Bernie the Heartstriker

I’ve lost animals over the years, but I lost two groups of animals of similar ages and I started guarding my heart. I felt that I didn’t bond as closely with my animals and felt that was unfair to them. When I lost my last indoor/outdoor cat, Murphy, three years ago, I decided to take a break and I had no intention of adopting again. I still had, and have, my parrot, Erin. She turned 23 this year.

During the pandemic (beginning in March 2020), I gradually moved in with my mom. Her home is 80 miles from my workplace and shared duplex. I was able to telework and then mix teleworking and commuting until I informed my employer that I’d been fully vaccinated. Then they wanted me back onsite full-time. When no compromise could be worked out, I decided to retire and began planning accordingly. My retirement begins on June 1st. I’ll be 59 years old on June 18th.

My mom shared her home with two Yorkies, Suzy and Bear. Unfortunately, the female’s long standing health issues escalated and Mom had to let her go. The male missed her and knowing I wouldn’t be working outside the home, I began to think about the best companion for Bear. We thought another dog or puppy would be overwhelming. A cat might work, we thought. Since this would be my companion with Bear being attached to Mom, I started thinking about that. In all my history as an adult, I’ve only had one kitten (about 25 years ago). All my other cats have been rescues and adoptions. We decided a kitten might draw Bear out and would be less threatening. I started looking for adoptable kittens.

I had precise criteria. I wanted the baby stage, so no older than 12-14 weeks. I tried everywhere online and put out the call to friends and family. The groups and blogs that I joined had a huge ratio of people wanting to adopt for each available kitten. I reread the great books by Peter Gethers about his Scottish Fold Norton. I decided I could afford to pay for a purebred kitten. I found some local breeders. Wow, the sticker shock!!!

Scottish Fold kittens (vs. Scottish Straight kittens) started at $1,700 and went on up to $3,000. After researching other breeds and options, I accepted this was pretty standard. I found a breeder in Gresham, Oregon with kittens almost ready for adoption at 10 weeks. Mom and I went to visit. From her website, I’d identified two main possibilities and fell for the little red point male. Mom fell for my second choice, a chocolate point female. In the end, Mom decided against adopting for reasons including the community pet limitation, the needs of her Yorkie and the additional demands on me. I picked up Bernie on April 24th and began to fall. Having your heart open and vulnerable again, is a pretty scary feeling.

I am already feeling less disconnected and more generous about the needs of others. Some effects have been unexpected. I don’t need to keep myself as busy with projects and activities. I notice the details of daily life more. I read the people and animals around me more accurately and check in with them more often. My stress level about all the injustice and craziness in the outside world is much less. I still care, but there’s some distance from the outrage. I am less judgmental overall. If my actions or comments will hurt without improving the situation, I have no need to act on or speak. (I’m not perfect though, so my journal can see unfavorable entries.)

So, in the end it is really simple. It is love. That love can be objective, can be immediate, can be amused and joyous, and probably painful at some point down the road. I’ll take the love and connection now as being worth the pain and disappointment later.