Ten years have passed now since my wife and I wrote this story for a monthly newsletter the Animal Protective League of Springfield puts out with pictures of cats — dogs, too! — available for adoption. (Click HERE to learn more about APL’s adoption and fostering program.) It’s a bittersweet reminder that when you adopt a pet, you’re in it for the long haul.

We wrote the article in 2012, several years after we adopted our rescue cats Oley and Champaign; Debi found it and shared it with me today. I think it’s one of my better pieces of writing (no doubt because my co-author toned down some of my puns), but I lost track of it several years ago — I’m putting it up on the blog now, so I’ll know where to find it.

(Click HERE and HERE for an explanation and links on how, and why, I use my blogs as “kind of an electronic filing cabinet where I can tuck away information that would get lost otherwise.”)

Full disclosure: The bad puns are mine, as is the literary allusion to Charles’ Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities in the headline and the lede, “They’re the best of cats and the worst of cats, and we have a dickens of a time keeping up with them.” Debi claims no responsibility for them.

Oley, aka Mr. DaVinci, the Maine coon cat at the left of the picture, had 10 more years with us. They were mostly good years, even after he contracted diabetes in 2019, and he was a little trooper right up to the end.

He died last month, probably of a metastasizing cancer. Click HERE for my tribute to him, “I sing of Oley, glad and big” (another literary allusion, this one to E.E. Cummings’ poem “i sing of Olaf glad and big”). He’s sorely missed, as beloved pets are when they cross the rainbow bridge. But Champaign is still very much with us.

When we first got him, Champaign was a little scaredy-cat who had bonded with Oley at the shelter. He’d been abused and abandoned as a kitten, and it took him a long time to decide he trusted us. But here he is now, the lord and master of all he surveys:

Champaign obviously got his name for the color of his coat, but they spelled it that way at the shelter, like the college town 90 miles to our east. (I must not be the only one in central Illinois with a weakness for bad puns!) Now that I think of it, though, he often gets what might be interpreted as a studious look in his eyes. Perhaps he’s thinking of signing up for a course at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Dickens or E.E. Cummings.

Ten years after we wrote the article for APL and 14 years after we adopted him, Champaign is still (mostly) quiet and reserved, although he can yowl like a prima donna when he’s hungry or he wants attention. And he loves attention! He’s staked out the bedroom as his own, and you don’t pass by without stopping to pet him.

Champaign would be in his late 70s now in people years (about the same age as me), and in many ways I think he’s living his best life with us. Back in 2012, we wrote for the APL adoption newsletter, “when you adopt a rescue animal, sometimes it’s more about giving than receiving.” Ten years on, I still think that’s true. It’s not about what our pets do for us, it’s about what we do for them.

[Published April 14, 2022]

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