I wrote an article a few months ago about my beautiful Pookie, who passed away earlier this year at the age of fifteen. It was one of the most difficult times in my life, he was my baby, my friend, my pride and joy who I raised from a kitten, and I was struggling.
In the aftermath, some people encouraged me to get a new cat, reminding me that there are many needing good homes in shelters. This, I knew, was true, but I couldn't imagine calling another cat "my cat" or giving it my heart as I had with Pookie, at first. We had a special bond. I hope we still do.
After a few months something unexpected occurred though. Obviously I was missing Pookie. Missing doesn't even cover it, I was bereft. But I realised I wasn't just missing Pookie, who couldn't be replaced, I was missing the company of cats in general. We've always had cats in my family, and it's been a very long time since I spent any amount of time without a cat around. For me, it's nearly as bad as lacking in human company for extended periods, maybe worse even. I missed their fur and their grace, their purring, their craziness. It was just weird to not have a cat around. So I started to contemplate it.
Of course, me being lonely for Feline company isn't a good enough reason to take responsibility for a life. So I thought it all through. No, it wouldn't be right. I'm not ready. I wouldn't be emotionally available to it yet, I'm still missing Pooks too much. Then I started to look at some cats at a local shelter online. All just wanting a good home, some food and some love. Was it really that complicated? I can surely give a cute cat some affection. It doesn't have to be a great love affair, the type of mother - baby bond I had with Pookie.
So I went to look at them in the shelter. I saw so many incredible cats needing affection. It was quite overwhelming, but I was waiting for one to "stand out". Not physically, just something in the eyes or personality. I half hoped that Pookie might send me a sign and his blessing. Then I saw a scruffy white cat on the bed (the shelter was run from an elderly lady's home). He got up, and in an unassuming, almost shy way came to the bottom of the bed to say hello. I rubbed him and talked to him and he seemed most pleased with this attention. The woman seemed surprised I was interested in him, she'd just been showing me exquisitely pristine kittens, but she said she would be pleased for "Chalky" if I did take him, as he was being bullied at the shelter. Well, my mind was made up there and then. He'd also been very sick, had nearly died from stress related jaundice when he first came to the shelter. He had been nursed excellently and lovingly back to health by the lady and I felt she had a little soft spot for him.
He was very quiet in the car on the way home, as though resigned to his fate. His background was uncertain. A couple had brought him to the shelter about five months before, he had been hanging around their home for a few days, looking for food. They tried to locate his owners (he didn't seem completely feral), and they couldn't take him so they brought him there, knowing he would be safe. Back at home he came out slowly and unsurely, he saw a bowl of food, and went to it and began eating it in a frenzied manner, as though he thought this might be his last chance at food for a while, not knowing where he was or what was happening. It was quite late at this time. I gave him some affection, put down more food to reassure him, played with him a little and went to bed.
I woke bolt upright at about 2am. What in the name of God had I done?! I've made a mistake! I'm not ready for this! He's not Pookie! I don't know who he is, what he needs! I'll have to take him back in the morning, I know it's terrible but I have to, I have made a huge mistake! I got up to calm myself, I went downstairs to look at him, to see was he even real, this new ghostly white cat in my home. And there he was, he had heard me coming, and was sitting on the chair to see what the strange lady wanted. His little face a mixture of anxiety and sadness, used to uncertainty, and of course, I saw he wasn't the problematic monster my feverish mind had conjured in a panic. Just a little cat, needing a home.
We have gone from strength to strength together. He has had health problems; infections of various kinds seem to be a recurring issue with him. I don't panic, like I did when anything was wrong with Pookie, I simply remind myself how lucky we are to have each other, and that I can only do my best, my very best for Chalky. I kept his name, I like it, it suits him. He is loveable, playful, gorgeous (he scrubbed up well!), challenging (he is the fussiest cat in food terms that I have ever encountered), and funny. He sometimes gets carried away playing and removes some of my skin. I don't mind, I'm tough, and used to cats, and besides it's kind of a privilege to have this little guy trust me enough to play roughly with me.
So there you have it, I have Chalky and he has me. It's not Pooks and I, that old team. It never could be. We don't have the same bond, it's a different relationship, as it should be. I don't try to force any feelings that aren't there on either side, we just appreciate having each other, and a seed of love has been planted. We'll see what grows in time.
Pookie's Twitter for people who like to know him better: https://twitter.com/PookieMacalpi
My twitter: https://twitter.com/evamacalpi
My Etsy shop PookiePics: https://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/PookiePics?ref=hdr_shop_menu
Do stop by and check out my blog: https://evamacalpi.wordpress.com/
Chalky has his own Twitter account now: https://twitter.com/chalkymacalpi
To donate to the shelter where Chalky met Aoife click on this link: http://www.ancatdubh.net/fundraising.htm