Friday, March 6, 2009

Introducing The Pets: Billy

Billy has been waiting patiently for his turn to be introduced, but he hasn’t exactly been staring at his belly button lint. He has his daily and nightly rounds to make around the neighborhood, and his front porch observations to record. He knows who got a package delivered today, who had to have the plumber come out, and whose house is being painted. He really does know Ed, the painter who’s currently working at Linda’s house down the street, and who has painted rooms in our house in the past. We talked to Ed when he started work at Linda’s last week. “Billy Bob came down to see me,” he reported proudly.

Our kitty boy is famous in the neighborhood, not only for visiting, but for his walks with She and Pancho. There is the woman with the boxer dog on a leash; a few feet behind them trots their companion cat, tail high and proud, on assignment. They walk for blocks, with Billy occasionally taking a shortcut through a drain pipe running under the street.

Billy isn't really named Billy Bob. He started out his residency here with the name of Billy Collins, my favorite poet. He isn’t a poetic sort of cat, though, and he quickly became Billy Boy or just plain Bill. Gangly and so decidedly not a poet, he was not terribly lovable. He was about a year old, and skinny as an envelope. We liked his intelligent and watchful eyes, and his beautiful stripes. She thought he was going to be big, because of his feet, and we had already said we’d take him before he stood up in his cage, Lincolnesque in his homeliness. Even his tail was skinny. But once you say out loud that you are going to rescue an animal from its cage, you don’t go back on your word. We took Billy and Miss T home on the same day.

The skinny little dude behaved as though he’d never been petted in his life, and couldn’t be less interested. In retrospect, we think he was nearly feral. He literally climbed the walls, leaving shreds of paint hanging in his wake. We had promised the rescue people that we would keep the cats indoors, but eventually Billy got Out. We didn’t “let” him out. This is a cat who can leap to the top of an interior door, and he has no trouble leaping over, around, or through a mere human. Once he finally convinced us that Out was where he had to be, or else, he became a happier and calmer fellow. He even abides, pretty much, by a 10pm curfew. And finally, he began to understand about cuddling and being petted, especially by She. He cuddles on her lap while she says her prayers, sleeps glued to her side, and head-butts and kisses her awake in the morning. He is still opposed to being picked up, but he is loving in every other way, and polite to strangers.

Remember The Velveteen Rabbit, who became real when he was loved? Billy became lovable when he was loved. Funny, I’ve seen the same thing happen with people. Have to remember that.


  1. How wonderful that you and She saw the beauty in Billy from the very start. He's a lucky kitty to be so loved. (If only Miss T could see his beauty!) And how lucky for your neighbors to be watched over by such a vigilant one as Billy. I love the picture of him peeking out from behind the angel. Is that a cat in the painting above him?

    Oh, I also adore Billy Collins. I feel sure he would be pleased to know that such a fine cat was named after him.

  2. Yes, Billy is a one-cat Neighborhood Watch system. The painting behind him is a watercolor done by a wonderful painter we knew in Mexico, Enrique Velasquez. The subject is an old man taking a siesta on a sidewalk next to a wall, with a cat on guard.

  3. I'm sorry, but it's impossible to resist picking Billy up--he is very good at tolerating it, though.

  4. Yes, it's true. He'll hold still and purr wildly for up to 60 seconds now. Then LEAP! and he's gone.

  5. My kitty (named "Fluffy" by someone else, honest) is much the same -- not so friendly when I got her nearly 2.5 years ago now -- but moreso. She now knows, mostly, that she can't bite me, no matter how overstimulated. The dogs don't sleep upstairs (I don't want them) -- so she's becoming my beloved bedtime buddy.