On April Fool’s day, 1991, a teenage tuxedo cat invited himself into my home at 10:00 p.m. I was still mourning the loss of my bottle fed tuxedo cat, Daniel. For exactly three years, I’d resisted the pleas of my young daughter’s request to rescue another animal. How could I turn it away?
For several days I kept my house guest safe. I posted on local bulletin boards to make sure a frantic owner wasn’t looking for the lost big personality cat. Meanwhile, it bonded with my children. There was no way to say ‘no’ to the new family member. His formal name? Melchize-cat…. Melkey. He was the feline version of Melchizedek, the mysterious Hebrew high priest. No one knew where he came from or when he would leave…
For eighteen years, he weathered relocations, my children’s growth, a divorce, my re-entry into dating and the remarriage and blending of households. He greeted my house guests and could’ve cared less when we integrated my son’s dog, Chaz, into the family.
But in 2009, as his kidneys began to fail, I had to let him go in spite of his tenacity to hang on—for me. After his euthanasia, my husband and I agreed there would be no new furbbies due to the age of our surviving pets.
Six months after Melkey’s passing, my rescue school horse went three legged lame. No one knew why but she was showing symptoms of white line disease in one foot. I was chasing the fast erosion of her hoof. On Sunday morning, my husband and I drove to Hollywood, SC where she was boarded. I asked him to stop at the convenience store to grab a diet Coke.
We pulled up in my S-350 Mercedes convertible. As we parked, a tiny, yellow mixed-tabby kitten headed straight towards us, and then ran under my hot motor. Spied by a loiterer, we were advised this little scruffy kitten had been quite the annoyance of customers and employees. And, in harm’s way.
“Don’t you want to take it home?” he asked.
I’d at least three adoptees in mind so I scooped it up, added milk at the checkout, and continued on our way to the farm. Cradled on my shoulder that kitten mewed the entire ride to the barn. I dumped it safely in the farm’s bathroom, trying to lure it to drink the milk and maybe (please!) stop the incessant meowing.
As we pulled off the farm, I re-cradled the little one against me and my husband broke the unspoken stray kitty code… “I know– we’ll name it Hollywood!”
My head shot up like a fired gun to cry, “WTFudge are you saying… you don’t name it!” I had adoptive families and was prepared to pitch after I cleared it with my vet the next day.
All I could think of was our furbbie pact after Melkey’s demise. Hubbie must’ve read my mind. “But he matches Chaz!” he added.
Twenty-four hours later, my vet instructed me to hold the worm and parasite laden female kitten in quarantine for ten days. Before the end of the week, my hubbie bought new toys, food and kitten size litter box.
Five months later I scheduled and dropped off my crazy-ass “female” kitten to be spayed and declawed. Thirty minutes later, I was called. “Mrs. Varn, we just want to let you know that we’re not going to spay Hollywood… she’s a he.”
Well, Hollywood has developed a huge personality, like his predecessor. He’s a cat but thinks he’s a dog. He follows me around like a toddler. When the doorbell rings, he fluffs his tail and growls as he and Chaz assess the stranger on the other side of the door. And they match, chase, play and share the dog bed. Luckily, his name was gender-free.
But my favorite belly dance troupe member’s comment when little “Hollywood” ran under the Mercedes at that Johns Island convenience store?