This I Believe

Barbara - Madison, Wisconsin
Entered on December 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

The Power of Charlie

I believe in the power of a kitten.

A beautiful kitten came into my life in late October during my usual Saturday morning walk to the neighborhood farmers market. As I approached the market, I heard his cries; it took a few minutes, but I finally found him—a ball of orange fluff, camouflaged in the dried vegetation where he was hiding. Although he was wary of me and put up his best little fight, he finally allowed me to catch him. I brought him home, listed him on lost pet websites, put up signs, and called vet clinics and the Humane Society to report my precious find. Two or three weeks passed, but no one came forward to claim him. I could only conclude that someone had abandoned the kitten early on that dark and chilly morning. I gave him a king’s name for his bravery: Charlemagne, Charlie for short.

Charlie, I think, was a gift for me, for when I found him I was unemployed and discouraged as my job search came to nothing week after week. I felt my hopes for the future slipping away and wanted to just give up. But Charlie’s bright orange coat, playfulness, and sweetness were like that one ray of sunshine we wait for in a long, dreary winter. He lifted my mood immediately—you can’t be glum when you’re laughing at kitten acrobatics and general naughtiness—and, in spite of my recent self-pity, my usual optimism crept back (on little cat’s feet, of course). Over the next few days, I began to learn why I had received this gift of Charlie. He was a tangible reminder of all the abandoned, unloved, and neglected pets that we rarely see, and since they are out of sight, they are not on our minds. I realized (with some guilt) that I hadn’t done very much to help over the years even though I am an animal lover. I could have sent more money, I could have volunteered at a shelter, and I could have talked more to people about adopting from shelters. What I have learned from Charlie is that I can no longer be apathetic to the plight of the many unwanted pets who need people like me to help the countless professionals and volunteers who work tirelessly to prevent or alleviate animal suffering. Charlie made me see that one purpose of my life is simply to take care of cats. It’s not a very lofty purpose, but I humbly accept it.

I’m Charlie’s foster mom for the time being, for, sadly, I can’t keep him. He’ll go to a good home soon; he can count on me. But he has worked his magic; he has brought me laughter and the will to act. I will return the favor, many times over, to other animals in need. Charlie is indeed a force. For a little guy, he’s pretty powerful!