Wednesday, February 22, 2006

And the Winner Is...


Nanuq (also spelled Nanook or Nanuk) is an Inuit name meaning "Polar Bear." You may have heard of the children's story Nanuq of the North. Nanuq is a popular name for working dogs in Alaska.

Sadly, I did not choose any of the wonderful names you suggested. So here's my top 10 favorites. Sometime soon, all nominators will receive a small gift from Nanuq thanking you for your suggested name:

1. The Notorius C.A.T. aka Biggie (courtesy Jessie From the Block, Erika and Nick), which plays on my love of the rap/hip-hop music that's all the rage with the kids these days. Check out this hilarious clip, forwarded yesterday from Jessie, to get a sense of what a rapping cat might sound like.
2. Tanuki (courtesy Renee), because nothing's more fun than a drunken, magical Japanese badger.
3. G Squared Kitty (courtesy Carrie), for providing perhaps my only opportunity to pass along the Guglielmino name.
4. Fuzzbutt (courtesy Jessie from South Dakota), an appropriate name since I now have white hair all over my clothing and furniture.
5. Benjamin Franklin (courtesy Jen from Ohio), because we in Philly can't name enough things after our hero!
6. Heathcliff (courtesy Mom), since the idea of naming my cat after Heath Ledger made me laugh for several hours.
7. Mister Winter (courtesy RPS Amy), since it made such sense with his beautiful coat.
8. Lucas (courtesy Maia), because he looks light, like an angel cat.
9. Jack (courtesy Mariya and Christina), because I picked him out the same day as Jack Frost visited Philly for the first time this winter.
10. Blizzard (courtesy Dad, Maureen, Holly and several others), because it just makes sense for a white cat.

Tonight we head to the vet, where I hope to find a solution to the eating quandry. Then I'm to Denver for a business trip, so no blog entries for a few days. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Janine & Nookie

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Signs of Life

The kitty continues to confound me, but yesterday he drank a whole bunch of water from his kitty bowl. His third eyelid has receeded, and I got my very first cat kiss when I got home from work. For those of you unacquainted: it's when a cat rubs his whiskers across your cheek.

By tomorrow morning, I will announce "Big Boy"'s new moniker so I won't have to go through the embarassment of taking him to the vet without having named him.

Monday, February 20, 2006

When Bad Things Happen to Good Kittens

I picked up "Big Boy" on Wednesday night. I felt emotional when I went to get him. Leslye, the adoption coordinator, told me Big Boy had caught a kitty cold. She gave me medication for him and told me to expect he'd sneeze and cough for several days. We walked the four blocks from the shelter to his new forever home. Along the way, I heard him meow for the first time.

When I let him out he did two rounds of the apartment. He particularly enjoyed hiding underneath the bed and standing between a Chinese screen and the television set. Then he jumped on the bed, where he's been living pretty much non-stop. No jumping. No playing. No eating. Just a lot of sneezing, watery eyes and running in the opposite direction when he sees me with the medicine.

He's a sweet-natured cat. He enjoys a good brushing. He loves to be petted. When I touch his side, he rolls over onto his back like a dog so I can rub his tummy. He also likes water. For the last two days I've brought him into the bathroom during my shower to help clear out his nasal passages. He jumps right in and meows at me.

Whether he can hear is a mystery. I'm sure having no name doesn't help. I'm starting to think my inability to name him is pathological.

He doesn't eat, and I'm extremely worried. Leslye gave me some high-protein paste to force down his throat so he'll get enough nutrition to survive. I have visions of feeding tubes and thousand-dollar cat bills in my head. Moreover, I don't think I can bear another sick cat. Not after losing my Lancie.

We head to the vet Wednesday. I hope to have a name by then.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tonight's the Night

Only three-and-a-half more hours until I can pick up my new kitty! I'm surprisingly anxious about it. Last night I cleaned my apartment top to bottom, as if I were expecting an honored guest. I set up the cat's litter box and food bowl so he'd feel at home. I tried to put everything in places where Lancelot had never been, but that's almost impossible in a one-room apartment.

