Settling In

12 Jan

A smug-looking little Lo and her bunny feet

This is what I’ve learned: while it’s fine for me to live on a trash heap, all it takes is a little company to send me for the pledge and break out the doilies, so to speak. My new roommate is a short, furry two-year old named Lola and since she came on the scene a little over a week ago, I’ve finally settled into the new place.

A cat was on my list of things to get for the new place, but far from the top of the list. In fact, going to look at the cats at the Animal Rescue League of Boston seemed like a favor I was doing for my friend Brian, providing him the perfect excuse to get his own furry friend fix. I was totally up for seeing the kitties, but taking one home to feed it and clean up after it and try not to kill it when it scratches my furniture? Not something I was seriously entertaining.

We walked along the row of cages, their occupants either sleeping or actively lobbying for our attention. Even if you don’t like cats it would be hard not to find at least one or two potential love-matches among those guys. The one I was looking at was white and grey, shorthair, and less than a year old. His nose was scraped up like he had just been in a fight, which he could have been since he was listed as being a stray. He was skinny but spunky, doing his best to keep my attention.

Brian immediately zeroed in on a lounging tortoise shell shorthair who was just taking it all in. She was a beautiful cat and, from the information listed, her people had given her up due to recently developed allergies. (Whether this was true or they just didn’t want her now that she was no longer a kitten, who knows?)

If it had just been me, I don’t know that I would have given her – or any of the cats there – a second look. I was worn out. I had just finished a month-long battle with the banks for the condo I finally owned but seriously regretted whenever I let myself think about the money. The buyers remorse only deepened when I thought of all the things that I’d need to do to update the place. I was living out of boxes still, a month in at that point, with the same horrible pastel painted walls with copious nail holes, the carcass of an ugly shelving system halfway taken down (because I didn’t have the tools to completely yank it out), the stupid, terrible layout and slap-dash bathroom – enough potential to choke on. And I was choking on it. I didn’t need a cat, I needed a time machine to go back and stop myself before making this horrible, seemingly irrevocable mistake. If there was any consolation it was in the fact that I could go home alone, without anyone to answer to, to live my egregious little life in peace.

(Okay – as you can see, if I let myself think about it, it gets melodramatic real quick. Which is not to say I don’t feel melodramatically about the whole thing – I really am of two minds about it. Barring the occasional and anomalous burst satisfaction, I’m either okay (not great, but I can live with it) about it, or am completely, ridiculously regretting that I ever saw this place. I am hoping in the coming months to move the range up so that I am either mildly contented or simply rueful.)

But the cat. Brian kept pushing me to take another look at her. The ARL has the cat cages stacked two high on the outer walls of the adoption room while in the middle of the room there are maybe six or eight enclosures, about three by three feet, cinder block halfway up, chain link the rest of the way, where people can “visit” cats that they might want to adopt. I “visited” with the sleepy tortoise shell cat. I sat on a chair as the volunteer set the cat down on the ground and shut us both in the cage. The cat stretched her long legs and torso and set to exploring the corners of the enclosure, my coat, pant legs and shoes. She would butt her head into my palm if I didn’t pet her fast enough and once the feather toy was introduced the sleepy little one had fully woken up and I was in love.

It was kind of dramatic getting her home. With no car, we walked her from the shelter to CVS to buy litter and food and the pet store next door for the litter pan and food dishes, all with the little tortoise shell trooper in the dark in a cardboard carton on one of the coldest nights of the winter so far.

When we finally got home about twenty minutes later she settled in. She was comfortable wandering around the apartment and even with three of us there – me, Brian and Luis – she seemed fairly relaxed. By the end of the night I’d started to call her Brian’s feline good-will ambassador (Brian was brutalized by an alley cat as a child so needless to say he is more of a dog person).

I didn’t name her for a few nights, wanting to get to know her before calling her something that might not fit. She’s Lola now. Well, Dolores Haze. Me being the book nerd that I am, I couldn’t resist giving her a name from one of my favorite books.

Since she’s moved in I’ve gotten most of the boxes put away, if only to keep her out of them. If it is dark and a small space, she will stick her face in it (in fact, she almost bagged herself the other day – perhaps a sign that my tote is bigger than it needs to be). I’ve also cleared the odds and ends off the floor to keep it open for games of shoelace, in which I throw a shoelace across the room, she tears after it, picks it up and brings it back, dropping it at my feet with a “Raow!” for me to throw it again. I’ve also cleaned up all the sinks and counter tops because, before she got the hang of drinking out of her waterdish, she would use the 1) bathtub faucet or 2) the toilet or 3) the bathroom sink or 4) the kitchen sink (she finally got over that after about four days of me cutting her off from these sources while worrying she would dehydrate before she gave in).

Well, after these minimal improvements she’s feeling more and more at home, and so am I. There is still so much (so much!) to be done but until I can pony up for the first round of renovations, it is feeling – for the first time – liveable. So, pets really do relieve stress.

It's Lola - Miss Haze if you're nasty.

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3 Responses to “Settling In”

  1. Brian James Curr January 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    “I didn’t need a cat, I needed a time machine to go back and stop myself before making this horrible, seemingly irrevocable mistake.” – Haley Hemen

    This is the funniest line you have ever written. I almost fell off my office chair. Too funny!

  2. Kristen January 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    I love this post! Love. And love Lola! When can I come plaaaaay?

    • haley January 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

      Sometime soon! Especially since I may have a catskin rug rather than a cat if Lo doesn’t quit scratching my furniture! 🙂

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