My mother is proof that anyone can be converted to an animal lover. ANYONE.

Before Oscar ~
- She never had a pet.
- We - my brother and I - had birds, a turtle and a goldfish.  We loved them.  She seemed indifferent.
- Whenever we visited anyone's house with an excited dog, she'd always cower and say 'Nice, doggy.'

Enter the Kelly's, a cat named Mystery (aka Miss Terry) and my grandmother in a wheelchair.

The Kelly's are our neighbors.  They love animals.  Big. Small. Cats. Dogs. Squirrels.  Yes, squirrels - one squirrel in particular once brought Mrs. Kelly a cherry tomato as a gift.  They were buddies.

My mother acted toward squirrels and cats the way she acted toward dogs.  Somewhere between not that interested and terrified.

My grandmother - my father's mother, the animal friendly side of my family - had a stroke and was in a wheelchair and had to live with us.  One summer night, on the back porch, she got a glimpse of Mystery, a black stray cat in the neighborhood who I think Mrs. Kelly brought to the vet for shots and to get 'fixed' - she did that with all the neighborhood strays (I know!  St. Francis of Assisi probably wouldn't even bother.  But Mrs. Kelly did!)

I can't remember exactly how it all went down but I think my grandmother wanted to pet Mystery.  So, my father let Mystery in the house.

The next thing I knew my mother was actually not cowering in the corner.  Can you hear me now?  "You're letting a stray cat in the house?!!  You?!  YOU?!  Ma, you? Of all people."

But, Mystery was a sweet cat.  She wasn't skittish.  She didn't even seem to want food.  She seemed to only want to be pet.

And then, it wasn't long before the most shocking thing of all happened.  My mother knelt down and pet Mystery.  She liked her.  She liked an animal!  Mystery made frequent visits that summer.

Yes, Mystery was the gateway cat.

A couple of years later, my father brought home a black and white kitten.  As a pet.  To live with us.  I was 18.  I never had a cuddly pet before.  My mother was 47.  Either did she.  We named him Oscar.

After Oscar ~
- She still cowers in the presence of most dogs but would always pick up Oscar - and later, Shelby - and nuzzle and kiss their bellies.
- Magnets and plaques started appearing around the house. "We're staying together for the sake of the cats."  "One can never have too many cats."
- I couldn't help but ask "Who are you?  And what have you done with my mother?"
She didn't hear me - she was too busy kissing Oscar and cooing "Who loves you? Who loves you?"
Unbelievable.

Today is National Hug Your Cat Day!  Yes, seriously.

And, in the spirit of Stop and Blog the Roses, today, I am grateful ~
1/ for animal lovers everywhere, and especially Mrs. Kelly and all the Kelly clan, who truly love every creature, not just the cuddly ones who live with them
2/ for Mystery, wherever you are ~ proof that it takes just one animal to open a heart
3/ and for my own little feline love, Magoo, who I will now not just hug but kiss his belly.

Who loves you?
Who loves you?

~~~

Thank you for reading Stop and Blog the Roses.  Follow me on Twitter @fernronay and on Facebook here.
And, if you're in the market for a birthday gift ~ or a gift for yourself ~ why not give the gift of gratitude? The non-calendar version of Roses, the book, is now available on Amazon here.

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