"REWARD, Lost Cat, The Search For Spock"
is now available as an Ebook or in paperback from Booklocker.com
My book is meant to help anyone prevent their pet from becoming lost and what to if their pet is lost. What to do, steps to take before your pet gets lost to help ensure that it doesn't get lost and to make recovery easier, what to do in the first hours, first days, first weeks, and long term up to how to deal with the possibility of never finding your pet.
I never found Spock. I tracked him for several months, following the sightings. Even though I was unsuccessful, luck (good and bad) plays a part, my book is full of very good advice detailing the steps to take if your pet gets lost.
Since Beth got me Spock as a present when I still lived in Albany, NY and she in Kernersville, NC, the book is also a story of how two people "find" each other, fall in love, conduct a long distance relationship, get married and are happy.
Combining these two disparate elements (love and loss) allowed me to include humor and even recipes. I like to think of my book as my "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
There is a sad final chapter yet to be written about Beth's death that will give the book finality.
Here's the Introduction & Chapter One from the book.
|* * * * *|
"All animals except man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it." - Samuel Butler.
|This is a true story where the main characters are feline. There are some humans too. It is a story of cat love and loss. It is also a story of two humans finding each other and of human love and bonding. My name is Don. I had three cats: Jones (who is all black with green eyes and is going on 21 years of age), Spock (who is an Abyssinian and is presently lost), and Sam (who is a huge orange tabby and who was a stray). I lived in Albany, N.Y. for 17 years and worked for the Department of Social Services. My wife Beth lives in North Carolina and had three cats: Smokey (who is a lovely lion like gray tabby with the largest head I have ever seen), Maggie (who was a solid black cat with gold eyes), and Rosey (who is also a solid black cat with gold eyes and who is Maggie's daughter). Beth and I are now married (8/90) and live in North Carolina with our cats. Maggie is dead, Spock is lost, and Junior (the youngster cat who is a tabby) now lives with us. These are the main characters and the story is about how we all came to live together in North Carolina. I hope you find it interesting. It may make you cry, I hope it makes you laugh a little too.|
|The Personal Story|
I'm the kid who volunteered to take home the science class's guinea pig for the summer. It ate Mom's rugs, furniture, and electrical cords. Thanks, Mom, for putting up with us. The kid who gave turtles, parakeets (mine slept with me on my pillow), and our dog Tippy proper burials with a few words about being loved and missed along with the kid tears. (We had a dog because Dad wouldn't allow cats in the house. I've certainly made up for that attitude!)
"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." - Josh Billings.
Tippy was my first dog. He was a "mutt". He was wonderful. Part Chow, I think, because his tail curled up over his back, always, except when he was reprimanded for something when the tail would drop between his legs. We lived in the woods in upstate New York but along a busy road, (Route 209). Tippy always greeted me when the school bus would drop me off and then greet my Dad when he'd come home from work. Tippy always met Dad in the driveway, that great tail wagging. Dogs seem to have an ability at expression that cats wouldn't be caught dead exhibiting. They wear their hearts on their sleeve much more than cats do. One evening Tippy outdid himself and thought he'd meet Dad one better, in the road. I don't think he ever saw the car coming the other direction. We buried Tippy that evening.
So you don't think the kid was all piety and love, I should add that I grew up in the woods and one thing kids that grow up in the woods do is hunt. I personally assisted birds, chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels to leave this world before their time. I also hunted deer as an adolescent. Many thanks for being too fidgety, smoking too many cigarettes, and being too cold to ever see one to shoot at. When I reached what I would call a minimum level of consciousness, I sold and gave away my guns. Yes friends, hunting is a barbaric sport. Hunters break the First Commandment. Take a camera into the woods and shoot all the game you want. You'll get all the spiritual benefits of being in the woods close to the animals without all those nasty marks on your record. I know, they'll only starve to death anyway and you're doing some great Darwinian thing by killing animals but really, aren't you just being sadistic for taking a life that is probably more deserving of living than you are? Shame on you. Marksmanship is a wonderful thing. I was the only Conscientious Objector in my Army unit to score Expert on the rifle range. I could kill 'em if I wanted to Sarge but I choose not to. For that little belief, I served three months in the Stockade at Fort Belvierre(?). So, go and shoot at some targets or some skeet. Life is sacred, you should not take it away.
|How Beth and Don Met|
Since Beth, my fiancee at the time (now my wife) gave me Spock as a present, I feel I should speak a little about Beth and me. I belong to Mensa which some of you will recognize as the I.Q. society. I first remember reading about Mensa in an article about Simon & Garfunkle which said that Garfunkle was a member and described what Mensa was. I was impressed because at the time I thought that Garfunkle was the person who wrote the words to their songs and let Simon have the spotlight because of Garfunkle's shyness. Being somewhat shy myself I was always ready to believe in the greatness of shyness. Garfunkle was the brains and Simon was the showman. This, of course, was not the case and now I see the error of my thinking. I am also much less shy now and seem to subscribe less to my shyness theory. Paul Simon is a wonderfully creative individual, which brings me to the flaw in Mensa. Garfunkle and I may have IQs in the genius range but genius is what genius does. I'm afraid I've done very little with whatever gifts I was given.