I had trouble sleeping because of all the questions racing through my head. What if we don't like each other? What if he doesn't use the litter box? Will he be unhappy when I leave for work in the morning? What will be his favorite spots? And most important, what will I name him? The jury is still out. I made a list of everyone's ideas and figured I try them out on him tonight. I'll either pick the one that best suits his personality, or I'll read them off and see which one he responds to.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Funny Valentine

Except for New Years, Valentine's Day is my least favorite "holiday." It's one of those times where emotions and expectations run high, but the payoff is never enough. Thanks, Hallmark! Fortunately, animals love you every day of the year, no matter how little you give them.

I always associated Lancelot with the holidays because I brought him home the night before Thanksgiving 1995. I had to work that year, so I stayed in DC instead of visiting my parents in Rochester. I missed them and felt pretty miserable. Lancelot earned his namesake because he was my knight in shining armor, saving me from loneliness.

Last night, as I bought new toys for "Big Boy," I remembered Lancelot's first few nights at home. Since I had only lived with dogs before, I was extremely confused by some of his behaviors. Why does he run across the room for no apparent reason? Why does he suddenly seem insulted by my affection when he was purring just moments ago? Why does run crazily around the apartment in the middle of the night? As my cat expert, Ray was usually the friend to answer these idiotic questions. Her response was always the same.

"Oh, totally normal cat behavior! Don't worry about it," she'd say.

The day after Lancelot came home, I tried to pick him up as he walked over to his food bowl. It was the one and only time he hissed at me. This cat hates me, I thought.

My apartment had a large closet with no doors and shelving up to the ceiling. I would come home from work to find Lancelot, after hours of searching, behind a stack of sweaters on the top shelf. Then there was the time two workmen were doing repairs in my apartment. I walked in the door and heard meowing but saw no cat.

"Where's my cat?" I asked.

They didn't know. I soon determined Lance had been so scared by the commotion that he had squeezed himself under the kitchen cabinets and gotten caught between the dishwasher and the wall. After about 20 minutes of pleading, I started crying. The men made a quick exit. Lancelot only emerged after I had called animal control, begging for help in getting him out.

I became less of a worry wart once I got used to living with a cat. I took it all less personally. I also learned Lancelot was an excellent judge of character. Lancelot loved men, so I looked warily upon any he didn't approve of.

In my last apartment, I had a window seat where Lancelot loved to nap. My former boyfriend said he often felt guilty when he used the bathroom in the middle of the night because Lancelot gave him a dirty look for taking his spot on the bed. In the end the two turned out to be great friends; my ex even drew this beautiful picture just a few days before Lancie died.

Perhaps Lancelot's best judgment was against a guy I was "seeing" right before my 30th birthday. The guy was 22, and I was having my fun. One morning we rushed off to work and I forgot to make the bed. When I got home, I discovered Lancelot had made a mistake. I found a huge pool of urine--on the pillow where the guy had lain. I could still see the indentation where his head had been. Guess Lancie knew better than I did about what was good for me!

So in honor of the day, give your pets a hug. They don't need flowers or candy: they love you anyway. To them, you're always a Valentine.

Big Boy's Snowstorm of Suggestions

The names are arriving fast and furious! Many thanks to all of you. I'll spend the evening sifting through them, if I make it through this day. (For my work friends, let's put it this way: I won't be naming the cat Kintera.) In addition to the many suggestions I've received on the blog, here are more from others who e-mailed me:

I heard about the new addition. He won’t replace Lance but it will be so nice to have another furball about. He may be a climber so stuff on top shelves may need to go away and prepare for much breakage but you love them so its not so bad. I am unsure what to call him without meeting him. But I know whatever he is named he will be loved and be called by a nickname anyway. Congrats again.

How about Sammy for the name? (Samoyeds are white, and big). Or Jack, for Jack Frost? (I always liked human names for pets)

Best wishes for your new roommate. Since he’s white and playful, how about Frosty for a name?

Janine: How about Lucas...I believe that name means light…he is a beautiful cat.

Congratulations. Deirdre and I vote for Gabriel. It’s nice. I kind of thought Sylvester when I first saw him. Not sure why.
Zeth at

I thought of another one since I sent in my blog post: orion (like the constellation, because he is bright like a star). Anything else having to do with stars might be nice. ohh..Tim had one...what was it...Nigel...I think that in French nig means snow or something.

What a handsome man. Yes, I like Gabriel too. Talk to you soon Janine!
Angie at

Monday, February 13, 2006

Name That Kitty!

On Saturday, as the East Coast prepared for snow, I prepared to open my home to a new friend.

