I should have known better than to tell Danielle I might be looking to adopt a new kitty.
I’d just deep cleaned my spare bedroom after hosting a feral mom and her kittens, and I was grieving the recent loss of my cat, Tux. He was the cornerstone of our family for a decade, and his long illness and resulting death left a painful gap. As I watched him slip away that last night at the emergency vet, I vowed to never put myself through that kind of heartbreak again.
It didn’t take Danielle long to come up with an idea.
“You have to meet Dorito! He’s recuperating in the hospital after surgery. He was hit by a car in Philadelphia, and a Good Samaritan dropped him off. Everyone loves him!”
She led me to his cage. I understood immediately why he was so popular. The cage door could barely contain his animated orange tabby enthusiasm. Bright auburn stripes were still visible on his shaven hind end, and a slash of angry stitches ran diagonally across his pelvis. Dorito, roughly 2 years old, was serving his final month of confinement, and the vets were hopeful he would walk on all four legs again. I knew I would take him home.
I decided to foster Dorito first, to make sure I could handle his handicap and that he’d get along with my other kitty, Olive. He was grateful to get out of the cage and move into a playpen as he continued to heal. Dorito charmed my family with his extroverted, friendly nature. He liked to play and chase toys, one back leg dragging. When he was tired, he draped himself over laps for pets, the injured limb suspended midair.
We needed to adjust to having a young kitty again, especially one who’d previously lived outdoors. Dorito became bored easily, so we had to find ways to keep him busy. That’s my nice way of saying he was sometimes naughty. His injury and resulting limp may cause future arthritis, but for now they do not prevent him from getting into or onto anything. I set up perches for him to look outside and placed a bird feeder near his view. We dug out all of our cat toys.
Dorito had spent his days on the streets of Philadelphia hunting down food, and we noticed he did not differentiate between people food and cat food, often helping himself to items on our countertops, including a bag of hamburger buns. He was adept at breaking into all types of kibble canisters no matter how tight the latch, seal or lid.
I was nervous to proceed with his last household transition, allowing him full run of the house at night. He surprised me by finding a comfy spot on an easy chair in our bedroom, where he bunked down quietly till morning.
I was worried that Olive would be traumatized by a new cat. She’d been repressed by alpha Tux, and since his passing had displayed a new, bolder side of her personality. She enjoyed her time as our only cat, and I didn’t want to interrupt that.
But as I gradually introduced Dorito, something magical happened. Ten-year old Olive defended her territory for sure, especially when he tried to eat her food, but my shy, hidden girl blossomed even more with her new buddy. She became as active as a kitten, looking to Dorito as a new playmate, chasing toys and wrestling. Normally quiet, she became vocal, “murping” all the time as if she was egging him on to play. They became good friends during quarantine, keeping each other company. I bought various toys to tame the street cat in Dorito, but Olive was often the one enjoying them the most.
We considered changing Dorito’s name, but none of our brainstormed alternatives summed him up as well as America’s favorite salty snack, translated roughly to “little bits of gold.” My son decided his full legal name should be “Dorito Loco Taco (Crazy Taco Dorito)” borrowed from the Taco Bell menu. We will insist it be written on his adoption and medical records as well as on the welcome board at our vet during check-ups.
Dorito’s shenanigans and love have been a welcome comfort and distraction during our quarantine. When he tries our patience, we remind ourselves that he suffered a painful and frightening accident followed by major surgery and yet maintains a sunny and loving “orange” view of life. We were fortunate to bring him home just a few days before Tabby’s Place closed.
Like many pet owners, I needed his gentle reminder that the best remedy for the pain of losing a beloved pet is making room to love another.