Oh you know that I’d do anything for you…
We should have each other to tea huh?
We should have each other with cream
Then curl up by the fire
And sleep for awhile
It’s the grooviest thing
It’s the perfect dream”
I need to tell you about my ridiculous birthday of July 2022. In a stream of COVID-era ridiculous birthdays, this one definitely takes the cake. In fact, this one takes more cake than I took on my birthday, although Cassidy was dear enough to get me two last minute cake options in order to deal with the devastating debacle that my birthday was. So, let’s start right there, shall we? The birthday that never really was, and still hasn’t really been, and my absolutely weird cat karma.
For a little back and forth, my birthday plan this year was SO solid. We were going to wake up early to go to my happy place, IKEA. Last time we went to my happy place, it was the height of early COVID, and the cafe was closed. So we were going to shop til we dropped, have lunch at the cafe (meatballs, anyone?), then go get some birthday dipped cones at this place. I don’t even like cones, but this was an exception. Then we were going to come back here, do the free birthday tour at Thornes Marketplace in town, along with a shopping spree at High Five Books, order in Japanese food, and then eat a cookie cake from Insomnia Cookies for dessert and some singing. And to tell you why barely any of that happened, we need to go back in time to 2016.
Oh, we couldn’t get closer than this…”
We went to the animal shelter (Dakin Humane Society) a few times and received counseling by the awesome staff members. Since we had young kids and a dog, they recommended we get a tiny kitten. Clean slate, if you will. We found two tiny siblings, a male and a female, in one of the kitten rooms, and the male was already spoken for. We held the female for a bit, and fell in love with her. She was white and gray and brown with cute tufted ears. Her name was Juniper and we decided to keep the name. She was such a little thing and so much fun. She was a little skittish but a lot lovable. Junie (what we called her) would especially cuddle with Scarlet, and I was in second place. She would follow us around the house, and she also loved our dog, Astro.
We got Junie not long after we had lost our cat, Penny, to a fisher cat in the yard. Penny had only gotten out one night, and that was all it had taken. So, we were really protective of Junie. Penny had been an older cat that we gotten from a friend in New Jersey, but Junie was such a tiny kitten when she came to us. I couldn’t imagine that she’d last even one hour out in the western MA wilderness. We had her for three great years. I love having a cat around, as sort of a writing muse. I’ve never been a cat person, but I like having one. I like the way they warm my feet, visit me when I need cuddles, and meow. Junie was mostly Scarlet’s cat. Whenever we got back from a trip, we’d first run to see her and let her know we were back. Three years ago, this week, we went for a whole week to the Cape Cod house. This was right before it was sold. The kids did a circus camp there, and I worked remotely and enjoyed the beach, my friends, and my in-laws. Cassidy stayed behind for work, and planned to visit us during the last weekend there.
In the middle of our trip, Cassidy called, sounding more wrecked than I think I’d ever heard him. He couldn’t find Junie. She had gotten out of the house while he was going to the dump, or maybe cleaning the garage or basement, and he couldn’t find her. I was not that worried, telling him all of her hiding spots, but hours went by, and he couldn’t find her. It was really hard to be away, but we kept in touch about everything he tried. He borrowed a Havaheart trap from the shelter we adopted her at (they felt so badly for him that they didn’t even charge him), and we followed all of the tips. I think he must have walked our property and woods for hours. Days. He drove around for hours. Days. Eventually he gave up and joined us at the Cape, but he was heartbroken. Scarlet feared the worst, that Junie had been eaten by a wild animal. I personally thought I’d go home and find her, because she would hear my voice and run back to me. When we got back from our last ever Cape Cod trip (for now), we spent days looking for her. She was gone. It was awful. This was when I gave up and lost hope. My heart was broken, without closure.
So it wasn’t long at all before I looked at the Dakin Humane Shelter website, just for kicks, to see adoptable kittens and cats. We fell in love with a white and gray, green-eyed cat they named Aphrodite. She had had a hard life and they didn’t know a ton about her, so I called and put a hold on her the second they opened up on a Tuesday morning, and then raced to meet her. There was a man there who also wanted to meet her. We actually got there before him, but held the door open for him, so he checked in first. I had called, so they did give me dibs on Aphrodite, but I let him meet her first. Well he sort of ran out of there and said she was WAY too feisty for him. This cracked me up! She WAS feisty, but she had a way of looking straight through my soul with those amazing eyes. She was scrawny and had a tragic backstory of having kittens when she was still a kitten, and one of them had died from a terrible and contagious illness. She was in quarantine for months. She was also perpetually small and she barely had a tail. And she had never really seen the light of day, or at least not in months. No wonder she was feisty! She would try to bite or scratch any hands trying to feed her or give her medicine. And that was often.
I second guessed it a half dozen times, but I put a deposit on her, and went home to think on it. Of course I decided I absolutely wanted her, and went to pick her up right on my birthday, as a birthday present to myself! Scarlet even remembers me standing in line to take her home and saying, “Are we making a huge mistake?” Honestly, we weren’t and we didn’t. We renamed her Luna and she is the BEST cat. She is funny, quirky, pretty, cute, friendly, and looks like an anime character. When people come over, which is less often these COVID days, she comes out to greet them. The pain of losing Junie didn’t go away, but it was helped by giving this needy cat a loving home. Over time, she totally filled out and became quite the beauty she is today.
