Flynn’s Tale: The Story So Far

FB_IMG_1459214376719

When Kate, my kitten of 13 years had to be suddenly euthanized, I was devastated. She’d been the first animal that had been fully my responsibility. She was the one who’d first made me a mom.

I soon discovered that I hated going home to an empty apartment, too, so as soon as I got my next paycheque, I headed to a nearby Toronto Animal Services shelter to adopt. While I waited for payday, I perused the site often, looking for who my next felines loves would be. I knew I didn’t want to have only one pet living with me, so my plan was to get two, possibly from the same litter. And I wanted them to be as different from Kate as possible – I wanted boys, I wanted something other than a tabby (except maybe orange tabbies, because how cute are they?!) and I wanted little kittens who would distract me from my Kate heartache a little bit with their kitten-y antics. Plus, Kate had been a good 3-4 months old before she came to live with me, so I was looking for someone younger this time.

FB_IMG_1459214441766

I saw and instantly fell in love with a young tuxedo chap the shelter had named Chimneysweep. He had huge long whiskers and was fluffy and black and white and perfect. Well, almost perfect – he was about 5 months old at the time, they estimated, but he was so cute I’d overlook the slightly older-than-I-was-looking-for age.

The time finally came for me to go find my new kittens, and I bullied Tim into coming with me. I went from room to room, kind of looking at the various cats available to adopt, but wanting to first see if my luck had held out long enough for Chimneysweep to still be there.

It had, and he was!

I scooped the little fool out of his cage and after about a 3 second cuddle he jumped down and played with some/all of the toys available in the room. He was a scamp and a half, that little guy, and I was delighted! After watching and playing with him for a few minutes, I put him back in his kennel with the promise that I would be back for him, and headed off to find him a new brother.

FB_IMG_1458902003275

On the way, though, I bumped into one of the volunteers who told me that Chimneysweep didn’t really play well with other cats. He might do well with an older, bigger cat who would put him in his place, but otherwise, he was a ball of energy that would be taken out on me and my apartment if he was an only pet, or on an older cat, which was not what I was looking for. They suggested I try him with another kitten to see how they did together, and decide from there.

In one of the other rooms, a young brown female tabby had been trying to get my attention while I was talking to a little black kitten in the cage next to her. Tim suggested we try the tabby with Chimneysweep, as she didn’t seem the type to take any of his roughhousing crap. I reluctantly agreed – I mean, she was female, and a tabby, but at least she was brown instead of gray, and I’d have Chimneysweep around to keep me laughing if I ended up taking both. I figured it was worth a shot, anyway.

11185456_10155530176995402_1960790265_n

As we walked into that room, however, a little black paw shot out from a lower level cage and snagged my pantleg. I looked in to see who was pawing at me, and saw this cute little black ball of fluff the shelter had named Tabitha. I remembered seeing her on the website, though she hadn’t really stood out to me at the time. In that moment, however, all I could envision was how cute her little black and white fluffiness would look with Chimneysweep’s little black and white tuxie fluffiness, and decided to try the two of them together, instead. One of the volunteers took Tabitha out of her cage and blew on her white patch of belly fur to see how long ago she’d been spayed. She had fully healed, so she carried her back to Chimneysweep’s room, with Tim and I following behind. It would occur to me later that the most prevalent feeling I had in those moments was tiny stabs of jealousy. I wanted to be the one carrying her.

11418495_10155655484820402_453473773_n

As soon as she and Chimneysweep got to the same floor, the wrestling started. Well, he started wrestling. Tabitha was more pinned on her back with a confused and helpless look on her face as he chewed on her. After a few moments, we decided we didn’t like the way he was playing with her, and pulled him off. I held him, the volunteer held Tabitha, and looking at her now-dishevelled little face, I knew she was the one I had to adopt. If only to apologize for what she’d just been subjected to on my account. With a touch of sadness and a little confusion of my own, I placed the kitten I thought I’d be taking home that day back into his cage, and told him I was sorry. I also mentioned that, if he was a good boy, he’d be sure to be adopted soon, because he was just too handsome not to be.

