I’m not sure which is the most unlikely thing about me- the fact I’m a veterinarian or a ‘crazy cat lady’.
We didn’t have any pets growing up and, to be honest, I didn’t like animals.
Dogs smelled ‘doggy’. Cats seemed stuck up. Anything else wiggled or moved funny.
We couldn’t really have pets because we were travelling almost every weekend from fall through spring for figure skating and my brother’s hockey. I understood that and never questioned it. Looking back, it would have been difficult to have given a pet the love and companionship it would have needed.
I never took the time, though, when visiting friends and family, to get to know animals.
I didn’t know how they could purr and cuddle and head-butt their way into your heart. I didn’t know anything about how they would know if I was sad or not feeling well, and how they would instinctively sit on my lap or next to me during those times.
I didn’t know how intelligent they were.
Or how great it felt to come home to a bunch of cats seemingly happy to see me.
Or the comfort of sitting on some hay bales with a purring kitty on either side as we all soak up some sunshine.
Or what unconditional love felt like.
I was, perhaps, a bit of an overly independent kid but I had to be like that,moving away at 12 years of age for months at a time, training for hours on end in an individual sport like figure skating.
So I don’t blame the old Tanya. I get where she was coming from.
If anything, I feel kind of sorry for her.
But the old Tanya became the new Tanya.
Thankfully, a person can change.
It happened 20 years ago when we lived in sleepy Watford City with our golden retriever, Mitch. We weren’t looking for a kitten.
My step kids brought a white ball of wide-eyed, long-haired, purring kitten-fluff home from the neighbors and placed it on my chest.
I loved her immediately and named her Koshka.
Koshka taught me so much about cats, even though she was mostly like a little person who lived with us.
Koshka’s little brother, Malchek found us a year later. Although he brought ear mites to everyone (Mitch, Koshka, the ferret…. you can imagine how fun it is to medicate those tiny ferret ears!) we adored him, too.
The neighbors had another batch of kittens (you would think people would figure it out) and Alistair and I took them to our farm. The other alternative, according to the neighbor, was the lake. In a bag.
I learned all about barn kitties and hunting and dead mice and getting along and watching out for tractor tires. 2 of that batch made the move inside after a tragedy involving antifreeze and the loss of Kosh and Mal.
I learned, for the first time, how my heart could break over such a tremendous loss.
I learned that veterinarians sometimes overlooked what was right for the pets when faced with a sobbing doctor’s wife.
I learned that there are some things I will never forgive myself for.
Thankfully, I learned how Oscar and Boomer could help me through that grief.
Enter Chorney and Cooper soon afterwards. Beautiful black cats with unique personalities and needs. I learned how a cat like Oscar would take care of a crying kitty (Chorney) through the night.
I learned that cats can have their own lovers over the years.
Oscar and Cooper disproved the notion that only humans and dolphins will mate for love. They were both ‘fixed’ at young ages but Oscar would still ‘scruff’ Cooper and there you have it.
Cooper mourned Oscar’s loss in January, painstakingly howling for hours during the day.
And all night long.
She is only now getting through it.
I have chosen to not get ‘over’ my animal companions as we have lost them over the years. Like Cooper, I am getting through the loss of Oscar.
Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe wandered onto our farm in Bismarck. I only fed him because I didn’t want the scruffy, beat up, limping, scrappy, orange ragamuffin to die with an empty stomach.
But he kept eating.
“What do we do?” I asked Alistair, after he ate 2 cans of soft food in a row.
“Give him another,” he replied.
His Royal Highness Sport joined our family when one of Alistair’s nurses acquired an allergic-to-cats-husband.
I think she contemplated choosing Sport but in the end we adopted our very first Siamese cat.
Which is a whole different type of cat.
If you have been around Siamese cats before, you are nodding your head.
Or shaking it.
Or you’re crawled into a fetal position saying ‘no, no, never again’…
Jinxie, a petite, de-clawed, spayed tuxedo lovebug showed up/was dropped off at our farm. She had a habit of getting into open vehicles and driving off with them.
Maybe that’s how she ended up on our farm.
The Schwan’s guy, Kyle, almost tipped the big yellow truck when she crawled out from under his seat, rubbing her black & white tail against his bare legs one time. She flew out the window as he swerved (likely screaming) and then spent 2 hours getting her from the ditch and bringing her home.
Cartman and Bebe were next, which is when things started to get out of hand.
I had only told my stepkids about the kitties ‘down the road’ because I wanted them to slow down when they were driving there.
Not bring me more kittens.
Then Mama Cat showed up/was dropped off. It took me 2 litters to catch and spay her but our barn community is full of life thanks to her ‘kids’, Georgia and Mouse.
They were joined for 3 years by a client’s cross-eyed female Siamese I was supposed to euthanize because they were moving.
Enter Mae Mae.
Our most recent addition is Jockey- probably a Siamese cross- who moved in with Alistair in North Dakota after he left our neighbors there. Alistair felt bad leaving him when he would come to Montana so he brought Jockey here.
He is, by far, the largest cat on the place.
Clumsy and reckless but endearing and funny, Jockey fits right in.
Through all of the additions we have had our share of losses: Cartman, Chorney, Mae Mae, Mamma Cat, Jinxie, Hissy Phitt, (Mouse & Georgia’s brother) and, of course, Oscar.
I know a lot of people think we’re insane sharing our world with so many felines but I feel richer for it.
They helped me get through vet school on cold, lonely, exhausting evenings after learning, palpating, operating, studying and studying some more.
They have been there without judgment or scorn on days when I get the tractor stuck, or I can’t get a vehicle started, or I have no hot water for close to a month, or the snow falls, endlessly, for weeks.
They were always there after sad days at the vet clinic.
And they’ll continue to be here for me and I will be here for them. Its our little trade-off.
That, and donating their reproductive organs at the door.
And getting along.
And not being Phantom Piddlers.
This is how I grew and eventually changed and said goodbye to the old Tanya. I became an unlikely but very happy Crazy Cat Lady.