I wasn’t going to take Second Chance Rescue’s form rejection lying down. But I received it just past 11:00 on a Tuesday night; there wasn’t much to be accomplished at that hour. That said, sitting in my parked car in the dark in front of my Philly house I couldn’t help “reaching out” to the handful of Second Chance Rescuers who’d been steering me through the adoption process. What the heck had gone wrong? I texted Holly, the adoptions supervisor. I emailed Margaret who was fostering Lulu-Belle in Westchester. I even texted Em, my interviewer, who might have dealt me the ace of spades.
But there were other suspects. I thought of my friend Richard who I’d asked to serve as one of two references even though he was already horrified by my cats.
About the cats: The day my ex told me that he was leaving, the last of my cats—a surly Burmese named Kronk (named for the villainous child-napping dream-stealer in the film La Cité des Enfants Perdues)—had fetched up with a tumorous bulge on the side of his face. Two weeks prior to this his half-sister Miette (also named for a character in the film) had developed a comparable bump. That bump turned out to be late-stage cancer; Miette had to be put down that very afternoon. So when I saw the bulge on Kronk’s face I instantly despaired. I was in tears upon arrival at my vet’s. But after examining Kronk my vet thought that the problem might be dental. A tricky hour of surgery later, he was minus one very infected tooth. But only half an hour after my vet delivered the good news, she’d called back to say that he’d died suddenly of a heart attack. One minute he was there; the next he wasn’t. So that night when my ex announced his departure I was down to zero cats.
The void left by my ex is something I’m still contending with all these months later. But the sudden lack of cats? That was a void I could fill. Fill it I did, with a speed and volume that alarmed even me.
First I adopted a big, affectionate Maine Coon and a skittish Tortoiseshell, a declawed duo that had been surrendered together to the West Babylon Animal Shelter.
My twelve-year-old son Kieran expressed an interest in Bengals; I quickly adopted two, one from Astoria, Queens, the other from San Diego.
When an adoption of a Ragdoll from a North Carolina shelter fell through I got one through a breeder on Long Island. So within a matter of weeks I was up to five felines.
Richard and I have been close friends for over twenty-five years. “You’ve got to get rid of three of them,” he told me emphatically. As a kicker he added: “No one will ever date you.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell Richard that I’d put a deposit on a Norwegian Forest Cat. The litter was due later that spring. I did tell him that there wasn’t a chance I’d give up any of my five. I was reminded of a quip my paternal grandmother was rumored to have delivered about her five children: “I wouldn’t part with one for a million bucks but I wouldn’t give you a penny for the next one.”
Well, I guess I’d already put more than a few pennies down on that next.
So when I got that form rejection from Second Chance Rescue I wondered if Richard had put a bad word in for me rather than a good one.
And of course my suspicion fell on Em. Had her bright smile and cheery prediction about a rescue dog changing my life belied a judgment against me? Was she the one who had derailed my chances of getting Lulu-Belle? If so, why? The form rejection offered a dozen possible reasons for the denial. You have too many pets already. The dog you selected is not a good fit for your home. The dog you selected is no longer available. Your home visit was not approved. . . .
Of all the people I tried to contact, Em was the only one to respond that night. She professed shock and seemed as baffled by my rejection as I was. But was she telling the truth?
Song lyrics guide me. I seem to have a natural antenna poised to receive precisely the right message at precisely the right time. The source is usually ’80s New Wave but occasionally it’s Classic Rock. So when Ray Davies drifted through my mind—Paranoia, the destroyer—as I was sitting in my car with the radio off, I pushed all thoughts of betrayal out of my head. The Second Chance’s rejection hinted at the possibility of an appeal. That’s what I needed to focus on. Wouldn’t the Universe want Lulu-Belle to have a good home? I was sure I could provide it, Second Chance’s determination notwithstanding.
I heard from Holly early the next morning. She was as puzzled as I.
“Let me make some calls,” she said. “I’ll get back to you.”
That morning I had an informal hearing with the Philadelphia Water Department. A new water meter had been installed in my house and I was instantly socked with an enormous water bill—for a place that I visited only a couple weekends a month. So I was headed to the Municipal Services Building for—effectively—my day in court. But with Lulu-Belle hanging in the balance that court date shrank in importance. The huge water bill, my chance to get it reversed all seemed so minor. I continued to go through the motions of my appeal but that little blind dog was all I could think about.
Holly called me back while I was on the train platform waiting to go into Center City. “Do you have eight dogs?” she asked.
“Yes.” She was serious.
“No! I have one dog—Hazel—and five cats. And two chinchillas.” These last two had been my son’s idea.
“We have you down as having eight dogs.”
“I don’t have eight dogs!”
“Got it,” said Holly. “That did seem strange.”
But the number of non-human souls under my roof added up to eight, and that was two souls beyond the Second Chance limit.
“The chinchillas are sort of like big gerbils,” I told her. “Do they really count?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
A few hours later I came out of the hearing to good news: Second Chance was making an exception. Lulu-Belle could be mine!
I called Margaret and made arrangements to pick my puppy up the very next day. My puppy. I was eager to bring her home, but was also slightly afraid that Second Chance might change its mind again. I wanted to get her before they could.
I was so happy. Truly euphoric. And filled with gratitude. That I was almost denied Lulu-Belle made me appreciate her adoption all the more.
Not four days later I would start to wonder if the Universe had been trying to spare me unspeakable heartache and considerable expense—that I would have done better had I only accepted that form rejection rather than fight it.