Tag Archives: Cleveland Amory

A Cat Named Darwin

I was born a Homo Sapiens./ Then I became a biologist./ Then I became a cat.

You have no idea./ Read on, friends.

Many years ago I finished reading a book about a cat that I was quite sure would never be surpassed.   That book was The Best Cat Ever by the late Cleveland Amory.   Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a paperback by someone named William Jordan…   The book was A Cat Named Darwin: Embracing the Bond Between Man and Pet.   This is the best cat story ever!

Jordan’s tale is perhaps best expressed by this book’s original sub-title:  How a Stray Cat Changed a Man into a Human Being.   As he so nicely explains, “…it was during my forty-fifth year on this glowing blue Earth that a cat entered my house and stole my heart.”   Yes, the then-unnamed cat was a “home invader” who instead of being chased away, entered writer Jordan’s home and office flat in Long Beach, California.   It seems that the more Jordan attempts to get rid of the cat he  named after Charles Darwin, the more the cat embeds itself into his home/heart.

Eventually Jordan realizes that the more time he spends around the wily Darwin the more he enjoys himself; Darwin helps the author to re-create himself as a better person.   “…because I had come to love this small creature, whatever happened to him happened to me.”   Sadly, Darwin is a very sick cat but this makes the time he spends with the author all the more precious.

Yes, every cat – if not pet – owner will identify with Darwin’s antics and activities.   Like our own retired cat, he was first and foremost a fighter in his prime:   “…he loved the slings and arrows of the feline military existence.   Combat gave meaning to his life.   Danger was what he lived for.”

Jordan, trained as a biologist, does an excellent job of explaining why cats – whose ancestors have occupied the planet for 60 million years or so – are so intelligent and why they are able to co-exist with their human owners in a way that is distinct from dogs.   The one caution about this book is that it would certainly be a difficult read for anyone who has recently lost a pet; contra, some would find it the best time to read this true story of love and loss.

Yes, this is a love story, now available in trade paperback form for $14.95 (Mariner Books).   In the author’s words, “I thanked Darwin for giving me life.”   At the end of this furry tail (tale), you will thank the author and Darwin and Hoover the cat for giving us this story.   Highly, highly recommended!

In the end,/ Because I became a cat,/ I became a human being.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.   “A gripping and powerful book…  shot through with a kind of elation.”   San Diego Union-TribuneDarwin (lg.)



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Flying: A Review of Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien

“When I would look into his relaxed, at-peace-with-himself eyes, I felt like I was looking into something inscrutable, unobtainable, deeper than we can possibly imagine, an old soul that reflected someone bigger, ineffable, eternal.”

So writes Ms. O’Brien about Wesley, a baby barn owl with an injured wing that she adopted while living in southern California.   Wesley, an intelligent and wise “old soul” wound up living for all of 19 years, the equivalent of 120 human years.   Trained as a biologist specializing in wild animal behavior, the author thought she know a lot about wild animals but Wesley showed her she still had much to learn.

The reader learns that Wesley played like a kitten, had an impressive vocabulary, played in bath water (supposedly something that would never occur with a barn owl), attracted wild female barn owl admirers, and could tell time.   We further learn that Wesley, like a house cat or dog, could get mad at his owner and either bawl her out or literally turn his back on her.

The best parts of this true story are the happy beginning and the sad ending.   As O’Brien rightly notes:  “The… thing I hate about animal stories is that after you’ve read the entire book and you really care about the animal, they go and tell you all about how the animal died.”   This is so true here as the first 215 pages are easy to read, but the remainder is quite difficult for animal owners and lovers to get through.   O’Brien goes so far as to explain to us how, while she was suffering from a potentially fatal illness, her love for Wesley led her to repel her thoughts of suicide.

Yes this is, as advertised, “the remarkable love story of an owl and his girl.”   While it is not quite as strong as the greatly moving books A Cat Named Darwin by William Jordon or The Best Cat Ever by the late Cleveland Amory, it is top-rate.

The author has never fully stopped missing the charming barn owl known as Wesley.   When you finish this book you, the reader, will also greatly miss him…   But you will be quite glad to have shared in his amazing life, at least for a short while.

Free Press, paperback, 235 pages.   $15.00Wesley the owl

The book was purchased by the reviewer.

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