March 14, 1987---October 31, 1997
Sherlock and I first met during the early summer after I had earned my Masters in Film Studies at the University of Iowa. Actually, it was not a formal introduction, but a rather fleeting visual contact of sorts. My best friend was pulling into my landlady's driveway and Sherlock was gazing out of a large picture window. My roommate at the time, Pat Crowley, had mentioned that our landlady, Eileen Naughton, had recently acquired a cat. In reality, Eileen's daughter had forced the cat on her, since he needed a home and one couldn't be found. So Sherlock had changed hands a few times before he began rooming in the house above my basement apartment. The instant that I first saw this dark tiger-striped tabby, I thought, "That cat is going to be mine." I was immediately taken aback by this thought and I silently reprimanded myself for being so selfish. True, this had been careless of me, but as it turned out, it had also been a kind of premonition. For in just four months time, my roommate moved out and a furry, four-legged one moved in! On November 1, 1987, I became a proud owner of a cat and he of me. It took a few months for the two of us to adjust to this relationship since we were both rather stubborn. At first, it seemed to be a kind of battle as to who would truly end up being the Big King Kitty.
Pat Crowley and I had several occasions to take care of Sherlock, or rather, "Mr. T," as he was known as at the time. Having this cat around was an absolute delight for both of us. Seeing me and this cat playing together and just lounging around the pad would've struck all of my family members as rather uncharacteristic of me. The family cat, an orange tabby named Tiger, and I were never overly warm towards one another. Ever since Tiger joined the Morrison clan in late August of 1964, he and I never really saw eye to eye. Both before and after neutering, Tiger would mysteriously attack without warning or provocation. Tiger was a marvelous pet, but it was only these few and unfortunate occurrences that seemed to drive a little wedge between us. I would gently pat Tiger on the head and let him sit in my lap, but I wouldn't really go out of my way to play with him or ever pick him up and hold him close. To be perfectly blunt, I was afraid of Tiger's teeth and claws and I had had little wounds on my scalp to justify it. Yes, I had a slight fear of cats. Strange but true!
However, I was never afraid of Sherlock. I would pick him up and hold him close without hesitation. Sherlock could give me love bites on my upper arms and it didn't ever bother me one iota. Sherlock enjoyed getting real close to my face and nestling his head under my chin whenever I was relaxing on the sofa or watching TV. And Sherlock and I could play for hours -- his favorite game was hide and seek. Yes, my family would've been thunderstruck had they witnessed these kitty cat antics at the time. I really enjoyed taking care of Sherlock and one could have called me a definite cat person. But it took the passing of Tiger to realize what was there hidden inside me. Tiger died from cancer the same week John Lennon was murdered in December of 1980. I was living away from home when this occurred, but the impact hit me one year later when I moved back in. Both me and my brother Ron were affected the same way: the family house was empty without our Tiger. There were several times where I would come around the corner from the living room and into the dining room and Tiger would be there resting in his usual spot. I would hear his voice when all was quiet in the house, especially early in the morning. I thought I could hear his little collar bell jingling as he ran up to the top of the basement steps -- just as he would always do when I used to get up to deliver the morning papers.
Relaxing on the patio!
I had missed Tiger so much that when Eileen Naughton offered me her "Mr. T" kitty cat years later, I accepted without thinking it over a second time. Which was interesting since I didn't have a job at the time, so how was I supposed to take care of this new cat? Eileen paid the initial vet bills and my mother sent down Tiger's cat care items, which had all been kept over the years. Everything was off to a good start or so it seemed. One of the initial tasks I had before me was thinking up a good name for my cat. Eileen mostly referred to him as, "Hey you" or just simply "T." One of the characteristics I had noticed before about this cat was that he would sniff out all of my guests almost like a dog would do, except concentrating on the hands and feet. I would find myself explaining that my cat was "looking for clues: where you've been recently and what you had for dinner," etc. So in very short order, I christened my kitty "Sherlock Holmes," for he was a detective cat -- at least I thought he was. But Sherlock was also a Houdini-like escape artist for a period of time. He was only used to me taking care of him for no more than one or two weeks at a time. So when that interval was over, Sherlock would sneak out of my apartment and head up the basement steps and back into Eileen's house. Among other things, Sherlock missed that huge picture window in Eileen's living room. All I had to offer him were two small, somewhat grungy cellar windows. But I had built a couple of towers made out of heavy apple boxes which made excellent kitty cat window perches. However, I guess that this wasn't enough to win Sherlock over to my part of the world, so to speak.
As I mentioned earlier, initially it was a kind of battle of wills between Sherlock and myself. Sherlock was not used to being disciplined for general cat naughtiness or having a younger, more agile biped chasing after him to administer it. Fortunately, I didn't have any house plants around just waiting to be knocked over like my landlady did. Still, I had plenty of other items around to claw, scratch and render asunder. However, the various measures of justice I had to dispense were always firm but fair. I used the three times, you're out rule before temporarily imprisoning Sherlock within the second bedroom in my apartment. But Sherlock wanted no part of this system and so, needless to say, he would eventually escape and run back up into Eileen's place. Eventually, Sherlock and I got used to each other's idiosyncrasies, especially when I got myself a steady full-time job and I became more of a creature of habit. I marveled at how fast Sherlock adjusted to his new home and how well he trusted me in handling him and for general grooming, particularly in trimming claws. Sherlock was exceptionally well behaved even when going to the vet! Every single day I kept learning just how special a cat Sherlock truly was!!!
Sherlock and me!
I have so many fond memories of Sherlock. I remember when he would follow me to the bus stop every morning before I left for work, and that he would be waiting for me on Eileen's front steps when I arrived back home. Sherlock enjoyed showing off whenever I joined him while he was outdoors. He would run around the front yard, strike a heroic pose and then leap up on to the neighbor's fence, launch himself to a nearby tree and scurry up to a branch. When I would be mowing the lawn, Sherlock would watch from the front steps for a while and then join the fun and play dodge the mower. As I took care of the backyard, he would lounge in the shade under the picnic table on the patio. I remember how Sherlock helped a work crew when a new sewer was installed. While the ditch was just getting started, Sherlock assisted the men and began to dig with his front paws! I also recall when Sherlock would patrol the neighborhood with his two cat friends and how they would greet each other with a friendly snarl and a raised right paw as if saluting. I remember how Sherlock would scold me, in so many meows, whenever I would miss my usual bedtime during the work week. Cats are so perceptive! If I was fighting some type of virus, Sherlock would look up at me with concerned eyes. He'd always be next to me while resting in bed and keeping me warm as I tried to recover from an ailment. I'll always remember how all of the women who happened to meet Sherlock would exclaim, "What a beautiful cat!" I can still see that incredible diamond shaped design within his tiger stripes on the top of his shoulders. I can still hear his voice and the gentle murmurs and other vocalizations he made as I talked to him. Sherlock was so special! For me, he will always be the best cat ever.
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THE MORRISON CAT FAMILY PAGE