November 20th, 2005

I Will Not Defame New Orleans.

BFC1696

To conclude the saga of our lost Theo, as prefaced here and here:

To sum: Theo ran off before the storm. A couple of weeks ago, I found a good lead on petfinder.com. Emailed, phoned, and eventually drove up to Nowhere, Mississippi. The cat in question, nicknamed BFC1696 by the good folks at bestfriends.org, had shipped him to Texas the day before.

Shelley, our lovely case worker in Mississippi, rang me on Thursday night saying BFC1696 had returned.

Friday morning, I drove back up to McComb to verify, and perhaps pick up our lost kitty.

I was optimistic and excited. As Shelley walked down the road to meet me, the spring in her step denoted similar optimism and excitement.

"Let's see if it's Theo!" she said as we went in one of the cat houses.

We found his cage and she opened the door. I looked in the cage and pondered for a moment.

"Wow. Close. Very close," I said. "But it's not him."

My foolishly optimistic heart sank. My god, I thought, I've spent ten hours in a car for this little mutherfucker, who was currently head-butting my hand with his face, purring up a storm, and walking little kitty love circles and rolling around to show off how cute he could be, etc. A real salesman.

"I'm so sorry," said Shelley, and I believed she was actually as sorry as I was. She had invested time and emotion in what we call the Caper of BFC1696, and wanted a happy ending as much as I.

I don't know how she, and all the other fabulous people who work at these sanctuaries all over the country, can cope every day. Katrina displaced thousands of misplaced animals — good, loving animals, not feral, freaky beasts. They're lucky — lucky — to have a 10% reunion total, as Best Friends in McComb/Tylertown can brag. Which leaves all these hundreds and hundreds of cats and dogs locked up in cages, probably never to be reunited with their families again. Where will they all go? They're already so filled up at McComb that they've been shipping newcomers to satellite locations around the country. There can't be enough people in this country who will adopt or foster these poor cats and dogs. What is going to happen to them all?

These are the thoughts going through my road-weary head as BFC1696 continued doing cutsey-pooh tricks for me, purring and banging his head against my hand.

I said cautiously, "Shelley. Seeing as I've burned a tank of gas and lost two days of my life for this little suckah, I'm thinking perhaps I should take him home."

"Really? You want to do that?"

"I've grown an attachment to BFC1696 over the last week, and now that we've finally met…" BFC1696 continued to flip around and be fluffy and cute and purry.

"Well, there's a 90 day foster period you have to sign on for before he can be officially yours."

"That's fine. Let's do it."

(I called Ben before making the decision to see how he felt. "If you like him, I'm sure I will," was the answer.)

The catch: there is a waiting period to be approved to foster an animal. "That's not going to work," I said. "I can't drive back up here for a third time."

One of the founders of Best Friends from Utah happened to be on site that day. I filled out the paperwork, had a quick interview, and was deemed fit to foster a cat.

A woman interviewed me outside. Lost cat. Two trips up here. Turned out not to be Theo. I'm taking BFC1696 home anyway. Everyone seemed extremely pleased. Too pleased. I wasn't really doing anything extraordinary. I was taking a cat home, that was all. Did this happen so infrequently to warrant such a hubbub and attention from the founder as well? They took my picture holding BFC1696 and asked if they could write a story about this for their web site.

"Sure," I said, dumb-founded. "But I'm really not doing anything. Why won't more people take in a cat or dog? It's not that much a demand on someone's time or resources. Well, maybe a dog."



Driving home, I was going to call Ben and suggest something to him, when I received a text message stating exactly what I was going to propose: "Let's call him BFC1696," read the message.

Yes. Let's. It's catchy! "Heeeere Bee-Eff-See-One-Six-Nine-Six!"

When I got home, Ben had turned the double parlour into a sequestered acclimation room with food and water and a makeshift litter box.

BFC1696 was a little freaky out being in the huge room after living in a cage for at least a month. He darted behind the piano and didn't come out.

I dragged him out a couple of times, and he turned on the love-kitty head-butting and cutsey-pooh flipping, but when I stopped petting him, he slinked back behind the piano.

Day 2, he would occasionally come out from behind the piano for short periods. Last night, he stayed on the couch for several hours before going back. This morning, I dragged him out from behind the piano and pet him on the futon. He stayed there when I left.

He's left precious little treasures for us in the makeshift cat box. (Fantastic news since I am bound by the fostering agreement to keep him indoors. Woulda sucked to have an un-toilet-trained cat in my parlour.)

Overall, I'm pleased. I'm glad I could do a small, itty-bitty, teensey-weensie part for the displaced animals of Katrina. Wonder if they'll really write a story about it. Check bestfriends.org for it.