Home – AN ESSAY BY KAREN WINKLER

I see just her eyes through the crack in the door. She has green eyes that show her determination and commitment. She is staring at me, deciding whether to come in. I lift my head, and she immediately bursts through the bedroom door.   She peppers me with questions: “What are you doing? Were you sleeping? Are you warm enough? Are you hungry? How do you feel? What do you want? Do you want a treat?” She tells me: “Get up, Tommy. Come on. Stretch. Eat. Eat. You have to eat. You need to eat to stay well; to stay strong.” She wants me with her forever.

I have already lived a long time. There are 16-years before her. During those years, I travelled among homes, loved different families, had close friends, and stuck to a quiet routine of my choosing. A well-meaning stranger thought I would be safer at the Shelter. He didn’t know the Shelter is no place for an introvert: too many people, too many pets, too much of everything.

She answered the plea for my rescue. She said she fell in love with my green eyes and crazy long whiskers. She said she left work early to get me. She said I was her first Old Head foster cat. She said I was a Super Hero. She said she was taking me Home. She held my carrier in front of her body with both hands. Head high, smiling proudly, she kicked the Shelter doors wide open and we walked out. Staff and visitors waved good-bye. I was stunned.

There are 2-years with her. She’s never said another word about me being a foster. She asks me all the time, “How did you survive? Where were you? What did you eat?” She is always worried about me eating enough. She says, “You are too skinny!” She loves looking for clues to my mysterious past by examining my paw pads and teeth. If I could talk, I would tell her everything. She tells me that what is truly important is that I am Home now.

My favorite thing is Home. It has too many people, too many pets, she has no boundaries, but it works. When she is not Home, it is still. I sleep on a pillow in a box in the sun in her room. The other family animals take turns lying next to me. They know I am important to her. I eat a little. Once a day, sometimes twice, I walk around the whole house. I go into every room. I want to remember it all exactly as it is.

When she is Home, there is movement and sound. It is exciting. She whisks me from room to room with her. She likes to include me. We do laundry a lot, watch TV, put things away and organize, and spin in circles when there is nothing left to put away. We eat, of course. She holds me up to the window so I can look out. She tells me what she sees, and what it means to her. She wants to know, “What do you see?” I only see her.

I didn’t want to tell her that I am sick. I didn’t want Home to change, but she figured it out. She swaddled me in a fleece blanket, and held me. She covered all the windows and we laid together on the couch for the entire weekend. I had never seen her so still, so sad for so long. When she drummed her fingers on the coffee table, I saw an opportunity. I watched, I waited, I wiggled out of that hot fleece blanket, and I playfully attacked her hand. She said, “Holy Cripes You’re Fast! I forgot you’re a Super Hero!” Then she whisked me into the kitchen, “You’ve got to eat, Tommy. You’ve got to stay strong. You’re too skinny!” I eat. I want to be with her forever.

About Karen Winkler


Karen volunteers as a feline foster parent with Animal Care and Control Team Philadelphia and a dog handler at the Bucks County SPCA. She was selected to work with the BC SPCA Behavior Modification Program to work with dogs who need additional socialization and training prior to adoption. She assists with dog training classes for the Humane Society of the United States Pets for Life. Karen has a Certificate in Canine Management and Training from Kutztown University. Karen is working on a series of essays about her volunteer experience with animals. She hopes sharing her experiences will motivate others to volunteer, foster, and adopt. Karen has been Vegan since 2007.

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