We’ve had Millie now for three weeks and one day, to be precise. Millie came into our lives when she was just nine-weeks-old. It wasn’t a spontaneous decision. The four of us had been discussing what we would do once our terminally ill, 19-year-old feline companion Penny had passed. We knew our 11-year-old cat, Yoda, would miss his sister, but we also knew that the cats and the dogs in our house had chosen to live separately since we had welcomed our dog Daisy, and then two years later, Rosy, into our lives.
Three-and-a-half years ago, after our beloved Daisy passed, we adopted Zelda. We didn’t know how Zelda would respond to our two cats who had long ago established their separate space inside and outside the house. Being a rescued dog with an unknown past, Zelda soon decided she would stick by her new “mom” wherever I went, which included into the cats’ space. Often Yoda and Penny would scoot outside their cat door when they saw Zelda, but not always. Over time they learned to walk around together and mostly leave each other alone. If they felt threatened by Zelda’s presence they would give her a quick swat to the nose, hiss and run away. Rosy, rarely dared venture into their space.
Adopting a nine-week-old kitten, though, felt like an offer of sacrifice. What was I thinking? I often asked myself over the course of the next two weeks. There were days when I felt like we had brought home a live meal for the dogs, and the stories well-intended friends were telling me about kittens murdered by their canine companions certainly were not helping to assuage my fears. I knew this would be a test in more ways than one. . .
And did I mention how tiny Millie was when we brought her home? About the size of a chipmunk, an animal that both Rosy and Zelda tried to chase and capture any chance they got. What were we thinking? What was I thinking? After all, I was the one who would be in charge of Millie’s care for the majority of the time.
The first two weeks seemed to test every fear my cells were holding onto. I feared for Millie’s life like a mother fears for her child’s. What will I do if they kill her? This thought filled my mind more times than I cared to count. I was, I realized, living my days on the edge of fear. Until I began to let go…
The first time Zelda lunged at Millie, I thought she was trying to eat her. The second time it happened, I thought maybe she was jealous. The third time she tried to intercede, I thought maybe she wanted to play. By the forth time I realized the miracle for what it was. Instead of trying to protect me, or something worse, Zelda was trying to protect her Millie.
I’m not going to tell you the fear has entirely disappeared now that Millie’s been here for just over three weeks, has grown to the size of a small squirrel, and now snuggles up next to her dog sister Zelda on the couch when she wants to nap, and bites her ankles when she wants to play. I still don’t leave the dogs and the kitten alone together for more than a couple of minutes at a time, but I am learning to trust in what feels like a miracle to me. That one tiny cat named Millie, so filled with love and trust, can bring a harmony to our house that I never knew would be possible.
As I write this, I can hear Zelda snoring on the couch in the other room beside Millie. Rosy isn’t too far away, but for now Zelda has decided that Rosy isn’t quite ready to be beside Mille, and Rosy doesn’t seem to care all that much. A sense of peace has settled into my body, reaching its hands into the corners that once held fear. Anything seems more possible now. Outside the sun shines through autumn leaves and in this ever-turning cycle of life and death that we are all a part of I feel the deeper harmony of balance beneath the outer fears we are collectively holding onto. If this little world inside my house filled with different species with different backgrounds can coexist in a harmonious state premised upon love and trust, maybe, just maybe, we can find that place in the larger world around all of us and realize that core that binds us all together. That core we call Love.