I've always considered my self a dog person, or even a horse person, but not a cat person. Never in a million years would you get me to admit any sort of fondness for the finicky feline creature.  To me, they were gnashing teeth, and claws too eager to shred the tender skin of my calves if I happened by.

ahkmedThat is, until I met Ahkmed.

I stepped out on the back porch one night, as I always do, to gaze at the night sky, and perhaps do a bit of soul-searching.  As was my habit, I looked over the pond in the twilight, deep in thought, watching the horses quietly graze nearby.

Then I heard it; the most gut-wrenching, pitiful "mmee-ooowwww" which quickly sent my heart to my knees.  The wail echoed from the pasture behind me -- the pasture I refer to as coyote-land.  The pasture where you check in, but don't check out.  A place where I would dare not venture on a cold November night.

But, my son would certainly climb that fence to find what was there.

Soon, he came back into sight with a tiny kitten.  It couldn't have been more than a few months old.  Since I wasn't a cat person, I let him take charge of its care.

As expected, I'd found myself peeling the ninja-kitty off my calves as I went about my day. Other times, I'd enjoy the pleasure of his tiny teeth wrapped around my ankle as I moved about.  He'd climb the curtains, where he'd wait patiently to attack me from above, as I innocently ventured into his lair.  He shredded in minutes the long ivy tendrils I had spent months on hoping to grow.

During the day, he'd shove my dog off his bed and slept cosily in his wake.  He was the giant of giants amongst the hounds and would yield to none.

At night, I'd find him at the foot of my bed, smiling in pure bliss as he purred the night away.  My dog finally gave it up and sauntered under the bed, unwilling to stand up to the devil kitten to regain the honoured foot-of the-bed spot.

Ahkmed forced me to ride that wave of change, lest I wind up beneath it.  The change of a non-cat person into a semi-cat person.

I know of no other pain as painful as the loss of a pet.  It's a different sort of pain from losing a human.  It's a pain unto its own, as perhaps only a person owned by a cat might understand.

Ahkmed's minutes were ticking away that cold night we pulled him from no-man's land.  He developed pneumonia; the vet could not save him.

I sat at the kitchen table with my son that night, unable to speak, as I pressed tissue after tissue to my eyes.  But I'm not a cat person, I couldn't possibly be crying over the loss of a stray kitten that I'd only known a few months.  Yet, I was.

The next few days I sullenly went about my life, choking back sobs from time to time as I attempted to put the pieces of my existence back together.  The dog soon reclaimed the heralded foot-of the bed spot.

I was fooling myself, and I knew it.  Non-cat persons don't cry.

But I did.

Days later, I found myself staring at row after row of homeless kittens at the animal shelter.  They squeezed their little paws through the wire cages, beckoning me to give them a new home, hoping for a new lease on life.  They begged to be that chosen one to fill the lonely spot in my broken heart.

I sniffed back more tears, and dabbed my eyes.  I explained to the animal officer that I'm not really a cat person, but my son had recently lost his kitten and was at home, heartbroken.

Less than an hour later, I emerged smiling for the first time in a week with not one, but two kittens.  I knew I couldn't leave with only one.  If I did, my son would cat-nap it and I'd never get to see or play with it, nor would it ever have the honour of that much-coveted spot on the foot of my bed.

I needed my own kitten, to love, to adore, and pamper.  A kitten who would teach me it’s alright to love an animal of the feline sort.

Although Ahkmed's life was too short, he came for a reason that cold November night.  He opened the eyes of a person who had never known the joy of a kitten.  He gave me his un-questioning love each and every day.

And best of all, he saved two lives as minutes ticked against them at the shelter.

His star burns brightly in heaven, as I gaze into the skies from the back porch each night. And I know he smiles at the two little kittens, as they play hackey-sack between my now permanently-scarred ankles.

Adieu, dear Ahkmed, Adieu.  You taught me so much.  You taught me to love.

We will meet again.

 

  -- Shelley Madden <shellmadde at aol.com>

 This story first appeared in www.Petwarmers.com  April 2011

Shelley is an author who resides in Wise County, Texas with her son, Dustin, along with her ponies, poultry, dogs and cats.  She enjoys writing, fishing, shooting her pink guns, and falling off her horse, Diamond.  She also writes a weekly column for an entertainment magazine.

 

 



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