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Word Nerd

Relearning responsibility is rewarding

It's been enlightening for me to have a pet again after 22 years of petlessness.

Inkwell the kitten is getting along well in his new home, but not without bumps along the road. His first bump came soon after he adopted me in late January. He grew sick, sneezing repeatedly with a weeping left eye.

I took him to the vet and learned about cat herpes. Then I learned how to deliver antibiotics into the mouth of a very unhappy kitten. The eye drops were worse to administer, taking both myself and my husband to hold the wiggling kitten still enough to get the gel into his weepy eye.

Inkwell was fine for a couple of weeks after finishing his medicine. Well enough to get his necessary surgery, which he came through with flying colors. Inkwell was even willing to cuddle with me after being neutered, to my relief.

Then he got sick again. The left eye began weeping and dribbling mucus, he started sneezing and, worst of all, Inkwell would have episodes where he clearly couldn't breathe as he crouched low on the floor and wheezed in terror.

I resolved to take him to the vet again, but put it off until he left his entire breakfast, after he'd already started digesting it, on the carpet near the front door.

The vet used a test to eliminate more serious problems as the culprit, which left us again with cat herpes and an immune system that just isn't strong enough yet to fight it off. Inkwell is taking more medicine and slowly getting better.

Having a kitten is a big responsibility. I had forgotten the daily drudge of cleaning the litter box, making sure he has fresh water and feeding him on time. Cat-proofing the house is going slowly, and I fear what he might be nibbling on may be bad for a kitten. There's also the necessity of brushing, cuddling and playing, because a cat needs socialization.

The rewards, however, are great. When I go to sleep at night, Inkwell cuddles near me (and sometimes on my face). When I'm feeling upset, he climbs my leg and purrs at me. The laser toy is a source of vast amusement to both the kitten and me.

Taking care of a living thing is a great way to learn responsibility. A cat doesn't care if you don't want to make the effort, it just wants to be fed. A dog doesn't care if you hate going out in the rain, it needs to be walked. Livestock doesn't care if you are sick, they need to be tended.

Inkwell the cat doesn't care that I'm busy. He just knows I'm responsible for food and cuddles. And in return he gives what love a cat can give. This is a responsibility I can bear.

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