Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Cat Who Danced with a Roadrunner

Today is the day for finding files.  This morning I found a file while looking for another, this afternoon I found another.

"The cat who danced with a roadrunner" comes from Diane Quinn, who tells us one of the adventures she had with her cat Zorro.  To read more of Diane, please visit

Our Ragdoll breed cat, Zorro, is just the sweetest, laid-back guy you would ever want to snuggle with on your bed or have sandpaper lick your hand.  Typical of the breed, he loves his people family more than his Fancy Feast.  (Well, okay, at least I believe we come in a very close second.)  So much has been written about this breed, that when we adopted him at one-year of age, he seemed to lack many typical cat traits.  How many cats do you know that come and greet you at the door?  Or, how many cats do you know that will follow you around the house—all the time?  Perhaps I named him wrong.  Instead of Zorro, he should have been called, “The Shadow.”

About a year after we adopted him, we moved to a location on a hill above a desert golf course with a patio looking over the 9th tee.  We knew that an assortment of wildlife passed by every day, but we were not prepared for the antics of the roadrunner we named, Rocky, who visited us daily. 

We had only been moved in for about a week, when I met Rocky for the first time one morning as he pecked a greeting on one of our French doors.  I was fascinated with this primitive, even scary looking, huge bird fearlessly making himself known.   When I went over to the door to get a closer look at him, he gave me the once-over, just as I was doing the same to him.  When he didn’t run away, I called:  “Zorro, come!” hoping he would come join me at the door.  It must have been the tone of my voice, perhaps tinged with excitement that brought Zorro zooming to a stop beside me.  By this time, Rocky had lost interest in me, and he had jumped on top of our patio table, and was scanning the horizon for movement that might translate into his breakfast.   Zorro could see him, but he had not yet seen Zorro.

My big guy was mesmerized.  His smoky gray, elegant tail was waving furiously as he paced in front of the French doors.  Eventually, Rocky went on to the serious business of lizard hunting. I felt disappointed because I really wanted to see what Rocky’s reaction would be to Zorro.  As luck would have it, I did not have to wait long to find out.

The next morning, there Rocky was again, pecking at the French doors, intense dark eyes trying to see in through the glass.  Again I called, “Zorro, come!”   This time Zorro ran so fast, he overran and actually slid into the glass door.  Suddenly, they were face-to-face.  It was a stare-down of epic proportions.  I could see the curiosity mixing with the caution in their eyes.   Being a smart guy, and unsure of the situation, Zorro sat down to take a load off his paws.  He gave me a look that said, “What IS that thing?”  Even though Zorro was a house cat, he still had the same instincts that every cat before him for a thousand years understood.  He was just not sure what to do about them.

Rocky cocked his head one more time and jumped on top of the table that had become his command post.  A ground bird, I learned that roadrunners often seek height in order to see movement at a distance.  When nothing appeared to be moving, off he went.

This same pattern went on for a week.  Zorro was not quite sure how to react; and Rocky tried to look menacing enough so we wouldn’t venture outside and chase him away.   Then one day something changed.

On this day when Rocky appeared, and when I called, “Zorro, come!” he not only ran over to the window, but threw himself against the glass and began to pound on the glass with his paws.  Rocky reciprocated by jumping back at Zorro on the other side of the glass.  I was watching a boxing match!  They had their own rhythm going and, if music had been playing, it would have been, “Flight of the Bumble Bees,” so comical was their dance.

Eventually, Rocky tired of banging against the glass, and got back to business on top of our table.  He sat there for the longest time that day.  I wondered if he was posturing as any conquering predator would after battle.   Self-satisfied, he proudly perched on his table surveying his territory.

What did my handsome guy, Zorro, do?  He came over to mommy, of course, for lots of praise and head rubs.  He had little idea what had just transpired, but he did know that he had protected his turf too.

Thank goodness, I thought to myself, knowing they would never meet without glass between them.  Because the truth was that Rocky was larger than Zorro, and a very aggressive bird that would not only have scared Zorro to death, but was capable of seriously hurting him with those sharp claws and deadly beak.  These primitive birds survive in the harshest climate in North America, and for a good reason.