(Chimneysweep was adopted not long after, actually, but that day was the beginning and end of our story).

10382642_10155506584315402_3282073887102826968_n

So there I was, still with one kitten chosen, but a different one than had been chosen mere minutes prior. I still had to find another one, and by that point (having just given back what I’d held as my one certainty), I was so confused, I decided to just let them choose me, instead. The little tabby was still waiting in the other room, and as she had chosen me first out of all of them, I decided to give her and Tabitha a shot together. I was a little apprehensive, since poor Tabitha had just been worked over a bit as it was, but I was hopeful that the introductions would go better this time.

And they did. The girls wrestled in silence for a few moments – no hissing, or meowing – and both were involved. It wasn’t one chewing on the other. Then they broke apart and took turns exploring the room, and coming back to check on me.

I had my cats.

10898289_10155009376600402_2193868899319819162_n

The shelfter had named the tabby Linda, but I have an Aunt Linda, and was determined to find a different name for her. Something that suited the little curl at the tip of her tail when she walked. The main glitch, however, was that she hadn’t yet been spayed, so I couldn’t actually take both kittens with me that day. In fact, further problems would crop up and I wouldn’t be able to take Linda home for at least a month, if at all.

So, again reluctant, I left that day with one kitten. Tabitha. A female, about 5 months old, so even older than Kate had been. But at least she wasn’t a tabby. But the other one was. What had I done?

I got her home, and she seemed to feel comfortable in the apartment and with me right away. I read all this information about how to introduce a kitten to a new home, to another kitten, etc, but Tabitha didn’t seem to require any of that. She knew she was home.

11160516_10155473244565402_396512764_n

For my part, I knew she couldn’t keep the name Tabitha. The little trouble-maker was going to require a shorter name – perhaps one I would lengthen when using it as a term of endearment. But shorter for when she was causing trouble. I’d wanted to give both kittens some kind of cute pair name, but I wasn’t sure if Not-Linda (as I’d taken to calling her) would ever actually be able to come home, so while I toyed with the possibility of Scully and Reyes, it didn’t really fit either kitten, so I ended up going with a name from my youth that was making a comeback with a new film in the decades-old franchise.

That’s how Tabitha became Flynn.

FB_IMG_1459214335730

As a kitten, Flynn was super cute and had a habit of getting into everything. Or it seemed like everything. She drooled a lot, kept knocking decorations off my Christmas tree so she could bat them around the apartment, and her favourite toy was a stick with a feather attached to the end that she dragged around behind her until the feather more or less disintegrated.  She had no idea how to ask for the kind of attention she wanted, nor did she quite know what to do when she got it. She seemed happy for the most part, though, and sincerely wanted to be loved. And to explore. She was very floppy and you could do pretty much whatever you wanted with her. She was very tolerant, and very light. She looks big because she’s so fluffy, but there is barely anything to her, even now. She likes to be near me more than she likes to be on me, but I am slowly teaching her how to lap cat. She’s not a fan of pooing in the litter, for some reason, but prefers the mat next to the litter, instead.

The vet said maybe something happened before she got to the shelter that made her not like the sensation (she doesn’t cover anything up after, either), or perhaps she was separated from her mother before she learned how to cat.

12342443_10156284286880402_3201324273263326505_n

Regardless, I’ve tried lots of different things, and in the end, I decided that it’s better just to work with her as she is. Sometimes she acts like maybe she’ll poo on the floor instead, and all I have to do is say her name, and she goes over to her usual spot instead. So at least there’s that. We’ve developed an understanding of sorts. She also usually waits for me to be around before she goes, because she knows I’ll clean it up right after.

