A Cat Named Bette Midler
Yesterday at 1pm at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, grumbles of “I was waiting for hours,” and “I was here first,” and “I was first in line,” cut through me as I tried to organize the chaos while people fought over the tiny, adorable kittens up for adoption.
Meanwhile, the adult cats could do nothing to make themselves small enough or cute enough for attention. By 1:20pm, most of the kittens were spoken for. I was kept busy doing interviews and paperwork, but once the madness died down, there was a lull.
Then at 3:15pm, a group of college guys came into the shelter. I asked if they were looking to adopt a cat or were just looking, when one of them said he wanted to adopt a cat, preferably a short-haired female. I took them upstairs to meet Bette Midler.
Bette Midler had been with us over 100 days. She was a six-year-old active cat who had spent most of the six years of her life in a basement as a mouser. Until we rescued her. It took a long time for her to adjust to being at the shelter, and had been put into an office foster because of her behavior (essentially, she lived in a large empty office where she had a lot more room, could look out windows, and was away from the stress of other animals). But she still wasn’t getting adopted.
Once the guys met Bette Midler, she melted. One of them was able to sit on the floor and cradle her in his lap while she looked adoringly up at him. His friends called him “the cat whisperer.”
And then those magic words came… “yeah, I’ll adopt her” and my heart nearly burst and I wanted to throw myself at him and hug him and thought, yes! This is what animal shelters are about. Finding cats like Bette Midler, who so deserve a new chance in life, a wonderful home.
Waiting in Line
I thought of Bette Midler as I waited in line to meet Jackson Galaxy, the famed cat behaviorist from the TV show My Cat From Hell. He was giving a book talk at the Boston Public Library as part of his paperback book tour. I thought about Bette amid grumbles of, “I got here at 10 this morning,” and “Make sure that lady doesn’t cut the line,” and “I was here first.” (In this instance, Jackson Galaxy was the tiny, adorable kitten.)
I had arrived at 11:30 this morning, thinking it was better to be overly cautious. When the library opened its doors at 1pm, some people actually began running to the lecture hall. The door to the lecture hall didn’t open until 1:30. Jackson Galaxy arrived at the event’s start time, 2pm.
Then he gave his talk.
There is no other way to describe Jackson Galaxy except that he’s cool. He talked about how ridiculous it is that so many people in this country own cats, but it’s still considered to be taboo. How we’re all viewed as “crazy cat ladies” (yes, even the men). Well that just isn’t true.
He talked about his background of working with cats in the shelter. And that what started as an “easy” job that he could tolerate while being a musician turned into him being a cat behaviorist on TV. He talked about working with cats in shelters, and clicker training them, and getting them to appear more adoptable. And he talked about how a cat named Benny in part changed everything, because Benny challenged him and humbled him as a cat behaviorist on a daily basis. Jackson Galaxy’s book, Cat Daddy, is mostly about the story of Benny, and Jackson’s transition from working at a shelter to becoming a full-time cat behaviorist.
It’s not really an exaggeration to say that I would have listen to this guy talk all day. But after his chat and some Q&As, he was done.
Waiting in Line Some More
After the talk, there was a long line wrapped around the lobby of the lecture hall so that people could meet Jackson and have a book signed. I knew I would have only a short moment with him and was wishing I had paid more attention in speech class in college—now was the time I needed an “elevator pitch”—so I tried to rehearse what I would say.
I wanted to tell Jackson about Bette Midler. About how when cats like her get adopted, I feel such joy that I know I need to be spending my time in the shelter instead of behind a desk. I wanted to tell him that my cat, Smirnoff, is my Benny—he gave me a crash course in cat behavior that while tough when I adopted him, I will forever be grateful for. That my cats, Smirnoff and Bacardi, are the best companions I could ask for. I wanted to tell him that I love my volunteer work so much, and since I’m planning on moving to LA very soon, I’m trying to get a job at a shelter in LA working with cats. That I love Best Friends Animal Society and hope I hear back from my job application this week. That I know he loves Best Friends too (he was wearing a No Kill LA wristband). I wanted to ask him if there are any other organizations in LA I should be connecting with. And I wanted to let him know that his show inspires me to think outside the box and that I want to become a shelter cat behaviorist, making cats’ time in a shelter the best it can be and decrease the time it takes for “problem” cats (and all cats) to get adopted.
But how do you say all that at once?
For every person who was in line to meet Jackson Galaxy, he gave a smile that said, “hey, thank you so much for coming to hear me talk, I think you’re awesome.”
But despite his high approach-ability, I was still nervous as I got nearer in line. What do I say? How can I tell him that I am interested in the super nerdy behavior stuff that often gets cut from his TV show, that he mentioned during his talk? How can I let him know that what I’d really love to do is grab a coffee and pick his brain about the shelter cat world, even though I know he’s way too busy to give some girl he’s never met his time?
I was next in line when it was announced that Jackson could only stay another ten minutes because he had a flight to catch. Suddenly, my semi-prepared speech had to be axed down significantly.
As I gave him my book to be signed, I said, “I’m moving to LA this summer. I want to work for Best Friends. I want to be a shelter cat behaviorist.” You know, the Sparks Note version.
There was no mention of Bette Midler, who is now settled into her new home with her new owner who adores her. No mention of Smirnoff who is at home with Bacardi, waiting for his dinner, and who is no longer an out-of-control high arousal cat.
Jackson Galaxy nodded his head, and said something like, “They’re really great,” meaning Best Friends, and some other positive response to my wanting to be a shelter cat behaviorist. Honestly, I was concentrating too hard on what I was going to say to listen properly.
I got one very blurry photo of us. (My semi-decent digital camera is somewhere at the animal shelter, so I had to dig out a super old one that barely functions. Plus I’m pretty sure the guy taking it didn’t care.)
I managed to offer Jackson a business card and told him I was going to write a blog post about the event if he wanted to check it out later. “Yeah, definitely,” he said. Then I left.
A Guy Named Jackson Galaxy
Now I’m back home with the alcohol cats. They’re slightly annoyed that I’m writing this instead of feeding them dinner (even though it’s not dinner time yet). Smirnoff is meowing his displeasure while Bacardi tries to walk across my laptop.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at work at a desk job so I can pay my rent, waiting for it to be Saturday again so I can go to the Animal Rescue League of Boston and help more cats get adopted. I’m hoping that very soon, that’s all I’ll be doing.
Jackson, if you do end up reading this, what else can I say? You’re a cool dude. Thank you for helping shelter cats.
I hope to see you in LA.