After engagement number one, but long before meeting The One™, I began my longest relationship to date. It started off on uncertain footing as many of these things do. In fact, the first time I brought my special someone home I stared into those big green eyes and wept to think that this was all the romance I had in store for me. At a fresh 24 years of age, I imagined all my opportunity for love had been squandered on the wrong men and no one would ever want to spend their life with someone who had nearly gotten married.
This meant Stella the tuxedo cat would have to give me enough love to last a lifetime. And if she couldn’t I would just have to get another and another and then the weeping began again as I gazed accusingly at this creature who would ultimately be my gateway to the life of a cat lady. Considering I’m spending my 31st birthday penning a tribute to this cat, it doesn’t necessarily appear that I was wrong.
She was a gift from my well-meaning parents who wanted to dull the sting of a difficult, lonely year with a furry friend who could greet me at the door and provide me with unconditional love on the condition that I continued to feed her. It was a nice thought and I was incredibly excited to go to the Humane Society to pick out my perfect pet. Kittens were sparse so close to the holidays, and I liked the idea of adopting a pet who had lived a little. You know, one who could relate to the hard knocks I had endured over the course of a lifetime in Southern Minnesota.
I selected an oversized, long-haired fella named Gus. The paperwork was being drawn up, but then this black and white critter across the room locked eyes with me. As I walked over to her, she came to greet me and nuzzled my hand immediately. I thought to myself, “she sure does match my wardrobe” and that was it. We were in love.
Over the past seven years she’s been by my side for some of life’s most important, happiest and most heart-wrenching moments. She left behind the only city she had ever known to join me on my (relatively) big city adventure when I got a job outside of the little college town I had outgrown. When I lost that job to my first lay off, she comforted me as I broke down on my bedroom floor before packing us both up to spend a few days pulling my life back together at my childhood home.
She’s cuddled with me during post break-up fits of self pity when no one else could stand to listen to my post-mortem analysis any longer. She’s rolled around on interview and first date outfits I presume in a misguided effort to send good luck along with me. She’s judged the character of my paramours. (Though for the most part, she’s done that terribly—treats are not real love, Stella!) She snuggles in for long days of nursing colds, but refuses to baby me with chicken soup and tea. She’s watched the entire Gilmore Girls series with me at least a dozen times and plays along when I quote it to her.
This relationship isn’t one sided. I’ve done things for her, too. Like, play fetch for minutes at a time. Stopped to get cat food when really I just want to go home right after work. Cleaned up puke when the food I got doesn’t satisfy her refined tastes. Given her hypoallergenic bathes in an effort to keep a happy home for both she and The One™. Rescued her from my brother each time he chirped “pretty bird!” at her as he chased her around the house. Let her fill a box in my house with pee and poo, emptied said box, and, ultimately, married someone willing to take over the responsibilities of said box so that she can respect me more. Because how are you going to respect someone who scoops up your poop?
We’ve shared holidays, heartache (she gets really bummed when there aren’t any treats in the house, meals (she loves cereal milk), various homes and much more. She’s essentially been my partner in crime for some of the most formative years in my life and I’m grateful for her companionship.
The lesson to be learned here? 1. Marriage is no guarantee you won’t become an insane cat lady. 2. Adopt a furry friend or two. They are great, non-judgemental company as you sort out who you’re going to be. Especially if you rescue them.