It is February 10, 1996, and difficult to believe that although I have a window open today, less than a week ago the temperature outside was below zero all day and with the wind the chill factor was -40° F or worse. Today I took the cat out for a walk. Jeans, a flannel shirt, vest and beret were enough to keep me warm.

Ling Ling is a male seal point Siamese and like most cats has much to teach humans about personal dignity and maintaining comfort. If he will go out, the weather is indeed pleasant. He will walk on a leash and has some other dog-like characteristics such as retrieving and watching the apartment.

People notice him when we are out for walks, both from his appearance -- brown-black face, paws, and tail graduating to a rich cream breast and underbelly with brilliant blue eyes -- and the fact that he is very vocal. The story of how he became a member of the family is a bit involved.

My son Geoff was home following a hospitalization. It was a fine June Friday evening and we walked to Downer Avenue from our house on Newhall Street. We started back at dusk. On a corner several people were gathered around a most extraordinary creature. His tail was up and he was "talking" but when we went across the street to look at him and tell the people what a beautiful cat they had, they said that he wasn't theirs, but had stopped them on the sidewalk as they passed. That mournful meow and those huge blue eyes made me resolve right there that we would take him home and if we couldn't find the owner, we would adopt him. With a bit of encouragement, he climbed into my arms and we walked home into the darkening night.

Geoff was particularly enchanted with the cat. They had some common characteristics, both were blue-eyed and thin but muscular. He delighted in gazing into the cat's eyes as the cat bemoaned the fact that he was lost and Geoff tried to distract him. I called the animal shelter to see if anyone had reported a lost Siamese cat (they had not) and to let them know to call us if someone was looking for him. As we didn't have a car, I said that we would keep him at the house and take care of him rather than take him to the shelter.

The second day we had him, a friend stopped over to practice some music with me and was immediately taken with the cat. She and her husband have two Siamese cats, one smoke point and one lilac point. The cat sat in her lap and between mournful meows, purred as she stroked his whiskers and rubbed his chin. Somehow his meow fit in with the clarinet and alto recorder sounds.

Later that day, she and her husband went out to eat dinner and run some errands, and happened to notice signs posted for a lost Siamese cat in an adjoining neighborhood. When his wife told him about the cat at our house, he got the phone number and gave it to us. I called and said that we had found a Siamese cat some distance from where they lived, but encouraged the owner to come and see if it was their cat. The owner's fiance handled the phone call and they soon drove up and pulled into a parking space across the street.

We had the screen door open. When the car door opened, the cat's attitude improved quite a bit. His tail lifted and his ears perked forward. By the time the young couple had crossed the street, he was at the door. Next followed a mixture of tears and smiles as the cat leapt into her arms and began nuzzling her face, ears and hair while purring furiously. We talked a bit and found out that the cat's name was Spuds Webb and that he preferred to use a corner of their yard instead of the litter box, and had somehow been distracted and wandered away four days earlier.

It was clear to Geoff that the cat was quite attached to his owner, as she was to him. As we said goodbye, he went from a tremble of the lip to full tears. I have to admit my eyes were misty as well. He said that he was feeling two things at once, he was sad because he wanted to keep the cat and would miss him, but he was very moved by the reunion and happy that the cat was going back to a home he obviously loved. As we talked, Geoff said that having the cat made him feel less lonely, and we resolved to get him a Siamese cat.

After a week or so, he saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a five month old male Siamese kitten. The family who had him lived some distance from town, but after negotiating over the phone, some friends agreed to make the trip in their car. The house was rather small, but once inside the door, it was Siamese territory. There were pictures on the wall, figurines, and even Siamese cat plates on the light switches. There were several grown cats and kittens from the litter before. They were every shade from dark brown to almost white. There were several children in the household, including a boy Geoff's age.

The boy called "Ling Ling" and a small grey-white creature with a smudge on his forehead ran up and jumped onto his knee and began to purr furiously. Geoff was instantly hooked, and after trading advice and some cash, we drove home with the small car resounding with many meows punctuating an almost constant, chest-rattling purr. Ling Ling has been with us since.

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