It’s no secret to folks that I have a thing for animals.
I feed birds, pet dogs, enjoy watching the squirrels and possums. I compliment dog owners when I see them on a walk on their “good looking” canines. And stop to pet if invited. And there are cats. And cats.
I like weird cats with odd markings or extra toes or missing tails. We “own” two of them. Dottie (aka Big Dot), a stress eater, an oversized, crabby hunter and gatherer. And there’s her sister Daisy who is pint-sized with half a tail. She’s often confused or in a sort of daze. Her meows sound more like squeaks. And she’s missing just a notch out of an ear. Rumor has it–at least the people at the shelter said that both arrived there in a bird cage.
You can imagine my glee when I first heard the name “Miao Miao.” Yes. You pronounce her name “Meow Meow.” From what I understand, it’s a fairly common name in China, where she lives with my brother and sister-in-law.
They found her in an orphanage, abandoned and purple-faced with a congenital heart condition. The chambers, valves, and arteries of her heart had grown in a way that would have ended her life by the age of seven. Simply, her body was not getting enough oxygen. The ordinary play of toddlers was a tax her circulatory system could not afford.
This past summer, I heard her before I saw her at the Golden Inn in Xi’an.
The flight from Cincinnati to Xi’an took thirteen hours, and it was nearing midnight when we finally arrived at our hotel.
Miao Miao and her brother Yang Yang were “sleeping” in the room next door to ours. We tried to be quiet. But as soon as the door locked behind us. We heard squeals and neighing of ponies—Miao Miao’s spirit animal—and banging—Yang Yang enjoys hitting things and making loud noises. We had enough time for hugs and tears before settling down before a week of uncle-time.
Since we first met and fell in love, Miao Miao has come into her own color: rosy cheeks, clear skin, a heart and lungs that allow her to dance on beds and couches and anything that will sit still. She continues to wear pop-bottle sized glasses and invades my personal space, and I love her for it.
Thousands of miles away, today, I think of her when I consider the prompt: “What matters to you?”