How To Succeed in Acquiring 5,000 Kittens (Without Really Trying)

Nearly all of our family pets growing up were found in a ditch.  In the rain.

There were so many pets found in ditches in the rain, you would think our neighborhood was a Serbian battlefield in World War I.

Now, it’s important to know that “ditch in the rain” was really secret code for “not actually a ditch in the rain”.

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I can assure that this little loverboy, Oscar, snuggling with me in my acidwashed jeans, was found in neither a ditch nor the rain.

“Ditch in the rain” could mean many, many things.  It could mean that a guy outside the grocery store had a box of kittens with the word “Free” written on the side of it.

It could mean that your friend’s mom told her she had to get rid of her pet rabbit because the new baby was allergic.

Most often it meant that your friend from a few blocks over had a cat that had kittens and her father told her if she didn’t find homes for all of them by the time they were eight weeks old that he’d take them to the pound.

I’ve gotta tell you, as sad a story as the truth may have been, it wasn’t usually going to get the job done with my mother.  If you had the audacity to show up at home one evening with YET ANOTHER kitten, that kitten better have one hell of a backstory.  You damn well better had found that kitten in a ditch in the rain.

This kitten?  This kitten was no ordinary unwanted kitten.  Hell no!  This was a lone, abandoned kitten with no support system, no one to care for it.

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Gorgeous and sweet Fujita, also not found in a ditch in the rain.

This was a wet, orphaned, shivering cold kitten wandering the night alone, frightened and helpless.

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K.C., also not found in a ditch in the rain.

This kitten had been through hell, and all it wanted was to be warm and dry and held.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Just to be held and safe?  Isn’t this kitten really all of us?

This kitten was part of the huddled masses, yearning to be free as its Trans-Atlantic ship approached Ellis Island in the 1800s.

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Although one of these cats was found outside a Wendy’s, and we therefore named him “Wendell”, none of these cats were found in a ditch in the rain.

This was:

The Saddest Kitten in The World.

As Mom said, “Nope.  No more.  I am not taking in one more damn kitten!  End of discussion!” you’d hold it up to her face until it let out a teeny, tiny kitten meow.

Then the promise went as follows.  Let’s all say it together:

“Please let me just take care of her tonight, and I promise I’ll find a home for her tomorrow morning!”

This is why it’s important to bring the ditch rain kitten home in the evening.  If you brought it home at 10am, you’d have plenty of daylight hours left to pretend you were trying to find it a home.

But it’s late!  It’s dark out!  This kitten needs to spend the night!

So without fail, within a few hours and when you were getting ready for bed, you’d peek around the corner from the hallway in your Rainbow Brite nightgown to see your mother holding the kitten on her chest, petting its tiny head with her thumb and whispering, “It’s okay, little one.  It’s okay.”

Then you knew that kitten was IN.

There was no way that kitten was leaving for at least the rest of its natural life, and it would be lovingly buried in the backyard eighteen years later after a long and happy life.

The only other way you acquired pets was when your own existing ditch rain pets gave birth.  This was because most people in our neighborhood were really, really, tragically terrible about spaying and neutering.

(As an adult, I used to trap the strays in my old neighborhood and take them to the nonprofit vet clinic in our area and have them spayed or neutered, dewormed, vaccinated, and microchipped for fifty dollars a pop, but fifty bucks to anyone back then in the neighborhood may as well have been a thousand.  It’s terrible, I know, but it’s the way it was.  I’m such a big supporter of low cost spay and neuter clinics, it absolutely guts me when I think of the animal situation in our neighborhood when we were kids.)

So when you were a kid and your own cat had kittens, you had to sort of work the ol’ “ditch in the rain” in reverse.

Your mom would say, “You said you would find homes for all of these kittens!”

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Yeah, right.  Like I was giving up these kittens.

Then you would just answer, “I went door to door ALL DAY asking if anyone wanted one!  I even put up a sign down at the pond!”

You did none of these things, of course.

“I don’t know what else to do!  I think we may have to just keep them!”

Then she would say, “No.  Absolutely not.  End of discussion.”

Then you would scoop up all of the kittens, hold them towards her face in a chorus in teeny, tiny kitten meows and say, “What should I do?  Put them all in the ditch??  And I heard the weather man on the news say it was going to rain tonight!”

First Time? No, I’ve Been Nervous Lots of Times.

We’re flying to New York for vacation.  I like to repost this old story sometimes when I’m about to get on a *plane.  Mostly because posting it is a ritual, and OCD is not really “curable” so much as “treatable”.

I’ve also been touching a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight times every day for the past week, but we won’t get into that yet.

