This past winter it poured rain for four months straight. I was seriously reconsidering my decision to move to Italy or take the next logical step and hire an Italian contractor named Guiseppe to build me an arc.
You see, I moved to Italy following eight years in the sunny Caribbean. Managing to avoid cold winters in Canada since 2000, I opted to move to Italy because the weather was presumably better. My past experiences demonstrated a mild climate and no snow, sort of like autumn, which has always been my favourite season.
On one particular week we had terrible thunderstorms, hail, and gale force winds. I was simply fed up! Bordering on a case of mild depression and severe loneliness (my husband was at sea again), I decided to get a cat.
On a rare dry day I made my way to the Gattile (cat shelter) and found Stelle (Stars – in English). She had no name, they didn’t know how old she was and she had only been there for 2 nights following the terrible storms.
She was nothing like the other cats. She hissed defensively at the shelter employee and nearly took her arm off when she put it into the cage. She had long black and white fur that was shiny and clean. This was quite unusual considering she was picked up from the streets. I wondered silently how such a beautiful cat ended up in such a horrible place? Perhaps she was thinking the same thing.
Cautiously, I placed my arm into her cage, at the ready should she decide to attack it. To my stunned amazement, and that of the shelter employee, Stelle smelled my hand and started to purr!
I was torn to decide because so many other cats had been at the shelter much longer than her and they were much more affectionate. I was concerned that she was violent and would attack my mother in law while she slept, but she looked at me with pure fear in her eyes and an expression that spoke to me. I knew in my gut that if I didn’t rescue this poor little creature from her personal hell, she would surely die in that shelter.
I stood about 3 feet taller than the woman who ran the shelter. She was as wide as she was tall and had to crane her neck to look at me. Once I decided to take Stelle all I understood in Italian was “ the American blonde lady wants the angry one”.
I had prepared nothing for taking a cat home that day (I just went to look – I swear) So after a fun game of charades and 50 Euro, I was equipped with a used cage, food, litter, a litter box and one very pissed of cat! The shelter keeper was very nervous and asked if I knew anything about caring for cats. I just smiled, shrugged my shoulders and waved farewell.
At home, Stelle instantly made my bed her new domain, but after three days she vomited on my pillow and it was time for a visit to the vet. It took two of us to wrestle her into the cage and the vet had to administer a sedative in order to examine her. This was not going well. I brought along my mother in law, for translation purposes, and I think she was more nervous than the cat.
A few days later, I got the news. My little ball of fur was not well indeed. The vet said she was four years old, had a minor kidney infection, a cancerous tumour on her tummy and Feline HIV. I was heartbroken. I had no idea that cats even got this horrible disease. My first thought was that it was not safe to keep her and unfortunately my mother in law was already shaking her head planning the cat’s demise. Luckily, the vet assured us that Stelle was no danger to people, only to other cats, so this ruled out outdoor privileges and a second cat.
It has been four months now and Stelle is thriving. She is no longer angry or scared and she is even getting fat! She hogs my bed and when I am away on weekends she jumps up onto my mother in law’s bed looking for some cuddles and food. By far, she has turned out to be the most affectionate cat I’ve ever had. She loves to rub her face into mine and lay her head on my shoulder while I am reading a book.
I am grateful to the stars above for every day that she is alive and purring in my arms. After four months of rain she has brought a much needed ray of sunshine to my life!