It’s not easy.
Moving to a new place of any kind can be a daunting task. Across country away from family and friends? Definitely not easy.
I have always been one for dreaming about the adventure, of meeting new people and experiencing new things. Anticipating the newness has always been preferable to the actual event.
Before hitting the road to New York City in the U-Haul, I had my hand pressed against the windowpane as I watched my parents wave back at me. I knew then and there, this was going to be harder than I had previously thought.
After arriving at the apartment building with all of our earthly possessions, we knew with the unloading process that our work was cut out for us. I stepped out of the truck and immediately, this small little black cat greeted us with a cute meow. He was skinny, definitely a stray, but was curious about what we were up to. While we were drenched in sweat, furiously unpacking the trailer in the August heat, he sat on a perch, occasionally angling his head this way and that. I hesitantly gave him a scratch on the head, afraid of fleas or a surprise bite or scratch. He brushed against me to show mutual affection.
The day after, he sat on our steps waiting for our emergence. He again rubbed up against my skin and smelled my hand. He looked so malnourished. I gave him bits of tuna and salmon from our canned goods.
A week went by and we found out a bit about his back story. Finn was a two-year-old black cat that had previously worn a collar around the neighborhood. Up until March, he was someone’s pet — that collar was unceremoniously taken off and he was left on his own. I have no respect for people who do that, absolutely none. Finn had to learn to fend for himself, which he took to begging off people and catching birds. Luckily, our neighborhood cared for him, as several people started feeding him from their pantries.
Being an animal lover, I went to the pet store and bought him some treats, a bag of dry food, and a bowl. Finn instantly became acclimated to my morning feedings outside of the apartment building. Dry food changed to wet food as I fell more in love with my feline friend.
A month had gone by. While I looked for jobs, Finn continued to sit on our top step or sleep in the flower garden nearby. He would peer into our windows from time to time, just to see if we were inside. When I needed a break from the computer, I came out and petted the loving creature. While his claws were ferocious looking, I would let him settle into my lap for a nap while I used my phone or read a book. He was always exhausted from only getting short bits of sleep outdoors.
The weather started getting colder and we became more worried about Finn’s well being. He had no place to go. He would sit and cry and cry outside the building, it was so hard to hear. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I made a makeshift litter box and bed for him in the living room and let Finn in. As hard as it sounds from a cat, he showed me more gratitude than most humans would. While I was afraid of fleas and mites, I was more afraid of my friend getting sick.
After that night, I tried to contact every animal organization and shelter in the area. No response. We wrote an e-mail to our apartment manager and were told, no, we could not keep a cat.
Through Finn, we started meeting our neighbors and really liking them. We started learning of all the good deeds our neighbors had been doing for the little guy. They were all worried about Finn. During Hurricane Sandy, one neighbor kept him in their garage with all that a cat could possibly need. Other people brought him in for a night or two from the cold. Finally, one neighbor had a friend that wanted Finn as a pet in his Manhattan apartment. Unfortunately, a nor’easter came through our area and we had another week of worrying about our neighborhood cat.
He secretly came and stayed in our apartment building, sleeping in our apartment at night. Finn went to the vet where we all learned that he was disease-, mite- and flea-free. He became used to being a house cat, while occasionally slipping out to hunt birds (he was quite good at that.) On the last night of his stay with us, he brought a dead bird to our doorstep. I truly believe the bloody mess was his way of giving us a gift. He was absolutely beaming standing next to his prey.
Finn left on Saturday morning, and while I know he is in a good home and luckier than most strays, I’m still pretty sad. He was my first new friend in this lonely city. Finn was there for me when I was the most homesick. And while I am sad to see him go, I am forever thankful for this little angel that stepped into my life during a time of great transition. I desperately needed a friend and Finn desperately needed me. I am getting used to this strange place, meeting new people, and New York City isn’t as daunting as it first was. Finn is now getting used to being a big city kitty, and I’m getting settled in as well. I will not forget his friendship and as sappy as it might sound, that little guy will forever be in my heart. Thanks, Finn.