I used to have something I called Weiser's Backwards Theory of the Universe. Stated simply, it said that the universe was sort of backwards from the way it should actually be. Things like fighting wars to gain peace. Things like loving a person so much that you tell little lies to them in order to preserve that love. This doesn't work as we all know and you often end up losing that love you lied to keep. Friends also tell little lies to their closest friends simply because they are good friends. You know, things like, yes, that book you're working on is very good or, yes, I think quitting your job and becoming a rafter on the Rio- Grande is a good idea. The universe seemed a little backwards to me at times and still does but I've been able to make my peace with it. I think I gave a speech on this once in Speech 101. People laughed and had a good time. I got a good grade.
Anyway, Beth was separated from her husband, belonged to Mensa also and placed an ad in the personals section of the monthly newsletter. I remember it being a nice ad saying something like FM (female Mensa) likes canoeing, music, and sports cars. She never said she was pretty even though she is. I wrote a reply to her ad and one evening in November she called me. We spoke for two and 1/2 hours and I remember liking her and thinking what a nice Southern accent she had. Beth grew up in Ohio but had lived in North Carolina for the past 14 years.
We spoke infrequently because I was dating in Albany, N.Y. and she was dating in North Carolina. When we did speak however, it was grand. I highly recommend getting to know someone over the telephone. It is just mind talking to mind. No groping, no worry about dress, etc. Beth and I talked more and more often and eventually she sent me some pictures of herself, after some pleading on my part.
Now, I don't want to malign the U.S. Postal Service (I really think they do a fine job) but I was very excited to receive these pictures of this lovely person I was getting to know. One day my mail came and there was the envelope from Beth mutilated by automation but no pictures or anything inside! I tracked down the Postal processing plants (one in Albany and one in Greensboro, N.C.), described the contents of the letter, and the Postal Service actually found the insides of the letter with Beth's pictures. They were sent to me immediately. This disembodied voice I was getting to like more and more was actually a very good looking woman. We spoke on the phone from that November to the next April when we agreed to meet.
I have a friend, Michael, in Albany who has his own video business. He makes training films for various government agencies. That's what he does to pay the rent and to eat. For his soul, he writes and films plays. My car made it into one of his plays but I somehow never did. The plays are about male/female relationships and are funny/sad. Anyway, I enlisted Michael's help, not to mention his professional video equipment, and he and I made a video of Albany for Beth. In Mike's studio, I narrated the video and laid down some music. Beth enjoyed the video and one weekend I rented a video camera, set it up in my living room and read things like poetry, Beth's natal horoscope chart which I had cast, and, oh yes, began it all with a half hour episode of the Pee-Wee Herman Show.
It must have helped because Beth flew to Albany for the weekend and again the next. Two weeks later it was my turn to fly to North Carolina. We kept this up for over three years (though neither of us likes to fly) until I finally moved down and we were married. I like to think of our finding each other, our courtship, and our marriage as a very happy story. I also think it will last because we both hang the toilet paper over the top. Never get serious about anyone who hangs their toilet paper differently than you do.
"If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat." - Mark Twain. See, I have this black cat, Mr. Jones, named from the Dylan song about there being "something happening here but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones". As of this writing he is going on 21 years old. I take him to the vet now and then and the vet checks him out and says "your cat is deaf, has a heart murmur, is hyper-thyroid, and his kidneys are almost non-functional, this cat is in wonderful shape!" I always laugh at that.
I had an apartment in Port Jervis, N.Y. right after graduating from college (1973 for you "time" people) and was working for the local newspaper. My apartment was on the Delaware river and was just six or seven houses from my Mom's house. Jones was allowed outside at this time and would frequently go for walks. One Saturday I was talking to my Mom and she spoke of how this black cat would come to the door and meow. Mom was always a soft touch for animals so it was natural that she would let this black cat come in and she would feed it. The cat would hang out at her home and ask to be let out just before dark. (Jones knew I got worried around dark if he was not home.) The cat turned out to be my Jones and my Mom's house is the only house he ever went to. Maybe he smelled me in that house or somehow realized the connection between us or, if you're not ready to believe in the sentience of animals, it was just a coincidence. I like that story and I love Jones for ferreting out my Mother's home. Since that time, my Mother has had several all black cats, one at a time. I have heard that black cats live to the oldest age with solid gray cats right behind. White cats tend to live the shortest.
