Friday, July 1, 2011

Kelsey's Imp

Now we are twelve and have perks.

We brought Fonzie home from his cage at a cat show in 1999. We were there just to gawk, not intending to bring anyone home with us, since we had just moved into our new place (soon to be named "Ft. Harrington"), already had three cats and had just gotten our first dog a couple of months before, and didn't really need something new to deal with.

But then we saw this imp in a cage. He had been brought there by people from a cattery in Southern California, but only to keep his Abyssinian littermates company because he wasn't at all show quality. When we first saw him in his cage, his area was deserted because his companions and owners were off being judged in various other venues. We waited until his one of his owners came back, and we asked how much she would ask for him.

We went home shortly thereafter, our checking account $50 emptier and our hearts, as it would turn out, immeasurably fuller. His name was "Fawn-do" after his coat color, but that wouldn't do, so we modified it a little -- not too much, since he was old enough to associate the "Fawn" sound with himself -- to "Fonzie."

When we got back to his new house and opened his cardboard box, he scuttled under the big bed, as was to be expected. The other cats, Boo, Max, and the imperial Oolie, showed mild interest that something might have scuttled under there, but didn't follow. Our new dog, though, put his nose right under the bed, curled tail wagging rapidly.

We feared that he might get his schnozz shredded, or that the new cat would be freaked out by the first dog part he had ever seen, but neither happened. What did happen was that Fonzie came right out from under the bed and greeted Kelsey with a cat-bow: a stretch with the front legs extended. Kelsey was taken aback, but not offended, just curious.

Fonzie was smitten, and remains so to this day, a dozen years later.

Fonzie and Kelsey as youngsters in May, 2000.

It was pretty much a one-way love affair for the next decade, with Fonzie clearly having a fondness for the yellow dog that he never showed (or shows) for any of the other four-footed creatures. He used to follow Oolie around, and would actually actively learn behaviors from The Black Freighter*, but respect and fondness are not the same thing, even for a cat.

Kelsey, though, is an aloof dog, probably predisposed to that by the Akita genes in his mix. While he would tolerate Fonzie's down-the-hall dance ahead of him in greeting, he never actively sought the cat out for anything. But that is starting to change.

Fonzie is now our oldest cat, and he has begun to enjoy a perquisite that other elders of our pride have had: he can go outside with us from time to time. Like Boo before him, in his elder years we are confident that he won't wander outside the Fort's perimeter. (Oolie had us believing that was also true for him for a while in his later years until he found out that he could get to the road via the sluiceway under the barn. I found out about that when I arrived home one day to find him sitting calmly at the end of the driveway, watching cars and trucks speed past.)

Oolie at the potting shed, 2007.

Kelsey and the spaniels, of course, are always with us outside. The spaniels generally are comfy on the deck furniture cushions, or in the shade. Kelsey, bless his heart, can never stop being the guard dog, and is almost always on vigilant patrol. When Jax isn't asleep outside, he plays Lieutenant Jax to Captain Kelsey, following him by a respectful dog-length.

Captain Kelsey and Lieutenant Jax on patrol.

But now Fonzie has joined the outside group for the summer. Last weekend, he became the Lieutenant on patrol with his big yellow pal. It was hilarious and heartwarming at the same time, as these photos (best viewed at a larger size by clicking on them) hint:

Checking scents from the North.

Here, I'll mark this rock for you...

... and I'll mark this for you, too...

... and I'll mark this for me.

Two of a kind.

Of that last photo, an internet acquaintance from the Ukraine via the "Flickr" photo service says, "They look like brothers." Yes, they do.

* The instance of Fonzie learning something from Oolie that Diane and I still shake our heads over was this: Oolie was a very, very clever cat. One of the doors to our main bathroom is a sliding pocket door. One day, soon after we had moved here, I watched Oolie try to figure out how to open it -- and eventually, after about ten minutes of pulling and pushing on various parts of the door, he found that if he put a paw under the door, palm up, and gained purchase on the bottom with his claws, he could pull the door open. Fonzie eventually figured out the same trick, but only after watching Oolie do it several times. None of the other cats has ever figured it out.


Beth Lowe said...

I'm rather inarticulate these days thanks to a migraine siege that won't let up, but here's what I'm feeling: I just want to hug 'em. Thanks for sharing, Sherwood. Love their story, love seeing their pictures.

Brian Fies said...


I think our pets are both more and less like us than we think. That is, people make a mistake ascribing human feelings and reciprocity (by which I mean they feel the same way about us that we do about them) to them; but on the other hand, sometimes they'll do something that blows you away with its apparent insight or empathy.

Nice essay.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Beth, migranes are awful at any time, but migranes on a holiday weekend just seem malicious. I hope the storm passes soon, and the next hugs they get I'll say are from you.Here are some more pictures of Fonzie to help get you through, and of the yellow dog.

Brian, thanks, and your insight is, as usual, spot-on. Our pets certainly don't have human feelings -- but some folks seem to think that means that they don't have any at all. That's clearly not the case.

JJS said...

How I love these photos.

And how I love elderly animals, whose beauty only increases, and who teach us so much about profound gentleness.

jayray2k said...

I enjoyed this essay. Thanks for introducing me to your beautiful animals.

Mike said...

Every king needs a fool. When I was a young man, I thought Horatio the best sidekick in Shakespeare, but I have matured in both my judgment and my needs.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I keep thinking dry terms like "inter-species bonding" but all these, esp. the 2000 photo, just say real affection. And so good to see Oolie, always. Just looking at these pictures produces good endorphins!