19 pounds of gorgeous
By Andrea Meyerhoff
We went after hearing another story of animal cruelty. Any one of these is one too many. You can’t undo it; it’s wrong to forget. All we could do was provide some counterbalance. So my husband and I decided to adopt a cat.
The Washington Humane Society’s New York Avenue Shelter is a low concrete building between a patched parking lot and a plot of scrubby grass that seems lashed into place by cables of close-in highway. When we visited, there was a flowerbed out front full of bright annuals. Inside, we heard the sound of frenzied barking. The place smelled like, well, animals.
An energetic young woman smiled at us from the reception desk, and she led us to the observation rooms. Inside were dozens of cats, hoping to be noticed. For a moment I contemplated offering a home to them all, our spare bedroom lined with bunk beds. But we were supposed to create a shortlist. Once we had it done, another staffer, a big guy in a do-rag, assured us a smooth introduction when he opened a cage, addressed the occupant by name and scratched him under the chin. The purring made me feel better about abandoning the bunk beds.
We had just mentioned our preference for an older cat when the director happened along. There was someone he wanted us to meet. As we approached the cage, an immense striped form burrowed into his food dish. It was clear, as any of my well-upholstered aunts would have told you, that he ate from nerves. His chances were slim; age and size made him “hard to place.” Round, green, scaredy-cat eyes stared from above the dish. It hardly felt like a decision.
The Humane Society is serious about commitment. There’s a questionnaire, an interview, a form to sign, a fee. They send you home with food and vaccination papers and a discount on a pet insurance plan. Little is left to chance, but of course there’s no way to explain that to an overstuffed cardboard carrying case rocking with indignation on the back seat. It’s been more than a month now, and he has settled in nicely. While we’re making dinner, he lounges in the middle of the kitchen floor. To stay in shape, he chases a blue pencil eraser the shape of the Capitol dome. It’s a good arrangement.
So next time you hear about some act of cruelty, take a trip to the New York Avenue shelter. Take someone home. I can’t guarantee you 19 pounds of gorgeous, but you’ll find that doing something humane goes a long way to making you feel human.
| December 11, 2009; 4:24 PM ET
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