By CASEY WATTS

My only greeting after school was coming home to a list of chores, dirty cereal bowls and yesterday’s lunch boxes covered with crumbs. This was a cold way to grow up, often making me feeling like a flower trying to bloom in a field of frost. But this all changed nine years ago when I adopted Olive.

Olive, a 9-year-old cat, looks at her owner after she comes home.

Olive, a 9-year-old cat, looks at her owner after she comes home.

The welcoming patter of paws running down the stairs took precedent over a list of messy scrawl laying forlorn on the kitchen counter. Her tail jumped up and her ears swiveled forward when her crisp olive green eyes met mine. Olive, my 11 pound gray and ivory fluff ball of a cat, rubbed against the back of my legs, making sure to every inch of her touched me, all the way to the tip of her slim feather duster tail. Her engine-like purrs immediately filled the room.

“Well hello to you too, Ms. Muffin,” I affectionately said to her every time I came home.

She always responded with a demanding and hearty meow, as if to say, “Hey mom, why aren’t you petting me?”

My backpack dropped to the floor with a clunk and books were tossed aside like Frisbees. She would put her front paws on my legs and meow if she didn’t hear their thuds quickly enough. As a reward for the attention, she gently head-butted my forehead and tickled my nose with her long straw-like white whiskers as pulled away to shove her plush face into my hand.

This routine is as old as she is. If she ever isn’t there to greet me, I know she is the small breathing lump under my blankets.

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