Friday, September 11, 2009

Boo-Boo

It was May 1995 and we were only married six months, settling slowly into our first home, when I announced that I RREEEEALLY wanted a kitty. Ralph did not raise a ruckus and the next thing I knew I was perusing the hundreds of adoptable kitties at the local animal shelter. In one of the smelly metal pens, with the jail-like door, I spotted a litter of 6 kittens. The kitten runt, if there is such a thing, was a tortoise shell cat with sweet golden eyes. She fit in the palm of my hand, only weighing in at a whopping one pound. So Tiny. So helpless. Such a squeaky little mew. I have no explanation why I named her Boo-Boo. I must have been having a Laverne and Shirley flashback. Let's just be thankful I did not name her Squiggy.

Some call it cruel to declaw a cat and I understand that. However, I grew up in a home where cats were disposable pets. My little sis loved cats and it seemed she had a new one every six months to replace the one that had never come back, or was eaten by a coyote. One innocent kitten cuddled into the warm tire well of my mother’s car and then she backed up. Time to dash back to the animal shelter for a replacement. It was heartbreaking to watch my sister mourn her loved pet over and over and over again. My parents saw little value in providing anything more than food and water then leaving the little furry darling on their own outside. I wanted a pet cat that would be around for all of her nine lives and my solution was to have my kitten spayed and declawed. As unnatural as it is to have a cat’s sharpest weapons removed, it made more financial sense than replacing the furniture every year. So off the scratchers went, along with her female bits and pieces.

Adopting a kitten from the pound is a total crapshoot. I had no idea what kind of cat I invited to be our newest family member. Boo-Boo proved to be a habitual hairball machine, barfing up cat hair clumps all year round, unlike most cats that only do it when the season turns hot. No, this cat only ramped up the heaving in Spring no matter how much I brushed her black and tan fur. I did not like cleaning up after her, but I loved this cat so kept on scraping the gunk off the rug. After a couple years my husband became disgusted by what was now only MY cat and refused to help. My quiet heroism was rewarded because Boo-Boo preferred my lap and we had a pleasant relationship, on her terms of course.

As time zipped on, I birthed our first son. Boo-Boo was indifferent to him, but I really did not trust her. I kept close watch on her as she circled the baby bouncer with her tail up, eyeballing her latest competition. Three and a half years later, another son came along and Boo-boo was starting to turn a little grey under her chin. She kept her distance from the kids. We started to drift apart because of the demands placed on me by our growing family. I still loved and cared for Boo-Boo, my husband still kicked her. But she was a resilient cat whose only concern was lounging under a sunny window or batting at a cat toy with her useless claws. Many times my husband wanted to make her an outside cat, but it did not seem right. She would be sure to lose her first fight, even though she definitely had a mean streak in her. The vet informed me later that tortoise shell cats are known for being temperamental, unsocial and nasty. That was my Boo-Boo.

The kids grew and grew and as their toddler friends visited, every little hand wanted to touch the cat, kiss the cat, hug the cat, pull the cat tail and chase the cat. Boo-boo ended up hissing at them every time with her hair standing on end and eye teeth sparkling in the light. Mean. Evil. Bad Boo-Boo. By the time my youngest son was three, she had not only swatted at kids, but starting biting in defense although the children just wanted to get close to the “kitty”. My husband still had zero tolerance for this unpleasant chuck-happy cat. I was bewildered by her as there was not a whole lot of love being exchanged between us; only the threat of her eating a child’s finger for lunch and then throwing it up in a hair ball later. The benefits of this now nine year old cat had dwindled for me too. Our contact diminished to cleaning her littler box, feeding her and praying she would not throw up or maim a child. After little cajoling Ralph convinced me to find Boo-Boo a new home. Fat Cat Chance! No one wanted this wicked child hating feline. Grieved, I agreed to send her back to where she started.

Boo-Boo was the only pet my kids had ever known and both boys were sad to say good bye as my husband loaded her cat carrier into the red Honda. I agreed it felt a bit gloomy, but explained to my sons that there was a “family in San Diego that wanted a cat and they did not have chldren and they would take good care of Boo-Boo." Lie. I explained how she had come close to hurting some kids and had a terrible hairball problem, so it was best to say good-bye. Crying as Ralph backed out of the driveway, through his tears my son shouted, “I don’t want a fish! I don’t want a fish!” That was the trade off for losing the cat; he could pick out a fish. I knew their little hearts were droopy and I invited the two of them to cuddle close to me as we reminisced about what a wonderful (tongue in cheek) cat Boo-Boo was and how much we loved her. Yes, we would truly miss her I confirmed, it was okay to cry. A few tears left my eyes in memory of what was once my one pound precious kitten with the tiny, sweet mew.

Twenty minutes later my husband pulled back into the driveway. He came to our front door and asked me to step outside to speak with him. I did, only to be told the pound was full to the brim with unwanted pets and they would not accept Boo-Boo. WHAT? How can the pound not have room? It the Animal Shelter! They rejected our reject! I know at least three cats could fit in one cat jail cubby, just shove her in one!! I was upset, now having to go back into the house and explain that Daddy got there too late and missed the Cat Train to San Diego. Another creative white lie. Boo-Boo would have to stay with us another week until the next train could deliver her to her next home. And so it was, Boo-boo continued to live with us for what would be just a short stopover before her final train ride.

The following weekend our boys were sleeping at their Auntie’s house in Pasadena. Saturday morning, Ralph jumped out of bed and called the pound, first thing. YES! They had room to accept Boo-Boo. My husband packed her up and off he sped explaining honestly to the Animal Officer why we had to return her nine years later. I knew she would never be adopted now. I felt blue for a bit, but knew it was the right decision. When the kids returned from their weekend, we shared the wonderful news that Boo-Boo boarded the cat train heading to her new life in San Diego. Then we drove to the pet store to check out the fish.

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