The Ballad of Maryann and Oz: A Platonic Love Story


One of my favorite readers, Linda, requested the story behind Oz and I finding each other, and his name.  I'm more than happy to regale you all, for those who haven't heard it.

Let's journey back to late 2009.  I've just recovered (at least physically) from my first intensive surgery on my over-sized  meningocele.  I spent the many months up to the surgery wallowing in a combination of despair, alcohol, and hysteria.  At this time I was still seeing my first ever therapist, and she wasn't much help.  We would break up a few months later, before my second surgery on my oversized meningocele, but not before she would help me in one very profound way.

We had stopped meeting at her office, and were now meeting in the study at her home (an early warning sign, if there ever was one, for me to get out).  She had recently adopted two kittens, and during our sessions she would let them hang out in the study.  One day I arrived, started chatting with her, and then one of the kittens jumped up on my lap.  I started bawling immediately, and ran my palm along its spine.  The therapist looked at me and said, "Have you considered getting a cat?"

I told her that before I lived alone, my roommate Amber had this kitten named Lenny who I had a love/hate relationship with.  I loved the cuddles and playtime, I hated the destruction of our furniture and other household items.  We could never do jigsaw puzzles!  When I moved into my own place, I thought of a kitten as a nuisance and besides, my new landlady had made it sound like she didn't want me to have any pets when I'd moved in.

After I left therapy that day, though, I thought about it more and more.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a companion, someone to come home to...someone who needed me.  I asked my landlady again, and it might have been the fact that she knew I was in a bad place, but she agreed to let me get a cat.  I started searching on, and doing research on cat-ownership.  I was never really responsible for Lenny, and when we had a cat when I was a kid it was more my sister's responsibility than mine.  I needed to brush-up!

In my mind I wanted an adult long-haired female cat that was friendly and cuddly.  But I didn't really find any of these at the shelters I visited.  A few weeks into my search, I decided to go farther out of town to a bigger shelter.  One of the volunteers, a wiry middle-aged man, asked me what kind of cat I was looking for.  I told him, and he frankly said, "You don't want a female.  Female cats are bitches."  I sort of looked at him blankly, and he said, "And some people, like myself, prefer that" as if I'd offended him by wanting a friendly cat!

So I started looking at the males, and I found a really sweet one-year old named Harvey.  He was a bit younger than I was looking for, but very sweet and energetic.  He was short-haired, but that was alright.  So I put him on hold (he hadn't been neutered yet) and planned to return later that week to take him home.

The next day my co-worker and I were still looking at (it's addictive), when this photo popped up:

An orange, long-haired 3.5 year old cat named Jerome who was marked as a 'leader of the pack', meaning friendly, outgoing, and confident.  I vainly thought, "HE'S GORGEOUS.  Surely he's mean or has something wrong with him if he's been posted on the website and not snatched up yet."  But just in case, I hopped in my car and sped to the shelter just as they were opening for the day.  A few other people were milling around outside.  I looked in through the window and saw him sleeping on a cat tree and became so anxious.  What if these other people got to him first!

As they opened the doors I made a bee-line right for him, but was stopped by the staff.  "Have you been here before and filled out the paperwork?"  I had!  So they let me right through to the cats, and thank God, the other people had to get registered!  It was just the two of us.  As I walked toward him, he saw me, and got up immediately, reaching his head out.  To smell me? I wondered.  No.  To do exactly this:

And it was love, pure and simple.  I may have spent about 20 more seconds with him before walking back into the office area and loudly proclaiming, "I want to adopt Jerome."  They seemed slightly suspicious of me deciding such a thing perhaps less than a minute after walking in the door and meeting him, but I assured them that I had been searching for weeks and I just knew.  He was the one.  We'd found each other.

I filled out the paperwork, paid the fees, etc. and said goodbye to him before driving back to work.  Once there, I called the out-of-town shelter to tell them I was no longer adopting Harvey.  Then I had to think of what to name him, because Jerome was not going to stick.  At all.  Part of me secretly wished he was a female so I could name him Ginger (since he's orange), and then we would be Maryann and Ginger.

At the time I'd been really into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and couldn't get over Seth Green's character...Oz.  He was so loyal, funny, and kind.  And he had red hair!  Plus, I liked the musical relation, to both The Wizard of Oz and The Boy From Oz.  Oz it was.  Short, sweet, and nicknamable.  (My friend Kj calls him Ozzie all the time.)

When work was finally over, I went to pick up Oz and take him home.  I had set up his food and litter box, and bought him lots of toys.  I tried to follow the recommendation of keeping a new cat in one room for a while so they can adjust to their new surroundings, but Oz didn't act scared or uncomfortable at all.  He wanted to look at and smell everything.  I remember the first time we walked into the kitchen, and how he stood up erect on his hind legs to get a better look.  I was awful about letting him go everywhere--even kitchen counters--and still am to this day.

After a while I settled down in my easy chair, and soon Oz jumped up on my ottoman, and fell asleep.  He even slept on my bed the first night, and I'm not ashamed to tell you I totally cried with joy and relief.

The hardest days of my life were the recovery from the second surgery, spending weeks on my back in the hospital, unable to sit up, walk, shower, or keep food down.  But part of the misery was missing Oz, zip codes away from me.  (He had my landlady--whose family wanted him for themselves!--and my family looking in on him regularly.)  We've formed an extremely close bond, and as far as pets and their owners go, been through a lot together.  I'm so thankful that he knows to be near me when I'm crying, follows me wherever I go (unless he's sleeping), and has brought much needed comfort, distraction, and humor into my life.  Not to mention letting me take LOADS of pictures of him, sometimes in costume.  :)


Linda said...

Awwwww! You needed an Oz and Oz needed a MaryAnn. That really worked out for the both of you!

Did you ever hear why his previous people decided to turn him in at an animal shelter? I am always fascinated wondering what sort of secret life my cats had before I found them.

The idea of "MaryAnn and Ginger" made me laugh. But I think Oz suits him. He brought a bit of magic and a new world to escape into when reality was hostile and debilitating. And really, jigsaw puzzles are more challenging when you have to dig underneath the couch to find the missing pieces, which is way more fun.

Thanks for posting the video clip! It was fun to hear him purr.

jonathan edmund said...

My world is a better place having read this!!!! <3 <3

Maryann said...

Linda, I meant to talk more about his background, but was worried the post was already too long!

His papers had NOTHING in them! No mention of whether he was indoor or outdoor, if there were other pets in his home, or even what kind of food he likes, etc. There certainly wasn't anything about why he was given up either.

"But I think Oz suits him. He brought a bit of magic and a new world to escape into when reality was hostile and debilitating. " That sentence made me tear up! You have such a way with words.

And Jonathan, thank YOU for reading it!!! That means so much. xoxox

loverstreet said...

i am so glad you didn't get a bitchy cat. there are enough of those people in each of our daily lives, so having a cat that knows to be near when you cry and lets you dress him up and take photos (even if he only tolerates it and doesn't totally LOVE it) is exactly the kind of post-surgical recovery you needed, in a million different ways. love the story, love Oz, and love you!