Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Tail of Devotion to Skeezix


Skeezix, where do I begin?

You didn't know it, but you had a huge void to fill when you entered our lives. In December 2004, our beloved Balinese, Junior, passed away unexpectedly. We were unprepared and utterly devasted. Junior was Jeff's cat --- heart and soul --- and Jeff was inconsolable. He sat on the back deck in the cold dark night rocking back and forth, holding Junior's cold, shrouded body, sobbing and shuddering with grief. I had to deal not only with my grief, but with Jeff's, to try to get him -- and us -- through it. Junior was the first cat who was Jeff's alone, and this man who was not a "cat person" when I met him was far more devastated with grief than he had been over the loss of any human. To this day, if I mention Junior's name or Jeff sees a photo of him, Jeff will tear up spontaneously. It was months before he stopped crying himself to sleep.

In those dark days just before Christmas, our despair was palpable. Both Mao and Rocky were also deeply affected by Junior's death. Rocky refused to come in the house, and Mao was at loose ends. Jeff was in tears every single night at bedtime, and often throughout the day. I couldn't face Christmas without Junior, and I knew from personal experience that, although Junior could not be replaced, that a new kitten would divert our focus from mourning 24 hours a day and help us heal.

We had to get a kitten because Mao is an unapologetic alpha cat who would never let another adult cat in the house. He and Rocky do not socialize or interact, but since Rocky has seniority, Mao begrudgingly leaves him alone. (This changed when they teamed up to invent Mao & Rocky's Vishus Deer Repelunt.) Finding a kitten in the dead of winter is a challenge. I kept my plans a secret from Jeff because I knew he'd say no if I asked him. I frantically searched the entire Bay Area, starting at Siamese Rescue and every shelter, then every classified ad, Mao's breeder, and anyone else I could think of. I searched the Sacramento area, and expanded my search to include everywhere I could drive to and from within a single day. I googled and googled and googled. No luck.

Since Junior had been Balinese, I was looking for a Balinese -- although any Siamese type of cat would do. Junior had every Balinese characteristic nailed --- he knew he was beautiful, he had these amazing pantaloons, he carried his tale like a flame, and he was a clown. He was vocal, but less so and at a lower volume than Mao (thank goodness). He loved every cat, and every cat loved Junior. He was an excellent counterpoint to Mao, and I was seeking similar characteristics in a new cat. I didn't want a Junior clone, but I wanted a little clown who would agreeably allow Mao to maintain his alpha status while still being outgoing, and provide Mao with companionship (Mao is one of those cats who needs a companion.)

Despairing of finding a kitten before Christmas, I was resigning myself to the darkest most depressing Christmas ever when a woman in Berkeley responded to an email I had sent to her. She had some chocolate lynx point Balinese -- two females. I preferred a male cat, but didn't feel that strongly about it, so I stopped by on my way home from work. The kittens had the biggest ears I'd ever seen, but were beautiful. One was very shy, so I gravitated toward the more outgoing one. I was conflicted. I didn't really "connect" with either kitten, but I didn't know whether to trust my judgement. I was telling the woman that I typically preferred male kittens, and she said she had the brother of the two I was looking at, but that he was a runt with poor coloring and his coat was thin, and his eyes were a little crossed, and oh yeah, he had a crook in his tail -- he'd never show. Before I laid eyes on him, I sensed he was the one. She asked me if I wanted to see him, and of course, I did. He was the tiniest thing (more than three months old, but he looked about half that age), but had this incredible sense of self assurance and curiosity. I held him, and he crawled up on my shoulder and purred as loud as his little body would allow (just as Junior had when I picked him out years before). There was no question. He was the one.

When I brought him home, Jeff was understandably upset. I promised to return him if Jeff wanted me to. I removed him from the carrier, and he was just SO SMALL! Mao came to investigate the mewing, and immediately curled up with him, grooming him. He hissed when Skeezix started nursing on him, but for the most part was completely accepting of our new addition.

Skeezix knew instinctively that he had to win Jeff over if he was going to be able to stay. So with a single-minded sense of purpose, he began by licking Jeff's face as often as he could get away with it. Jeff zipped him up inside whatever sweater or jacket he was wearing where he would purr until his purrer gave out. Needless to say, they bonded. Like superglue. He never licked my face, but every single morning he bolts into my bed when Jeff gets up, and lays on top of my neck, purring as loud as he can, until Jeff is done in the bathroom and heads toward the cat feeding station to dish up breakfast. With his satellite dish ears, Skeezix can hear Jeff's hand on the doorknob in the bathroom, and bolts off the bed the minute he hears it. Skeezix never lets our quality time together get in the way of his breakfast.