So it’ll take a couple hours to fly to New York, which means a couple hours of me white-knuckling the armrest, rocking back and forth and saying, “What was that noise?!  Did you hear that?!  We’re crashing aren’t we?!!!  We’re crashing and you know it and you just won’t tell me!!  You would tell me if you knew something, wouldn’t you?  WOULDN’T YOU?!!!!  No, don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know –  unless you know something!  Why did you just look at the wing?!  Is there smoke?!  What the hell was that noise?!  What was it?!!”

This is after popping a tranquilizer (or two) before the flight.  Good thing, too, because otherwise I might become a real asshole on that plane. 😐

So I have a few phobias, flying is obviously one of them, but all of them revolve around some kind of hideous, improbable death caused by things like plane crashes, serial killers, and flesh-eating bacteria.

My New Year’s resolution in 1999 was to spend an entire year studying the world’s religions and pick one that I thought would suit me, so that I could finally stop being so scared of this stuff.  I was raised in the Protestant church (sporadically), but something about it never sat quite right with me.  Probably the whole “Jesus loves you – unless you don’t love him – in which case fire will rain down on your tortured soul for all of eternity” thing.

Man, talk about a guy who has a problem with rejection! Even when you have the misfortune of dying, there’s still all that judgment!

Just got decapitated on a ride at the fair?  Seems pretty bad, doesn’t it?  Well, you better pick up your bloody head, your list of sins, and get in line for the pain train straight to Hell.  You’re gonna be all, “I just got my head cut off!” and he’s gonna be all, “Remember that time you hit your thumb with that hammer and yelled out my name in vain?  Time to pay the fiddler, my child.”

Also the “no dancing” thing.  But not unlike putting Velveeta in literally everything, that’s really more Methodist/Baptist specific.

So I sought out a religion that would give me something to believe in, without the threat of burning in hell for all of eternity because I had an impure thought about the rhythm section of Duran Duran ONE TIME.  After much reading and research, I settled on Hinduism.  You know, like every other navel-gazing white girl asshole in their early-20s.

I studied every text I could get my hands on, started meditation classes, became a vegetarian, and visited the local Hindu temple.  I carried the Bhagavad Gita around with me like a newborn baby.  When I became tense or frightened, I would chant, “Amaram hum madhuram hum” which means,  “I am immortal.  I am blissful” – and after a while, and for the first time in my life – I believed it.

I no longer had an obsessive fear of death, because what was death but a doorway?  Was I afraid to walk through a doorway?  Of course not!  I became incredibly centered, calm, and really annoying to be around.  Nobody likes a 23-year old who thinks they’ve got it all figured out.

After a year of religious enlightenment, I had to take a five hour flight to Las Vegas.  This was going to be the big test!

Balanced, centered, and fearless – I refused a tranquilizer for the flight.  I said to my mother, “There’s nothing to fear anymore.  Does it really matter if I die?  What is this body if not a mere switch-plate for my soul?  You and I have found each other so many times in the past after being separated.  We’ll find each other again.”

She pursed her lips at me and said, “Uh huh.  How about you take one just in case, Maharishi?  You can crush it and sprinkle it over your tofu.”

I dismissively waved my hand at her, gave her a hug and a “Namaste” to which she replied, “Whatever.  Just try not to sell anyone any flowers at the airport.” I boarded the plane and placed my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment, sat down, and fastened my seatbelt.  I had never felt so in control…

…until the plane started down the runway.

Sometime between take-off and landing, the Bhagavad Gita became a paperweight, and my new mantra was, “I’M SORRY, JESUS!  PLEASE DON’T LET THIS PLANE CRASH, JESUS!  OH MY GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!!”

Thankfully, the nice old lady in the seat next to me was kind enough to give me her barf bag to hyperventilate into, and she even loaned me her crucifix-embroidered handkerchief, which I attempted to return to her after I’d wrung it out several times with my tears and sob-drool.  She politely told me to keep it.  I later dropped it into the trash at the airport, along with the bindi that was on my forehead under my bangs.

 

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“It was at that moment that I first realized Elaine had doubts about our relationship. And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem.”

 

*I realize that by posting this before a plane trip that it’s going to make it double ironic if we’re in a plane crash.  You’re all gonna be like, “Oh my god – SHE KNEW!”

One of the most important things to know about dealing with OCD is that you do not have the ability to control things with your mind.  Seriously.  Here’s the treatment for OCD:  Stop acting like you can control things simply by thinking about them or saying them out loud or touching inanimate objects X number of times.  That shit will make you crazy.

I also realize that by pointing out said double irony that it’s actually going to be triple ironic if we’re in a plane crash.

Damn it.  See you in Hell.  I’m off to touch a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight more times.