I am a dog person. Dogs are and always will be my favorite animal. One of my best memories is hosting a “radio” show with my Rottweiler, Bear, whom I snuck into my room as a kid to be my cohost. Through my sea duty years I was anxious for shore duty, in order to get a dog. In my time technical school I coveted the Marine barracks’ Boxer was a Corporal (for killing an errant gopher in their yard). Upon moving to DC, I was able to get my weird black pug dog, named Nacho.
Recently I ran into my old commander. One of the first things he said to me was, “I your Facebook. Cats… right?” Le sigh. Everyone thinks I am a cat lady.
Some years back my ex-boyfriend and I adopted gray kitten named Mr. Kitty, who ran away after a month or so. My guy was sad. A mutual friend saw a chance to solve two problems with one solution. This friend’s wife’s sister had taken in a stray, and she quickly became disinterested the cat. The friend tried to cheer up my boyfriend with this replacement cat. However, Replacement Cat lacked the positive attributes long-gone Mr. Kitty. In boyfriend’s mind, I already had a cat-sized dog so adding Replacement Cat to the mix wouldn’t be that much more effort for me. So one day, Boyfriend shows up unannounced to my apartment with Replacement Cat and all of Replacement Cat’s things.
So Replacement Cat, Nacho and I live together chaotically for a spell in a 720 square-foot apartment. Being a sole owner of a dog is a huge responsibility. Can’t leave them alone; they’ll eat things they aren’t supposed to, hurt themselves or run away if you leave them longer than 6 hours unsupervised.
Nacho + White House work/travel schedule= Lots of Guilt for Julianne.
So Nacho eventually went to live with my parents, where he gleefully runs amuck doing hoodrat stuff with two pug friends. Things didn’t work out either with the boyfriend either. Note to you guys out there, if your girlfriend doesn’t specifically ask for a cat, how about don’t give her a cat. Hashtag truth.
Having been a zealous dog person, I was knowledgeable about canine care. I winged the process of caring for Replacement Cat. I fed her, cleaned the litter, and watched my couch sides get shredded like an unwanted credit card offer. I dubbed Replacement Cat “Chloe” and bought her a green sparkly collar that she wriggled out of at every opportunity.
When Nacho departed I began taking notice that Chloe looked at best, unwell. Knotted fur mats made up the base of her tail. I didn’t know short haired cat required brushing, assuming cats groomed themselves. She would throw up her food every other day. Imagine my surprise at hearing a cat go into heat, yikes. She also genuinely enjoyed ripping to shreds anything upholstered, couches, curtains, low hanging sweaters. I too looked unwell; unbeknownst to me I was allergic to cats (and dogs).
I didn’t ask for this cat, but I accepted it, she was my responsibility now. Having volunteered animal shelters and seen one too many Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials, I knew taking Chloe to the pound was definitely a dick move.
My 20’s were full of stressful drama, as I imagine most peoples’ are. That period is full of moving, breakups, destitution, existential crises and bad haircuts. Over time I realized anything is survivable if you remember two simple things:
1. live in the now
2. do the best with what you have
For a long time I thought owning a dog would make me happy. I debated putting my cat up for adoption at a shelter and adopting a dog. Again, a total dick move. It then occurred to me that even when I had a dog, I wasn’t happy.
Using my newly acquired philosophies, instead of dreaming of dogs, I tried harder at caring for the cat I already owned. Regular brushing helped. Clipping her claws and a tall wire basket decreased furniture destruction. I stopped putting the collar on her that she clearly hated and started to call her “Kitty”. A trip to the vet halted the monthly caterwauling. I actually read the Cat Fancy magazine instead of just Instagramming it. My doctor prescribed me allergy medicine. Fun fact: I’m also allergic to dust, so my sniffles were only semi-attributed to Kitty. With a little effort and a lot of vacuuming, home life became tranquil for us both.
Around this time is when I got promoted to E-7. During Chief’s training I had introduce myself frequently.
Most people: “Good Morning, I’m Chief Select Joe Smith, I’m married to my wife [a lot of people said this], and I’ve got 2.5 kids.”
Me: “Good Morning, I’m Chief Select Julianne Metzger, I’ve got a cat. I like cats.”
I believe that simple introduction forever labeled me as, “cat lady”. Writing I can do, extemporaneous speaking in public, not so much.
Later that year, my roommate transferred to Kansas, and left me alone to live with Kitty. No roommate, no boyfriend, just me and Kitty.
Naturally, I started talking about my cat frequently. I started noticing all the weird/funny things she did. I posted photos of Kitty on social media. The more I posted about Kitty, the more friends/colleagues would send me funny pictures of cats. A friend got me a subscription to Cat Fancy magazine. Another friend bought me a cat tea towel; mom got me cat pajamas. I sharply increased the amount of meows I uttered in conversations.
Then a coworker told me about a Cat Show via a Facebook message. I went to the Cat Show to snicker at the cat people. “Look at these ridiculous cat people with their cat people shirts and bumper stickers and lack of social skills,” I thought smugly.
“But you’re here,” said my conscience. “You’re one of them, meow.”