Saturday, August 24, 2013

No. 285 – Meet Me on the Equinox

Performer: Death Cab for Cutie
Songwriter: Ben Gibbard
Original Release: Twilight Saga: New Moon: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Year: 2009
Definitive Version: None.

Long before we met, Laurie had a cat—Rajah. She talked about getting another one from time to time, but nothing came of it. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but sometime in 2010 we decided the time was right.

This would be my first pet since my first pet, Sugar Cookie, who was a 2nd Birthday present and died when I was 14. Mom had a dog, Josh, when I was a teenager, but Josh was never my dog; it was Mom’s.

As I got older, I didn’t want a pet. It wasn’t that I didn’t love animals; I just didn’t want the responsibility. It always was fun to visit Scott and play with Kirby, his dog, and Sammy and Molly, his cats. I loved Sammy and Molly, and they loved me. Jin had cats that were standoffish—lots of cats are standoffish. But Sammy and particularly Molly were friendly and playful. Molly even played fetch.

Then when I went to Torch Lake in fall 2004, I bonded so tightly with Maile, Dad and Laura’s lab, that I decided I DID want another pet at some point when the time was right. After I moved to Chicago, the time became right.

Well, Laurie and I weren’t going to have a dog. First, we couldn’t have one in our apartment. Second, we didn’t want a dog unless we had a yard in which it could roam. So it would be a cat. After my experience with Sammy, who went to the great cat bed in the sky last week, at 18, and Molly, I was fine with that.

Laurie is allergic to cats—that affliction didn’t stop Jin and Scott from having them either—so she had strict requirements. Our cat had to be a short-hair; it had to be a male; and it had to be a kitten, so Laurie could get used to its fur. She conducted a preliminary search as far as lining up shelters that had male kittens.

On the first day of spring, the vernal equinox, we went out to find our cat. Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—Death Cab for Cutie’s latest hit was an earworm.

Our first stop was the Anti-Cruelty Society Downtown. They told Laurie that week that they had several males under the age of 6 months. Perfect … at least until we got there and found no male kittens anywhere near the age of 6 months. We went into the Cat House—that’s really what they call the room that had all the cages—and saw several cats that needed good homes, but none of which would be ours.

Laurie was angry. She felt she had been misled and that we wasted time. It was a Sunday, so we wouldn’t have a lot of time to visit other shelters, which would be more of a crapshoot anyway, because none of them could guarantee male kittens the way that Anti-Cruelty Society had. Before we left, Laurie said she wanted to go into the petting rooms for some cat therapy.

We went into one of the two rooms, and almost as soon as we walked in, a gray tabby was at our feet, rubbing up against us. Laurie and I thought exactly the same thing at the same time: Well, he seems kind of little.

It was a he. Laurie noted the blue collar to mark the males. She asked the staffer who let us into the petting room about this cat’s age. She grabbed a card and said it was 5 months. Huh, a 5-month-old male, you say? Yep, already had been neutered even.

Laurie and I watched as the kitten went over to litter box and dutifully covered up when he was finished. “So he knows how to do that already.” We looked at each other knowingly.

He came by again, and Laurie picked him up and handed him to me. I cradled him in one arm, and he promptly went numb, not scrambling to be let down but purring up a storm. I looked at Laurie with a smile: OK, it’s up to you.

She played with the kitten for a while and held him some, too. While we sat there together, she looked at me and said, “I think he’s the one.” OK, I’ll go get the pet carrier while you have the staff pull his card.

As I went outside to walk over to where we had the car parked, I could see through the front window a family with two small kids walk into the same petting room … and make a beeline for the kitten. I didn’t quite have my nose pressed against the glass yelling, “GET AWAY FROM MY CAT!” but I felt like it. When I got back, Laurie assured me, the kitten was ours.

Then we had to go through the arduous process whereby we prove to ACS that we’d make good pet owners. It took an hour, and that was for a cat. I can’t imagine what it’s like to try and adopt a kid. What, do they run you through the precog crime unit?

Everything check out, and finally, they put the kitten’s collar on him and put him in our pet carrier. Everyone came out to see him go. “Is that Raz in there?” Yup. It seems ol’ Raz had had quite a go of it.

As Frank Drebin would note, Raz was a two-time loser who ended up back at the Big House when his latest owner got sick and couldn’t care for him anymore. He had milky gold eyes as a result of a cold when he was real little that caused him to scratch up his cornea. He could see fine; he just didn’t have that curb appeal.

I believe that’s why we got him. Just like if our apartment had been in perfect shape when we saw it instead of the pit that it was, we would’ve missed out, I’m certain that if Raz had two perfect-looking eyes, he would be living somewhere else now. Maybe he’d still be called Raz.

Laurie said that name had to go, and I couldn’t have agreed more. I like regular names for pets. I lobbied for Vern, after the vernal equinox. Laurie didn’t like Vern, and the matter rested for a couple days when the name just came to her: Henry. Like Henry Aaron, I thought? I can go for that.

Henry it is. He’s been with us for 3 years, and he’s everything I could have wanted in a cat. He’s playful—he not only fetches, he’ll catch a furry ball between his front paws and stuff it in his mouth whilst in midair before landing—and affectionate. He sleeps between my legs when it’s not too hot and crawls into my lap whenever he needs a pet. I love him to death.

To think that if Laurie didn’t want to partake of cat therapy in the petting room and we just left ACS, we never would have met Henry on that equinox. That would have been tragic.

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