Last weekend I decided to tell the story of adopting my first cat, Dunkin. Today, Isabel takes the spotlight.
As I mentioned in Dunkin's story, when he was a kitten he thought everything and everybody was put on this earth to be his friend. He walked up to each animal or person he encountered without fear, sniffing them and rubbing on them.
It was amazing to watch because he literally seemed to be without fear even of things it should have been in his natural instinct to be afraid of, or at least wary of. Like deer. And dogs. And other cats. And cows. There were times I wished wished wished I had my camera as he went nose to nose with something many many times his size. Remarkable.
It was absolutely clear from Day One that Dunkin needed a friend, but I was already hiding him in my apartment, so I needed to wait. As it happened, I was in the final process of buying my first house, so I knew it wouldn't be long.
I moved into my new house, a cabin in the mountains, on September 7th, 2003. That date is very important because on September 18, 2003 that category 5 Hurricane Isabel rocked Virginia like a canoe in a tidal wave. Being that it was (1) within my first two weeks living in my new house, and (2) the first hurricane I can remember to make it all the way inland and still retain some force, I was freaked out. My friends clued me in to sleep in the basement because of all the tall trees in our neighborhood… thank God… because I woke to the sound of running water at about 1am. Isabel, b***h that she was, had pushed a crack in one of the walls of my basement up to 1/2 inch wide and water was pouring in like a spigot.
I cannot even tell you how depressed I was. Buying my first house was a HUGE mental and emotional hurdle because
of the commitment it took. I was freaked out because of the money. I was freaked out by the responsibility. I was freaked out by living alone. I was just generally already a walking nerve. Then, to have such devastating damage to my house ELEVEN days after I moved in was almost too much. I sat in the basement and cried.
Honestly, I was pretty depressed and numb for about 6 months afterwards. Every time it rained more than 3-4 inches water would come pouring into my basement. It got to the point where I could not sleep at all whenever it rained because I was on alert for the sound of flooding.
I bought a wet vac and would sit on the floor by the crack sucking up water as it poured in. It was not entirely successful, but it was the best I could do.
A lawyer friend suggested I contact FEMA because they were in the area looking at hurricane damage. I did, and a really nice lady came out to look at my house. I am sure she felt sorry for me because I was clearly so sad and depressed. I'm also sure she must have taken pity on me because I was honest with her and did not try to claim a bunch of things not related to the storm damage. Whatever the case, I got a grant from FEMA that paid to repair my driveway, the crack in the basement wall, and most of a drainage system under the floor. All in all, when I had originally thought I was going to be shelling out upwards of $25,000 in repairs that my insurance company would not help with, thanks to FEMA I ended up paying about $1500 out of pocket because the grant covered the rest. I know FEMA has gotten a bad rap over the years, but I am nothing but grateful and thankful.
Before the hurricane, I had already planned that this was the weekend I would find a friend for Dunkin. He had been quite the trooper through his scary transition from his family to my place then moving to a new house. I decided despite the damage, I was going to soldier on and went to visit a local fostering agency. I visited a man who had 24 cats and 16 dogs in foster care. They were friggin EVERYWHERE! In a garage out back, outside in the yard, and in every room of his house. Holy guacamole.
I've gotta admit it was really fun to get down on the floor and get smothered by a gaggle of sniffing, licking cats,
kittens, dogs, and puppies. As it turns out, there were only two cats they were adoptable because I was looking for a female about the same age as Dunkin. What cinched it was the foster dad said "Amy" was the biggest lap cat he had ever seen and would immediately jump in his lap whenever he sat down. SOLD! That's exactly what I wanted – a snuggly, loving cat.
So, Amy, now re-named Isabel to forever commemorate the timing of her entrance into our lives – came home to live with Dunkin and me. It was love at first sight for Dunkin, who took to her immediately and welcomed her into our home with a great show of kitty love, excitement, and playfulness. Isabel blended in right away and she and Dunkin quickly became inseparable.
I live in the world's best location for cats – in the mountains and woods, hardly any traffic, and lots of animals and critters to keep them interested. For the first year, I would let the cats out when I left for work in the morning and call them back in at night. They were usually cooperative and this went on without issue for most of the winter. But there came the night when I called and called and neither cat came home. I tried again an hour later. NO luck. I walked around with a flashlight. Isabel, by some really hysterical force of genetics, absolutely cannot ignore a flashlight. She goes into psycho kitty mode and chases the beam of light. But that night, not even a flashlight could get them back in the house. I went to bed worried because it was cold.
The next morning I made the rounds of my neighbors, describing the cats to see if they had seen them. No one had. That day came and went and still they did not come home. By this time I was worried sick.
The second day a neighbor knocked on my door to tell me he had seen two cats that looked like mine making a
beeline down the mountain towards my house. Literally two minutes later they arrived – together – at my door. I can't tell you how relieved I was and I knew then that as long as they were together they would be ok. Kinda like the Wonder Twins from the old super hero cartoon on Saturday mornings.
To this day it is the same way. When I take them to the vet, they cry and cry if put in two separate cages but curl up together and seem much more relaxed if they are together in one. They are more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend and it is always fun to watch them together. They are my heart.