Updated: Oct 18
An orange and white tabby cat showed up at the front door of my apartment in the fall of 1997. I had never owned a cat before, but this one instantly charmed me. He had such a friendly and easygoing manner. He wasn’t shy either. He walked right into my apartment and my heart.
I figured that he must belong to someone in the apartment complex. He was too friendly to be stray or feral. I let him inside and he started spending the night sleeping beside me in my bed. In the mornings I would let him out to make his rounds. But every evening, he came back to me.
After a few months, I took him to a vet to get checked out and see if he had a microchip. I hoped that he didn’t, because at this point I had fallen in love with him. He didn’t. You can guess what happened next. I adopted him.
He needed a name. I was partial to calling him D.C. (long story behind the name). One of the little girls in the complex called him Snuggles. It fit. So he became D.C. Snuggles, but I always called him D.C. for short.
I never dreamed that a cat would teach me so much about life. But this was no ordinary cat. Even people who disliked cats loved D.C. He was a true old soul. He had remarkable wisdom and empathy. He adopted me as much as I adopted him. He taught me so much, and I am eternally grateful for his presence in my life.
D.C. taught me many things, but here are nine that stand out most.
1. Be open to the unexpected.
I’m a planner. Adopting a cat was not in my plan — but it was exactly what I needed. Right from the start, D.C. taught me to loosen up a little and be open to the unexpected.
There’s nothing wrong with being a planner. But when we are so rigid in our schedules and plans, we can miss out on great opportunities. Doing something unexpected can lead to wonderful gains in life.
2. Welcome new people into your life.
D.C. was always open to meeting new people. He loved to walk into apartments with open doors. In fact, he helped me meet my neighbors a few times by doing that! When I got my second cat, Tasha, D.C. welcomed her and they became good friends.
It is worth taking the time to meet new people. A life without friends is sad and unfulfilled. Take a chance and introduce yourself to someone. What have you got to lose?
3. Be curious and open to new experiences.
I grew up with a pet dog, so cats were an unfamiliar experience for me. But I didn’t have any preconceived notions about cats either. So when I got a leash and took D.C. for walks — we were both open to the experience. It was odd, I’ll grant you that. We got a lot of strange looks and comments. I didn’t realize that most cats would not allow such a thing.
When I discovered how unusual it was, I realized how special and adaptable D.C. was. If he could be open to new experiences, then I could too. Being open to experience and learn new things is vital to success in life.
D.C. was a superb listener. I could tell him anything and he wouldn’t judge me. He was probably the one soul on this earth who got me.
Listening is a gift. Too often we are waiting for our next turn to speak and we neglect to listen — really listen to the person we are talking with. The world would be a better place if we listened twice as much as we spoke.
I have never met a cat with as much empathy as D.C. He knew when I needed comforting, and he knew when I needed defending. I will never forget listening to a rather ugly message someone had left on my answering machine. D.C. could tell from the tone this person was attacking me and he tried to bite the answering machine!
Empathy goes hand in hand with listening. If we would stop and put ourselves in another person’s shoes — well, the world would be a much kinder place. Think of all the unkind words that would never leave our mouths.
6. Love deeply.
D.C. taught me how to love deeply. He forgave me quickly, and he never abandoned me when he got upset. He knew that love was a gift.
We should all hope to do the same. Think of how much the world would benefit if we all sought to understand and love one another.
7. Life is worth fighting for.
I have never seen an animal fight so hard for his life. D.C. battled various illnesses over the last years of his life. He would get very sick and, to the astonishment of everyone, rebound and keep living a quality life. He inspired me to keep fighting.
I have battled depression and anxiety most of my life, and I have had some dark days. Honestly, there were days that D.C. kept me going. I figured if he could fight that hard to live, so could I.
8. True friends will stick with you when things get tough.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was say goodbye to D.C., but I stayed with him until he crossed the rainbow bridge. It never occurred to me to let him die alone.
I’ve lost a lot of friends this year. When the going got tough — they left. They abandoned me during the middle of a global pandemic. They left me alone with an injured back and an aging mother to care for. You know what? They were never really friends in the first place or they wouldn’t have left. Not like that. You don’t dump someone during a crisis. You don’t leave because things get hard. But they did. And it hurt — deeply.
9. Don’t be sad it ended, be glad it happened.
I know this sounds cliché, but it may be the healthiest way to heal.
I still miss D.C. tremendously. I wouldn’t give up my time with him, even if it would spare me the pain of his loss.
I had no way of knowing how much an orange and white tabby cat would change my life. I’m so glad that I was open to the unexpected. D.C. was in my life for 17 of his 20 years on earth. His presence enriched my life. He was a special cat, and I will never forget the lessons he taught me.