By Kim Bromley

When casting about for a new blog topic I realized the blog hasn’t discussed cats very much lately. This put me in mind of our recently departed Lorenzo and then, naturally, all the wonderful cats who shared our lives for the past 37 years. After my flood of tears subsided I decided to write a very personal (and hopefully entertaining) blog about the cat(s) I miss.

I moved to Marin in the summer of 1987 to work for LucasFilm. At the time, I was three years out of graduate school, working free lance, hand to mouth, month to month, on the bleeding edge of poverty. Actually, I was technically poor; my 1985 tax return was well below what was charmingly referred to as the “poverty line.” My beloved dog of many years had passed and the cat I moved from Boston to Palo Alto had re-homed herself (a hilarious tale for another day). I was pet-less and sad.

Right after the 4th of July, I made the move from Redwood City to San Anselmo, renting a tiny one-bedroom apartment on the bottom floor of a typical Marin County hillside house. Cats were allowed, so at the first opportunity I began scouting for feline companionship. I found my new cat at, of all places, Skywalker Ranch. The Force was with me. A director, whose name and film I’ve long forgotten, was working at Skywalker in post production and staying in the guest facilities. One afternoon on his lunch break, he spied a small Calico cat hanging around the doorway of his cottage. Being a cat aficionado he invited her in. She promptly made herself at home. As the director already had three cats back at home in Los Angeles he put a message out on an allmsgs digital bulletin board within the LucasFilm companies (remember those?!) Newly minted at the company and having a scheduled meeting with HR at the Ranch (I worked at the Kerner facility in San Rafael) I contacted him to see if I could meet the kitty at the same time I was choosing my benefit plan.

Calico catI had this idea at the time that I would get an orange tabby and name them Jones (be they male or female) after the cat in Alien. The little wisp of a Calico that greeted me behind French doors in the director’s cottage was clearly not a Jones. Nevertheless, she endeared herself to me immediately. I adopted her on the spot and named her Ripley, after the main human character in Alien. (Years later, I worked with Sigourney Weaver on Galaxy Quest; my crew held their collective breath hoping I wouldn’t fan stalk her muttering that I had named my cat Ripley. I did not. But I wanted to.)

Ripley was likely a juvenile cat who had somehow miraculously acclimated to people even way out in Lucas Valley. She was the most social, friendly, charming cat I had ever known. Not your typical Calico as I later learned. My mother, who had a dislike of cats due to a very negative childhood association, adored Ripley. My father, who declared himself loudly and often a “Dog Person” napped with her when he visited and when she visited them (they cared for her for a month once when work kept me away from home). When my husband Dave and I got together he brought four children to the equation of my life and I brought Ripley to his. Fortunately, Dave has always been a self-proclaimed cat enthusiast (the internet was made just for Dave with its cat videos, cartoons and memes). It would be later in our marriage that dogs made their appearance in our home, but in fairness, he had been well forewarned. Ripley made the dog adjustment, too. She wasn’t thrilled, but she took the dogs in stride and they more or less left her alone.

Ripley lived with us for 14 years before the dreaded renal failure took her from us. Even those last nine months were a blessing. She was one of those rare cats that accepted IV fluids; even looked forward to them. Twice a day I would bring the fluid bag and needle over to the bed and she’d purr, sidling up to the edge of the bed to receive her treat and 20 minutes of time alone with me petting her and just enjoying our time together. One of her last meals with me was a shared slice of pizza – oh what a treat that was for her. When she died I was beside myself with grief, thinking there would never be another cat in my life quite like her.

Atticus the Snowshoe catAbout eight months later, I was doing a cat handling training session at Marin Humane and was introduced to a very bold and confident Snowshoe cat named Ares. Ares was an owner surrender at the age of nine. Our trainer opened his cage in what was then called the Treatment Room and he strode onto the counter like he owned the joint, walked over to the wall and lifted his paw up to the second hand of the clock when it moved ever so slightly. He accepted all types of handling, invasive and otherwise (hence the trainers choice to work with him) and charmed the room like he was campaigning for office. I was smitten. Only one wrinkle: there was an Interested Party (IP) hold on him. Sigh. A day or so later, I got a call from Adoptions to say that the IP had to decline due to family health care issues. I leaped into action and we adopted him. We named him Atticus (the god of war just isn’t my thing) and he was The. Coolest. Cat. Ever. (Years later in a therapy session, I was talking about these two amazing cats, Ripley and Atticus, and in that moment realized I had named my cats after the people I wish my parents had been. It was transformative. And that is why therapy is so expensive.)

