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Pets Large & Small

Something is missing

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(3/2014) She has a nice house. A reliable car. A steady job. She knows she's got a great life. Yet, still. She feels as though something is missing.

She goes out with friends and has a good time, but still when she comes home and the silence of the walls that surround her really penetrates, she knows something's not there that she needs.

She watches Dr. Phil and hears all the relationship advice and checks out the dating websites, but somehow, in her heart, she knows that isn't it.

It's something else.

It bugs her sometimes at night when she's trying to sleep. She watches out the window as the moon passes by, clocking the hours she's not at rest, and she feels somehow incomplete. It's an intangible thing and it drives her a little crazy that she can't get a handle on what it is.

She's always been told she's too analytical. She has trouble shutting her mind off enough to get a good night's sleep. She dreams, sometimes vividly, of odd situations and happenings and it's so bizarre. She sometimes wonders what her dreams say about her.

Despite all the thinking and tossing and turning, she still feels it.

Something is missing.

She's driving home a few weeks later and is detoured off her usual path. She's irritated. She wanted to get home in time to see her favorite show and now, with the construction, with the inability to take the normal path, she'll likely be late.

She blinks a little as she comes upon the building. She has seen the signs for it in her travels, but has never passed by before. It's the animal shelter.

If asked, she won't be able to answer what it is that makes her turn in. Animals? Really? Sure, she'd had pets growing up and she loved them a lot, but when she graduated from high school, she'd been so focused on college and her studies and making something of herself, she had no time to even consider a pet.

She pulls into a parking space and sees him in the window. A black-and-white cat with the most shrewd, green-eyed expression she'd ever witnessed on another being. She feels an odd kinship with the animal, as though they both have the ability to think alike and analyze all options. She knows it's insane, but she swears they make eye contact as she puts her car in park and enters the building.

She tells the people she meets that she'd like to see the cat in the window. She's told he's a boy and relatively young and hasn't been at the shelter long.

She discovers the shelter has a place called a bonding room, which is, quite literally, where prospective adopters go to bond with pets. When the cat from the window is brought to her, she shivers. And she knows it's not from cold.

The staff member places him on the floor and he immediately stretches his front paws toward her feet and looks up. Once they make eye contact, he never takes his eyes off hers. He ignores the toys in the room for the comfort of her lap and the purring begins instantly.

He's soft and sweet and rubs against her hand when she pets him and it only takes ten minutes to know he's hers. Innately. Naturally. Undeniably.

She's approved to take him home that night and promptly flips out because she has nothing -- literally nothing -- in her home for a cat. The people at the shelter smile and help calm her down and suggest where she can go and what she needs to buy.

It's one of the most frantic shopping trips she's ever been on and yet, under everything, there's a current, a tingle, a thrum that tells her in ways she can't categorize that this is the most right thing she's ever done in her life.

She returns to the shelter an hour later, loaded with more supplies than she will likely ever need, and he's ready to come home with her.

She's been told there are no accidents in life and that everything happens for a reason. At first, she would scoff at the notion, but now… Now, she wonders at that detour on this seemingly random Tuesday and what it was that made her stop at the animal shelter.

She dozes off in bed that night with a white paw against her cheek and purring in her ear. The moon passes by over both their heads, but she doesn't see it because for the first time in a long time, she falls asleep quickly and doesn't dream.

The next morning she's awakened with a small meow and a feeling of something clicking into place, a settling sense of rightness and truth and authenticity, and she thinks she just may have found the missing piece of her life at the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

The question is, could you?


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau