My own love of animals was imparted to me by both my mother and father… but my love of cats was definitely from my mother.
The Return of Rosie
By: Mickey McGuire
February two years ago we had a bad snowstorm according to Virginia standards. After letting my two dogs out for one of their many bathroom trips of the day, I heard persistent barking on the covered back porch. When I looked out the window, I saw both of them were fixated on presumably another animal under the love seat. Broom in hand, I went out to investigate- you never know if it possibly could be a wild animal out here in these woods.
What I found all huddled under that piece of furniture was a teeny cat, not exactly a kitten but not a grown cat either, with the snottiest nose I had ever seen on an animal. Timid and scared by all the barking, she wouldn’t let me touch her. So I did the only thing I knew to do- put out some food and water. That night I made her a nest with blanket coverlets so she could at least be warm. By the next day, I noticed something peculiar: every time the dogs would go out, she would walk straight up to them and rub against their legs. She still wouldn’t let me get close.
Over the next few days, she would eat part of the food and drink the water- it was freezing as fast as I could put it out- and sleep in the blankets. She would eventually let me pick her up- now I could see evidence of ear mites as well as the congestion. Thankfully, now that the driveway had finally been cleared, I scooped her up and off to the vet we went. Naming her “the cat from the other side of the tracks,” the vet treated her respiratory condition and ear mites, cleared her of any fatal condition such as feline leukemia, and admonished me to keep her separated from the other cats for another week.
At the end of that week, I opened the door for her to come in and be part of this crazy animal family I have- two big dogs and four other cats. She was unsure at first- running in and running out- but finally, she seemed to make her mind up taking a cat leap of faith and did it. I named her Rosie.
Rosie barked like a dog and bullied the other cats- hilarious when you realize she is half the size of the smallest of the other cats. She followed the dogs around and slept with them. She selected me as her person- you would hope so since I was the one who pleaded her case to join our animal family. She became the lap cat I had always wanted- snuggling against me at every opportunity in the coverlet on my lap watching TV or reading a book. Eventually, she won my husband John over, too, with her unpredictable antics and sleeping in his lap when he least expected it.
Rosie is not the most beautiful cat I ever had, but she is the cat with the most soul. She and I connected on a level I cannot really explain. I just knew she was MY cat, and I was HER human. Never had I had a cat which brought me so much joy and contentment simply holding her in my lap.
Fast forward to February of this year. She went out occasionally with the dogs but usually would circle the deck and come back in. One Sunday she ran out with the dogs, and I forgot she was out. We left for my grandson’s basketball game, had lunch, ran errands, and, upon returning home, it still did not register she was missing. Later that evening, it dawned on me I had not seen her since we returned. Not completely alarmed, I assumed she was curled up taking a nap. The hunt began for Miss Rose- no sign of her anywhere, inside or out. The next day, we searched our property and called neighbors. The next day, I posted her missing on social media and put out fliers. Days became weeks, and weeks became months- no Rosie. Heartbroken, I could not accept she had been eaten by a coyote or other wild animal. The only acceptable fate in my mind was she had ventured so far she could not hear the dogs and became discombobulated. Finally accepting she was lost to me forever, I hoped that a nice family had adopted her and would love her as much as I did.
The last week of April I was on my birthday trip to Paris with girlfriends. I answer an unexpected phone call from my husband. A man has called and said he had Rosie. She had traveled eight miles from home and, looking pretty haggard, finally stopped when she found a food source with a colony of feral cats. This man who had made himself “keeper of the cats” and a few of his friends provided food for this colony, and a local vet spayed and neutered them. When he had taken Rosie to be spayed, the vet found the scar where she had already had the surgery and scanned her for a chip. There was her owners’ information! So back home safe and sound- no worse for the wear except an ear which had been clipped to identify her in the feral colony. The whole adventure was a true miracle in my mind. As my son, Mark said, “She is our gypsy cat.”
The man who called said if we ever wanted to give her away, call him first. He had already realized she was a special cat. He was one day away from taking her home to be part of his family.
Why do we love animals so? Dogs provide unconditional love no matter what- cats love you more mysteriously. I have learned to appreciate them more and more as I have gotten older. No matter what treatment dogs receive from their owners, a chained dog is as happy to see you as a dog who lives a plush life inside a home. People who suffer from hypertension have lower blood pressure if they are animal owners. Studies have shown the calming effects of animals for the sick and dying. In addition, never underestimate their psychic abilities- they know when you are upset and need affection. Unexpectedly, they will appear at your side just when you need it.
Dogs and cats are the perfect Yin and yang in the animal world. With dogs, we instantly know that we are loved; with cats, we have to work for their affection. I believe that dogs reflect those qualities we as humans should aspire to develop along this earthly course- unconditional love, unselfishness, loyalty to a fault, acceptance, unwavering forgiveness. As the contrasting balance, cats reflect opposite qualities to help humans deal and cope with the frustrations of life- a quiet reserve, unpredictability, appreciation of life from afar, self- centeredness, aloofness, and the love of sleeping in the sun. What better way to approach life when we are confused concerning a life decision? Cats teach us to take a step back, maybe practice self-care, and take that damn nap!
Our pets are treasures who are only with us a few short years. When you have that special bond with your animal, there is no sorrow like having to let them go. There is no other anguish as difficult as making that decision to end their life mercifully. Is there a pet heaven? I have no idea, but I like to think that Heidi, Sassy, Sage, Cleo, Snoopy, Tater, Magic, Nicholas, and Juju all met in that dimension where they found peace and comfort and eternal happiness- chasing butterflies, chewing sticks, and sleeping in the sun to their hearts’ content.
For now, contentment for me is having Miss Rose curled up in my lap.
Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.