Thursday, July 31, 2008

Louie Gets a Haircut

In preparing for this post, I realized I have never introduced you to my oldest (and favorite) cat. Here's making up for lost time.

Louie, short for Cat Ballou, from the movie of the same name, and his sister Sing (Cat Dancing) came from Parkersburg, WVa, when I lived in Marietta. I had moved there with my two elderly cats, both of whom died during that difficult year of my life, and I found myself without a pet for the first time in 18 years. I couldn't stand it, and as soon as a client told me she was looking to find homes for a litter of kittens, I adopted a pair. I have very few photos of them as young kittens, but here is my favorite of Sing:

Sing's life was cut short, but during the time I had her, she was a terrific cat. When I sent her outside one night during her heat cycle to meet the neighbor's tom cat, she presented me with a litter of 6 beautiful kittens. Louie was their uncle. Sing was a good mom, but when she needed to get away, Louie would watch the babies for her. It was the beginning of his role as patriarch of my feline family, and to this day when I bring home a new kitten, Lou isn't satisfied until he pins down the newcomer and gives it a thorough bath - the "Louie seal of approval."

Louie washes behind Dixie's ears

Usually, I shave Louie down in the late spring or early summer. His long coat rarely mats, but he picks up burs and sheds big clumps of hair, so it is easier to maintain him in a short summer 'do. This year, I neglected that chore until he began looking rather unkempt.

Do you have to take my picture now?
I'm having a bad hair day.

I didn't shave him to the skin, and I left him with a full tail and a "shrug" of hair over his shoulders, neck and chest, just took off the bulk of the hair on his body, plus removing a mat over his hip. Doesn't he look better?

When he was less than 6 months old, Louie and Sing were outside overnight. In the morning, I opened up the back door to call them into breakfast. Sing came home, Lou didn't. Frantic, I called and called to him. My neighbor heard me and said, "Are you missing a cat?" When I replied that I was, he said, "Well, I think it's here, under my truck."

"Alive or dead?" I asked anxiously. "He's alive," came the reply, "but I think he's hurt."

I ran across the field to the next house. There was Louie, under the neighbor's truck, alive but unable to walk. As I called his name, he began talking to me. He had been hit by a car and both back legs were broken, yet he had managed to drag himself up a long gravel driveway and find refuge under a red pick-up truck. He just picked the wrong driveway and truck - my red truck was in my gravel drive next door! The most amazing thing was how happy he was to see me and how he didn't scratch or struggle when I
gently picked him up, even though I knew I must be hurting him. He purred and began kneading me with his paws.

I fixed his broken legs and one healed well, but the other - not so much. During his recovery, I kept him in a large, metal dog crate that was well-padded. Because he couldn't stand in the rear, I knew he couldn't use a litterbox, so I would take him outside and lay him in a pile of loose dirt, where he would energetically scratch and dig a hole just the way he wanted, then struggle to position his rear over the hole. Once, when I helped move him into position, he stopped, gave me a glare, and then moved himself over. "I can DO it mySELF, Mom!" he seemed to be saying.

One afternoon, we were sitting outside, enjoying the weather, when a car sped down the road. Louie sat up and watched that car until it was out of sight, then laid back down again. He has never gone near the road since his injury, as far as I know, and when I start letting a new kitten go outside, I always send it out with Louie, to teach it the ropes.

Louie is 11 now, but still as young at heart as ever. He doesn't let his handicap slow him down at all, and he is still the most friendly and loving of my cats.

His right rear leg is a mess. When you look at it on X-rays, you can't see any normal anatomy, because of the remodeling changes which have taken place, but Louie doesn't let that slow him down. When he runs, he drifts off to the right, so he will take aim at a spot, run towards it, then tack over to the left every so often to keep on track.

He is tending to hold that leg up more as he gets older, but he still patrols the barn and the yard, hunting mice and getting into fights with stray cats that enter his turf. He has chronic tear stains in the corner of his left eye, because of a cat fight injury that left a scar which blocks the drainage duct.

Cat Ballou, an awesome cat


Lisa said...

And now you have to have True Confessions - how badly you spoil that cat.

I also think you need to get video of Louie's zig-zag sprint from the house to the barn - one of a kind!

KatDoc said...

What are you doing, commenting on my blog at 1:20pm? You are supposed to be packing the car and driving down here. You are going to be late! [big sister nagging]

~Kathi, who only gives Louie people food "because he's crippled" (but, he has gained 1.5 lbs in 6 months. Whoops!)

Susan Gets Native said...

I'm not gonna comment on what you think I'm gonna comment on, 'cause I love ya.

I never got to meet any of your cats. HOW many do you have? I think I saw an orange one when I was out there?

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing Louie and your cats. Lucky to be alive, more lucky to have you.

Mary C said...

Your Louie sounds so much like my (and my daughter Red's) Avalanche whom we lost most recently to kidney failure. Avalanche was the only one of his siblings who befriended another kitten we had adopted 9 yr ago. Avalanche loved licking Tornado, just like a mama kitty would do. And they became fast friends. You can imagine how lonely Tornado is now, although he seems to be adjusting now without Avalanche. Kat Doc, if you have a little time visit my blog regarding Avalanche.
Your Louie is a great caretaker and he sure is "pretty" -- I guess I should say "handsome." ;o)

KatDoc said...

Lisa is right, I spoil Louie too much, by giving him people food and letting, nay encouraging him to beg. Bad momma, bad vet!

Susan: I have three cats at the moment - Louie, Dixie and Joey. Dixie and Joey aren't very social, and Louie was out and about when you visited. The orange cat you remember, Tugger, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Susan's unspoken comment is right, too - Louie wouldn't have two broken legs, and a scar by his eye, and pick up burs, and suffer from abscesses about once a year if I didn't let him go outside. I made my choice, right or wrong, and I live with the consequences. When I watch him walk, I have such guilt pangs, but he loves the outdoors so much, I haven't the heart to deprive him.

Mary, thanks. Yeah, I'm lucky to have Lou. He's a really good cat. Even my tech who wasn't a cat person liked him.

Mary C: So sad to hear about Avalanche. Comments on your site. They do get under our skin, don't they? And, yes, I think Louie IS "pretty."


nina said...

Glad Louie's run in with a car keeps him far from the road.
We had 2 kitties, Annie & Abby, for my 2 girls years ago--strays that lived in our barn and became well-loved pets. When they were 2 years old, one night, Abby was hit and killed. Annie never went near the road after that. I always wondered if they'd been together the night it happened.

Annie was finally put to sleep last December, at age 14.