A Parade of Pets

The True-Life Adventures of a Senior Newspaper Publisher
January 1, 2023 at 4:13 p.m.
Rainie the yowling cat
Rainie the yowling cat

...by Michelle Roedell, Editor, Northwest Prime Time

Last month’s post outlined a few perils of running a business from home, which we’ve done since the beginning. Despite any pitfalls, we enjoy the pleasure of a zero commute, plus being surrounded by furry and feathery friends while we work.  

Pets and professionalism don’t always mix, but that’s okay with us.

When we first started publishing the paper back in 2000, our pets numbered within the “normal” range: one dog, two cats and two cockatiels: Beakman and Pete.

Over time, this colorful cast of characters grew.

We became known far and wide as soft touches who opened our home to animals in need. Friends, family or even vague acquaintances would “temporarily” drop off their pets for various reasons, never to pick them up again. Then word got out amongst the neighborhood animals that ours was the place to go for food, warmth and other creature comforts. Strays tended to show up on our doorstep.

Several of our pets and fosters were featured in the pages of Northwest Prime Time or became connected to work in other ways. Callers to the workplace, for example, might hear the charming, cheerful chirps of cockatiels in the background. Not so charming when those soft chirps unexpectedly morphed into rowdy “catcalls” or even a whistling rendition of the theme to The Andy Griffith Show. If I was on the phone, I was also on alert for the times when Beakman, the yellowy-white one with his bright orange cheeks, would cock his head to regard me with a certain sleepy-eyed look that meant he was about ready to hop on my shoulder, lean over, press his beak to my lips and joyfully erupt in a volley of loud smacks.

(left to right) Pete & Beakman

 

In so many ways, our pets were part of the experience of producing the paper, and not only by showing up in print. One time in particular comes to mind.

For many years, Northwest Prime Time featured “Northwest Notables” on our cover. The opportunity to interview folks is such a privilege and I take the job seriously, whether I have bird feathers in my hair or not. Just to clarify, I conduct interviews by phone, so no one knows if I have feathers in my hair. Or not.

There have been many memorable interviews over the years, but none more enjoyable than the time I talked with the warm and wonderful Connie Thompson for our October 2012 cover article.

Connie Thompson is the award-winning news veteran who spent 46 years with KOMO 4 and was well-known as a consumer advocate. During the interview, one of our rescue cats inserted herself into the experience.  

Rainie was a scrawny, gray tabby, an elderly gal who was at least 13 years old when we took her in. She was so skinny that we dressed her in a pink sweater to keep her warm. By the time she was 17, we realized that Rainie had become mostly blind and completely deaf. She seemed to get along just fine, but she started yowling while she walked. It was an ear-splitting call, remarkable for such a tiny little thing. The vet told us that he didn’t know why, but deaf cats often yowl. He said that that Rainie was in good health for her age and advised us not to worry.

If I wasn’t in my usual spot on the couch where I worked on my trusty laptop, Rainie tended to wander the house to find me. When it came time to interview Connie Thompson, Rainie was sound asleep, and I snuck off to a remote corner of the house—a quiet spot and excellent place to conduct interviews. In those days I used an old-fashioned corded landline because it offered reliable, crystal-clear sound.

Halfway through the interview with the delightful Connie Thompson, I heard Rainie wake up downstairs. Uh oh. While I was talking with Connie, I could hear Rainie on the move, yowling in the distance. As the interview progressed, so did Rainie. I kept hoping she would venture through other parts of the house instead of upstairs, at least until Connie and I were done. But then I heard Rainie on the stairs. She made it to the top. She was on the landing. She was walking down the hallway. She was nearly in the room, her head pointed toward the corner where I was tethered to the wall by the antiquated landline.

I was about ready to interrupt the interview to scoop up Rainie and settle her down, but Connie beat me to the punch. She asked, her voice rich with concern, “Is that a baby crying?” I had to apologize and explain that it was not a baby, but a tiny, ancient, deaf cat who yowled while she walked. Connie replied, “Poor thing. I wonder if she is echolocating.”

Aha!

Echolocation is a technique used by bats and other animals who emit sound and navigate by the echoes that bounce back at them. Some scientists theorize that deaf cats yowl because their sensitive whiskers can pick up sound vibrations and yowling helps them get around. Thanks for clearing up that mystery, Connie.

The warm and wonderful Connie Thompson

 

Connie retired eight years after our interview having spent 46 years with KOMO News. You can read my article about Connie Thompson here. While Rainie is not mentioned, her spirit remains somewhere around the edges.

As I’m writing this blog post, a pup is curled up on one side, a cat on the other. So goes the way of life at Northwest Prime Time.

Bijou the pup and Miso the kitty are usually curled up beside me as I work

 

In case you missed them, you can catch up on past blog posts with the links below:


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