Gattino had been in trouble when I met him too. I was traveling in Italy when I found him, a tiny, half-starved, sick kitty going blind in both eyes. I didn't intend to take him home with me. I thought I would nurse him to health and then put him back where I found him, where he would at least have a fighting chance. But during the five weeks I spent with him, I got too attached to leave him. He was still sick when it came time to leave (his respiratory illness was chronic) and technically too young to travel—but I moved hell and high water to get him on the plane. I got him home, and he was incredibly happy to be there with us, and incredibly loving. And then lost him.
I spent months looking for him, hoping against all odds to find him. I didn't. Sometimes I would sit looking out the window with tears running down my face, and I would think, "Love is a truly terrible thing. And I have picked the wrong people (and creature) to love."
But when I was out looking for Gattino, sometimes I would think something else. I would think of how brave he was, how intrepid. Like many animals, he had a big heart in his tiny body. During the 16-hour trip home from Italy, he didn't cry once. He sat in his carrier gazing at me alertly; he sat in my lap and played with me; he played with the little girl next to me; he would've walked up and down the aisles if he could. No matter what happened to him out in the cold, he would've met it with absolute presence and courage. No matter what, he would've been absolutely himself. That is a kind of love; a kind that doesn't have expectations of how things should be, or how people should be, either. It is a love that respects what is, even if what is involves something terrible for yourself and those you care for. It is very tough and unsentimental; it is also very gentle. It is a kind of love that is difficult for human beings to have. It is something we can learn from.