He was not your usual black cat. They are usually the stuff of Halloween decorations – of medium size, sleek and lean, with long thin tails. This cat was large and fluffy, technically still a short-hair, but with thick black fur with brown undertones. Brushing him often yielded enough fur for another cat, with an endless supply in store. He had a large skull, big yellow eyes and a slightly flattened face and nose, no doubt the result of unknown Persian ancestors. His paws were as oversized as his head, and his tail was a long fat triangle; broad at the base and tapering down to a paintbrush of fur.
He was from Ohio, Oberlin to be exact. He was rescued in town by a student at the Oberlin School of Music. The singer named him L’il Bat, after a character in the opera Susanna. He must have been the cutest little fluffy black kitten. When bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch moved to NYC several years later, with his cats, he was singing the role of Schaunard in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Boheme. This was the beginning of a very successful opera career, with touring and appearances across the country and in his native Canada.
This is where I come in.
I was still singing at the time and was an avid reader of an opera chatroom called the Opera Forum. In addition to chats about various aspects of singing, readers could also ask for help or services. Daniel was looking for a cat-sitter. I had just lost one of my two cats, and Mookie, the surviving one, was depressed. I thought temporarily having two more cats around would cheer him up and help him get over losing his buddy Felix. Plus, the guy was paying. I offered to take them.
My name is Suzanne Spellen. I've been many things: a writer, historian, preservationist, musician, traveler, designer, sewer, teacher, and tour guide; a long time Brooklynite and now, a proud resident of Troy, NY.