Cleo - Queen Of Her domainWe found her on a very cold evening in November, 1994 while we were living in Guttenberg, NJ... right alongside the Hudson River. I had just got home from my day's toil in New York City and was changing into casual clothes in the bedroom when a movement in the frozen snow in the backyard caught my eye.
Cleo - (More picture in the Cat Gallery)
I stared out around the area where the light from the bedroom shone and, sure enough, there on the edge of the driveway was a tiny kitten huddled up and looking very cold and lonely. Pauline came and looked and we both came to an instant decision that something must be done right away... but what?
You see, we already had our two lovely seniors, Chrissie and Tinker who were 18 years old and each ailing with sore eyes and other disorders so that it wouldn't have been kind to bring a young and lively kitten into their home. Nonetheless, something had to be done!
Togged in sweater, muffler and cap I went around to the back of the house cautiously, hoping that the little one would still be there and, sure enough, as I approached her (yes, it was a she), she rolled over on her brown back to reveal a white undercoating and actually seemed to smile at and flirt with me.
Picking her up was no bother so I brought her into the front porch and left her there while I went to get her some food and water. Pauline and I watched while she really relished the food and on close examination we guessed her age at about six to eight weeks.
Before retiring for the night, we left a portion of one of the porch doors open so that she could ramble in and out if she wanted to.
In the morning Snowball - our tentative name for her - was not to be seen but all the food was gone. That evening to our surprise and delight, we spotted her again at the back of the house and the same accommodations as the previous night were provided. On the following evening we discovered her huddled in the sill of the basement window lying on a handful of November's faded leaves and partly sheltered by the porch steps. After feeding her again she returned to what we called her condominium and we left her there with the resolve that over the impending weekend we would find her a real home.
It was Pauline who thought of Kryss Vanier her good friend who lived a couple of blocks along the river in North Bergen with the thought that she might mind Snowball for a week or so to give us time to find her a permanent home. Kryss, at that time, was waiting for delivery of a pair of Yorkie puppies and wouldn't be available as Snowball's full time benefactor.
To our great joy and relief, Kryss agreed to be Snowball's pro tem guardian for a week or so pending the delivery of the Yorkies. To our further relief, Snowball loved being in Kryss' apartment and went tearing around the living room at top speed and then looked at us with the bearing of someone who had just done something brilliant.
It was while we were visiting Snowball in her new temporary digs that Pauline came up with the bright idea that nephew Kevin who lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, could be a candidate for ownership. A few years earlier upon his arrival from Ireland he stayed with us for a while and got along very well with Chrissie and Tinker and the more I thought about it the more I liked it. Kevin!
At this particular time, Kevin had made two important steps in his life... one was to go into business for himself in the "universe of computers" and the second important step was to become engaged to a lovely young Egyptian-American lady named Hoda whose ethnic background could also be a positive factor in their adopting Snowball considering the esteem in which cats were held in ancient Egypt.
After a few minutes of consideration, having listened to Pauline describing her beautiful shades of brown, beige and white, Kevin agreed to take Snowball into his apartment which, as he made very clear, was full of computer components and short on feline or, for that matter, female comforts…strictly a guy's pad.
Loading the car with feeding dishes, litter box, litter and a variety of canned and packaged foods we headed for Jackson Heights on Saturday with the little one in a new carrying case peering out at what could be her final sights of Guttenberg and New Jersey.
At this point is should be mentioned that the temporary name of Snowball was discarded and replaced with Cleo in recognition of her entry into a world that would be comprised of more Egyptian friends and companions than Irish even though our Hudson had been nearly as close to her as the Nile was to Cleopatra after whom she had been named.
Cleo made Kevin's living room, with computer parts spread all around, her play den and, shortly after their being united, Cleo discovered the pleasant view of the world from Kevin's shoulders and they could be seen driving around Jackson Heights with herself posing as The Queens' Quadruped inspecting her subjects.
With their wedding date approaching, Hoda and Kevin bought a house in College Point, Queens, and Kevin decided to move into the new home. When he was ready to move Pauline drove over to lend a hand and during the day, with doors opening and closing frequently, Cleo got out and vanished down the avenue through front gardens, hedges and whatnot. Gone!
That evening Pauline sobbingly told me the story of Cleo's disappearance in the cold, wet street and although they searched up and down and called her name there was neither hide nor hair of her. We said a prayer that whoever found her would take her in and be kind to her.
Well, wonders never cease - or so they say! In mid-morning on the following day Pauline phoned me at the office to say that Cleo had come back to Kevin's place, all muddy, ruffled and very hungry. There were cheers all around and the move to College Point was completed with The Queens' Quadruped carefully intact.
Not too long after this all took place it was our very sad duty to have Chrissie and Tinker put to sleep. After 18 years of their companionship the house felt very bare and Cleo somewhat quiet but we didn't feel quite ready - at that point - to replace them.
But wait! Wonders were once again to play a role in the Guttenberg feline saga. About three weeks after Kevin had moved into his new home he phoned Pauline with a querulous tone in his voice asking if we knew the reason for the appearance of large, pink nipples on Cleo's body and it didn't take her too long to suggest that she was soon to be a young mother. Without doubt, the mating took place on the night that she escaped during the move. She obviously met and mated with an attractive Jackson Heights Tom.
Hoda and Kevin's wedding followed shortly after Cleo's announcement and, as the weeks came to days for her big day, the bottom of a closet was prepared with padding and a red light installed. All ready for the joyful occasion and joyful it was... little Cleo gave birth to four large baby kittens later distinguished as two boys and two girls.
About nine weeks later Pauline was visiting Hoda and Kevin and was delighted to see how big the four kittens had become. With the weaning period behind them they were on regular kitten food and, if their rollicking antics were a sign of contentment, they were really happy.
But, how about Cleo? According to Pauline she was sitting quietly aside while her brood ate and played around and her new role of motherhood had brought about an aura of sedateness to her. She sat and watched.
About a month later, Pauline paid another visit to College Point and, just as before, Cleo was sitting alone while the four kittens, now much larger than their mother, played and cavorted around the house. It was at this time that Hoda had promised the two female kittens to her cousins and Colombo and Dopey - Kevin's names for the two guys, were staying with them. And, also at this time that Pauline decided to bring Cleo back to Guttenberg, of course, with the warm consent of Hoda and Kevin.
Well, that was over ten years ago and Cleo has grown, with us, into early senior years... but you'd never know it by the way she flies around the bedroom, into the living room springing from the back of a lounge chair onto the top of a tall cabinet. Or, in the bedroom when she springs from the bed onto a dresser and from there at an oblique angle onto the shelves in the closet where she has a very special hiding place behind folded bed covers.
One practice that started in the early days with Kevin remains and that is her purring delight at being conveyed Queenly around the apartment on either Pauline's or my shoulders. Another evening practice that I don't think Kevin experienced is her choice of nightly rest place. Within five minutes of my getting under the covers, Cleo arrives to organize her space between my shins and once there, after the nightly wash, she turns around three or four times and then settles into her sleeping position.
If she missed her kittens after we brought her back to New Jersey she didn't give any indication by way of moodiness or broodiness. However, now living up the Boulevard in North Bergen, we can see the Whitestone Bridge from our 29th floor location and every so often we notice Cleo sitting by the window facing New York City looking across the Hudson River with a somewhat wistful look in her eyes. Is she ruminating about College Point days or just quietly reviewing the day's affairs as most of us seniors do.
Copyright: April 2005 - Ron Black - North Bergen, New Jersey.