Failure

16 10 2013

Austen has been with me for about six weeks.  He is a lovely cat, social and friendly and loving.

And Clara is having none of it.

Clara has always been both very shy and very rigid.  She wants things a certain way, and if they aren’t that way, she won’t participate.  When she circles my ankles, she always goes clockwise.  The only change in this that I’ve seen as she’s gotten older is just to be… more Clara-like.  More rigid.  More unbending.

And this has been a problem since Rosalind’s death and Austen’s arrival.  I read Clara’s very visible mourning as a need for another cat in the house.  And I believed that Austen, with all his sociability and friendliness, would be just the tonic that Clara needed, the cat that finally convinced her that another cat could be a loving companion.

Clara did not share my belief.  It seemed for the first week or so that Austen might be able to overcome her defenses, but she eventually retreated to her tower in my son’s room.  She would slink down to the basement to use the litter box, but she stopped coming down to eat during the day.  She would only come in for her breakfast of stinky wet food.  So she started losing weight.  And then she stopped going to the litter box, and my son discovered her pooping in his room.  So he understandably shut her out of his room, because who wants to live with that?!??  Denied her sanctuary, she took to hiding in the basement.  Austen still searched her out.  I could tell when he found her by the loud noises of angry protest beneath me.

My son noted that she was getting thinner.  I knew from petting her at breakfast that her coat was getting rougher.  This morning she came up for breakfast and she was smeared with her own waste.  This from a cat who has always been fastidious in her grooming and upkeep.  There were hollows under her eyes, there was eye gunk on her face.  And suddenly knowing: if I keep trying to do this, Clara is going to die.  Not metaphorically.  For real.  She will isolate herself, she will stop eating, and she will die.

The rescue organization Austen came from has a policy of taking cats back when an adoption doesn’t work out.  So I wrote to them and told them the situation, and then wrote to my sister and mother about what was happening.  And I cried.  Because Austen is such a good boy.  None of this is his fault.  It isn’t his fault that Clara refuses to deal with him in her life.  He is nothing like the bully that Rosalind was.  It isn’t his fault that Clara doesn’t see his goodness.

My mother wrote back and offered to take Austen into her home.  I had to ask her a couple of times if she was sure, because it’s a big commitment to take an animal into your home and life.  She called me and said she was sure, that she hadn’t even had to think about it before making the offer.  So this afternoon, I packed him up with all of his toys – especially crinkle balls because OMG CRINKLE BALLS – and I moved him to her house.

I have cried today over this.  I will cry again.  I have failed some lovely animals this year, cats that I made pledges to, pledges that I couldn’t fulfill.  I promise all my animals that I will be there with them at the end… but Rosalind died without me there.  And I told Austen that he was home with me, that he wouldn’t have to deal with a new life ever again… and now he’s in a new home.  Austen didn’t fail, but I did.  I know that if I hadn’t made this choice, Clara would have died, which would have been the biggest failure of them all.  But that doesn’t erase what I feel like I’ve done today.

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