intheheart: A picture of Neko Case in a green sweater and white shirt, looking at the camera, hair loose. (Default)
[personal profile] intheheart
Title: Visible Soul
Rating: PG.
Summary: "No heaven will not ever Heaven be; unless my cats are there to welcome me." ~ Anonymous
Notes: All three animals in this are real, and all three are alive, well, and adored. Bonus points if you know what their pseudonyms are shoutouts to. Bonus-er points if you guess which one is my baby. Title from a quote by Jean Cocteau.

Ivy had always liked animals. Even as an infant she'd reached after dogs on the streets. As a toddler, she used her grandmother's tolerant Labrador as a pony and her even more tolerant cat as a pillow. Her first word was "mama," but her second was "kitty."

So, in retrospect, Gail really should have been expecting Ivy to come home, muddy to the eyebrows, clutching a small ragged dog of indeterminate breed and beaming.

"Mommy!" she said, and held up the dog, which wiggled and barked. "Mommy, he followed me home!"

Sure, if by "followed" Ivy meant she'd dragged him.


Her mother found a coworker to adopt the dog, which made Ivy feel better, since she'd done research on the city pounds and hadn't liked his chances. Now that the dog had a family and a rubber bone, Ivy turned her attention to getting a pet of her own.

Mommy didn't like dogs. They lived in a city so she probably wasn't getting a pony. Iguanas sounded cool but Mommy said they were too expensive. Tarantulas got vetoed before Ivy could even bring out her research on why they were excellent pets.

Finally Mommy gave in.

They got a cat.


The cat was white and fluffy, with one blue eye and one green eye and a tail that had been unnaturally shortened at some point. He was also deaf as a post, louder than even a Siamese, liked to bite people, and had really sharp claws.

Ivy adored him.

He was supposed to be a family cat, but although Mommy would pet him and Daddy would feed him and Aaron would clean his litter box, it was Ivy who really took care of him. So the cat became hers by default.

She named him Asparagus, for reasons of her own.


Gus mellowed eventually, to the point that Mom and Dad and Aaron stopped calling him "the cat" and used his name even, sometimes. Ivy still loved him dearly, but she wanted more animals, always. She had a dog-walking business for a while, and after a brief disastrous stint in customer service at sixteen found a job at a kennel that lasted through high school.

She loved every animal that crossed her path. The turtles and ducks in Central Park, the purebred poodle being walked, the stray cats, the horses pulling the carriages.

Her career choice was, by senior year, foregone.


Gus died in her senior year of college. The last time Ivy had cried that much was at her grandfather's funeral.

Prudence, her roommate, finally dragged her out to the pound near school and made her walk the dogs and cuddle the cats until she felt better. More than one dog licked tears off her face that day, and more than one cat got cuddled more than it had bargained for, but at the end of the day, she felt better.

She gave Prudence a hug to thank her, and went back to the pound the next day, to volunteer.


The very best thing about getting her own apartment was that she could finally get her own pet.

Her lease didn't allow for dogs, sadly, and Gus's loss was still too fresh for her to consider a cat. But whoever had written the lease had been insufficiently imaginative: there wasn't a word in there about iguanas or snakes or tarantulas or anything.

Iguanas sadly were too expensive, and gorgeous as the snakes were, she felt bad for the mice.

Eventually she went with a hedgehog. She named her Adora Belle and called her Spike.

But the tarantulas were really tempting.


Spike lived to the ripe old age of six and died quietly in her cage one winter morning. By the time Ivy recovered, she could agree when Gina suggested a cat.

"This is our first joint pet," she told Gina, on the way to the pound. "We have to take our time."

"Oh, definitely," Gina agreed, nodding solemnly.

"We won't adopt the first animal in the place," Ivy said. "We'll find the perfect one."

Gina did laugh at her, when the first animal turned out to be the world's sweetest tabby. And she did deserve it.

Skimble was perfect, though.


"You know," Ivy said thoughtfully one day, watching Skimble sun herself, "Skimble looks lonely."

"We're not getting another cat," Gina said, without looking up.

"But I waaant one," Ivy whined. "Okay, seriously, I wasn't thinking we should. But, the local pound does need foster parents."

Gina did look up at that. "For, what, kittens?"

"Not children," Ivy said, and they both laughed. "Though maybe we should do that too. Anyway, it'd only be a few kittens once in a while. They go back before they stop being cute."

"Let me think about it," Gina said.

Ivy grinned.

She'd cave eventually.


She loved the kittens Summer found in an alley, and brought to her. She loved the pitbull who liked to wash her face and the bratty Chihuahua. She loved the cat who mewed plaintively when weighed and the cat who swiped at her every time she took his temperature. The fat guinea pigs, the hamsters too long unfed, the floppy-eared puppies and the sick snakes and even the pig; she loved every animal who crossed her examination table with equal fervor.

It was what made her such a good vet, she thought.

It was definitely what kept people coming back.


For his sixth birthday, Andy asked for, and got, a gerbil. Skimble, by then a decrepit seventeen, lay on Andy's bed and watched the gerbil run. Andy petted her while he did his homework, hiding in his room from the madness surrounding baby Leah. And when Skimble died, in a sunny corner of the living room, he cried for hours.

Ivy went after him, and found him on his bed, holding his gerbil, staring at the ceiling. "Mom," he said, "do animals go to heaven?"

"If they don't," she told him, meaning every word, "I don't want to go either."


intheheart: A picture of Neko Case in a green sweater and white shirt, looking at the camera, hair loose. (Default)

January 2014


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