“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France
It’s taken a few months to feel ready to write this post about my kitty Harriet. On my January birthday in 2004 I went to the Humane Society thrift store to make a donation that resulted from a post-holiday clothes evaluation. I had a single-minded focus and adopting a cat was the last thing on my mind, but close to the entrance was a large wire cage, and inside was a charming grey-brown tabby cat. It hadn’t been too long since I’d lost my beloved dog Baron, and I had resolved not to have any more pets. I had convinced myself that I just couldn’t go through the loss and grief again, but it seems that Harriet and destiny had other plans.
She stood up inside the cage, came to the front, and spoke to me very clearly, “Take me home. I have chosen you.” I was stunned and promptly went into fierce denial. I handled my donation and went straight home. But of course, I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I went back the next day to see if she was still there. Destiny has a mind of its own in such matters, and Harriett became my beloved animal companion until April of 2018.
Harriet was named by the Humane Society when she had been rescued, having been abandoned. I looked up the meaning of the name, which is “ruler of the house,” and laughed; what a perfect name for a cat. Harriet’s sweet nature and companionship helped me through some very difficult times that included a divorce, a move, and essentially starting my life over in 2007. The picture of her in front of the Christmas tree celebrated our first holiday season alone after a painful separation and a wrenching loss of my home. Her presence gave me strength, and caring for her helped me focus on moving forward. It’s impossible to adequately express the gifts and blessings our animal friends bring to our lives. We love them deeply, and the loss is hard to bear when their short lives end.
Although her last months saw a continual decline, she jumped up on the couch on our last night together, and we snuggled. I didn’t know it would be our last night, but I told her she was free to go, and tried to express what she had meant to me. The next day she left her body on her own terms when I ran out for a short errand. She spared us both the trauma of “putting her down,” and when I came home and found her she looked peaceful. I am so grateful for that miracle. Her ashes now rest in my flower garden, and I planted a purple Clematis in her honor.
This brief memorial honors not only Harriett but all of the wonderful animals who have blessed my life, the pets and wild creatures alike. I will be forever grateful for the joy they gave so unselfishly and the richness they added–they teach us so much about unconditional love and letting go. I’m not ready for a new animal companion, but if it’s meant I guess another precious creature will find and choose me.