Friday, February 1, 2013

A new lease on life

"I had visions of cages in a lab or in the back room of a Thai restaurant." — Galen Brooks

I'VE MADE a new friend-of-a-friend. Galen read my post from January 1, 2013 containing the story from the New York Times about Goathouse Refuge. A cat lover himself, he had his own uncommon narrative to tell me about collecting many cats. I'm sharing it with his permission.

Almost 20 years ago, Galen's son, Ben, adopted a kitten while attending Oberlin College and was raising him in his dorm room. This, unsurprisingly, was entirely against the rules, and when he got busted, he phoned Dad in a panic. Galen immediately made an emergency trip to Ohio to rescue Soot the kitten. 

Soot moved in with Galen, and they had a "spectacular time" (his precise words) for three years. But then circumstances changed in Galen's life rendering him unable to keep Soot and do him justice. He worried about finding a proper home for his housemate.

The dilemma still unresolved, one day Galen noticed an ad in the Baltimore City Paper soliciting unwanted cats. He was alarmed! No matter how many times he turned it over in his head, he couldn't think of a benign reason someone would offer to take any cat of any age from anyone. 

Days passed, and still he wondered and worried. 

"I had visions of cages in a lab or in the back room of a Thai restaurant, but finally I realized, 'Well, whoever it is can't reach through the phone and actually grab Soot from me. I can call and sleuth out what kind of sinister plot is afoot.'"

As it turned out the ad was placed by a woman who, with her husband before he died and then afterward on her own, had acquired a substantial portfolio of rental properties in Baltimore. In addition to the customary clauses, she had one singular, but strict condition in every lease; tenants were required to assume responsibility for the care and feeding of one cat for each house or apartment.

She kept a number of cats at her home all the time so that when a dwelling was let, the renter could choose his or her cat.
 Many of her tenants were college students who often rented for less than a year, so she experienced a fairly high turn over yielding many cat opportunities.

Although her goal of placing as many cats in homes as possible was worthy, Galen questioned the soundness of her plan. What became of these cats when people moved out? Were they doomed to experience a continuous cycle of being uprooted and shunted about?

"Oh no," this benevolent landlady said. "That never happens. Tenants always take their cats with them. Actually, I often have renters come back for a second cat as a playmate for their first. And that's why I'm constantly looking for cats. Any cat, any age." 

And what about Soot, you may wonder? As it turned out, there was no need to 'lease' Soot after all. Ben was out of college and living in Portland by the time Soot needed a new home, and when he called Dad to say he was coming home for Christmas, Galen said, "Aha! And you'll be taking Soot home with you." 

Soot is now 20 years old, Ben and Jen and Soot have moved back to the DC area, and Galen gets to see all three often. In fact, 'Grandpa' just spent a week babysitting for Soot while Ben and Jen were out of town. 

Soot T. Cat has reached the ripe old
age of 20 with Ben and Jen and Galen's TLC.
The lovely Miss Shiva. We adopted her from the Animal Rescue League.
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