Dietrich was the "first born"of our married life; he and our marriage were about ten weeks old in the fall of 1981 when we adopted him from the local Humane Society. We carefully watched the kittens in their pens, trying to select the one who best fit our criteria of being active, but not too active; playful, but not aggressive; and friendly but not clingy. Dietrich sat quietly at first, watching us looking over the others, then when we looked at him, he approached the door of the cage and put out a paw, just to say hi. We gave him a "play test" by wiggling a finger around quickly, and he followed it well, without being too manic about it. Altogether, his bearing and appearance said "Take me home", so we did!
Once home, we had to think of a name for our new "baby". We like unique names, and since he would never have to spell it, we knew we could have free reign. After a few days' consideration, and rejecting many of the more ordinary names, we settled on Dietrich; after the detective on the old Barney Miller show. Now, many of you cat-lovers know it can take a while for a new name to settle in your brain; this was the case for us, as we forgot or confused the name we had chosen with other, somewhat similar names. Demetrius and Dominic were two former college buddies of Doug's, and he kept thinking of their names instead of Dietrich. So we decided to make those Dietrich's middle names. As we got to know our little guy, he showed us when he was happy by purring, as cats will. However, this little body could fill a room with his purr! So we added one more name, the "character" name of Hummer, to reflect that trait.
We were determined that Dietrich would not fear riding in a car, so we took him many places with us, often on the spur of the moment. He went to Sunday dinners at our parents' houses; to the ocean for camping (Big Sandbox!); and often for just a ride about town. Dietrich became a master of paper bags, cardboard boxes, and any other spot that seemed too small for him to fit into. He helped with jigsaw puzzles, sometimes "accidentally" knocking the piece you were looking for onto the floor! He was an avid ornithologist, bringing his catch, (oops! er...), specimens inside for further study.
His life changed radically one day when he discovered he'd have to share "his" people with another little furrball, Tigra. She joined our family in July, four years after getting Dietrich, and after a few weeks of hissing at each other, became a playmate for Dietrich. The two of them were quite comical in their romps through the house, and now Dietrich had someone to whom he could pass along his four years of accumulated cat wisdom. Especially the Christmas tree rules! Our first Christmas together, we decided to purchase an artificial tree, reasoning that the cost of it would be spread over many years, rather than paying that much each year. We didn't have many decorations, and no tree-top angel or star. So we filled in with homemade decorations, and stuffed toys. As the season progressed, we kept finding the branches askew in the morning. Knowing the culprit would learn nothing from a scolding after the fact, we were afraid we would never catch him in the act in order to stop the behavior. One night we were eating in our kitchen (the whole house was only 950 sq. feet, so it wasn't big!) when Doug saw Dietrich about two-thirds of the way up the tree. In about two strides he was over there, grabbed the kitten, and gave him such a scolding that we never had a problem again, even with other cats who came years later! We figure Dietrich told them all, "Don't mess with that tree in the house! It freaks them out!"
One trick he never did teach Tigra was his light switch jump; we discovered he loved to jump up to the light switch, to lift the ring from a milk jug off the switch. In the beginning he would turn the switch off on the way down, but he soon honed his skill so he could lift the ring off cleanly, without disturbing the switch at all!
Dietrich's life with us came to a mysterious close January 8th, 1992; we were living in France then, and one night he just didn't come home. We had only been there four months, so were unfamiliar with the procedures to follow for a missing cat. We made up fliers and took them around to the various veterinary clinics, as well as posting them in our neighborhood and putting them in neighbors' mailboxes. We had one possible lead when a woman contacted us, thinking she'd been feeding him as a stray. Unfortunately, we could never catch sight of the cat she spoke of, so remained uncertain as to whether that was our cat or not. Compounding the difficulty was the language barrier; she spoke of a fat cat, whereas Dietrich had been about a 10 pound cat; not fat in my eyes.
We miss our Dietrich, but love our memories of him and the lessons he taught us as cat parents.