The African Flying Cat

When Beth received her Peace Corps posting to a remote village in NW Zambia (Lumwana West), she thought a companion to live with her in her hut would enrich the experience. On her initial visit to Lumwana West, she saw a tiny tiger in a litter of kittens and asked them to hold him for her. She picked him up on her way back to the village where he immediately became part of the community.

Beth named him after William Blake and his "Tyger" poem:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Blake quickly became known among the natives as "Ba Brakie." As he grew into his full catitude, he was admired among the villagers as an impressive rat catcher. Many wanted to "borrow" him from Beth. We cherish the pictures of Beth and Blake outside their village hut.

BlakeAfter Beth died, her PCV friend Courtney Kemp took Blake to her village where he became equally famous for his ratting. When Courtney's Peace Corps service was completed in December of 2003, she felt he should live with us. It's no mean feat to send a cat halfway around the world! First, Courtney had to carry him in a basket on public transport all the way to Lusaka (many hours). Then he had to spend six weeks in quarantine with a Scottish vet who told us in her rich brogue, "I've got your cat. He's very tall!"

Next they had to hand-build a wooden traveling cage. It took him four days to fly from Lusaka to Portland! He went via London "to visit the Queen." We tracked him on the internet and called at every stop to see how he was doing. Everyone told us he was "a wonderful little guy." When he got to Seattle, the woman we spoke to had to hand carry him, running to catch the last shuttle that night into Portland. Fortunately he arrived at the warehouse between severe blizzards, and they were willing to stay open later for us to pick him up. By the time we arrived, they were all charmed by Blakie as well--after what must have been four days of exhausting, even terrifying, travel to someone who had never seen an airplane before. Our flying African cat had come home.

While it took him some time to adjust to the snow (which he also had never seen), to stabilize his allergic response to Pacific NW molds, and to thoroughly cow our huge yellow lab/Great Pyrenees dog, Apollo, Blake quickly became the center of our household, taking everything in his stride with amazing ease. He is indeed a congenial fellow, greeting guests and inspecting their vehicles. He follows us everywhere, participating in everything we do. He helps Gerry change the water in his fish tanks (hoping one will jump out just for him) and helps me to plant Beth's garden. He patrols the perimeter of his territory quite seriously, doing his macho tail dance to let the world know he is in control.

Since we live in the country, it wasn't long before his mouse-catching expertise manifested itself. When he brought live mice into the house as gifts, we had a long talk about ridding the house of mice instead of filling it up! Blake shares Beth's joy of life and is a constant reminder of our beloved daughter.