They say you can’t go home again, and mostly that’s true. You can visit the place where you grew up, but your house will seem smaller somehow, and there will be a new shopping center where the roller rink used to be, and everything is familiar but just a few inches to the left of “just right.”
But sometimes, we get lucky.
Sometimes, we go home again, and even though things have changed, the porridge is still just the right temperature, and the bed is the perfect level of softness. Sometimes, home is still home.
When I moved to Colorado two years ago, one of the hardest parts of making that move was leaving Tabby’s Place. I had made such wonderful friends there, feline and human alike. I simply couldn’t imagine a life where I wouldn’t be able to pop in and visit my friends, or where I didn’t know the name of every cat in the building and their quirks and personalities.
And I realized then – as I moved to a new city just before everything would go into lockdown, and thus had infinite empty hours to contemplate such things – just how much Tabby’s Place was my second home.
It wasn’t just the cats I missed, though certainly, I did miss them terribly. It wasn’t just the unique swell of joy when a scared or skeptical cat begins to trust you for the first time, or the wonder of watching kittens discover the world, or the scratches I wore like badges of honor. I missed the place.
Because, if you haven’t been to Tabby’s Place, you might not understand just what a truly special corner of our world it is. Everywhere else, there is confusion and conflict and chaos…but inside Tabby’s Place, there is love and hope and people so filled with patience and compassion that you leave with your soul renewed.
I missed that.
I got bits of it – I befriended a “feral celebrity” who had confounded the local TNR volunteers for years. I would delight in his nightly visits to my porch and in his growing trust for me, and I turned that porch into a luxury getaway where he spent more and more time. I tried — in vain, like so many others — to trap him, as I watched one of his ears wither from frostbite, and then watched his body weight melt away. I eventually learned he’d died under a neighbor’s deck. (And thank goodness for those kind neighbors who knew how I loved him and let me collect him for cremation.)
My husband and I took in another feral who began to visit our porch, and after a year and a half, I can say that she absolutely adores our Tabby’s Place alumni (Peggy, Dottie, and Simba) and that she’s quite happy to be a house cat. She’s still skeptical of the big, loud humans who keep trying to pet her, though.
And I am proud to say that I have two new ferals who visit me regularly, and who I have successfully had spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and who are the best of friends.
I still missed the community – the family – that Tabby’s Place gave me, but I realized that I had not left empty-handed (and I don’t just mean the poster-sized portrait of Bacon with which I was gifted before leaving, though it sits next to me as I write this). Tabby’s Place had given me the tools to do good. Where once I might have seen those cats in need and wished I knew what to do, now I am able to help them. Tabby’s Place had given me confidence that I can, in some small way, make this world a better place.
Tabby’s Place had given me a purpose.
And once the world began to open up again, I found a new place to help. Cat Care Society in Lakewood, Colorado is also a haven for the misfits, the sick, the spicy, and the extra-extra-needy. The first time I walked in, I thought, this feels as close to Tabby’s Place as I am likely to find…and I applied to volunteer. Imagine my joy at meeting the Outreach Director and learning she’s Flemington-born and loves Tabby’s Place! It felt like kismet. I was meant to land here.
Six months later, I am a new member of the Cat Care Society Junior Board, helping to assure the shelter’s future and build upon its history. Without the things I learned, and the encouragement I got, at Tabby’s Place, I never would have even considered applying for such a thing. But now, I get to use the wonderful gifts given to me by people like Jonathan, Karina, and Angela to be of service in my new home.
And it’s important to me to tell you all of this, even though this post is getting very long, because I want you (and the Tabby’s Place staff) to understand how much good they’re really doing here. They help hundreds upon hundreds of cats, yes. But they help people, too. A few years ago, I felt lost and like I would never find my place in the world or a way to contribute. Thanks to Tabby’s Place, I now know that I have a place and a purpose.
I opened this by talking about going home again. Here’s why: after two years away, I was able to visit Tabby’s Place just after Easter.
I admit I was nervous: would anyone even remember me? Had my presence mattered that much? Would I feel out of place? But to my absolute elation, Tabby’s Place still felt like home.
A lot has changed. Some of my old feline friends have crossed the rainbow bridge or gone on to wonderful new homes, and the soon-to-be Quinn’s Corner makes it all look a bit different, but it’s still home. Bacon even let me scratch the very top of his head just like he used to.
I was home again, and it was wonderful.
And as if being welcomed with open arms wasn’t enough, I’ve been given the opportunity to continue helping Tabby’s Place from afar as a part of the social media team. I leaped at this chance, because being a part of this family is too fine a gift to ever turn away.
As for those alumni? They’re doing just great. Tabby’s Place gave me that gift, too.