Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gus van Horn’s Fact Checker

I’m a little loose with facts myself. I figure if I get even an adjective wrong, someone will show up to set me straight. So I see fact-gathering as a game of pick-up sticks. I try to nudge them out of a story, but sometimes the whole thing collapses.

Mr. (that's Doctor van Horn to you, bub), however, has an impeccable source for facts: his cat, Jerome. This is evidently a moniker the cat chose for himself, no doubt in honor of St. Jerome, who was Pope Damasus I’s secretary. (though I haven’t actually asked - that would be fact-checking and this blog is for wool-gathering and jumping to conclusions).

Mr. Doctor van Horn explains:

I’ve intended to write about one of my best friends for quite awhile, but have mentioned him only a couple of times so far and only in passing at that. We have been close collaborators for over a decade. He has stuck with me through thick and thin. I am, of course, talking about my cat, Jerome.

Jerome is, of course, his nom de plume, and I just learned of it today. He is a cat of many eccentricities and surprises, not the least of which is his pen name. In fact, almost everything about this fine beast is eccentric in some way, and his uniqueness will pervade my whole account. He is at once the most unusual and, by far, the best pet I’ve ever had.

In the post, Mr. Doctor vH describes their acquisition of Jerome, and his probable ancestry:

… we checked out a few books on cat breeds and determined that he is probably at least part Turkish Van. Because he has been such a great pet and is getting on in years, my wife and I are talking to breeders to get a better idea of whether he really is a Turkish Van. Especially after seeing an entire row of Turkish Vans at a cat show awhile back and recently describing him to a professional breeder, I am fairly sure that he is a Turkish Van. We certainly don’t expect another one to have the same personality, but the next cat my wife and I get will be a Turkish Van. Jerome’s temperament was probably shaped by his being rescued, but he also seems typical of his breed.

My word! Jerome is still with them and they’re already planning on his replacement. I do hope he doesn’t discover this in his fact-checking. Vans are smart and if he reads that part, things may not go so well…the trauma might cause him to be unable to ever check another fact again.

And one important disagreement I have with Mr. Doctor van Horn’s ideas re his cat’s gentle, friendly nature: he describes Jerome’s precarious existence before being rescued and to this he ascribes his benignity. It is my experience that cats - or any mammals - who are neglected or mistreated while young do not go on to acquire gentle, grateful natures as a result. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a window for acquiring a social nature and it closes very early. Cats and kids can compensate, but they’ll never regain lost ground.

Nope, in this case it’s genetic - he’s got a Van.

As it is also genetic in the case of my neurotic cat, Lulu. What a mess. My vet says that in cats a fearful nature is passed on through the paternal genes. Her daddy must’ve been a feral beast, indeed, for she jumps at the slightest movement.

We got snookered when she wandered in through the open door of the church and I let the future Baron take her home while I made noises about having to give her to SPCA. After all, we already had two cats as it was. Of course, we never quite made that trip.

And as fortune would have it, eventually Lulu turned out to be my “chemo cat.” While otherwise quite leery of everyone (especially after the dominant cat started making her life hell, while I was in chemotherapy and would curl in a fetal position in bed, indescribably cold and tired, Lulu would jump up and curl in the curve where my knees bend. She was a nice warm lump, content to lie there for hours. Ever since, on occasions when I haven’t felt well, I feel her lying next to me.

Lulu computesEver since I put her on clonazepam it has made all the difference. Ms. Congeniality? Not exactly. But she will come when called now instead of hiding under the bed, and sometimes, of her own volition, she will jump up where you’re sitting and peer into your eyes. Black cats seem to like eye contact.

She has developed a rotten habit: yowling in the middle of the night as though she has lost track of where we are. She does this routine right next to the bed, so if I call her to climb up, she does…and then settles down to sleep. However, just as often I exile her to the kitchen. Damn cat.

Of course if you’re sitting in front of the laptop, she thinks her perch ought to be the keyboard. So I have to remove her and then wipe the keys of any trace of her germy derriere.

Now this creature is our only cat. George, the male calico, was hit by a car while hunting. Moe, the fB’s beloved cat, who once fell down an old well and was stuck there for five days before the fB came home from college and found him, had his neck broken by a dog…we think. Moe couldn’t move very fast, so he was an easy target.

Only Lulu remains. And it is far, far too late to send her to the SPCA. Besides, her sleek black coat is beginning to be flecked with white…

I tol ya that the blogosphere is an automatic fact-checker. Turns out that Mr. van Horn ain't no mister at all. He's Doctor van Horn.

Proves my point about fact-checkers, hmmm?


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Gus Van Horn said...

DOCTOR van Horn. (And that was said with my pinky extended to the corner of my mouth as I arched an eyebrow.)

(Actually, titles are not a big deal to me. I've just been waiting for someone to call me "Mister van Horn" so I could say that! Gus is fine.)

In any event, I am delighted you enjoyed my tribute to Jerome so much and hope that you're right about the breed being so friendly by nature. You aren't the first to say that.

My! That post is nearly two years old! I am happy to report that Jerome is still with us. The vet says that his kidneys are "slowing down" and he was getting bladder infections for awhile, but a shift to the Senior version of Science Diet cleared that up and even seems to have made him a bit more energetic. Subsequent visits to the vet always elicit remarks about how good a shape he is in for his age, now 18.

You seem to have found a very good cat yourself. She resembles our other cat in a couple of ways, including that she's black and likes eye contact. This came to great comic effect one Christmas season!

We'll get another Turkish Van after Jerome dies, but Miss Maple has lived in his shadow all her life. She'll get some time as the only cat for awhile before we get a second cat.

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite cat, was a pure black Burmese. He grew to maturity on a farm and then had to be neutered simply to keep him from killing himself chasing female cats. He was a great hunter, and walked like a panther. I have many tale of him.

We lost him to infectious feline anemia. Very nasty, because by the time you realize they are sick, it is too late. It broke my heart to lose him. When I would study, he would decide that now was when I should pay attention, and he would walk right on up and lay down on my P Chem text book.

I like dogs and love the two I have, but cats are something special.

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Dymphna said...


Now you tell me: cats are the cure for P Chem hell. If only I'd known, I'd have snuck a feline into the fB's dorm room. We'd have figured out something to prevent the flashbacks of P Chem...ugh...


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