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Jade and Trubs: An Unlikely Love Story

May 06, 2020 07:26PM ● By Carol Novello

Excerpted from Mutual Rescue: How Adopting a Homeless Animal Can Save You, Too, by Carol Novello, founder of Mutual Rescue

In July 2016, Jessica and Brent Allen, of Bradley, Illinois, had planned to take their four kids to the airport to pick up Brent’s mom, who was visiting from Colorado. But when their 6-year-old daughter, Jade, who has sensory processing disorder and is on the autism spectrum, woke up with a fever, Jessica decided to stay home with her. The two of them puttered around the house, then went to the doctor. When they returned home, Jessica realized they were locked out. “I asked Jade what she wanted to do,” recalls Jessica.

“She’s a huge cat lover, so she said she wanted to go pet the kitties.” Jessica figured why not? It was hot and humid outside, and they needed something to occupy the time. But she made it clear that they weren’t going to the shelter to adopt a cat. “We already had 10 animals, ranging from birds to cats to dogs, and Jade’s older brother is on the autism spectrum, as well,” she says. “Needless to say, our hands were already quite full.”

At the shelter, New Beginnings for Cats, Jessica and Jade petted the kitties, moving from one room to the next. By the time they’d been there an hour or so, they’d visited every room except one, and the shelter director, Jennifer, made it clear that the last room wasn’t a good option. “She told us that’s where they keep the ‘unadoptable’ cats—the ones that have serious health issues, like leukemia and cancer and seizures—problems most people don’t want to deal with,” Jessica says. “My husband wasn’t home from the airport yet, so we decided to go in.”

Several cats were lolling around, but Jade spotted a blanket with a lump under it. “Jennifer said, ‘Oh, honey, you don’t want to mess with that cat. He’s really grumpy,’ ” says Jessica. Even so, Jade went over, lifted the blanket, and peered underneath. Staring back at her was a scrawny, dark cat with a scowl on his face. Jade didn’t seem to notice his dour expression. She sat down and began petting and talking to the cat.

The feline’s name was Double Trouble. He’d been in the shelter for five years. He was toothless, depressed, and had a terminal viral disease called feline infectious peritonitis. In order to keep him alive, the shelter workers had to give him fluids three or four times a week, plus regular intravenous medications to help him eat. After spending a few minutes with the cat, Jade got up and wandered away to find other felines in need of attention.

Instead of retreating under his blanket, Double Trouble followed her. “Jennifer was shocked,” says Jessica. “She said, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s never happened before. He doesn’t greet anybody. He usually hisses when we approach him.’ ” But when Jade sat down, he walked up to her, crawled onto her lap, curled up, and began to purr.

“It’s hard to describe that moment,” says Jessica. “Jennifer was so moved by what was happening she started to cry, then I started to cry. Jade said, ‘Mommy, can I take him home?’ Even though I knew my husband would freak out, I eventually decided to fill out the adoption application. This cat, that we ended up naming Trubs, had picked Jade. She loved him. I couldn’t say no.”

Before the family took Trubs home, the shelter employees showed Jessica how to give the cat an IV and administer his medication. “I was a little nervous about it, but we already had so much chaos in our lives, what was a little more?”

As Jessica predicted, Brent wasn’t thrilled with their new addition to the family. He felt certain Trubs would live up to his name: Trouble. But over the next few days the adjustment was far easier than any of them had imagined. Trubs used the litter box, curled up with Brent and Jessica while they were watching TV, and seemed happier and healthier than they’d had any reason to expect.

What’s more, the effect the cat had on Jade left them stunned. “Jade had terrible problems getting to sleep at night,” says Jessica. “She’s sensitive to light and sound and hot and cold. At bedtime, all her senses would kick into overdrive, and it was a nightmare. She’d get overstimulated and wouldn’t be able to calm down. She’d rock back and forth, cry and scream, kick her feet, flail her hands. Night after night the same scenario played out. It was awful to see her go through that and not be able to help.”

The first night Trubs was in the house, Jessica began reading to Jade, but the little girl started getting stressed and overstimulated, as usual. “I was trying to calm her down, but it wasn’t working,” recalls Jessica. “Out of nowhere, Trubs walked into the room, jumped on her bed, walked onto her belly and started kneading her chest. The effect on Jade was instantaneous. She smiled, settled down and within minutes was fast asleep. It was the best feeling ever. I was so excited I called Brent in to see what had happened. After what we’d experienced all those years, it felt like a minor miracle.”

The miracle has played out every night since. Before Jade’s bedtime, Trubs pads into her room, jumps on her bed and waits for her. When she crawls into bed, he lies with her until she falls asleep. Once she’s fully conked out, he heads for the family room, where he climbs on the sofa to watch TV with Brent and Jessica.

Since joining the Allen family, Trubs’ health has taken a remarkable turn for the better. He eats and drinks without the help of an IV or medication. In most ways, he has integrated seamlessly into their routine. The only hitch: He isn’t particularly affectionate with the Allens’s other three children. “Jade is his person,” says Jessica, “and their relationship has been incredibly good for her. Before we got Trubs, she was shy and didn’t know how to interact with other kids, so she had a tendency to get frustrated with social interactions. Now, she’s become more verbal, more confident, and more outgoing. She’ll tell kids at school about her cat. She talks about him all the time. Trubs has had such a positive impact on her ability to communicate. She’s grown and developed more in the time we’ve had Trubs than I ever would have hoped. She knows how to count and write now. She’s willing to try new things. In many ways, she’s a different kid. Even Brent, who really didn’t want us to adopt Trubs, looks at me all the time and says, ‘This was the best decision we ever made.’ Our ‘unadoptable’ cat changed our daughter’s life.”

Excerpted from Mutual Rescue: How Adopting a Homeless Animal Can Save You, Too, by Carol Novello, founder of Mutual Rescue, a national initiative that highlights the connection between people and pets in order to inspire and support life-saving efforts in communities across the nation and world. Mutual Rescue’s first short film, Eric & Peety, went viral and has been viewed more than 100 million times. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. For more information, visit MutualRescue.org.

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Photo credits Mutual Rescue

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