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The Story of Jack

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This little story is about a cat named Jack. I was not a fan of cats. I’m a dog person. But, Jack is not a typical cat—or so I’ve been told. He’s not sneaky. He loves to play. He comes when you call him. He is very social and loving. Jack also happens to be the name of my ex-husband.

Let me explain. My oldest daughter Lauren was undergoing chemo and radiation for bone cancer. She had a tumor in her left hip. She was only twelve. Now puberty is a challenge when you are healthy, throw cancer into the mess and her stress was off the chart.

She wanted a dog. Fine. This child had already been through so much: surgeries, scans, every size needle known to man, seizures, shingles, dehydration, extreme weight loss, near fatal fevers, and she was months away from finishing her treatment. There was no way I was denying her anything. But, I was in a panic. In the back of my mind I was trying to figure out how a dog was going to fit into our already nonexistent schedule of inpatient chemo treatments and readmissions. We were at the hospital more than we were at home. The responsibility would fall to my mom who stayed with us at the hospital as much as possible but also helped my ex-husband—Jack—with Lauren’s younger sisters, Emily and Hannah. How could I put more pressure on her?

Her doctors made my dilemma easy. No dogs! Problem solved.

“What about a cat?” Lauren asked on the next visit with her doctors. There was really no gray area on this topic—or so I thought. It was one thing if you had a family pet to begin with, but to introduce a new animal into the house with her compromised immune system was just too big of a risk.

Lauren was not giving up. After more discussions and the doctors concluding that her emotional health was instrumental in the healing of her physical self, we received a nod to get a cat. Oh my God. I hate cats. Cats hide. Cats are sneaky. In short, they creep me out.

But Lauren was more excited and animated than I had seen her in almost a year. So we made a trip to the humane society. She was still in a wheelchair so I briefly explained our situation and asked if we could visit with some cats.

We were taken back to the “cat area.” Oh my God. A whole wall of small cages—filled with cats. I cried. Don’t misunderstand me. The place was immaculate. The staff was wonderful. It was just heart wrenching to see them like that. And I can’t stand cats. It didn’t take Lauren long to pick out the one she wanted because she had been searching their Web site already and had made some calls to find out about her. They took us into a visiting room and then brought the cat in. She wouldn’t go near Lauren’s chair. It stayed in the corner. Lauren kept calling to her—she just wanted to pick it up. It wanted nothing to do with her. The cat wasn’t mean—just shy and scared. The whole point was to have an animal that Lauren could hold and cuddle. It was sad to see her face when she realized this cat wouldn’t work. Then the staff kept telling Lauren about this sweet and loving little cat. His name was Jack. We looked at each other. Hmmm, probably not. It wasn’t the name so much as that she wanted a kitten. And a girl.

Jack is black and white—a tuxedo cat. He is a little bit older than what Lauren wanted. He has really green eyes. He has been at the human society longer than any other cat. His situation was sad—but I think fairly common. The family that had him since he was a kitten now had small children who are allergic. I was trying to imagine what was in his head. Living in a home with a loving family for many years and then all of the sudden, living in a small cage. My heart broke. And I don’t even like cats that much.

Jack was brought into the room. He immediately walked around Lauren’s wheelchair. Under the seat, around the wheels, he nuzzled his head against her feet. He looked up at her and jumped on to her lap. Her face lit up. Her smile was amazing. We found her cat! We decided that since he had been through so much, we didn’t have the heart to change his name. I let Lauren explain it to her dad. He was fine. I think.

Fast forward. I am an idiot about this cat. He is so sweet. He’s affectionate and loving. He sleeps at my feet. And he’s only sneaky when we are playing and he thinks he’s hiding. He was a big healing factor for Lauren—who leaves for college this fall. She wants to take Jack with her. My heart was very heavy—but she loves him and he is her cat. As I was working on her college application and checking out student housing, I find a solution to this issue. “No pets on campus.”

College made my dilemma easy. No Jack on campus. Problem solved.

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