Anam Cara


For a long time, our house has been a nursing home for elderly animals.  The cats were all the same age, within a few months of each other.  The dogs (coming as litter mates two years later) were the same.

Yeti died in 2007, Ripley in 2008.  (No picture.  Being a mistress of international intrigue, she’d have to kill you.)

Curie (my frail, beautiful sweetheart) died in 2009, followed four months later by Bella.  Tucker’s the last of that era, gamely making his passage through the days that remain to him.

It’s been hard, brain-numbing sometimes, watching them go one after the other.  I’d get used to the idea that one was gone and then the next would go, leaving us feeling punched under the heart.  When Curie died (at the ripe old age of 13), it was the end of an era.  We’d gotten Ripley when she was 4 weeks old.  Curie came two weeks later, and Yeti two weeks after that.  They were a set.  Despite the dogs, the house echoed with their absence.

I think Ed was a tad appalled at my readiness to adopt another cat so soon after Curie’s death.  He wasn’t ready, and said so.  I wasn’t going to bring another animal in if he wasn’t ready for it, but I felt sad and a little disappointed (unfairly; but there you are).  In retrospect, I think we were dealing with our grief in two different ways.  Ed was sealing himself off to heal, and I was looking to fill the space in my heart.  Not to replace Curie — I want to be clear on that.  There could be no replacing of “The Bird.”  But I wanted — I needed — a new cat-friend.

Finally, we made the trip to the Humane Society.  To cut to the chase, it took us two days to choose, but we came home with

Tuna (aka “Shadow”) who twined his front legs around my neck and rubbed his head against mine when I took him out of the cage.   He’s a great guy.  Dog-like in his devotion.  Very loving.  A sweetheart with a devilish streak.  Nothing fazes him.

We also brought home Gypsy (aka “Mitzi”).

Gypsy was terrified at the Humane Society.  She’d been there for months.  She’d been adopted out once and returned almost immediately because she never came out from under the furniture.  She was wild-eyed and hunch-backed; looked twice the size of what she is.  Shell-shocked.  Unable to comprehend this hell she was in and utterly lost.  I think that’s what won us — the sheer defeat in her eyes, the high-tension thrumming of her spirit.  She was so overwhelmed with noise and change that she was withdrawing into her own mind to escape it.

We weren’t sure she’d make it, either spiritually or emotionally, but her spirit was (and remains) strong.  She vanished under the bed when we brought her home, but her desire to feel that SOMEWHERE was home brought her out after dark to curl around my head and sleep with me.  Since then, she’s had rocky days, but there’s been no looking back for any of us.

What is it that brings a particular person and a particular animal together at a particular time?  Hard to call it chance when you hear so many people speak of it.  They’re not talking about an affection for every animal that walks.  They’re talking about that special connection you feel with an animal only every once in a while.  All I know is that while I love Tuna, I adore Gypsy.  There’s a heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul connection we share (even when one of us is being bitchy) that warms me to my core.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in cats, Connecticut, Darling Wendy, death, Dogs, dying, Melissa Crandall, Pets, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Anam Cara

  1. MJ Allaire says:

    Awww Melissa, this brought a smile to my lips and a tear to my eye. I love how you and I are so much alike! Although Ragu wasn’t in the same, terrified condition as Gypsy, he also was adopted from the Humane Society and returned “because he was too mean”. He is the most loving, sweetest, feline with the most adorable personality. I would not have missed having him in our lives for anything in the world.

    Thank you for sharing your joys with us – and for letting me know that my crazy love for my animals is not something I do alone.

    Hugs, Mo

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