Roamin' Catholic Seniors

How a senior cat helped make the best of Sandy

on November 14, 2014

As I write this entry, James, the 11-year old cat with whom I’ve shared this residence for a little over two years, is snoozing comfortably by the window in my home office. The window overlooks the park across the street, right now ablaze with trees still covered in orange, gold and

JAMES

JAMES

red leaves. When I bought this house 13 years ago, it was this exact scene I had in mind – some day in the future, I would write primarily in this room overlooking the park with a fine cat for company.

That day arrived last fall when I retired from full time work at The Monitor and James has been a mainstay of the office ever since.

He was snoozing by the window this Oct. 29 when I was at work on a two year retrospective for The Monitor on how the parishes of the Trenton Diocese have fared since Superstorm Sandy. Going on to the

Internet to do a bit of research on the storm, I noticed an item on the news ticker announcing the fact that Oct. 29 – the actual anniversary of Superstorm Sandy – coincidentally also happened to be National Cat Day.

A check of the National Cat Day website revealed that the “holiday” was first celebrated in 2005 “to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of cats that need to be rescued each year and also to encourage cat lovers to celebrate the cat(s) in their life for the unconditional love and companionship they bestow upon us.”

The juxtaposition of the storm anniversary and National Cat Day triggered a swell of memories of that stormy Oct. 29 night two years previously when James, then age nine and newly “adopted” from a local Petsmart, had proved his mettle as a boon companion.

Passed over for younger cats and adorable kittens by would-be adopters for far too long, James, a long and lanky feline with an inscrutable gaze, caught my attention when I was looking to adopt an older cat some months after my sweet orange tabby, George,  passed away.

Except for Boo and Holly, discarded domestic rabbits who had been “sheltering” with me for several years and remained snugly in their cages throughout the night, James and I would ride this storm out together.

A shore native who’d ridden out a number of hurricanes that skirted the Jersey Shore over the decades, I thought I had the bases covered: the “hurricane closet” my late brother Pete and I had stocked up the year before when Hurricane Irene struck was still in tact. I’d added to it with fresh batteries, water, sterno and canned food in preparing for Sandy.

The lanterns were scattered throughout the house, the windows had the requisite huge tape x’s on them. I thought we’d be ok.

As the storm approached, though, and the NOAH forecasts grew increasingly grim, I began to panic. Even though there were carrying cases for James and the rabbits, by the time I contemplated evacuating, it was far too late. Sandy was barreling onto our landscape.

At 12 miles in from the coast, I thought Lakewood, where I live, would be spared the brunt of the storm and, for the most part, it was. But Lakewood is also a town that still, despite recent, overwhelming development, was rich in the tall pines and deciduous trees that inspired its name.

Those trees were the reason I bought the house in the first place. But that night, as the wind roared through the rows of trees that surround my house and I watched some of the pines shudder and seem to bend in half under the force of it, terror set in.

I envisioned the small house being crushed by falling trees and it didn’t seem unrealistic.

The windows began to shake as the wind and rain increased even more. The patio doors rattled under the force of it sounding for all the world like they would implode.

In absolute fear, I began to barricade the house – pulling the single mattress from the guest bed in the office and a foam mattress for extra guests folded up in the closet into the kitchen and shoving them up against the patio door.

I moved all portable furniture into areas by windows that I thought could be vulnerable.

Midway through this last gasp effort, I noticed that James, such a recent member of the household, was shadowing me as I moved each piece of furniture, sticking with the effort throughout – paying such attention that he actually seemed to be supervising.

When it reached the point where there was nothing more to move, it was James who strode like a feline John Wayne down the hallway to the master bed room, the one room in the house not surrounded on the outside by trees, as if to say, “this is your best bet pilgrim.”

I believe he picked up on my abject fear because this naturally very curious and adventurous cat stayed by my side for the rest of the night.

Without light and heat in the days that followed, he also put up gracefully with the arrival of four cats owned by a friend who had lost his house to the storm. The cats set up camp in the master bed room for over a month until temporary quarters were found.

James, not known in the shelter for playing well with others, tolerated the newcomers who remained sequestered behind the closed door. He adapted well to being relegated to the cramped quarters in the office room with me at night.

Throughout it all, he retained the swagger and grace for which he has come to be known around the village where we live.

I marvel at how this handsome old guy is regarded by some as “macho” – yes, that term has actually floated in the air as menfolk regard him strutting down the street on his daily constitutional wearing his halter like a cape.

Women, who appreciate his regal gate, are more inclined to call him “King James” and often invite him – and me only as an after thought – into their houses for a social call.

On his walks, he inspects the neighborhood with the same air of interest and oversight that he lent to the night of Superstorm Sandy and the days and nights that followed. In the evening, he patrols the house, making sure night visiting kitties don’t encroach in his territory.

Venerable in age, worthy of rescue and quite a character, the years have only added to his appeal.  Now that I know about National Cat Day, I look forward to saluting him again next year on Oct. 29.

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