I picked Jones out at an animal shelter or he picked me, I'm not sure anymore. He was six weeks old, had big eyes and ears and fit in the palm of my hand. I have a wonderful old black and white photo of him on my kitchen table at school standing next to a small pepper mill which is dwarfing him. He has been, for most of his life until recently, a wonderful combination of craziness and caring. He actually climbed walls (or tried to) when he was younger, out of exuberance. He has slept with me each and every night we have been together since I brought him home almost 21 years ago. He would wake me mornings by rolling his paw into a small fist so as to hide his claws and ever so gently tap me on the eyelids. I always thought it was pretty smart of him to make the connection that no food would be given until my eyes opened. I wish I had some of his sperm frozen somewhere so I could have some Jones' fathered kittens. That probably sounds funny but it's something maybe you have thought of too if you have ever had a very special animal.
Jones was always sleek with big beautiful green eyes. Until late in his life, I never remember him making a clumsy movement. He ran fast, climbed great heights, and jumped with the agility of a gazelle. Except once!
One of my many apartment incarnations in Albany was an upstairs (second floor) flat. The people downstairs controlled the heat and one Winter day it was very very warm upstairs. I opened the door to the porch for some nice cool Albany air. It had snowed the previous night about 6 inches and the porch railing was covered with the white stuff. Jones would sometimes get this wild look in his eyes from pent up who knows what and would tear around the apartment as fast as he could go. Anyone who has a cat has experienced this phenomenon where the cat goes crazy and peels out around corners sliding as they go. Jones decided to go crazy this particular morning and came tearing out of the bedroom and then had a long straight runway to the porch. He'd done this lots of times before jumping up on the porch railing and stopping himself. This morning I think the snow surprised him and I heard frantic scratching like holding on for a brief moment. I investigated but no Jones on the porch. I looked down and sure enough Jones was in a snowdrift on the ground. A small black easily seen fur person surrounded by snow. I ran downstairs to rescue him and to make sure he was o.k. and Jones did something cats all over the world do when they make a mistake. This was obviously a mistake Jones had made. Jones acted like he did the whole thing on purpose. "I planned that whole episode because I was bored", he said to me. Only his heart beating wildly gave him away.
When Mr. Jones was about 18 or 19 he started to just lie around the apartment and sleep all the time so I thought it might be a good idea to get him a little playmate to get him interested in life again. The "normal" cat, have YOU ever known one?, sleeps approximately eighteen hours a day, off and on. Jones was sleeping more than that. I have always been an afternoon napper and strongly believe that the world would be a much better place if more people took more naps. You know, less stress, less grouchiness from being tired, not to mention less time awake for getting into trouble.
We had a cat sister (Katy) living with us for most of Jones' life but she was a more normal cat (aware of cat actuarial tables and such) and passed away at a normal age for cats. I'm not sure of her exact age because she came to me as a stray, full grown. Jones is trying for the Guinness Book. To be 100% truthful, I was also thinking of myself being without Jones one of these days and of having another cat to ease that bump in the road when it arrives, as surely it must. I wanted a kitten that would grow up to be a smart cat because Jones has always impressed me with his intelligence. Jones and I used to spend hours playing hide and seek around the apartment taking turns hiding from one another and then scaring the other when found. I would stand up and flail my arms wildly when he would find me and he would act crazy and run off and hide. Then it would be my turn to find him and he would stand up on his back legs and flail his paws at me and I would run off and hide. Part of the rules to this game are that the human must search for the cat while walking on all fours. That way the cat can "bop" the human on the head when found. I'm not sure what this says about me but Jones would always tire of the game before I did.
|How I Got Spock|
Beth has a cat book, The Book of the Cat, that describes the various breeds of cats along with lovely pictures and lengthy explanations of genetics and other breeding factors. I looked at the pictures. I should mention here that, in what now seems like a former life it was so long ago, I was married and my wife and I raised Siamese cats for a time. It was so long ago that the Siamese breed looked quite different from the way they do now. Their heads were not so exaggeratedly elongated, more apple shaped. I believe that one reason for the Siamese falling from popularity is that breeders have gone too far with the way the cat looks. I will always love the intelligence and devotion of the Siamese but I just don't like the way they look today. There's another thing I don't think I could stand anymore about the breed and that's the almost constant talking. At this stage of my life I enjoy a little quiet and that's NOT what people get Siamese cats for! I don't even listen to Pink Floyd that loud any more.
