Sunday, September 03, 2006

"BB" and Mickey - New Members of Our Family

About a month ago, I described the process by which we began seeking a replacement for St. Benedict, one of the two Siamese cats who had been family members since we returned from Sri Lanka in January 1989. (St. Bede, his litter-made, is still with us, though with somewhat impaired hearing and mobility.) After an unfruitful attempt to adopt from the Siamese Rescue League – a house with indoor plants on which cats might nibble was deemed unsuitable – we decided to seek our new companions from the Fauquier County Animal Shelter, near Warrenton.

An animal rescue shelter could certainly be a sad place, but the employees of the Fauquier Center did their best to make it a loving and caring one – and they succeeded. Both the grounds and the buildings were immaculately maintained and quite spacious. The four employees on duty obviously loved animals. They had adopted several and took others home in the evening for foster-care visits. There was also an ancient three-legged cat and a dog recovering from severe trauma that seemed to be permanent residents. The woman who helped us (our adoption consultant) knew the names and backgrounds of each cat that was being sheltered. She seemed to have unlimited time to spend with us. In fact, she said she preferred clients who took time to see whether the animals they were considering for adoption were compatible. Since we were adopting two, we wanted to see how different pairings were considering would get along – eventually we chose two who had been living together.

The hard part was choosing, since our decision would change the lives of two animals. My wife had already visited once and identified likely candidates. On Saturday morning, we spent the better part of two hours at the shelter, in the company of our patient adoption consultant. The sad part was the candidates we decided to return to their cages – and to an uncertain fate (though there was no talk of euthanasia.) There was “Heath,” a twelve year old Siamese with a winning personality, but seriously overweight and with health problems. “Mary Jane” was a shy and beautiful long hair who had been rescued from a ‘hoarding’ circumstance and obviously needed a good home. There were two Siamese kittens who tempted our resolve to adopt adult cats. And there was “Lincoln” an affectionate, personable tiger who missed the cut by a hair’s breadth.

Our first choice was “Mickey” a large and lively adolescent ‘orange marmalade’ cat. Mickey had been on Emily’s short-list and immediately won me over with his genial, affectionate acceptance of a stranger. Emily then chose “Lincoln,” a dark tiger, as his companion, but we had lingering doubts because he and Mickey didn’t seem to hit it off when we paired them. We continued our search, but with Lincoln still tentatively in the #2 spot. Near the end of your tour, however, we encountered BB. BB looked much like Lincoln, but had been Mickey’s companion in the same cage, for a couple of months and in the shelter since May. At the last minute Emily decided that, since we would be acclimating the new arrivals to St. Bede, it probably made sense to choose two cats who knew each other. BB became our choice and Lincoln was returned to his cage. Throughout the long process, our consultant was remarkable. She informed us about each animal, helped us assess strengths and weaknesses and never once revealed her own preferences (which certainly she must have had).

Now Mickey and BB seem to be adopting well and we are glad of our choices. I should think our home in the county would be close to feline heaven, especially after the shelter (wonderful though it was). After our new family members have bonded, there will be woods in which to roam; birds and small rodents to stalk. Living in the country we accept the realities of predator-prey relationships and the food chain. In the meantime there are the secrets of a new and complex indoor environment to explore. Though Bede has accepted the intruders will ill grace, communicated by the deep growls than an angry Siamese can muster, we are hopeful that will change.

It has been a good process, though not without pathos.


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