For the first few years of our life together here on the Farm, we had three cats. Two of them, Toby and Trouble, had been mine since they were 6 weeks old, and at age 18, were starting to decline rapidly. The other, Bert, was a big fat tomcat that we had rescued from under- neath my parent’s porch on a cold November day. Within a year, all three had passed away, either from old age or cancer. All of a sudden, our house was empty, and I was determined to fill it back up. One of my favorite things to do is to convince the Man to “just go look”. We went to HART, in Cumberland, which is a no kill shelter, with the mindset that we were just going to see what they had. At least that is what the Man was thinking. Each room at the shelter had close to 50 cats wandering about, and each one that the Man picked up he liked, especially the one big orange tomcat that resembled Bert. I basically ignored him, knowing that I was on a mission, and when I saw the right cat, I would know it.
We walked into the last room, and I quickly scanned around, and that’s when I saw her. The cat that would soon become my Ellie was laying under a small table, and she looked about as pathetic as a cat could. She was weak and shivering, and had a sadness about her that instantly warmed my heart. I could hear the Man’s footsteps behind me, and I knew that he had found a cat that he wanted to show me. When I turned to face him, I was cradling Ellie, and as soon as he saw the look on my face, he dropped the other cat and rolled his eyes. Even the staff of HART thought I was crazy for picking out this particular cat when there were so many other healthy ones to choose from. The Man remained a bit unconvinced, until he heard her story. She had been found in a barn with 5 kittens, and all were very sick. All of her kittens passed away shortly after arriving at the shelter from pneumonia, and Ellie really wasn’t far from joining them. We both fell in love with her, and quickly did the needed paperwork so that we could bring her home to the Farm.
As was expected, considering that she had been a feral cat, she was very wary of us, and we couldn’t approach her for months. I figured out fairly quickly that Ellie would be a years long project, and made the mental commitment to go at her pace. She quickly made friends with a kitten we had gotten a month earlier (another “Let’s just look” notch on my belt), and stepped into “mother mode” automatically. Seeing as though she had just lost her 5 kittens, having a small kitten for her to take care of was a huge step towards her recovery. Gradually over the coming months, she warmed up to us a little, but she always took baby steps. Every few months, she would make a big leap of faith, and get closer, letting us pet her, and always only with one hand. I think in her mind she was afraid that if we could pick her up, we might put her in a box and take her to the shelter, just as what had happened to her before. Then, when we least expected it, she was on the back of the couch near our shoulders, and few months later she would be laying beside us during the evenings when everything was calm. Over the next few years, we could tell that Ellie wanted to curl up in our laps, but just couldn’t let her guard down enough to just do it. A few days ago, I mentioned to the Man that I thought maybe Ellie was on the verge of giving in, and last night, she did just that.
Before I even knew what was happening, she had crawled into my lap and snuggled in. Her body was relaxed, as if all the tension and wariness of the past 5 years simply drained away and left in it’s place contentment and trust. She laid there for about a half hour, but it seemed longer, simply because the Man and I were in such shock that we barely dared to breath or move. She rolled onto her side and nuzzled her face into my hand. I could feel my whole body vibrate to the rhythm of her singing, which matched perfectly to the kneading of my leg by her paws. I realize that most might not think of how special this was for both Ellie and me. Years of patience on my part, and learning to trust on her’s, had finally paid off. There is a peace about her now, a peace that I had started to worry would never come for her. I still can’t pick her up, or rub her belly, but I have no doubt now that these last walls will crumble for Ellie. Perhaps in another 6 months or so, she will give in and offer up her belly, but there is no hurry. She will know when the time is right.