Breathing Lessons – An Essay

When your heart is shattered into a million aching pieces, what do you do? You seek out love’s healing power. When the first two cats I ever owned died within six months of each other after being with me for just eight years, I was consumed by the pain. The loss was simply more than I could stand. I went into survival mode, and what I was compelled to do, seemingly driven by an unseen force, was replace my cats immediately with a kitten. No waiting period, I needed to love something then and there.

Ignoring my previous objections to shelters, (they killed animals as well as saved them. I didn’t think I could stand the reality of all those hopeful eyes begging me for a reprieve) I went to the Halifax Animal Shelter in Daytona. There, I steeled myself, swallowed my grief and went to the cat room. There I was assisted by a volunteer who brought me all the kittens that I thought had potential. There were dozens. This driving force that had brought me to this sterile room of need imparted to me the knowledge that I would know instinctually when I had found The One.

Sitting in the cat room with me was a man who was holding one kitten for the duration of time where I held over a dozen. Another man and his daughter came in and were looking as well. I was watching the first man, envious of his seeming attachment to the beautiful kitten in his hands. He was speaking to it in a low voice, indistinguishable with the other conversations going on in the room. There was something about that particular kitten, so calm and peaceful particularly when juxtaposed to the squirming, rambunctious roommates I had been holding.

I strained to hear what the man was saying to the kitten; “Now you have to let them see your personality, let them see how special you are. You want them to notice you. They will take you home if you do”. The two men struck up a conversation, and I listened in, watching this alluring kitten with predatory interest. The first man was giving the kitten up and was there to help her get adopted. The kitten exchanged hands and I panicked. No, No No, I think she is The One. Please don’t like her, Please don’t take her, I prayed desperately.

The kitten exchanged hands again, the second man saying how nice she was, the first man looking crestfallen. I spoke up, “Please may I hold her?” She exchanged hands again. She settled into my arms. And she gave me a kiss. The man explained that she was here with her brothers who were Hemingway’s with the six toes. She had five and pretty black stripes, but what cinched the deal was her kiss and her settling into my arms after being held for so long. I told the man I wanted her, that she would have a good home and her name would not be Fossy Ears, as she was presently named. No, her name would be Bella and she would be loved completely because she was The One. The urgency of the force that drove me to that shelter was quelled, and I felt peace in the midst of my grief. Bella was love incarnate and she healed me from that first kiss. I can breathe again.


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