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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Continuing Story: Elsa Clair and Calvin Come to Live with Us

A few weeks ago, I introduced our two new kittens, Elsa Clair and Calvin. Unfortunately, the Part II of my story got interrupted by a little ol' hurricane named Sandy (which you can read about in Stormy Weather and Sandy's Aftermath.) That was followed by Snowstorm Athena (Stay tuned for that entry, still to be written).

We now return to our story...
Elsa Clair


Tiny black and white balls of fluff and fur, the two kitties traveled in style to their new home from the vet clinic where I had adopted them, riding in one of our cat carriers.  Having done the research on how to introduce kittens to the current four-legged inhabitants of our house, I whisked the babies up the stairs and brought them right into the bathroom safe room I had prepared for them.

In the bathroom were a litter box, some toys, a blanket, a soft, circular bed and a curved floor scratcher. I opened the door of the crate and two curious faces peered out. Within seconds, the two Adorables tumbled into my home.

Calvin and Elsa Clair on the cat scratcher. They slept on it as if it was a bed.

I left them there to adjust and brought the crate downstairs for all the other creatures to investigate. Which they did. Quite thoroughly.

Athena inspects the crate. It smells like Kitten!

I spent lots of time with all the other creatures with whom I share my home: the dogs, Lilah, Jasper and Tucker, and the cats, Dawn and Athena. I left the kittens to get used to their new surroundings, checking in with them periodically to pet them and snuggle them and to feed them and get them settled for the night.

Calvin and Elsa Clair snuggling together and getting used to their surroundings.

I hadn’t named them yet, so I began to ponder some ideas. I had picked out names for the original pair of kitties. (If you missed it, read my last post where you can find about the kittens I thought I was adopting.) The male was going to be Max, as he reminded me of the troublemaker Max in the book Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak. And the girl cat just seemed like a Chessie, named after the kitty logo for the shipping companyChessie Systems.  Those names belonged to the other cats as far as I was concerned, and I had to start all over.

The tiny girl kitty that came home was so thin and delicate; holding her felt like you were holding a bird in your hands; you could feel her ribs, and she was so, so light.  I starting thinking of black and white birds like the magpie (I could call her Maggie!). As for the boy: nothing. No ideas. I came up blank.

In conversations with my daughter, I was describing the new kittens and talking about black and white birds. I told her about Maggie. Another option I said was Adelie, like the penguin. But the cat was so thin, she didn’t look chubby like a penguin and that name just didn’t fit.  And that’s when Corinne’s boyfriend Luke said, “You should name her Claire.”

Ah yes, the character Claire from the TV show Lost (that Corinne refers to as the “TV Show That Must Not Be Named” because she was so angry at the cop-out ending).  In one of the early episodes of the series, when strange animals like polar bears began appearing out of nowhere, I was convinced that there was a penguin in the rustling bushes of the jungle. Turned out it was Claire. Thus, our new cat was not a penguin, so she should be Claire.

Sounded right. I said I’d think about it, try it out.

But the next morning I had other issues to deal with; I woke up to find nasty messes all over the safe room floor, and it didn’t take long to realize that the little girl kitty was sick.

Very sick. Not eating. Diarrhea. Hunched over. Lethargic.

She hadn’t been home 24 hours, and  before I knew it, she was on  her way to the emergency animal hospital.

As I signed her in, they asked me her name. Tears welled up in my eyes and I said, “She doesn’t even have an official name yet.” I wrote down Claire, not feeling right about it, but needing to put something.

Here’s something you learn when you are at the emergency clinic—whether it’s for a human or a pet. Time can go backwards. Or slow to stopping. For months—or an hour and a half—I watched little Maybe Claire breathe and purr. And even though I barely knew her then, I just kept willing her to be okay. She was too small, too tiny to be so ill. The vets admitted her to the clinic where they assessed her condition and gave her fluids.

The rest of the weekend passed in a blur. Eventually, I brought little boy cat (still un-named) to the emergency vet, where I picked up Maybe Claire and brought them both back to the original vet where I had adopted them. There, she was nursed back to health, with her brother to keep her company. We went to visit them on a Sunday morning, bringing a bed and blanket from home so the kittens would have some familiar smells when they finally came back to live with us.

Finally, on Tuesday evening, after tests and xrays and lots of special food and tons of love, the kitties came home. (The vet didn’t charge me a nickel for their care; they were only focused on making everyone well, and felt so bad that Maybe Claire had gotten so sick.)           

On the way to the vet to pick them up, I was inspired.  The boy cat had a mask that reminded me of Calvin, from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. The comic character Calvin would dress up as Stupendous Man, with a mask and cape. Thus our little kitty became Calvin, Stupendous Cat.

Calvin, Stupendous Cat on a jar of sea glass that we use to prop the door open.

And I had become increasingly unhappy with Claire as a name for our thin little girl. The Claire of Lost was whiny, and disappears during the TV series, and maybe dies. (Sorry for any spoilers!)  I needed a replacement name, one that felt stronger. I suddenly remembered the lioness Elsa, from the book and movie Born Free. Elsa was the first lion raised by humans but taught to live in the wild.  She was a strong, loving character. Sold! But somehow, it didn’t seem right enough.  

When I had first considered Claire, I had looked the name up online. Claire—or more specifically Clair—means “light” in French. Think of the orchestral piece Clair de Lune (moonlight) by Claude Debussy

Elsa Clair on the same jar.

And then I realized. My strong little kitty, who fought off her illness, deserved two names. It just seemed right. Take off the “e” in Clair so she’s not quite named after the character, but more after “light,” and combine it with Elsa and there you have it: Elsa Clair. Perfect. I hear the name with a southern accent: “Elsa Clair, what are you doing up there? “Elsa Clair, leave that alone!”
As for Elsa Clair’s health? My best guess is that our little girl had picked up some little intestinal bug. I think she was thin to begin with; perhaps her three brothers bullied her a little around the food bowl? After she was all better and settled back home, both Calvin and one of the big cats got sick, too, though they both recovered within a day.

Today, Elsa Clair and Calvin are healthy and energetic. Calvin outweighs Elsa Clair by quite a bit, but she makes it up for it with the spunk and Don’t Mess With Me of a lioness.

And I couldn’t imagine having any other cats. These little furry fuzzheads crawled into my arms and my heart within minutes of my meeting them. They so obviously chose me. And so obviously were meant to be part of my family.

It was simply Meant To Be.

It's a big world out there. In a future post, I'll write about how the kittens and the other four-legged family members met each other and learned to get along.

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