Monday, February 20, 2012

Spike and Cordelia

Steve McKenna and his wife Teri are about the folksiest laid back recovering flower children Orlando and I had ever met. Whatever they did to conform to the constraints of the twenty first century, it had netted them a nice house in the Toni Rockridge district of Oakland. It had a lovely porch that welcomed us in from the wet leaf-strewn streets.There was a sign saying to watch for the kittens when opening the door. Clearly we were at the right place.

The kids in action 
Steve seems like the local history professor with a very gentle demeanor. He wasn't a professor though, I think he had a tech job in Hayward. Teri comes off like a cross between a bawdy saloon owner and your standard Berkeley Earth mother.  They seemed like very happy people ,which I felt boded well for this potential adoption. The house had the same "come in relax and hang out"  feel as an apartment I had once lived in on Guerrero Street in San Francisco in the early 90s. ( That apartment was also run by an "earth  matriarch".) On the floor were two little kittens around a month and a half old -perhaps 2. One was a cream colored short hair with deep blue eyes. Teri explained to me that she had named him, Blue-temporarily of course -she interjected, until we came up with a name for him. The little Calico with the long hair was named Cordelia. Steven explained that Teri supplies the names usually. We made some small talk as the kittens darted all around us. We talked a lot about our mutual connection, my friend Helen, who had set this little meeting up. They brought out pictures showing them together back in the 60s. To me, Helen didn't look all that different then she did back then, but Teri and Steve had changed considerably. Teri's body had become more zaftig in her mother persona and Steve's full locks of hair were now a receding cap on his head.                                     
Orlando set about trying to acquaint himself with Cordelia and Blue while I was chatting with Steve. He looked concerned as they raced up a curtain and then started to sharpen their claws on the living room couch. I glanced over and read his mind accessing the damage control we had ahead of us.To be blunt- Steve and Teri didn't exactly have a house of designer furniture. There was a very paisley fabric-draped Bohemian feel to the whole place. I picked up Cordelia. She was tiny and soft-as one likes in kittens. She had one eye outlined in with a small layer of black skin and the other was not.  It made one eye look larger than the other. It gave her a very Clockwork Orange vibe.  The smaller eye began to weep a little and you saw evidence of dried eye gunk near the corner.  Teri said she wiped it every so often, but the Vet said her eyes were otherwise fine. Cordelia wanted to pop down and play on the floor with her brother and really wasn't all that interested in getting to know me. Teri seemed puzzled and a little distressed as she explained that they normally are very affectionate and attentive to people. I took in to account that "people" meant them , as opposed to strangers with different smells and attitudes.                                     
We watched them play a bit more and chatted.  I had never seen two kittens that had come from the same litter but appeared to be different breeds. To add to the puzzle -these two also had a sister (recently adopted) who was a short hair butterscotch tabby.  The feral Mom must have had a very interesting night when she was in heat. She gave birth to a cat that looked  cream colored Siamese, (Blue's pretty blues were vaguely cross-eyed), a long haired calico tabby and the yellow short hair tabby.

Teri and Steve loved these kittens. They spent a lot of time with them. They said they had a daughter somewhere who cared for them as well. She may have been out just being a teenager that night. I suspect watching the babies she raised  get new parents would be too much of an ordeal.
 Orlando looked at me with that expectant look..almost challenging. His eyes said, " Do you like them?"  I looked down at them one more time and nodded that I did. "Blue" ran over to the open litter box in the next room and laid the most odoriferous bowel movement and both of our eyes began to water. Uh oh. How could such a tiny kitty make such a terrible smelling shit?

Steve and Teri were trying to close the deal before the over-scent sensitive Gay men changed their minds. Orlando thought it was funny, but the expression on my face trying to ignore the befouled air-as well as taking in the shock that he had done this in the neighboring room and not under us was all too readable. Orlando pointed out how good it was that they knew how to use the litter box. Teri and Steve enthusiastically and simultaneously said, " oh yes yes - both of them use their litter box without fail!"  Teri's gravel toned voice quickly threw in the cat tree which Cordelia had just raced up and was eyeing me speculatively from. I looked at Orlando and he asked, "Really? We can have the Cat tree?" We had been looking at them in Costco and the more interesting ones ran 70 to 80 dollars. It's beige carpet would blend in with my carefully thought out -and soon to be ruined- Bed Bath and Beyond/Target/JC Penny Decor. I looked over at little Cordelia and she arched her back to stretch and chirruped a "hello" at me. I said yes immediately.
They had a few cats already that they were caring for.  Blue and Cordelia were going to be too much of a financial burden. They were true lovers of cats, but at the same time, I had this sense, that Teri and Steve did not want to turn into the local crazy neighborhood cat hoarders. Giving away these two kittens would assist them in that goal. They went all out for these animals. They even had the kittens spayed and neutered! Having a pet can be expensive and they apparently had put a lot of money into their local veterinarian with their current felines. Their generosity was beyond anything I had encountered. They lent us their cat carrier thankfully,  because we only had a cardboard box. Steve kind of urged us to hurry before he displayed some unseemly unmasculine emotional attachment. He had a beer on the table waiting for him to ease his pain a bit. He had papers to prove that they were fixed but he couldn't dig them up at the moment. We offered them some money, but they politely declined. It was more important to them knowing that the babies were going to a good home. We agreed to get their vet papers when we returned the cat carrier. Many fond farewells took place and I said I would give progress reports.

