“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”Jack Kerouac, On the Road
After two lice treatment dips, one dewormer dose (went about as well as the lice dips which is to say the kittens didn’t love it, but it was easier than expected!), and countless hours playing and cuddling with our first feline fosters, it was time to say goodbye. I felt like I was betraying them as I loaded Shadow and Midnight into the carrier they had arrived in almost three weeks earlier (with fresh bedding, lice-less, of course!). They were more social, chunkier kittens (and parasite free!) after their time with us, but I worried they would be terrified at the shelter and maybe have trouble winning over adopters. What if someone didn’t know that Shadow loved to be scratched under his chin? Or that Midnight needed some quiet time exploring her space before she felt comfortable enough for pets?
I set their carrier on the bench in the intake area. I said my goodbyes (a brief one through the carrier door since I had known this moment was coming and had said my actual goodbyes back at the house). I went over to the main shelter entrance and signed in as a volunteer. Working for the benefit of all the shelter animals gave me time to process the emptiness I felt. I definitely did not want these two kittens to be mine forever (I wanted to keep fostering!), but I felt a pain and guilt that was unexpected. I had known from the beginning that I would be loving these babies for a set amount of time and then I would bring them back, improved and having known love, to be adopted. So why was I so sad? I realized that while I had always known the plan, the kittens had not…and that betrayal of their trust and love in return was what was twisting a knife in my heart.
Later that day, I cleaned out the bathroom where Shadow and Midnight had lived. I washed the bowls and toys, washed the linens with hot water. I wiped down the counters and mopped the floor. (And then I got down on my hands and knees with a paper towel and got the little bits of litter out of EVERY CORNER of that space…so much litter!) An hour later, when I was done, I looked around the space with mixed feelings. The room looked empty and I was missing our kitties…but it also looked ready for some new fosters!