Learning To Love Again: A Tale Of Two Cats

Today is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day brings up a lot of mixed emotions for me each year. I have long deeply craved a romantic relationship, and yet I am a 31 year old who has only gone a handful of dates, never been kissed and never had sex.

Yet I have loved others as friends, family, and as potential partners; and I have been loved as a friend and family member, and quite possibly as a potential partner. I have learned much and grown tremendously from loving and being loved by others. And I have felt the grief and pain that comes with loss of love.

Today also marks exactly 4 months since I brought my young cat, Salem, home from the shelter. So, today, I want to share some of what bringing Salem into my heart and home as meant to me.

The Background

When I was around the age of 9, my family got two kittens in close succession–a black and white domestic short-hair (DSM) named Mowie and a grey and white DSM named Mew. As kids are wont to do, my younger brother and I quickly claimed a cat each as nominally our own (despite our long-suffering mother being the one who took them to the vet, paid the bills, cleaned the litter, fed them, etc.). Mew was the cat who nominally became mine.

Mew was an incredibly dumb and incredibly clumsy cat; she also quickly became the most loving, affectionate cat anyone could ask for. When I would come home from school and collapse onto my bed sobbing my eyes out, she would come and mew directly in my ear to make sure I was alright. She laid with me each night as I fell to sleep, and she came when I called nearly every time. Even after I moved out, every time I came home for a visit she would make her way quickly downstairs to greet me.

Mew lived a long and good life, only passing away at the age of 18. When she passed I was heart-broken, and I could never see myself owning a pet that was nominally mine again. The family could have dogs and cats, but owning a pet as an individual? No way.

The Things That Changed

As has been my experience with grief for other pets and also humans in my life, the pain remains but the capacity for love is far greater than we can possibly imagine. As the years passed, and I saw the joy that friends and family got from adopting cats and dogs, I grew somewhat envious and desirous of experiencing the love of a furry companion once again. Yet again and again, I resisted–finding housing when I inevitably had to move again would be more difficult; if anything happened to my hypothetical furry companion, the grief might kill me. Better, I thought to myself, to avoid all possible complications. As much as opening up my heart and home to another pet might help, there was a lot of risk and vulnerability in such a course, too much for me to face.

The year of 2022 was a crucible that saw changes in my personal and professional spheres; a lot of my foundations were shaken, and in many ways I’m still trying to find a new equilibrium. As my birthday approached in the fall of 2022, I knew the winter was going to be a rough one mentally and emotionally, and I knew that I had to shake things up. With the support of my mother, I decided to adopt a kitten or young cat, and asked her to save the usual birthday funds for that endeavour. We eventually visited a shelter located in Orillia, Ontario, and I held Salem in my arms–and she instantly cuddled in. Despite all of my protestations, doubts, and reluctance, her simple and adoring affection melted all barriers around my heart.

In the first few weeks and couple of months, certain behavioural and health challenges made me really question whether this was the right path to go down–and yet, Salem and I quickly established a deep bond. To this day, she remains affectionate and fond of snuggles; she will watch me as I leave the house and greet me the moment I return home; she even does her hardest to refrain from using the litter until I return home as she knows I will clean it immediately if I’m here when she uses it. She follows me around much of the time, she works me into her games and play time, and she’s overall a delightful, social, and affectionate cat with plenty of spunk. I love her and I have no doubt she loves me.

The Takeaways

What this whole experience has reminded me of is that the human capacity for love is so much greater than we generally conceive, and that true love is only ever added to, never taken away. I loved Mew, and I grieve her loss still; I love Salem, and my love for Salem is not diminished by my love or grief for Mew. Love begets love; love helps us to resist despair; love heals grief; there is always, and forever, more love to be found if we just open our hearts.

From Star Wars: Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hamily:

Liegeus Vorn: Do you think she thinks so little of you, that she believes you’d turn against her for her lack of power? Many years ago, I loved a woman–a girl, really. She was very young. It was…like nothing I’ve ever known, before or since. At times it felt like we were brother and sister, two halves of the same whole, and at others it seemed as if our passion for one another colored the world like firelight. I can’t explain it, if you haven’t felt the same.
Jedi Master Luke Skywalker: I have felt it.
Vorn: Like me she was a wanderer, wanting to know what lay beyond the stars. Like me, she was adept with machines and tools. A bit of a cynic, like me, but with a passionate heart. But she had her own road. I don’t think she ever loved me less, but it was a road I could not follow. I did try. But sometimes…you have to let go.
Skywalker: Not this. I can’t.
Vorn: Well, every case is different. I went after her. Like a fool I thought I was the only person who could teach her what I thought it was she had to learn in this life, that I was the only person who could give her what she needed for all that long and winding road of the human span. And all I managed to do, in clinging to her as I did was hurt her terribly.
In the end, I understood that the most truly loving thing I could do would be to let her go, to seek her own road. I suppose it was vain of me to believe myself the only guide she would ever have or need. Or to believe that she was the only one I would ever love.
Skywalker: Was she?
Vorn: I think the human capacity for love is too great for a single loss, however enormous, to blight. At least, I hope that’s the case. You do not believe me now, but I have walked this road, Luke. I can tell you, if you keep walking, you do come out of the dark at last. The love I have for your sister is less for the love I felt for both my wives, bless their long-suffering hearts. There is always love.

Published by Devin Hogg

My name is Devin Hogg. I was born and raised in Carnarvon, Ontario, Canada. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2009 for university and lived here ever since. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, going on long walks, swimming, and practicing Chen style Tai Chi. I love to write poetry and blog regularly about topics such as mental health, sci-fi/fantasy series, faith, sexuality, and politics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: