March 18, 2005

Keeper

Last winter, everyone told me to get rid of “Red”. Red was my beloved Valencia orange tree. As we visited him in his temporary home, we found him totally infested with black spot. The gardener even said I could never get rid of the stuff. I gently washed all Red’s leaves and stems. I sprayed. I cut back some of the worst sections. A year later, Red is disease free, twice the size of last year and loaded with huge, sweet oranges. Red has blossomed under my care. He is a keeper. So why do I tell you this. Let me explain.

Josh captured my attention a year ago. As we were moving into our 2nd floor apartment, he launched himself off of a nearby railing and attempted to jump into my kitchen window. Unfortunately, the window screen barred his entrance and he deftly jumped 4 ft back onto the railing. His daring and brilliant orange cat eyes captivated me. He continued to sit on the railing and watch me at work from outside.

Through the summer, he would greet me as I arrived home – matching my strides upstairs tiny paw stride-for-stride. His home was with the woman in the downstairs apartment. I couldn’t blame him for spending almost his entire time outdoors as the man she lived with was a chainsmoker and his fur always reeked of smoke.

Josh captured my interest as the autumn rains began. The woman who cared for him was growing fatally ill. Food and shelter became sporadic for Josh and his companion, Spot. It was then that we bought the large plastic storage buckets; laid them on their sides, put towels inside and umbrella overhead to keep them sheltered. I put them on the deck outside my window so I could peek in on them and make sure they were okay. I used to just feed them treats but I could tell they weren’t getting fed very often, so I began feeding them regularly. Josh purrs so loudly and would rub up against my legs each time I ventured out to check on them. Then the woman died and Josh & Spot were never let inside their home again – you could tell as their fur no longer smelled at all of smoke.

Josh captured my affection as the winter cold enveloped. Instead of sleeping in his own little tub, he would switch over to Spot’s tub and they would sleep next to each other during the freezing nights. When I opened the door to place cat food on the stoop, he began to dart inside my apartment and snatch a cat toy and take it outside to play with. His antics were hilarious and I was hooked on his unbridled joy for life.

As the New Year approached, I realized I could not leave these two. As we made plans to move into our new home, I knew I would take them both with me. They were depending on me.

Josh captured my heart the day I adopted him. Our other two cats were already at the new house and the apartment is almost completely emptied. I let him inside to play and closed the door while we waited for the time for me to put him in the cage for the appointment with the vet. I lay down on the floor and we played endless games. Then he unexpectedly curled up against my chest and purred his heart out. I became the chosen one. The same thing happened with Spot. Somehow they knew, somehow they trusted me.

Josh and I haven’t always agreed on his situation. I am committed to keeping him indoors which he is impatiently learning to deal with. I am intent on letting any of the other 3 cats play with the feather on the string so he’s slowly learning to shaaare. He wants me to be his primary play buddy during the day – lightly placing his pointy claws on my knees while I work at the computer during the day. I take a lot of breaks to play, but never enough for him. The entire apartment is his domain and I’m trying to curb that. I’m not too happy about him knocking over my ____ (fill in the blank here) a dozen times during the days as he races to the top of any furniture, windowsill and closet shelf.

I complain to friends and relatives about his youthful training challenges. He’s been the toughest handful I’ve ever taken on. And just like with Red, people have suggested I take him to the pound. But as those orange doe eyes fix on me as he begs to play, or his purr buzzes louder than the TV or he curls up on my lap to sleep, I never have a doubt. What parent ever returned a baby with colic? Josh had already been abandoned once – Spot was abandoned twice. What kind of humanity are we that we abandon those that depend and rely on us – so easily abdicating responsibillity just because we have the power to.


God has never abandoned me because my training has been a challenge or because I have disease or act up. I’ve placed my trust in Him. And He has captured me in His care and keeping. So have Red and Josh. Every day, I see Josh and Spot blossom under my care. They’ve grown content, to trust me, to be less wary. Every day I see Josh’s orange eyes sparkle, I see an unbridled spirit that just needs a little direction. He’s a keeper. Just like me. Just like Red and Spot.

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