Before we knew it we were racing back on 580 to our apartment. The kittens were in the carrier on my lap huddled against each other for safety and breathing rapidly. I figured they were reverting to the "sit still and don't make a noise" until Mom killed or scared away the predator. They appeared frightened but weren't peeing or yowling uncontrollably. This was a good thing. I talked to them in this silly baby high pitched voice unbecoming for a 47 year old man. It seemed to relax them.

We followed a friend's advice and  set up camp for them in the bathroom until they had adjusted to the change in residence a little bit better. I saw a tiny black speck move around on Blue's cream colored fur and he reached around to scratch it. " Good thing we bought the flea shampoo. They are going to need it." I mulled it over and told Orlando that "Blue" was not an easy name for me to call out  and it didn't sit right in my head. Whereas Cordelia seemed appropriately named. I would call her Cordy for short. Her Clockwork Orange eye gave her a sense of mischief or wickedness. It was a nice companion to her brother's goofy blue crossed eye. I asked Orlando, " Didn't the character Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer have a mate named Cordelia? "
" Nope that was Drusilla. Cordelia was Angel's partner on the Angel series."
"Don't you think his fur is the same color as James Marsden's hair from that series? Not the natural color he wears on that British show but Buffy"
" Kinda- yeah - sure..."
"I am going to call him Spike."
Spike's name sake 


Orlando looked surprised. " You're going to name a cat Spike? But he's not evil or wicked- like Spike. At least Cordelia does seem like a fearless spoiled sorority girl."
" I like the whole juxtaposition of his sweet goofy persona and having the name Spike, I think he's a lot like the Spike that had a crush on Buffy. Remember how goofy he got over her?" 
" Okay then, Spike and Cordelia it is."


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Life with Kitties -the beginning

P.A. Cooley Cat Lover 

I don't know what I am any longer except perhaps Orlando's boyfriend and an Admissions Director to a Skilled Nursing Facility. I feel less and less connected to people around me, (despite my horrific Facebook addiction). Ever since I have declared myself an ordinary bear and no longer the Diva Cub of all time, all of my life's issues have become so mundane. Perhaps this would explain my why I have so vigorously begun a new persona: Pet owner and proud father of two adopted feral kittens.

The cat idea was really not mine at first. Orlando and I knew we wanted pets eventually. (The idea of children stealing all my attention was more than I could handle and quite frankly Orlando is a strong believer in children should be seen and not heard. These are excellent reasons why neither of us would make very good parents. So pets it was) This led to the selection of our current apartment because they DO accept pets, but we had originally discussed getting a dog. As most would agree, cats are fairly self sufficient if they have enough food and a clean litter box. Dogs require far more attention. Hell -I kinda felt a dog was as big of a time investment as a kid would be. ..Sorta

The dog idea was shelved until after we had the ultimate grown-up-no-time-with-family-vacation that we have been planning in our heads forever. Currently I am agonizing about budgets and upcoming family weddings on the East Coast. I shamefully confess to you now that have never really been  ACROSS THE ATLANTIC -or Pacific for that matter. My mother the anglophile, didn't make it to England until she was in her SIXTIES!!! (She went with her former Sisters-n-law and they still joke about their driving misadventures almost 40 years later.) I don't want some pictures of me looking thoughtful and wondrous at the Leaning Tower of Pisa at 62. I want the Gay Italian men to whistle at me as I walk through the streets of Rome before I have completely lost my sex appeal.

So Orlando and I decided to adopt a cat. Then it got to the point that we realized we'd be gone 8 to 9 hours a day of the work week so we thought TWO cats to keep themselves company would be the  ideal situation. Then my -save-all-the-old-things-and-people-in-the-world got the better of me, and I said I wanted to adopt an older adult cat. I wanted to save a cat that someone could no longer care for. Orlando was adamant in his preference of a kitten because he wanted the kitten to get used to us as opposed to us getting used to an adult cat's ways. I began to fret about how it would be for a kitten and an older cat to be thrown in a new environment, forcing them to get along with each other. We went to the Oakland SPCA.

