The only girl in the world

The only girl in the world

With apologies to her namesake, Tabby’s Place is the home of the only girl in the world.

Now we just need to convince Rihanna that she’s safe under our umbrella.

The diamond of the vet techs’ office, Rihanna shares her space with platinum Polly (pictured at right) and her secrets with no one.

This being Tabby’s Place, that’s perfectly acceptable. Others may expect tell-alls, but we understand: it’s every international superstar’s prerogative to maintain her privacy.

I am not jesting about “international.” Rihanna the feline (if we were in ancient Rome, I would say Rihanna the Greater — and let the record clearly state that I am a giddy fan of Rihanna the Lesser, but she is no cat) came to our bewildered New Jersey backwater by way of Beirut.

Along with Lost, Mika, Firestar and friends, Rihanna ascended over the Atlantic, soared above her history, and flew far from the reach of fear.

Or rather, that’s what she’s trying to do. That’s what we’re all trying to do.

Animals Lebanon’s notes are characteristically brief, no maudlin commentary needed to squeeze our hearts like stress balls: “Dumped at the center in a very bad condition. She has constipation issues. Friendly and sweet once she gets to know you.”

“Once” is how every self-respecting fairy tale begins.

“Once” is the total number of times we had to see Rihanna before declaring, “we’re going to love you like you’re the only girl in the world.”

“Once” can take a lifetime, even for those of us who haven’t been “dumped…in a very bad condition.”

Anyone can lob lyrics into the air, but music takes time. Affection lands in an instant, but love takes work. Rihanna, spiced with a crisp sense of self, knows her worth.

This, after all, is a small cat who has seen more of the world than your average Tabby’s Place Development Director. She has found our species treacherous, and her own body untrustworthy. Yet she has danced in the dark, shining bright in her own sight.

To kneel on the floor beside our cinnamon queen is to breathe the fragrant air of dignity. While other cats are greased-watermelon goofballs (Walker much?) or quivering jelly beans (oh gentle Quokka!), Rihanna is a ladylike spice cake, cloves and cardamom competing for top note.

Extend your arm, then one soft knuckle into that nutmeg forehead, and you will glimpse the grace and gravity of Rihanna. She will lean into you, even as she leans, always, on the rhythm under her lungs.

This is a cat who knows that, if she were the only cat since the first dawn, the entire cosmos would have still been worth making.

She knows she belongs on the dance floor.

When the lights at Tabby’s Place go down, she choreographs her future, pon de replaying every kind moment that’s ever dumped her sadness upside-down. Dawn comes, and we catch her taking a bow, proud to be her own audience.

What Rihanna is still learning is that she has a captivated audience at Tabby’s Place.

She has found love that will stay, spiced with sass that will heal and protect her, no matter the cost.

If Rihanna were the only cat who had ever needed us, Tabby’s Place would have still been worth making.

She’s our once in a lifetime girl.

We’re her ends-of-the-earth fans.

The concert has just begun. Mr. DJ, turn the music up.

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