After a very tough week without my Lancelot, I suspected it might be time. So while other Philadelphians overran the grocery stores for milk, bread and diapers, I visited Morris Animal Refuge and checked out three cats. This beautiful white cat was in the front window. "Big Boy" is a 10-month-old stray who arrived at the shelter on February 7. He does seem large for his age, but compared to Lancie he's a sliver of a thing. That's why I'm taking nominations for his new name. Post away! If I choose your name, I will give you something (not sure what). So far, I've come up with these:

Valentino (since he's coming home near Valentine's Day)
Polar Bear (I'm hesitant on this one, since one of my pet names for Lancelot was "Bear." Yes, my pets have pet names.)
Gabriel (because he's white like an angel)

I like the idea of something having to do with light or snow. I like his beautiful white fur, which I will soon enjoy all over my navy blue couch and black clothes.

"Big Boy" is extremely playful. Leslie, the animal caretaker at Morris, told me to watch out for my curtains and to put away the fine China. Above you see him wondering why this strange woman is shooting photographs of him from every angle. I just learned he's FIV-negative and got through the neutering surgery just fine (sorry, kitty!). He can come home Wednesday night.

I have mixed feelings about having a new cat. I know it's time, but I have trouble visualizing a different cat in the same places where Lancelot used to sit, sleep and play. I decided to buy "Big Boy" new toys, food dishes and scratching posts. I don't want any other cat to enjoy my Lancelot's things.

On Friday night I had a vivid dream. I dreamt that I was sleeping and woke up to see Lancelot. He was walking toward me on the bed. I remember thinking, "It can't be Lancelot. He's dead." But he walked right up to me and I could feel him, touch him. I felt so happy. He turned around and jumped off the bed; I heard that familiar thump, thump. I watched him walk around the apartment. He jumped on the sofa and curled up at the end so we could watch TV together. I couldn't believe he was back, that we were together again. I pet him and touched his fur. I gave him little kisses on the head and got "cat kisses" in return.

Then I woke up. I think it was 3 a.m. I was alone in the dark, and I suddenly remembered Lancelot was gone.

I hope this new cat will bring some light into my life. I hope he will honor Lancelot's memory.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Man Bites Dog; Cat Answers Phone

During J-school, my friend Holly and I talked frequently by phone. Those conversations may be the only thing that got me through the program. We tried various forms of coercion—food, coffee, fantasies of killing professors—to keep each other going.

One night, when we were writing 25-page term papers, Holly called my apartment. The phone rang several times before someone picked up. Then silence.

"Janine?" Holly said. "Hello? Janine?"

"Meow," came the response. "Meow. Meow. Meow."

"Janine? Are you there?" Holly asked. "Janine, are you OK? Are you there?"

"Meeoooowwwww," Lancelot answered.

When I returned home later that evening, I saw the phone off the hook. Huh, I thought. I must have knocked it off the bedside table. Very soon after, however, I received a call from Holly. "Your cat answered the phone," she said, recounting the story. "We had a great conversation. He's quite a talker. Now that I know you're alive, it's all that much funnier."

Holly and I have often laughed about this story, but did you know other cats have made telephone calls? One cat dialed 911 and saved his companion. This story sounds more like my Lancie, though: he just liked to chat. When I'd come home from work, I'd often ask him about his day. He'd always answer the same way (after all, what else is there to say when you sleep all day?). I also asked him every morning whether he wanted his breakfast. And my favorite question: "Do you love your Mommy?" and always, "Meow."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Perfect Man

I miss my handsome boy.

I'm having a terrible week at work, so I'm missing Lancelot more than ever. He was a wonderful sounding board and listener. Whenever I had a crappy day, Lance was always there to hear my cries and comfort me. The perfect man: unabashed affection and never talked back. And a full head of hair, too!

Yesterday was particularly bad. In the morning the traffic lights went out on Ben Franklin Parkway, so drivers honked constantly even though no one could move. Stress has taken hold at our office, so every day is a test of perseverance. I couldn't wait to turn around and get home. I felt terrible, and I didn't want to cook, so I stopped at the Whole Foods for a carb-filled dinner.

I cheered up a little when I checked the mail. I got a letter from the Feline Health Center of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. The folks at VCA Cat Hospital donated money in my Lancelot's name. I gave his ashes an extra kiss and had myself a good cry.

