You just never know where you’ll meet another cat lover. The only sure thing is that you will meet them, even when you’re just on a simple quick errand and you meet during the process of something else entirely.
I needed a can of matte black spray paint for a sign bracket I’ll be installing today, and I discovered I was completely out. The local Family Dollar usually carries this so I decided at 8:30 p.m. to drive the quarter mile to the store to save time, then I could come back and have dinner.
I faced an empty shelf in that department, apparently their truck had come in late and several of us were wandering around trying to figure out if we should just go home or try another store.
A woman was wandering aisle to aisle hoping to find, as I learned, canned milk, which was also an empty spot on a shelf. We commiserated, “Darn, they always have black spray paint!” “Darn, they always have canned milk! And I was here earlier and came back when they said they might have the stuff unpacked!” and tried to figure out if there was anyone else near who carried these things. There is not, and we knew that.
She mentioned the closest place was a grocery store about three miles away, but she was walking and didn’t have a car, and I could see she had a stiffness in her gait.
I had decided that, since I had to paint this thing tonight, I had to run to Lowe’s, which was right by the grocery store.
“Well, do you want to ride down there with me?” I asked. “I have to go to Lowe’s, it’s right next door.”
“But how would I get back?” she asked.
“Well, I’d bring you back!” I said, laughing. “I wouldn’t leave you there.”
“Are you sure?” she protested for a bit, not wanting to trouble me.
“You know, I’m going there anyway, it makes no sense for me say ‘bye’ and drive there when you need to go there too. Come on, let’s go,” I said. A few more protestations, and off we went.
So we talked about my car full of stuff (still hadn’t completely unpacked my car from the Agway visit Tuesday), I mentioned that I got my cat food at the Agway, and she said excitedly she had two cats and was a real cat person. She told me she had scoliosis and even though she wants to work, she had always worked laboring jobs like cleaning and waiting tables but needs surgery and wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. She finally qualified for disability so she could get things taken care of. I could tell she was in some pain, even just standing still, but she was so congenial and talkative I forgot. We finally introduced each other, and her name was Sharon.
I dropped her off, got my stuff, then swung back to pick her up. I was glad to see that she had two bags with her—I remember carless days and the opportunity to pick up a few extra things when I got a ride, both because I could visit another store and I wouldn’t have to carry the bags. On the three miles back we started to talk cats again (the canned milk was for her tea, not for her cats).
It turns out she had also had seven cats at one time but had to find homes for all but two when she moved last year, but she knows the person who took them all and they are fine. She had rescued all of them, fed them on her back porch before she took them in and got them fixed, accepted them from people who didn’t want them, found one at a place where she worked. Oh, we were talking over each other and laughing to share stories!
And she described the two cats she has now with such love. One of them is a big black male born to a cat belonging to a neighbor who died. The neighbor had always left the cat outside and unspayed; the cat was distrustful but Sharon had gotten big recliner boxes and filled them with straw for shelter for her and always fed the cat, so that when the woman died the cat came to her house, and was expecting another litter. She won the cat over and kept her and her two kittens. One of them she named Lily when she thought the kitten was female, and though he turned out to be a boy she kept the name.
And she also had Dolly who was from a litter she’d found but no mother was coming around, so she took them in, Dolly being the only survivor.
“Oh, I fed her with a bottle and rocked her to sleep just like a baby,” she said, remembering. “I tucked her into her little cat bed in her little kitty nursery and I knew I’d just have to keep her.
“They’re both spayed and neutered and they have chips,” she continued, “and I keep them inside. I don’t let my cats out to run on the street, I just can’t stand the thought of anything happening to them, I mean, if I saw my Lily on the street my life would end.”
“Bless your heart,” I said, though I have no idea why I always say this when I hear stories of such kindness. “That is so good of you to spend your own money and time and take such good care of them, most people wouldn’t do it.”
“I couldn’t turn my back on them,” she said. “I love every one of them.”
“And they know you!” I responded.
I told her about the Fantastic Four and Mimi with her 24 kittens, and my senior tortie girls and before we knew it we had gone the three miles back and were at her apartment.
We laughed and said we hoped we’d run into each other again, and then said we were sure we would—what were the chances we would even have met tonight and decided to ride together and yet we did.
I thought about this woman who had so little means, from what she’d indicated always working minimum-wage and probably part-time jobs, and yet always doing the right thing for these cats, taking them in, bottle-feeding, spaying and neutering, down to the microchip and finding them homes. I imagined her simply looking at the situation of the neighbor’s cat and solving the problem of setting up a shelter and gaining the cat’s trust, and learning to bottle-feed a newborn kitten, especially difficult after the others had died, and all the other rescues and just how much love she had for them.
For all the horrible stories we hear about animal abuse every day, there are people like Sharon, quietly going about the business of rescue simply because they know it is the right thing to do, without any expectation of thanks or congratulation; the animal’s own gratitude and wellness are reward enough. Collectively, people like Sharon in every neighborhood save the lives of thousands of animals every year.
And I wouldn’t ask just anyone to hop in my car and take a ride in the dark of night. I’m always glad to help someone in need in whatever way I have the means, but I try to exercise good judgment.
Yet she and I simply trusted each other right away, talking as if we’d known each other for years. I am convinced that people who love animals attract each other, and it may even be specific to the species—I always seem to find cat people! It’s perfectly understandable that people recognize me when I’m at a market or festival with my merchandise, but when I run to the Family Dollar for paint and meet someone who’s there for canned milk and we are instant old friends I have to think we either intuitively known each other or there is something about each of us that we recognize, something about that animal bond.
These unexpected meetings are always uplifting and I enjoy the opportunity to share. Last year one of these moments inspired a poem: read “Overheard in a Thrift Shop“. The photo at the top is of two cats rescued by long-time cat rescuers Judi Stadler and her partner, Don; read about them in “A Bridge Between the Ages“.
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