Monday, March 21st was a special day for us. It was the day a big tuxedo cat left Eden Animal Rescue and moved into our home. He’s called Denzel, and he’s a very precious boy. This is the story of how he joined our family.
When it comes to getting new pets, I’ve always been a big advocate of choosing an animal from a rescue centre, rather than a breeder. My sadly-deceased dogs, Blue and Bella, were both rescue dogs, and though they each had their own foibles and issues, they provided my family with so much love, joy and affection over more than a decade. When my partner and I got our special boy, Sven, we decided he had to be a kitten, just because we had two young children and we didn’t want to risk any issue with introducing an animal to a home that may have a traumatic past that could be triggered by the young ‘uns. They have treated Sven with such love and affection over the last eighteen months, following all the rules and being very mature in their handling of such a wonderful animal. Now, they too will get to experience the magic of rescuing an animal, as we have welcomed a new member into our family, the magnificent tuxedo cat, Denzel.
Bringing another animal into our home had been discussed every now and then as a possibility once we moved into our new home. Having done so, and seeing how much Sven has enjoyed having so much more space, the missing piece of the puzzle was a brother for him to play with when we are out at work. Browsing Facebook early last week, I saw that Eden Animal Rescue had posted about an available cat, then known as John. They said that he was six years old, and that he was a very loving boy who had been without his own home for far too long. Looking at his photograph, with his face right up to the camera, made me smile, and the thought of him being without a home made me sad.
I looked at the comments on the post, and saw that somebody had been taking care of him in their garden, and that he had been living as a stray beforehand, and my heart went out to him. I clicked through to the Eden Animal Rescue website and scrolled through to see if there was more information about him. As I was doing so, my partner’s daughter looked at my laptop and asked what I was doing, and I said that I was just looking at the animals at the rescue centre, which then turned into a good hour spent looking at all the different ones and talking about who we liked. My partner’s son got involved, and then my partner did, too, and we all smiled at John’s lovely photo. As tea finished cooking, I closed my laptop, telling the three of them that we could think about getting a new animal in a few months’ time, once we were settled in our new home.
The next evening, my partner mentioned to me that, if I ever randomly showed up one day with a new cat, she wouldn’t mind. It was a good job, because I had already filled in the potential rescuer questionnaire, and organised a visit out to the rescue centre to meet John and a couple of other cats that the kids liked. I was pretty set on getting John, but you never know what it will be like when you meet an animal. They might take to you in a heartbeat; they might turn away and refuse to engage, letting you know they aren’t interested. Photographs and back-stories can only go so far – there needs to be that connection, and that’s what Eden Animal Rescue were looking for. I asked my friend Dinga if he would give me a lift, and he agreed immediately. I asked him to say nothing to anyone, explaining that being surprised by my Mam with Bella was one of my happiest memories and I wanted to give that to my partner and the twins, and he took a vow of secrecy. So, the plan was already set, and then Hazel’s permission was granted, though immediately downplayed with the same ‘we’ll see’ answer I had given the twins. All that was required was a connection.
As the rescue volunteer took me to the cattery, she introduced me to some of the other cats. There was Percy, who had just had a leg amputated and who I also really wanted to rescue, but didn’t think it was fair to bring a cat who had only recently endured such a traumatic injury into a home with an existing feline presence. There was Banana, the cutest little kitten who was sharing an enclosure with her baby brothers, and who melted my heart with her beautiful eyes. There was a pair of black cats whose names escape me, one of whom went outside and refused to engage at all. Then, waiting in the last enclosure on the right, was the precious boy I had come to see.
The volunteer offered me the opportunity to go in and meet him, and as I moved next to his elevated platform, he started rubbing up against me. I gave him some strokes while she told me about him, about how he had been living in the wild, until someone who was actually allergic to cats had started looking after him, but that their allergies had meant he could only stay in their garden. She explained that his left ear had been clipped because it’s how vets inform other vets the stray cat has been neutered, so they don’t have to be trapped and undergo the risk of anaesthesia or surgery again, but that it caused him no discomfort. She said he was always so friendly with people, and I wondered how nobody had taken him home yet. Then, I squatted down and asked him if he did headbutts, and he rubbed his head against mine immediately. My heart was his, and I told the volunteer I would be very grateful if we could give him a home.
That was last Friday, but I had to wait until Monday to collect him, because they don’t permit animals to leave on the same day. I was at work on the Sunday, and with working 24-hour shifts, I thought it would be very unfair to bring him home on the Saturday only to vanish the next morning. After my Sunday shift, I was off work until Friday, so that would give me four days to help him get settled. I’d read that renaming rescue pets is a good idea, because it signifies a fresh start and sometimes they can associate their old name with bad experiences. Dinga asked what names I had in mind. The first name on the list was Denzel, after the great Denzel Washington, and Dinga said he really liked the name. That was as far down the list as I got, because that was my favourite name. He again offered to give me a lift – “I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for Denzel,” he said – and the pick-up time was confirmed at 11am on Monday.
Then began three days of a real challenge, that of keeping the biggest of surprises secret until the big reveal. My mam was the only other person that knew, having been the first person I asked for a lift, and she even kept it a secret from my stepdad, just in case! It was really tough to keep quiet, but I managed to get to Monday morning with nothing being said. Dinga picked me up, then after a quick stop at Pets at Home to get a load of new supplies for Denzel, off we went to pick the big lad up. He was good as gold in the car, a bit vocal when the travel bag was closed but content once it was open and he could look out the car window. After the fifteen-minute journey, we were home, and it was time for the surprise.
“Hazel,” I said, walking in the back door. “There’s someone here to meet you. This is Denzel.” Her face was a mixture of sleepiness, shock and joy. She sat down, and Denzel demonstrated his loving nature by going straight over to her. At long last, the precious boy has his forever home. When the kids finished school, Denzel was under the bed in our room, still a bit nervous of the new environment. I got Hazel to send them upstairs. I told them both to sit on the bed, then I told the boy to say nothing and do nothing in response, but just to look under the bed. I could see his heart melt as his face filled with silent glee. I told the girl to look under the bed, and she quietly squealed in delight. That’s our Denzel, I told them, and he’s here to stay.
It’s been a brilliant couple of days since. Though Sven and Denzel are still wary of each other, they are very good at letting each other know their boundaries and they still haven’t fought. Denzel is a lot bigger than Sven, and the special boy sometimes runs off and hides when he sees the big lad prowling his new house like Andre the Giant, but there have been enough positive signs that I believe it’s just a matter of time until they are the best of pals. It’s been hard for me to see Sven struggle with the change, and I worry that he feels betrayed, but I do believe this was the right thing to do and Sven will end up the happiest of all of us once they bond.
The kids haven’t stopped smiling since they looked under the bed, and Denzel hasn’t stopped cuddling up to us all. Sven, he’s a cat that comes over for ten minutes of attention, then goes off to find an adventure. Denzel, he’s had enough adventures for now. He just wants to snuggle, and to enjoy feeling safe and feeling loved. Three hours, that’s how long he curled up on me watching me play computer games last night. He snuggles up to the kids, he sprawls out over my partner, he goes wild over the catnip fish and he just seems so content here. It’s still early days, yet it has started so well. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Thank you so much to Eden Animal Rescue, and to the person who looked after Denzel in their garden. Without you, he wouldn’t be with us, and without him, our home wouldn’t be complete. We are so very, very lucky to have Denzel with us, and we will do everything we can to give him the love-filled life he deserves.
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