By the time I was thirteen, it seemed like I was too old to admit my love of animals. I'd hidden my true feelings about the subject for so long it just didn't seem right to change them so late. When I was five, a dog had scared me badly, and for a short time I had been afraid of animals. Ever since then, my parents had been way too over-protective about keeping me away from animals, and I had gone along with the flow instead of speaking up that I wasn't frightened anymore. Now I was too nervous to tell my parents—I figured they wouldn't believe me and just think that I was saying it to make them feel better. But, then I met Cinnamon...
It all started one day in early August. School was going to start again in a few weeks and I was over at my friend Millaina's house.
"I'm sure that the violet dress will work fine, Millie. The color brings out your blue eyes and if you wear the little flower brooch, it'll be perfect," I said.
"Are you sure, Kirsten?" she asked me, looking at the dresses scattered across her bed.
"Yes. The green one is too bright and the pink washes you out. The rest all have their own problems. You'll look wonderful at the wedding—I promise. Can we go downstairs now?" I was getting hungry and Millie's mom always had muffins or cookies baking.
"Sure, but only for a minute, I signed up to help out at the animal shelter at 3:oo PM and it's already 2:4o PM. You can come with if you want, but you don't like animals—right?" Hopping up from her bed, Millaina headed towards the stairs.
"I'll come and see what it's like, a kitten or two won't hurt me," I smiled, thinking how awesome it was that I could finally be by an animal without Mom or Dad standing there to make sure I wasn't injured by "vicious" puppies and "terrifying" kittens. Maybe, just maybe, by helping Millie out at the shelter, I could slowly show my parents that I loved animals.
After grabbing an oatmeal-raisin cookie, I followed Millie out the door and we jumped onto our bikes. The animal shelter was only a mile and a half down the road, so we didn't have to rush. We didn't talk on the way there, but I was thinking about telling my parents. I decided to keep it a secret for now and maybe have Millie come over, then have her talk about the animal shelter and... My thoughts were interrupted as Millie came to a screeching halt in front of the animal shelter.
Wiping the sweat from my brow—it was 94 degrees—I took my purple helmet off and hung it on my handlebars. Millie and I both leaned our bikes against the shaded wall and walked into the shelter. On the floor in a corner was a little beagle puppy, it was frisking around like a madman.
"Where to first?" I asked.
"I normally feed the dogs first and then the cats. But, since you're here, I can feed the dogs while you feed the cats. Things will get done faster," she said, heading towards a door marked "Food and Supplies." I followed her and looked around in the small closet. Grabbing a bag of Andersons' Cat Food, I followed Millie back out the door. "The cat room's that way—the door says 'Office,' but it's not one. Each house of three kittens gets a scoop of food and single kittens get half a scoop. Full-grown cats are all single-caged and get a full scoop." Millie headed left and I went right— to the cat room.
The door swung open easily as I pushed it with my shoulder—there was cat food in my hands. There were about thirty felines in the room, most of them kittens. As I set the bag down on the floor, I felt something rub against my sandal. Looking down I saw a dark brown kitten with bright blue eyes staring at me. I laughed and scooped up the naughty kitty. Glancing around the room, I saw that one of the cage doors had swung open. Above the door was the name Cinnamon, along with a piece of paper that said:
Cinnamon is a female tabby She is often escaping from her cage. No special care necessary
I figured Marie was a volunteer and gently placed Cinnamon back into her cage. She mewed at me and I laughed. Latching the cage shut, I grabbed the food and, starting at the beginning of the row, fed all of the gorgeous animals. Cinnamon had the last cage and I took an extra minute to stroke her. Poor Cinnamon, I thought, I wonder who could have deserted you. She looked up and purred at me and I smiled down at her.
During the next few weeks, I helped out at the shelter many times. Each time, I cuddled Cinnamon a bit longer and stroked her a little more tenderly I was growing to love that darling kitten.
* * *
Once I had Millaina tell my parents that I was working at the shelter with her, I planned on adopting Cinnamon. I was sure my parents wouldn't care and was looking forward to the date I planned to have Millie come over for dinner—in two weeks. But then it happened, the plan was ruined and my secret was out.
It was two days before the planned dinner and Millie and I were both working at the shelter. We were the only ones there and about to close up when a man wearing a big camera around his neck and holding a large pad of paper in his hand came rushing in the door.
"Excuse me ladies, can I speak to Mr. McLonvul?" he asked politely Mr. McLonvul was the owner of the shelter.
"Sorry," Millie answered, "Kirsten and I are just closing up. Mr. McLonvul left about a half an hour ago. Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Well, I'm trying to do an article to put in tomorrow's Hilton Gazette. By the way, the name's Mr. Clantrive. Anyway, I was wondering if I could interview you two. You know, just a few questions about the place," Mr. Clantrive asked in a rush.
Millie and I looked at each other for a moment. "Sure," I said hesitantly "I mean, we're not experts on this place, but we know the basics and we can tell you the current animal count and stuff."
"Wonderful!" Mr. Clantrive said, taking a pencil from behind his ear. "Question one: about how many people volunteer here weekly?"
Millaina went behind the desk for a moment, fishing out the volunteer sign up book. "Uh—this week we had fourteen volunteers, and then there are three permanent volunteers who aren't listed, so seventeen people working. There's about that many every week," she answered.
About how many cats are there currently and how many dogs?" asked Mr. Clantrive, glancing up from his notepad.
"Twenty-seven cats—mostly kittens, but there are some full-grown," I answered quickly.
"Forty-one dogs—an even mix of puppies and full-grown pooches," responded Millaina.
"I'll call Mr. McLonvul to get any more info that I need. Thank you, girls. By the way, what are your names?" he asked, glancing up from his notes again.
"I'm Kirsten Mulgat and this is my friend Millaina Yiert. Mulgat is spelled M-U-L-G-A-T and Yiert is Y-I-E-R-T," I said, nonchalantly. As I spoke, Mr. Clantrive snapped a picture of us.
"Millaina is M-I-L-L-A-I-N-A," added Millie. If she was going to be in the paper, it was going to be spelled correctly—people were constantly misspelling her uncommon name.
"Thank you, goodbye girls," said Mr. Clantrive and left.
Millaina and I finished cleaning up the building and then locked up. We headed opposite directions towards our houses; we had ridden our bikes there as always. About halfway home, I suddenly realized that unless I could keep my parents from reading the paper the next morning, my secret would be out.
It's no use, I thought to myself. There's no way to try to have them not read the paper. They might pass the article, but I was planning on telling them soon anyway Oh well, I guess I'll see how it goes tomorrow...
Early the next morning, my secret was no longer a secret. The article ended up being on the front page of the Neighbor section, so it wasn't something that my dad skimmed or missed. It was especially obvious that I had been there because of the large color picture below the large headline: "Hilton Animal Shelter, Still Going After 25 Years!" Apparently he had called Mr. McLonvul for more information.
"Well look at this, Madeline," Dad called to Mom.
"Why, Kirsten Mulgat! Is that you?" Mom asked, looking at a picture with Millaina and me in it.
"Yeah," I mumbled.
"I thought you didn't like animals, honey," Dad said, looking at me. "Were you just walking there with Millaina so you got in the picture or something?"
"No," I said, blushing bright red, then the entire story came spilling out.
"Well, Kirsten," said my dad, after I had completed my explanation. "I just don't understand why you were scared to tell us."
"But you're not grounding me or anything?" I asked bashfully.
Mom laughed good-naturedly "What do you think, Shawn?" she asked, then answered the question herself "No Kirsten. But, next time can you at least tell us that you're volunteering? Dad and I might want to come with."
I smiled, "Sure, Mom. I promise I won't keep any more secrets like this!"
The next day, Mom came to the animal shelter with Millaina and me —Dad was working. I gave her a little tour of the cat section and Millaina the dog section. Of course there were other parts of the building, but neither of us had ever worked in them. She helped out a little, but mostly just observed.
As we rode our bikes home, Mom and I talked, "You really like that little kitten, Cinnamon, don't you?" she asked me seriously.
"Yeah, she's soooooo cute and she loves me, too," I answered, trying to sound casual.
"She is a charming kitten, I like her too," Mom replied.
I looked at Mom, was she thinking the same thing as me? "Uh, Mom," I said after a few moments of hesitation. "Do you think that, well, maybe that there's any chance we could adopt Cinnamon? I mean, you just said that you liked her too so..." I trailed off.
"I was thinking the same thing Kirsten," said Mom, looking at me with a twinkle in her eye. "I'll talk to your father and if he agrees, I believe you can have a pet."
I couldn't wait for Dad to get home, though I was pretty sure his answer would be yes. Luckily, I was right.
The next day was probably the best day of my life. It didn't take long to adopt Cinnamon since the shelter already had most of the necessary adoption information from me volunteering. We stopped by a pet store on the way home to pick up food, toys, a cage, and even a little blue collar for Cinnamon. I held her the whole time, rubbing her soft fur against my cheek and scratching her gently. I had decided against changing her name, it fit her perfectly. The colors matched, and Cinnamon was full of spice and energy with a spirit of her own.
I was glad that my secret had finally come out, because if it hadn't, I would have never met Cinnamon, and without Cinnamon, life wouldn't be as good as it is now. Because now, three years later, I have Cinnamon's darling kittens: brown, little Paprika, gray, timid Ginger and courageous, snow-white Sugar.