I remember, for the first day or so, I was kind of stand-offish with her. She wasn’t Kate – at all – and yet I couldn’t figure out how to love her. I feel like we just kind of watched one another for the first bit. Also, she smelled like shelter, and I wasn’t sure she knew how to groom herself. I wasn’t sure I knew what to do with a cat who didn’t know how to cat. She had zero traction on the hardwood floors, and sometimes I wondered if she even had claws, because they never seemed to come out, even when we would eventually play together. She’s gentle and loving and….like…pretty simple. She’s like a perpetual innocent, that Flynn. Just wanting everyone to be pleased.

11050244_10155301714415402_5469408397777638468_n

A day or two into our new life together, I put her on the back of the toilet seat, and got some paper towels together. I wet them, and used them to wipe down all of her fur. She purred the whole time. Her purr is super quiet and I had to put my ear up to her to hear it at all, but I could feel it vibrating throughout her body. She was happy, probably to be getting more attention from me. I probably could have given her a full bath, but I was hoping the damp paper towels would induce her to start grooming more. For whatever reason, it worked, and she stopped smelling like shelter, and instead got even fluffier the more she cleaned herself.

Then, despite the fact that she had the apartment – and me – to herself for at least a month, she remained curious yet welcoming – her usual gentle self – for every other animal and human that comes through the door. She has gotten a bit better at defending herself during play wrestling time, but she won’t be winning any titles any time soon. She is getting much better at being a lap cat, sprawling longer and longer in my lap, and more and more often now.

She loves hand lotion…I have no idea why.

She rarely throws up furballs, so when she does, she appears to be confused as to what the hell it was that just came out of her.

She has a stomach like a steel trap and can eat pretty much anything, yet still remains as light as air.

FB_IMG_1459214232864

Her eyes were yellow when I brought her home, but now they are usually green – darker green when she is in a particularly good mood.

Sometimes she still plays by herself, much to my entertainment, and she and the dog have taken to occasionally grooming one another. Which is weird, but awesome.

10442932_10155502646975402_2568478974035620425_n

In some ways, Flynn needs me the most, and sincerely wants me to love her as much as she loves me. She is silly, and adorable and in some cases, I think if I were to have a favourite of the brood, it would be her. I don’t know where she came from, or how she ended up in a shelter, but I’m glad she reached out and grabbed my attention that day. Once I got over the fact that she wasn’t Kate, Flynn grew into a new part of my heart that I hadn’t realized existed.

And now we just keep growing, together.

Tabitha –> Flynn – December 2010 and counting

12285861_10156254798385402_1910939150_nDoes the tabby in Flynn’s Kennel Card photo look familiar?  No idea if it’s the same cat, but wouldn’t THAT be a story?!Untitled

For Michelle Nolden

Michelle Nolden is one of those actresses who turns up in things all the time (because she’s so talented), but that you keep thinking of her as “that girl” until a role comes along wherein her performance is so strong that her name is finally retained in your brain, and she ceases to be “that girl”.

For me, with her, that role is of Dr. Dawn Bell on CTV’s Saving Hope.

It’s funny, too, because in the beginning, I hated Dawn. She was Charlie’s (Michael Shanks) ex-wife, she pulled the plug on him when he was in a coma (but he lived, luckily for all), and she was a thorn in the show’s main love story’s side for quite awhile. Always cropping up to cause trouble for Charlie and Alex (the impossibly gorgeous Erica Durance). To boot, she became everyone’s boss as Chief of Surgery, and she ran a tight ship. It was annoying.

Over time, however, something changed, and Dawn slowly became one of my favourite recurring characters on the show. When I saw Michelle Nolden’s name in the opening credits (because by then I totally knew her name), I was certain viewers were in for a treat.

Like, more than usual, because I freaking love this show.

Anyway, once I got to that point, I reached out to her agent to see if it would be possible for her to join The Mind Reels at any point over our Guinness World Record-breaking weekend. It turned out that she had to work a long, emotional day on set, but that she would try to stop by if she could. I was ecstatic, and said we’d definitely make time for her if she was able to be there at all.

