There is nothing more satisfying for a journalist – even a journalist like me whose principal beat is his cats’ Olympic medal turd hockey tournaments – than seeing one of his columns make a difference in the world.
This isn’t one of those moments.
Four months ago I wrote about a 12-year-old cat named Funny Face who had been living at the Addison County Humane Society for four years. He was one of the cats my wife spent extra time with when she volunteered at the shelter on Tuesday afternoons and she had grown to like the animal a lot. I figured 19 column inches in the newspaper about a cute cat in need of a home would have him living large in somebody’s living room within weeks.
Nope. Four months later, Funny Face was still at the shelter, my wife his once-a-week pal, and I was gone on a 24-city book tour.
Do you really need to ask what I came home to when I returned to Vermont? That’s right, when I left Lincoln, we had four cats. When I returned, we had five.
Now a lot of people might think five cats are excessive. They would be correct. If you pick up a thesaurus and look up synonyms for “excessive,” you will find “extreme,” “too much,” and “five cats.” But you will also find “four years in a cage.” Consequently, I was thrilled to come home and meet Funny Face.
Just for the record, neither my wife nor I named him Funny Face. The shelter did. We give our cats far more dignified names. We have one named Seven, for instance. Oh, wait: That was a shelter name, too. They do absolutely wonderful work at the Addison County Humane Society, but perhaps naming the animals isn’t their strong suit.
In any case, I got home on a Saturday night after a month on the road and my wife introduced me to Funny Face. I was struck by two things: He really does have a funny face. The gray stripe down his nose makes him look a little cross-eyed and the gray around his eyes and ears looks like a preschooler’s Batman mask. Second, he has to be the klutziest cat I have ever met. As he walked along the kitchen counters and – later – the top of my desk, he left a trail of debris on the floor in his wake. Spoons, pens, eyeglasses. In my experience, cats are usually pretty graceful. Not Funny Face. He is a bruiser at fifteen pounds and moves with the elegance of a backhoe.
This may be the result of years in a cage. But he may also have been that kid in cat gym class who dreaded gymnastics and just wanted to get to the free weights. Funny Face may be the powerlifter of felines. Also, he drools when he sits in your lap.
So, does a drooling, spastic cat with a funny face sound like a prize? Well, he is. He is a terrific addition to the tribe and clearly my wife did a spectacular job of introducing him to his siblings. He is adjusting nicely to our other cats. I would use that kindergarten expression, “plays well in the sandbox,” but I don’t want to encourage my cats to have any more fun in the sandbox than they already do. There has been some hissing, but mostly there has been incredulity. The other four cats simply can’t believe they now have a graceless gorilla in their midst.
But Funny Face is smart and affectionate and curious. He has discovered he can make my desk chair spin by jumping onto it from on top of my desk, and so long as he doesn’t spin till he vomits, he is welcome to go to town on the chair.
Supposedly, Funny Face was difficult to place because he was a difficult cat. My sense is that with a little patience and a little love, most cats and dogs will fit in just fine. There are still plenty of wonderful animals in plenty of cages. Would you please consider bringing one home – so my wife doesn’t?
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 21, 2010.)