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This summer, for the first time in about 20 years, I had a kitten in the house again.
It was an unplanned acquisition — the little guy was rescued with his siblings after someone dumped them.
The one I took was physically the most unusual of the bunch. He is polydactyl — with seven toes on each front foot. I confess that it was this strange trait that convinced me to take him, because I was not in the market for an additional pet.
I followed the tradition of writer Ernest Hemingway in naming him. Hemingway, when he lived in Key West, Fla., took great pride in his extra-toed cats. He gave them fanciful names, often after real people or characters he admired.
Thus, my big-footed little orange tabby is Tim Russert. I think the late journalist by the same name would have appreciated the compliment.
It was fun for a while to say things like “I wormed Tim Russert today” or “Tim Russert bit my big toe.”
But one day, when I feared Tim Russert had escaped from the house unnoticed, I walked all around the house calling for him.
“Tim Russert!” I yelled from the front door.
“Tim Russert!” I yelled from the back.
“Tim Russert,” I muttered from the side. “Where are you, Tim Russert!”
It wasn’t until I saw curtains rustling in a neighbor’s window when I realized that anyone listening might think I’d lost it and — maybe — Tiger or Felix might have been a better choice of names
Meanwhile, Tim Russert was simply hiding out in the basement, where he has nearly eradicated the cave-cricket population. It’s good to know he is earning his keep, even if he does make a point of dragging their saw-legged carcasses upstairs and into the kitchen for all to see.
Truth is, I’m smitten with the little guy. So is Merlin, my otherwise take-no-prisoners Australian cattle dog. Big dog and little cat wrestle endlessly, then angelically curl up together to sleep.
The only regret I’ve had so far came about the time I took Tim Russert in to get him, umm, fixed. I learned that his mother, captured by the same folks who took in the kittens, had tested positive for feline leukemia. Since she had been sick when they found her, the decision was made to euthanize the poor girl.
Tim Russert’s blood test showed no signs of the disease, but at his youthful age, that can be a false negative. I’ll take him back after Christmas, when he will be old enough for tests that can more accurately determine his status. I’m told his chances are 50-50 of having it. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
In the meantime, he’s happy, healthy and a delight to have around.
Many cats and kittens aren’t as lucky as Tim Russert. They are cast out and live in misery, dying of cold, disease or starvation.
If you have a cat — or any pet — please get it spayed or neutered so that there aren’t more homeless animals that have to needlessly suffer.
And please consider a generous contribution to a pet rescue, the humane society or the animal shelter.
Tim Russert and I thank you.