Full Name: Tommy
Nicknames: TomCat, Tommers, Tomas
In Residence Since: September 3, 2011
Status: Foster (Kind of)
Favorite Activities: Investigating the high spaces in the house. Checking the windows and doors for escape routes. Throwing dolls out of doll beds. Twanging the doorstop on older daughter's door. Snuggling with younger daughter.
Two years ago, I discovered the idea of foster pets. I had lost Grizzly and Einstein in pretty quick succession. My house was on the market in preparation for our move 4.5 hours away. My job was winding down. My kids were a mess because of the impending move. I knew it was a rotten time to adopt again and had no intention of doing so. When I wasn't looking at houses online, I was looking at adoptable animals and began to hatch a plan for fostering those who needed me the most.
The topic of fostering became one of intense debate around my house. Let's be clear that I am the one driving all of this, while my husband merely puts up with it and indulges me. Don't get me wrong... he likes animals, but would prefer to not be known as "that crazy cat dude". He likes his clothes fur-free, his counters cat-free, and the ease of being able to come and go as he pleases without worrying about the omnipresent question "Who will take care of the animals??" Which is good attitude to have when you're a Lt. Colonel in the military who is a workaholic and constantly away from home while serving your country. His resistance was more than a yearning for simple, easy living though. He was absolutely convinced that once these animals moved into our house I would never let them go, regardless of whether or not I called them "foster".
That's where Tommy came in. Tommy is our "experimental foster". He's a foster who's not really a foster, if that makes sense. You see, our Tommy has a family who loves him very much... a mom, dad, and three kids who want him back desperately. Friends of ours are spending a year on a fabulous adventure in New Zealand, where the quarantine laws made it difficult to bring dear Tommy along. So he's bunking with us. It's the perfect situation, really: Tommy has a safe place to stay; I get to prove myself through fostering; and my husband knows that I absolutely, positively have to give him back when the year is up.
Tommy is our explorer who has personally investigated every high perch in the house. Old man Norman and tubby Simba choose to stay off the higher window ledges, the tops of the kitchen cabinets, and the fireplace mantel. Tom takes it as a challenge. He flies through the air with effortless grace. I am waiting for the time that my blinds come crashing down.
Tommy's favorite person is my younger daughter, which I suppose is only fair because he's known her longest. His little girl is one of my little girl's best friends. His preferred napping spot is in the doll beds in her room. This particular bed used to be the resting spot of an American Girl doll named Ruthie. Every day after Meg would leave for school, Tom would toss the doll out of the bed, onto the floor, and help himself to her space. In her exasperation once, my brilliant daughter exclaimed, "That cat is ruthless! ((dramatic pause)) And the bed is Ruthless too!"
Tom delights in proving his people wrong. "Oh, he's no bother!" ((OK, they were actually right about that one)) "Tommy doesn't like people food." ((Um... then who is that cat sticking his head in my cereal bowl in the morning?)) "Tommy won't eat canned food." ((Tell that to Tommy!))
Mmmmmmm. Fancy Feast!
The experiment has been a smashing success... Well, except for the time he crashed through a window screen and disappeared for 24 hours. And the time he went ninja on my leather dining room chairs. Both issues are repairable (after he moves out) and taught me my first valuable fostering lesson:
My second valuable fostering lesson: Your heart loves the fosters, but stores that love in a different spot than your love for the permanent residents. I was a teacher before my kids were born. I loved my students and would have done anything for them, but when June came my claim on them was over. It was time for them to move on to their next adventure. Hopefully, I've given something to them in the meantime that helps them along their way. I feel the same way about my fosters.
The experiment worked so well that when I started making noises about fostering for real this spring, my husband relented. You'll meet the first "real" foster if you come back tomorrow.