Monday, June 03, 2013


I've never been a cat person. Never liked them, never really wanted one. But when my older brother told me I couldn't have one while living with him—well, suddenly whatever annoyed him the most was exactly what I wanted. His reasons were ridiculous—he was convinced it would get into the vents. But when I brought Jean-Claude home, he had no interest in the vents. The dogs, however, he would corner. Huge Labradors were so confused by this tiny rodent like fur ball—they got along just fine. Oberon came about a year later when I moved to Kansas and didn't want Jean-Claude to be alone. They were not the best of friends I'd hoped they would be. One afternoon, I'd come home from work to find Jean-Claude perched proudly on my outside balcony (they were inside kitties) and Oberon nowhere to be found. Later, I discovered that he'd fallen over the side (or been pushed?) and Jean-Claude was now the sole cat…or so he thought.
Oberon was a bit of a nervous cat. He wasn't shy or unapproachable but rather easily frightened. He would one moment be content to be pet and the next, be running for cover. We started to describe this behavior as obery and he became the obery Oberon (stupid, I know). Jean-Claude was the alpha kitty and knew it. He had such personality and fit into the family well as it expanded to include a husband and a daughter. Both cats traveled back and forth across the country with us as we moved, but before we moved into our final Arizona apartment, we had to find a new home for Oberon. Iris was on her way and his nerves were absolutely shot. We found him a new happy home and learned that his particular breed was used to being the alpha male. Coming into a home where another male had already taken the roost was very hard on him. He is much happier now. Jean-Claude, sadly, had a less than happy end. Right after Iris was born (and I do mean RIGHT after), we invited Nick's flight students over for an authentic, American Thanksgiving dinner. There were four of them—all from China. We were also blessed to have Nick's parents and brother visiting for both the holiday and to welcome Iris into the world. So that was ten people in our three bedroom apartment. Jean-Claude was out of sorts. He spent most of the day cowering on the outside patio, where he was often allowed to go, but when we went looking for him later, he was gone. We never did find him despite searches and signs. Ivy tells people that he ran away because he was afraid of China. When we moved to our house in Surprise, we knew we'd never see him again and tell ourselves that he found a nice retired couple and was keeping them company.
For a while we were happy to be pet free, but about two years ago, some horrible person abandon four kittens outside our church daycare center in the middle of a Phoenix July. They were in a kennel with no food or water, panting and frightened. One of the moms worked for a vet and took them to work with her where the doctors found parasites, malnutrition and a host of other issues, not the least of which was extreme distrust of humans. As soon as they started asking for people to take them, we volunteered to take all four. It would be a while before they were ready to come home, but a home they would have. If no one else wanted them, we would be happy to take them in.
Several weeks later, two of the kittens had warmed up quite a bit to people and were easily adopted out. The other two, however, showed little hope of ever being the squishy kitties most people would want. A boy and a girl, they were still very skittish and hissed and spat, swatting away any hand that came too close or tried to pet them. The boy was more hostile than the girl but he was much calmer when the two of them were together. As we brought them home, we worked on names. The Olson family rule is that all names come from movies (Ivy is from The Village, Iris is from The Holiday, Jasmine, when she was still with us, was from Aladdin). We finally settled on Linus and Lucy—seeing as how they are brother and sister.
Two years and three homes later, Linus is still quite shy. Lucy is more comfortable and will even sit on a lap and let you pick her up but Linus—well, I keep hoping that someday he will find his most comfortable spot to be the book I'm reading or my keyboard, as Jean-Claude often did. I'm convinced that if we wouldn't have taken him, he would have been labeled as unadoptable and perhaps even put down.
He's defiant and proud. He will be pet but only on his terms. You can't move too fast or he will surely bolt from the room, but if he's comfortable on the bed (even laying on my legs or feet), he is immoveable. He has the most pathetic meow. Despite his size (and he's much larger than Lucy), his meow is high pitched and squeaky. You don't often hear it but when you do, it's always a shock. He will creep slowly up to you if you're sitting on the couch but he won't crawl into a lap. He will rub all over your leg to be pet, but don't even think about picking him up. We've labeled him as even more obery than Oberon (which was hard to imagine) but he reminds me so much of Jean-Claude. I hope soon he will realize that we can be trusted and that laps are where kitties are meant to be.