I found a beautiful fairly new breed called the Tonkinese which is a cross between the Siamese and the quieter Burmese. The cat is a beauty to behold with less exaggerated features than the Siamese but lovely blue eyes. Supposed to be an intelligent, inquisitive, and loyal cat too. I confess to liking inquisitive cats. If I want a meatloaf, I'll make one and stare at it. Sure, an inquisitive cat will drive you bonkers sometimes and will always be getting into everything but what a joy to be around! I still might have a Tonk someday but in Beth's cat book I fell in love with a cat so smart, so beautiful, so cat-like that I had to have one. I fell in love with the Abyssinians. Here was a cat that was intelligent, loyal, and sometimes utterly crazy the way Jones was when he was younger.
To all those out there saying to themselves, he should have gone to the shelter and saved a cat from you know what, I can only justify my actions by the following. Mr. Jones came from the Deerpark Shelter in Port Jervis, N.Y. If any cat I ever have can be anywhere near the friend and companion to me that he has, that cat will be a wonder. I do not know Jones' mixture but I strongly believe that one of his parents was Siamese because he is all black (if a Siamese mates with a non-Siamese, the kittens are invariably black but not all black cats are part Siamese-that's the fallacy of the contrapositive), because of his elongated head shape, and because he has a Siamese voice. He also has bald spots from his eyes to his ears where the Siamese "points" would develop. Katy, Jones' cat sister mentioned earlier, was a stray who came to me at college one winter, cold, hungry, and pregnant. I found homes for Katy's kittens, she had them on my couch, and had Katy spayed. Katy lived with us for the next fifteen years. I never got really close to Katy and to this day prefer male cats.
Before moving to North Carolina last July, I had lived in Albany, N.Y. for 17 years. My last apartment there was in the city, a basement rear. A woman who loves cats lived in an apartment, next street over, in back of mine. One evening in late Fall her house burned and although she saved many of her cats, I believe some escaped to become homeless. I don't know how many cats she had but it was enough that everything she owned smelled like a litter pan: her car, her clothes, her money. This can happen if one crosses that invisible line between having the proper number of cats for the size of the dwelling and having just one more. I'm sure there is a mathematical formula somewhere for calculating this. Something like X = L.S./CAT # where X would represent the ratio of the number of square feet of living space divided by the number of cats. What you want is a fairly large value for X. I may be wrong but I think it's one of the things Einstein was working on along with his unified field theory near the end of his life but the important point here is that there is a line I would not recommend crossing. After the fire there were strays outside my small apartment. What do you do with stray cats? You feed them and put water out for them. If you've never had the pleasure of living through an Albany winter let me just say it is COLD out there. I let the strays into my apartment, at least the ones that weren't too wild to even entertain the idea and fed them all. Some of the females were pregnant, so I found, with the help of Whisker's (a no-kill shelter), homes for all the kittens and mothers and had the boys and the girls put out of the future kitten business. (It helps to have a good paying job if you're going to go soft on animals just like it helps NOT to have one when your cat disappears. I had both at the right times.) From what I can only estimate at 20 to 30 strays, Whiskers and I got the number down to just two. One, an orange tabby, Sam, came with me (as did Jones and Spock)to North Carolina and the other, a beautiful, proud, and wild gray cat who I called Grayman stayed behind. He would not let himself be caught. I left cat food and a note for the new tenant asking that Grayman be fed and watered. I hope she followed through. (I spoke with my old landlord about the missing Spock and found that Grayman was being fed by that gracious tenant.) I guess there is no justification for getting a purebred cat when so many wonderful cats are killed for want of a home. I can't justify it to myself nor to you except that I wanted an Abyssinian and I was going to have one. In the meantime, I did some good for the stray cats of Albany and perhaps atoned slightly for my previous cruelty with firearms.
Beth went along with my excitement for an Aby cat. We bought issues of Cat Fancy and Cats magazines. In the back of these magazines are listings of breeders by breed of every cat. We found some Aby breeders down in the city (NYC) but I hate to drive down there so we also saw a listing for an Aby breeder in Vermont. Now, from Albany, some parts of Vermont can be close and some far away. We called the folks in Vermont and they were from the far away part and didn't have any kittens right then but they were real nice and we talked for awhile and the man told us about Jim and John in Schenectady, N.Y. who had recently bred their female to the folks in Vermont's male. The man in Vermont said Jim and John didn't have a phone but gave us their address and told us something about Jim and John. He said, in this New England accent that John was quite a talker and that Jim "never said a word". He also added that Jim and John were very nice people but were a couple of them "funny fellers". I guessed what he meant. Beth and I drove to Schenectady, a distance of about 15 miles West on the New York State Thruway to where Jim and John lived. Some people drive hundreds of miles to see Aby kittens while others have their kitten flown to them sight unseen because of the often great distances separating breeders from prospective owners and here I had found a breeder with kittens in the next town. Were the cat gods smiling on me or what?
