Sense and nonsense: Would a cat by any other name be just as sweet?
By Lynda Hollenbeck
Most of the time my memory is pretty good. Both long-term and short-term — if I concentrate on whatever it is I'm trying to recall.
There are exceptions, of course. One such incident occurred recently when, for whatever reason, I was trying unsuccessfully to remember a deceased pet's name.
In my mind's eye was a vivid image of the gorgeous, smoky grey feline of enormous proportions. He had beautiful eyes and the sweetest countenance. He was affectionate and a cat whose company I enjoyed immensely.
But for the life of me, I couldn't say his name.
It made me think of T.S. Eliot who, in his "Old Possum's Tales of Practical Cats," claimed that though our feline friends may respond when called by the names given by their owners, there will always be the true name known only by the cat itself.
Eliot was a confirmed cat-lover and understood the feline psyche.
But I knew this cat had had a name he responded to, even if it wasn't his "real" name. I just couldn't ferret it out of the recesses of my brain.
When my mystery was solved, it was obvious that it hadn't been that unusual a moniker, so I don't know why it posed such a dilemma for me. His name was Taylor, with his full name actually being High-Taylor, so given by my late husband because of the manner in which he carried the luxurious plumage.
Like a quill pen, the full, bushy tail was always erect.
Ed would say, "Look at him, Lynda. He really is a high-tailer, so we have to call him High-Taylor."
I didn't argue.
I didn't recall all of that without assistance. I asked my friend, Carolyn Waldorf, to look it up in my file at the veterinary clinic where she works.
Our pets' names through the year s were often the point of controversy in the House of Hollenbeck. I'd pick out a name, bestow it on said animal, then Ed would come along later and change it. Amazingly, the animals would adjust immediately. He was a strong influence.
Case in point: Fluffy, a precious kitten I had named Annie.
Granddaughter Molly, who was pretty young, fell in love with the silky ball of grey fluff. She resembled a miniature muff.
A few days after the kitten got to our house, Molly came by to meet her. She begged to name her and wasn't at all happy when I told her the deed had been done.
She thought the name ought to be Fluffy.
"Oh, Molly, I don't want to call her that," I said. "I've already named her Annie."
I failed to take into account the persuasive powers a granddaughter can have on her adoring Poppy. The next thing I heard was Molly talking to the kitty cradled in her arms, saying, "Well, she can call you Annie if she wants to, but I'm gonna call you Fluffy."
About that time her staunchest supporter picked up the contented kitten and informed me that I had been outvoted, overruled and disenfranchised as far as the naming process went.
"We have to call her Fluffy," Ed told me. He couldn't have been more serious if he had said, "We have to evacuate in 20 minutes."
There was no way to win the battle. What heretofore had been an Annie immediately became a Fluffy.
The late Wanda Williams, who was the heart and soul of the Humane Society here for more than two decades, had a real gift for naming animals. She would choose a name that would help her recall the circumstances from which the animal had come.
Two puppies that a woman presented to Wanda in an old-fashioned potato sack were named "Ida" and "Ho." She never forgot their origin.
A similar situation resulted from a canine pair abandoned at the Humane Society shelter in an apple crate.
Wanda's choices for monikers? "Cora" and "Seedy."
In keeping with Wanda's tutelage, in my household today is a beautiful dilute-tortoiseshell cat that I initially named Ellie. As a kitten, she had been hit by a car and was rescued by the folks at Elliott Electric.
My thinking was that I would always remember where she came from with that name.
Ed changed my mind. After the former Fluffy became a plump, round little cat that he found charming, he compared her to a Butterball turkey.
"She has to be called Butterball," he told me one day.
"Oh, that's so corny," I responded.
As if on cue, the cat immediately ran over to him, rubbed against his leg and purred her mightiest.
There are some battles you just don't win.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.