Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lori and Charlie

To celebrate the release of Everything But a DogI'm talking to people who work with, or have adopted, rescue animals!

A few people complained that they enjoyed the Dog Blogs, but they were more cat people.  So, I went to a friend who has made me laugh so many times with stories of her cats.  Now, Charlie isn't a rescue, instead, he's a rescuer! 

Maybe that's the thing with the animals in our lives.  They become more than just pets...they become family.  Most of us would do anything for our pets...and definitely vice versa in Charlie's case! ~~~~~~~~~~

 Cats may appear to be listlessly roaming their Kingdoms, but they are in fact the ruling entity.  Some are the proud lion kings or the reclining feline queens or even the jester prince.  In our kingdom, we are ruled by the village idiot, and his name is Charlie.  A huge clumsy walking ball of blubber and fawn colored fur, Charlie is my constant companion, always somewhere in my personal perimeter without ever needing or wanting to be a common lap cat.  He moves quietly around behind me, lounging on a kitchen chair when I cook and plodding down the stairs behind me to get a basket of laundry from the dryer.  He walks along to the mailbox, curls up on his perch for evening tv time and at night, waits for me to head to the bedroom and then sleeps with his front paws on my feet.

Charlie’s beginnings were far more peasant than prince, but he has come far from those days.  I answered a newspaper ad that offered kittens for $50.  We had recently brought home an all black, sleek miniature panther-like kitten and decided we should get another kitten to keep Black Cat (he never did have any other name) from being lonely.  I found the small mobile home tucked in the corner of trailer park in east Anchorage.  A red haired woman with a heavy Russian accent and flaming red hair that matched the color of her lipstick answered the door.  She stepped aside to let me in and her living room floor seemed to be swarming with kittens.  There were dozens of every color combination in the feline spectrum.  She saw my surprised look and told me that it all started with a neighborhood tom cat that had somehow crawled through a vent pipe into her trailer one dark night and had his ways with her three sweet girls.  Within six hours one day, she went from none to nothing BUT kittens. 

I knelt down and tiny little wobbling and mewing blobs began to climb up my jeans and onto my shirt.  I had no idea how to make a choice so I just reached down and plucked one of the furballs off my shirt and said “I’ll take him”.  Money exchanged hands and his chariot awaited.  He screeched all the way home, I almost turned around and took him back.  But home we came.  I plopped him down in front of the Black Cat and the brotherhood was formed. 

Brothers yes, twins…not even close.  The Black Cat was athletic and energetic, Charlie was clutzy and slow to react.  He tried so hard to keep up, but we came to realize he wasn’t 6 weeks old as we had been told, he was barely able to walk a straight line.  Black Cat would run and scamper and jump up the step into the kitchen, with Charlie in lukewarm pursuit.  Charlie’s attempt to clear the step usually ended up with a tiny thump and a confused kitten still on the wrong side of the step.  After only a few days I could see that Charlie’s energy was fading and he wasn’t gaining ground at all. 

Off to the vet we went.  He was so tiny that he didn’t even register on her scale.  The sweet vet looked at me deliberately and gently said “Let’s just hold off on giving him his shots for now”.  And I realized she was telling me she wasn’t sure he was going to survive.  “He’s really too young to be away from his mother.  He isn’t able to eat solid food, he’s starving.”  My indignation was palpable.  Nobody, not one living thing, was going to starve to death on MY watch.  I went home with a case full of kitten formula and eye droppers and initiated “Operation Save Charlie”.  He was not a willing participant for the first couple days, but by day three, there was an obvious improvement in his alertness and energy.  He began to seek me out for his eyedropper snacks.  He started to gain weight…in quantum leaps.  Two weeks later at vet’s office, he was a full two pounds.  At his 6-month check up, he was 12 lbs, at which point the vet assured me I had saved his life.  He has been at his present plumpness for 7 years now, 20 pounds of regal majesty. 

Black Cat was half his size, but they were brothers in every sense, as much time spent curled together and bathing each other as fighting and snarling and fussing.  Black Cat was the consummate hunter, flattening himself out on the grass and streaking across the grass to nearly catch thousands of birds in his lifetime.  He never gave up on the idea that he could catch one.  Charlie was content to spectate from the comfort of the shady side of the yard.  His running was reserved for heading to the house when food might be involved.  His stride was less panther, and more Huffalump.  Both back legs moved together giving him a bouncing cartoon look as he went.  His nickname became Catopotamus. 
But Charlie is sweet and devoted.  Our granddaughter can lay on him, love him, carry him or kiss him.  He has never shown a mean bone in his body…except to another animal that would dare to enter his Kingdom.  We think he views any intrusion as a threat to the food dish, it’s the only explanation that makes sense.  There was a day 5 years ago when I believe that Charlie saved me, truly. 

