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Waiting for Murphy

–On finally deciding to adopt

I can hardly believe that Dooley’s been gone for three months. It seems like yesterday when he became ill and let us know that it was time for him to join his “brothers and sisters” who passed before him.

All in all, it’s been a shitty spring and summer, and losing Dooley was a blow that knocked me flat, mentally and emotionally. But of course, I realized there are two other cats that depend upon me to get out of bed every morning and get my ass in gear: Conor and Lorna.

I had to remember that they were also mourning Dooley, and Conor’s signature, soprano wail was in high gear as he walked around our home, searching for his buddy. That, folks, the realization that our other pets grieve at the loss of a companion they’ve lived with for years, is a stab to the heart.

What do we do? How do we comfort them? We love the hell out of them. That’s how.

Conor is doing better now, although I sense a mournfulness in his expression from time to time. Perhaps that sounds nuts, but cats are highly sensitive creatures, and their vocalizations, facial expressions, and body language divulge much if we care to pay attention.

In the past, after losing one of our kitties, we’d always visit the shelter and adopt, again. Not to replace the sweet soul we’d lost, but to share our lives with another cat who needed love and a forever home. I don’t think I can express this any better than my friend This time was different, though. My husband and I are older and were concerned that taking in another cat would be irresponsible. After all, we’re blessed with the two we have, so why shake that up?

Still…something was missing. And it hit me that I’ve been existing in a constant state of fear for a long time. Worried about everything and anything and it’s taken a toll on me. And, I’m tired of it.

So, after much back and forth, we discussed adopting an adult cat as a kitten would be out of the question, even though introducing a youngster to Conor and Lorna would be an easier task. At the end of the day, screw “easier.” We either do what’s right or do nothing. And if we love cats, we love cats of all ages, no? And if we’re not willing to put in the work necessary in helping an adult cat adapt to a new home, then shame on us. Too, after sharing our lives with cats for thirty-five years, we know the integration process is best done at a slow pace. Disaster can and will occur if cats are forced to “get along.”

As I said, we went back and forth over the pros and cons of adopting again. We talked about visiting our local shelter but never seemed to get around to it.

One day, “for fun,” I scrolled through a lengthy list of adoptable, adult male cats on petfinder.com. Male, because Lorna is the Princess and I believe that bringing in another female would break her heart and that would break mine, as she is my shadow. I call her “Little Mama.”

Thinking things over. Photo of Lorna McGuinn by Sherry McGuinn

So, it had to be a boy cat. I thought Conor would like that.

What can I say? There were so many precious kitties looking for homes that, settling on one was as difficult as I expected it to be.

But, one guy stopped me cold. A Maine Coon mix, a Tuxedo cat called “Sylvester.” A six-year-old love muffin from the description. Sylvester was in a foster home as he’d been picked up by Animal Control while wandering the streets. Sylvester was microchipped and his owner was located, but the piece of shit left him there. Never picked him up.

Just another soulless asshole in a world full of them.

The good news was that Sylvester was used to being around other cats and enjoyed their company. The not-so-good: He required daily grooming and wasn’t into it, especially if you touched his butt! Not a problem, I figured. We could work around that. Trust and time. That’s what it’s all about, people.

Smitten, and with the approval of my husband, I submitted the application, which was lengthy. I appreciated that, though, and also the fact that the organization wanted to contact our veterinarian to confirm our references. After that, I told myself that if it was “meant to be,” it indeed would be. But I knew I wanted to give this boy a forever home.

I think it was less than a couple of weeks later when I received the email telling us we were approved to adopt Sylvester!

Immediately, I fixed up a spare room for him to prepare for the integration process. And I really did it up. A large, plush bed, litter box, food and water bowls, and a big cat tree that I hauled up from the basement so Sylvester could look out the window. And then, my husband and I put together a list of potential names. We weren’t concerned that changing our new kitty’s name would be a problem as it was just a “placeholder.” We settled on Murphy, in homage to one of our favorite actors, Cillian Murphy. By the way, guys, if you haven’t seen Peaky Blinders on Netflix, you must. Simply stunning in every respect.

Just chillin.’ Photo of Conor McGuinn by Sherry McGuinn

The foster parent, Joyce, brought Sylvester to us last Saturday. Surprisingly, Conor and Lorna didn’t freak out as we sat on the living room floor, the new addition safely ensconced in his carrier, and talked. Joyce wanted to see how all three cats interacted. Lorna immediately went up to the carrier and touched noses with Sylvester. A good sign. There was minimal hissing from Conor so we were encouraged.

Before Joyce left, she made sure to tell us that if it didn’t work out, she would take Murphy back and refund our adoption fee. We assured her that wouldn’t happen and in any event, we wouldn’t want the fee returned. Because we’re not assholes. And, it will work. We’ll make it work.

As soon as Murphy was ushered into his new room, he hid behind the couch. I expected this so I wasn’t overly concerned. But my heart ached for our new boy as no doubt, he was fearful. I did everything to help him chill. Purchased some pet relaxation spray. Ran a constant stream of videos to help relieve feline anxiety on YouTube, and checked on him frequently — everything a responsible pet guardian should do.

He came out from behind the couch no more than two times. The first, he came over to me and let me caress and nuzzle him. Immediately, I was in love. Then I started to hear him sneeze from behind the couch. Minimally at first and then more frequently. Something was up. I knew it.

Also, I should point out that he barely ate and hadn’t used the litter box.

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Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinnhttps://medium.com/@sherrymcguinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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