On Pets, Not Politics

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Greg Markley

By GREG MARKLEY

‘To all the rescue cats I have loved before’

July 10 marked my second anniversary of having this weekly column. It is mainly about weighty subjects like politics, education and culture. But I decided to write about the seven cats that I have rescued since 1986. This is a public service as readers may be inspired to adopt an animal. Pets will lift you up, as they did for many during the pandemic.

In June, Time magazine said more than 12 million U.S. households have adopted a pet since the virus hit the country. American Pet Products Association said it’s not rare for people to get pets in a crisis; They are great companions.

“Pet-keeping has become more intensive, just like child-rearing has,” noted Katherine Grier, author of Pets in America: A History.

The first two felines I got were Mr. Whiskers, a young white and black cat, and six months later Madam Trubbles, a tabby with mostly brown hair. They were adopted at shelters near Atlanta where I lived, in 1986.Whiskers once crawled up in the rafters as my house was being built;It took three hours to coax him down. Trubbles was called a “three-legged sloth” as she was missing a toe. Both cats spent five or six years giving me joy.

In 1994 in Berlin, I selected two cats from a shelter. The 12-year-old male was skittish when he went to his new home. He hid in the shelves, and I named him Unforgettable because the famous Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole song was playing when I found him. The female I named Sunset because she was in her “Sunset years”.

She was 18 ½ when adopted, but I was delighted with both my foreign-born cats. When Sunset died 18 months later, it was in my arms at home in upstate NewYork. Her last year and a half had been happy. Unforgettable was good company for me up to five years after that. A year after Sunset died, I came to Lee County for my new life.

Unforgettable was with me then and so was Riddler. I gave her that name since she was unpredictable and a “puzzler” just like a riddle is. Riddler was with me for 16 years, adopted from a shelter in Watertown, New York. She was a true tortoise-shell, very attractive when properly brushed.

As is obvious with my naming cats Unforgettable, Sunset, etc. I like to create names that are original and tailored to individual cats. (In 1976 a Congressional candidate I wrote about named her dog Watergate.) A recent cat-naming is from 2011 when I chose a shelter cat on display at the PetSmart in Montgomery.

I called the young gray and white male youngster “Chase” because we got him at The Shoppes at East Chase. Further, he was the first new male cat I had adopted in a while, so he was crowned “Chase”; a good masculine name. Two years ago this month, after eight wonderful years with us, he disappeared from our yard.

It was a huge loss for us and very difficult for our dog Emma. (I have lived with four dogs since 2011, and expect to write about them next summer. Call it “equal time.”) Reports of small pets being lost are not new where we live, near Cary Woods. Yet Chase may be out there somewhere, using his wits to survive. I am an optimist, of course.

There is much controversy about whether cats should be outside a lot. It depends on the setting — if you have a large yard away from traffic and other danger, a cat will enjoy being out with nature in the daytime. If you keep him or her inside except for trips to the vet, please consider buying a “cat tree” or two, and opening window curtains so the cat can enjoy the sunrise and sunset, as well as flora and fauna.

Speaking of “fauna,” that is our newest cat’s name, the one she had in the shelter. I wanted to study her actions for a week, as practice, and then give her a name that fit her personality. But we kept the name Fauna. It captures her love of nature, and the fact she is a “fauna”; an animal of a particular region.

I hope it does not take a pandemic or other crisis to find homes for homeless pets. Shelters are available in most counties and mid-to-large Alabama cities. Also, many Lee County veterinarians have accepted cats and dogs in their facilities, from the crowded shelter. That is indeed admirable. It’s more work for the vets, but it is a labor of love.

Some people just don’t like cats, others shun dogs. Cats encourage cleanliness; they are clever; they are entertaining — often, a barrel of laughs; and they are affectionate and caring. They are definitely intelligent and independent; I applaud that.

We adopted Fauna from Opelika veterinarian Dr. Buddy Bruce and we are delighted with her. A tortoiseshell, she reminds me of Riddler. Every cat I wrote about is special to me. I say not to one, but to all seven cats: “Unforgettable, that’s what you are.”

Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 11 years.  gm.markley@charter.net

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