In 2009, I worked at the local pet store. Perfect job for me. I love animals I love helping people with animals and boy, did I ever need the discount on pet food. We had a section of kennels at the front where we would bring in cats and dogs from the local shelter in an effort to get them homes. The store was very responsible in that we did not SELL puppies or kittens because that usually only supports puppy and kitten mills which are a big part of the pet over population in our country.
I was admittedly a great sales person at fitting the shelter pets with new owners. We tried our best to be sure that any animal we took in found a home and didn't go back to the shelter. Doing so usually meant euthanization as unfortunately our local shelter is not a no-kill shelter. The shelter would often work with us on animals having a hard time finding a home,by decreasing the adoption fee or dropping it all together if we could find a proper furever home for an animal.
Then came SweetPea. I need to start by saying I already had and still have several pets. I always say " No I cant take another in I'm at max capacity." But here was this dainty little white cat with odd black splotches like she had been dabbed with paint, the greenest eyes and the saddest face. She sat in the back of her cage and turned her face into the corner when anyone tried to love on her. It broke my heart. So many people would look at her and ooh at how pretty but then they wouldn't give her a chance because she wasn't loving.
Then a woman and a teenage boy came in and I heard them talking " Doesn't that look like that cat we backed over ? Remember in the drive? Just her foot I think" " Oh yeah that does look like her" Sweetpea was at the front of her cage crying at them purring rubbing against the bars, She knew them. They walked away. Left her there and she cried and eventually went back to her corner all quiet. One of her back feet indeed had a misshaped toe where the claw wouldn't retract. I was heart broken.
She had been there too long already. I had already had to ask the shelter to give me more time to find her a home. I had tried daily to work with her to make her more social. All I had managed to do was make her slightly less afraid of me but not much more. I consider myself a pretty good cat whisperer but she was so wrapped up inside herself I just couldn't reach her.
I had talked it over with my boyfriend. We knew it wasn't practical. We didn't really have room for another cat we both said. But we both had silently made up our mind we wouldn't let her go back. When the shelter came to get her saying they needed to put a pet in the space that could be homed I already had the adoption fee in my pocket. My boyfriend had given it to me to hold just in case they came. She went home with me and immediately went into hiding.
For weeks you wouldn't even know we had a new cat. She never came out for you to see other than a glimpse from the corner of your eye. She slipped to the litter box and the food bowl in secret. She was getting fatter from what I did see of her slipping about so I knew she was eating fine. I just left her be. Pushing her would NOT work. Within a few months she got to where she would come sit in the room with you but if you looked at her for long or acknowledged her by speaking she would ZIP disappear. I was patient the other pets were patient. The only exception to her solitude was Rascal the dog. She actually went to him within the first week loving on him and rubbing against him. They made fast friends right off.
In time she would come sit with him and play with him while we were in the room. Weeks later she began to sit by my chair and watch me. I ignored her. Gave her space to get comfortable. Then one day she jumped up in my chair and sat trembling afraid on the arm. I didn't bother her...then ZIP gone again. More of that would happen.. then one day she stepped into my lap. She would do so more and more. I couldn't touch her or she would bolt, Just had to let her sit.
It took nearly two years for my beautiful sweet little girl to come out of her shell. Once she did she sat in my lap DEMANDING petting . head butting you with love and purring. She would even come out with company around although no one else was allowed to pet her but me and my boyfriend. She just didn't trust anyone else. She was pure, innocent and sweet to the core, She just need time and patience. To watch her play, knowing where she had come from and what she went through was like watching fairy magic. It just didn't seem real. She would on the rare occasion just become a flight of fancy through the room with a catnip mouse and it was the most adorable thing you had ever seen to see something you once knew to be so heavy with fear and sadness to be SO LIGHT and carefree and happy. Several years now of her being more and more light and delicate and happy. She became my sleeping pal always draped across me purring as I fell asleep. She was my gaming buddy , sitting in my lap little dainty paws crossed so picture perfect watching my computer screen with me. I couldn't go in the bathroom without her. She was at my every step and she was so sweet and happy.
I write this now because most people who know me have seen a million pictures of my baby girl but they don't know her story. They don't know how far she came and how special she was especially to me. I lost her two days ago to a blood clot. In my darkest moments of feeling like I wasn't good enough and hadn't done enough with my life or whatever doubts I might have had, that sweet fairy stuck in a dainty little cats body would come sit with me and remind me, that if it were possible for her to love me and trust me like she did I had to be worthy. I had to have done something right
I love you my Sweetpea I miss you