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Mouse & Pickle

When my daughter was small, we had a beautiful black cat named Pierre, and they were constant companions. Lily loves every animal big or small, but this boy was her world. He began getting sick with urinary infections though, and every time we got him well we only had a few weeks before his pain would return even worse than the each last time. This continued for several months, our veterinarian gently telling us that it would continue. Eventually he sat me down for a serious talk and told me our Pierre was suffering and the most humane thing to do was to let him go. This vet had previously supported me in refusing to put down another cat after a spinal injury, and the cat lived happily for some time despite having been advised by an emergency vet she’d live a difficult life and never walk again. My current vet trusted my instincts and I trusted his.

mouse-and-pickles-the-catsSo several days later, we said goodbye. He had been a faithful and adored part of our family so adjusting to his absence was difficult. Lily moped around the house for weeks, feeling Pierre’s loss the most. I was equally sad but it hurt me more to see my daughter so brokenhearted. She surprised me by asking for another cat about three weeks after he passed; I wasn’t ready to fill the void but seeing my sad child grow emptier was worse, so I agreed. A few days later we were on a mission to find my girl a new cat to cherish and headed to the local pound.

Originally I had told her that we would adopt a kitten so we’d have more time with our new cat, but our plans rarely work out the way they’re supposed to. The shelter didn’t have a lot of kittens that particular day and only two were available, not even ready for adoption yet, and we wanted our new baby today. We played and cuddled with those sweet babies, but they weren’t right for us.

I found myself drawn to a beautiful gray and white cat with a half-mustache. She was serenely friendly and in typical cat fashion, seemed to express an interest but didn’t want to appear too eager. She nonchalantly watched me through half-closed eyes with her head turned away. Eventually as I stroked her, she began to warm up to me, and I called Lily over hoping that she would feel the same connection I did.

Lily greeted the cat warmly, as she welcomes all felines, but she was detached and playing with a cat in a nearby cage. This cat wasn’t available yet and Lily seemed more interested in its beauty than its character, so I let her keep playing and knew she’d move on to check out other possibilities. An animal control officer was with us and pointing out the plusses for every animal in the room but we only half-listened, knowing from experience that the right cat would find its way home with us that day. I continued to coo at the beautiful gray girl while I let Lily explore.

That’s when something interesting happened. The tabby cat in the cage above the one Lily was engaging, reached out to her and tapped her shoulder. At first it was cute and funny, but he became more persistent. She gave him all the attention he was requesting, and he began tapping her face lovingly with his paw. I’d never seen quite this behavior before, especially with a cat who didn’t know us very well. When she began to play with him he grabbed her hand in both paws, and without extending his claws, refused to let her go. The animal control officer continuously expressed in amazement, “He never does that.”

And so we brought them both home – they were both clearly destined to be ours. The gray girl was mine, named Mouse, and the tabby boy was hers, named Pickle. The two became best friends, curling up together in windows and in front of the fireplace, prowling the neighborhood together, sharing the bounty of their hunts with one another. When we called one, the other would arrive too, even if from separate directions. They’d head off together and come home together. They reminded me of the summer friendships of my youth, leaving in the morning to ride bikes and play in some sort of water or air conditioning all day until the sun came down and I had to be home. But most important was that my daughter was smiling again. It hurt for some time that the space filled by Pierre was being filled by these two goofballs, but slowly I realized that the grief was being replaced, not the love and not the memories. And she was happy, oh was she was happy. The girl I couldn’t stand to see sad or lonely was laughing once more and had the bright eyes to prove it was real.

Later we ran a cat rescue, and these two served as the patriarch and matriarch. After about four years with the rescue, we made the decision to move overseas and sent them both to live my father and stepmother. I admit that I get a little jealous when they appear to love my parents more than they love us, but they’re spoiled, happy children, and I’ll never forget how they gave my daughter back her joy.

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