I may visit the animal refuge again this weekend, despite last weekend's disaster. My friend Concetta, who works at the Please Touch Museum, also may have found a stray cat for me. The kitty is living in Memorial Hall, the future home of PTM. Her current name is "Dog," which probably says something about her personality. I'll check her out and find her a home, even if we're not destined for each other. No animal—or person—should be alone!

Pets I Have Known and Loved III

Dog: Niki
Breed: American Eskimo Dog
Length of time with Guglielminos: 16+ years

Perhaps my mother spoke too soon. A few weeks after Kippy's death, I again called my parents from the basement of Haverford's library. "Guess what?" Mom said. "What?" I asked, feigning interest in typical adolescent fashion. "We got a new dog," she said.

My mouth got dry. Kippy's body was probably still warm in his grave! How could my parents allow this interloper into our house? "I couldn't stand the silence when I walked in the door," Mom said. "I hated not hearing the sound of a dog greeting me."

No consolation to me. I believed my parents were traitors. They said they loved Kippy, but how could they if they could simply replace him with another dog? "I'll never like that dog," I spit into the phone. "I'll be polite, but I'll never love him like I love Kippy."

After meeting Nikki, however, my cold heart melted like an ice cube on a dog's tongue. He was the cutest dog EVER. He learned quickly how to sit, stay and "speak." When he got excited, he'd run in circles, flying past like a shooting star, until he got dizzy and stopped to rest. We'd wrestle with toys for hours, but he'd never bite. Our family has had the pleasure of watching him grow, and today he spends his hours sitting in his "bed" and eating his morning toast. (Yes, you read that right. He doesn't get bread in the morning; he gets toast. Sometimes before others get their breakfast, by the way.)

What lessons have I learned from these dogs? Know what you're getting. Know when to say enough is enough. Love completely. Learn when it's time to love again.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pets I Have Known and Loved II

Dog: Whiskey
Breed: Golden Retriever (courtesy the Golden Retriever Club of America)
Length of time with Guglielminos: Several months

When we got Whiskey—who my father insists was male but I think was female—Mom was working as a social worker at a local hospital. Whiskey was young, and she didn't like being alone. We tried everything to placate her, from confining her in my parents' bedroom to leaving her outdoors. These were the old days, before our generation of plush dog crates and pink purses for toy poodles. Anyway, our brilliant solution was to leave her in our tiny pool cabana during the work day. Whiskey cried and barked, ultimately chewing her way through the cabana door. This dog met a particularly bad end, as my mother decided to drop her off near some farmland. Important lesson: Research the breed before getting the dog.

Dog: Coco
Breed: Dauchsand
Length of time with Guglielminos: Several Years

This is an actual picture of Coco on the sofa in our den. At his previous home, he had spent most of his time confined to the basement with a cat. As a result he liked balancing his tiny feet on the backs of couches and rubbing up against our legs. When strangers came to the door, the hair on Coco's back stood on end. Like any self-respecting dauchsand, however, Coco burrowed under the covers at night and ate any food he could get his paws on. The best source of food was our garbage can. So we'd arrive home after an evening out to discover a path of discarded food with a hopping can at the end. Coco once jumped onto the dining room table and ate an entire stick of butter. He loved slipping out the front door and playing "hide and seek"; my mother and I would run after him, but as soon as he slowed up enough for us to catch him, he'd take off again. He was an entertaining little dog, but life changed drastically for him upon the arrival of his archenemy...

Dog: Kippy
Breed: West Highland White Terrier
Length of time with Guglielminos: Many years

Mom and Dad read about Kippy in the newspaper. He lived with elderly people who wanted to give him up. My parents had always wanted to adopt another Westie. When they were first married, they had a Westie named Dilly. He died young after he was diagnosed with epilespy just a few months after my birth. Kippy was jumpy; it was clear he had been abused. He had a number of strange habits, including obsessively licking his nose and chasing his tail. And he hated Coco. The two despised one another, and much barking and growling ensued. Coco fancied himself the alpha dog, and having Kippy in the house allowed him more flexibility in his manipulations. A few months after Kippy's arrival, someone started making mistakes on the carpet in my bedroom. I always suspected Coco, but Kippy always looked guilty.

