When I asked Parker if I should tell his story, he answered “rrmff.” In his kitty language, that meant yes. Parker is a cat who speaks only in consonants, not vowels. His “rrmff” is the answer to the questions “Do you want to go out?” or ”Do you want to go for a hike?” He is a cat of few words, but I understand them, and this is our story.

I went to the animal control facility with a heavy heart, not ready to adopt a new best friend, but at my husband’s urging, willing to look. I had lost my best friend just weeks before and was still grieving his absence. As I looked at the cats in cages, all of them hoping to be the one to go to a new forever home, my heart sank even deeper. I wanted to take them all. Over in the corner, one cat, a young male of about nine months caught my eye. He appeared to have the biggest nose ever seen on a cat. Now, I have a large nose, so we already had something in common.

This boy was a maniac, going to the top of his climbing pole in the colony room, feet flying, tail swinging, looking more like a monkey than a cat. Although attracted to his unusual look, I told my husband: this guy has way too much energy for us. He’ll climb the walls of our house, shredding curtains, sending objects flying. No way would he sit still enough to snuggle.

So I chose another cat and sat with her on my lap. She seemed nice enough, but didn’t speak to me. It is a test all cats must pass to become part of my home; they have to speak to my heart and I didn’t feel the quiet words that I know meant it would be right. I kept trying to feel it, walking around with my new friend, but when she hissed and growled at other cats I knew it wouldn’t work. I needed to find a cat who would get along with Leo, our big furry boy at home.

And so I found myself back to the interesting looking boy in the corner, now sitting at the very highest point of that cat tree he was so energetically climbing minutes ago. There was a sign on his cage that said “free hugs.” Boy was I in need of one of those.

I washed my hands, gowned up, and went in. Dimitri—that was his kennel name—came right up to me. I put out my hand and let him sniff me. Too many people just try to pat a cat on the head when you have to introduce yourself first. Dimitri sniffed and rubbed on my hand. I stroked him a little, then picked him up. Both front paws wrapped around my neck, and there it was, the free hug. I melted, and I heard that little voice whisper to my heart: take me. That was it—I was in love. I walked around with my new little boy, his paws wrapped around my neck like a new black and white scarf.

We learned Dimitri had been found in a field and turned into the emergency clinic by a good Samaritan. Who could have put such a sweet kitten into the cold and wet that is an Oregon winter night? Our boy, as we now called him, had come down with such a severe upper respiratory infection that he almost didn’t survive. He didn’t eat for a week and the staff was ready to euthanize him, but because of his sweet nature they decided to give him another 48 hours to turn the corner. Miraculously, he did, and we found him the first day he was put back out for adoption.

Did I tell you I work for a vet? Well, when the shelter people found that out, they were thrilled; it was kismet. This boy would need special attention his whole life to keep him healthy as that initial infection had destroyed the inner workings of his little nose.

Two years later and Dimitri, now named Parker, is that wonderful snuggler I was looking for. His nose is a normal size, by the way. It is his colouring that gives it a larger than normal look. Parker travels with us and actually loves to go hiking on a leash, leading the way down the trail looking for his next adventure. He seems to love water and we joke he was a ship cat in a former life.

I have found all my loving furry friends at our local animal shelter. Each one has been special in their own way, but somehow, Parker has been the most special of all.

Those free hugs, he’s still giving them out. “Rrmff.”

Share your story. Email submissions for “How I Met My Cat” to lastlick@moderncat.com