It’s been five years, six months and some days since our eyes first met, locking in an embrace that spoke of “Love at First Sight” as we looked into each other’s soul.
I’ve never heard of felines having souls or for that matter any animal other than the human being. Notwithstanding that thought, in my opinion, any living creature has a soul. Having a soul begets feelings, emotions, love, nurturing, hurt, depression and all the unexplainable things that go into the spirituality of that being. Cats do fit that description.
This little Calico cat with big black eyes rimmed yellow green stood looking at me in her cage as she captured my heart. Previously, when she turned around upon hearing me walk into the cage room, her presence bespoke of a personality not common amongst the species of animal she represented. The way she cocked her beautiful head as our eyes first met; the way she stood looking at me, searching into my very being, the way her black, cinnamon tinged reddish, and white, furry tri-colors framed her small body put me into an overwhelming desire to take this intriguing Calico in my arms, to begin hugging and kissing her pretty head and telling her, “I love you.” However, I think she already knew we were to be soul mates ‘til death do us part.
Frankie, (I named her later) stood still relentlessly absorbed, kept looking into the eyes of her future adoptive Mr. Mom. I told the attendant I wanted her as my first choice; having gone to the Marlton Animal Hospital to adopt two cats, but this Calico really put me in a place where a father sees his newborn child for the first time. That’s the feeling I suppose all loving males go through when they become parents. It was a first time for me; my marriage had produced no children. This little five-month-old Calico cat instantly defined for me, a new role in life; I was to be a father to her. In the very least a Mr. Mom who took on the responsibility of her well-being and her future welfare with the hope of our sharing a long happy, loving and beneficial life together.
In the very next cage, alongside of Frankie, was my second choice, a striped black and silver Tabby that retreated to the rear of the cage as I approached. Also a female; she was about the same age as Frankie, five months old. For some unexplainable reason this Tabby was frightened of any human approaching her cage. The striped face, white neckline, white chest and lithe trim body made for a pretty feline. Her eye coloring was the same as Frankie’s. The paws were white, the left front one flecked with a touch of gray. I was sure I had found my companion cat to Frankie. She was afraid of me, but in my heart I knew that would change. Cats are social animals; they need the closeness and companionship of other species, be it another feline, dog, human, or other animals. I take it for granted that we have all read or heard of the many strange friendships and closeness among animals that have little in common, this does include the feline, the domestic cat of all descriptions, being pedigreed or the so-called alley cat.
I have read books suggesting a cat may think of me, a human being, as its mother. It may have a lot to do with imprinting, take the duck, the tiger, (normally a predator), raise it from birth; it will think you are its mother. I’m not surprised by my adopted cats’ reactions regarding that thought. Later in this story, you’ll read about the unrestricted love these felines give me, and my response in a like manner. I would learn to be a parent totally devoted to the future of these two furry animals, as my newly adopted children.
When telling the attendant I wanted the two half-grown cats in the first two cages, she was taken aback, no one in all the years of the Marlton Animal Hospital had refused to look at the other cages filled with cats ready for adoption. It was a Marlton first!
As for the striped, scared Tabby, I named her Johnnie. Even though both cats were female, I was thinking about the famous song and movie and the love affair between Frankie and Johnny and their heterosexual relationship that ended in a killing. I wanted my newly adopted “children” to love one another and to love me. My wish and hope was more than fulfilled! And, since Frankie ended in “ie” I wanted the same for Johnnie, not spelled (Johnny). Giving her a female sounding name by spelling it “Johnnie” fit the bill as well as her gender. I really wanted this little scared Tabby; she was a beauty.
After selecting my future housemates and companions, my conversation with Honey Rothberg, DVM, and director of the Marlton Animal Hospital resulted in her suggesting both cats be spayed and de-clawed since they were to be strictly house cats. After seeing what my nephew’s two cats and their claws had done to his furniture, I was more than thankful for her advice. This was sometime around November 27, 1997; I had to wait a week for them to recuperate from their surgery, before taking them home, and the sharing of our lives together. The spaying of these female felines would add, on average, about three years to their lives. So much for motherhood.
For me, it was a long wait, I was anxious to take these little cats home with me and begin my fatherly duties. Finally, December 4, 1997 came. It was a day that gave my life an entirely new outlook; I became a father, a Mr. Mom. It was a date that I was to celebrate every year, although Frankie and Johnnie were oblivious of its meaning to me.
