Sometimes I hesitate to tell strangers how many pets I have in my home. If you have a large pack, uninitiated people equate you with a crazy hoarder which is nonsense. Some people can only handle providing love and companionship to one cat or dog at a time. But, in my world, there is always one more refugee who needs a forever home. This was especially true before my relationship with Planned Pethood and its adoption network. It seems like I just completed my tribute to my cat Norman. And, now I have lost Joan so soon after. Each and every one of my animal kids is special and it breaks my heart when I have to say good bye.
Joan has appeared in my previous blogs but she is about to star in this one. I got a call from one of my students as we were preparing to return for another school year fourteen years ago. Ashley was in a panic about a litter of neglected kittens. She came from a tough neighborhood and a woman on her block allowed her cat to have kittens but would not permit them in the house. To the day she died, Joan had zero interest in going outside, period. Ashley knew the kittens would die in the elements that coming winter. You know the drill. I told her to gather them up and bring them to school. The next day she arrived with a laundry basket containing 5 kittens. Thankfully, we had an understanding and cat-loving principal. We were fortunate to find great, safe and caring, adult homes for all the kittens except one…
All kittens are cute and this litter of tiny grey tigers was nothing short of adorable. Joanie, however, was kind of generic, no accents or interesting markings. But I devised a plan for her. My semi-significant other, Bob, had a cat named Betty. I am a firm believer in the ark philosophy that every home should contain TWO of everything. And, somehow I convinced Bob that he and Joan were destined to be together. That is how she got her name. I am a huge fan of Bette Davis so the name of her archenemy, Joan Crawford, was the logical choice. Bob resisted this initially since he was a single 40 something man with 2 cats named Bette and Joan but he eventually relented. But things didn’t exactly go as planned. You can take the girl out of the hood but can’t take the hood out of the girl. Joan was waaaaaaay too much for both Bob and Betty to handle so off she goes…
Joan the wild child had one final stop. She had plenty of playmates and activity at my house but more importantly, she found her new mom, Lucy. Lucille was a gentle, amazing yellow lab who was rescued from some pretty awful conditions herself. She adopted Joan as her child. She nurtured her by snuggling and cleaning her. She tolerated any play behavior the maniacal little sprite could invent. They became inseparable. It was touching to witness such an incredible, unshakable bond.
After we lost Lucy, Joan became the cat ambassador to each and every PPI foster dog we have hosted. She always was more comfortable around dogs than the other cats in our home. When she would snuggle up, the dogs would look at her, like, really? None of them fazed her. What a great way to blend a new dog into our world, not to mention making the dog a more well-rounded companion. And I can’t remember any of them expressing hostility or fear toward her.
Joan was very personable around humans too, never shy or antisocial. Whenever company arrived, she would unceremoniously plop in their laps. She remained high energy through her middle age years. Her favorite playmate was my sister’s boyfriend, Mark. They would play and wrestle and Mark always came out on the losing end of the bargain, a little worse for wear and a little nicked up. Joanie made a beeline as soon as she saw him for a little gladiator action.
Joanie developed hyperthyroidism when she became a senior which is not unusual in older cats. We applied her meds by rubbing a special cream on her ears twice a day which did the trick. She had just had blood work and a check up before I went on a short vacation. She checked out A-o.k. But while I was gone, Bob called and said she was vomiting. When I got home, she refused to eat. That is when I knew things were going haywire. Joan always lined up first for the opening of a can of cat food. In the meantime, I found a tooth she had lost. So I figured she had an infection from that, and our vet Dr. Bart, would give her some fluids and meds and send us on our way. It was sadly much more serious than that. Doc said the problem was neurological, probably a brain tumor and the best solution was to put her down. I was blind-sided, stunned really. I knew it was best but still so difficult, another heartache. The only thing that brought a smile was the picture of Joanie and Lucy reunited, their bond which had been temporarily broken, now cemented forever.