As the door swung open I immediately spotted the cat we had come to get. She was sitting regally on the back of a sofa across the room. She seemed undisturbed by the sudden appearance of two strangers, and she was absolutely gorgeous.
Yeti’s Kitty Suites , my foster home for cats, had been taking in down-on-their-luck cats for a few months. The three rooms Grant set up for us soon filled as word got around quickly. I had created a website and posted a page on Facebook, but I never did any advertising, so I don’t know how the information got out so fast.
It would have been great if the demand for cats had equaled the number of those unwanted, so I was thrilled when people called looking to adopt.
One of my first adopters was Susan. She was interested in taking two cats. She had already fallen for Grayson when she saw his picture on the website, so she just needed to choose another. She came by to meet the gang and we matched her up with little Gus.
Before allowing our cats to go off to a new owner we always insisted on a home visit. Susan’s house was perfect and we waved a happy/sad farewell to our sweet boys. There was never a cat I met without falling in love, so it was never easy, but it was the right and fair thing to do.
Not too many weeks later I got an email from Susan asking if I could take in a cat that had been abandoned in her sister’s apartment complex. In those days I don’t think I ever really had room for one more, but I lost track of how many times we somehow made it happen.
We scooped up the gorgeous cat from Susan’s sister and as we drove away I noticed the name of a nearby condo complex. It was called Willow Run. I thought Willow would be a perfect name for our beautiful new girl.
We never learned anything about Willow’s background but I thought she looked like a Somali and the vet agreed that she may well have been, at least in part. I didn’t just fall in love this time. Willow was one of the many animals that really got to me. She was as sweet as she was beautiful. The thought of letting her go was painful to entertain, so I decided to introduce her to my own cats “upstairs”.
We did, after all need to reduce the number downstairs. It was my place, so the rules were mine to make but I should have cleared it with Panther first, given him time to brief my pampered pussies. He, of course, was always cool with everyone!
The others regarded pretty Willow with disdain. “What?” they exclaimed. “Another?!” The house was huge. There was room for everyone, but the ungrateful little beasts sulked and were just plain mean to Willow.
I gave it time, as I know you must, but in the end I had to accept that it would be unkind for me to keep Willow if a good home could be found, and because she was so lovely we soon got calls from interested parties.
Willow went to live with an older couple that had recently lost a cat that Willow resembled. I should perhaps have known that this was a mistake, but it seemed that they genuinely liked Willow and were not looking for the reincarnation of their lost cat. Grant went off to check out their home and everything seemed fine.
Each cat I took in was immediately checked out by my vet and we had them all micro-chipped. When I agreed to adoptions, I always emphasized three things: the cat was to be kept indoors, exclusively. The micro-chip was to be re-assigned to the new owner. If there was ever any kind of problem with the cat it was to be returned to me and no questions would be asked.
I know for certain that a number of the micro-chips were never re-assigned but this, in at least one case, turned out to be a good thing.
Some five years after Willow’s adoption, Grant took a phone call one day, and was at first puzzled why someone was telling him off for being such a poor cat owner. It was the Everett Animal Shelter looking for Willow’s owner. They had checked the chip which was still in Grant’s name.
There ensued some complicated detective work to unscramble what had happened to our poor girl. It turned out the people who had adopted her had retired and decided to go travelling in their RV, turning Willow over to their son. He, not long after, left home leaving Willow and two other cats with his partner.
Willow and her two companions were rescued a few months later by a kind dog person who noticed that they were always in a garden he passed by and he soon realized they had been abandoned.
When I heard this I was incredulous and beyond upset. We went immediately to collect the cats but frustratingly we had to wait ten days to satisfy some trivial legality, even though Willow had our microchip and it was obvious no-one was coming back for her. We had driven all the way to Everett and were not even allowed to see the cats.
Talk about frustrating. The wait was torture. We were so afraid there would be a screw-up and one or all of the cats would be euthanized. But in due course we were given the okay to collect Willow and even though by then I was no longer accepting foster cats, we took the two that had been abandoned with her.
Meet Sikkim and Penny, Willow’s partners in abandonment. I know things happen that cause people to do things they normally would not, but I just can’t find an acceptable excuse for this. Needless to say, we were more than happy to take in the little Himalayan that I named Sikkim (for the Himalayan state of that name) and the little old black cat that I called Penny, after my aunt’s beloved Cocker-spaniel. Penny was reported to be “bitey” and unfriendly and as a black cat, with the odds stacked against her, she very likely would have been euthanized. In fact she is an extremely affectionate, loving cat. We soon found out that she has bad arthritis and when touched carelessly, she reacts, although she never bit anyone I know of.
In spite of the circumstances, I was thrilled to see Willow. She remembered her previous temporary home and she appeared to know us too. We smothered her with love. I just wanted to hold her and tell her how sorry I was for letting her go to people like that. It certainly made me second guess my judgment.
That year had been a sad one, with the loss of three cats as well as my beloved bunny. So the return of Willow lifted our spirits. She was back to stay.
But not for long.
Thirteen days after Willow came back to us, Grant went down to give out breakfast and found Willow lying dead on the floor. I shall always remember hearing the anguished words come from his mouth “Willow’s dead!”. I couldn’t seem to process it. She had seemed fine and had been examined by the vet in Everett. We can only assume her heart simply stopped. We got small comfort in seeing that she appeared not to have been in any distress, but it was a very bad moment.
When I was able to think rationally about it, I decided that Willow had survived just long enough to ensure that her companions would find us. I know it sounds fanciful and probably ridiculous, but don’t we tell ourselves what we need to make ourselves feel better? It was the only sense I could make out of it.
When little grey came down the hill into my heart, she took Willow's name. She is very special too.