Editor’s note: This is an article from The Fayetteville Observer, the first in a weekly series featuring stories from readers about animals they have rescued, fostered, or adopted. If you are in the Fayatteville area and have a tale to tell, please email their digital editor, Beth Hutson, at [email protected] And to see more heartwarming stories, join their FO Pet Welfare & Rescue Facebook group, at facebook.com/groups/FOPetRescueWelfare.
The inaugural story is from Suzanne Sell who tells how her teenage son found love in a big orange tabby named Odie.
Rescue Me: Struggling teen finds happiness in a big orange cat
By Beth Hutson
When my son, Nolan started high school, he was struggling with some depression and some identity issues. At one point, he was having suicidal thoughts. He’s a classic introvert, and it was a real challenge for him to make friends. We had a rescue dog already, but my son really wanted a cat. Since I am highly allergic to cats, I was hesitant to allow one into my home.
Watching my son struggle, though, and hoping the affection from a furry friend would help him, I gave in. We visited PetSmart one day when the Haven animal shelter was doing adoptions. There were so many adorable kittens and puppies, I thought we would have trouble choosing one.
And then we saw an orange tabby named Odie.
He was a surprise to all of us because he was older (5 1/2 years old). Unlike the playful kittens clamoring for attention and affection from the people there to adopt, Odie sat still and looked out from his crate with a very somber look. We were drawn to him immediately. We learned that he had only lived in one home and that his previous owners had to give him up due to a military move. He was healthy, a little on the larger size (he’s a BIG boy!), and he had been declawed. He had never been outside. We knew we had to have him.
That was in 2013, and he’s been my son’s constant companion since then.
When we brought him home, we added to his name. He was so majestic as he looked out over our cul-de-sac from the large windows in our living room, that we needed him to have a name that summed up how regal he was. He quickly was dubbed Odie the Red, Thane of Fernfield.
He immediately became friends with our dog who was 9 years old. When our dog died a couple of years ago, Odie would visit the place where her dog bed had been, and he would nap there. He clearly missed her.
Over the years he’s spent with us, Odie has been an integral part of our family. He greets us individually any time we enter the house, and he has a special language that he uses to communicate with us. Any time we speak to him, he answers us back with his special chattering, squawking, squeaking and cooing. If we ask him a question, or call his name, he tilts his head and makes a noise that sounds exactly like, “hmmmmm?”
His favorite thing to do is throw himself on his side on the floor right at our feet if we are trying to leave the room so that we must rub his belly and scratch under his chin before we can leave. Interestingly, he’s never found much pleasure in playing with regular toys. He will sniff them, and nose them, but they don’t really appeal to him. But if he has access to a long string or ribbon, he will catch the end of it in his mouth and take whomever is holding the other end on a walk. He shows his affection and “claims” us by licking our hair. In fact, he will lick Nolan’s hair for an hour!
Probably the quirkiest thing about our little gingerman (as I like to call him) is the fact that he refuses to drink water from any other receptacle than a glass. He dips his paw into it and licks the water off his paw. He tends to look a little bit like a Pharaoh feeding himself grapes, and I wonder if he’s hydrated enough; but, he finishes quite a bit of water this way, so I am sure he is fine.
Recently, my husband, Brian, and Nolan decided that Odie needed a companion. After doing some research, we determined that one young kitten might be a bit too much stimulation for Odie since he’s 9 years old. According to the information we read, getting two young kittens would be better since they could work their energy off together, and Odie could be selective of the amount of time he wanted to spend engaged with them.
A former student of mine had a new litter of kittens, so we chose two little sweeties and brought them home to be Odie’s new brothers. We tend to be slightly creative with pet names; therefore, we had to keep up the tradition with these little guys. Their names are Rutherford Booty Hayes and Baron Von Waffles; we call them Booty and Baron. Like their older brother, they are orange tabbies. It took no time to get Odie accustomed to having them around. Within two weeks of their arrival, Odie was spending several hours per day with them. He makes sure that the little ones know he’s the boss around the house, but they’ve helped to bring out his playful side.
It’s become cliche to say that “I didn’t rescue my pet; he rescued me,” but, in this case, the statement is true. Odie is Nolan’s greatest and best companion. Nolan is so happy when he has Odie by his side or sitting behind his head when they’re on the couch. Nolan still suffers from anxiety and depression, but when he’s feeling blue, he has his furry buddy to hug and love on. It’s made all the difference in the world to his well-being.
I’m strangely grateful to Odie for being there when we needed him. He’s such a calming force for all of us. If anyone were to ask me if I would rescue again, my answer would be a resounding YES!
Suzanne Sell, an assistant principal at Overhills High School in Harnett County, lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Brian, and her son, Nolan. Her daughter Reagan is a teacher in Charleston, South Carolina.