Tell Yer Tale of Devoshun

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Tail of Devotion to Rocky the Gutter Cat


I am not the original caretaker of Rocky the Gutter Cat. Rocky was a street kitten who ended up (thank goodness) at the San Francisco SPCA, a no-kill shelter. They regularly had a mobile adoption unit set up outside of our offices in downtown San Francisco. One day, a co-worker --- Bill --- and I were coming back from lunch, and of course, stopped to interact with all the cats seeking adoption. Bill was suffering from AIDS and had recently lost a cherished cat to old age. When he walked by Rocky’s cage, Rocky reached out to us with his paw --- maybe like Rocky Balboa striking a punch. We were captivated. He was outgoing, had gorgeous tuxedo markings and did everything in his power to convince us to adopt him. (I still remember a set of three other timid tuxies in the cage next to Rocky: their names were John, Paul and George.) I already had my quota of cats, but Bill had a hole in his heart waiting to be filled. Rocky was ready to fill it.

We went up to our office, but couldn’t stop talking about Rocky. Bill really wanted a cat, but was concerned about what might happen to the cat if something happened to him. I promised Bill that if anything happened to him, that I would take Rocky. With that, we charged the elevator and prayed that no one had adopted Rocky in the meantime. Fortunately, no one had, and about 20 minutes later, we were headed back up the elevator with Rocky in an SFSPCA cat carrier. We deposited him in an empty conference room until the end of the day. He seemed impossibly tiny, but was amazingly adept at ejecting powerful stink particles into the air. By the end of the day the office reeked, bringing grown men to tears. Fortunately, his intestinal problems worked themselves out.

Rocky filled Bill’s life with joy and a renewed sense of purpose. Every morning, Bill would come in full of “Rocky stories.” The antics of this small kitten took Bill’s mind off the dizzying array of medicinal cocktails and disease ravaging his body. It was as if he’d received a new injection of hope.

Unfortunately, Bill had to leave work on permanent medical disability a few months later. When I would visit, Rocky was always at his side, quietly purring. Bill obviously worshipped him, and the feeling was mutual. On a dark, dank December day, Bill passed away after an abrupt and unexpected turn for the worst. As promised, I took Rocky into my home, although it was extremely painful at first. I ached for this poor cat who couldn’t understand what was going on, and I was in mourning for the loss of a dear friend. But Rocky helped keep Bill’s spirit alive for me, and he was a sweet pet.

Rocky never made a play for alpha cat status. He was just a mellow fellow, probably a little confused by the changes in his life. Although he can be jumpy or skittish, he can also relax like no other cat I’ve ever seen --- when I hoist him over my shoulder in a “baby burping” position, he becomes completely limp and purrs as loud as he possibly can. Unfortunately, and somewhat unbeknownst to me, my territorial tortie terror, Perl, often ran him out of the house or off the porch when he approached the house. At first, I just thought he preferred outdoor living, but later it became apparent what was happening.

When Jeff moved in with me, Perl’s behavior got out of hand – she sprayed every single piece of expensive furniture that Jeff moved into the house. Fortunately, this occurred at a time when my sister was experiencing a severe rat problem, and Perl was a skilled ratinator. Perl moved in with my sister (where she lives happily to this day) and I adopted Junior as a companion for Mao. The very first time Junior encountered Rocky, he ran up and tried to get Rocky to play with him. Rocky was dumbfounded. No cat had ever played with him before. No longer subjected to Perl’s domination, Rocky and Junior became fast friends, and Rocky underwent an amazing transformation, interacting much more with us and with Junior, and becoming a full-time indoor cat. (Mao and Rocky are reasonably polite to one another, but they don’t particularly like one another.)

When we lost Junior years later, Rocky again underwent a transformation. He refused to live in the house (which I think reminded him of Junior), and instead insisted on staying outside, most of the time in the gutter. Why the gutter? Who knows. We had no control over it. He was miserable in the house, and peed absolutely everywhere but the litterbox when we attempted to keep him inside. It was as if he had to process his grief again, alone, in his own way.

When Skeezix came to live with us, Rocky had little contact with him, since Rocky lives outside and Skeezix is strictly an indoor cat. But a few months ago, when Rocky had his pee problems, we had to move him inside so that we could closely monitor his urine output and how much water he consumed. Like Junior, Skeezix immediately identified Rocky as a potential playmate, and he engaged him in play --- mostly, “rassling,” or playing with the tunnel box. Rocky underwent another transformation, accepting his life indoors, and bonding with Skeezix. Those two now play relentlessly with each other every night. And Rocky is happy living inside.

