In January of this year my daughter, Madelyn, asked if she could get a dog. We have one cat, Wriggler, that no one paid much attention to and was getting old. Why can't she just love the cat more? My husband wanted to know. But Madelyn wouldn't let up. Dog. Dog. Dog. That's all she talked about. Finally I said if she could take care of the cat -- feed her every day and help Dad clear out her box, she could get a dog for her 8th birthday. In October. 10 months away. And the rule was she couldn't miss a feeding.
Welp. She surprised me and did just that. She fed the cat twice a day every day without fail. And a funny thing happened -- she and Wriggler bonded like they hadn't before. Instead of going to me or my husband, that cat snuggled up to Madelyn and started sleeping in her bed. Then this summer, just turning 12, Wriggler got sick. She wasn't acting herself and soon she couldn't keep down her food. It was sad to watch and especially sad for Madelyn who had suddenly gotten so close to her. Should I have encouraged this? Was I just setting her up for heartache? When Wriggler died Madelyn made a gravestone for her: "We love you!" she wrote and the whole family signed it. She loved that cat more in the last 6 months than she had in the last 6 years. She wept and wept. It was the first time (outside of the fish) she'd experienced true loss.
And then this weekend we picked up her puppy. Her birthday isn't for another month, but we knew enough while searching for puppies on the rescue sites that you gotta jump when you find a good one. We brought her home. Madelyn named her Blue (she has one blue eye; one brown). She's drinking out of the Wriggler's bowl for now. The puppy's not replacing Wriggler, but if it wasn't for Wriggler, Madelyn wouldn't have earned her. But it's probably better that she missed Blue's arrival. She probably would have given this adorable jumpy puppy a good swat!