By: Stephanie South
In November 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, I was boarding a flight from Phoenix, AZ, to Washington, DC, when I got a call that would change my life, as well as those of my grandmother, my parents, and so many others.
My grandpa, who has been the main man in my life for all of my 26 years, had suffered a dual-hemisphere stroke during a routine carotid endarterectomy to remove plaque from his carotid artery.
Now, don’t misunderstand me—I have a phenomenal father—but my Gramps (whom I call Tar) and I (he calls me Pup) have a connection that I don’t think anyone but my cousin Angela (who shares a similar connection) could understand.
He’s the man I measure the character of every guy I have ever dated against. He’s my biggest fan. He’s why I have read so many books. He’s why I paint. He’s why I went to Paris. He’s why I live in the District now, as much as he misses not having me home in Colorado. He’s why I work for the U.S. Department of Labor. He is why I love frogs.
He’s why I have a cat named Tadpole that I adopted from the Washington Humane Society (WHS), and he is the reason I will run over 26 miles while I am 26-years old for WHS.
You see, my grandpa has always had a thing for frogs and toads. Gramps brought me home a potbelly pig named Pogo to raise (much to my parent’s chagrin); and helped me adopt my first pet, Elmo (a black cat who I desperately wanted to be a fluffy orange Tabby), from the humane society in my hometown.
So in the spring of 2015, when I was looking to adopt a cat and saw a domestic shorthair with a black coat named Tadpole on WHS’ website, I thought it was a sure sign I should at least go have a look at the two-year old feline. And although I went to visit Kitty City with an open mind and a willingness to spend time with other cats, Tadpole would not have it. Upon meeting, he jumped into my arms, greeting me with a nose kiss and neck nuzzle; when I walked away to pay attention to a neighboring kitten, he crawled into the carrier I brought and refused to get out.
He went home with me that day.
Tadpole is not your typical cat—in fact, he’s much more of a dog. He greets me at the door, attempts to lick my face, fetches things, goes through the trash, and chews on my shoes. He also has a little frog in him too apparently, because he routinely lies like an amphibian.
However, that is not all that Tadpole is to me, and I would wager a guess that many of my fellow pet owners share this sentiment.
My little buddy is also something that has brought me (and my grandpa, who is anxious to meet the ornery black flash he frequently sees on an iPad) so much joy, and Tadpole has, in many ways, been a critical part of my support system during what I would categorize as an exceptionally difficult start to the new year. Because besides being something warm and fuzzy to greet me at the door when I would otherwise come home to an empty house, he was a sort of higher purpose. Regardless of what I was going through, Tadpole still needed fed, and, because of him, my house still needed cleaned. And because he is such a piece of work, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh a little more than I probably would have otherwise.
I am extremely grateful for many things this year, despite the difficulties it has carried—two of those things which are my grandfather’s recovering health and sense of humor despite the paralysis of his left side and the four-legged friend who is probably destroying my new pair of running shoes as I speak. I am also thankful that I will have the opportunity to run (even after an early-spring kneecap dislocation) my first marathon this October (26 miles while I am 26!) for the Washington Humane Society, a local charity that has made a huge difference in my life (and those of my Tadpole and my Gramps).
If you would like to share in that difference, my goal is to raise $1000 by the end of October. I would ask those that are able to donate $1 for every mile of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon I will run, for a total of $26. For those that are willing to double that donation—$52—I will be drawing (or randomly generating) one name (and therefore, one winner) to receive a portrait of their favorite furry friend (because when I am not sleeping, working, or running around the District, I paint).