Thursday, May 2, 2013

Melvin in a Nutshell

My best friend spent a long weekend with me recently. After she left I posted on Facebook that she "spent four days with The Melvinator and survived. In fact, I think he was especially charming."

To which she responded: "except when he bit me and tried to eat my food."

How could you get mad at this?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Growing Pains

Following my return from vacation in mid-July, I tried to maintain harmony and order in my now three-cat household.

It didn't work very well.

An abundance of food, warm, safe places to sleep, and lots of attention turned Melvin from the skinny, pathetic specimen he had been when I brought him home into something....else. One moment he could be sweet, loving, and cute...and the next, all claws and teeth and pouncing. He quickly acquired his first nickname:

The Melvinator.

The unfortunates who bore the brunt of his antics (aside from my hands and ankles) were the elder statesmen in my house, the old boys, Darwin and Bouhaki. They didn't know what to make of the whirling dervish that had been unleashed inside their formerly peaceful home. They didn't understand that the dervish just wanted to PLAY PLAY PLAYYYYY!!!

Bouhaki is like, "Why me?"

He looks so innocent and harmless...DO NOT BE FOOLED
Here is an early video of Melvin being surprisingly gentle with Darwin. Also includes cute kitten meow.

Then later, more typical antics:

My peaceful house was no longer peaceful. Melvin was constantly on the move; as my mom put it, "Kittens are extremely busy." Busy was an understatement. He was more like OMG INTO EVERY DAMN THING. It was constant GO GO GO GO GO...

...and then CRASH!

How could I stay mad at this?

I remember the afternoon I took the above picture, some time in late July, when it was insufferably hot and my lawn was a crisped brown mess, and I hated being outside for even five minutes. The Melvinator had been careening around my house as usual and there had been yelling and growling and intra-cat squabbling and I think the Kitten Control Device (water sprayer) had been deployed several times and I was thinking, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

And then he passed out on my lap and I thought, oh yes. This is what I have done: given this crazy little bundle of energy a forever home. If I hadn't, he would have died. No matter what shenanigans he pulled (and there were many more to come), he was safe and loved because of me, and that's what I had to keep telling myself.

Also, I couldn't stay mad at that much cute.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kitten Cuddles

Melvin's favorite place to be is nestled against me, or better yet, on me. Sometimes I feel like I'm suffocating in fur.

This is how he slept the first night I brought him home. Six months later...still the same silly kitten.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Melvin Goes on Vacation

I rescued Melvin on a Saturday. Four days later, on Wednesday, July 4, I departed for ten days in Scotland. I dropped him off at the home of my friend Corey, who had offered to cat-sit while I was gone. I felt terrible uprooting Melvin just as he was getting settled into his new home.

The night before I left my baby for ten days. I felt like the worst cat mom ever.
I let him sit on my lap on the car ride into Ann Arbor. I handed off the kitten, his food, and a couple of cat toys and then bolted because I wanted to cry. I knew Corey and his wife would take great care of him because they're also pet people, but still...I was abandoning my sweet kitten! I requested updates, and I got my first one after I emerged from communications blackout after my long plane ride.

Corey wrote: "I've been Melvined." By that he meant his feet had become targets of pouncing. I said, "He likes toes. Watch out."

He has the feisty look, which I would come to know well
While I was wearing long pants and jackets in rainy, 60-degree Scotland, southeast Michigan was baking in the worst heat wave in over 20 years. I know that on at least a couple of the days I was gone, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Melvin tried to find relief anywhere he could in Corey's un-air-conditioned house.

One hot kitten
Of course being on vacation means one gets away with things that aren't normally allowed, like eating cold whipped topping in an effort to beat the heat.

I said, "what are you feeding my kitten?!"

 I returned from my trip on July 14 and the first thing I did was stop in Ann Arbor to collect Melvin. He had grown a little during the 10 days I was away, and I think he remembered me. I let him sit on my lap again for the ride home.

"You came back! Now take me home."
I knew this "second" homecoming would be the final one, and it was time he became a full member of my home, with all the spoiling and love and privileges that come from being one of my cats.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bird Watching

Melvin loves looking out the window. I have five feeders in the yard, which provides quality entertainment.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Meeting the Family

Melvin has two "big brothers": Darwin, "Big D," and Bouhaki, "Little Boo." I got Darwin and Boo from the Humane Society in the summer of 2002, and after my ex-husband moved out in early 2009, it was just me and the boys. They got along so well I swore I wouldn't get another cat until one of them passed on because I was afraid of destroying their camaraderie.

Best buds
I'd gone and done it now, hadn't I? Nothing to do but stumble blindly onward and hope for the best...

I had Melvin sequestered in the guest room. He had everything he needed in there: food, water, litter, a place to sleep. I knew I had to keep him away from D and B for a while. 

Darwin was curious right away. He lurked outside the guest room door for hours. When I was in the room with Melvin, I could hear him meowing in the hallway and occasionally he inserted a paw under the door.

I made it two whole days before I ended enforced separation and brought Melvin downstairs for his first look at the world beyond the blue room. Introduction went about as well as I expected: wary sniffing, some raised hairs, hissing, but no fights. I decided to break the tension with some string.

Bouhaki is unsure about this strange creature

String: the great equalizer
Melvin's kitten nature manifested itself immediately: he wanted to play with the big boys and they were having none of it. Darwin and Boo are senior-level cats: 11 years old and content to do absolutely nothing all day. A rambunctious kitten was going to turn their sedate, predictable little world upside down.

