Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Story of Blue

The month of November brought torrential downpours to Portland, not the typical Northwest mist but a cold, driving rain that blew through the cracks of a jacket and soaked to the skin.  Kristin and I would dart from our car to the door and then inside our warm house to be greeted by our two furry cats.  During the summer, Maximus and Kiku despise the heat and often find a solitary retreat on a cold wood floor or in a basement corner.  But as the temps cool off, they start to spend their nights on our comforter, snuggled into the crook of our knees or nuzzled under our chins.  Slipping into a deep sleep to the sound of a fading purr is one of the great pleasures of life.  A cold November rain makes it even better.

But this November, during the rainiest of nights, we awoke to a pained wailing outside our back door.  Half asleep, I called out for Max, an aging scrapper and alpha male defender of his territory, only to find him curled up next to me.  The little one was there as well.  The meows were coming from a stranger in our backyard.  I preened Max’s mane until he started purring and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

The bleating continued the next morning.  I poked my head out the backdoor just in time to catch the stocky rear end of a gray blue cat scurrying into the bushes.  Not recognizing the rump, I gave a little whistle and pretty soon our visitor returned, walking cautiously around the legs of our picnic table, keeping a safe distance from my advances.  But this cat’s curiosity won out easily over this coyness.  In a matter of seconds, he was motoring away while rubbing up against my shin.

Blue in Distress
This was no feral cat.  He loved people, and he appeared to be well fed, but for the next several days he wouldn’t leave our yard.  Each night, we would hear him crying, and each morning he repeated his flirtatious dance into the bushes only to return with a purr a few seconds later.  After three or four days, we started to get worried and gave him a little food, which sealed the deal – this cat wasn’t going anywhere.  The November rains continued, and each morning we would find him sheltered under the patio in our backyard.  A day or so later, he was still there, and we began the search for his owner.

We started with a craigslist add but didn’t have any luck.  Kristin managed to corral him into our cat carrier and took him to the vet to get scanned – no chip.  He also hadn’t been neutered.  Despite the fact that he was friendly, well fed and healthy looking, it seemed pretty obvious nobody was caring for him.  We brought him home and named him Blue after his plaintive meows and his soft, dark fur. 

Not sure what to do next, we made a few calls to various shelters and quickly found out that nobody was interested in a stray cat.  We circulated a picture to our friends, hoping someone would offer to adopt Blue and give him a home.  Running out of options, we enlisted the help of our friend Steph, a very compassionate vet with a soft spot for wayward kitties.  Taking pity on Blue, she brought him in from the cold and gave him a thorough check. 

At first we thought that a trip to the vet was a turning point for poor Blue, a way for him to get a clean bill of health (and a snipping) and possibly a transition into a humane cat shelter.  But Steph had bad news – Blue tested positive for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus).  Although FIV positive cats can easily live long, happy lives, this diagnosis would severely limit Blue’s housing options.  No outdoor activity – no other cats.  The county shelter was likely to put him down.  Nobody else was likely to take him in.  He remained in Steph’s generous care, waiting in limbo for someone to come to his rescue.

Blue in Limbo
We continued our search on Blue’s behalf.  Resorting to Facebook, we posted pictures of lonely Blue along with information on FIV positive cats.  Lots of people responded with warm wishes but nobody offered to take him in.  We called the few humane shelters that worked with FIV+ cats, and they had long waiting lists.  We were stumped.

Finally, 2-3 weeks after showing up in our backyard, Steph texted me and said she might have found a home for our boy Blue.  Her friend Clay had just lost a long-time feline companion and was thinking about adopting Blue.  A day or so later, I ran into Clay at the climbing gym and extolled Blue’s virtues, gushing over his charisma and good manners.  Clay remained undecided for the next week or so, leaving town on a trip and then finally returning to Portland as the November rains gave way to a long, stable December high pressure system.

I again saw Clay at the climbing gym, and this time he had good news.  Coming back to Portland, he had been anxious to return to Steph’s practice, where he had visited Blue several days earlier.  He missed him.  The next day, he planned to bring Blue back to his house for an experimental visit.  I kept my fingers crossed and silently hoped that Blue would behave and ingratiate himself to his new (hopefully) owner.  Very thankful to both Steph and Clay, Kristin and I offered to welcome Blue into his new surrounding by stopping by with some Thai food for his most recent and hopefully new caregivers.

Unsure of what we would find, Kristin and I walked up to Blue’s new patio and knocked on the front door while peering in the little window.  We saw Clay moving towards the door to let us in, but there was no sign of Blue.  But as soon as the door swung open, there he was, looking up at us from the living room floor, curious to see who had come to visit.  I greeted Clay and then bent down to scritch our boy Blue on the top of his head.  In usual fashion, he started purring, arched his back and leaned his head into the friendly fingers, offering up different parts of his cheeks and chin for a little petting.  

By the end of the evening, it became clear that Blue was perfectly at home in his new surroundings.  He had chosen his favorite places – on the bed for a nap, next to Clay at the dinner table, or hiding upstairs in some forgotten place.  He showed us his bad habits – crawling up on the table after we were done eating – but Blue reluctantly obeyed when he got scolded for being ill mannered.  And as we were about to leave, Blue sauntered into the living room from wherever he was and offered his goodbye, along with a purr and a little head scratch.

Blue at Hone
So that’s the story of Blue.  Unknown before our rainy backyard, his story, for the time being, has a happy ending.  He’s found a safe home and a companion, and that is all a cat can ever want.          

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