How I Met My Cats (or, How They Found Me)
Mr. Jones and Sherby
Except for a period of about seven years, I have always had cats in my life. At least two were gifted to me or my family - the rest simply showed up. This was the case with my cats, Mr. Jones and Sherby. Of course, these were not their names when I found them (or, rather, when they found me) - until I found names for them, I simply referred to them as Orange Cat and Little Cat.
I met Mr. Jones (Orange Cat) on May 3rd, 2001. I was an undergraduate at CSU Long Beach and had just moved into my third apartment that same day. It was a studio cottage, with one main room, a walk through closet to the bathroom and a walk-in kitchen, which had a door that opened onto the tiny back patio. The day itself was rather warm, so I had the ceiling fan on and the front door open and had decided to take a peek out back, maybe leave that door open as well, to create a cross-draft.
Sitting on the back fence that separated my patio from the apartment complex next door, his regal attitude one would normally associate with a lion, sat the biggest orange tabby cat I had ever seen. He gazed at me with a calm expectancy.
"Well," I said, not knowing what else to do. "I'm not really interested in owning a cat right now, but thank you for thinking of me." And I shut the door, satisfied that that was that.
He stayed for seven days, lounging in my weedy back patio, self-possessed and assured that I would eventually give in. Since the days were getting warmer, I conceded only to giving him water and went about my life - finishing up the spring semester at college, re-arranging my work schedule and signing up for a summer course to fulfill a requirement.
On the seventh day, I opened up my back door to check on him and saw that he had brought a friend - a white cat with lots of light tans splashed on his back. Almost at once, I could see that this cat was on the verge of starving to death - even though he was sitting, he seemed to have trouble keeping his balance, his eyes seemed to be a little crossed and he attempted to gnaw my leg. In the background, the orange cat sat, waiting, confident that I would not turn this cat away and, by proxy, him.
'Pretty smug, aren't you?' I thought at the orange cat and said outloud, "Okay, you win."
It took me ten minutes to get to the corner store and buy cat food, both dry and canned. I now had two cats. The naming of them took a little while - I don't remember how I came up with Sherby, but I knew I didn't want to name the orange cat Garfield or Morris. There was an orange cat in Alien, so I gave him that name - Jonesy. It stuck, but then it morphed into Jones, and then Mr. Jones. He was a bit of a formal cat.
They remained outside cats, but since I suspected that Sherby was an older cat (evidenced by a missing tooth), once the cold weather came in, I made him an inside cat. Mr. Jones would only come in at night - he was determined to have control over his life, so after two hours, he would demand to go back outside. Over time, he realized inside was better and would stay through the night.
It didn't take long to figure out that Sherby was the talker and was always commenting on something. Mr. Jones was the silent type, but when he meowed, I paid attention and tried to understand what he wanted.
While I didn't know anything about Sherby's background (and, being a stray cat, I didn't expect to), I did discover, through a co-worker, something about Mr. Jones. Apparently, he and his previous owner had lived in my apartment and moved out some three years before I had moved in. Mr. Jones' real name was Sputnik and when his owner moved away, he took the cat with him. The cat had other ideas and kept going back to the apartment. After the fifth attempt, the owner gave up and left him. Cats, he must have realized, have a mind of their own and trying to change a cat's mind is like asking the sun to set in the east.
After I graduated in December 2001, we moved home and I was finally able to get them to my local vet, who confirmed that Sherby was probably 16 or 17 years old and would have another year or so left. Mr. Jones was around 8 years old.
Sherby lived another three years, before he developed cancer in his kidneys. I had the vet release him from his pain in July of 2004.
Mr. Jones seemed to miss Sherby as much as I did, for he started getting affectionate and curling up on my lap and expressing himself a little more vocally. Our threesome was now a twosome and we adjusted.
In the fall of 2007, however, as I was planning a move back down to Long Beach with Mr. Jones, where we had started our journey, the big orange cat was diagnosed with cancer in his mouth - it was incurable and, even with an operation, he would have lived only two months. I decided to let him go be with Sherby. On November 12, 2007, Mr. Jones went into his next life looking very much like the lion I knew he had been in a previous life.
Three months to the day later, I would receive another cat while living in Long Beach, but that's another story.