As I mentioned previously, my wife fell in love with a blind kitten she saw listed on a pet rescue website. The poor little guy had other problems, too, requiring more specialized care than I thought we could handle and I managed to talk Deborah out of the idea. Instead, we visited PETCO during a meet-and-greet adoptable cats event to see about alternatives.
On our way to the store, we passed a guy with a big smile and a small dog surrounded by a crew of fawning friends. We wondered if he hadn’t just adopted the dog a few minutes earlier.
“Is the PETCO thing dogs and cats?” I asked Deborah.
“I didn't think so, but maybe it is.”
A half block further we passed a mobile ASPCA adoption truck.
“Oh, maybe that’s where he got his dog.”
The truck had a big fiberglass dog face on the front of it, and pictures of dogs pasted all over the sides leading us to assume it was “dogs only.” We didn’t stop.
The meet and greet began at noon, and we arrived exactly on time. Nevertheless, out of the dozen or so cats inside the store, about half were marked with a variety of neon colored PostIt notes indicating they were unavailable: “HOLD” “AWAITING PICKUP” and so on. As a result, the selection was slim. Most of the cats were huddled in the back of their respective cages dreading the parade of gawkers that was already beginning to stream in—ourselves included. After about an hour Deborah decided she really liked a funny little grey and white guy with the rather unimaginative name of “Tom.” He was by far the most charming.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“What do you think?”
“I think we should get him.”
“Okay, then let’s do it.”
“Did you find one you like?” said a woman next to us. She was not associated with the store or the adoption process in any way, just a looky-loo like us. She proceeded to tell us how to care for cats, what to feed them, and so on. She went on and on and was still talking as Deborah, and I turned to find someone with the authority to help is.
“How come every time we are at a vet’s office or a pet store, there’s always some random old lady hanging out who feels compelled to educate us?”
“Always,” said Deborah.
We found the woman in charge and told her we were interested in Tom. She handed us a clipboard and a pen and told us to fill out the forms.
“Geez,” said Deborah, scanning the lengthy questionnaire.
After filling in the form, we were told it would be another half hour before someone became available to interview us.
Okay, we'll be back, we told her, and headed to lunch.
“Aren’t you excited?” Deborah said as we walked to a nearby diner.
“Sure, yeah, you know me,” I said. I pointed at my face. “This is me, excited.”
“What are we going to name him? We can’t call him Tom.”
“That’s for sure. But I don’t know. We’ll probably call him a bunch of things until something sticks. One step at a time.”
After lunch, we had to wait another ten minutes before the girl at PETCO became available. Eventually, she came over and proceeded to grill us, going over the answers we had written on the application form and asking for more detail. Deborah was getting agitated and annoyed at the scope of information that was required, but she bit her tongue until we finally made it to the next phase of the process.
“Okay, this all looks pretty good.," the woman said. "We’ll need to contact your current veterinarian, of course, to verify the information you gave us is all good." (We had told her about Rory, our recently deceased cat, as well as Miss Velvet, our surviving one.)
Deborah rolled her eyes. “Seriously? How long is it going to take? I mean, can we wait, or should we come back in an hour?”
“Oh,” the girl said. We don’t do same day adoptions. I’m surprised nobody told you that. No no no. Once we verify all of your information, we will schedule a home visit with one of our volunteers.”
“A home visit?”
“Yes, to inspect your apartment.”
“Are you kidding me?” Deborah was irritated at the thought of being inspected and judged by a girl who appeared to be not much older than the cat we were there to replace. “I’ve had cats my entire life. My last cat lived to be sixteen years old. I know how to care for a cat."
“Will they bring the cat with them when they come?” I asked.
“No,” the girl said. “Assuming you pass the inspection, you then come back here and pick him up the following weekend.”
“So best case scenario, we can get him next week?”
The girl flipped through a stack of pages on her clipboard and shook her head. “No. I’m afraid the volunteer who is assigned to do home inspections in your part of Brooklyn is away on vacation right now. She probably won’t be available for another two weeks.”
Deborah and I looked at each other. The woman, sensing our combined disappointment and irritation suggested we talk it over then added, somewhat judgmentally, “If you really want a cat right away you can always go to the ASPCA.”
She wrote her phone number on one of her neon colored PostIts and told us to text her once we decided what we wanted to do.
We left the store and grumbled on the street. “I don’t want some dopey volunteer coming into my apartment to see if I’m worthy enough to have a cat,” said Deborah.
“You can't blame them for wanting to screen out the, but I don't really want anyone coming to our apartment, either. If that’s their procedure, though, there’s not much we can do about it.”
“Should I text her and just say, forget it?”
“Why don’t we take a ride uptown to the ASPCA first. If we can’t find anything there, we'll have to wait, anyway. What time is it? The ASPCA website says to arrive two hours before closing for same-day adoption.”
"Two hours? Why?"
"To leave enough time for another colonoscopy, I guess."
As it turned out, the ASPCA’s process wasn’t nearly as rigorous. Mainly all we needed was to show ID, answer some questions, and sign a promise that we were telling the truth. Once we finished with our paperwork, a woman arrived to show us the available cats.
“I’m a dog person myself,” she told us. “I just started with the cats a month ago. They are so different from dogs.”
She was very friendly, but not the best person to answer our questions. Fortunately, there were plenty of other workers on site who could.
When we finally found a cat we liked, the woman had to double check to see if he was still available.
"We're not having any luck today, are we?"
While casually talking between ourselves about our recently deceased Rory, and wishing there had been a young orange cat available, someone overheard and said, “You might like Augustine. He's a nine-month-old orange cat. He’s a real sweetheart. Adorable. He had one of his hind legs amputated, but he’s a charmer.”
Deborah and I looked at each other, then looked at the volunteer: “Where is he?”
“He’s out on the truck today," she said. "If he hasn’t been adopted, he’ll be coming back here at the end of the day. You can wait if you want. Let me make a call and make sure he's still available."
"The mobile truck packs up at five o’clock. It’ll probably take them another half hour or forty minutes to get back here from Union Square . . .”
“Wait," I said. "He was on the mobile truck in Union Square? We were down there earlier. We thought they only had dogs on that truck.”
The woman shrugged.
“You won’t regret it He’s the sweetest.”
When the truck finally arrived, she was right.
The wait was worth it, we decided, so we took him home and named him Baskets.
And now he is internet famous.