81: Dreams Come True

81: Dreams Come True

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Dreams Come True

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

~Flavia Weedn, Forever

Surprise was not the word for it when a beautiful longhaired black cat fixed her gimlet-green eyes on me, ran across the lawn, and demanded to be petted. Little did I know that she had even bigger plans in mind.

My husband, Prospero, and I had settled into our new home three months before. He had seen this pretty black cat and assumed she belonged to a neighbor because she was so perfectly groomed. Since that first encounter she hung out in our yard every day, even clinging to our bedroom window screen and meowing us awake each morning. We were careful not to feed her in fear that she wouldn’t return home to her rightful owner.

This turned out to be a bit of a problem. You see, the weather was balmy and we had taken to eating our dinner on the terrace. When her meowing didn’t get her a nibble, the cat simply caught a chipmunk and joined us.

“This is grossing me out,” said Prospero.

“I know.” The sight upset me too. “I can’t handle it.”

We agreed to discourage the cat from coming into our yard by shooing her away. Realizing that she was no longer welcome — most likely with her feelings hurt — the cat moved on to another location. We felt bad, but were secure in the knowledge that it was for the best.

Weeks passed and we woke up one morning.

“I had a dream about the cat,” said Prospero. “She was ours.”

I simply stared at him and said, “You won’t believe this, but I was just dreaming the exact same thing. It woke me up.” Talk about synchronicity.

We walked into the kitchen and there was the black cat sitting right outside our glass door! After weeks of not seeing her, we both had the same dream and the cat showed up. There seemed to be a higher power at work.

Not being pet people, we agreed to feed the cat but declared she would continue to live outdoors. Toonsie — yes, we named her — seemed to like this arrangement and continued to leave us an assortment of chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies and birds as a thank-you present.

Summer came to a close and the chilly autumn nights made us realize that we had to come up with another game plan. Leaving Toonsie out in the cold was too cruel.

“She’s coming inside, but she’ll live in the basement!” said Prospero.

Ha! Toonsie came in the house and took over. Even the vet said that she had us very well trained. Before we knew it our lives revolved around the cat. We ran out to her favorite Japanese restaurant to get sashimi for her, because she refused to eat the supermarket variety. We stopped taking vacations, because we returned from a three-day trip only to find that she had stopped speaking to us. And as her fame grew — a Chicken Soup for the Soul story caught the attention of our local newspaper and they did a feature article on her — Toonsie became even more of a diva.

For two people who didn’t want to take a cat into their home we never slept better than in those wee hours of the morning when Toonsie snuggled up between us.

Then one summer morning, as Prospero and I prepared to leave for a day at the Jersey Shore, Toonsie began wailing and crying. She stuck her nose in an electrical socket, which I took to be a shameless faux-suicide attempt in anticipation of being left alone indoors on a sunny day.

Prospero got down on his knees and stuck his nose in the outlet. “I need a screwdriver.”

He unscrewed the switch plate and an arc of electricity sprung out. It was the beginning of an electrical fire. Toonsie not only saved our lives but inspired yet another Chicken Soup for the Soul story. Who knew we had adopted a literary lion?

With the passing of years, Toonsie gradually slowed down. Gone were the critter gifts and the mad escapes to prowl the neighborhood. We settled into a comfortable pattern of family life. Toonsie basked in being the pampered little princess of the house.

Toonsie had been with us thirteen years but since she was already a fully-grown cat when she arrived, we figured she was at least seventeen. We knew the end was near when her weight dwindled to a mere five pounds. But then one day we were sitting in the back yard when suddenly she dashed across the lawn, snagged a chipmunk and offered it to me. When I didn’t take it, she devoured it in one sitting. Rather than being grossed out, I was thrilled that she ate.

For the next two weeks, Toonsie astounded us with several chipmunks a day but no longer ate them. The chipmunk gifts were — and always had been — her way of showing us how much she loved and appreciated us.

One afternoon an enormous black bird landed on the patio and snatched up the chipmunk that Toonsie had brought for me. A raven. Not good. Even I knew about that omen.

One Saturday morning Prospero woke up at five. “I just had a dream that Toonsie passed away.” A quick check on her proved he was right.

Knowing it was her time still didn’t ease our pain. A fluffy black kitty cat entered and exited our lives through dreams that came true, and we will never be the same.

Toonsie came into our lives to teach us how to love. Not the kind of love that Prospero and I already shared, but the nurturing and selfless kind of love that comes from caring for one of God’s creatures. Even in our pain we realized that it was a magical experience for which we will be forever grateful.

~Lynn Maddalena Menna

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