Jim and John weren't home so we left a note for them to call us when they got in. That night, Saturday, John called us and we set up a time to see the kittens on Sunday. Beth was returning to North Carolina Sunday so we had to fit the kitten visit in. Beth and I were together every other weekend either she in Albany or me in North Carolina. The following day we again drove to Schenectady and met Jim and John. True to their billing, John talked and talked and talked. Jim never said a word. We met Spock, his two red sisters and his Mom. Litters of Abys tend to be small (3 to 4 kittens) and very often there will be some reds and some ruddys. Spock was (just using the past tense there bothers me so maybe for awhile I'll say Spock is) a ruddy which is the regular color of Abys. Spock was 12 weeks old, just old enough for an Aby to be separated from its mother. He was beautiful and playful. I wanted this cat! The asking price was $300. which is normal for an Aby which will be a pet, i.e. neutered and not bred. No fast stuff allowed-you don't get your registered pedigree until you submit proof of neutering. Show quality Abys can run $1,000. or more. I learned all about Spock's pedigree and the Champions and Grand Champions in his lineage. Spock was born July 28, 1988 which made him a Leo, a good sign for a cat! Jones is also a Leo. I had never seen an Aby up close let alone four of them and two of them reds to boot. The idea of showing Spock at cat shows intrigued me but it still seemed like something old women and rich people did. Couldn't they call it something other than Cat Fancy?? I know now I was wrong about that but Spock was going to be neutered and live a long and wonderful life as Jones has. This new cougar like cat was going to be my Jones replacement for the next 15 to 20 years and boy was I excited about it! It's important to get excited about things. I recommend it at least twice a year.
The month was October and with Christmas coming Beth offered to get Spock as my Christmas present. I never thought twice and accepted her generous offer on the spot. Spock came home with us that afternoon. We barely had time to get Spock acquainted with his new surroundings when I had to take Beth to the airport. I should mention that John gave me Spock's favorite toy to keep. It was a rabbit's foot with a bell on it. Spock loved it and would fetch it whenever thrown. We spent many happy hours tossing that rabbits foot in the air and watching Spock leap great leaps to catch it and bring it back to me so the game could be repeated endlessly. If I wasn't in the mood, Spock would throw it in the air himself by holding it in his mouth and tossing it up wildly and then catching it. I don't know how many times my sofa was lifted by me to retrieve the foot after being lost by Spock. He would pace around and sometimes whine looking for it only to toss it under the couch again. Maybe he liked seeing me lift the couch up.
Spock brought a new excitement into my life as anyone who has had a kitten recently can agree. If you haven't had a kitten around in recent years-get one! This new learning life for who the world is an exciting and wonderful place can shake the accumulated dust off anyone. Spock had so many cute things he did that I will try and restrain myself. One, I must tell you. Every morning, after my shower, Spock would jump up on the bathroom sink/vanity and, while I brushed my thinning hair, would stand up on his hind legs and flail his front arms furiously. I finally figured out he wanted to be brushed too. I got Spock his own (green) brush and began brushing him when I brushed my own hair. This got to be such a routine that Spock would get up a little before me each morning and wait on the bathroom vanity for me to get out of the shower so he would get his brushing in. At these times he would purr madly with eyes transfixed and seem to be where the Buddha says people can get with the proper discipline. These were special times for us, more so now that they're gone. I think I could live an eternity and not forget the absolute sweetness of that cat standing on his hind legs, arms flailing, asking for some brushing. Beth and I have pictures. "Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."
Spock was a watcher of television. I can take it or leave it but I am religious about certain shows. Jeopardy and Twin Peaks, for instance. Spock actually watched TV intently. I think he especially liked Alex Trebeck from Jeopardy because he was always touching Alex's face very softly with his paw. I'd had Spock about a week and some friends brought over their new Sony Camcorder to show me and to see Spock. We taped about an hour of Spock playing with his rabbit foot and his paper bag. My friends made me a regular VHS size copy of the tape and sometimes (on slow nights) I would play it for Spock. I'm not sure if he knew it was him on TV or just another cat but he had a great time touching that cat on TV with his paws. I have pictures of this also.