Dr. Ludmilla Voitkovska has been a professor of English at USask for 22 years and generously talked with me about her three cats: Don Lemon, Nefertiti and Ralph. Ralph sadly passed away after she adopted Nefertiti, and with the wonderful stories I was told in this interview, it was clear that Dr. Voitkovska misses her furry friend very much.
Don Lemon is a silly and spry 3-year-old tabby. He was named after the CNN news anchor, and is apparently enthralled by running water. Naturally, I wondered how Don Lemon, a cat, feels about non-running water. When I asked Dr. Voitkovska if he therefore likes baths, she left it a mystery, only saying that he “loves to sit in the sink” as it is “one of his favourite places.” Whether the sink contains standing water in these moments will be an eternal enigma.
Nefertiti is a stately 13-year-old Russian-blue who holds herself up as the wise, fearless, regal cat of the house. In this all-knowing cat’s eyes, Don Lemon is possibly the stupidest cat ever born. Nerfertiti tolerates him though, Dr. Voitkovska says, as she does with everything. “Not like me,” Dr. Voitkovska laughed.
Ralph and Nefertiti are notably similar in appearance. However, those similarities are only fur-deep, as Dr. Voitkovska elaborated on the “tail” of how one time when Ralph ran away from home, a couple found “him” and brought the cat back. Dr. Voitkovska was shocked to see that this cat was instead a similar-looking stray. In the end, she adopted the new feline and named her Nefertiti. Ralph eventually made it back home, only to find a strange new friend who looked an awful lot like him.
Dr. Voitkovska describes Ralph as “a serial escapist.” She said that on one of Ralph’s adventures, he, a neutered male, was mistaken for a pregnant female. Of Ralph’s many escapes, Dr. Voitkovska could only say, “thank god I microchipped him” (even though the microchip somehow thought Ralph was a horse). Clearly, Ralph’s many cases of mistaken identity emerged from his constant need to escape reality, and goodness do I wish I didn’t relate.
Dr. Voitkovska says that her cats remind her of herself because of their love of home — aside from Ralph, of course, who reminds her of her own love for traveling.
“People and pets choose each other,” Dr. Voitkovska told me, and I think that’s exactly right.
Dr. Maggie FitzGerald is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Studies. She described her 8-year-old cat Ernest (Ernie) as one who “loves vigorous scratches.” When it came to naming Ernest, it took a while for Dr. FitzGerald to find a name that suited this new cat, since she adopted him as a kitten and didn’t have a full grasp of his personality just yet. However, with the suggestion of the name “Ernest,” Dr. FitzGerald realized that there is, indeed, importance in being earnest, and selected that name.
Ernie was adopted around the time when Dr. Fitzgerald began her doctoral studies in Ottawa. She says that as she spent “lots of time alone, reading, writing, and studying,” Ernest kept “the most wonderful company through the ups and downs of graduate studies.” She added that he “continues to be my reading companion today.” I wish my cat could read.
“Ernie is the epitome of a scaredy-cat,” Dr. Fitzgerald says. Apparently, it is rare to view this feline-phantom in real life, however , as while he’s quite comfortable with his human, he hides at the detection of any intruder. I have to wonder if this doesn’t cause Dr. FitzGerald concerns about her living quarters being haunted, since she explained that “sometimes [she] can hear his snoring faintly echo through the vents.” That’s horrifying, Dr. FitzGerald.
As for the remainder of Ernest’s big personality, Dr. FitzGerald describes him as “sort of a duality.” While he’s a ball of anxiety around other people (same), he has his core group of close pals with whom he is playful and accepts those vigorous scratches. In addition, he likes to chase his own tail. Good on him for keeping active.
Dr. FitzGerald says that she shares some similarities with Ernest: “I can understand why he loves to hide in the vent. It’s hard to be brave all the time!” It’s really nice to identify with your pet, especially when it comes to sharing a personality trait that connects the two of you together.
Dr. Pamela Downe is a professor in the department of archaeology and anthropology where she has been a faculty member for almost 29 years. She has two little dogs: Riggins Ritchie Downe and Mindy Mae Downe.
Riggins, “the ‘big’ one,” as Dr. Downe referred to him, is a Shih Tzu-Retriever mix. Dr. Downe describes him as “a bull in the china shop.” She says that he chooses not to run around obstacles, but rather takes them head-on, or I guess in this case, “headfirst.” Named after the “Friday Night Lights” character of Tim Riggins, this particular one-eyed-pooch is ruff-ly 17-years-young. His middle name, Ritchie, was attributed to him to commemorate a dog from Dr. Downe’s past – a rescue from the 1980s who had a special bond with Dr. Downe’s father.
Mindy, the little one, is “the canine version of Christine Sinclair.” She is a soccer-playing 10-year-old Morkie (Maltese + Yorkshire terrier mix) named after Mindy McConnell of the TV show “Mork and Mindy,” due to Mindy’s (both dog and TV character) intelligence and contrast to their hilarious and loveable companion. According to Dr. Downe, Mindy (the dog) meets these criteria perfectly, and so her name is a perfect match!
When I asked Dr. Downe about her sentiments on if our pets reflect our personalities, she said that she thinks “that we anthropomorphize our pets in ways that accentuate the traits that we find desirable. I also know that the bonds between humans and the animals in our lives are transformative. So while we set out thinking we want a certain kind of animal, as soon as we bond with those in our lives, we will treasure the traits that make them who they are.” Well said!
Thank you for reading yet another pleasant edition of USask Staff and their Fuzzy Friends. Stay tuned for more in the future! There’s plenty to come!