I am a cat.

Natsume of the Funky Ear

In the weeks following Michael’s death, the house seemed oddly empty. So after a time we decided to start searching for a new pet.  One of our counselors even suggested getting a pet as part of the healing process, especially for Caitlin.

We started looking at the local shelters and animal rescue centers to see what they had to offer. Initially we looked for a dog, but weren’t able to find a suitable one. Regulations for adopting a dog can be very rigid in this area, and misunderstandings seemed to be common.

So we expanded our search to include cats. I have always considered myself a dog person, but I have no real issues with cats. Especially since my cat allergy reduced. For me it really depends on the character of the cat. Some cats are insufferably aloof, even snooty. But others are great company. Both of the cats I have lived with had good personalities. Catfael was a very reserved girl, and was often suspicious of people.  She and I had a rocky start, but eventually became good friends. Nigel was a very outgoing cat to most everyone he met. He was very fond of Caitlin, and enjoyed hanging out with people.

So for me, the primary criteria for a cat was the character of the animal. That and it had to be a short hair. I still have a cat allergy, but it only seems to come out around the long hair varieties, like Himalayans or Persians. I suspect living with Catfael and Nigel gave me some resistance.

There was another criteria we had: Caitlin wanted a calico (if possible). One of her favorite programs is an anime called Bungo Stray Dogs, which is a metahuman adventure serial with a decidedly art deco appearance and film noir story style. It’s actually quite good, though it takes time to get into, given the complex backstory. Anyway, there is a calico cat that figures prominently in the setting, and his name is Natsume. Most of the characters in the show are named for writers, including Natsume.

In early December we learned of three calico cats that were up for adoption in nearby Orange county. So Lisa and I went to look at them. All three of them had good personalities and could have worked out. But one in particular stood out. Remember how I said I have always considered myself a dog person? Well one petite girl just mobbed me! She was purring like a motorboat and snuggling like she had never been petted in her entire life. I actually had to work at keeping her tail away from my eyes (the allergy thing again). Then she went over to Lisa and started doing the same stuff. I’ve been told that the pet chooses the master just as much as the master chooses the pet. As with Watson, it was clear that this petite calico had made her choice.

Just to be sure, we went back later that day with Caitlin. Not surprisingly, the cat approved of Caitlin with the same gusto she had shown Lisa and I earlier. We adopted her then and there, and by late afternoon she was at her new home, and sporting her new name, Natsume.

She was reported to be four years old, which we doubted given her small size. However, after a steady diet she put on weight and now falls into the normal weight range for an American short-hair. She lived with other cats, and we think she was bullied by larger ones (including, apparently, her own brother). According to the shelter report, she was surrendered because her owner could no longer care for her. We suspect an older person who moved into a nursing home and couldn’t bring their cats.

We sometimes call her Natsume of the Funky Ear, because one her ears sports an odd curl. We understand this is the result of a sunburn from when she was a kitten.  Her favorite activities include attacking piles of laundry, and batting at my boot laces when I get ready for work in the morning.

When we adopted her, we weren’t thinking in terms of a therapy animal. But in many ways she has become one. Her cheerful sounding meow, frequent purring, and regular snuggling have had a very positive impact on the atmosphere of the house. She will never replace Michael, obviously. But her calm, quiet yet cheerful presence has eased some of the pain of loss.  I am very glad we adopted her, and I hope she is able to live with us for many years to come.

Regarding the writer for whom she is named, Natsume Sōseki, he was a novelist who was active in the late 19th and early 20th century Japan. He spent two years in England, and many of his works were inspired from his time there. Which is strange, because he absolutely hated the place.

One of his most famous works, if not his most famous, is a satire called I am a cat. In this, he made comments on the behavior of certain high society types of 1905-era Japan, told from the perspective of a house cat. I understand it can be dark and biting, but also very funny. It has been compared to a political cartoon, biting newspaper editorial, or even a sarcastic monologue from late night television. I have not yet read his material, and I understand that it doesn’t translate very well. Satire often doesn’t. But even so, I am a cat is on my to-read list.

Natsume sleeping

Farewell, Dr. Watson.

