For starters, I’ve been a lifelong lover of animals. Since coming to work in Unicoi County for The Erwin Record, I have crossed paths with many interesting people — and their animals.
I’m a Johnson City native who practically grew up in Noah’s Ark. I currently share a small apartment with two cats, Digby (named after Jane Digby, go read her biography) and Kooser (after Ted Kooser, whose poetry would make a lovely Christmas gift).
They both came into my life in very interesting ways — as pets often do. They are the ones to tend to find us, and not the other way around.
As previously mentioned, my parents have had a lot of animals through the years — currently the total is at three horses, three dogs, a thriving fish tank and one small snake. We’ve had rabbits, iguanas, fish, birds, horses, dogs, cats and plenty of other strange rescues — including an alligator snapping turtle, ducks and a few squirrels. Growing up in this kind of household might seem pretty abnormal to other people — but I can’t imagine a life without animals.
Later in time, I’ll probably dedicate an entire post to the legendary Rush Family Quail Incident. It’s a doozy.
After I moved out of my parent’s house, I promised myself that I was finished with pets for about five years or so. I thought it would be too much responsibility, and I felt it would be unfair to ask an animal to be understanding of my hectic college schedule.
Needless to say, that promise lasted less than two years. After growing up in an animal-filled household, living alone, without someone to greet you at the door when you come home, never feels quite right.
In April of this year, my parents asked me to visit the Washington County Animal Shelter to pick out a new cat for the barn. When I walked into the cat room, I browsed through the rows of stacked metal cages before coming to one on the end.
When I opened the cage’s door, a handsome gray tabby immediately put his paws on my shoulder and stretched, as if to say, “Hey. Where ya been?”
I was sold. He never made it to the barn. Kooser came to live with me after his surgery (and was quite resentful for a few weeks, though I keep telling myself he couldn’t possibly know what the vet had done).
Two weeks later, I was sitting on a friend’s porch when a pregnant stray cat waddled into my lap. When I ran my hand over her sides, I could feel the babies inside of her moving. It was magical.
For those who read the opinion column that I wrote a while back, you’ll be happy to know that Mama Ani and all six of her babies found happy homes. I ended up keeping one kitten — Digby — and he’s now grown into a massive, furry ball of love and mischief.
It was only after I rescued Mama Ani and her little ones that I realized they were Maine Coons, which is Cat Fancy language for “really, really big cat.” I think they’re a cross between Persians and Mountain Lions. Digby is 9 pounds and growing — as I’m told Maine Coons do — and over the next three years he could grow to be up to 12 pounds. Yeesh.
As I’m sure many pet owners do, I sometimes ask myself what I’m doing, sharing an apartment and my college experience with two fluffy roommates who love nothing more than to knock all of the Christmas ornaments off of my tree and then bat them around at 4 a.m.
I remember my parents making similar comments when Eva, the labrador, would devour a new loafer or Rowan, the Irish Setter, would be found curled up asleep on a new armchair.
All it takes to remember why you rescued them — or why they rescued you — is a glance into those golden, brown or black eyes to know — they melt your heart.
In the future, expect plenty of stories of people and their animals, plenty of photos, a few tips and a lot of laughs.