Happy Tales from the Trails

The day after my birthday last year, my very-much-loved 17 year-old cat, Calypso, succumbed to kidney failure and had to be put to sleep. I’d gotten her, my first-ever cat, just a few months after I moved out on my own as a young adult, and home didn’t feel like home without her. My remaining cat, Tiki, was thirteen years old and had never been alone, either. No matter how much we cuddled, we both felt lost.

One night, so sad I hardly knew what to do with myself, I logged into Petfinder to look at pictures of kittens. Seeing so many images of adorable kittens, all without owners, made me remember the first night I’d brought Calypso home, when she spun around the apartment like a tiny black bouncing ball and then collapsed at my feet while I was doing dishes. Somehow, looking at all the kittens, I began to feel a little better. I became captivated by the photo of a calico kitten and her brother, who had been rescued by Homeward Trails from a high-kill shelter and were now in a foster home. Tiki needed a friend; and “Mango’s kittens” needed a new home. No matter how much I was grieving for Calypso, it seemed selfish to wait till I healed to adopt.

The first time all three napped together

The first time all three napped together

Tiki was healthy and strong for his age, but I knew a pair of kittens would be best for him because they could play with each other when he wanted to be left alone. When I went to visit the calico and her brother, I can’t say it was love at first sight: the calico was busy playing with her foster friends, and Ziggy, her brother, ran up the stairs and hid from me at first. Nevertheless, I somehow couldn’t walk away. I played with the calico, and I picked up Ziggy. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard him purr,” his foster mom told me. I rubbed his ears, stroked under his chin, and pulled him close to my chest, and after a while felt a low rumble coming from his belly.

Needless to say, I took them home. I changed the calico’s name to Stardust, which turned out to be prescient when she grew a feather-duster plume of a tail. With the exception of a little hissing, the introductions went beautifully. Tiki’s eyes brightened and he followed the little ones around, hovering over all their antics. Within a few weeks, he was joining in their games and letting them sleep next to him; and within a few months, he and Stardust were play-wrestling and grooming each other. He’d never had that close a relationship with Calypso, and I’d never seen him so happy. Stardust’s joie-de-vivre and Ziggy’s sweetness – and their kitten acrobatics – were just what I needed to get through the painful first months without Calypso. This past summer, I was thrilled when the vet told us Tiki’s blood work was perfect and pronounced him in perfect health. Seeing him roughhouse with Stardust several times a day, I was so grateful he had found such happiness in his senior years that sometimes, watching them, I wept.

On Halloween morning a month ago, the cats had breakfast and had started chasing each other and wrestling as usual, when suddenly I heard loud breathing. Tiki was on his side, his lips blue – probably, I was told later, hidden heart failure he’d been masking. Before I could even finish my panicked call to the vet, he had died, Stardust anxiously sniffing his ears. I am told that for Tiki it would have been like suddenly disappearing while he was playing – and while he was still strong, beautiful, and powerful. For me, it has been harder. Losing two much-loved cats in less than a year, I don’t know what I would have done without Ziggy and Stardust. But there is nothing that happens at home now that is not interrupted and investigated by Stardust’s wet nose, and no sadness that can’t be salved by Ziggy’s gentle expression and now-rumbling purr. I miss Calypso and Tiki terribly, but not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for the two new friends I adopted to honor my love for my old ones.

-Jill Kronstadt

See all posts about: Bonded Pairs


Kiki was 5 years old when she was abandoned at a shelter by her owner. She spent a week at the vet after being rescued by Homeward Trails and had a flea infestation so bad that she required iron supplements for three weeks. Kiki’s foster parents showed compassion for Kiki and were patient with her – they took excellent care of her. When I met Kiki, I could see that they loved her as much as I knew I would.

I wasn’t looking for much in a cat before I adopted Kiki. All I had wanted was another cat to love, and of course I’d hoped that this new cat would get along with my other cat, Reese, and vice versa.

KikiThough Kiki and Reese merely tolerate each other now, after a year and half, each step getting here has felt monumental. I’ll never forget the first time Kiki stepped within a foot of Reese and neither cat hissed, the first time they shared their cat tree to watch the birds outside the window, or the first time we all snuggled on the couch together as a family. Our progress has been slow but entirely enjoyable and well worth it.

Kiki has been more than just another cat to love. She gives me so much love in return every day. Every morning I wake up to Kiki snuggling beside me on my pillow, waiting for me to open my eyes and scratch her cheeks. When I floss my teeth, Kiki sits patiently beside me, staring up at me with wide eyes and yearning to play with the floss in my fingers. Kiki and I do yoga together. Kiki adores relaxation pose, and she practices her favorite pose often during our workouts. Kiki also enjoys being a lap kitty, climbing onto my thighs every time I kneel to take a picture of her and every time I settle into the couch to watch TV. At night, Kiki jumps on the bed and wiggles under the covers to spoon with me until I fall asleep. Kiki’s a part of my day, the best part of my routine, and the happiest part of me.

We recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of Morgan being with our family. It is amazing that this little dog that wasn’t supposed to even survive six months has graced us with six full years of joy and is still going strong. Diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition she surprised everyone, including our vet. Little did we know long ago that Morgan would outlive the other dog in our life.

Her “sister” Casey, now old with severe arthritis, losing her eyesight and hearing, and showing early signs of liver and kidney failure is not long for this world. Morgan does a wonderful job of watching out for Casey – sounding out the alarm when the neighbor’s cat strolls by, staying with her as they wander the yard and flopping down next to her as we all relax after a long day. Morgan is a happy and playful dog. Her vet, allergist and cardiologist have all stated that they don’t know what we are doing to help her live this long, but we should continue whatever it is we’re doing. We call her our Miracle Dog and couldn’t be happier to have her in our lives.

-The Ritchie Family, PA

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