My darling husband, Byron, and I have moved to England. Where, prior to moving and in my imagination, the sky was a brilliant blue with the prerequisite white fluffy clouds, the air was crisp and the birds chirped with what sounded to me like vaguely British accents. The trees were blooming, the grass was green and the house we’d be living in was everything a Jane Austen addict (that’s me) could want.
In fact, the sky is blue, there are white fluffy clouds with crisp air and prettily chirping birds. The trees are blooming and the grass is green. And there the similarities to my dreamy visions end. The sky is grayer than blue; we live in a lovely flat, but not the vine covered Jane Austen house I imagined; our furniture will not be arriving until July (we’ve been here since May); my allergies to the beautiful, crisp English air are soon to become legendary (I haven’t been able to see out of my squinty, puffy eyes for weeks); the amount of butter on every food item one orders here is rapidly making me a walking cholesterol ball; and our cat has set up residence in the fireplace chimney.
But I suppose I should start at the beginning. The beginning is the cat. Byron and I have gone through hell and high water to bring a cat (one whom we adore beyond all reason and sanity) with us to London. It began with a seemingly innocuous call to the United States Department of Agriculture last November. It went something like this:
Me: Can we bring our Beloved Cat to London? Please?
Nice USDA Man: Of course!
Me: What do I have to do?
Nice USDA Man: Very little!
Me: Is there a quarantine?
Nice USDA Man: Not at all!
Me: (Squeal of excitement.) Yippee!
This rather positive sounding call was followed up by a series of emails between me and Our Lovely Vet. They went something like this:
Me: We’re bringing our Beloved Cat to London!!! In January!!!
Our Lovely Vet: Great! You’ll need fifteen different forms and a microchip, then a rabies shot, then a six month wait, then a tapeworm treatment and then a vet check! Wait. When did you say you were going?
Me: Um. January?
Our Lovely Vet: (Hysterical laughter. I’m just assuming here. We were on email.) I think you may want to check with the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Me: (Moan of dismay.)
I then turned on sweet Byron with the wrath of seven women. Because of course all this was his fault. Somehow. I practically threw his computer at him and we spent the next hour on the DEFRA site researching cat transportation to and from the United Kingdom. The subject of our research, our Beloved Cat, was blissfully unaware of the drama surrounding him. He carefully cleaned his left paw. Once sufficiently tidied, he calmly gazed at us, taking in our frazzled hair, panicked expressions and harried movements. He then blinked at us slowly, clearly disgusted by our messiness, turned around carefully and settled himself in for a much needed nap.
Several hours, three websites and four airline phone calls later, we had our answer. We were not to move to London in January as planned. Byron’s company may have to wait. For a cat. Our only alternative would be to place said cat in a loving home here in the States until the six-month interval was up and he could join us in London. We diligently went about calling all potential hosts. First up was my mother, who loves the cat about as much as we do. This was sure to be an easy yes. The conversation went like this:
Hopeful Me: Hi, Mom!
Wonderful Mother: (Suspiciously) What do you want?
Less Hopeful Me: Well, the cat you know and love will be unable to join us in London until May! We were hoping you could take care of him for us! We know how much you love him!
Wonderful Mother: I do love him. I’m also allergic to him. I also have a crazy housekeeper who is not his biggest fan and who would cause me to fear for his safety on a daily basis. On top of all that, I’ll be in New Zealand for three weeks during that time.
Even-Less-Hopeful-Me: So that’s a no?
Wonderful Mother: I’m thinking it’s a no. Why are you just asking me this now? And why can’t he go until May if you’re planning to leave in a month?
Not-At-All-Hopeful-Me: (Muttering) Ahem. We, uh, overlooked some requirements.
Wonderful Mother: I see.
The next option was my father. He has a heart condition and lung problems. He is also allergic to cats. He was, however, kind enough to say that he’d be happy to care for our beloved cat. Even though it might kill him. We told him not to worry about it.
My Fabulous Cousin in San Francisco was the subsequent phone call.
Fabulous Cousin: Sure, I’ll take him!
Excited Me: Seriously?!
Fabulous Cousin: No problem! My place gets lots of light and there are great big windows that look out over the bridge and bay. He’ll have lots to look at!
Excited Me: That sounds great! (pause) Wait. Do you have screens on all your windows?
Fabulous Cousin: No-o. Is that an issue?
Less Excited Me: What floor are you on?
Fabulous Cousin: The second. What. Will he fall out?
Even Less Excited Me: We-ell …
Fabulous Cousin: Oh My God. What if he misses you, gets depressed and commits suicide out of one of my screen-less windows? I could never live with myself if your cat killed himself on my watch.
Totally Not Excited Me: So that’s a no?
One of our final calls was to my Favorite Aunt and Uncle. The long version of the call was as follows:
Pessimistic Me: Hi guys. Can you take care of Our Beloved Cat for a few months until we can have him sent to us in London?
Favorite Aunt and Uncle: No.
Pessimistic Me: So that’s a no?
After many phone calls and much discussion, we realized that our options were down to one. We would have to see our Lovely Vet the next day for microchips and vaccines, start the paperwork and officially move in May. Byron’s company was nonplussed when he called to tell them the news. The conversation went something like this:
Byron: It looks like we won’t be able to move until May.