Much to my joy – and, if I’m being honest, surprise – she DID make it, after all! I saw her come into the hotel lobby that first night and completely forgot I was interviewing someone. I said, “Michelle is here! Yay!” and flagged my team down to make sure they knew to sneak her in between guests. I wasn’t feeling well already that night, so I barely remember what we talked about, but I know there was some discussion of the evolution and growth of Dawn’s character arc, and I gave her condolences for what happened to Dawn’s little sweater-wearing guinea pig that she didn’t even want but then fell in love with.

Since then, we’ve been wanting to bring Michelle into the studio for a better/longer chat, but there hasn’t been time or opportunity – yet. I’ll keep checking in with her agent until we make it happen, though!

However, turns out Ms Michelle Nolden won a Canadian Screen Award last night, and Tim and I made sure we were there to congratulate her on the red carpet in the press area after she left the stage!

You see, this season in particular has been insane for Dawn, and while there wasn’t time for chit chat, I do have a few things I wanted to tell Michelle about how her performance has affected me, and how much I feel it comes from a place of truth.

So I’ll do that here, instead.

There’s an episode – and anyone who’s seen it will know exactly what I’m talking about – wherein Dawn is raped – violently – by her colleague/boyfriend (Shaun Benson)…in her office. It was so powerfully filmed and performed by both actors that I can’t even remember anything else that happened in the episode. Just that, and the immediate aftermath. The rape scene was violent and disturbing without being graphic – a tight shot on Michelle’s horrified eyes with Shaun’s voice whispering in her ear. Gah!

To be clear, I know and adore Shaun Benson. I think he’s a fantastic talent. But part of me wished he wasn’t THAT fantastic as I watched that scene, because it was like watching a nightmare, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Damn you, Shaun!

There were red flags, of course; little warning signs that viewers and Dawn could pick up on, and then promptly ignore because he’s just so damn charming, and in a position of power, to boot. I still don’t think I expected what eventually happened to be as powerful and real as it was, though. In her office?! With windows everywhere, the space that she’s made her own. Her refuge from the trials and stress from running a hospital. And all the power she had job-wise didn’t make a lick of difference in the face of her attacker. Not only was it someone she trusted, but it was also done in such a way that everything Dawn had believed about her world was torn apart and demolished. Everything. She had nothing left to hold on to.

Well, almost nothing.

The next time we see Dawn it’s at the end of the episode, and she is alone again in her office. She is bruised, and in tears, her sensible work skirt ripped almost completely off. Her sanctuary looks much the same as always, but it no longer feels safe. Not to Dawn, and not to any viewer who’d just witnessed what transpired there.

In my mind, I wanted to hug her and get the police and all the big guys she works with and go beat the shit out of Shaun…’s character (haha He really is that good). I wanted to scream from the rooftops about the crime that had been committed, and go get the bad guy once and for all. I wanted him to lose everything, just as he’d taken everything from her.

Instead, I watched the scene play out as it was written, and was thunderstruck by how absolutely right it was. Dawn frantically searched in her desk drawers for something, and when she finally located it, she sat on the top of her desk, composed her features, and began to sew her skirt back together.

I lost it.

It hit me like a truck…how appearances inform our interiors sometimes…the attempt at retrieving a semblance of normalcy and some sense of control over something. Over anything, even if it’s something as simple as mending a ripped skirt. It wasn’t about pride nor humiliation. Not even fear, or anger at what had just happened to her. Dawn’s facial expression changed and her concentration was total. In that moment, that skirt was all she had.

When I was in University…I want to say third year? I decided to walk the few short blocks to McDonald’s (as you do) and grab myself some dinner. It was around this time of year, so even though it was only 7pm-ish, it was already dark. It was also unseasonably warm, though, so I was feeling pretty giddy with the touch of spring in the evening air.

