Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dobie and Thelma: Contented Cats

The most difficult decision we had to make in preparation for our move to Spain was whether or not to take our two cats, Dobie and Thelma, with us.  Thelma turned 4 in April. Dobie, the old boy, turned 15 in May.  We tortured over the decision to leave them behind, and changed our minds several times before finally agreeing it would be the most practical — although heartbreaking — thing to do.

MAYNARD AND DOBIE.  YOU COULD NEVER TELL WHERE ONE STARTED AND THE OTHER LEFT OFF.

We adopted Dobie as a kitten along with his brother and litter-mate, Maynard.  Dobie and Maynard were named for best friends Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs from the 1959-1963 TV show "The Lives and Loves of Dobie Gillis."  Like the original Dobie and Maynard, ours were inseparable.  Dobie was outgoing and social, while Maynard was shy and skittish.  When he was 12, Maynard became gravely ill and we had to have him euthanized.  We thought we'd wait a few weeks and then start looking for another cat to keep Dobie company. I left on a week-long business trip a day later and Dobie was at home with his pal Jerry (I used to sing "Me and My Shadow" when I'd see Jerry enter or exit a room with Dobie always right behind).  Dobie stopped eating and drinking and spent the next three days at the top of the stairs watching, we assume, for Maynard and me to come home.  He began to fail and Jerry, after begging Dobie not to die, had to rush him to the vet.  Thankfully, he recovered after a few days of treatment, but we realized we couldn't waste any more time finding a friend for Dobie.


We had decided that, since Dobie was already an old cat, we should get another mature male, around 6 years old, we thought —social, gentle, slightly passive — as a companion.  The shelters were taking cats to the pet supply stores for adoption.  So we made the rounds looking for just the right cat.  At our third stop, while searching for that adult male, calm, friendly cat, we spotted Thelma.  She was 8 months old and sound asleep amid the chaos of a cage filled with smaller, younger, and insanely active kittens.  I took her out, laid her on my lap, where she immediately went back to sleep.  And, for some unknown reason, that was that.  She was exactly NOT what we were looking for, but I was positive she was "the one," so she was precisely what we were going to have.

DOBIE TAKES SOME TIME OUT FROM HIS HECTIC SCHEDULE.

On the drive home, Jerry commented that he hoped she wasn't TOO passive.  I had my concerns as well.  I took her into my home office where she was to stay for the week before we introduced her to Dobie.  She immediately high-tailed it to hide on some boxes under one of the desks.  I sat on the floor on the other side of the room.  After 45 minutes or so, she climbed down from the boxes, walked across my lap, and then began to run around the room making noises like one of the tribbles from "Star Trek" or maybe even more like Cousin Itt from "The Addams Family."  She would jump in my lap and cuddle, run around the room again, then slap herself next to me and roll over on her back to have her tummy rubbed.  I walked into the living room and said, "Jerry, you need to come in and see this  The cat in my office is not the same cat we brought home."

THELMA AND DOBIE.  RIGHT AFTER THEY MET.  SHE MADE HIM 5 YEARS YOUNGER.

To make a ridiculously long story, well... just slightly less long, Dobie and Thelma didn't last four days being separated by a door.  He would reach under from one side, she from the other.  We finally let them at each other.  She was in love immediately.  He hissed once the first time she ran right at him. A half hour later they were sound asleep together on the sofa.

ONE OF THELMA'S [FORMER] FAVORITE SPOTS.
IN THE BACKGROUND: AN ALABASTER NUDE CARVED BY MY VERY GIFTED MOTHER.

The biggest adjustment for Dobie was having to give up his privacy when using the litter box.  Dobie and Maynard shared a large covered litter box.  They had an understanding.  If one was using the litter box (with his head sticking out the front), the other left the room.  Thelma has no concept of privacy.  So, when Dobie was using the litter box — with his head sticking out the front— Thelma would sit outside and lick his face.  He was not happy at first but, like everything else Thelma-related, Dobie learned to adapt.

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE SAID THEY COULD FIT IN OUR SUITCASE?

Finding new homes for Dobie and Thelma turned out to be much more difficult than we had anticipated.  We had wanted them to stay together.  But no one was interested in taking in a 15-year-old cat with arthritis, four teeth, and a tendency to inhale his food and then throw it back up.  Other than that, Dobie is in great shape for 15.  But, we finally decided to look for separate homes for them.  We found a cat retirement facility in Newport Beach for Dobie.  That would have required us to make a one-time-only upfront payment of $5,000.  We found another facility in Laguna Beach that cost $6,500!  We came close to paying another place, this one in Rancho Santa Fe, $2,000.  But, even that seemed absurd.  At the last minute, our wonderful veterinarian asked if we would be willing to let her office adopt Dobie as "the hospital cat."  We were elated and Dobie settled in very happily there.

