In April of 2014, I became very dissatisfied with the way things were going in my life. I couldn’t really figure out what it was I was unhappy about, I just knew that I was unhappy. A lot of changes were happening- I had bought a new car in January, I had decided to find a new job and got hired at a place that paid me more than I had been able to make to date, and the people in my household were getting new jobs with changing hours. Things were shifting.
Amid all the change and my growing depression, I started realizing my relationship was failing. I made the mistake of getting up into my head space and focusing on all the things I thought were wrong and came to the conclusion that I needed to get out because my feelings had changed and that was the right thing to do. I’ve since learned to recognize my anxiety for what it is, and to realize when I’m spinning out of control with thoughts/stories instead of realities, but at the time I called off my relationship and crashed on a friend’s couch. It took me three weeks to find an apartment, but I was able to move my meager belongings in soon after.
Those first few weeks by myself were riddled with panic and depression stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life. I would get up, go to my new job where I faked everything hard enough to get through the day, then come home and follow my panic and depression cycle again. Somewhere in the first week or so, I heard scratching at my apartment door.
When I opened the door, a beautiful, long haired black cat was staring up at me expectantly and then just waltzed right in as if he owned the place. I wasn’t allowed to have pets, so this panicked me a little, but I couldn’t help but let him in for just a little while. He was dirty, so I brushed him. And he was starving. Actually starving-when I pet him, I could feel every little bone in his spine, but he didn’t seem to care much. I fed him. His fur was matted, so I clipped those off the best I could, but he didn’t like that much so I was only able to do what he allowed.
This became our routine. I eventually let him out so he could go do his business outside, and he would go to wherever it was he came from until he decided to visit again. Back then, he just visited whenever he wanted. I started buying cat food regularly for when he visited. My heart broke every time I saw him and how skinny he was, and considering my heart was already broken, that was saying a lot.
I learned from neighbors that his owner had apparently been sent to prison, and so the cat was just kind of the neighborhood stray that everyone had a different name for. One girl told me she called him Shadow and that seemed to stick for me. It became quickly apparent that he followed me around just like the shadow he was named for. When I let him in the house, he would follow me into every room. When I sat down, he’d sit with me. And he always seemed to come around whenever I was the saddest and needed him most.
Eventually I got a roommate and she had a cat, so we couldn’t let the stray inside anymore, but I continued to feed him every day, increasing to twice a day. Eventually he got to a healthy weight and he knew his feeding schedule. If I neglected to put food out at the right time, he would scratch at the door to make sure I was aware of the time.
In December last year, I noticed he had a large wound on his head. He’d been in a cat fight. It seemed to get worse and worse as the days went by until, in a panic, I realized I needed to take him to the vet. December was a hard month for me. I had learned my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, my boss had been in an accident and was hit by a car, and then suddenly this cat-this little anchor I’d had all year-was going to die I just knew it! I left work on my lunch and took him to a vet and practically begged them to see him, bursting into tears and asking them to just fix him. They did. They gave him an antibiotic shot and told me to keep an eye on him as best I could and that he would likely be fine.
This April brought forth another set of changes. Through a lot of self-educating, reading, and talking, I discovered a lot of what was going on with me when I ended my relationship last year. I was able to rediscover who I was on my own and who I wanted to be with my partner. After talking to him, we decided to work it out together. This brought on the knowledge that I would eventually be moving out of my apartment and back in with him. But what about my cat? For Shadow had most definitely become my cat by that point.
I decided that when it came time to move, I would simply take him with me. I would take him to the vet and get him all of his shots and then take him to his new home. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago my roommate’s cat passed away. Though this was extremely upsetting to the both of us (admittedly to her more than me), it did provide an opportunity for Shadow to finally have a new home. A couple weeks ago I took him into the vet, got him on a wellness plan, had them shave off all of his matted fur (he’s literally half bald now), and got him his shots.
It’s easy to see he’s much happier now, and I’ve realized that I’m happier, too. It’s been over 8 years since I’ve had a pet that was mine and not a roommate’s, and I didn’t realize that there was a little void in my heart waiting to be filled with a pet that was entirely mine. He still follows me everywhere throughout the house, but he’s definitely starting to make it his own. He’s an extremely needy cat. He wants attention when he wants it whether it’s the middle of the night or not. I’ve found that if I wake up long enough to pet him a little bit, he usually settles down on the bed beside me and sleeps a few more hours before asking for more attention again.
We’ve been through a lot together, Shadow and I. I’m really looking forward to taking him to his permanent home with me when I finally move back in with the love of my life. It happens every year, but I always find myself surprised by the number of changes that take place in a 12 month period. Here’s to another exciting year of change together with my two gentlemen!