But, Zorro didn’t have to know the truth.  He just needed to know that mommy was proud of him, as she reached in the cupboard for his favorite treat.

 “Good boy,” I murmured, stroking his head in the way he preferred.  “Good boy.”

Trissy's Story

While looking for a file (see latest entry in "Undert the Toronto Sun" blog for more details) I came across another file.
I have no idea who sent this story to me (must have been a while ago), but if you recognize this as your story I will edit this entry and mention your name. 

One evening, I was working after hours receptionist duty, at a university veterinary teaching hospital. An owner came to pick up her ten-month-old Maine Coon cat. I did not know anything about the breed, and I could not understand the reason she was so proud of him. OK, he was a Premier Grand Champion show cat. He was nice looking, but he seemed to be just a cat. Then he looked out of his carrier, and I fell into the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen.
Several years later, I was in the check out line at a local garden store. I mentioned I had recently adopted a parakeet. The clerk asked if I wanted to adopt a cat, too. I checked with my roommates, and since we already had two cats and a dog, the response was, “Sure! What’s one more?” So I arranged to meet the clerk, and the cat, the next day.
I arrived at the garden store, the clerk opened the carrier, and out strolled a big, long-haired cat, with a very long, fluffy tail. He looked around, and was very nonchalant, while rubbing and purring. I stroked his head, but that was all. I had been around many cats in my life, but not one that big, and I found him intimidating.
We put him in my carrier, and I headed over to the veterinary teaching hospital to have him checked out. Again, he strolled out of the carrier, looked around and started purring. People began picking him up, and he loved it. It was while I was there, I recognized the same big, beautiful green eyes I had fallen in love with, several years before!
He was the same cat! His former owner, for whatever reason I never did learn, had given him to the garden store clerk. He had some type of problem at her house, and she had been keeping him in a barn. He was thin, had some mats, ear mites and smelled like a barn.
We went home and I put him in my bedroom. He was not in the least bit shy, and soon put me at ease. I was not working the next three days, so I closed the bedroom door and we were able to spend the time alone, getting to know each other and bonding. He decided his place was on my pillow. This big sweetheart, with the loud purr and gentle ways, seemed to be happy with his new living situation. He groomed himself, with my help, until we had the mats and barn smell eliminated.
I had medicine to treat his ear mites. It was in a small squeeze bottle and easy to use. He, however, did not like it. One morning, he was sleeping beside me on the pillow, and I thought if I could sneak the medicine into his ear while he was asleep, it would be much easier. I had the bottle poised, squeezed it once and realized I needed to give it another squeeze to get the right dosage. I made the mistake of relaxing my thumb and finger, and the bottle made a loud, moist, sucking sound, right in his ear! He jumped straight in the air, came down and looked at me as if I had shot him. Much to my dismay, he never slept on my pillow again.
Now, Trissy was a big, tall, aristocratic looking cat. The name he came with, Johnny, did not seem to fit him at all. I found my book of names and began searching for something I deemed more suitable. I came across Tristan. It seemed to fit. My book said it meant young prince, plus I had always liked Tristan in the James Herriot books. However, he soon became known as Trissy.
I was curious about the Maine Coon breed and wanted to learn more. I looked up Maine Coon cat breeders at work, took the list home, and began calling. The first breeder I spoke with, became very interested when I told her where I lived and that the cat was called Johnny, when I first brought him home. She asked for his description, then told me she wanted to make a phone call and get back to me.
About a half hour later, she called. She was the breeder of this cat! She had sold him to a show home, as a kitten, and he was not to have been sold or given away. If his new owner could not keep him, he was to have gone back to her, the breeder. She was not happy. My first thought was, do I have to give him up? But, no, thank goodness, I could keep him.
Due to this phone call, I was the recipient of his registration papers and the name of the veterinarian with his medical records. I was able to look up the record of his exam at the veterinary school, and learned of his family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. His grandfather had died of this disease, at age eleven.
