Thursday, January 27, 2011

NAME THAT KITTY - Part 1 on a Sunday

The Cat Who Came In Through the Window

He is part of our family now--sort of--and it is time we gave him a name.  In our family the naming of pets is most important and the--sort of--is sort of important.

We had several pets when I was young, some Jim's some mine,
 some ours together. Our names for them often were physically descriptive or , more often, reflected their personalities. Our very first was Shorty Shorttail, a tiny turtle that Mom and Dad found in the creek in Estill Springs, which, you may remember from earlier posts,  is Mom's home town in Tennessee. He was just the right size for our pet restricted apartment and we were allowed to keep him at our young age only after earnest, down-on-our-knees oaths that we would care for him. 

We hovered over Shorty Shorttail incessantly for weeks--picked him up, talked to him, fed him lettuce, bugs, fish and turtle food, hot dogs and other more inappropriate things.  As time passed by, however, the novelty wore off, we visited his tiny turtle tank up on the mantle less and less often and Mom took over the feeding more and more. When Shorty Shorttail passed on, from natural causes or heartbreak, Mom disposed of his tiny body. According to Mom (I have blocked this from my memory), it was several weeks before she heard, one morning, the plaintive cry from me, "Where's Shorty Shorttail," and had to tell us that he was gone forever.  We were inconsolable. Clearly we were too young to accept the responsibility of pets and were not allowed to have another for a long time.

We had several pets with lovely names after that. Her Majesty Honey the Cat earned her name because of her color and because she thought she was the Queen. Her major accomplishment was to leap onto the mantle, delicately weave her way along the various pieces of bric-a-brac there, without disturbing one--an amazing feat--and, just at the edge, strike a majestic pose where she would sit for several hours. Thus her name. Our family tradition was to gift animals names of more than one word--with a last name and first, or with titles and surnames--and we always called them the full name--still do.  So, for instance, she was not called Honey or whatever, but Her Majesty Honey the Cat.  Even when I was calling her to come in, it was not "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.....", but "Here hermajestyhoneythecat,
                                   here hermajestyhoneythecat........"

The Great Jimmy Piersall
My favorite pet name when I was little was my last cat's. She came along at a time when my Dad and I were big Birmingham Baron fans.  They were a farm team for the Major Leagues and we went to many a game together. I was in heaven. I liked the hot dogs, drinks and pop corn at least as much as I did the game.  Being on an adventure with Dad and being in the know about the team was also very cool. My favorite player was Jimmy Piersall, a shining star of the team, lightening fast outfielder and great hitter, who went on to star in the Majors. He became famous and had a movie made about him for other reasons--but that is another story.

So as I planned out the name of my new kitty, Jimmy Piersall was a major player.  She was one of a litter of 10 from Mitzi, our next door neighbor's cat. She was a fuzz-ball new born. Having lived under the house for a time during her early life, she had fleas.  My last name (pre-Turnipseed) was Davis.  All that rolled around together in my head and came out
Fleabitten Butterball Piersall Mitzi Jr. Davis


I loved her.  I loved her name.  I loved to say it.  I loved to call her.  
"Here  fleabittenbutterballpiersallmitzijrdavis............

                  Here  fleabittenbutterballpiersallmitzijrdavis.........."

My grandkids love her name now!!  We play a game of trying to see who can say it fastest, who can call her the best.  I expect the ghost of Fleabitten Butterball Piersall Mitzi Jr. Davis to come flying in the door now just as she used to do back then.

Our children have carried on the tradition of giving careful consideration to our pet names, sometimes more creative and sometimes not so much.  During a particularly busy and stressful period of our lives, when we were in the midst of a political race or something, we had some simple names, Bicky and Licky -- which were short for Big Kitty and Little Kitty

G E R O N I M O !
Jeff was always the best namer.  His black cat was GeronimoGeronimo liked to hide somewhere--behind the couch or door, on the top of the shelf, and, when you passed by, he would spring up in the air with his back arched and bounce at you on little cat feet.  If he were able, you can be sure he would have been screaming "Geronimo." 

Most of our pets have been found, like Sideways Kitty. When he came up out of the back woods, he had multiple problems, all of which the vet cured. The most problematic was a ferocious ear infection.  When it finally stopped draining and the swelling was gone, he appeared
Sideways Kitty
healthy, except that his head leaned way over to the left side in quite the unusual way. The doctor assured us that he was well, but could not predict if he would ever straighten up, or if his balance would be permanently affected.  Well, no, yes and no.  He never straightened up, but forever after walked with his head way sideways, like he was trying to catch raindrops in one ear.  At first it upset his balance even after the infection was gone, I think just because he was having to look at the world sort of cattywampus, as it were. He sort of wobbled when he walked.  Once his eyes and brain got adjusted, his equilibrium did too and he was fine, except for his sideways head.  It was very strange to see Sideways Kitty jump like any other cat though, and strangers were quite unnerved by the sight.

We had several other no-name kitties, not named because they were not really ours long enough. One was a bedraggled, white kitty found in the bushes, close to death.  Jeff and Jeny were frantic to keep her, but I refused to add her to the 2 cats and 1 dog we had at the time.  We did take her to the emergency vet (it was on a Sunday) and spent a vast amount of money to save her life.  The doctor, bless his heart, agreed to split the cost of the treatment (in other words, I guess he charged us half price) and agreed to find her a home.  We visited her and kept tabs to be sure that truly happened, to be sure she didn't end up in the place where the unadoptable kitties go.  Had we kept her, I would have called her Expensive.

Our dog was the only pure bred we ever owned.  He was a poodle.  We never had him poodle cut and, in fact, rarely had him professionally groomed, so only an expert would have known he was pure poodle. Augie Dawgie was a delight, though pretty scruffy looking, and we wanted to honor his heritage by having him registered.  We thought it would enhance his self esteem to have papers.  Since it was their idea, I leaned on the kids to prepare the papers, which required gathering an infinite amount of detail about his health, his family tree, his measurements, his daily routine and the name he was to be registered under.  

Imagine our surprise when Augie Dawgie was rejected.  The powers that be returned the application the kids had sweated over, not because his lineage was faulty or lacking, but because the NAME WE SUBMITTED WAS INAPPROPRIATE. Jeff's children love to hear what he and his sister decided to do about this setback. This is their favorite family story.
We put our heads together and decided to come up with a name that would pass muster in the snooty world of pure breeds and show dogs.  We submitted it and it was accepted.  That was how he became....
   but he was always just Augie Dawgie to us.

  (to be continued)


  1. This is awesome. I'm sorry that I waited so long to read. It is funny and real. It made me think of my/our own pet histories. While we owned far fewer than you, they bring back such great memories. I can't wait to get to part 2. Thanks.

  2. I love the way families generate and embroider on their memes, growing them into something unique and shared. The Augustus Doughafus story is unforgettable.

  3. Tim and Nance, my grandkids always want me to tell them a story about when their parents were little. They'd rather hear one of those than have me read a story. They think Jeff and Jeny and their antics are hilarious and make me tell the stories over and over (just like reading the same favorite books till you and they know them by heart.) Some kids have favorite characters named Cinderella, Snow White, or Tom Sawyer. Madeline, Sam, Davis and Elliot love Tales of Mommy and Daddy as told by me. And the more I tell, the more I remember.


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