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Dave Astor

Dave Astor

Posted: January 25, 2011 10:55 PM

An orange tabby fond of a yellow cornfield was driven 700 miles in a red car to a blue state with smaller expanses of green. Here's the colorful story of how a remarriage changed this furry fella's life.

My future wife was near the laundry building in her Indiana apartment complex when a cat followed her on a snowy 2001 day. Laurel took pity on the feline, and let him inside her place for some food and a long nap on the sofa. She spent the next week trying to find the cat's owner, but to no avail. The affectionate animal had probably been abandoned.

Laurel named the two-year-old cat Angus, and quickly learned that he was a critter who had to spend lots of time outside -- preferably in the large cornfield that abutted her Terre Haute apartment. Angus would roam the stalks all night in warmer weather, and he and Laurel developed a system where he'd meow outside her building when he wanted to finally come in. This would often be at around 5 a.m., when Laurel would sleepily stumble from her second-floor apartment to open the building's ground-level door.

Such was Angus' life at the time the divorced me met Laurel in 2002. Given that I lived in New Jersey, we had a long-distance relationship for more than a year. Actually, there were two long-distance relationships, because Angus and I slowly got to know each other as well.

After Laurel and I became engaged in 2003, we decided to live in my New Jersey house. A big reason was that I had a 13-year-old daughter we didn't want to uproot -- and the job possibilities for Laurel near Manhattan were better than for me in western Indiana. But New Jersey meant Angus had a big journey ahead of him.

As we packed up Laurel's apartment on a hot weekend in July '03, we felt bad for the confused cat who had to involuntarily move. Angus would soon have a three-floor house to reside in, but he didn't know that. And I thought guiltily that my small suburban backyard was no cornfield.

After the movers left with 90% of Laurel's belongings, we stuffed the other 10% into her tiny 1992 Ford Escort and carefully placed the carrier holding Angus onto the back seat. The vehicle had no air-conditioning, but Angus was shivering ... with anxiety.

Many hours later, we arrived in Pittsburgh to stay for the night in the house of Laurel's cousins Jean and Mike. We let Angus out, and who knows if he thought this was his new home? But it was back in the carrier the next morning.

We made it to New Jersey that night, and it took Angus a number of days to get used to an unfamiliar house rather than a modest-sized apartment. But get used to it he did. For instance, Angus happily discovered many different places to sleep in our un-posh dwelling -- including the attic floor, our bed, the living-room sofa, etc. He also enjoyed living with more people, but we could tell he was going bonkers not having some time outside. So, while we knew it's usually best to keep a cat indoors, we began letting him have his "prowls" -- though not for the entire night any more.

It wasn't a cornfield, but the area around our house had its charms for a cat. There were various yards to slip in and out of, a small paved area for Angus to rub his back against, plenty of weeds to munch, some trees to shimmy up and down, and many fireflies to leap in the air at (but never catch). When Angus was done roaming, he would race to the back door and smack his front paws against it to announce his desire for reentry. We'd usually be only a few feet away rather than a floor above as we hurried to let him inside.

Now Angus is nearly 12. Our feline buddy might be a bit less frisky, but he's still as healthy as can be. I don't know if he thinks about the days when he was an Indiana "Hoosier," but I think about how a divorce and remarriage can change several lives -- including that of a cat.