March 26th 2009 – Suspected birth date of today’s topic, personality, world traveler, and furry friend – Ponce, the tyrannical Tuscan farm cat. Born near the stereotypically picturesque town of Montopoli, Tuscany, he was one of six in a litter of impossibly adorable kittens. I never met his mother, but he and his sister FiPiLi were inseparable friends the first six months of their lives. At the time, I was living in the village of Pappiana, San Giuliano Terme, just a few kilometers north of the infamous Torre Pendente di Pisa – Leaning Tower. Ponce was a welcome addition to Casa di Drew at a time in my life when as a 20 something bachelor living in Italy, above all else, I wanted a dog, but didn’t (and still don’t) have a lifestyle conducive to one. Now the author is happily married, and six years later, Ponce is still with us, and still tyrannical as ever.
Ponce is admittedly an unusual name for a cat, even in Italy. Outside of Livorno, the word has little meaning other than “punch” – as in the beverage. In Livorno (and this is worthy of a dedicated topic), Ponce alla Livornese is a beloved local elixir – digestivo – roughly consisting of equal parts espresso, cognac, and rum. Prepared with a heaping spoon of sugar, steamed with the frother of a cappuccino machine, and served with a spritz of lemon and peel, it’s guaranteed to get things moving after dinner. Thus “Ponce” seemed an appropriate name for the kitten with attitude, despite being from Pisa province, was honored by being named after the quintessentially Livornese beverage.
In addition to being well versed in local culture, Ponce has also earned a reputation as a world traveler. Just six months after birth, he was with great ceremony issued an actual passport, bundled into a stylish (albeit borrowed) breathable soft sided leather carry-on bag, and flown 3000 miles from Florence to Bahrain via Frankfurt on Lufthansa to live for a year on a desert island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. There he received true royal treatment. Lived on the 36th floor of a brand new apartment in the Abraj al Lulu Gold Tower. Perched himself every day on the windowsill of the wall to wall windows surveying his domain, and soaking up the Arabian sun. Despite being cooped up for a year, I somehow doubt he complained too much, what with the view and all… Just 12 months later he was back in Tuscany frolicking with new friends.
Back in his home country ever since, 18 months in Tremoleto, and the past three years here in Arcugnano, Ponce has enjoyed establishing himself as anything but the definitive pet. Sleeping a healthy 15-20 hours a day – but let’s be real here, who knows what he’s up to when he’s not in your face seeking attention – Ponce spends most daylight hours defending his claim to the cornfield in summer, and the neighbor’s barn in the winter. Everything happens on his terms – except when it comes to access to the guest and master bedrooms, but this is a recent development. Before getting married, Ponce had free reign, but some people don’t like cat hair. Today, he’s either outside, on a balcony, or trying to get in someone’s lap.
Changes will be here soon, and we’d be kidding ourselves to think Ponce doesn’t suspect something. Perhaps it is the slow disappearance of books he used to hide behind. Or the missing pieces of furniture as we purge in preparation for our move. The biggest indicator though is the arrival of his new “home” – $200 SleepyPod Air airline approved carry-on pet carrier. So far it seems to be a worthwhile purchase, because like a random box, or plastic bag, his cadillac of cat carriers is actually now his favorite thing ever. Two trips to the vet for pre-travel shots and health checks and still this is his new prefered retreat. One thing’s for sure though, after multiple transcontinental airline journeys this summer, we’ll be posting an update.
Which brings me to my last and most important point. In the spring of 2009, when I adopted Ponce as a member of my family, this tyrannical Tuscan farm cat became just that – a family member. I haven’t kept track of the cost, or the time, the paperwork, the vaccinations, the embassy visits, or anything involved to move country to country with Ponce, because it hasn’t ever been anything but part of what’s necessary to move. In international communities worldwide, pets are abandoned – yes I’ll use the word abandoned – every single day, because in the checklist of relocating, furry friends are too often an afterthought.
The emotional toll on a pet being re-homed is no less traumatic to a cat or dog than it would be for a child, or another family member. I hear excuses all the time as to why pets are left behind – “we received our new assignment last minute”, or “we don’t know if we’ll be in a house or an apartment”. More than likely, the real reason your furry friend is being dumped is because you weren’t fully prepared to take on the responsibility of adding a member to your family. If you have a pet, congratulations on a life long enriching relationship! If you are considering adoption, please understand the commitment.
Uzbekistan is next on Ponce’s list of great adventures, and we hope you’ll continue to join us in our travels!