Kind New Boss: Excuse me?
Byron: It’s a cat issue.
Kind New Boss: It’s a what issue?
Byron: Our Beloved Cat will be unable to move until May.
Kind New Boss: (Unbelieving silence.)
Kind New Boss: Let me get this straight. Your cat is holding up our company expanding to Europe?
Byron: Now that you put it that way, it does sound rather silly.
Kind New Boss: I don’t care when the cat gets to England or how the cat gets to England. You’re getting to England in January.
Byron: How about March?
Kind New Boss: Oh for petessake.
Byron: Then my Adorable Wife can bring the cat in May.
Kind New Boss: (Huffily) Fine.
Byron: By the way, it may be expensive to get our Beloved Cat all of the shots and to fly him over there.
Kind New Boss: (Really unbelieving silence.)
Kind New Boss: What’s this cat’s name, anyway?
Byron: How is that relevant?
Kind New Boss: Corporate will want to know.
Byron: (Pause) Seriously?
Kind New Boss: No. Now what’s his name.
Byron: (Hesitant silence.)
Kind New Boss: Hello?
Byron: His name is Daffodil.
Kind New Boss: Are you frigging kidding me with this?
Byron: Talk to my Adorable Wife.
Daffodil’s vet visit was uneventful, if you don’t count the fact that we had to knock him out to let Our Lovely Vet get within five feet of the feisty fellow. But the good news was that when he woke up (cranky and flustered) he’d been micro-chipped and re-rabies vaccinated and was ready for his six-month wait. Oh happy day. Byron then bravely submitted the $452.00 bill statement from the vet to his company for reimbursement. The responses were numerous and pithy.
Byron’s previous and Very Nice Boss said, “A male cat named ‘Daffodil’??? Only in California. And, no, we are NOT paying for his sex-change.”
The company’s Controller responded similarly to the bill submission with the following:
“Relocation expenses have been approved for Daffodil.
However, due to company policy the following items will not be reimbursed
1. Sex change
2. Therapy sessions
3. Clothing allowance
All subsequent emails within the company that dealt with our upcoming move to London contained the phrase “Project Daffodil” in the subject line. Byron’s company appeared to be laughing at us.
Our next project was finding and purchasing a kennel for Daffodil’s travels. We checked the DEFRA site first (lesson learned) and then the airline sites. We found that the kennel needed be large enough to comfortably accommodate our pet standing up and turning around freely. Further, there must be at least two inches headroom space between the top of our pet’s head and the roof top of the kennel. Failure to have this checked would result in our pet being refused for transport on the day of our departure.
We were vigorous in our assessment of the potential kennels and meticulous in our measurements of Daffy. We pulled out the yellow measuring tape and spent a good part of one rainy afternoon measuring (or attempting to measure) a very reluctant-to-be-measured cat. The measuring tape came out and the cat went missing. In a one-bedroom apartment that’s quite a feat. After pulling him down from the rafters and reassuring him that the measuring tape was not, in fact, a torture device (somehow sniffing the tape gave him this information), we were able to place him on the living room rug and begin. I held the cat while Byron attempted the first measurement (nose to root of tail – tail excluded). Although Daffy kept turning his head at the most inopportune times, we were able to get a number, 17 inches, surprisingly easily. Next came the height measurement. Only we could no longer keep the cat standing. Rather, he insisted on lying down. We’d lift him up, he’d settle back down. Purring. So Byron wisely suggested we move on to the width measurement. At his widest point (the haunches) our beloved cat measured 9.5 inches.
He’s not fat. He was just lying down. Anyway. This might be my issue. Ahem.
Last, we had to do the height measurement. Whether he liked it or not. Funny thing was, at this point Daffy had decided that, not only was he no longer afraid of the measuring tape, he downright lurved the measuring tape. He rolled over. He bit the tape. He rubbed against the tape. He purred into the tape. He batted the tape with affectionate gentleness. Trying to get him to turn his head away from the object of his fancy and stand up was like, well … trying to herd cats. Finally, finally Byron was able to haul him upright and I got the quick measurement of 15 inches tall. Victory.
The trip to the pet store was not as eventful. We walked in. We found an appropriately sized kennel. We added a pad that is supposed to “absorb wetness” while allowing our pet to “maintain comfort levels”. And we found an attachable water dish. After bringing the entire contraption home, we set it up in our living room so Daffy could get used to it for the next few months. That’s right. We lived for months with a large plastic kennel in the middle of our living room for our cat’s emotional comfort. Turned out he loved the thing. Thought it was his new fun fort. His favorite pastime was drinking out of the attached water dish. No matter that his regular water dish, situated conveniently next to his regular food dish, was filled with perfectly fresh and chilled water. If there wasn’t water in the kennel water dish, we’d hear about it until we refilled the darn thing. And once filled, Daffy was more than thrilled to sit there and lap it all up. It became his new game.
Amazingly, even after the flight (which Daffy apparently spent underneath the piddle pad in the kennel), he still loves that kennel. And guess what? It’s still in our living room. Why, you ask? Because that’s THE ONLY FURNITURE WE HAVE!
But that’s a story for another day.