I lost my wife Evelyn of 39 years, short of two weeks, May 8, 1997. That coming June, Evelyn would have been 84 years old, about 18 months older than me. She suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma for about three weeks. As a Jewish family observing the ritual of Shiva, the house was crowded with family and friends. Once Shiva was over everyone departed to their respective homes and doings. When I closed the door, I was faced for the first time in my life with a deep sense of loneliness and what I now understand was depression. It was bad enough during the eight and one-half years of her illness that we both had to suffer with her gradual dementia. But now, this loneliness was an experience foreign to me. More than once or twice, my self-pity took over and my eyes shed copious tears due to the fact Evelyn was no longer with me, except in my heart. Her touch was in every room in the house. I could not move from one room to the other without knowing that it reminded me of her presence. In that way, I guess the tears released some part of the unending hurt of living alone in a home that was once full of our shared life. We were never blessed with children. I realized I needed something to love, something or someone to need me. I did not want to go “the another woman route,” none could supplant Evelyn and what she meant to me. All our years together had programmed me to the extent that I needed something alive to love and have that love returned. Adopting a pet(s) was the obvious choice.
On the way over to the Marlton Animal Hospital in New Jersey, I stopped and bought a pet carrier in which to take my future “children” home. Previously, I had inquired about their feeding habits and waste disposal methods. Food was prepared before I left the house and a litter box was filled with Scoop Away litter for their use.
Arriving at the Marlton Animal Hospital, I signed the adoption papers, filling in their names as Frankie Weiss and Johnnie Weiss, and was given some instructions regarding their behavior once let out of the carrier into their new home.
It was customary for the person adopting an animal to give a stipend of monetary value to the Hospital in an effort to help them carry on the work of saving many of these animals from almost certain tragic results. I gave them a check reflecting a generosity not usually received in their attempt to find these wonderful creatures homes. Over the years of my togetherness with Frankie and Johnnie, the check I wrote that fateful day could never repay for the comfort, pleasure and love these two felines have bestowed upon me. Although they would never replace Evelyn, their presence filled the house with a child-like quality I would have never thought possible for this new father of two five-month old beautiful and heart stealing felines.
In being responsible for these little four legged creatures, they, in their mysterious way would be a solid factor in improving my health; my mind no longer would dwell on my loss. My entire outlook would change. Evelyn was gone. I now had the duty of responding to their every need. I was no longer alone. The house would be alive with their presence and antics and my unfamiliar duties as their Mr. Mom.
Frankie and Johnnie talk things over
On the way, driving home, while this giddy, somewhat apprehensive and new father tried to comfort his adopted children by talking to and telling them that we’d learn to function as a loving family. I doubt that Frankie and Johnnie were listening. A cat just by looking at another cat, and using their body language will speak volumes we humans have little knowledge understanding. Sure, we can tell by certain feline actions much about their respective moods. Yet, purposely, I think, they will never let us get into their minds. Anyway, who’d want to? The mystery only adds to their remarkable unshakable and unmistakable feline allure. They were not listening to me, while having a silent, air-clearing conversation all their own.
Felines have a hierarchy, leaders and followers, who are subservient to those at the top; it’s an inherent quality in their birthright. Practically, many, but not all animals, (we humans must be excepted), follow a leader, female or male, as the case may be. Frankie and Johnnie, it turned out, were no different, they were obeying their past history.
Their silent conversation ending, it was understood Frankie was to be boss cat in their new home. Johnnie would play second fiddle.
The years pass by too fast
What follows to this present day would go down as a necessary obligation of my training by these animals; infused with much hurt and worry over Frankie’s health, much expense. I quickly learned you never own a cat, you are their keeper, they will own you in ways you’d never imagine. Amid the lifting of my loneliness and the complete trust, love and faith these animals engendered, no matter how bad or wrong things went on any given day, opening the door and being greeted by Frankie and Johnnie, I was as whole again as a human could be.
I confess to thinking Evelyn would have been happy for me in understanding the comforting joy of having these felines as my “children.” Their adoption would lead me on a path I would and could not ever have envisioned. My story writing and pictures of them, would lead me to new friendships and correspondence in the United States and many foreign countries with other feline animal lovers who in this instance were complete strangers but who loved the feline, the domestic cat, just as I did.
Much more to follow: It was Ernest Hemingway who said, “Write what you know about.” In subsequent pages many chapters will be written reflecting the love, happy times and the trials and tribulations of our togetherness. You will learn how my beautiful Frankie the Calico became (I think) the only toothless Calico in the world. Even with no teeth, in my ultra biased opinion, I still think she’s the world’s most beautiful and loving Calico. So far, I’ve never seen a better-marked Calico. She’s a product of a Tortoiseshell and some other cat that had the white gene.