Karen Sampson Hoffman

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The Kitten in the Newsroom

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 10:15 PM

I regularly write with our cat, Luca David, fitting his full-size cat body into the undersized space on my desk between the computer and the stack of books next to my in-box. His tail will occasionally thump-thump-thump across the keyboard, adding more fur to the collection beneath the keys.

If you check Sampson Media, you will see that he is listed as the administrative assistant. He’s not very good at it.

Luca isn’t the first cat in my newsroom, though. That distinction goes to a small visiting kitten that found her way into The Journal Register one afternoon as deadline approached. She was probably about six weeks old, too young to be away from her mother and certainly too young to be a cub reporter.

Our production assistant, Jim, had come across her in the roadway between our building and the Erie Canal. She was dirty and crying pitifully when he scooped her up and took her into the news building, looking for his girlfriend who worked in circulation. They had just moved in together and Jim knew she was looking for a pet to fill their home.

Well, she had already left for the day (at a newspaper, no department works the same schedule as the other throughout the day) so Jim came to find me, knowing I already had a cat (this was Sha’Ori, my first cat), and hoping I would know what to do.

Oh, she was a darling little thing, sleek and grey with little blue eyes! She didn’t seem to be undernourished but she was hungry, so I bribed another reporter to go out to the store for cat supplies, canned kitten food and a box of kitten milk (this is a special milk in the pet food aisle for cats – do not give cats regular milk, despite what all the TV shows say, because it will upset their tummies and you do not want to deal with that mess). In the meantime, we took one of the cloth hand towels and I showed him how to dampen the towel and gently give the kitten a bath, mimicking the way a mother cat grooms her babies.

We spent about a half an hour grooming the little cat and my colleague returned from the store. Since Jim had to get started in production (we were doing a cross between pagination and paste-up at that point) I ended up being the kittensitter for the evening.

I set up a food dish for Lady Grey (her nickname until Jim could take her home) on my borrowed desk and corralled the space with some books, making a little nest for her with another one of the towels. I thought she’d eat a little bit and take a nap – it had been a busy day for a small cat. But Lady Grey had other ideas and climbed over those books to my keyboard. She watched my fingers clicking away as I started my articles for the night and decided she could best help me out by climbing onto my shirt and up to my chin. There she proceeded to mew and purr.

I scooped her up and nestled her on my shoulder, just as I had done with Sha’Ori as a kitten and I would later do again with Luca. Grey flexed her claws into my shirt for stability and settled in.

This is the point where the managing editor, Mike, came in for his first stop of the night. Mike started as a sports writer and preferred sports to managing the newsroom. While he is a good man, he was also humorless in the newsroom.

Mike came in, watched me typing away for a minute, and glared. The other reporters were also coming in after dinner to pick up their messages or notebooks before heading out to meetings. They stopped to play with Lady Grey and joke about the kitten being the newest reporter.

As they filtered away, I caught Mike’s glare.

“What’s wrong, Mike?” I asked. “Haven’t you seen a kitten in the newsroom before?”

“Cats don’t belong in a newsroom,” he barked. “I hope you’re not planning on keeping that here.”

I repositioned Lady Grey to my lap. She stretched and turned around before settling across my legs.

“No, she’s not staying,” I told him. “She’s an orphan who wandered in here.”

Mike grumbled something and said, “We have enough orphans at this paper. Make sure that cat goes home with someone tonight.”

I really expected he would finish his sentence with “…or I’ll call the pound.” But he didn’t, just finished with his computer, pulled out his camera and head out to some high school sports game. Maybe basketball, which he headlined with “Cagers” or wrestling, that he used “Grapplers” across the page.

Lady Grey did go home with Jim and she was a much loved family cat. Later on, while I was there, we would have various children and visitors come the newsroom, a few birds, a bat and a couple mice. There was a ghost who followed us around. But no more cats.


Categories: Amnesia Lane

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