Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hand-Me-Down Cat

Hand Me Down Cat

Some fourteen or so years ago, my nephew pulled into the driveway of my mother and father-in-law's house on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado. In the back of his vehicle, nestled among the suitcases and other belongings, was a momma cat and her kittens. After a few days stay, it was time for him to load the car and continue on his trip. When it came time to put the cats back in the car, one little black kitten refused to go. Rather than force the kitten into the car, my nephew left him there in Boulder. Bob and Ardis, my mother and father-in-law, had taken a liking to the little cat and he to them, so they were more than willing to adopt him. They named him Ebony.

You'd think a cat named "Ebony" would be black and, in most cases, you'd be right. This Ebony, though, wasn't exactly black. Each hair of his seemingly black fur is actually white about half way up its length. It doesn't show unless you "rub him the wrong way." Then you can see the underlying white. In bright light, he has brown spots on his fur like a panther. He's not a very big cat and he has always been rather thing, almost boney, like a cat version of a fashion model.

Ebony lived quite contently for a few years in the house in Boulder. Bob and Ardis eventually sold their home in there and moved to Temecula, California so as to be nearer to their grown children and grandchildren, most of whom lived in the Los Angeles area. From there they moved to Laguna Woods and finally to Verdugo City where they rented a small apartment. Ebony adapted to all the changes and was a good companion to Bob and Ardis through the years.

While living at the Verdugo City apartment, Ebony made friends with another cat, Lovey, who lived down the hall. He would visit Lovey quite often and sometimes stay for dinner. When Bob and Ardis would travel, Ebony would stay with Lovey and her human, Murel. When first Ardis and then Bob passed away in 2008, Ebony went to live full-time with Lovey and Murel, and when Lovey and Murel moved to Long Beach, Ebony went with them. Carol and I received periodic reports from Long Beach that Ebony and Murel and Lovey were getting along just fine.

A few days ago, we got a call. The situation in Long Beach had changed and Ebony could no longer stay there. Would Carol and I be able to take him? Of course Carol immediately said, "Yes, of course, he's family." I thought about it for awhile, after she told me about the call, and decided that Quint would be up to the task of integrating another cat into our little family and that Hedge would go along with whatever Quint decided to do, so I agreed. We'd already made Hedge a part of the family, why not Ebony?

On Saturday morning, Ebony arrived at our door, safely contained in his carrier. We set the carrier down in the living room. Quint trotted in, looked into the carrier, gave Ebony a couple of sniffs, stepped back a bit and started grooming himself. There was no growling and no hissing, so I figured it would be okay. I took Ebony into the bathroom where we had already made up a temporary litter box and let him out of his carrier so that he could take care of anything that might be necessary after his trip up from Long Beach. A little while later we loaded Ebony into our own carrier and drove to the veterinary hospital to have him checked over. Since we didn't have an appointment, we discovered that the waiting time was upwards of an hour, so we rescheduled for the following Monday with an official appointment.

We took Ebony back home and left him in the carrier for awhile again. Since there didn't seem to be any undesirable or unfriendly actions occurring on the part of any of the cats, we decided to let him out. Ebony explored a bit and then hid under a couch for awhile. He would venture out from time to time to explore different areas of the house, and then retreat back to his hideout. At one point he hissed at Quint, but Quint knows that he is the head cat so he held his ground but didn't otherwise react. Hedge did a bit of hissing back and then retired, temporarily, from the game. Still no fights, though. And so it went for the first day.

By the second day, Ebony had found a favorite spot to nap in the sun and Quint and Hedge didn't seem to mind very much, though it was one of their favorite spots, too. For now, I guess we'll have to see how it goes, but I predict that, given how good-natured Quint and Hedge are, Ebony will learn to get along and ultimately will become a contributing member of the group. Of course, Carol and I will do whatever we can to help make that happen.

So, to Ebony: Welcome to your new home.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Greeting Committee

Quint with Black Cat Bokeh

I'm working swing shift right now which means I get home, usually, between midnight and 1:00 p.m. I try to be as quiet as I can when I pull the car into the driveway, but the devices attached to the ends of the exhaust pipes on my dune buggy, though they look like mufflers, don't really quiet the exhaust sound so much as deepen and mellow it. The noise only bothers one of my neighbors, but then all noise bothers him. I discovered some time ago that, for some reason, my very existence bothers him. Since nothing I do will make him happy, I've stopped trying.

After I get the car parked, I grab all of the stuff - books, drawing pads, lunch box, pencils - that I take to work to keep me from succumbing to terminal boredom, and I trudge up the driveway to the front door. As I unlock to door and push it open, I'm nearly always greeted by a "thump" from somewhere in the house and then the "jingle" of the bell on Quint's collar as he trots through the house to find me.

"Hello, Big Guy," I say as I put my bags and boxes down and hang up my coat. I pick up the book bag and take it into my office. Then I drop my lunch box off on the kitchen counter. Finally, with both hands free, I can reach down and scritch Quint behind the ears as he rolls around on the kitchen rug.

He's not just there to say hello, though. He's on a mission, because when I get home after work it's Tooth Brushing Time. I pick him up and cradle him along my left arm as I walk over to the dining room table. (Geez, the house sounds huge when I tell the story, but all these places are just a few steps apart.) I sit down in my chair at the table where I keep the little tray that holds Quint's tooth brush, poultry-flavored toothpaste and antibiotic ointment (for his gums). As I brush his teeth, Hedge usually shows up and begins purring and rubbing against by legs. There's no "thump" when Hedge jumps down from wherever he might have been sleeping. He's very light on his feet, but he has a bell on his collar, too, so I can hear him coming. Once I've finished with Quint's teeth, I brush his head for awhile. He likes that. Hedge will let me brush him a bit as he walks around and around by legs, but as soon as Quint jumps down, Hedge follows him to wherever he might be going.

That's my nightly ritual and I do look forward to it. It always makes me smile and I can't think of a better way to end my day.