This was written and posted on 24 May 14.
written by Susan Smiley.
If you haven’t read Michael’s post/repost about the big, gray cat named Oliver you might want to check it out because this is, as Paul Harvey used to say, the REST of the story. Or the rest of Oliver’s story anyway.
I had run up to the small, family owned pet store at the corner to pick up some staple items – cat treats, cat toys, Milk Bones – when I saw a large, gray, long-haired cat lounging in his cage. The pet store had adoption days twice a month but also kept some of adoptable pets from the Animal Welfare Society at the store all the time with the idea that more people might see the animals and adopt. At the time I had a big, gray, plush, short-haired, Russian Blue type cat named Jacques and his brother Travis, a long-haired orange kitty with a most magnificent set of whiskers. I also had Rolo, my wild little white and orange kitty I had adopted through the pet store and the Animal Welfare Society. My roommate had Townes (named after the musician Townes Van Zandt) also adopted from the pet store through the AWS.
My neighbor worked at the pet store at the time and saw me looking at the handsome gray cat lounging in his cage.
“Oh my gosh!” I said. “This cat looks like he could be Jacques and Travis’ brother! He is gray like Jacques and has long hair like Travis!”
My neighbor told me that the big gray guy was the nicest cat they had ever had there at the store but that they found people were apprehensive about adopting him because he was so large – almost 20 pounds! The long hair made him look even bigger than he actually was.
She took the kitty out of the cage for me and I held him and he purred. And drooled. (I would find that was Olivier’s signature move). I wanted to adopt him so much because I could see he was very sweet. But I already had four cats and a huge dog named Hercules at home!
Reluctantly, I gave the cat back to my neighbor and told her I really hoped that he found a good, good home.
Fast forward to that evening and I was in my front yard trimming the bushes or some such thing when my neighbor came walking across the street with the big, gray kitty!
“Listen,” she said. “We all talked at the store and you guys have adopted so many through us and we all really want this cat to have a good home. So I brought him home for you”
My neighbor did not even have a carry crate because she did not have cats – only dogs and birds – so Oliver came to me in a large bird cage initially. I took him from the cage and was secretly so happy my neighbor had done this. With the cat came a note from the folks who had brought him to the AWS in the first place.
The note said that the cat’s name was Oliver – which I loved. It explained that this wonderful couple had found the cat, fed him, got him all fixed up at the vet and wanted to keep him but their one senior kitty was not keen on the idea so they had to help him find a good home. The note was signed by Lori and Michael.
The story about Oliver touched my heart and I saw there was some contact information for them. I thought that if I were in this situation with an animal, I would want to know that it had landed on its feet. So I jotted off a little note letting them know that Oliver was going to be living with me and that he would have lots of friends to play with including Hercules. I included my phone number in the note and invited them to call for updates.
Within the week a got a call and a very sweet voice asked “Would you think it was weird if we wanted to come and visit Oliver?” I didn’t hesitate and invited Lori and Michael to come and visit their orphan cat.
I can only say that when Lori and Michael came to visit, we bonded with each other just as we each had bonded with Oliver. We were friends instantly and so I can thank Oliver for blessing me with two dear friends.
Later, Lori confided that she had been worried when she read in my note that there was a 120 pound dog in the mix of Oliver’s new friends. But once she met Hercules and saw how gentle he was with Oliver and all of the cats, she knew the big gray guy was in good hands. Oliver and Hercules really bonded and Lori always referred to Hercules as a “world class dog” because he was so good with all of the cats.
Oliver was also special friends with Townes. Every night before dinner they would have a little friendly wrestling match. Almost as if it were choreographed, Oliver would walk up and touch Townes on the head; then Townes would touch Oliver’s head; then Oliver would fall on his back and they would grapple playfully until it was time to eat.
Most mornings I was awakened by a loud purring and a little bit of drool falling onto my cheek. And sometimes Oliver would get so excited that you were petting him that he would reach up and lightly bite your nose. It was his way of showing affection and trying to return the favor.
My roommate and I dubbed Oliver the cat who loved everybody and I even considered penning a series of children’s stories about him. He would make a great cartoon kitty. I also thought that I could have carried him around in one of those papoose contraptions that people use to carry babies on their chest. Oliver would have loved that.
Sometimes he would just go up to Hercules when he was laying on his bed and start rubbing against him and purring and drooling. Herc took it all in stride and sometimes would reach over and give Oliver a gentle nudge or lick the top of his big, gray head.
I also found that people who professed to “hate cats” always fell in love with Oliver. I mean, how could you not?
As always, I was very good about getting Oliver and all of the cats in for their regular visits to the vet. On one such visit, the vet pointed out that Jacques, Travis and Oliver were considered “geriatric” cats. I know now the vet was trying to prepare me for the fact that the two brothers and their adopted brother would not be around forever.
Travis was the first to go. The silly, orange kitty that once hunkered down in a patch of chives and then could not understand why the other cats avoided him when he came into the house had a stroke. I couldn’t get him to eat and he wasn’t getting better so I called the vet to come to the house to help him cross the rainbow bridge. Lori and Michael knew I was distraught and came to be with me for the ordeal. It is something for which I will be forever grateful.
Two years later on Christmas Eve, I lost Jacques. He just went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I knew he was slowing down, having some trouble getting around, but I’m thankful he went peacefully.
Three weeks into January, there was a night when Oliver didn’t eat – which was unusual. Much like I imagine people are with their kids, I could tell that something just was not “right”. I took him to the vet and found out that he had cancer. The doctor sent him home with some meds that were supposed to make him feel well enough to eat but the vet also told me that Oliver was not feeling well at all and the thought of my big guy suffering was more than I could take. He made it clear that the big fella was not going to get better. I took him home and made sure everyone had a chance to say good-bye and two days later Oliver also crossed the rainbow bridge.
As depressed as I was about losing Jacques and Oliver within a month, poor Townes was absolutely despondent. His wrestling partner was gone and he walked around the house in a
daze. Although Rolo was there, he and Townes have never gotten along all that great. Funny enough, Townes became closer to Hercules, who also missed his big, gray buddy.
Fast forward to the following November. Enough time had passed that I thought I might be ready for another kitty. I saw a flyer in the locker room of my swim class with a picture of a little tuxedo kitten that was looking for a home. I called the number on the flyer and went to the home of the woman who was fostering this kitten.
The foster mom lived in the same apartment and condo complex where Michael and Lori had lived when we first met. When I got to the condo, I found that the woman was fostering some other kitties in addition to the little tuxedo and when I sat on the couch, a chubby little tabby jumped into my lap and started purring.
Well, I took it as a sign. That was the cat I was taking home.
I named him Scotty and the very first night I noticed something strange. He and Townes engaged in the same little wrestling match that Townes and Oliver used to do every night. Scotty would touch Townes’ head; Townes would touch Scotty’s head and so on. Then I was petting Scotty one day and he reached up and gently nipped the end of my nose. And Scotty grew to be 18 pounds – a big guy like Oliver. So much was Scotty’s personality like Oliver that my roommate constantly called him Oliver!
One day Scotty was lying on my bed and I was petting him and I said “Scotty, tell me the truth; Are you really Oliver?” Do you know Scotty nodded his head and winked! That was all I needed to be assured that Oliver had come back to me as a big tabby!
I called Michael and Lori to tell them. “I know you guys are going to think I’m crazy but…” And good friends that they are, they did not think I was off my rocker at all.
So this is the story about how a stray cat was the catalyst for a friendship.