(Sorry about the wonky sideways pic, but I couldn't get it rotated!)
There comes a point in every relationship when each party has to take a risk. Many people have already decided not to take that risk before they enter into even a first conversation. These are the people with whom you can never get past the surface. Every conversation seems to be taxing and forced because there comes a time when you just simply run out of things to say if no one opens up.
With our pets, it's different. They are usually the opposite of the surfacy conversation person. They give love and receive it as they trust their owners with their every need. They let us in to even their messiest details. We see them when they are hungry, tired, thirsty, needing attention. They don't hide behind masks, hoping no one will ever find out who they really are. And so, especially when we adopt them as babies, they work a special way into our hearts and families.
Lottie was like that. From the moment we laid eyes on her, both Brandon and I knew she was supposed to be a Berry family member. We adopted her on December 23rd...kind of on a whim as we were hosting Dad for Christmas and missing Mom tremendously on our first Christmas without her. She loved kitties and cats have always been part of their households. Plus, Ella had asked Santa for a puppy for Christmas, but Brandon and I knew that we didn't have enough time or expertise to take care of a puppy the way he/she deserves. Kitties are different. Not that they don't need time and love and attention, but generally they are a lot more self-sufficient than puppies. So...we went on a hunt for the little kitty that would light up our lives on Christmas morning. After searching multiple adoption options, we found this little blue-eyed kitty who was recommended to us by an ex-con (think John Coffey from "The Green Mile") who was working there. In fact, his exact words were, "You should wait for the kitties in this here box. They took 'em to go get their shots. Them are some real cute kitties." Who wouldn't take his advice?
Through a series of events that couldn't be described in any other way except the Lord working it out for us to take her home, we had her in our car on the way home just before the place closed for the holidays. We sat in the driveway trying to figure out how to hide her until Christmas morning, but underestimated our oldest daughter, who had gone up to the bonus room, peeked out the window, spotted the kitty on Brandon's chest through the windshield and ran downstairs yelling, "Pappy, pappy, Mommy and Daddy bought me a kitty." That solved our problem on hiding a little kitty for 36 hours.
The first person Lottie captured was Brandon. She must have known that he didn't really like cats. He had what we called "cat baggage" and the only other cat he'd had he had nicknamed "Lucifer". Lottie climbed up onto his chest at every opportunity and purred her little heart out...until she had captured his.
We meant for Lottie to be an indoor cat because of the obvious safety hazards associated with outdoor living. But she found ways to sneak outside, and then we kind of caved. We lived on a safe cul-de-sac in the back of a neighborhood without many dogs, so it wasn't too stressful.
When we moved to Charlotte, our new home was only one house removed from a main parkway, which made me nervous for both my kids and our pet. But we'd allow Lottie to go into the enclosed backyard some times when we were enjoying a morning outside.
This past weekend we hosted Brandon's family at our new home for the first time, and celebrated Papa John's birthday on Friday night. After going out to dinner, we all returned home, and Lottie was inside as usual, waiting on us. I took the girls upstairs, but I guess as everyone was getting inside, Lottie slipped out somehow. I didn't notice until the next morning when she wasn't asleep at the foot of our bed as usual. We searched numerous times for her that day, and made up fliers for our neighbors to be able to keep an eye out for her. One neighbor said she heard a cat the night before near the creek that ran by the golf course. So we went looking for her around there, but realized we couldn't really get back there without scaring the neighbors tromping through their yards at night. So we decided to get there through the golf course route. But unfortunately, before we made it to our destination to start the search, we found Lottie. She was soaking wet, and only 20 yards from home and had been hit by a car.
I think she had been trying to find her way home, and was just so close. It broke my heart.
The risk in every relationship comes with the fact that as we get close to someone, we could get hurt. The closer we are to one another, the more risk there is to be hurt. When we lose someone whom we were close to through death, divorce, or other means, we lose parts of ourselves that we gave away. But real relationship is always worth it. Whether it's with a two-legged or four-legged friend, our lives are richer when we are in relationships. The hurt we feel when we lose them is outweighed by the enrichment we received while we were in them. If we took off our masks, put in the time and energy, grew through the process, and committed to seeing the best for the other, then we have become better, more fulfilled people.
Our family spent some time on Sunday talking about Lottie and all of the wonderful memories we had with her, how she was a great pet for our family, how we know she felt loved by us, and how we are glad that we had had her--even if it was just for a short time. We are all hurting, but we are so thankful that we opened our hearts up to love and be loved by such a special little creation.
We will miss you, sweet Lottie girl. Thank you for giving us the gift of knowing and loving you. The tears we've shed and the hurt we feel is worth it for all the love you gave us.