Everything in my life was in flux. I had just quit my job, broken up with my boyfriend and moved back home to Rhode Island. I was 25 years old and overwhelmed at the prospect of starting my life over. My teenaged sister Mary Ellen decided that what I needed was a purpose that would help me get on with the next phase of my life. So, taking advantage of her newly minted driver’s license, she set off for the animal shelter. It was just before Christmas and the cat room was empty, except for one tiny kitten, found barely alive in a snow storm, all skin and bones and filthy fur. The kitten was screaming at Mary Ellen to hurry up and spring her already. So she did.
I had no idea on Christmas morning that this howling and indignant ragamuffin would someday come to rescue me. I named her Moxie – for the way she, in her two-pound glory, relentlessly chased my parents’ fifteen-pound cat – but my mother decided that Moxie was not a name befitting a girl and started calling her Moxanna. The name stuck. Moxanna became my constant companion. We were inseparable. She was my world. For eight years, Moxanna remained an only pet. She was there when I met my husband Brian, a selfdeclared dog guy. Swishing her tail at him like a magic wand, she quickly put him under her spell and transformed him into an instant cat lover. She moved cross country with us and back, sharing a dozen different houses and apartments.
She went with us on walks, picnics and even vacations. Many more pets would be added to our family over the years, and we’ve loved and cherished each of them, but Moxanna would always remain The One. She was there when we bought our first house and had our children. She watched as my boys learned to walk and started school. Moxanna is in every memory of the most important events of our lives. When my father died in 2002, I cut myself off from the world in my grief. I wouldn’t open sympathy cards; I feigned sleep to avoid visitors.
During that time, Moxanna was my only salvation. When she lay on my chest and purred, the vibrations passed from her chest to mine like life support. I don’t know how many days or weeks we lay like that. Time didn’t have a place in my despair. But she was with me every minute. She only left the room to eat or drink when I did. She held her vigil over me until I started my reemergence into the world. In all the craziness of life, somehow Moxanna was suddenly seventeen. I found myself turning a blind eye to her naughtiness, which seemed to increase exponentially with age. While still not allowed on the dinner table, for example, she soon figured out that she could sit at the table in her own chair for dinner. I was determined to be as faithful and giving to her in the sunset of her life as she had been to me over her lifetime. Moxanna crossed Rainbow Bridge soon after turning seventeen.
The three years since her death have done little to mitigate my grief. My only refuge has been to work even harder to save as many cats and dogs as possible, despite never feeling quite whole. I spent a while looking for her in the eyes of every animal I rescued. I was convinced that if she could come back to me, she would. In the meantime, I spent hours with Mozart, a shelter kitty who spent a week at Pet Harmony before being adopted. He offered the kind of quiet companionship I craved. He had experienced loss, too. After seven years with his family, he was surrendered to the shelter when they moved out of town. Like all the rest, he didn’t know what he had done wrong. I had great difficulty coming to terms with how someone could just abandon Mozart when I would give almost anything to have Moxanna back. Moxanna was nowhere and she was everywhere. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of a familiar tail disappearing around the corner. Other times I would swear I heard the sound she would make when she jumped up onto my bed. I could feel her all around me. There were times when I didn’t understand why I had chosen another route home only to find a scared dog or lost cat in the road. Was it a happy accident or some gentle guidance? Oftentimes others were guided to me.
The first snowstorm of this year was actually an 8-inch-deep, frigid-wind-blowing-over-trees blizzard. It was late – about 11 pm; my boys had been tucked in for hours. Suddenly, I heard a shout from the boys’ room followed by their door being flung open. It was my nine-year-old Jack and he was screaming, “It’s Moxanna. She’s back!” Oh, what a wonderful nanosecond it was before I realized it couldn’t be. He ran to the door yelling, “Look outside. She’s waiting to come in!” In his head he also knew it couldn’t really be Moxanna, but he was blessed with a heart that still believes anything is possible. Peering into the darkness, all we could see was blinding snow and shadows. But when we turned on the porch light, sure enough, there sat Moxanna’s doppelganger, all skin and bones with wind whipping through her dirty, wet, matted fur.
Had she been a kitten, it would have been an exact reenactment of the night Moxanna was found and brought to the shelter. Mind you getting to our stoop was no easy task. First, this cat had to scale our 6-foot fence without alerting three dogs who bark at every leaf that dares enter their realm. Next she had to determine if she wanted to brave an excited child, two cats hissing from the sofa, three dogs finally realizing they should be barking as loudly as possible and a mother yelling for everyone to be quiet. To my amazement, Blizzard – as she came to be named – decided to come in when Brian opened the door. Once inside, however, it was immediately clear that she didn’t like anyone of the furry or small-human variety. I carefully picked her up and carried her into my small bathroom where she stayed until the shelter opened for her 72-hour stray hold. While we waited, I checked lostpetswnc.com, looked for signs on telephone poles and talked to neighbors.
No one had seen this cat before. My fantasy that I was going to pour all of my pent-up affection onto this Moxanna lookalike quickly dissipated. In fact, Blizzard really didn’t like me at all and deflected my affection with swipes and growls. It felt almost cruel to be shunned by a kitty who looked so much like my Moxanna. Blizzard’s name soon evolved into Lizzie (I swear not as in Borden). With her stray hold up without being claimed, Lizzie was When she lay on my chest and purred, the vibrations passed from her chest to mine like life support. Continued on next page Moxanna Spring 2011 3 transferred into ACN to begin her search for a forever home. I would visit her daily, still hoping to make some sort of connection with her. But she was not impressed.
Two weeks later, a lovely young couple came to adopt a cat. Lizzie was the first one with whom they spent time. After Lizzie, they spent the next hour meeting all the other cats at Pet Harmony. And then they came full circle back to Lizzie, the cat who had curled up in their laps and rubbed her face on their chins, neither of which she ever did to me, not that I’m jealous, although I did save her and all. They weren’t concerned about her desire to be the only pet. The fact that she turned out to be 8 years old didn’t affect them either. She knew and they knew that she was their cat. It’s funny, Moxanna had made her displeasure known whenever we brought home another rescue. I would tell her I have to save others just as she had been saved. She had ignored my logic when she was alive, but now I wonder. An eight-year-old, bedraggled, temperamental (and frankly unappreciative) cat who just happens to be Moxanna’s twin scales my fence in a blizzard to wait on a dark stoop until she is spotted by a boy who mistakes her for Moxanna when he should have been asleep hours earlier?
Perhaps Moxanna is communicating to me that she finally gets what I do. It would be just like her to drop the message on my doorstep. Subtlety was never her forte. Or possibly she was simply being a guardian angel, guiding a forlorn kitty to help. Or maybe it is just the musings of someone who lost a very dear friend, desperately wanting to know that something good has come from so much pain. I know what I believe. I believe that even in death, Moxanna lives on through me and my work. I have faith she is right here watching over me and those who need me. While it’s unlikely I would have chosen Lizzie, I recognize now that I was the vehicle for Lizzie to become somebody else’s Moxanna. It helps to know that I am surrounded by others who understand. Very few of us have escaped the anguish of losing a pet. While the pain never goes away completely, we can honor their memory by saving another life. Sometimes rescuing somebody else is the only way to rescue ourselves. I miss you, Moxanna