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Charlie Bear

Charlie is one of my foster fails. He and his ‘sister’ (not a blood sister, but all my animals are called sisters and brothers) were presented to me as 4–5-week-old kittens to foster. Sure, no problem. My husband was a little less enthused.

“What happens if they don’t get adopted?”

“Oh, phsaw, they’re kittens, kittens go quick.

A month and a half later there wasn’t one application to adopt them. A temporary situation was turning to forever and my dogs were inclined to chase bark. I couldn’t keep them in the one room forever, hated the litter box and feeding area (again, it was supposed to be temporary!) and my anxiety was crazy bad. Worse? They recognized me as safety, security and love, and I loved them back. The day I gave them to another foster I cried uncontrollably.

Scroll a month later, husband on board and helped me work livable permanent strategies as we welcomed them home forever.

Charlie is all black with dramatic white whiskers. He was found under wood pallets in a construction yard either abandoned by irresponsible humans or separated from his mama cat. He was always the skittish one, hiding behind the couch for the first week and following his ‘sister’ in exploring and finally out to the house. He developed socially about a week after her but never quite as bold and confident (yet) as her either.

But he is ‘my’ cat. I’ve had three, and all of them have been so different than others.

My first, Felix, passed after 17 years. She (yes, she!) saw me through an alcoholic husband, angry stepchildren, divorce, temporary houses, a toxic relationship, moves up and down California and finally, when I met and married my husband she relaxed, her watch over, and passed. At seven pounds she knew she could intimidate the hell out of people and used it to her advantage. A growl, hiss or caterwauling cry – no one would dare move her or get near her.

Yes, she held a wonderful cat sitter hostage, too scared to move her off her lap with the low growl; said cat sitter stayed on the couch for an hour before Felix decided to get up. Then there was my six-foot husband and his son, both barred from leaving the house when the 7-pound girl sat in the middle of the hall, daring them to try leaving. Oh, and I will never forget being asked to come to the back area of the vet to get her because she scared them. She was howling and hissing, but when she saw me she purred and mewed. Yup. Black cats and their people!

My second black cat, Buffy, was a Braveheart. Curious, strong and not bothered by lightning, thunder or earthquakes. I named her during my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” period, the same premise for my Willow – Buffy’s best friend. Buffy died after about 10 years.

Now I have Charlie. And this I know: he will be like his predecessors – devoted to one rather all, affectionate to one not all and sweet to one, not all. It’s a black cat thing, or at least my black cats. Charlie has to be in my arms which makes computer work difficult. If he sees me go to my office he makes his way there to be held. He is still skittish but is growing and will hopefully grow with more confidence.

Charlie is a black tabby cat. Both parents must have the B-allele to carry the black gene to carry off a black kitten, but underneath that is tabby stripes. If he basks in the sun you can see the stripes, and with time may ‘brown up.’ He is striking with those whiskers, but getting a decent picture is hard. First, he doesn’t like the camera and second, photographing a black animal can be a challenge. Like our Black Lab, they soak in the light and often are too dark with no features or blurry in darker surroundings. They tend to disappear without good lighting – stealthy little beings that they are.

Fun facts about black cats. We’ve grown up with black cats as harbingers of bad luck, witches familiars and other nonsense. In many cultures, black cats are signs of good luck and let’s not forget their revered status in ancient Egypt.

The genes that help make up the black fur may also give them resistance to disease. Yup, the National Institutes of Health discovered that the mutation that causes the black fur is related to the human genes that are resistant to HIV!! Since cats and people share the same kinds of disease (i.e. feline AIDS, cancer, diabetes), who knows how they may help us understand human disease and potentially cure or prevent it!

Let’s not skip the fact the black cat may be a love magnet. Yup – in Japan single women with black cats are believed to have more suitors, and in British midlands, a black cat is seen as a good luck and happiness – some given as wedding presents to a bride.

All superstition, medical factoids and folklore aside – I find black cats a fascinating blend of independence and devotion, bravery and craving cuddles, and youthful for years. Charlie has the potential of making many photographs as well as giving me all the love and cuddles a kitty can bring.

I just hope we get to the point where we have less hissing and growling at the dogs, and more nose kisses and head bumps. I can certainly dream.

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