Monday, June 22, 2009


Nob Hill
Thursday afternoon


I first visited San Francisco when I was 16. I was very unhappy growing up in New York City, and San Francisco seemed so clean, colorful, and magical. I knew I would live here someday.

That "someday" came in 1996, at a time in my life when there was nowhere I needed to be. I drove from South Carolina to California, and after a short detour in Los Angeles, sold the car that kept breaking down and moved to San Francisco. I thought it would be for good, but things in my life never fell into place. When I was laid off from my job in the spring of 2001, I felt it was time to make a change, and moved back to New York. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I came down with chronic fatigue and body pain. Thinking that I had a case of the flu that wouldn't go away, and that my immune system was no longer able to tolerate New York winters, I moved back to warm and sunny L.A.

After about two years in L.A. I had had enough, and I missed San Francisco. When I was suddenly laid off from my latest job in L.A., it seemed like I was meant to move back here. It was 2004.

Two years later I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and eventually Fibromyalgia Syndrome as well. I spend a lot of time in bed due to these conditions. Some people think it must be wonderful to be in bed so much. Actually, it's not. Lying awake, unable to sleep, exhausted and in pain, thinking about all the life, that other people are actively participating in, going on outside my window, is not fun at all. But it has given me a lot of time to think about life and how I had been living it.

I realized that I had been afraid of having the very things I wanted: a relationship, intimacy, a successful career... even a pet. I was afraid of having something, or someone, important, and then losing it. I knew I couldn't change myself and fix everything all at once, but I had to start somewhere. I started volunteering at Pets Unlimited, a wonderful no-kill shelter/veterinary hospital, located on Fillmore and Washington, socializing cats and dogs. It was there that I met Ginny.

Ginny had come to the shelter with her brother Clyde after their owner had passed away. Clyde suddenly got very sick and had to be put to sleep. Everyone at the shelter felt bad for Ginny. Every week during my shift, I would first visit with Ginny for a long while before seeing any of the other animals. After some time I was asked if I wanted to long term foster Ginny. I said yes. I planned to foster her until I was financially stable, and then adopt her. She was about 11 years old, so I figured we would have at least 5 years together. I was going to let this little cat into my life, knowing I would grieve someday when she was gone.

I soon found out that "someday" would be a lot sooner than I had planned on, when I was told Ginny had cancer. It was estimated that she had about 3-12 more months to live. My mother and friends cautioned me not to take her, saying it would be hard on me when it was time for her to go. I decided it would be harder to leave her there in her little room at the shelter, and let her die there feeling unwanted and unloved.

So Ginny came home with me and has been making me love her more and more each day. And when it's time for her to go, I'll know that I made the time she had left happy.

I still go to the shelter every week. I stare out the windows of the # 1 bus, just like a tourist. But I'm not a tourist, I'm a resident. A resident who just can't get over how beautiful this city is, and how lucky I am to be living here. I hope this time I'm here to stay.

If you'd like to learn more about Pets Unlimited and how you can help, their website is:


a painter said...

Wonderful story and wonderful photos. I have rescued many pets over the years myself. Making old pets happy is one of the kindest, most generous and loving things a human can do. It is difficult to let a pet go for sure, but as time passes, the joy of the relationship will (hopefully) outweigh the sadness.

The photographs are quite wonderful, too. Tango--you are turning into an extraordinary photographer.

smith kaich jones said...

Of course Tango knew I would be here, leaving a comment. I live with my best friend, Maggie the Cat, who is 17 and suffering from feline kidney failure. She has lived with me since she was 2 months old. 5 days of the week, my boyfriend & I give her fluids - an injection under the skin - and every Saturday she receives another from the vet, with additional B12 & medicine for her belly. We have been doing this for a little over a year, and she has been fine, but the disease is finally beginning to catch up with her, and I see signs of weakening, of age, and it truly breaks my heart. Like you, I know this cat is happy & like you, I will have no regrets when it is time for her to go; I will have her in my heart always. I am so so impressed & proud to know you have given joy to Ginny, and she to you. Like Tango, I cried when looking at the photos, and now realize I have no images of Maggie & I together. Tomorrow I will put the camera in my boyfriend's hands - thank you & Tango for this inspiration. The photos are wonderful.

Take care & give Ginny a rub behind the ears for me.

:) Debi

Just Jules said...

oh it is all so wonderful and sad and sweet and heart wrenching ....

Cartooncharacter said...

Hi Debi, her ears will be extra rubbed! Best wishes to you and Maggie!

:) Patti

Pink Peony said...

Such a bitter sweet story. Thank you for sharing.

Christina said...

Just lovely. ; )

Oh my.

elk said...

visiting from emma tree with awe and wonder at the images of the beloved cat ...rescue animals are so special

Relyn said...

Oh, Patti. Now you won't only have this wonderful love you've shared, you'll have amazing images, too. Isn't it wonderful the way way love expands our lives the more we give?

Surrina said...

amazing!!! you have a beautiful life full of love!!