I had unleashed a hurricane and I didn't even know it yet.

Lap Kitten

Melvin loves laps. If I sit, he appears and hops on board.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I pulled into a parking space near the after-hours entrance to my vet clinic. My vet arrived and I went around to lift Melvin, now cradled in a towel, out of the car. From the bundle came a soft, sleepy "mew." We all went inside, out of the heat.

Under the glare of fluorescent lights, Melvin looked even more pathetic. He was painfully thin, his fur dull, and his paws were grey with dirt. He had crud in his ears, but no mites, though he had fleas. He weighed less than three pounds. He was one sad-looking little kitten, but through all the poking and squeezing and lifting he never stopped purring.

Dr. Lane opened a can of moist food and Melvin went berserk, climbing on his hand and meowing frantically as he put a bit on a plastic can lid. He wolfed it down, pushing the lid around in the process, and started clamoring for more. Dr. Lane gave me a few cans of moist food, a bag of dry kitten food, vials of antiparasite serum, pronounced Melvin underweight but otherwise in good health, and made an appointment for me to return in a few weeks for his first round of vaccinations.

Now what? I left my house that afternoon for a run, not to rescue a kitten. I had anticipated coming home to take a shower and go out for dinner with the Engineer.  It wasn't as if I was completely unprepared; I had spare litter boxes and food bowls at home. But...the weight of what I had done suddenly landed on my shoulders. What have I gotten myself into? Darwin and Boo were not going to be happy. I was going on vacation in four days, and even though one of my hashing buddies had already offered to kitten-sit, I already felt guilty knowing I had to get Melvin settled at my house only to uproot him a few days later. Don't worry about that now. One thing at a time! What's next? Pet store. I needed to go to the pet store for supplies. I needed to get Melvin home and set up my guest room. I needed a shower...badly.

Finally, we were home, I was clean, Melvin had what he I needed to get to know my new kitten.

Oh, those ears!

He was so tiny

Still his favorite place to be
I spent the night with him in my guest room. He spent the night nestled up against me or sprawled across my torso. He slept like he hadn't had a good sleep in days, weeks, who knows how long. He had a tummy full of food and a soft, warm place to lie. He purred and purred and purred.

I hate to anthropomorphize animals, but I believe if Melvin could talk he would have said, "Thank you so much for saving. me."

Oh, those feet!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Melvin Now

This was taken after I came home from four days of Thanksgiving break last month. My little trash pile kitten is not so little anymore. Also visible: my brown tabby Bouhaki.

Reach out and paw someone!

Melvin's Rescue

Saturday June 30, 2012. It was an unpleasant day: stifling heat, oppressive humidity and a sun that burned in a pale, hazy sky. I was in the city of Melvindale with the Engineer for a hash run. I decided the 90+ degree temperature was incompatible with running and thus I walked. Our little group trudged across crispy, dry grass and baking sidewalks until we reached the location of the first beer stop: the shaded loading dock of an abandoned industrial building wedged between a "raggedy-ass trailer park" (as my hashing buddy put it) and a train yard.

Red dot marks the spot

I stepped into the slightly cooler shade of the loading dock. The first thing I saw was the beer car. The second thing I saw was an enormous heap of discarded household goods-- furniture, clothing, books, toys, kitchen items, appliances, even a half-finished knitting project-- which sprawled the length of the space, and, picking its way over the pile, a tiny, skinny, dirty kitten.

Oh dear.

I squatted, held out my hand, and the kitten ran over, meowing. It became apparent he was starving, desperate for something to eat. I tried to give him some water but he didn't want it. He wanted food. The runners in the group began to trickle in, and I hovered around the kitten. Someone put a couple of Cheetos on the ground and the kitten tried to eat them, which was one of the saddest things I'd ever seen. He kept moving around, circling the confines of the loading dock. Socializing time was coming to an end, and people were getting ready to head out for the next part of the run. I crouched next to the kitten and thought about leaving him behind and I had to choke back tears. I couldn't leave him there. I just couldn't. My heart was breaking thinking about it. I couldn't do it. I would never forgive myself if I left without the kitten.

Forget about the two cats I had at home already. Forget about how I swore I would never get a third cat while they were around because I didn't want to ruin their kitty friendship. Forget about how I was leaving in four days for a nine-day vacation. Forget all of that. I was going to continue a family tradition of saving animals in distress: my brother plucked an abandoned puppy from a parking lot in downtown Cleveland; my mom saved two kittens from neglect and death at the hands of an uncaring, asshole family. I could save a starving kitten from a brief, miserable life of hunger and suffering. 

I told the beer car driver I needed to be taken back to my car at the host's house. I told the Engineer I really needed his help. I picked up the kitten, who felt like he weighed almost nothing, held him in my lap until we got back to my car, and then transferred him to the Engineer while I called my vet back home. (One of the perks of being a long-time client of a small-town vet practice is you get to disturb the on-call vet while he's at a graduation party and have him meet you at the clinic for an emergency evaluation.)

As I was talking to my vet the kitten was busy making himself comfortable on the Engineer's lap. I could hear him purring even over my car's engine and the air conditioner. By the time I pulled away from the curb to start the hour-long drive to Chelsea, he had already fallen asleep. I said, "Oh, little kitten, you have no idea how much your life is about to change."

A few minutes later: "His name will be Melvin, because I found him in Melvindale."

Thus came Melvin into my life and heart.



...and out.