Luckily, I had an “in” to get an appointment with the cardiologist, without waiting the normal several months. She checked him out with blood work, radio-graphs, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound. He had only mild thickening of the wall of his left ventricle. She suggested I have him checked every six months, until we knew if this was progressing.
Trissy loved going to work with me, for his check ups. He would ride in the passenger side seat of the pick-up truck like a little dog, his head poked up through the top flap of his soft sided carrier. When we arrived, he could hardly wait to get out and start socializing. I made him wear a little collar, with a small snap and a long pale blue ribbon, so I could catch and retrieve him, if he became frightened.
He, however, seemed to be afraid of nothing. He would lounge on the desk, standing up to greet clients, as they arrived. At times he would curled up on one of the desk chairs, and sleep peacefully. If I happened to be across the room, Trissy would sometimes look over at me with a great big old kitty grin on his face, as if to say, “Look how everyone is petting me!” And everyone did pay attention to and love him, including the clients. The hospital administrator made the joking comment one day, it was fine that Trissy worked with me, as long as he did not have to pay him, too.
One evening at home, I noticed Trissy having difficulty urinating. He would try to go often, but would be unsuccessful. I called the intensive care unit at the veterinary teaching hospital, and spoke with one of the emergency students. We were soon on our way, to have him examined by the resident on call. She diagnosed a urinary blockage, and admitted him to ICU. He needed a urinary catheter.
Since the resident was a friend of mine, I was allowed to stay and be with them during his catheterization. I had not previously realized how difficult it was to place a urinary catheter in a male, or neutered male cat. They struggled for the longest time, getting the catheter started, but then running into the crystals causing the urinary blockage. Thank goodness, Trissy was under sedation and completely out. But being his mom, I was concerned. . . no. . . I was just plain scared, for my boy.
The resident, even though she was now an ophthalmology resident, had previously worked in an emergency clinic. It was spring, so the student was nearly ready to graduate and begin working. Trissy was in good hands, I had no doubt of that. However, I felt such a sense of relief when the catheter was finally in place, and he was placed in a cage to rest, I nearly cried.
I was able to have long visits, during Trissy’s five day stay in ICU. I was allowed to sit by his cage, with the door open. There, I would rest an arm beside him, and he would lean his head on me, while draping one of his legs over my hand. At other times, he would be on one of the exam tables, so I could cradle him in my arms, and we could touch heads. We would spend several hours a night, being close, comforting each other and cuddling.
The ICU students said he was very quiet, until I came through the door. Then they would hear him start talking. Once they told me they were concerned, because at times he would lie in his cage with his lips slightly parted, as if he might be mouth breathing. I reassured them it was a normal behavior for him, and he was smiling at them, as he often smiled at me.
While in ICU, being rather spoiled, Trissy would only eat if he could lick the soft food from my finger. I also, had to dip my finger in his water, so he could lick the drops. I suppose it was the mom taste, or perhaps the closeness. Even after I brought his sport water bottle from home, he would only drink if I was present. I would hold the bottle and he would lick drops.
At home, if he drank from a bowl, he had to dig beside it, before drinking. Then he would lean way across, no matter what size the bowl. I am sure the water on the far side, was much better. At other times, he would drink by licking water drops from one of his big furry front paws. Many times, I found him with his “hand” in my water glass, helping himself to a drink.
Several months after he came home, I became ill. We had a very small bathroom, and the corner of the sink was so close to the stool, I had to almost turn sideways to get through. One evening, while I was on the stool, vomiting, I felt this big furry paw on my forehead. Trissy was on the corner of the sink with a very concerned look on his face. He was reaching over, touching my forehead, as if he were trying to hold my hair out of the way. It was his turn to care for and comfort me.
This gentle, loving boy became, not only my cat and companion, he became my best friend and life partner. He became the light of my life, and I finally understood the reason his owner, when he was a kitten, was so proud of him!