About a week after we got him he got sick with a respiratory infection and then had a serious constipation problem requiring trips to the emergency vet. We've had to deal with his chronic problem with the squirts, including his penchant for stepping in his squishy poop then tracking it all over us and the house. He is one messy, stinky. ugly cat. But we adore him. And he's one of the most popular patients at Boulevard Pet Hospital.

I turned over the naming of him to Jeff, since it was going to be his cat. We spent days tossing around every name imaginable, including Hoover and Oreck (based on how he vacuumed up every morsel of food put in front of him). When Jeff came up with Skeezix, it struck us both as perfect. It fit his outgoing goofy personality. It was a nod to Jeff's dad, who used it as a nickname for Jeff and his brothers when the boys were small. The original Skeezix was a Gasoline Alley comic strip character. This Skeezix belongs in his own comic strip.

I began to dress him in sweaters because he had a very thin coat, and would often not come out of his heated cat cup when it was cold. We knew he could never go outside, so we taught him to walk on a leash, and later, bought a stroller for him so that he could safely make his way around the neighborhood. We realized early on that he was going to remain a homely cat, a feeling reinforced by everyone's first reaction to him: "That is the ugliest cat I've ever seen!" You know what? It doesn't phase him (or us) a bit. He seems to know he can't get by on looks, so he has to make up for it with a great personality. And he really has a great personality.

There are times when I see the spirit of Junior channeled through him. Skeezix is exactly like Junior in that he goes up to any new cat, introduces himself, then starts to wrassle. No cat is a threat, just a new playbuddy. Junior did that, too. The first time he did it with Rocky, Rocky was flumoxed. No cat had ever tried to play with him before. Junior changed all that. And after Rocky eased out of the mourning period over the loss of Junior, Skeezix stepped in and engaged Rocky in play ... and every evening they play long and hard for an hour or more.

In an interesting parallel, although Junior was registered as a Siamese, as his coat came in and his personality manifested itself, it was obvious that he was Balinese. Although Skeezix was registered as Balinese, it became obvious as he matured that he was not Balinese, and a little research on the part of Skeezix's friends Shabby and Kalin revealed that he was really an oriental shorthair... which introduced us to the world of frootbats... and Luxor and Kaze.

Skeezix and Junior were physically dissimilar - Junior was a gorgeous, rotund, very fluffy cat. But like Junior, Skeezix is a clown, self-assured, affectionate, a shoulder cat, friendly, and a sweet companion to Mao. Like the last puzzle piece, he slipped into the family dynamic and made us whole again.

Skeezix, you helped us through the darkest days of our life. You continue to make us laugh uncontrollably at your antics, and we miss you desperately when we're apart. We hope to spend the next twenty years with you.

-- The Food Lady

Skeezix's Blog


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet little Skeezix! My mom says that she definitely thinks he is CUTE, not homely at all!

3:02 AM  
Blogger Eric and Flynn said...

That is a luvly tail of Devoshun. Our mum's face went all leaky when she red it.

3:47 AM  
Blogger Finnegan & Buddy said...

What a byootiful story! Mom sez that Junior led you to Skeezix becos he knew you needed each other and I think she's rite. You are all furry lucky to have each other.

Finny & Buddy

6:59 AM  
Blogger nels, ed, nitro, and/or xing said...

serious leakage here at chez pierce. finney & buddy have it nailed flat--eventually, we all turn up where we belong, and we get there because we're guided. kisses to you, Food Lady!

7:52 PM  
Blogger BoogersCat said...

Oh my goodness Skeezix! You tail of devotion made my meowmy's eyes leak water too!!! So great to read about the famous Skeezix.

12:11 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Fab cat, fab story!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Icon Baxter Bentley said...

Very, very sweet Tail of Devotion.

2:07 PM  
Blogger DebP said...

I think Skeezix is the coolest cat ever! Hes cute, funny and has a great page. I want one just like him ! Muah xxx...

1:13 PM  
Blogger jmuhj said...

Skeez, you the MAN. We are all HUGE fans of yourself here. PURRS, the Fabulous L.A. Flakerz "Cat Dream Team" and their lowly, overworked, nonpaid servant, "meowm"

7:05 PM  

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