LOVE.

Thelma was not quite so happy.  Thelma loves everyone and everything.  She has no fear — except of plastic grocery bags.  One of the assistant's in the vet's office adopted Thelma and took her home a couple of days before we brought Dobie in.  Sadly, Thelma's new home did not work out.  There were two dogs and a cat already there.  One of the dogs did not want Thelma in the house.  The cat was afraid of her.  The head of the household did not want Thelma on her new living room furniture.  So, Thelma lived in the bathroom and slept in the sink.  She was at least affectionate with the assistant from the vet's office, but that was the extent of her happiness.  Jerry and I were devastated and didn't know what to do as we were already living at the hotel in Irvine and were ready to hit the road. 

JERRY AND THE KIDS ON THEIR LAST DAY TOGETHER.  (JERRY GOT THERE FIRST.)
I COULDN'T EVEN LOOK AT THIS PICTURE UNTIL WE HAD THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THELMA.


OK, so I didn't shorten the long story!  But, the reason for this post is to share the great news that the wonderful people at the animal hospital emailed us yesterday and said that Thelma has come to live with them as well.  So, Thelma and Dobie are joyfully together again.  They're sharing a large space with an open door and we're told they spend a lot of time together on one of the treatment tables, which requires the staff to find other places to do their work.  But no one is complaining.  The way it was described:  "Thelma pretty much walked in and owned the place." The doctors and staff at the animal hospital were always wonderful to us and to Dobie and Thelma.  But what they have done goes above and beyond all expectations.  We will be forever grateful.

THELMA AND DOBIE.  TOGETHER AGAIN. 
THE ANIMAL HOSPITAL:  MINUS ONE TREATMENT ROOM. PLUS TWO CATS

10 comments:

  1. I'm so glad that the story had a happy ending as I was about to write and tell you that you needed to abandon the move to Spain!
    We were lucky in that our Boris was only 2 when we moved from California to France. We worried about his trip WAY more than furniture, cars or even our own travel! But he made it like a champ. I'm glad that your cats are together in a loving environment. Oh and I like to statue!

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  2. That's a great story and a great ending!

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  3. As I read that story I came close to tears - no, I'll tell you, I actually blubbed.
    If I'd happened to be living near you I wouldn't have hesitated to take both of them, even if I already had the two which I do have now. I'm overjoyed that they are together again and, though it's a wrench your being separated from them, under the circumstances it's the kindest possible fate. (What I'd give to have them in my lap for just a few minutes!)

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  4. Hello Mitch:
    As cat lovers ourselves, we are so relieved and pleased that this story has a happy ending and that Thelma and Dobie are still together.

    When we left the UK for Hungary we had much the same dilemma as to what to do with our two cats. In the event, with huge problems attached to exporting live animals, and at huge cost, we brought them with us. Happily they both settled in well and enjoyed their lives in a foreign land. After the death of them both, we decided, sadly, not to replace them.

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  5. That is a very touching story Mitch. I am curious why do places like Pet Retirements centers charge so much?

    Scott

    www.travelwithscott.com

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  6. Craig: There were thoughts of delaying the move while we waited for Dobie to leave this world (which we hope will take YEARS). It was awful. And the problem with taking them was compounded by the fact that we expected to be on the road for anywhere from 1 to 3 months... ending at my mother's apartment in NY — and she is sadly NOT an animal lover. I love happy endings.

    Walt the Fourth: SO happy.

    Raybeard: Sorry to bring on the tears. We have a kind-hearted — like you — niece here in South Dakota who would have taken them both in a hearbeat, but she and our nephew have so many cats already. I sure do miss them. You would love them both. But, I'm so glad they're together and obviously loved and happy.

    J&L: Jerry is already talking about getting "gatos" in Spain. I'm trying to delay the inevitable; afterall, we've got a lot of travels planned.

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  7. Thanks for sharing, Mitch. I'm glad they could stay together in the end. A weight must have lifted of your shoulders.

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  8. Peter: Yes, a huge weight. We couldn't think about Thelma without feeling guilty and depressed. Now, we picture them together and smile.

    Scott: These retirement centers apparently provide a different level of care where the cats have beautiful spaces to play and sleep and are not housed as if in a kennel. Even at the price, though, we couldn't imagine dumping Dobie in a room with 9 other cats. The cheapest option ($2,000), actually intends to get even the old cats adopted into good homes (as opposed to the two more expensive options that are strictly retirement homes). But, I don't know if in the end the $2,000 place would even have accepted Dobie (they have a rigid screening process). It was all a bit disturbing and the expense was we felt ridiculous.

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  9. Whew, what a relief. So glad it worked out they way you both hoped!!!

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  10. Natalie: Thanks. It's just grand!

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