Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Pets and Why We Love Them

Today is Lola and Zoe's 3rd birthday, and in honor of my wonderful pets, and the popular demand for more personal essays (okay, 2 out of 4 poll respondents thus far), I've decided to write on pets and why I can't live without them.

At the beginning of this story, I was 21 years old. Newly graduated from college and living with my mother, I had been accepted for graduate school and was working a few jobs that summer. One job was being a nanny for a family who had two children and two bengal cats. I fell in love with the exotic breed and found a couple who raised one litter of cats in their home at a time. At the time, they had a litter of 4, with only 2 girls still available. They sent me this picture and asked me which I was interested in.
Zoe (left) and Lola (right) as kittens just a few weeks old.
Maybe you can see why I immediately called them and said, "I know this is crazy, but I'll take them both." I knew I would have a busy schedule, and I didn't want a single cat to be left alone all the time. Plus, I couldn't pick between the two (just look at them!). My friends thought I was crazy (I am!). The cats were expensive and who adopts two kittens before starting graduate school?

What was I thinking? 
I can only say, money can be spent on many things, but I couldn't imagine spending it on anything I would love more. Growing up, I had always had cats, but now my childhood pets had lost a lot of vision and were too old to move. I knew I wouldn't feel at home without pets, and I had spent the last four years living in pre-furnished dorms and apartments in NYC, never feeling quite at home. I bought my own furniture, and I found a place to rent that would allow pets. I sent the couple a check, called my cats my birthday present (I turned 22 weeks after they were born) and have never thought twice about it. The joy they have brought to my life has paid me back tenfold, and more than that, my cats made the transition into adulthood easier.

Here's What I Mean
Lola (left) and Zoe (right)...I could always tell them apart :)

I picked my cats up on August 9th and moved them to Lake Charles on the 10th, two days before school began. Starting graduate school was somewhat terrifying. I suddenly found myself teaching college classes, working 30 hours a week, and being a full time student. I was paying rent and bills for the first time and surrounded by new people. I was on my own for real and that's where Lola and Zoe came in. I didn't have time to be terrified. They were into everything and, when I got home, it took all my leftover energy just to keep up with them. I didn't have time to be anxious or self-doubting, I had to kitten proof my house and keep my cats from killing themselves. I ended up giving in and making my office into a room for them...okay, they were incredibly spoiled:
Lola (in hammock) and Zoe at the bottom of their 6 foot cat condo

Lola (top) and's been wild!
Some of my best memories from that first year of graduate school were snuggling up with my kittens after the end of a crazy day. I may have had angry students, pending deadlines, questions about what I was doing with my life, doubts about my abilities, but I always had Lola and Zoe too, and they only required that I be there. They helped remind me to stay in the present moment, to just do what I could, and to learn that that was enough. This is a lesson I have carried into my adulthood, and for that I am thankful.

My cats taught me patience and unconditional love: they have chewed up computer power cords and broken crystal, they have ruined furniture and shredded toilet paper all over my house right before a party; I'm not sure they've ever quite learned the meaning of "NO!" But yet, I love them, and that never changes.

With Lola and Zoe, time flew. I took them back home to Austin during two hurricane scares (Gustov and Ike-where they stayed in my Dad's bathroom, long story) and they have traveled to Austin with me countless times since for breaks. We celebrated our first Christmas together and that summer I turned 23 and began looking for a new apartment. We moved and settled into the new place. Through it all, they reminded me, if I could take care of them, I could take care of myself. Sometimes that's literally how the day started. I would tell myself, you can do this. Okay, feed the cats.
Christmas 2008 Zoe (left) and Lola (right)
Staying cool in the summer by taking a bath Lola (left) and Zoe (right)
Sept. 2009, settling into the new place Zoe (left) and Lola (right)
We were lucky too. In Louisiana we made lots of friends, many of whom have helped care for Lola and Zoe when I've been out of town (thank you Will & Missy, Erica, Allison, Daisy & Mary!). In graduate school, I have found a wonderful community. We've helped each other, and Lola and Zoe have found plenty of people to love them.

The girls have settled down (a little). They love to curl up with me and purr (and drool). I talk to them, play with them, read them my work (they are the toughest critics, often falling asleep mid-sentence), and I still can't take a trip to target without coming home with something for them. When I have nightmares about my house being robbed, it isn't my laptop that I check on immediately upon waking up, it's my cats.
a favorite hide out: Brendan's bag
Why do people love pets? I think for the same reason people love their children. It's a bond you can't explain, the kind that comes with you experience the realization that someone else depends on you. And you know that deep down, you depend on them too.

I've finished graduate school now, and that realization is just as shocking to me as the fact that my cats are 3 years old today. I don't know where the time went, but I know that it was filled with love, laughter, and lazy cat nap afternoons. And I know that somewhere along the way, when I was too busy looking after them to notice, we all grew up.
Christmas 2010
Happy birthday Lola and Zoe. You two have made my life twice as fun!
<3 Stacy

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