My husband had gone to Texas to visit his parents.  I stayed behind to finish a couple days of my work week, but was heading down myself later that day.  The cats and I went outside to water the garden.  Black Cat was under the deck stairs in the front yard, Charlie, as usual, was my shadow and we were inside the garden fence on the side of the house.  A menacing bark and growl made me turn around and I saw two large black dogs, one a Rottweiler mix and some other mixed breed,  coming into our yard from the street, hackles raised.  I followed their gaze and realized that they had target lock on Black Cat in the front yard.  I looked at him, and he was frozen in arch, hissing and growling himself.  My heart pounded, and all I could think was that they would rip him to shreds if he didn’t have the sense to run and climb something.  Without thinking I unlatched the fence gate and ran out into the yard screaming at the top of my lungs, expecting all parties to be startled and run in opposite directions.  Instead, both dogs just stopped in their tracks, then turned to me and began coming aggressively at me, hackles raised and snarling.  I was terrified.  I realized that I had run so far into the yard and away from the safety of the fence that I would not be able to outrun them back.  And I remembered what you always are told “If you run, it will make an aggressive animal chase you”.  So I tried again to yell and make them change direction, but they kept coming.  I was really terrified.  The next sound I heard can only be described as demons from the bowels of Hades.  It was a guttural scream, that low and turned into a screech that was louder than any sound I could make.  And from the corner of my eye, I saw this giant fawn colored beach ball trot past me.  Every hair on Charlie’s body was standing straight out and he looked three times his normal size.  His ears were laid back on his head and he moved in a line, past me and straight at those dogs.  They paused, they sized up their opponent, who was still screeching and advancing, and they turned back toward the street.  That wasn’t enough for Charlie, he increased his speed…and so did the intruders.  They were at a full run by the time they left our yard.  I was in tears from the adrenaline dump.  Charlie continued his escort until he reached the edge of the yard and then turned to come back to the garden.  His hair was laying down a little with each step, but it took him nearly 10 minutes to settle himself.  He continued to growl under his breath and pace, I understood completely.  He was nearly comatose for 3 hours, sleeping off the after-terror let down.  I understood that too. 

Charlie is blissfully free from the ravages of intelligence, but he is pure devotion and I adore him.  

~Lori Zaumseil


  1. Yay, Charlie! What a great story of a terrifying cat (that's my ego stroking for Charlie).

    I love both cats and dogs. If pressed, I would say I'm more of a dog girl, but I have a cat too. She's a rescue, half-feral, part sweet, at least an 1/8 pure bitch. But I love her. I'm her person and she doesn't really care for anyone else. Hates, HATES, my Boston Terrier and will consent to lie down and snuggle with my lab.

    Guess I'm just an animal person. Think I'd rather spend time with them than people. I'd have more if my husband would let me :)

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Liz, I'm so glad you liked the story. Charlie rocks! (So does Lori!)

    And yes, I do understand husband's who put the brakes on more animals. Mine assures me two dogs are enough. I really want chickens and he's said if the city repeals the ordinance against them, I can have them. I think he's counting on the status quo. But I'm lobbying the council to rethink their position! LOL So, yeah, I get animal person!


  3. Wow, what a rescue! Cats are amazing.

  4. Snookie, Yeah, Charlie's a tough guy!!


  5. Charlie definitely has catitude. Thanks for the wonderful story.

    I'm a cat person although I love dogs as well.

    So far 7 cats (all rescues in some way) have lived with me and my husband. We share our space with two of them right now.

  6. Kaelee, The cats you have now are very were all the other ones! I'm so glad you liked Lori's story. She's an amazing amazing woman!


  7. Loved Lori's story. She has an amazing cat. Although I don't have any animals myself there are a large number of cats that belong to a neighbor that reside in my yard during the day and one of them jumped on the back of a dog that invaded her "territory" although the dog was not vicious just curious.

  8. Ellen, LOL That's so funny! I'd love to see a pic of that!

    Lori is a natural storyteller. She's had me rolling on the floor as she tells her stories!