Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. Writer, nurse, Mom and bus-driver topped my list, written when I was 6, in rainbow block crayon. I also wanted to be a lawyer, an artist specialising in Spin-art, and a country singer. So it was a long list, and vet was not on it. I am a people person from way back.
I have always loved dogs. Big ones with bigger eyes. Shrill, yappy ones have never been good for my nerves.
My Dad always had dogs. I thought of them as siblings. Mom had a cocker spaniel that I got for Christmas one year. Dudley quickly became my Grandfather’s dog. Maybe even as soon as the day after Christmas.
I tolerate most dogs, I’ve even loved a few of them. Cats, not so much. The frequency at which they growl and hiss actually makes me jump out of my skin, and continue the climb up the wall.
How a feline-phobic child became an adult with a fur-person is quite a story.
In truth, I was terrified of cats until I was 13 and only tolerated some of them after that. But if I didn’t get over my rational-to-me dislike of them, I could not have lived in my house.
I had moved into a farmhouse on a hill attached to a working farm, complete with cows and a barn. And barn-cats.
Two became three became eight. They would take cover in our sheds and have yoga sessions in our garden.
Two of those became house cats, our house cats. They had babies. One of those babies was CJ. CJ’s full name is Cappuccino Junior. Her mother, Cappuccino, was so-called because she looked like a Capuchin monkey. And because I like cappuccino. Cappy was the first cat that chose me. She slept at the end of my bed, and sometimes on my head.
CJ arrived, and she would crawl up my arm, settle on my shoulder and watch TV or read with me. She was the first one to read some of my bad poetry, and I’d swear she missed me when I was away at University.
When Dad and I moved to Glasgow, CJ lived with me and CJ’s aunt, Kirby, lived across the car park with Dad. We re-homed the others, and left them up North.
CJ has been with me in five Glasgow flats, making a break for it to explore the hallway whenever I left the flat, sometimes making me late for work because I had to herd her back in.
When I watched TV or read, she curled up next to me. When I had friends over, she investigated their shoes.
One day, she investigated Sarge’s shoes. She liked them. He sneezed. And sneezed again. He is allergic to cats. When he mentioned this, I was afraid. Afraid that a guy I really, really liked would stop coming around because my house made him sick.
He loaded up on antihistamines for our movie nights, and sometimes woke up with CJ sharing his pillow.
In May last year, with CJ hopped up on happy pills, she and I made the journey to our new Edinburgh flat. In this flat, she isn’t allowed in the bedroom, but she hangs out at the door and sneaks in whenever she can. She perches near our living-room window, watching the bus stop. She is depressed. She is not a city cat. I have been selfish. And Sarge is still sneezing and losing his voice. His allergy pills don’t work anymore. His own house should not make him sick.
At some point in recent history, I made a decision. Something I’ve been thinking about, but could not say out loud. I had to find CJ a new home.
I presented this to Sarge. He would never ask me to choose. But humans come first. Well, at least some of them.
At first, I wanted her in another Edinburgh flat, with people I knew. So I could have visitation rights. But that’s a bit like asking your kid to go to college close to home.
CJ is not the same cat that left the farm. Every flat I’ve put her in has dimmed her spark. She deserves to explore like she used to. She deserves grass and mice and other country cat treasures.
And so, she’s going home. I want to find her a home up North, through the same agency that placed her furry brothers and sisters.
One day soon, I’ll get in the car with my Dad, and make the difficult and bittersweet journey with my unlikely, but beloved friend. Letting go, and growing up.