At the back of the single-wide trailer is a small room, used as the Sanctuary office, but known to all as the Leukemia Room. Most of our feline Leukemia cats now live in what’s called the Old Aids / Val Jones complex, and there’s usually a little juggling around to get the best combination of cats that will get along together: who can cope with bossy Merlin? who can stand up to aggressive Jerry?
But the Leukemia Room is home to just a few very quiet cats, who benefit from the calm space, and also from the removal from all the feline cold germs that get passed around. They get no casual Sunday visitors, though on other days there are always volunteers who will go in and spend time with them. Smoochie has lived there for some time; he was joined by our lovely Harry and most recently by big fluffy Bear. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of shy Marlowe.
The single-wide trailer has no access to the courtyard for the cats – these are all essentially indoor cats, though on the east side there’s an extensive covered deck where cats can get their fresh air and a little separation from the activity inside. And the Leukemia Room, too, has its little deck, with a double-locked entrance from the main deck.
Volunteers know that working with leukemia cats means careful hand-washing before and after – but Leukemia Room volunteers also know that working here means watching carefully for a small black cat, who paces the floor outside the doors of both entrances.
Harvest is usually a pretty easy-going guy who gets on well with the other cats – especially his buddy Babylon. But he REALLY wants in to the Leukemia Room, and we think that the attraction is Marlowe, who lives on the other side of the door. And the two can never be together; she’s leukemia-positive, and leukemia cats can transmit the virus through their saliva. For his own safety, Harvest must stay out. Every now and then he tries to do a jail-break in the wrong direction; he has actually managed it once, and had to be quarantined until his blood-tests showed him to be leukemia-free.
That was the simple beginning to a thwarted love-story I was going to call Romeow and Julicat. But it’s not as simple as that,
I had finished my Single-wide shift last week, and was sitting in the outside area of the Leukemia room, cuddling with Harry – who, as volunteers know, is a very single-minded cuddler! Marlowe emerged from her bed on the shelf and sat glaring at me; Marlowe is not a cuddler, and doesn’t see why anyone else should be.
There was a flurry of activity from the deck beyond the door, where a plate of food was being served, and then a little black cat detached itself from the crowd and came over to the door. Marlowe perked up; eyeing me cautiously, she descended the ramp to the door, and the two cats had a rubbing-and-posing conversation for about five minutes.
Harry was miffed – my attention was clearly divided, and he went off to do something else. I took a chance and slipped through the door, hoping to get some pictures from the other side.
It turns out that the alternate black cat is Clyde, the sister of our beautiful Bonnie Boy (check his link for the story of their names).
Whatever lies behind it, black cats pace at both the Leukemia Room entrances, and volunteers entering have to keep a wary eye open for a shadow trying to slide through on their heels.