In November 2011 I attempted NaNoWriMo, writing a non-fiction book of cat stories based on a lifetime of loving and being owned by cats. I never reached 10,000 words, but I did write some amusing chapters. I came across these stories a few days ago, and thought it would be fun to publish them here on the LPB in honor of Caturday. Enjoy! This week's installment is the story of how my Little Dude came into my life. Sadly, I lost him about a year after writing this. I still miss him.
Over the years, as I finished college and started my teaching career, I enjoyed my sweet Millie, but I also knew that eventually, I would adopt a second cat. Time and circumstance didn’t make that possible until 2008, as Millie turned nine. But finally the day came when I realized that everything was right—I had a full-time job, a good income, and my apartment pet deposit would cover up to two cats.
I was new to Stockton that year, a small city in the Central Valley of California. I did a Google search for local shelters, looking to adopt a cat or kitten who had a more desperate need for a home. My search led me to an agency called Animal Friends Connection. I filled out their online application one evening, and within a day or two, a lady named Marian called me to chat. We discussed things like my current living situation, Millie’s disposition, and my frequent visits to my parents’ house, with cat in tow. I told Marian I was interested in a six-year-old female cat named Munique.
“She’s at our shelter,” Marian told me. “That’s in Lodi, so if you don’t want to drive all the way out there, I’d suggest you come to our Adoption Day at PetCo tomorrow.”
The next morning, I ran some errands and finally stopped by PetCo to meet Marian and see what kind of cats Animal Friends had to offer. I was one hundred percent ready to adopt that day, if the right cat presented itself, so I entered the store with excitement coursing through me. Millie was and is a wonderful companion, but we both needed another feline presence in the house—someone to keep Millie company when I was at work, and a second cat for me to dote on and spoil.
Convinced I was going to end up at the Lodi shelter, signing papers for Munique, I walked over to the AFC table to introduce myself. Marian invited me to have a look at the cats they had at the store that day, and I am never adverse to meeting cats, so I wandered over to the cages to peer in.
I approached a cage that held two kittens, one a black-and-white “cow” pattern and the other a buff orange tabby. They were curled up together in a donut bed, blinking sleepily at me as I peered through the bars and crooned at them.
Marian’s helper that day was eager to fill me in. “Mr. Buttons, the little black-and-white guy, has just been adopted—that’s the paperwork Marian is doing right now. But little Khan is still available!”
Khan, I had to admit, was adorable. About three months old, he was long and skinny with beautiful striped markings and bright, golden eyes.
“May I hold him?” I asked.
“Of course you can!”
She unlocked the cage, so I could reach in to scoop up the little bundle. I was immediately surrounded by a loud, rumbling purr, an impressive sound from such a small body.
“You sound like a Harley Davidson!” was my delighted cry.
The adoption coordinator smiled at me. “That would be a good name…” I laughed at her and nuzzled the soft baby with my nose. “I see what you’re trying to do!”
Little Khan purred and flirted with me, allowing me to scratch his ears and rub his back. I looked him straight in the eye to see how he would react to me. He stretched his head towards me, and his tongue flicked out to lick my nose.
My grand plans to rescue an older, harder-to-adopt cat went completely down the drain as I succumbed to the charms of a tiny boy with the loudest purr. Months later, after I sheepishly related this to Marian, she simply looked at me and said her usual serious way, “Well, it was a love match.” And indeed, it was.
I was eager to show off my set-up for my new baby—I had bought a second litter box, lots of kitten-appropriate toys, and I had set up my bathroom to be his domain for the first few weeks. He would have to sleep in there at night and stay in there while I was at work, to make the transition easier for him and for Millie. I insisted, from the start, that he learn early that Millie was the Alpha, knowing that while she is an incredibly laid-back cat, she is also concerned with the hierarchy and sometimes a little bit jealous of sharing me.
I had also decided to rename him Harley—Khan had no meaning for me and his loud purr sealed the deal. I also briefly considered Romeow, Catsanova, and Julius (for the once popular Orange Julius drink), but in the end, Harley stuck.
Marian was satisfied with my arrangements, and we let Harley out of the traveling carrier. Millie, as predicted, took one look, got a good whiff of the new kid, and ran straight to my bedroom to hide under the bed for a good pout. Our main focus was now on Harley, to see how he would react. He was known in AFC circles for being sweet and very well-socialized—his foster mom had bottle fed him when he’d been found at just two weeks old, with no mama cat in sight. Still, we worried that he may get scared in a new home, with a new cat and a new mom. So many changes in one day for such a small cat!
Harley proved to be a champ. He wandered every inch of the apartment, poking his nose under the bed (this earned him a loud hiss from Millie) and sniffing every corner. He walked into my second bedroom and was delighted to find a playmate in the mirrored closet door. He ran full-tilt towards his new buddy, only to crash head-first into a hard, unmovable door. Undaunted, he continued exploring his new domain, and finding toys to play with.
Satisfied that a true cat person was on the job, Marian took her leave, and I excitedly dragged out my camera to take endless pictures and videos. Harley spent his evening peering into every nook and cranny, including the bathtub, and any spaces into which he could squeeze.
Millie never pouts for long, and her curiosity always gets the better of her. Before long, she was out from her hiding spot, tentatively getting to know her new brother, but still posturing and letting him know that she would be in charge. Harley was completely unconcerned by the hierarchy, and seemed content to do his kitten thing.
As it had with Millie, it took a week or two for me to settle on a middle name for Harley. Davidson, while cute, seemed cliché. After a few days, I noticed I often called him Little Dude, and it occurred to me that Harley Dude had just the right ring to it. Even when he grew from a tiny kitten into a hulking fifteen-pounder, I continued to call him Little Dude. Some cats really do just name themselves.
|With his cage-mate, Mr. Buttons. A very lucky day for both boys!|
|Handsome Little Dude.|
|I have no doubt he started it.|