take on a new cat who could start to face 'older cat problems' in the relatively near future.
Yesterday morning my lovely ex-colleague from Music took me for a distracting 'coffee and cake' and a little bit of light Christmas shopping at the huge new out of town M+S on the south side of Birmingham. Over the years I've been there for her through some really nasty stuff so I could see that she was keen to 'be there for me' this week. She's very sweet.
Unfortunately, as we parted at the end of the morning, I gave into a very bad idea.....
There's a bit of a back story to this bad idea, so please bear with me as I explain. Our first cat, Gulliver, came to us in 1993 as a mature silver grey tabby. As his name suggests, he was a stray who came to us on his travels. He was a lovely character and we were absolutely devastated when he was diagnosed with cancer in March 2003. All three of us fought a very difficult battle for four weeks then he had to be put to sleep on the Monday before Easter 2003. This was the first day of my Easter holiday that year. Against all common sense I decided to start looking for another cat immediately. (This was based on the fact that I knew that I could either settle a new cat by the end of the two weeks or I'd have to wait until the summer holidays to start the whole process. It was made worse by the fact that we were going through some bad 'life stuff' at the time too and I felt that we needed the support of a cat in the house.) You can see where this is going...
I found Thomas at Bromsgrove Blue Cross the Tuesday after we'd said goodbye to Gulliver on the Monday. On Wednesday I went back up to see Thomas again and arranged all the adoption stuff. On Good Friday he moved in. We've had loads of amazing years with Thomas, but it has to be said that the first few months were awful and it wasn't his fault. I remember being so upset with Thomas at times because he wasn't Gulliver in different fur. It was so silly because Gulliver was reserved but deeply loving... while Thomas was a super-social extrovert over an equally loving core. It took a lot of time to sort out the general emotional mess.
However the net result in November 2017 is that Mark and I have only had three days without a cat in the house since July 1993. This house (which we moved into when it was newly built in January 1995) has never been left 'alone' because we've always got family/friends in to look after the cat when we've been away. I'm struggling with this one.............
So yesterday afternoon, having said goodbye to my friend in Bromsgrove I drove back up the hill to the Blue Cross centre. Bearing in mind that the last time I drove the lanes I'd been grieving deeply for Gulliver, this wasn't the best idea on the planet. It was just as upsetting as you'd imagine but I learnt some useful things about the way cat adoption seems to have changed since 2003.
In 2003 I just walked into the centre and through to the cat pens. I walked up and down, reading about the cats and generally getting a feel for being with a cat who wasn't elderly and ill. Thomas chose me. He bounced through the cat flap at the back of the pen and started a complete 'fuss the human and get me out of here' routine. I didn't want a long-furred mess of a cat with a damaged eye but I was distracted by his crazy personality. When I went back the next day he sealed the deal with a 'you're back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' routine that cut through all the hurt I was feeling for Gulliver.
In 2017 you can't get anywhere near the cats. Basically you look at mug shots on the computer (even in the waiting room); fill in a 'what kind of cat I'd like' form to help the staff match you to an animal; go into a room with a member of staff and talk about the 'chosen' cat's character etc; THEN you get to meet the one cat that seems to best fit. I completely understand that this is to minimise stress for the cats but it cuts out the one vital aspect of learning about a new animal.... how they approach you.
I left the centre a sadder and wiser woman.
Mark spent the afternoon at work (his boss was out of the office!) looking at websites for various different animal sanctuaries across the West Midlands. It's nice to know that there are still some more traditional places. However we've also agreed that we need a bit of time and mental space to recover from this week. Now that I'm based at home we don't have to fit another adoption into the school holidays structure so we can move forward when it feels really right.
This weekend we're starting my birthday celebrations. I'll post about that next week.