I passed a young guy about my age, standing under a streetlight by one of the houses lining that portion of the street. Once I got by him, however, I could hear his footsteps on the sidewalk behind me. Warning bells went off in my mind, but I shoved them aside, because paranoia can be a dangerous thing, and usually when we think something is cause for concern, it ends up being nothing, and then we feel dumb.

Like, can’t a guy walk down the same street as me? Who the heck do I think I am?

I got near McDonald’s, and turned to go up a little grassy hill that led to the drive-thru and parking lot. As soon as I’d stepped off the sidewalk, though, I was banged into from behind, and felt two powerful-ish arms pin my arms to my sides. Well, my hands were in my pockets, so they got pinned there.

It all happened so fast, I was still thinking that it was someone I knew, just being a jerk. The force of him slamming into me actually pushed me further up the little hill, and he didn’t have his balance enough to lock his hands, so I ended up a step or two in front of him for a second. I turned to look at him, expecting a friend, and saw a stranger instead. He wasn’t looking at me, but rather past me, to where the cars were lined up in the drive-thru. I think at that point he realized we could both be seen, so he turned and jogged away. Or walked away. I don’t really remember. Just that it all seemed so normal, and wouldn’t draw attention to him either way.

And what did I do, you ask? Now that I was momentarily safe and had just basically been assaulted (see I can’t even call it anything specific because it still sits as a possibly jerky but innocent boys will be boys act), but it could have been way worse but now I was in full view of lots of people in a public place?

I went inside and ordered a Big Mac combo.

Yep. I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t try to confront him, or call for help. I simply composed myself enough to order the dinner I’d been looking forward to, and then sat down at a table by myself.

I tried to eat, but got nauseous, so I threw most of it away. Kept the fountain Coke, though.

I wasn’t sure what to do at that point. Had I been targeted? Or was being a female alone on a busy street enough to warrant what he’d tried to do. What had he tried to do? Rob me? Beat me up? Kill me? Rape me? Where had he gone? Was he still out there, watching me through the windows of the restaurant and waiting for me to come out? How would I get home? Could I stay in McDonald’s until morning?

So many questions.

I couldn’t figure out how I felt, nor how I should feel. I wasn’t sure of his intentions, and wasn’t sure I had a right to be angry or afraid or upset. I had no idea what to do.

I sat and thought and waited and finally decided to take a chance on crossing the parking lot to the phone booth on the corner. It still didn’t occur to me to ask for help, because I felt like…not that I’d deserved what happened, but more that nothing much had happened. I didn’t feel I had a right to expect anyone to come to my aid. My brain kept coming up with excuses for the guy, even. Maybe he’d just stumbled and lost his balance. Maybe he’d thought I was someone else and left when he realized his mistake. All kinds of crap went through my mind.

And because I’m old now, there were no cell phones. I had to get to the phone booth on the corner. At least it was lit up, and there were lots of cars nearby. Cars he could also be hiding behind, but maybe he wouldn’t know I would try for the phone. I didn’t know.

So I finally got my courage up (or stupidity…tough to tell sometimes) and speed-walked to the phone booth. I’d gotten a quarter out and had it in my hand to save time. I called the home of friends who lived down the street. I’d actually passed their place on the way.

Thankfully, they rocked.

They came to get me, en masse, and while I’m pretty sure Izzy in particular would have rather tracked the guy down and beat the tar out of him with her bare hands, they all convinced me to call the police. That the guy had done wrong, and that a crime had been committed, and that it was worth reporting.

They walked me back home, and stayed with me while I made the call, and together we waited for a police officer to arrive. Even though I was going through a myriad of emotions by then (including wishing I’d beat the tar out of him myself and humiliated him and perhaps ruined any chance he’d had of procreating), one thing that kept nagging at me was that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’d misread what had happened and misunderstood the whole thing.

Maybe I was wrong.