Tonight, we had to say goodbye to a very dear friend. Doctor Watson, our 10-year old Border Collie / Australian Sheppard mix, had to be put to sleep. For the past few months he had been suffering from a variety of digestive issues. One of the vets we spoke with suspected a canine variant of Crohn’s disease. Whatever the case, none of the treatments he received had any lasting effect. Having to euthanize a pet is an agonizing decision, but it’s one that most pet owners eventually have to face.

At some point last weekend, Lisa and I realized that the inevitable was within sight. I wanted to take him to one of his favorite walking and running places, for a final runabout, but he had been too weak to do much moving. I then considered getting him one of his favorite treats, as a parting gift, but he hadn’t been eating consistently for a few weeks. It was painful to see.

He spent most of his last day sleeping in his favorite spot on the living room floor, right below the skylight.

Such images stir up memories. When we first moved into our house, we promised Caitlin that we would get a dog. When I was young, I had a very good experience with a Border Collie mix, so we started searching for one. We acquired Watson from the Atlantic Region Central Border Collie Rescue, based near Richmond, back in 2009. He was roughly a year old at the time. When we went to the rescue farm to pick out a dog, we were greeted by several bouncy, rambunctious Border Collies. Some were entirely too rambunctious, and one was downright pushy.

Watson was different. Granted, like the others he came into the meeting pen and vied for attention; such behavior is common for Borders. But once he finished that, he settled down on the stairs and leaned his head against Lisa’s shoulder. A short time later, he sauntered over to Caitlin and did the same. Finally he came over to me, gave me several licks on the hand, then sat down next to me. It’s been said that dogs often choose their owner. Watson certainly choose us, and we were very lucky for it.

We couldn’t have asked for a better dog. He was as friendly and good-natured a dog as one could ever find, and he was always great company. His table manners were never the best, and he tended to flop down in the most inconvenient places possible. But at the same time he rarely begged, wasn’t an incessant barker, and he never got on the furniture (unless he was invited).

In many ways, Doctor Watson was the first one to realize that Michael had a life-threatening cyst on his left lung. When Michael came home as a baby, we had some extended family milling around, and some expressed concern over Watson’s aggressive sniffing at Michael’s left chest. When we learned that Michael had the cyst, we concluded that Watson must have sensed that something was wrong. (Perhaps he could smell the corrupted tissue?) Apparently he was trying to inform us.

The decision to put him to sleep was heartbreaking. But again, the various treatments we tried were not working. It was as if his entire digestive system just gradually stopped functioning. Given that he wasn’t eating at all consistently, there was a real chance that he would starve right in front of us. We had simply run out of options and time.

As I write this, I realize how much I’m going to miss the furry goofball.

After taking care of things at the vet’s office, Lisa started for home, while I took care of some errands in town. When it came time for me to grab a quick dinner, another strange memory surfaced.

A few years back, I brought home take out from Burger King, because we were all too tired for much else. Before I could distribute the food, however, Watson’s muzzle had descended into one of the bags. He managed to snarf up a double whopper with cheese, some chicken tenders, and an order of onion rings. He didn’t even have the decency to get a stomach ache later! I wasn’t happy with him. Neither was Lisa, because it was her sandwich that he had stolen!

Earlier this evening, I went into Burger King and ordered a double whopper with cheese, with onion rings. Such fare is unwise for a type-ii diabetic, and I suspect I will be reminded of that when I check my sugar before going to bed. But Watson would have loved it.

I looked at that big, greasy sandwich, and couldn’t help but smile before biting into it. This one is for you, Watson.

Sleep well.

Lisa featured Watson in an article connected to her blog.


Furry Friends

Here we have some fluff! Photographs of furry friends from years past, and some from the present.

Hershey: Early December, 1997 – March 23, 2002.

Twix: Mid November, 1997 – April 3, 2003

Thanksgiving dinner!

Brownie: April, 1999(?) – December 22, 2004

The original posse!

Diego: October, 2002(?) – September 1, 2006.

Carmella: 2003(?) – November 2007


Catfael: 1996-2012. Lisa’s long time feline sidekick. I called her “Her Fuzzyness,” or the Duchess of Fur.

Nigel: 2003-2009, the Minister of Furry Affairs.

Dr. Watson: 2009-, Goofball Slobbermess Sandwich Stealer.