Everybody – met Pete! Pete is the newest addition to our family. He hails from Kentucky but has been living in foster care in Connecticut for a while now. Pete is 1.5 years old and came to live with us on Sunday – but before I explain why Pete’s here, I need to back up a bit.
Our dear Archibald J. Cat, Esq., proprietor of Work Out Basement (WOB – “It’s Literally Beneath You!”) in two of our homes and a tireless lawyer who was incapable of effectively practicing law because he’d never been outside of the house, was put to sleep on October 26. The week prior, Archy’s interest in food and water significantly decreased, his use of the litter box diminished, and he became very cuddly, something that he usually wasn’t. After two trips to the vet–our normal doctor and a specialty hospital–it was discovered that Archy had advanced cancer throughout his body. His changes in behavior made it very clear that he was ready to go. So Nate’s super pal, Ms. Katy (of Birth to Three fame), had a play date with Nate while Archy’s vet came to our house for a final visit. It was very emotional but very peaceful and, in the end, we knew it was the the right thing to do.
Archy was 15. I adopted him and his brother, Jonathan Dangerous (JD), from a no-kill shelter in the Union Square Petco in Manhattan in December 1997. Though I planned to only adopt one cat, the shelter required the adoption of two if one didn’t already reside in my home. (Apparently, two cats make for more successful placements and less returns to the shelter.) There was a petite mama snoozing in a crate, surrounded by kittens. All of the babies were sound asleep save for two, who were fiercely wrestling in the litter box. Those were my cats.
JD and Archy were my first indoor pets and I had no idea what I was in for. During babyhood, JD tried to attack my eye because I blinked. They were obsessed with ballpoint pens, which I slid up and down my railroad apartment hallway. (I was so poor that the 20 cent box of pens were their biggest toy.) When my Washington Heights apartment was being broken into, the boys jumped into my bed and woke me up. Annoyed, I began singing, “I’M LOOKING OVER MY DEAD DOG ROVER!” at the top of my lungs, which is what, I swear, scarred the burglars off. (Regrettably, they came back a few weeks later and cleaned me and my roommate out. Though we tried, JD and Archy refused to give a description to the police.)
The boys seen me through lots of change. They lived in Manhattan, Queens, and Monsey, New York; Boston; and Fairfield and New Haven, Connecticut. They even got to stay in a hotel during repairs to a place we were renting. (The picture above is Archy playing hide-and-seek in the hotel room. Clearly, he thought he was hidden.)
When I created my eHarmony profile, a friend said to not mention the boys, lest I be labeled a “crazy cat lady.” (I kind of am.) Throughout the two months of daily writing to one another, I never mentioned JD or Archy to Chad. On our second in-person date, I told Chad I had cats. He loved cats. They loved Chad. I loved Chad, too, and, well, the rest is history.
Once I became pregnant, Jonjon was very possessive of my belly. He would lie on my tummy and purr loudly; Nate would kick at Jon or give him an elbow to make him move. Once Nate came out, Jon was very interested in Nate. He would sit next to Tater, he would stay next to Nate’s highchair during meals, and he would snuggle with Nate whenever he got the chance.
JD passed away in June 2010 of cancer of the lining of his blood vessels. (A prolific blogger, you can read JD’s obituary – and his blog entries – here.) After Jon’s passing, Archy didn’t fill the void. To be honest, Archy really loved being a brother for the first three years of his life and, every year thereafter, he just tolerated the thought. He was really meant to be a cat in a single cat household. So when Jon died, Archy took luxurious, uninterupted naps. He ate kibble out of his dish without another cat head trying to butt in there. His treats remained present until he decided to eat them. Archy never really took to Nate, though, until right before he passed away.
About six weeks ago, I was crocheting something with really cool pompom yarn. Nate took a liking to it so I snipped off a long piece for him to play with. Nate twirled it, tossed it, danced with it and Archy noticed. The string awoke the kitten in Archy and suddenly he was dancing and twirling right along side Nate. What happened next was really awesome: Nate spontaneously demonstrated joint attention, something that we’ve been trying to teach him for about 1.5 years. When a neurotypical person wants something, they tend to look at the person they’re asking for help, look at the item, and then look back at the person to make sure that s/he understands. Nate doesn’t. So there can often be something he wants and he gets frustrated because he can’t ask you for it. (He’s now gotten around that through the effective use of pointing but, still, we’d like to develop joint attention.)
When Nate realized that Archy wanted to play with the string — and, more to the point, have him make the string go so they could play together, Nate was delighted. He wiggled the string and waited to see if Archy would attack. He walked away dragging the string and looked back to make sure Archy noticed. (We caught it all on video but it’s on Nate’s iPad, which is at school with him right now.) The whole interaction lasted about 2 minutes but it was magical and suddenly I began thinking that a kitten who liked to play might be the ticket for Nate. However, a kitten couldn’t be considered until Archy’s good life had been lived because he really was meant to be a loner cat.
As soon as Archy passed away, I started asking Chad if he was ready for another cat. I had begun to look around on Petfinder. I found a few that looked promising but Chad wasn’t ready. He still missed his furry grey pal. Two weeks later, Chad was desperate for a cat. We both missed having a friend in the house who purred at our ankles and snuggled with us at night. We were so in denial about Archy’s passing that had yet to put away his litterbox. So I worked with a woman who runs a no-kill shelter nearby where all the cats live in foster homes. I explained Nate’s needs and our situation and she matched us perfectly to the cat with the right personality for us. An impromptu team meeting was held at school and Nate’s therapists helped us find two names that they feel Nate will be able to say. Poppy was selected for a girl and Pete was selected for a boy.
Described as “bombproof,” Pete doesn’t bat an eye when Nate gets loud or jumps on the bed right next to him or does anything else that a normal three-year-old toddler does. Pete is an expert at parallel playing with Nate and has an innate sense about when to give Nate space and when to try to forge a friendship. When Pete does rub up against Nate, my boy goes into a bit of sensory overload (in a good way). He starts to scream “AAAAAAAAH!” loudly, waves his hands, and giggles. Nate definitely notices Pete and they’ll be fast friends once everyone settles in.
As I work from home, I now have an office mate again. It is pretty awesome to drop Nate off at school and pull into the driveway to be greeted by this: