Apollo Gets Adopted (A Short Story)

by StevenHelmer

A short story about a stray cat that ends up in a shelter and finds his family.

In 2001, my wife and I went into an animal shelter in northern Pennsylvania looking for a kitten. They didn't have any that were ready to be adopted so we ended up adopting a 2-year-old adult cat instead. We named him Apollo and he was with us for 16 years before passing away on May 1, 2017.
This is the story about how he became part of our family.

My Story

My name is Apollo. And, as you can probably tell from the picture below, I'm a cat.

I've never done anything special, like rescue someone from a fire, save someone from drowning or protected my house from burglars. Instead, I'm just an ordinary house cat living with a family in Wisconsin. My average day consists of sleeping, eating and occasionally playing with one of my toys. My favorite activity is crawling into my mother's lap each night when she sits down to watch a movie on TV.

However, while I consider myself an ordinary cat, I also know I'm a lucky cat. This is because, nearly 15 years ago, things weren't like this at all.

Photo by Steven Helmer

When I was younger, I didn't have a family. I was a stray. And, ultimately, I ended up living in an animal shelter in Pennsylvania.

Life in the shelter wasn't horrible. The people there were good people and they took good care of me. But, it wasn't the same as having a family of my own and I was lonely.

The worst part was I had to share my room with several other cats. Not only was it crowded, there was this one cat that always insisted on sleeping in the litter box. Talk about awkward.

I'm not sure how long I lived at the shelter. But, every day was pretty much the same. People would come in looking for a cat. However, they were always interested in adopting a kitten and, since I was already 2 years old (adult age for a cat), they would ignore me.

Needless to say, I wondered if I would ever find someone to adopt me and, when I thought about never finding a family, it really did scare me.

Sometime I Pretend to Be a Super Hero
Sometime I Pretend to Be a Super Hero
Photo by Cynthia Helmer

One morning, a man and woman walked into the shelter. They, like everyone else, were interested in adopting a kitten. When they learned the shelter didn't have any that were ready to be adopted, I thought they would leave.

Instead of leaving, however, they walked over to my room. I was so excited when the woman opened the door; I jumped into her arms.

It was love at first sight and the man and woman spent several minutes with me. But, then they had to leave and I was sad again. As she was leaving, the woman stopped and promised me it was only temporary and they would be back.

I don't know how long they were gone, but it seemed like an eternity. I wondered if they really were coming back or if they decided not to adopt an adult cat after all. All I could do was sit and wait.

And sit and wait some more.

And wait even longer.

OK, maybe I found time to eat something while waiting.

Then, just when I was about to give up hope, the man and woman returned! More importantly, when they left this time, they took me with them. I had been adopted!

This One is Just Embarrassing
This One is Just Embarrassing
Photo by Steven Helmer

Even though I was excited about having adoptive parents, I was also a bit scared. I don't like cars and was so nervous riding in one on the way back to their apartment; I escaped my cat carrier and tried to hide behind their back seat.

And, when I first moved in with them, things weren't quite as easy as everyone expected it to be. It took time, a lot of patience and quite a bit of forgiveness before we finally adjusted to the new arrangement.

Despite that, it was worth it. Things have been great. My new parents moved back to Wisconsin a short while later and, when they did, they took me with them. I didn't like the long car ride (as I said before, I don't like cars). But, I got to spend the night in a motel and that was pretty neat.

After a few more years, they had kids of their own. That was another adjustment for me. However, they didn't forget about me and made sure I remained part of their family. They even celebrate my birthday (April 13th, the day they adopted me) and make sure there is at least one present for me under the Christmas tree.

It's a Good Life
It's a Good Life
Photo by Steven Helmer

There are days when I think back to my time at the animal shelter and wonder if my former roommates were as lucky as I was and found families of their own. And, as I think about them, I am grateful for the two special people who were willing to give me a home even though I wasn't a kitten any more and have continued to care for me for almost 15 years.

After all, as I said before, I'm just an ordinary house cat and there's really nothing special about me. However, thanks to the generosity of my mom and dad, I am part of a family and that makes me feel special every day. 

So, come to think of it, maybe I'm not so ordinary after all.

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Updated: 06/03/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 01/12/2022

Did Apollo have all four paws white? Your opening and first images make me think of my sentient Brindet, who has that same classic, marbled coat.

It was really beautiful of you and your wife to keep Apollo's ashes and his pawprint where they remind you each day of his specialness.

StevenHelmer on 06/27/2017

Apollo was our only cat until about a year ago, when my wife and kids adopted a kitten at the local fair (the two of them, sadly, never managed to get along very well). We ended up adopting another kitten from the local animal shelter a couple weeks ago in Apollo's memory. We went younger this time around but that kitten (we named him Mouse), much like Apollo, was a stray and, by the time the shelter rescued him, was covered in fleas and had some serious trust issues. He's doing a lot better now and has made himself part of the family.
As for the name, it was just one we picked off of a list of suggested names that seemed to fit him though we did later learn he was adopted on the anniversary of the Apollo 13 explosion, which seemed fitting because he was a bit accident prone (he would jump into closed windows and fall off the bed during the night).
Apollo, incidentally, is still with us. We had him cremated and his ashes, along with his paw print, are on the fireplace.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/27/2017

StevenHelmer, Thank you to you and Azalea for Apollo's story. How did Apollo Helmer (April 13, 1999-May 1, 2017) get his name? Have there been animal, in addition to kiddie, companions or was this handsome, lucky, special cat an "only kit"?

MBC on 06/05/2017

I'm so glad you got adopted and by such a great family!

frankbeswick on 05/01/2017

I know how you are feeling, for my mother's cat, Tarzan, suffered exactly the same fate,aged sixteen. I took him to be put down, as mother could not bear to see him die. But be assured. The end, if it has to be, is painless.

Azalea Helmer on 05/01/2017

I regret to inform readers that Apollo may have to be put down today due to suspected kidney failure. He has not been able to walk or even stand and is so thin you can see his bones. He had a good life, and he is going to a better place. He won't be suffering any longer. (This is not for sure yet, he might still make it. Keep him in your prayers)

Azalea Helmer on 04/13/2017

Thats my boy!!

LPerry on 03/20/2017

Apollo, you are so cute :) Tabby cats are simply the best.

judy on 11/19/2016

I love this story more each time I read it!

dustytoes on 01/07/2016

All our cats came from shelters, and they have been such fun. It's silly for everyone to want to adopt kittens when they grow up so fast. Many people don't want black cats either because they are superstitious. All our cats are black!

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