It was three years ago this very week that my sister, Winslow, and I were left in a box at the door of an animal shelter just north of Pittsburgh.
Known as Poopsie and Popsie then, and just over a year old, our masters were going through a divorce and thought they could no longer care for us. At least they didn’t abandon us along some roadside.
But it was difficult for us to understand what was going on, especially as the holidays were just beginning. After all, we were the most lovable, and vocal, tortoise-shell cats we’d ever known. Ahem.
We spent Thanksgiving 2015 together in single, larger cage. It was the same for Christmas. And then the new year dawned. Indeed, we were quite well cared for. But we missed the holidays — the people, the smells, sneaking a quick sample of this and that off a kitchen counter or even leaving behind a special calling card, say, a paw impression in a cooling pumpkin pie.
But cat life went on. Prospective adoptive parents came and went. We talked ourselves up quite a bit, too, letting everybody know we came as a pair. But there were no takers. Until, that is, one day in mid-January 2016 when an older fella and his grown daughter visited.
They sure did spend a lot of time in the “meeting room.” And the daughter told her dad to remember that “cats choose people, we don’t choose cats.”
It was our chance! Winslow and I approached the pair, cautiously at first. Then we circled them as they sat on the floor. He played with us and knew how to rub the underside of our snouts just the right way. So, we chose him.
And we embarked on our new lives, even with pretty cool new names: Dad re-dubbed my sister Winslow, after his favorite artist, Winslow Homer. I was re-named for the Wyeth family of artists. Yeah, a tad gender-confusing but, still, pretty artsy, eh?
We’ve had a great life since then. We have a lovely home with some wonderful nesting places to snooze inside. Then there’s an inviting front porch and a back deck on which to slumber when the weather’s nice.
And then there are trips to a super special place — Jones Mountain, high atop Wheeling. Wow! Expansive yards and old farm fields as far as the eye can see and plenty of woods to explore. Sometimes we even act like big cats in the wild.
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But all the fun almost ended in tragedy at the end of September. On an unusually warm early fall night, I slipped out of the house at Jones Mountain, went exploring and soon discovered I was lost. I roamed too far and could not regain my bearings. We won’t talk about the pot of catnip I rolled in before getting lost.
I’m not ready to reveal all the details — of the rains and cold nights and scary sounds or what I ate. But it was a very long 21 days.
In late October, hidden away under some strange deck and cold, hungry and more scared than ever, I thought I heard something familiar, if not familial.
It started low, then started to grow (yeah, I filched that line from Dr. Seuss). So I peeked out from my hiding place and saw… DAD! But I was so scared, I retreated again.
Until that is, Mom Leah put out a bowl of food on a wall, and I knew I had found my way home at long last. Oh, how I so appreciate that always-filled food bowl.
Alas, three Thanksgivings after being put up for adoption, this Thanksgiving has a very special meaning to me. My sister and I are so blessed to have such wonderful humans to care for us.
Just last week, back in Pittsburgh, as Dad slumbered in his recliner in front of the wonderfully cozy fireplace, Winslow and I could not help but notice a passage in the book he had left on the floor.
It was a Nathaniel Cotton poem, “The Fireside,” from 1751:
“If solid happiness we prize,
“Within our breast this jewel lies,
“And they are fools who roam.
“The world has nothing to bestow;
“From our own selves our joys must flow,
“And that dear hut, our home.”
“Remember that, Wyeth,” Winslow said after we finished reading the passage.
“I will, Winslow.”
“Happy Thanksgiving, Wyeth.”
“Indeed,” I said, lying down on the hearth, thanking the low flames for their warmth and letting out a catfelt sigh knowing this would be the best Thanksgiving ever.
• Colin McNickle, the retired editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, now is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. He began his journalism career at local newspapers and radio stations. A 1976 graduate of Martins Ferry High School, he grew up in Colerain. He graciously shared his Weelunk space with Wyeth today.