Our first trip was unsuccessful. We met these two sleek silver bullet brothers who were approximately 4 months old. Difficult to tell them apart visually but they each had two distinct personalities. One boy was eager to meet us and loved crawling all around us and even purred a bit. The other one didn't seem to like to be touched. I couldn't handle that. It had been 30 years since I had been a pet owner and I wasn't sure I could re-socialize the boy into being handled and eventually settling down to an adult lap kitty. Orlando kept looking at me expectantly. I narrowed my eyes in irritation. "Remember? I wanted an adult cat? They have less chance of being adopted?..." The two silver bullet brothers raced madly around us in the Oakland SPCA Cat Playroom. Orlando seemed conflicted too. He started thinking about the damage the two little fellas could wreak in our home but his eyes danced in delight as he watched them do these fantastically acrobatic twists to capture the little mouse at the end of the stick that he made dance tauntingly for them. They were fascinating to watch. It struck me odd how brave and affectionate one brother behaved and how tentative the other brother was. It had been so long since I had spent any close time with animals that I was beginning to make assumptions like they all behaved the same. For some mysterious reason I had blocked out  ALL my childhood cat personalities. I had forgotten about my old butterscotch tabby Mo's kingly prowling and personal allegiance to me. I had forgotten Sheba's ( Burmese Black tabby mix) elegant stand offish air and keen intelligence. How could I forget Butkis-Sheba's son - A gray tiger tabby? Named after the football player Dick Butkis. He LOVED to be vacuumed. Yup! He'd roll right over and my mother would just suck the fleas right off his belly with this Hoover that sounded like a train. There was NOTHING elegant about ButtKiss!

We left the Oakland SPCA without the boys. I could smell Orlando's desperation that kitten season was nearing it's end. I thought about the big comfortable lonely looking lap kitties I had seen sitting in the cages. Now I was getting cranky. Orlando was getting crankier. Another 2 weeks went by and we found ourselves back on a much better scheduled visit to the Oakland SPCA. After an industrious visit to Pet Club our apartment was outfitted with the necessary ingredients for two rambunctious baby kitties. Regrettably and begrudgingly, I decided to think economically about being a new pet owner, and felt that if I had adopted an older feline then I was looking at vet bills sooner rather than later. Orlando had finally persuaded me two kittens was a better route to go. Despite his obvious joy and glee at the thought of two little puffballs in the house, I still felt guilty. We both had negotiated  to get kittens as young as we could possibly get. Teeny puffballs that could barely walk were the preference.

The silver bullets were still there and a bit bigger , but I told Orlando we shouldn't take them out and play with them. As we wove through the facility it became glaringly apparent there were no baby kittens tonight. I could feel the growing tension of Orlando's frustration. A sweet black and white female tabby about 4 months old was meowing at me from her cage. I stuck my finger in to pet her and she rubbed her face against it eagerly. He could see I was enchanted. Orlando started to look angry." I thought we decided nothing older than a month!"

" I know I know." I back pedaled. " I was thinking she looked like the cat my friend Alilah described she used to have and maybe she would be a good fit for her" Orlando began to grumble. He wanted the kitties tonight. Roughly $170 worth of food and  litter and the toys and bedding and scratchers were all sitting in a pile in our living room and we weren't going to be bringing home any kitties. His frustration began to peak as he heard from the pudgy shiny, SPCA volunteer that kitten season was indeed over. He began his Fred Flintstone roaring as we approached the car. My mind was desperately thinking of something to say to make him calm down. I knew a good deal of this was directed at me because I was being so particular. At this stage of the game, he would've scooped up any 2 cats in that facility and brought them home with us. There was a brief discussion of bringing home the friendly silver bullet boy and sweet black and white tabby girl - but there was no way in hell that I could have lived with the thought of separating those brothers, especially since one of them seemed autistic!!! The happy socialized cat would need to be with his special needs brother so that the special needs brother could learn to interact with the outside world by imitating him. You can imagine the expression on Orlando's face as I explained this to him. He did the "angry face scrub". You know -the thing where you are so mad you just furiously rub the mad off your face to the best of your ability?? I think Schemp on the Three Stooges used to do it all the time.

We rode home in stony silence but Orlando kept barking out foods he'd like to eat to calm himself down. PIZZA! BURGERS! ICE CREAM!! I timidly suggested he pull over and I'd treat.