Cat Lady to Dog Person

I was one of those girls that everyone thought would end up as an old maid owning thirty cats. I always had a cat, and no matter where I traveled or moved, my cats went with me.

I didn’t ditch the cats to move someplace that didn’t allow them — I simply found a place that welcomed them. I didn’t get rid of the cats because I was dating someone who didn’t like cats — I dated men who either liked, or at least accepted the cats. I did not believe in getting rid of a pet once you’d adopted one. Adoption is for life.

I was in my mid-thirties when my reign of cats ended. The 17 year old cat died of old age, and the 11 year old caught a strange cat disease. They’d come in contact with a strange cat who was sick. Its owner brought the cat to me hoping that I would adopt it, but I did not want to add a cat that mine wouldn’t get along with, so I chose not to adopt her adult cat. I had no idea the cat was sick, and if the owner knew, she didn’t tell me. Apparently the illness was very contagious and the next thing I knew, my beloved cat Hadji became ill. He had contracted FIP – feline infectious peritonitis.

My cat, who never went outdoors and never came in contact with other cats until that day, got sick from a single exposure to one cat. The vet told me that no vaccine would have prevented it, and that there was no cure. He also told me that Hadji would die from it, and a few months later he did. His lungs filled with fluid and he had difficulty breathing. Try as they might to clear the fluid, they had to put my cat to sleep. It was one of my worst days, and I held him in my arms as they ended his life. We should have had so many more years together.

The vet told me not to adopt another cat for at least six months. He said that my home would be contaminated with the disease, and not to bring another cat into it. For the first time in decades, I was catless.

Six months passed, and I still didn’t want to risk bringing a new cat into my home, so I waited. In the meantime, someone attempted to break into my house. They failed to get in, but there was no doubt they had tried. There had been several burglaries in the neighborhood and when I became the target, that was it for me. I lived alone and I didn’t like being a sitting duck, so that week I went from being a cat lady to a dog person.

I went to the dog pound and adopted a year and a half old German Shepherd mix who spent the rest of her life as my companion and watchdog. She lived a long life with me, never ailing for much until she reached old age.

Because of that one unexpected encounter with a very bad cat disease and a burglar, I embraced life with dogs as completely as I’d always embraced life with cats, going on to write books about my experiences with dogs. Today I have a husband and two dogs, Dakota and Sierra. Dakota’s previous family got rid of her for many reasons, including their claim that she tried to eat their cat. How is that for a strange ending to a cat lady story?

Of course, they also claimed that Dakota was housebroken, which turned out to be a lie, so who knows whether she really tried to eat the cat. Dakota’s first godawful year with us became the book, Bad Dog to Best Friend.

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