I worried that the cop wouldn’t believe me, or brush it off as the non-incident I feared it was, or that he would believe me but the guy would never be found and how would any of it ever be proven, anyway? I thought at most it would end up on the back-burner and eventually forgotten.

The policeman arrived, and even though he was kind of cute and had a kind face, I wondered briefly about the decision to send a male officer over to talk to a female who’d just encountered a less-kind male. He was, however, pretty great. Took us all for a ride in his police car (I got to ride in the front, though), so I could show him where everything happened.

The problem, of course, is that a lot of it was murky in my mind. I could not remember exactly which house he’d been standing by. I couldn’t remember the colour of his clothes, or his hair, or even if he’d been wearing a hat. I could see him in my mind, but I couldn’t see him at the same time. There were no details. Unfortunately, even when there are warning bells and red flags, I don’t go into super spy mode and memorize every detail possible. Stuff happens, and I apparently can’t quite recall the main points to any helpful degree. The chance of catching him was getting slimmer. It was a University town, after all. Maybe he was just visiting, and didn’t go to school there at all. Who knew?

Definitely not me.

My lack of recall, coupled with my inability to completely agree that the guy had done anything really all that wrong was crippling, and as a result, my case got more flimsy by the moment.

The police officer, however, was on top of it. Less than two weeks later, he called me and wanted to come over with a photo line-up for me to look at. Apparently some other poor girl had been sexually assaulted in the same area, with the same basic desciption of her attacker.

(Insert guilt forever that I wasn’t able to stop him from going after other girls)

I looked through a book of mug shots and more candid photos, all of guys who were roughly the same age and description as my guy. The officer told me to take my time, and even pick out a few photos, if any of them had certain qualities that reminded me of the guy. He said I didn’t have to be certain; that I could kind of pick parts of some of them to give a better idea of what little I recalled about the dude. He said the guy may or may not even be in the line-up. It was just to get a better idea.

I chose 3 different photos, two of them were on the same page. One was mostly based on angle, because when I’d turned to look at him, he was no longer facing me directly. It was more of a profile view. I can’t really remember what drew me to the second photo. But the third, there was just something about the third. I couldn’t shake it. I kept going through more photos and always came back to that one. Finally I just pointed it out and said that it maybe wasn’t exactly as I remembered (vaguely remembered), but that it was the closest one. I wasn’t confident enough to proclaim, “THAT’S THE GUY!”, but it was the only one which felt close enough to be accurate in the light of day.

The officer wrote everything down, and then collected his things. He told me he wasn’t allowed to confirm or deny if the one I’d pointed out was the same guy they’d arrested in the other attack. I said I understood.

And then he winked at me.

We had our “man”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone over that night – and a few other incidents which have occurred over the years – and re-written it all in my mind. I change how I reacted, I…sometimes become kind of violent, and I always, always stand up for me and mine.

My reality, for whatever reason, has always been very different. I freeze, I shrink, I keep walking, I put my head down, I stay quiet and still, I ignore the signs, I make excuses for the perpetrator, I wonder if there was something I’d done to cause it in the first place. After the fact, I am all indignant righteous rage. But during? I just have never figured out how to go against my very instincts and react differently.

The following year I was walking home from an evening class, and heard footsteps behind me, running up the sidewalk. I flashed back to that other time I’d felt the warning bells, and in a moment of pure terror, I spun around at the last second to at least greet my inevitable end head on.

But the jogger went right on by.

I see something like this portrayed so realistically – and intimately – on screen, and I’m all, “I would have done THIS!” But at the same time, I know from repeated experience that I would not. I only wish I would have.

That is what struck me the most about that episode of Saving Hope. Sometimes there are no heroes rushing in to save you. Sometimes you don’t suddenly know street fighting. Sometimes you don’t keep weapons on hand and aren’t afraid to use them.

Sometimes you don’t do what you “should” do, or even what you think you’d do.

Sometimes, all you can do in the moment is order a Big Mac, or mend your torn skirt.