It’s been interesting adding to our family. We were the “core four” for SO long, and then got Athena and then Astro. We had Penny, who tragically passed, and then Junie, who disappeared into a very dangerous place for cats. We got Luna, who we’ve kept safe, and then got Lucy, had Rider, and then had Sawyer. We have been through so much travel and growth, and now two pregnancies and new babies. So that brings us to today. This week. Monday was my birthday, and you read my birthday plans above. It was also the three year anniversary of having Luna with us! I woke up that morning and had overslept for our IKEA trip. None of this really mattered because Cassidy woke up with a tickle in his throat and tested positive for COVID. This was the first time any of us had had COVID. On my birthday! He instantly isolated and masked around us, and I marveled at how badly this birthday was going. Instead of being in IKEA heaven, I was checking email and got one that Juniper had been found by microchip?! I was like, “Whaaaat?”
I didn’t have time to think much about that because my phone kept ringing. I ignored the first few because they were 973 numbers, which is usually spam, but I checked my voicemail and it was animal control dispatch telling me they had found my cat and she had been hit by a car. My mom was also urgently texting me, “TAM! THEY FOUND JUNIE! MAYBE SHE’S OK?” Apparently they had called her when they couldn’t reach me? Why didn’t they just call Cassidy? I was so confused and still not quite understanding that they were calling about Junie. I thought they meant Luna, who was sleeping right in front of me. “No, my cat hasn’t been hit by a car. She’s RIGHT HERE.” It’s all a blur but a few different people called me. And I had to explain that we had lost Juniper three years ago; that she was long presumed dead. The Northampton animal control officer, Dawn, called and explained that she hated to be the one to tell me, but my cat had been hit by a car and it didn’t look good for her. So I interrupted and said, “You see, this is weird. We lost Juniper three years ago. We even grieved her. How could I have known she had been alive all this time?” Dawn was pulling up then to the emergency animal hospital and explained that as the legal owner of Juniper, I would be given the vet bill, and also any choices in Juniper’s care. I still didn’t quite believe it was her. I asked where she had been found, and it was right on my road. RIGHT ON MY ROAD, ALL THIS TIME! On my BIRTHDAY! In a COVID house.
Dawn said she would call back with more info, and all sorts of thoughts entered my brain. Losing Junie, all over again. Losing Junie, all over again, and paying an exorbitant vet bill. Gaining Junie, after all this time, even though we already had a cat and she seemed to already have a home. I was told that her coat looked shiny and healthy, and she was a healthy weight. Did she have another home? Had she fended for herself outside, all this time? Was she really resurfacing in my life, after three years gone? Dawn called back pretty fast, that the vet had had to euthanize her, and that she explained our story, and they waived all fees. What a tragedy, and what an amazing thing they all did for us. She offered to bring Junie directly to us, have me pick her up at the police station later, or we could do nothing at all. We talked it over and Scarlet wanted to see Junie again, and so did I. Cassidy, in his COVID haze, went out and dug a hole in a beautiful part of our land that we chose. Dawn showed up, and we instantly knew she was a blessing. She knew the Grateful Dead, she had lived in Alaska, she had cool stories to tell us, and she had great sympathy and compassion for us. We saw Junie, who looked beautiful, and even in our shock about this experience, we buried her and cried. It was a reopened wound, but it was a whole lot of “what could have been” things. It was just plain weird. I mean, just so weird.
There are bright sides to this, that I only utter when alone with Scarlet, mostly. Like how Junie had three more (hopefully) happy years of life. And how she hadn’t suffered long, or been eaten by an animal. We like to think of her more as the hunter, jumping from tree to tree. Cassidy drove past the place she had been hit by a car, and saw two older people talking. He stopped the car on a hunch that they were talking about Junie. They were. “I loved that cat!” The woman said, and told him she had cried for hours that morning. Both neighbors talked about how she came to their homes, and they fed her, and then she’d be on her way. They seemed to think she had had a new home during these years, but clearly she was never brought to the vet, or they would have scanned her microchip. And maybe she was just a wandering gypsy, always out on the prowl. Surviving, and thriving, until she met an unlucky collision. Maybe we’ll find the new owners, and maybe we’ll try to find them, if they do exist. For now, it’s extra snuggles with Luna, the luck of no one else getting COVID (yet), and how we’ll have a birthday redo. Junie is buried, where she was loved, and if she was loved elsewhere, I have no doubt we’ll find them. If you believe everything happens for a reason, well, there’s strange reasoning here. And yet, we got our goodbye. We got to meet Dawn. We got to rescue Luna, who needed a steady home. And we got to love Junie for those three years, and at least another three, and I’m sure, forever more.
You and me
All these years and no one heard
I’ll show you in spring
It’s a treacherous thing
“We missed you”, hissed the lovecats
We’re so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully
You know that I’d do anything for you…”