I was four hours away from undergoing surgery when my cellphone rang. We were out-of-state when my mom called with horrible news. Our beloved Lab of thirteen years, Raphael, was gravely ill and had to be euthanized. There was no time for final goodbyes… last kisses… or long hugs… only my official approval to end his suffering. I tearfully agreed and went into surgery soul sick.
A few months later, my five-year-old son, Anastas, lightened the mood by bringing home a book about Russian Blue Cats. He asked if we could get him one… a cat? The idea never entered my mind. I had always been a "dog person". My father was a dog breeder in Odessa, Southern Ukraine, so I grew up with Russian Terriers, Moscow Shepherds, Collies, and Great Danes.
Initially, we just kept on ignoring his request, like most parents that are being asked to do something that they just don’t feel like doing. He would get a response like, “We will see”, “Maybe later”, “Have you cleaned your room?” …or "Squirrel!” But he soldiered on. Sometime later, not sure about how many weeks, he brought another cat book home. This one had so many types of cats, and wonderful pictures of each breed. So we looked through it. That is when I first saw a picture of a Maine Coon. I instantly needed to see more. So off to Google we went. These were like cats I had never seen: large, bold, with an intense and wild look in their eyes. There was an excitement and growing confidence that we will have a giant feline in our family soon.
Eventually my husband and I agreed that we would get a cat. There was one condition… that the cat be a rescue. Actually, my husband insisted because he wanted to be sure that a cat was a good fit before we spent the money that a “Real” Maine Coon would cost. We looked for any shelter cat that “sort of” resembled a Maine Coon. We selected one, and I named him “Leo”, short for Leopold after my favorite childhood Russian cartoon show, “Leopold the Cat". While Leo was a far cry from a Maine Coon, he was great. Soon we decided to start looking for a pure pedigreed European Maine Coon.
Europa, a Polish-bred kitten, would be the first to arrive. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen -- a swirling fluff bowl of colors and a sparkling personality. Naturally, she became the queen of the house.
Next to arrive was Charles and Alysia from Ukraine. I still wasn’t seriously thinking about becoming a breeder. I was simply fascinated by the breed. The first litter that we had was unplanned. All of our cats were younger (not quite one year), so we expected to see signs of maturity, or at least see our females go into heat before we would need to make arrangements for separating them. It turned out that our precious Europa has “Silent” heats and the only one in the house that knew this was our prince… Charles. My husband was sitting on the couch watching Europa walk by and said, “I think Europa might be pregnant". Not many weeks later we had our first litter.
Ok, at this point I knew that I was in love with Maine Coons, but after seeing this litter being born, getting them toilet trained, weening them onto solid foods, and watching each of their personalities take shape, I did something very few people in the history of the world have done.
I could answer the question, “What is my purpose?”
"I sometimes wonder what Raphael would think if he saw our house filled with wild-looking cats!? Knowing him, he would have loved them, too! He is in an Urn on our mantel...watching us and them all the time."