4:45 am   


Phantom (L) and Nittany (R), on the bed

It has almost been a year now since we adopted Phantom (Solitude) and Nittany (Sable) from PAW. My husband, Bill, and I can hardly believe where the year has gone, yet at the same time, we can't remember our lives before they joined our family.
Last spring, I decided it might be time to look into adopting a cat. Over seven years had gone by since the cat I grew up with had died. While I still missed her and dreaded the fear of losing another pet, I also knew there were lots of animals out there that could use a good home. Bill and I decided that we wanted a Maine Coon cat, but felt uneasy about buying one from a breeder when so many needy animals were in shelters. While I knew our chances of finding a Maine Coon was slim, I decided to go to the Internet in search of shelters and rescue leagues that might have one available. I sent several e-mails out to the various organizations inquiring about Maine Coon cats. Within weeks, I was contacted by Bill and Donna Sonnenberg of PAW. They had rescued two Maine Coon mix toddlers (brother and sister) and wondered if I might be interested in seeing photos of them. After talking to my husband about the possibility of adopting not one, but two cats, and having his nod of approval, I responded to them indicating that we were very interested.

Phantom in the sunroom

When the photos arrived via e-mail, I was so nervous that I could hardly force myself to open them. Bill S. had written to me about the babies a couple times before the photos came and I had secretly fallen in love with them. Once I managed to open the photos, I knew I was in trouble. They were beautiful! Long haired, one a tabby Maine Coon and the other a white Maine Coon mix. Bill and Donna then invited us for a visit. We made the trip from Manassas to Laurel and immediately fell in love with the kittens. While Sable (the tabby) was playful and quite friendly, Solitude, her brother, was very shy. Their personalities were exactly what we were looking for. We expressed our interest in the pair and were told that Sable's test results needed to come back before they could be adopted. Initial results for her feline leukemia tests were inconclusive and our hearts shuttered at the thought of her being sick. We decided on the ride home that since we had no other pets, we would adopt both, regardless of the outcome. My husband said that, "it is better to have a short time with them, than none at all." I couldn't have agreed more.

Watching the birdfeeder

Fortunately, Sable's tests came back negative and we were given the green light to adopt them. Donna drove them down to our home one Saturday afternoon and the rest was history. Sable and Solitude soon turned into Nittany and Phantom. Nittany was named after Penn State's mascot, the Nittany Lion (and because she looks like a lion!). Phantom, being shy and elusive, was named after the main character in Phantom of the Opera. It took only a few days for our new arrivals to get used to us and their new surroundings. My sister, or Aunt Jenny as we now call her, visited regularly and played a large part in getting them settled. She, too, fell in love with them.
Over the past ten months, we have all gotten used to each other and have settled quite nicely into our routines. Phantom sleeps at my feet each night; while Nittany has become a furry alarm clock--sometimes going off a bit too earlier than she needs. Since I work from home most of the week, they have become my assistants (or at least they try!). Nittany loves to look outside, so I purchased a birdfeeder and attached it to my office window. Since we managed to attract all the neighborhood birds and squirrels, she now has a job she takes very seriously. We work side-by-side in our home office/bird watching suite. Phantom is annoyed by the visitors, and generally loses interest, but not Nit. She used to live to eat (she got quite large in the first six months) and now she lives to watch for intruders. Nuthatches, chickadees, our neighbor's gray cat, and a pesky squirrel cause her the most grief; however, I know she would not want it any other way.

Nittany's dedication to her feeder is matched only by Phantom's desire to jump. While he just barely came out to eat those first few days, he soon warmed up nicely. We found that he loved to chase after toys on strings, particularly those that would elevate themselves up over his head, like a bird. He can jump over four feet in the air, and generally comes down with the toy securely resting in his mouth. He is quite stingy when he plays and refuses to allow Nittany any toy time. Before she has time to adequately stalk her prey, he wiggles his behind and darts off after it.

I could probably go on for pages writing about Nittany and Phantom. We are so lucky to have gotten these two sweethearts and that Donna and Bill took the initiative to rescue them from the shelter. While we think they are as close to pure bred Maine Coon as cats can get, that becomes secondary to how much we love them just as they are. Regardless of their genes, they have become major parts of our lives and we are so glad that we adopted them through PAW. We can't understand how anyone could have given them up to a shelter, but we are so fortunate that PAW was able to rescue them for us. Nittany and Phantom are not part of our family, they are our family.

Melissa K

Manassas, VA

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