Saturday, October 30, 2010

Josie the Cat

On May 25th 2009, my husband and I adopted Josie, a calico cat, from a pet rescue group. We found her in a local Pet Smart adoption event. She was tiny, dirty, only weighing five pounds, but she was very friendly. She purred and rubbed her face against my husband’s finger from inside a wired cage the minute when we approached her. She was pretty much the first cat my husband met, and knowing him, it is not surprising we adopted the first cat we came across. Our first impression of Josie was that she was angelically sweet, which is true, but as it turns out she is very naughty as well.

All we know of Josie’s past is that she came from some farm area in Spotsylvania, VA, and she was taken somehow and sent to the shelter there. The kill rate in that shelter is terribly high I was told, it was pretty much a death sentence. In fact they scheduled to put Josie down, but luckily she got picked up last minute by a rescue group and brought to the city for adoption. We think she was about four years old and she probably very recently had kittens.

So now I must go further back in the story. My husband and I married two years before adopting Josie. We married rather quickly, we didn’t date very long, and our relationship wasn’t particularly interesting or romantic. We met as coworkers. We were both engineers in a semiconductors company and for myself; I came out of a decade of intense dating and basically very eager to settle down. I was 30 when we married, so I felt simply that it was time and quite frankly I didn’t know my husband all that well. My husband wasn’t conventionally good looking, or particularly successful, so I wasn’t very proud of the whole thing at the time. I called him my Harry Goldenblatt, my husband is bald and Jewish as well.

As you can see, I was quite shallow. I wasn’t very nice either. I was very anxious to rise in my career, which I felt was not moving nearly fast enough. I was good at what I do, but I never hesitated in doing whatever necessary to move ahead at other people’s expense as well. Survival of the fittest right? But I had a sense that my line of thought was toxic somehow, but couldn’t find a way to shake out of it. I complained for six years that I was unlucky and fate simply didn’t favor me enough. Anyway, it was not all bad, but I would not want to be like that again.

Our marriage was quite rocky before Josie as expected. I thought the point of getting a husband was to have kids, so we were trying for a baby right away. We were planning to buy a big house and big cars to go with a couple of babies, the typical path we never questioned up to that point. But I couldn’t get pregnant, we found out it was my problem, not his. Again I blamed everyone under the sun, my tempers flared. How is it possible that so many undeserving women out there are getting pregnant but I couldn’t? Until one day, I guess even I got tired of complaining and decided to hell with trying for a baby and get a cat instead.

Animals have a funny way to reverse any bad situation I find. Josie did that on her first day. She was a saucy little thing. I can go on forever on Josie stories but I will just give one here. On her first day, we sat down for dinner and we had to establish some ground rules with her. She was not allowed to jump on a dining chair when we are eating, so when she jumped on one, my husband said “OFF!” To our surprise, she jumped down right away, but she went onto the next chair. She looked at us like “You said no to that chair, but not this one.” We said “OFF!” again. We had to say “OFF!” to five different chairs. She was so charming, she surprised us all the time. You'd only have to say no just once; she doesn’t repeat crimes, she simply proceeds to invent new ones. Some months later we adopted Peter Cottontail, and he is as different from Josie as I to my husband, which goes to show how unique each animal can be. Whereas Josie’s philosophy is ‘Do first, possibly think later’, Peter is thoughtful, careful, and polite.

Life definitely improved after the kitties. But then one day, my husband made an offhand remark about how much he loved Josie. I replied, equally mindlessly, “Yeah, we love Josie, but we are meat eaters. Who knows? maybe that chicken we just bought was just as cool as her.” My husband didn’t say anything for like five minutes and I totally forgot the matter as soon as I said it. But five minutes later my husband came back with “I guess we will not eat meat then.”

I thought he was kidding, but was I wrong! My husband was a tank commander in the Israeli army, I underestimated how disciplined he could be. I told you, I didn’t know him that well. He had a whole plan going on his own, he made his own meals and he didn’t order meat when we ate out. He started with one vegetarian day, then two days and so on. I was caught in a strange situation then, I suggested it, so I couldn’t say anything bad about it. But I had no intention of becoming vegetarian, yet I couldn’t let him have the upper hand on me like that. In truth, deep down, I can’t help thinking “Holy Crap! This is the guy I married!”

So I became a passionate fact finder, to convince myself that becoming vegetarian is the right thing to do. My husband didn’t need to know much, he thinks we should give animals the benefit of the doubt and that was enough for him. I needed more. That was when I came across an incredible podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau called Vegetarian Food for Thought. If you don’t know it, I highly recommend it, it gives you everything you’ll need to understand veganism and to better appreciate life in general. I love literature, and Colleen regularly reads the most beautiful stories on animals, and on real heroism. I was sold, we didn’t have reasons to be vegans, but my husband and I turned vegans almost instantly. This experience solidified our marriage, we did something meaningful together and now I can say that we are happily married.

Life changed a great deal for me this past year and it is continuing to change, and in completely unexpected ways. Other than my marriage, my relationships with friends and family have evolved drastically as well. I have enough material to write a novel on that, but I will give one big example here. My best friend’s name is Sanaz, and we know each other for more than two decades. Until very recently, I always thought of her as rather slow and uninteresting, it was generally agreed that I was the smart one in our relationship. She was always very calm and I thought, to my shame…dim. Sanaz is Persian, she came from Iran, and she is vegan since she was two and a half. None of her other family members are vegans. In most ways Sanaz is the stereotypical middle child, with two very self-assured sisters, Sanaz was always pale by comparison.

When Sanaz was two and a half years old, she noticed that the meat she was served had a little blood in it, and later in another occasion she saw a lamb slaughtered in the streets of Iran. She refused to eat meat right then, and she won’t even drink milk which is a staple in the middle eastern diet. Unfortunately her parents were not the most supportive, they tried to trick her every chance they have, so at a young age Sanaz became rather suspicious and she had a tendency to internalize her feelings. I am sure it affected her a great deal, how could it not? Being her best friend, I don’t recall ever being supportive over her choice, she was stunned when she heard I turned vegan. So, what kind of blockhead could have someone like that in her life and not see it for twenty years? My only surprise is that she never gave up on me. She has a beautiful baby girl now, there are times when I don't know what to say to her.

My whole view on life has changed too, and I plan to transform my career. A few months ago I took a huge step and quit both my job and school. I was admitted to the Stanford Management Science program and I walked out on it. I don’t know what will happen next, but I am hopeful. My husband and I joke when we see terrible things in the world, which we did not care to see in the past, we would say, "Oh those red pills!" in reference to the Matrix movie. We took the red pills and now we are open to the truth, I am sure some of you out there can identify. No longer the reason, "we have always done it and/or everyone is doing it" is good enough for doing anything!

Oftentimes I wonder, if I had a baby instead of Josie, how different would things be. Maybe the universe is trying to teach me a lesson, I am glad I took the opportunity. Life is truly a gift, through loving my cats, I found that it takes a lot to give life, and to nurture life...I am not so eager to end life anymore. I think about all the animals killed for me in the past and I cry, and I am so happy I finally have enough wisdom to cry.

After all these strange but wonderful events, naturally, I would like to share my stories with the world. This is not a blog about travel or photography or veganism or any topic in particular. It is to document a quarter-midlife crisis gone right. It is nice to wake up in the morning and not feel tired or angry or scared. Most of the time I am just very curious, I am so full of new experiences now, I feel like a child squeezing a ball for the first time and learning what is squishiness and finding it exhilarating. I hope my blog reflects that.


Josie and Peter Cottontail


  1. Josie is just beautiful, and so is this. You write with the most luminous and true humility and wonder. I look forward to reading more here, and following you on some of your journey... thanks for visiting mine.

  2. Your kitties are just adorable. I, too, am childless and have furbabies instead and I often think of them not as animals but as little people in furry coats. Anthropomorphism, much?

  3. Thank you Mrs Jones. I saw some pictures of your furbabies and they are beautiful! Animals are a lot of fun, lucky for those who live with them. People tell me anthropomorphism is dangerous all the time, especially after they hear I am into animal rights. I personally think that is the best thing we can do, it keeps people civilized towards animals.