I used to think that I did not have the typical “stuck-in-quarantine-so-I-adopted-a-pet” story, but in writing this piece, I realized that I probably do.
My tale starts out on social media, on one of the most infamous and truly wholesome parts of the internet: animal shelter pages.
For the past six months, I have been addicted to stalking shelter Instagrams and Facebook pages, scrolling through various pictures, reading heartbreaking posts and letting my heart turn to mush. The shelter pages became my outlet after a bad day at work or an exhausting conversation. Trust me, there is nothing that will bring a smile to your face more than a puppy.
While a more sane person might have registered this obsession as a desire to, in fact, adopt a pet, I turned the other way. I had various rational reasons for not adopting: I loved cats, but I was incredibly allergic, so much so that petting one could launch me into a sneeze attack. And I liked dogs, but my apartment explicitly did not allow them. Animals of other varieties, I had not really considered.
But when coronavirus hit, the shelter pages suddenly became a call to action. Local rescues were worried they would have to close because of social distancing regulations. They begged their online audience to foster one of their animals. Here, I thought, was where I could be helpful. The joy of a pet with none of the commitment.
So I reached out to a Times colleague who worked with a local animal rescue, St. Francis Society Animal Rescue, and asked if they needed any fosters. As luck would have it, they did, and that was how I found myself on the lanai of a volunteer’s house in Clearwater choosing a cat to take home with me — temporarily.
They often say that an animal finds you, not the other way around. That was how I felt about Lola. She was immediately friendly, meowing at us in a sweet way and wanting our attention. I knew I wanted a cat that was sociable and liked people and she was perfect. She was also tiny, weighing only 7 pounds. I figured that might make her easier to take care of, though there I was very mistaken.
The second Lola got to my house, the attachment started to form. My boyfriend and I video-chatted my parents to surprise them with Lola’s presence. My mom immediately cried: “My grand-kitty!” (I had to dissuade her of this, explaining she was a foster, but alas, my mom knew before me.)
And I realized there was really a connection brewing when I woke up at 7 a.m. to take Lola to the veterinarian in Westchase — almost 40 minutes from where I lived. As I waited for her to receive her contactless pickup, I called into our video editorial board meeting from my car. I wondered just how far I was willing to go for this small animal.
It wasn’t until I received an email from someone interested in adopting Lola that I realized how attached I was. When the adoption agreement landed in my inbox on a weekday morning, I was immediately shaken. They were taking her away from me? So soon? I started crying at the kitchen table and contacted everyone I knew at the shelter for advice. Thankfully, they told me I could still adopt her if I wanted.
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Now, three weeks later, she is a part of our family. We were told she is 2 years old, but sometimes I wonder at that when she is darting across the room, chasing a pen, a string or an invisible object I’m sure only she can see. The most gratifying part has been slowly watching Lola’s personality emerge. She loves to lie on tables, for reasons we do not know. She is obsessed with human food, to the point of getting in someone’s face as they are eating. And she makes the strangest cross between a meow and a purr when she jumps from one place to the next.
I feel really grateful that I adopted a pet during quarantine. It’s given me all this time with her during the day that I know I will not have when someday, somehow, we all go back to work.
And sometimes, when she lays next to me on my bed, I still feel in awe of the fact that she trusts me. Animals can go through so much, but when they find a good human, the trust is still there.
I see it most when she looks up at me with her big green eyes, as if to say, “Okay, Mom, what’s next?”