Unlike his namesake, Atticus operated more like a Mafia Don, cold staring individuals (mostly dogs) to his will and running the street. Having previously been an indoor-only cat, Atticus quickly made it clear he was done with that. He marked all our doorways until we relented and let him outside. Fortunately, he wasn’t interested in birds, but proved to be a fantastic mouser. He was the resident exterminator. And he liked to take walks around the block. Every morning when I’d saddle up the dogs for a spin, he’d slip out the front door, trotting behind us as we covered the neighborhood without crossing a street. We’d get comments and stares and the occasional driver would pull up alongside to let me know “There’s a cat following you.” As Atticus got older he’d tire of the walk halfway through, so he’d cut across the backyards to meet us on our front porch upon our return home. He’d greet the mail carrier and stare other dogs into submission in our driveway.

Atticus the Snowshoe cat with large brown dog on a bed

Man walking his dog: Be careful, my dog is very cat aggressive.

Me: (nodding toward his dog and Atticus)

Atticus staring at the dog and the dog backing up

Man: I’ve never seen him do that.

Me: Hmmm mmm

Our next door neighbor dubbed Atticus “The Mayor of Twelveoak Hill.”

About a year and a half after Atticus joined the family, my stepdaughter moved in with us temporarily, bringing her twin/littermate cats, Luca and Lorenzo with her. The boys were one year old and after the requisite introduction time and protocols they integrated into our household. Suddenly, we had two dogs and three cats – well beyond what I had forewarned Dave about. There was never a dull moment. In the mornings, I went out the front door to pick up the paper and all five of them followed me out. Dave said I looked like Snow White, just with cats and dogs.

Snowshoe and DHS black cats, Atticus and Lorenzo

We lost dear Luca early on, and Lorenzo, who had been the evil twin – I called him Lorenzo de’Medici – began to bond with Atticus. Slowly but surely Lorenzo found his way into our hearts as a cat of substance. We affectionately called them “The Boys” and while Atticus remained the Top Cat, ruling the household, Lorenzo was his willing apprentice and cohort. They slept side by side, groomed one another endlessly and kept the dogs – ours and the fosters – in line. We referred to our dogs, Daisy and Maybelline, and the cats, Lorenzo and Atticus as the “Permanent Collection.” When Daisy passed we started fostering shelter dogs (not the permanent collection) and so began our cats’ careers of vetting fosters.

After nine and a half glorious years, Atticus the Mayor passed and the permanent collection dwindled to Lorenzo and Maybelline. Those two tended to keep to themselves (Maybelline was visibly creeped out when a cat would try to share a bed with her), but on the subject of keeping the yard free of moles, they were of one being. The only time we ever saw them do anything together was when they collectively hunted the moles destroying our rose bushes.

Orange Tabby CatMuch as been written about Lorenzo in these pages. Ditto Maybelline and the dogs who came after her.  We lost Lorenzo last September at the age of 19. He was, by all measures, venerable. In his 18 years with us Lorenzo learned the art of dog management, being a good neighbor, being an excellent companion and a never ending source of soothing purrs and amusement and so much more. He survived cancer twice, lost an ear and cheated death more than nine times. At least. He was funny, canny, smart and amazingly affectionate. People who did not care for cats at all considered him their “boyfriend” and would make a point of petting him when they visited. He trained dozens of foster dogs and when he no longer went outside he circled the interior of the garage at night to check for mice – even at 19. I miss him. I miss all of them.

It’s doubtful at this point that we’ll seek out a new cat – too many things changing these days. And honestly, I don’t miss the litter box. But you never know. Never say never, right? I still haven’t met Jones…maybe he’s out there. Waiting for me to miss him, too.