In another mystery from my childhood, my mother found a young woman who had just divorced and wanted a little dog for her son. She and I took Coco to visit the boy and, as the story goes, the boy fell in love with Coco immediately. I wouldn't want to deny this poor boy a dog, would I? My mother asked. Thus ended Coco's tenure in our home.

I got over it, and Kippy and I became fast friends. I loved feeding him his awful-smelling pink dog food, which was supposed to look like chunks of raw meat. We went for walks, and I forgave him on the few occassions when he caught birds in the back yard and tried to bring them in the house. When I was 15, we moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts. In the confusion of moving, Kippy got lost in our new neighborhood. Mom and I drove all over the place, not knowing where we were going, but eventually we found the poor thing. He was as scared as I was, and after that he was always by my side. Kippy was a huge comfort at a time when I resented my parents and hated my new life.

Kippy was a mainstay of my high school years. He lived through the stresses of the New York Mets 1986 World Series Season, my on-and-off relationship with a crappy boyfriend, college applications and giggling teenagers, and more. When I went off to college at Haverford, I missed him terribly. During my first year, I couldn't wait for the holiday break so I could see him. I gave him lots of hugs and kisses. And then, a few weeks after I returned to school, Kippy died.

My parents were devastated. They had gone on a well-deserved vacation, and Kippy died at the kennel while they were away. I learned about it when I called home from a pay phone in the basement of Haverford's library. Mom couldn't stop crying, and she swore she'd never get another dog again.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pets I Have Known and Loved

In the months since I lost Lancelot, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the many animals I've loved. Most were dogs, since my dad hates cats. And honestly, we had as many dogs as my parents had cars. We always seemed to be trading up for the next best thing. Over the holidays, I asked my parents what they remembered about these dogs. In some cases, we remember little. In others, I'd rather forget.

Dog: Snowball
Breed: Samoyed
Length of time with Guglielminos: Several weeks/months

Snowball came to live with us when I was a little girl, sometime before my eighth birthday. He was a huge, sweet, gregarious ball of fur. (This photograph, by the way, is not the actual "Snowball" but one of his compatriots, courtesy of the Westminster Kennel Club.) Snowball would bound out of the house at the sight of anything that looked fun, including the arrival of our neighbors, who found his boundless enthusiasm a bit frightening. He knocked over objects and people unable to contain his Herculean energy: Dad remembers edging his way up the stairs in our split-level house so he wouldn't trip over the dog. Mom and Dad soon concluded Snowball was too much dog for our little suburban house.

Dog: Lady
Breed: Collie
Length of time with Guglielminos: Very brief

I can't remember whether Lady or Snowball came first, but whose bright idea was it to get two huge dogs? I have few memories of Lady, but my mother alleges the dog (thanks again to the Westminster Kennel Club for the photo) herded me around the house and refused to let my mother touch me. Mom complained to Dad, who (again, allegedly) told my mother not to worry about it—what could happen? As the family legend goes, Dad came home from work one night and tried to pick me up, but Lady herded me into the corner. That was the end of Lady.

Dog: Muttsey (aka Muttley)
Breed: Mutt
Length of time with Guglielminos: Several years

I consider Muttsey our first dog success—though his story ended unhappily. Muttsey came from an ad in the newspaper. We managed to mangle/forget his given name within 10 minutes of picking him up. Years later my mother saw the old owner, who asked after Muttley. I guess it didn't matter, since the dog didn't seem to mind what we called him.

Muttley/Muttsey remind me of Benji, which is why I picked out this photo from The Pet Press. We never knew about Muttsey's ancestry, but Benji was believed to have been part Llasa apso/part Shit Tzu. Muttsey had orangish hair, and he was kind of a mess of a dog but very cute. He was a good small size for our little family. Muttsey's only problem was that he was jumpy. The previous owner warned us not to surprise him.

Muttsey was the first dog I truly loved. We had a back yard with a fence, but sometimes I took him for walks. I'd throw him tennis balls and try to convince him to swim with me in the pool.

One summer my mother needed gall bladder surgery. Muttsey became my security blanket. I decided he and I would get "married." I wore my communion dress and veil, wrote vows and arranged the lawn furniture in aisles in the back yard. My grandfather performed the ceremony while my father and grandmothers looked on. Like most grooms, Muttsey had little to do with the ceremony. I did gave him a bone afterward, which seemed to please him. I'll leave the rest of the jokes to your imagination...

