Where now art thou, Romeo?

I was reminded of this old story the other day, and thought that as I had already told it on my French blog at the time, it would be an easy one to recycle. Because I’m feeling dead lazy. But also because it’s a good story.

A few years ago, Hubby’s sister somehow came up with the idea that giving her parents a kitten to look after was a good idea. How she came to that conclusion despite the fact that they are barely capable of taking care of themselves is a mystery.

I guess a quick introduction to The In-Laws is required here, for you to get the full picture. Hubby’s mother is a sweet little thing, as nice as you could wish, but also very meek, and burdened with a rather fragile health that has left her very dependent on her husband. Father In-Law, a retired farmer, is – geez, I really am struggling to find polite words for this – well, stubborn and gruff are probably the nicest words I can think of. He’s not an unkind man, he’s not violent or abusive, but he does things his way, and his way involves a lot of stomping around grumbling. He also dislikes anything that requires any effort, unless it’s something *he* really wants.

So there they were, landed with a ginger ball of fluff named Romeo. And F.I.L. wasn’t particularly happy about it. It was one more thing to have to look after. So he decided it could live in the cupboard under the stairs. Romeo got food and water, and a litter tray that was cleaned once a week, and that was it. No light, no fresh air, no exercise. If he got out of his cupboard, F.I.L. would grumble and stomp at him until he went back in.

As we only visited every couple of months, it took us a while to realise how the poor animal was being treated, and after several attempts in vain to persuade F.I.L. to change things (M.I.L. has no say in how things are run) we decided we just couldn’t bear to let him treat the poor cat that way any longer, even if it would cause a bit of a huff. We decided that the best way was to find an adoptive family for Romeo, and then just turn up and take him, if we gave them any notice, F.I.L. would just grump and sulk that we thought he was in any way incapable of taking care of something as stupid as a cat.

So we asked around, and once more, Internet provided the solution. A friend in Canada was married to a guy whose aunt lived just down the road from us, and who was looking for a pet for her kids. You just can’t make these things up. So we contacted her, organised the hand-over rendezvous in a week’s time, and planned to perform Operation Romeo that weekend. We wanted to give Romeo a week in our own flat to see if he wasn’t in any way unfit for life with young kids or humans in general after almost a year of solitary confinement, and also make sure he was clean and in good health.

We drove up to Hubby’s parents’ farm, a good 2 and a half hours’ drive, walked in, and said we were taking him. Hubby opened up the cupboard under the stairs, and ignoring the inhuman stench, grabbed little Romeo, popped him in the cat carrier and walked out again. We never spoke of it to them after that day, and they never mentioned it to us. It was done.

Romeo didn’t peep a single squeak on the way back to Toulouse. We let him out in the bathroom first, with the door closed, to get him used to us and his new surroundings. Then gradually over the next week, we opened the door into the corridor, then the kitchen, and the living room. He was a very lively and sweet little cat, in spite of all he had been through, even when play-fighting, he never popped his claws out, a real little sweety. At first he refused to eat if anyone was watching, but he soon got used to us and at the end of the week it was almost heart-breaking to let him go.

When the time came to hand him over to his new family, we were both a bit tearful, but happy to see him go to such nice people. They did promise to email us on his progress, but they never did. I can hardly throw the first stone, I’m lousy at keeping in touch myself and we didn’t chase them up about it either, but I do often think of him and hope he’s having a happy life.

Romeos new family
Romeo's new family
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