One of the first important decisions made following the marriage between Joe Howell and Embry Martin, now approaching its 55th anniversary, was our decision in 1966 to adopt a cat. She was a cute little kitty we got from the pound in New York City, who, alas, died on the second or third day with us. I do not even remember if we had given her a name and do not remember what her illness was. The only saving grace, if you can call it that, was that the tragedy happened so soon we had not become too attached to her.
Not to be dismayed we immediately started looking for another kitten, this time avoiding the pound and heading to a pet shop on the Upper East Side, where we fell in love with a bluish, gray kitten who was part Siamese and part Russian Blue. We named her Minette (French for “kitten”), and she lived for almost 20 years. She could leap effortlessly from the floor to the top of an open door and was so smart that you thought she might be part human. You might even call her our first “child.” Her most extraordinary feat was surviving on the streets of New York City by her own wits for over a week when our apartment sitter accidently left the door open, and she disappeared. We were traveling in Europe and did not learn of the incident until our return a few weeks later when we heard about the ordeal. After giving up hope, ten days after Minette’s disappearance, our apartment sitter happened to stumble upon the animal in the apartment lobby, pawing at the front door, trying to get in.
Minette was our favorite of all the six cats we have owned over the years—Maggie (short for “Magnificat”), then litter mates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and, finally, poor little Balaysa, (Portuguese for “beauty”) a tiny, black, shy creature that could not have weighed more than a pound or two, whom we adopted from our daughter, Jessica, when their pit bull terrified the animal so much that she spent most of her time hiding in a closet. Balaysa died in Embry’s arms when we were watching the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings on TV. The cat was fine until Kavanaugh started his testimony following that of Dr. Ford. It was too much for the animal. She went into convulsions and was dead on arrival when Embry rushed her to the vet. We have no idea how old she was or what the actual cause of death was.
After being catless for about a year, this year, we were ready to adopt again, surely our last time. We missed not having a furry creature around to hear purr and snuggle up with. Since years ago we started with a Russian Blue, we thought it would be nice to complete our cat companionship with another Russian Blue. We found a beautiful one on the internet, filled out all the forms, and were visited by the adoption agency social worker. Two days later Embry delivered the news:
“Just got an email from the cat adoption agency.”
“Great,” I said, “When can we pick this beautiful creature up?”
“What do you mean, ‘we can’t’?”
“We have been turned down. We are not qualified to adopt a cat.”
“What do you mean? We have owned six cats. Four of them out lived their life expectancy. In fact when you think about it, there have only been one or maybe two years that we have not had a furry, purring creature in our house or apartment. Are we too old?”
“No. It does not have to do with our age. We haven’t taken our cats for annual check ups.They called our last veterinarian and they spilled the beans. They said that we had not taken Belaysa in for annual check ups plus it is a law in D.C. that you have to.”
“You have got to be kidding! We never even took our kids for annual check ups!”
She was not kidding. Embry had answered honestly the social worker’s question that we had not taken every one of our cats for an annual checkup, and the last veterinarian confirmed the truth.
Matters could be worse, I thought. We could have been thrown in jail.
Since the agency is part of a larger network of animal adoption agencies, our name is now on their list of disqualified applicants. We are blacklisted. Our cat owner days would appear to be over. I protested to the agency pointing out that four of our cats lived to be over age 15, with an average age of 17 when they died. I even offered to sign a sworn statement to take the cat for annual checkups.
Keep in mind that the cat we were hoping to adopt had been a stray and that if the agency cannot find a suitable home for her, she will be put to sleep. If you go to the internet you will find hundreds of cats up for adoption in the Washington area. How many of these animals are not allowed to live because the agency rules out people like us?
It is true that we did not bring Balaysa in for annual checkups. We only brought the cat in twice. But there is also a reason for this. The only thing they could find wrong with Belaysa the first time was her “bad teeth” and insisted that we have her teeth cleaned immediately, a somewhat bizarre request, which I reluctantly agreed to. After the cleaning I was scolded and directed to brush the cat’s teeth every day–and floss them! And most important, teeth cleaning by a cat dental hygienist should occur quarterly.
I dismissed the absurd idea immediately; but when the bill came in a week or so later, I got the picture. The charge was something like $750.00: $250.00 for the hygienist and $500.00 for the anesthesiologist. And that was on top of the $150.00 bill for the routine visit. If we had followed the veterinarian’s instructions, we would have ended up in the hospital with hand lacerations and would eventually have had to declare bankruptcy.
So this is the world we live in today, I thought. There are way more animals put up for adoption than are able to be placed in loving homes. The ones that do not get adopted are put to sleep. And here is a loving, admittedly elderly, couple, but with a track record of owning cats who lived a very long time and, I might add, were happy. And that couple is now blacklisted from ever adopting a cat again because they missed an annual visit or two (ok, or three) to a vet who directs customers to brush and floss their cats teeth every day?
Oh, my goodness!
And over a week later as I post this sad account, the cat is still listed as up for adoption.
But don’t count us out yet. I am wondering that since we want a Russian Blue, maybe we could get one over there. We know several people who have adopted Russian humans.