I will never forget the first night I met my first pet.  The summer before Beau and I would be engaged, the summer of 2005, I casually mentioned to my then boyfriend during an afternoon of tubing with friends down the Cedar River that I would love to have a baby kitty to taut around the house and take naps with on the couch.  Just weeks after, I was surprised to walk through the door of Beau's duplex and find this adorably small little calico tabby cat prancing through the house and climbing on our shoulders.  

Beau rescued Jade when she was just weeks old from the Humane Society.  While he said she was a gift for me, he casually 'forgot' to tell me about her for 24 hours.  No, he told me he had plans that night and stood me up for a date with this sweet and curious fur ball with a bright orange belly.  He even called my mom, who secretly drove to his house to meet Jade, far before she had a name, or pink polka-dotted food dishes, or me.

(Fall 2008)

We loved her from the start.  She was lovey, curious, and so playful.  She followed us around the house, curled up with us during movie nights, and even played fetch.  She didn't act like usual cats --- sneaky, timid, and mischievous, and seemed to behave more like a dog.  

Jade has been in our life for seven years, almost as long as Beau and I have been together.  Until Jade, I've never had a pet, and never truly understood just how important they become to the framework of a family.  From the open window sill at our first home, to Cruz's chair in our living room today, she's become this comforting presence in our lives.  When everything else seems to be in disarray, Jade's always been there.  She was there to greet us at the front door when we got home from our honeymoon, and she was there sniffing Cruz's carseat the day we brought him home from the hospital.  She's there, at your feet, when you open up a can of Fancy Feast, and there, perched under the console table, proudly watching us tickle Cruz from across the room.  And most of all, she's been Cruz's first little companion, always patient when he's trying to brush her, always loyal when he's chasing her around the house calling, 'Jade...Jade...Jade,' and always forgiving when a pet turns into a handful of hair.

Yesterday, Beau and I dropped Jade off for a new adventure.  Shortly before I become pregnant with Cruz, I developed awful cat allergies.  I was tested, and the doctor informed me that my only treatment would be weekly allergy shots, or a cat-free household.  We've went back and forth for two years now, until just recently when we received the opportunity to give Jade a home that could provide her even more love and attention than we could.

Jade is now acting as the cat-in-residence at Bartels Lutheran Home in Waverly.  Bartels is a wonderful facility for the retirement community.  One of the ways Bartels' seeks to create an environment of love and comfort is by taking in 'resident pets.'  These pets live on different floors of the facility, and bring a sense of 'home' to residents and their families.  Jade will be a friend to a number of residents in the Dementia unit at Bartels, and will have full reign of the beds, the people, and the fish tank and bird cage.  There are two other resident cats currently living at Bartels, and one of the ladies at Bartels told us yesterday that they walk around like 'they own the place.'  I love that Jade will have lots of space to roam, lots of people to play with, and lots of beds to sleep on.  Most importantly, I love that she will now be able to share her playfulness and cuteness with people who need it more than us -- it really hit home for me when the supervisors said the cats are amazing sources of joy for the families who come to visit their loved ones.  She's a missionary of sorts - a sense of therapy to people who need it most.

Although we had a couple of sad nights this weekend, Beau and I feel like this is a sort of once in a lifetime opportunity for our kitty.  This morning, I called to see how her first night was and she's already doing great.  She evidently followed one of the nurses around this morning as she handed out medicine to the residents!  She even asked for my address so she could send me pictures of Jade with the residents once she was 'acclimated.'  I left the phone conversation feeling proud of our kitty, and proud of the opportunity she has.  A little like a mom who just dropped her child off at college...

Although there is now a sense of emptiness at our house, I smile when I think about Jade and her new adventure.  I also hope to continue to check up on our friend, and maybe even visit her every now and then.  Cruz would love that, and so would his dad ;)

We love you Jade...always have, always will :)