Seventeen years ago, I brought my sweet cat, Darcy, home from the animal shelter. I never had a cat before, but as soon as I sat in the cat room at the shelter, this tiny kitten climbed into my lap, purring away. I didn’t choose her. She chose me.

We’ve moved houses together, changed careers, seen boyfriends come and go, snuggled on cold nights and napped in warm sunbeams. She’s the ideal companion with a penchant for stealing food off my plate and loudly demanding her breakfast at 5 in the morning.

Two years ago, I received an offer to move to China. But what about Darcy? Traveling is a huge stress on her, not to mention the costs involved with getting a pet to China. I was torn, but in the chaos of my life at that time, I knew moving to China was the right thing to do.

With a broken heart, I left her with a friend. I ugly cried more than once. Vaguely, I thought of sending for her once I settled down, but so many things were so uncertain that I dared not hope too much.

And settle in, I did. Beijing was rich in culture, life, relationships, and I adored it. I missed my hometown in the desert, my family and friends, but the only reason I ever cried was because I missed my cat.

I believe animal adoption is for life. Under extreme circumstances, I understand re-homing a pet may be necessary, but there is nearly always a solution to pet problems and, as responsible pet parents, it’s up to us to find them. They are, after all, family.

It’s been heartening to see progress in policies and activism when it comes to animal rights in China. From the recent lift on requirements for animal testing on some imported cosmetics, to the animal rights bill that Zhu Lieyu, an NPC deputy and lawyer from Guangdong Guoding Law Firm, is proposing, to a petition I signed just this week, lobbying for the humane treatment of dogs and cats purchased online, my tender heart is so happy to see advancements in animal welfare!

I knew I needed to send for Darcy a few months into starting my new life in China. The breaking point happened one day at work. I passed a shop and in the window was a fluffy white cat in a cage. The store was closed. My mind raced. How could anyone leave a perfectly cute cat there alone, in a cage, on the weekend? I thought, wildly, about breaking the storefront window to save this cat from loneliness and perceived mistreatment. And, suddenly, it came crashing in on me. I felt lonely. I felt my cat was lonely without me. I had abandoned her, to friends, yes, but I still left her and I missed her so very, very badly. I sank to the ground and sobbed until concerned coworkers came to find me.

I realized that time, effort, and cost were nothing. She was my cat and we needed to be together. Simple as that. It took about a month, but one evening, at 11 pm, she arrived. In true cat fashion, she walked out of her crate like she owned the place. That was fine with me.

We’ve continued life together. My friends and I even threw her a Sweet 16 birthday party last year. Sadly, she now suffers from chronic kidney failure, but I am grateful every day that I am the one to be with her and care for her and that I will be the one to hold her when she crosses the rainbow bridge. My life in China wouldn’t be the same without her.

Contact the writer at [email protected]