Posted by: jevcat | August 11, 2010

Life With Gorgeous George

It’s all Sam’s fault.  Sam is my Beloved’s golden retriever service dog, also known as “The Puppy” (he’s three – teenaged, in dog years – and weighs 100 pounds) or “BDD” (for “Big, Dumb Dog,” although, despite having perfected that “beautiful but dumb” golden smile, he was smart enough to be one of the reasons my Beloved survived his heart attack last year).  Sam cannot bear to hear anything young in distress; he has to try to help, or try to get us to help.

One morning toward the end of June, when he heard a kitten crying, he dragged us over.  The kitten was in a box being held by a mother and daughter, and it was wailing piteously.  Mother and daughter were both distressed, too.  They had adopted the kitten, whose mother wasn’t taking care of it, from a neighbor’s yard.  But they had not consulted their cat-in-residence, and she had objected strenuously.  So they were on their way to the city animal agency – I hesitate to use the word “shelter”, as the only shelter found by most animals who pass through there is the eternal kind – to surrender the kitten.

 We stood there, in front of Staten Island’s historic St. George Theatre, three adults, one pre-teen, and one very large golden retriever, staring down at this tiny – he fit in the palm of my hand – bit of sapphire-eyed, beige fluff.  He wasn’t entirely beige, though:  shadowy taupe hints of stripes were there, too, but blue points at ears and tail and a perfect triangle face proclaimed prominent Siamese genes.  Whatever his ancestry, he could certainly squeak.  Vociferously. 

 My Beloved and I looked at each other.  He’s on SSDI, I’ve been unemployed for nearly a year, we’d just had big vet bills for one of our two cats, both getting on in years, and come fall, we’re not sure how we’ll be paying the rent.  He said, “Well, we could take him to our vet … ”  I said, “I’m sure they could find a home for him.”  So, of course, the kitten came home with us, in the process acquiring a name derived from the theatre in front of which we took possession of him:  George.  This also has the benefit – at least my Beloved sees it as such – of allowing his name to be pronounced with cartoon voice, as in “Tell me again about the rabbits, George” when said to Bugs Bunny. 

 Having been examined, de-wormed, and vaccinated to the tune of a few hundred dollars we didn’t really have (with neutering and more vaccination still to come), George is here to stay.  What combination of soft-hearted and soft-headed this represents, I would not care to examine too closely.

 Another thing I would not care to examine too closely at the moment is my legs.  You could probably play tic-tac-toe on them right now – several games of it, in fact.  It’s been 14 years since I had a kitten in the house.  I remembered how needle-sharp their claws are; I’d forgotten how fast those claws grow back after trimming and that movement – any movement – is an invitation to ambush.  I’d also forgotten quite how much time kittens spend ricocheting off walls, furniture, and other inhabitants of the house.  At first we had him in isolation in Sam’s old kennel cage, and he used to climb the walls and occasionally hang from its wire roof like a blond bat (fortunately, he has grown too heavy for that now).  Before my Beloved and Sam left to spend time with family in Maine, Sam spent much of his time looking bewildered, especially when George would arch and puff to almost spherical condition each time my Beloved and Sam would return from a walk.  Every time.

 Our regal and perpetually aggrieved seal-point snowshoe, Sofia, finally had some reason for grievance when the kitten chased her around the house – Sofie was used to being the chaser, not the chasee – something I felt a little guilty about when, a few weeks after George’s arrival, we lost her to kidney failure at 12. 

 Ozzie, a marmalade tabby with a mild personality is, at 14, the old man of the family, and, as patriarch, he really does not want to be bothered by the exuberant upstart.  When George jumps onto the bed, Oz will look at him.  When George jumps on him, Ozzie just moves to another part of the bed.  Things would stay there, at peaceful co-existence, if only George could resist pouncing on Ozzie’s flicking tail.  But resisting is not what kittens are about, and they wind up wrestling and George getting his ears boxed.  I walked into the bedroom one afternoon to find George under the rocking chair, Ozzie holding him off with one paw firmly planted on George’s head, motionless, while the kitten took roundhouse swings at him.  Occasionally Ozzie gives me wearily reproachful stares:  “YOU did this to me.”  Then he hides under the bed – where George follows him and thumping sounds ensue.

 The other day I was happily typing at the computer when suddenly I thought I was in that episode from the original Star Trek where the alien attaches itself to the backs of the crew and drains – well, something – out of them.  For reasons best known to himself (assuming kittens have reasons), George had launched himself straight up from the floor and was clinging, spread-eagled, to my back.  He also seems to have a chlorine fetish:  when I come back from my daily swim in the free city pool in our neighborhood, if I do not immediately wash my hair, which is long and I wear up in summer, George tries to eat it.  He has gone so far as to stand in back of me, balancing hind legs on the top of my chair, and place front paws on either side of my head in order to bite more efficiently – sort of like eating corn on the cob.  I have tooth scratches on my scalp.

 We he was vaccinated this week, the vet warned me, “He may be tired for the rest of the day.”  I said “Thank you.”

 But there are compensations, too:  the kitten has more than doubled in size since we got him, his bones are no longer so prominent, his eyes have gone from kitten-blue to a unique sort of dusty sage which still has hints of blue and his looks are striking; he now nudges my hand for petting and has developed a championship purr – and his fur has gone from being like straw to smooth and glossy.  There are others, too:  seeing Ozzie and George begin washing each other – in the 20 seconds before the next wrestling match begins; watching the tension trickle out of my Beloved’s face as he plays with the kitten, laughing; feeling my own anxiety drain away as I look on.  Bless the beasts and the children, indeed.



  1. George is, indeed, gorgeous. I do know that there can be a certain “culture shock,” though, when you’ve got a kitten in the house for the first time in many years. When Dot first came home with me, Festus and Lulu were already ten years old and Jenny was two (young adult for a cat). She used to keep me up half the night with her boinging, and I remember thinking, “I’m having sleepless nights, just like people do when they’ve got human babies. Thank G-d I don’t have to change her diapers…”

  2. What a great story. Your prose is wonderful as always and made me smile and chuckle. Bless the beasts, children and writers.

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