I had plenty of offers to take her in. One in particular was attractive as it was with a family who had no other pets. Change is hard on cats and change that involves moving into someone else's territory is particularly difficult. Not having to deal with another animal would have made it easier on her.
The whole affair was very hard on me. She and I have been close friends for 10 years. She's nursed me through some very tough times. I was tempted to give her away early, long before the move, because each day was so excrutiatingly painful. Every time I petted her or gave her water from the sink or a bit of tuna, all I could think of was what the very last time would feel like.
Many tears were shed.
Last week, I was sitting in church after Mass, waiting for my fiancee to finish up her duties (she's a Eucharistic Minister), meditating on the Cross when I started thinking about the whole problem. Our new house has a 3-car garage with an open attic over one of the stalls. It also has an enclosed back yard. Coyotes can't jump the fence and our Maximum Leader is long past her jumping days as well. All I needed to do was keep her inside the back yard and keep the coyotes out.
Once posed in this way, the problem was easy to solve. We're going to make the garage and attic cat-friendly and install a cat door that opens into the back yard from the garage. The fence in the back yard will be made cat-tight so she can't get out. She'll live in the garage and the back yard and when we're home, she'll be allowed inside to hang out on the first floor. She'll be given plenty of cat furniture and kept off the human furniture.
She'll get socialization, access to the outdoors, a big living area and protection. She won't be able to sleep with me any more, but there's a price to be paid for everything.
Was this the right decision? If she had been given away to the other family, she'd be able to sleep with anyone she wanted all night long, but she would never see me again. How much would that matter to her? Would she be forever wondering why I had left her? Would she be constantly waiting for me to come and get her so we could be together again? Would she immediately adapt to the new family and forget I ever existed? Who knows?
What I do know is how I would feel. I would miss her terribly. Faced with saying goodbye to my little girl, I couldn't work up any enthusiasm for my future. What happened in church that Sunday was that I realized that I still needed her. I wouldn't be as good of a father or a husband without her. The sadness of losing her would take away too much energy from the family. I had to find a way to keep her.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
This post is getting long, but I want to share one more thing with you.
Our Maximum Leader has indeed nursed me through all kinds of horrific things. No matter how dark and how desperate things were in my life, she was always there for me. She greets me with her little tail straight up in the air and rubs against my legs and purrs and likes to lay pressed up against me, sharing her warmth with me. Her poetic cat love fills the house every day. As I thought about what she had meant in my life, I was reminded of this story.
Footprints in the SandGod sent me this little cat to carry me through those dark times.
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”