This time last year, a friend asked me to housesit for her while she was away on a three-week family trip. She had five pets: three cats, a golden retriever, and a newborn baby kitten. The kitten was five days old when I arrived and opened his eyes the day I got there. I was the first person he saw… and the last. His name was Graham.
I named Graham the first day I saw him, when he was only a day old. The named suited him and while his owners eventually chose a different name, he’s forever known as Graham to me and a dozen other people who got to watch Graham grow as I took care of him. Also known as: I took so many photos, some people were on the verge of blocking me on Facebook. Others asked if they could come visit the kitten. :)
Here’s the thing, the reason why Graham meant so much to me and the reason when people tease me about him, I don’t find it funny…
I’ve dealt with depression for many years. For awhile, I let it drag me down and accepted that that was that, there was nothing I could do. Then I made a change in my life and continually fight to keep my happiness. But sometimes, I get pulled back under and it can be hard to break through the surface again. I was going through yet another bout of this when my friend asked me to housesit for her. I liked her dog, so I said yes. Note: I’m not a cat person. I’ve never been a cat person and while I think kittens are adorable, I’m allergic to cats and tend to avoid them because of that.
This is going to sound strange, but I wasn’t allergic to Graham, something that became apparent very quickly as I began cuddling him. Why did I cuddle him? One, because he was a kitten, and two, as the only member of his litter, he would be left alone when mom went out to explore at night. So instead of listening to him cry, I’d pick him up and settle him on my chest while I watched tv at night. Eventually, it got to the point he was cuddling with me every night. Then it progressed to him waiting by the side of the bed for me to pick him up to cuddle in the morning. During a second round of housesitting later that summer, I woke up to find Graham had crawled under the blankets and was stretched out along my leg. I fell back asleep, woke up, and he’d moved to the crook of my arm.
If I was in the kitchen, Graham was on the counter watching me cook or asking to be picked up. If I was in the bathroom, he was asleep on my foot. If I was leaving for work, he was crying and grabbing onto my ankle. This squeaky ball of fluff and turned me into his personal jungle gym and wanted to cuddle at every opportunity. To have something that adorable follow me around… it’s hard to be bitter. It’s hard to be depressed. It’s hard to sleep the day away when a fur ball is waking you up at 5 am because it’s time for morning cuddles. It’s hard to drag through your day when you know, as soon as you get off work, there’s going to be a kitten waiting to play with you.
Because of a dislocated tail that resulted in nerve damage and bladder problems, Graham was unfortunately put down when he was six months old. I stayed with him through the process, trying not to cry as we sat in the waiting room, because he looked perfectly healthy and everyone wanted to play with him and pet him. The staff cried. Everyone who met Graham loved him and as one woman suggested, “He’d be the perfect therapy pet.” And that’s what he was to me: therapy in a tiny, furry package. He made me smile and laugh and obsessively read up on newborn kittens. He gave me a reason to wake up in the morning and not only did I wake up, I woke up happy.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever meet another kitten quite like Graham. He was something special, something darling, and I am so thankful that as I was being pulled under the riptide, a lifeline was thrown to me in the form of a small, squeaky bundle of fur whose idea of fun was being with me.
Despite my aversion to all things water, I do love me some island living. Almost as much as I love nautical puns.