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Despite the din from the dogs, Wink dropped her head onto a small bed, which didn’t smell anything like the one she had slept in at home with Robin and Jake. Weeks ago, the two of them had been crying in front of this very cage where she now curled tightly and attempted some sleep to forget. Wink had spent time in a kennel cage before when her family joyously was on vacation – there were no tears then. She had glimpsed Shandley’s tail between his legs being coaxed into the room beyond the swinging silver doors followed by a bedlam of barked greetings. What had happened?    

Wink did not know, could not know her beloved family needed shelter themselves or for months they had gone to a bank for food to sustain them. The bank had no food for her, but her family shared what had been shared with Wink and the silly dog, Shandley.    

Twelve years ago, as a kitten, Wink had been welcomed into their home when Robin was a baby and Jake was 2. They had grown up and together.   

Shandley and his impish exploits had joined the family five years ago. Wink generally avoided the dog’s enthusiasm, preferring to sink into the soft fleece blanket on Robin’s bed or relax in the sunshine in her own bed on the table in the front window where she watched the clouds and oversaw the neighborhood.  

Now, in front of the windows across this room squatted tall cages where, for the last weeks, passels of kittens had roiled up and down three tiers chasing balls and stuffed mice and each other. One by one, adopters had claimed one or more of them from the Director until tonight there were only three scrambling on the slippery floor rollicking even in the silence that had descended as the sky slowly darkened. The Busies stuffed the last Kongs with peanut butter and stacked tomorrow’s meals on the carts.    

The lights arranged across the top of the cages no longer blinked and the singing chipmunks were silenced as the Busies wished the Director a merry Christmas and hustled home. Only Talking Man remained, answering the constant jangle of the phone even this late in the afternoon. As he was departing, the Director reminded him the family wanted to foster the two oldest cats in the shelter and they would be in early.    

The Busies, the Talking Man and the Director were all gone as the stars blinked in the sky. Only a few mournful barks disturbed the silence. Across the room, Wink observed old gal Noel coiled with her back to the front of the cage. Noel, favored by the Busies, often was freed to stroll about the lobby while they occupied themselves cleaning, feeding, and comforting.    

Days here were packed with boisterous comings and goings of people and pets. Some happy. Some not.  Despite her sad musings on the disappearance of her family, Wink preferred the relative silence of night and the peace it provided. The carts the Busies had stacked with goodies, catnip candy canes affixed to cat cages and Santa décor faded in the gloaming. Wink’s eyes shuttered. Perhaps she dreamed of other nights when the excited Robin had hugged her to sleep with visions of a joyous morning.  

Barking awakened Wink as the sun crested the trees. Doors flung open and volunteers flooded in to freshen cages, distribute breakfast, supply treats, walk dogs and caress welcoming heads. Too soon, their kind hearts had emptied the carts and they left for their homes with buoyant good humor. Only the Talking Man remained next to the curiously silent phone. Peace reigned. Even the dogs busy licking peanut butter from their Kong gifts were quiet.    

Then, the lobby door squeaked open, and a family corralling twins each holding a large carrier burst into the room and enthusiastically greeted the Talking Man. The twins bounced from cage to cage never even glancing at the equally energetic kittens. The Talking Man led them to Noel’s cage. “Noel’s the oldest and Wink is next,” he declared. Then, the twins were squealing and fawning before the two cages and their occupants while their parents signed papers and accepted directions for fostering cats.    

In moments, Noel and Wink were gently slid into carriers floored with thick fleece blankets and ensconced in the back seat between the twins who protected the carriers with another blanket only leaving the front uncovered. Twin arms encircled the carriers as they chattered their elation about hosting the two old gals.   

Both Noel and Wink had positioned themselves at the back of the carriers. Noel hunkered under the blanket and could not be prevailed to leave its safety. Mary, the twin hugging Wink’s carrier, pressed her face against its mesh door and whispered about a tree, delicious dinner, scrumptious treats, soft blankets, warm beds, and loving hugs. Wink relaxed, uncoiled, moved closer to the 10-year-old, and gazed into her dark brown eyes brimming with joy. Something stirred in Wink as Mary bubbled and she purred. Then, Wink stretched her paw through the cage door and gently touched Mary’s cheek. “Oh, mom,” gushed Mary, “Wink loves me already!”   

Wink did not know, could not know that foster would become forever; Noel would be her best friend and constant companion. Together, they would wait on their oh so comfortable beds in the sun in front of the slider for their twins to come home from school. Together they would follow them and endure hugs and kisses and tea parties until together they would curl at the foot of one twin or the other’s bed.  Sometimes her first family would intrude on Wink’s dreams, but only fondly.    

So, on this day of days and all those happily ever after, Wink was quite content.    

 

McCarroll writes from Court House. 

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