Friday, February 4, 2011

Wanted: New Domicile for Opinionated Feline

She came on a late-evening flight into BWI, all the way from Missouri. We left our small apartment in Annapolis and made the 25-minute trek to the airport. I parked in a "no parking" zone and waited as Donna ran into the airport to retrieve her. This was just prior to 9-11, when rules and guidelines were a bit less strict, and sometimes the authorities didn't immediately harass you as long as you had your emergency-flashers on.

Out she walked with a carrying-case, and it looked heavier than I thought it would be. Inside was a frightened, constantly-jabbering Sabu Bengal cat. All the way back to Annapolis, the feline known as "Ruby Tuesday" kept up a constant conversation. All I could think of was how Yinny, our 12-year old Samoyed-mix dog ,would react. Amazingly, Ruby hasn't stopped talking since she's been with us.

After almost 10 years, it's time to find Ruby a new home. Although I suspect that these latest findings aren't particularly new, my current ENT, after allergy testing, has confirmed what we've known, but chose to ignore, some time ago: I'm deathly allergic to her.

My pulmonary doctor warned me when we lived in Pittsburgh. "I don't necessarily say

this because I'm not an animal-lover," he remarked, while going over my breathing-function tests, "but I gotta tell you that as an asthmatic, a cat is the worst animal that you can live with. Dander is a true enemy of people with breathing and allergy difficulties." I guess I thought that getting shots, as I do now, would do the trick. But my current ENT concurs: on my latest test results, from 1 to 10, my reaction to cats produced a 12! And what further disappointed me is that I really don't fare better with dogs. So although Donna immediately resisted, she's come to the conclusion that it's probably best for us to find Ruby a new home.

I'm not necessarily a "cat person". We've had a cat before when we lived here in Akron 15 years ago. His name was Gizmo, the archetype of a "black cat". Although I've always preferred dogs, I must admit that he was quite a character. He was obsessed with paper-napkins. When we'd order a pizza and sit in front of the TV with a movie on Friday night, Gizmo would sit next to me and wait for me to finish wiping my mouth. When I did that, he knew I'd crinkle it up into a ball. And I'd throw it. And he'd go get it. And he would bring it back to me so that I'd do it again. Just like a dog. It was beyond hilarious. Anywhere I'd toss it, he'd go after it. I enjoyed throwing it behind the sofa, because he'd jump up on to the cushions, dive behind the back, and amidst the scurrying underneath, emerge with it in his teeth, only to meander next to me and drop it by my feet.

Cats, for the most part, seem petulant and moody. They crave affection completely on their terms, and then toss you away like cantaloupe rind. Days can go by and I have absolutely no idea what Ruby is doing or where she is. Usually she'll come out at night, when I'm trying to relax with a beer or a book. She'll wander over to my chair, put her front paws on the arm, and look at me, with those green eyes as big as beach-balls. And then she'll talk. Ruby talking is akin to an infant in a store who seemingly won't stop until it's pacified. And she won't end her diatribe until I either shoo her away or give in and invite her to sit with me. I do this by draping a towel across my lap, to keep the cat hair from getting on me. Of course, dander has already worked its sinister magic, so the towel, I would imagine, is probably useless. But she squawks and waits for me to unfurl it. Then, she jumps up, walks around in a circle to find her comfort spot, and sits. My chair rocks, and Ruby loves to be rocked. I'll talk to her and ask her questions, and she responds to each one with a minor chirp. But then, as soon as I think we're making progress, up she stands, and off she darts, to another room or deep in the catacombs of the basement, to do whatever it is cats do in the dark for extended periods of time.

I understand dogs. Dogs make sense to me. Unless I'm screaming out of anger or as

a result of being upset at something, I think Maggie and Izzy actually like me. Ruby sometimes looks at me in disgust, like an elderly person looks at me when I arrive at Mass with shorts and flip-flops. The dogs like to hang out with me in the studio. They like to sit next to the chair while I yell at the screen during a hockey game. They like to observe me preparing eggs for breakfast. (hoping, of course, that I'll share a morsel of the cheese that I've just grated.) Once the immediate bliss of being rocked has subsided, however, Ruby stalks off, content to go at least three days without so much as looking in my direction.

Over the past several weeks, we've posted placards of Ruby on bulletin-boards in supermarkets and other places. We even had an interested party, a girl who owns several cats, along with a dog. She came to the house, immediately fell in love with Ruby, and walked out the door with her, while I loaded up Ruby's kennel, food, litter, and other cat-essentials in to her car. Donna was already sobbing when I came back into the house. But before her tears dried, the phone rang, and our visitor wanted to bring Ruby back. Apparently, her dog wasn't even hospitable enough to give Ruby the opportunity to leave the portable kennel.

But out of the blue, we have another person who is interested in giving Ruby a new home. While he was assisting me with the studio renovation this week, I could see Brad giving Ruby the eye. As we were having a drink after finishing with the studio, we were telling Brad about our saga in trying to find Ruby Tuesday permanent residence somewhere else. So when I received a text from him later in the evening, I wasn't surprised. "Donna," I said, "I think Brad wants Ruby."

So tomorrow is the day. Brad has a dog, too, so the longevity of their new relationship will depend much on how Ellie and Ruby co-mingle. As an animal-lover, I'll miss Ruby, and I hope things work out at Brad's house because it would be nice to know that Ruby has a place where she will be loved. Donna, I fear, will be crushed. Hopefully, she won't be too angry with me. If she spends 3 days in the basement without coming upstairs, though, I'll know why. For some reason, cats and cat-lovers have an affinity for giving me the cold shoulder.