Muttsey was the central player in our most famous family Thanksgiving, the last holiday in which both my grandmothers and my Grandpa Ross were still alive. Every year Dad set up a reel-to-reel tape to record our festivities. In Thanksgiving 1979, Muttsey disappeared just as we got ready to sit down for turkey. In the confusion, Dad forgot to turn off the reel-to-reel. We caught the entire fiasco on tape. Grandma Betty thought Muttsey had drowned in the pool; Mom and I called out to him; Dad cursed and yelled at everyone to sit down and eat the turkey before it got dry. The tape captured my grandmother yelling at my grandfather to get out of the kitchen—something that could have happened at any number of family holidays. Happiness ensued when we discovered Muttsey in the attic and finally sat down for dinner.

The kids in the neighborhood loved torturing Muttsey. I never understood why. But with Muttsey's nerves, he was an accident waiting to happen. One day our neighbor, "little John," kept harassing Muttsey. I told John, "Better leave Muttsey alone, or he'll bite you." But he didn't, and Muttsey did. Little John's parents sued my parents in small claims court, and in the end my parents said we couldn't keep Muttsey. I was in the 4th grade. I remember crying at my desk and my teacher, Mrs. Marshall, came to comfort me. I was afraid of her because she made the "bad kids" stand in the corner. But when I told her about Muttsey, she was compassionate. It was my first lesson in how animals bring out the best in people.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Black Cats Banished Again

This weekend I decided I would do it, I would adopt a cat. On Saturday I went to Morris Animal Refuge. Usually, they have a ton of cats, but this week many of the cages were empty. Some of the cats looked sick; others didn't seem to care what was going on around them. I only connected with one cat--a black kitty named Jones. I liked the idea I could pretend he was named after Keith Jones or Jonesy, the ridiculous ex-Flyer who farts on Comcast SportsNet and still comes out looking like a Philadelphia hero (maybe that's what makes him a hero in some people's eyes). Anyway, Jones was about a year old, and he followed my finger with his eyes, just like a player would follow a hockey puck. I knew I shouldn't even consider a black cat, but I decided to ask to try him out anyway.

The first thing I noticed was how healthy and fat he felt, not at all like Lancie toward the end. His hair was so thick and shiny. He purred when I pet him. The poor kitty was pretty scared, though. I don't think he realized where he was. When I pulled him out of the cage, he suddenly saw the other cats and promptly had a hissy fit. I tried to comfort him, but I started crying myself. He looked like Lancelot, but he wasn't Lancelot. He felt like a big blob of a cat, not like my "cat baby."

The moral of the story? No black cats for me. I'm thinking white, orange, gray, tabby, whatever. Hopefully, I'll find a female. I'd also like a young cat, something so cute and cuddly I'll have no choice but to love it immediately. I'll try again next weekend.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Little Vacuum

It's such a beautiful day. I wish Lancelot could see it.

A few days before Lance died, I walked to a park near my office and watched as the people went about their business. It was unusually warm, just like today. A group of children tossed a ball, and some little girls danced to the sounds of music in their heads. Several women walked their dogs. I leaned down to touch the ground. I liked the feeling of the grass between my fingers. I thought about bringing Lancelot there so he could see, smell, feel the outside. I had never allowed him out of the house, so he had never experienced the outside. He was so out of it at that point that I knew I could bring him there and he wouldn't run away. I wish I could have given him that experience, but I worried he would be upset by the commotion.

Some of my friends think it's time for me to get a new cat. I'm worried. What if I can't love it? What if I bring it home and feel nothing? Will I feel guilty for loving a new cat?

On the other hand, I feel terribly lonely. I would be saving a life, which is never a bad thing. I would have a new warm body to curl against at night. I got home late yesterday after a horrible day. For just a moment I forgot Lancelot was gone. I was ready for a kitty hug. I would come in the apartment and say, "Lancelot, I had a bad day. I need a kitty hug!" And then I'd get it, at least until he got sick of me.

I've lost some important things over the past year--a serious boyfriend, a beloved pet. Lancelot was a member of my support system. I have many wonderful and supportive human friends, but sometimes I just want that purrrrrrrrr, that mysterious vibration that means unconditional love. I called Lance my "little vacuum" because that's what his purr reminded me of. Sometimes I would just look at Lancelot and he'd start purring, even if I wasn't touching him. It made me feel warm, safe, secure. It made me feel loved.