Do you remember the story of the Prodigal son? The one who returns home, down on his luck after years of partying and living the high life with little regard for the family he left behind. He is greeted with open arms and tears of joy from his father and a fatted calf is prepared to celebrate his return, whilst grumbling in the wings is his much relied on and increasingly disgruntled older brother.
Last week, our household was the unexpected location for the return of our very own prodigal, G’s cat Misty. Misty has been part of our family for a couple of years, but is considered the pain-in-the-neck younger member by our elder statesman family cat, Jet and M’s “fat” cat, Ginger. When we returned home from our summer sojourn in the Florida sun, there was no sign of Misty and despite hours of calling, this errant puss appeared to have moved on from our humble abode. It seemed so unfair that once again it was G’s cat who had gone, as the last kitten we lost to the neighbouring A-road and a large milk tanker was also hers, but he was also the most independent of our feline trio and was often lured by the bright lights of the nearby farms. We kept hope alive for a while, but there came a tearful hour one Sunday after church, when I had to explain to G and M that I thought it unlikely that Misty would be back. I regaled them with a story from my own childhood, when our much-loved cat, Delilah – and yes, we also had her brother Samson – returned home after months away from the fold, saying it was possible he could return, although I thought it unlikely. I was careful to make no promises and hoped that eventually the sorrow of his leaving would diminish. As time passed, both children appeared to have moved on and even though G still occasionally called to him from the kitchen door when summoning the others inside for a cuddle, she seemed to have accepted his loss and had even added a new “kitten/hamster/gerbil” to the top of her birthday/Christmas wish list.
So, you can imagine my surprise and the children’s delight when, getting home from school last week, who should saunter around the car in the driveway, but Misty. I’ve never seen G move so fast or heard her squeal so loudly than when she caught sight of her beloved pet reappearing as if he’d never been away and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. In the 10 days since his return, G has taken every opportunity to shower love and fuss on this cat and both children anxiously ask every day at pick-up if I know whether Misty is at home or not; and he’s lapping up every moment of their unfaltering devotion.
You may wonder why I’m sharing this story with you. It’s partly because our life isn’t all about EGID, there’s a lighter side to it that we strive to grab hold of much of the time and partly because it made me consider the impact of pets on our family life. I’ve grown up with cats as an integral part of the family and so have G and M. These cats have become a key part of our household and bring immeasurable comfort and enjoyment to us all. There is nothing more soothing to me than a cat curled up on, or next to, me as I work or watch TV or read. When M is feeling under the weather and is struggling with his EGID symptoms, he takes huge amounts of comfort from having any one of our cats alongside him and we have found that it has even helped him calm down and settle to sleep at the roughest moments. The simple, unassuming acceptance by our family pets of my boy’s sometimes turbulent moods has been an unexpected blessing and Mike and I have been known to usher one cat or another towards him when nothing else can break through his tantrums. G thrives on the peace that being curled up on the sofa with her book on one side and her beloved cat on the other brings. Both children have learned to take some responsibility in looking after their pets and G can often be found dishing up their dinner in the evenings without being asked. I know we’re not alone in experiencing the companionship and joy that pets can bring, nor the life lessons of love and loss that have been taught as our children grow up. Our prodigal cat might not have been fed with a fatted calf, but we’re all delighted to have him back home, especially my beautiful girl.