There was nothing extraordinary about the cat that stared at me from the pages of my local newspaper. He was black. Gold eyes. His name was Westin. He’d been at the Humane Society way too long. His $20 price tag a clear indication that if he did not find a home soon, well…
I called my son to come look at the picture. I told him about Westin. “Should we go get him?” I asked. His eyes lit up.
Within the hour we bounded through the door at the shelter, waving the newspaper article. “We’re here for Westin.” We grinned at the receptionist. A woman standing nearby frowned. I pointed at the picture again, wondering at her odd reaction.
“The story did not tell you everything,” she said, leading us toward a glassed-in enclosure, a place called the Campus for Compassion, where hard-to-adopt animals are placed for one last push to find them a forever home.
My son and I glimpsed Westin briefly through a large window as the woman ushered us through a doorway, around a corner, and through another door. We somehow missed the sign that would have tipped us off that Westin was no ordinary kitty. The woman escorted us into the tidy room scattered with cat toys and shelves ascending one wall, where Westin quickly displayed his climbing skills. I sat on a small couch. Westin stared at me, then bounded into my lap.
“You get acquainted. I’ll get Westin’s records.” She left, closing the door behind her. A short time later, a young volunteer appeared, bearing a thick folder.
“Where did he come from?” I asked, as Westin head-butted my hand for the rub.
“He was one of thirty cats found abandoned in a hotel room,” she said. “We named them all after hotels.”
The thought that there were kitties nearby named Radisson, Hilton, Sheraton, and Howard Johnson made me want to laugh. Perhaps she read my mind.
“They’re all gone. They’ve been adopted. Westin is the only one left.”
I stared at the cat, now happily ensconced in my son’s lap. “Why?”
“Westin is sick.”
My son and I simultaneously stared at the cat, who appeared quite healthy and happy.
“When he came to us, he had lost a lot of his hair. We almost put him down. The vets here did a lot of testing and, well, Westin has horrible allergies. He’s on daily medication and will be for the rest of his life. He has to be fed special food that’s about $60 a bag.”
I stared at my son, a first-year college student who’s living at home while he studies to be a chef.
“I’ll leave you two to think about it,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice. “He’s been here a long time.”
“It’s a lot of money,” I said when my son and I were alone. “And a lot of responsibility.” We already had three cats, two of which came to us as strays and which live on the front porch, just wild enough still that being inside upsets them. We also have an indoor cat that my son raised from a kitten. And a cattle dog.
When the volunteer came back, I asked if anyone else had ever wanted to adopt Westin.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Until they found out about his problems.”
I turned to my son. “You said we’d split the costs,” I reminded him. He nodded, considering.
The boy with the blue eyes stroked Westin’s head. “He’s just like me, Mom. No one wanted me either.”
I stared at the ground. Troy is my third son. All of my boys spent time in the foster care system, before entering my life when they were teenagers, having been shuttled between group facilities and foster homes too many times to count, clearly understanding that there didn’t seem to be a family that wanted them.
I can’t say it hasn’t been a struggle. Westin suffered a ruptured ear drum and only wants to eat food that he’s allergic to. Still, he gets along fine with the other animals and is under the watchful eye of our vet. We are hoping that, someday, he can go without the daily doses of medication and the special expensive food. In the meantime, Troy takes care of Westin. They seem to have an understanding.