35: To Be Chosen

35: To Be Chosen

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

To Be Chosen

Are we really sure the purring is coming from the kitty
and not from our very own hearts?

~Emme Woodhull-Bäche

It was during a weekend when I was feeling very lonely and rejected that I met a kitten who, for the next eight years, would make me feel loved and chosen. I was born with cerebral palsy, a disease that left me unable to walk, use my hands, or speak clearly. I required the constant care of my parents, who found this task to be quite overwhelming. They made no effort to hide the fact that they felt that God had given them a heavy cross to bear. As I grew older, their words did a number on my self-esteem. I was certain that the only people who could ever love me were people who had to love me.

After my younger brother Brian got married, my parents were thrilled when he and his wife Linda offered to take care of me. These trips would happen twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. While I was happy that my parents were getting a much-needed break, knowing what those weekends held in store for me would tie my stomach up in knots.

Although my brother and sister-in-law would urge my parents to go away, once they were gone, Brian and Linda made me feel very unwelcome. They told me that if I loved my parents, I would volunteer to move into a nursing home. As a woman in her early forties, I was not ready to do this.

One fall I did not dread my parents’ vacation quite as much as I usually did. Just a few weeks earlier, Linda’s cat had given birth to six kittens. My mom had already picked out the kitten that would come live with us. I was looking forward to bonding with Whiskers.

I was thrilled with the way that Whiskers reacted to me. The minute that Brian sat me on their couch, Whiskers jumped in my lap and stayed there, even while the other kittens were playing together. Yes, Whiskers and I were going to be great friends.

“Whiskers really likes me,” I said to Linda when she finally came out of her home office to fix my lunch.

“That’s not Whiskers,” Linda said casually. “That’s Baxter and he’s been promised to someone else.” I was heartbroken. To make matters worse, Linda told me that she had never seen Baxter sit still before. “If the kittens are in trouble, Baxter’s usually in the thick of things. He’s the clown of the litter.”

Over the next few weeks, I often thought of Baxter. That little kitten had wanted to be with me. I prayed that Baxter’s new owners would make him feel as special as he had made me feel.

Then a miracle happened. When the lady came to pick up Baxter, the young girl who was babysitting my niece and nephews picked Whiskers instead. That same night, Baxter came to live with us, and he immediately found his favorite seat, my lap. After I went to bed, Baxter got very restless. When my mom showed Baxter where my bedroom was, he curled up next to me and fell asleep.

As Baxter became more comfortable in his new home, I could see why Linda had called him the clown of the litter. He was always getting into trouble. During supper, he would sit on our kitchen trashcan and beg for food. My mom had to watch Baxter when it was time to give our four cats their nightly treat of canned food because he would gobble up his food and then try to steal from the other cats.

Baxter also liked to “help” with chores. Whenever my mom was sewing, he would try to catch the fabric as it came out of her machine. Baxter also thought that he was my personal computer expert. And to be fair, he did teach me a valuable lesson about the computer. When Baxter was around, I made sure that I saved my work often. Within a few months, we were affectionately referring to my darling little kitten as Bad Boy Baxter.

As busy as he was getting into trouble, Baxter never strayed from his main mission in life — to be my loving companion. In the summer, while our other cats were chasing mice, Baxter would climb into our lawn glider and swing with me. When I was taking a bath, he would sit on the edge of the tub; he even let me put bubbles on his face.

One thing that Baxter did especially touched my heart. I have a very big nose, which my family loved to make fun of. Often when Baxter was sitting on my lap, he would gently touch my nose with his paw. I took this to mean that he loved me, big nose and all.

A few weeks after Baxter’s eighth birthday, everything changed. The cat who used to steal and beg for food had no appetite. Instead of looking for trouble, Baxter spent most of the day sleeping. A visit to the veterinarian confirmed my worst fears. Baxter’s kidneys were failing. The vet put him on antibiotics, and said that if his condition didn’t improve within a week, we would have a decision to make. I told myself that the medicine would restore Baxter to the fun-loving cat that he had always been.

Unfortunately, the medicine didn’t work. Within a few days, Baxter had to be spoon-fed baby food, and even then we could only get a few bites into him. The Baxter I knew and loved was slipping away before my eyes.

As sick as he was, Baxter still made me feel loved. He would wake up from a dead sleep and run to me when I called his name. On the last night of his life, Baxter found the strength to stumble from my mom’s lap into mine. I patted Baxter’s almost lifeless body and knew that my touch comforted him. Knowing that being with me was so important to Baxter, that he was willing to use his last ounce of strength to make it happen, comforted me.

Baxter has been gone for thirteen years, but what he gave me will last forever. Thanks to him, I will always know what it feels like to not only be loved and accepted, but to actually be chosen.

~Cynthia M. Dutil

More stories from our partners