Bear with me, please. I love books and feel privileged to write a column about books and writers. But this year when the holiday season came barreling along with all its attendant pressures from the publishing industry, I balked.
That's why I took a little break to tell you about my good dog, Lily, last week. This week I want you to meet the newest member of my family, Georgie. And then, promise, I'll return to the subject of books and writers next week.
It all started when my roommate asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
"You broke my kitchen timer," I reminded her. "Get me a timer."
Evidently she was not satisfied with this suggestion. She waited a couple of days and then asked me again: "What do you want for Christmas?"
"A kitten," I replied, only half-joking.
It's true that I have a house full of cats already. We don't need another cat. But I've never had a kitten.
I tried to back out of my casual gift suggestion, but roommate wouldn't stand for it. Roommate is clever. Another few days went by before she posed another question: "Would you rather have a kitchen timer or save a life?" I threw my hands up in defeat.
So last week we drove to the Yolo County Animal Shelter looking for a male orange and white kitten. We found black cats, two gray kittens, orange and white young adults and striped cats. No orange and white kittens. I was about to drag roommate out of the pound (she was thinking seriously of adopting another dog as a playmate for Lily) when one of the trusties mentioned that a litter of kittens was being held in a back room. It seems they all had colds and were being confined to prevent them from infecting the rest of the shelter.
I had to take a look.
When I held the kitten in my hands, I knew he had found a home. His eyes were runny and red and it was obvious he had a cold. He wouldn't be ready for adoption for another day or so.
"If you really want him I can let him go today. Do you really want him?"
"Yes," I said firmly.
I already knew what his name was: Christmas George (formal) or Georgie. Wee Georgie from somewhere in the British Isles. I don't know how he ended up in Woodland, because it's quite obvious that he's as Celtic as they come, ginger hair and all. Call it a Christmas miracle.
After filling out the necessary paperwork, we drove straight to Midtown Animal Clinic in Davis so Georgie could see a vet. The office closes at noon on Saturday and we were late but Cliff Gravem saw us milling around the parking lot and came out to see if we constituted an emergency.
"He has a cold, but he'll be OK," Gravem told us. "Bring him back on Monday."
Reassured, we took Georgie home. He had not stopped purring since he was first put in my hands and wouldn't stop for several more hours, until he passed out from exhaustion.
We cautiously introduced him to the rest of the cats, not expecting a warm welcome. They didn't disappoint: They pointedly ignored Georgie. All, that is, except Fred who hissed at the interloper and stalked off to sulk outdoors, preferring isolation and bitter cold to a warm friendship. The jealous behavior exhibited by Fred, the youngest cat, was not surprising, really. We had been treating him like a baby long after he'd become an adult. Now it was obvious that our infantilizing was a mistake.
"Time to grow up, Freddie," I said.
In the meantime, Georgie explored the house, played with Lily, jumped up and down with the sheer joy of being a kitten, and abruptly fell soundly asleep.
What a sweetheart this little guy is. He has an angelic disposition and is neither too aggressive nor too shy. His coat is a fascinating combination of orange hues and stripes. If he should stop purring, a gentle poke in the ribs starts his motor again. He inspires a lot of watching.
His cold improved over the weekend and when we took him back to Midtown on Monday we received a medical opinion that confirmed our own.
"He's awesome," the vet said.
To think I ever hesitated to receive this perfect Christmas gift. Georgie, welcome to our world.
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