Rocky is a sweet soul. His life has been defined by difficult transitions, and except for the Junior years, he’s been kind of a loner. He’s more difficult to understand than the Siamese – unlike Mao, whose vocabulary is peppered with nuance, Rocky has a one-word, one-note vocabulary: a distinctive whine. So determining what he wants involves going to the feeding area, the water dish, the front door, all for a clue as to what he’s getting at. And we eventually do get it.

Rocky’s life’s work was accomplished in the first year of his life, when he filled a dying man’s days with joy and hope. Rocky, I see your time with me as your long retirement, and I really do hope I can give back a fraction of the joy to you that you gave to Bill.

---- Rocky's Ladey

Link to Rocky's blog: Rocky's Ramblings

Monday, October 30, 2006

Enter Now!


As Thanksgiving aprochez, it's time to give thanks for the happy homes owr hyoomans have givin us, and heck, it'd be nice for owr hyoomans to aknolije how thankful they are to have us arownd!

So, heer's yer chanse to git yer hyoomans to say why yer importunt to them.

This is a "Tales of Devoshun" contest. For this contest, yer hyooman(s) will rite a storey abowt why YOO are importunt to them. Yoo can inklood text, fotos, video, and anything else yoo can think of. No limits. It can be as long or short as yoo like, and it can be in any format (a story, a poem, a song, a top ten list --- anything!) Yoo can see samples heer. Altho yoo can rite abowt anything, heer are sum things yoo mite wunt to diskuss if yoo don't know ware to start:

  • How did yer hyooman find yoo?
  • How do yoo demonstrate affekshun to yer hyooman?
  • How have yoo endeerd yerself to yer peeple?
  • Did an event happen that bonded yoo and yer peeple?
  • What makes yoo a member of yer hyooman's famly rather than just a creechur they feed Fancy Feest to?
Reed this exserpt frum the introdukshun to the book, "Tails of Devotion," by Emily Scott Pottruck to find owt more. And heer's Catster's Tails of Devotion page, with lots of samples.

As an ixzample, this is whut my Food Lady mite rite abowt me:
I reely love Skeezix the Cat. I'm lukkey to have a cat hoo dresses as well as Skeezix duz. Skeezix has lots of frends. He's a frendly cat. Even tho he's stinky, we still love him. Evry morning, he can't wate to come into the peeple bedroom and sit on my nek and purr. He's the best cat ever. --- By the Food Lady

For sekyurity, instruckshuns on signing in are on Skeezix's blog.

In addishun to yer Tale of Devoshun, make shur yoo add a link to yer blog or Catster page so I can git in tuch with yoo if yoo win!


  1. Yer Tale of Devoshun must be submitted by yer hyooman(s). Yoo can't rite one abowt yerself and enter it. That wood be cheeting and cheeting izn't nice.
  2. Yoo can enter one cat or a household of cats for each tale. HOWEVER, no cat can appeer in more than one entrey. (For example, Grr, Midnight and Cocoa cood be entered as three entreez: one for Grr, one for Midnight, and one for Cocoa; or they cood be entered as one entrey: Grr, Midnight and Cocoa; or two entreez: one with Grr and Midnight, and one for Cocoa; but they cood NOT be entered as a groop AND indivijually.)
  3. Entreez must be submitted prior to NOON (PST) Friday, November 17th.
  4. Yoo can update, revise and add to yer entry at any time, even after voting has begun.
  5. Winners will be chozen by popyuler vote. Voting will begin at 12:01 pm on Saturday, November 18th and continue through 11:59 pm on Wednesday, November 23rd. Voting instrukshuns will be posted on my blog when voting opens.
  6. In the event of a tie, a panel consisting of Skeezix the Cat, Mao, Rocky the Gutter Cat and Tripper the psyko stray cat will chooze the winner. In that case, the one not chozen the winner will still reeseeve a copy of the book.
  7. I can change the roolz anytime I wunt becuz it's my contest.
  8. Voting is open to anyone. Only one vote allowed per valid emale adress. Yoo are enkerijed to solisit votes frum yer frends and famly.
  9. Eech entrey gits a secund vote. If multiple cats are grooped in a singul entrey, they git one extra vote. If they are in seprit entreez, eech entrey gits a vote. Yoo will post yer extra vote in the comments sekshun of yer entry. For yer extra vote, yoo cannot vote for yerself or a cat in yer howsehold.
  10. Winner will be annownst on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th.

    In case yer wundering why this isn't a contest for YOO to say how importunt yer persun is to yoo, yoo'll git yer chanse with the next contest. The last contest of the yeer will be a "Food Lady/Food Dude of the Yeer Award," in wich yoo'll git to nominate yer persun with yer own tale of devoshun.