Moët and the founding of the Feline Associate Program
Among the idiosyncrasies of The Amlong Firm are its penchant for feline associates. In other words, cats in the office.
It began simply enough in the late 1990s. My wife and law partner, Karen Coolman Amlong, telephoned me in my car one Saturday from the manicurist's to say, "We've got to adopt this blind kitten whom Carol found under the abandoned house next door."
Thus did Moët (as in Moët et Chandon, the champagne) come into our lives.
She was a teensy tabby, a grey and white kitten of indeterminate lineage, who was not really blind, but was so flea-and-mite-ridden that her eyes were swollen shut. We took her to a 24/7 animal hospital in Hollywood, got her cleaned up and brought her to begin life on the second floor of our two-story office building in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Because she was feral, she started out skittish. For the longest while, the only human to whom she would really get close was Suzy Anderson, Karen's former assistant - an animal lover who, until her retirement, kept a towel in a corner of her cubicle so Moët would have a secure place to curl up.
Moët recently became for more sociable, especially towards Karen, whose desk top she would prowl and into whose iced-tea glass she had taken to sticking her nose for a taste. There was no desk top, however, that was considered out of bounds. Why drink from a water bowl all the way back in the kitchen when you can lick the condensation off a glass? Or eat kibbles when you can go for part of a sandwich or a chip?
Within a week or so after bringing Moët to the office, when Karen and I came in on a Saturday to catch up on some work, we saw a scrawny little orange kitten in the parking lot. We set a cat trap that we had gotten from the humane society so we could catch him, get him fixed up (and fixed) and then do Lord knows what with him. The little guy's luck had run out, however: we found his body a few days later.
Meanwhile, however, the cat trap did get us Tom - a huge "Mellow Yellow" who hissed in the trap cage as we took him to get fixed, figuring that we would return him neutered to join the other strays in the neighborhood without the ability to increase their ranks. Tom, however, had a different plan. When we brought him back from the vet, keeping him inside overnight to ensure that the anesthesia had worn off before turning him loose (we are a half-block from U.S. 1 and did not want him staggering into traffic), he obviously looked around and figured that this could be a good thing. So when the cage door was opened, it was a loudly purring Tom who emerged, rubbing up against Karen's leg - and assuring himself a position as Feline Associate No. 2.
While Moët stayed largely with Suzy, Tom - the house pet of an older woman in the neighborhood who had been abandoned after she died - was Mr. Congeniality. He considered the conference table to be his domain, provided therapeutic soothing during tense moments in mediation sessions and expressed his opinions during depositions by either purring or, if he did not like a witness or the lawyer on the other side, positioning himself strategically for some in-your-face, X-rated grooming of his Sumo-wrestler-like underside.
More recently, we brought Cliquot (as in Veuve Clicquot, the champagne) from our house after she developed allergies to both grass and the fleas on the mice that she relentlessly (and quite successfully) pursued, bringing them home and leaving their carcasses (or part of their carcasses, anyway) on the living room floor, as proudly as a hunter might bring home a six-point buck. We had gotten her in 1995, along with her sister, Beluga, from a client and her life-partner during whose hostile-environment sexual harassment trial one of our other cats had been run over outside our house. Clicquot's purr was otherworldly, rather like a trill: Karen likened it to the critters who almost took over the Enterprise in a Star Trek episode entitled "The Trouble With Tribbles" because they soothed the crew with their trilling as they multiplied, and multiplied, and multiplied....
Then came Slick and Fluffy, a jet-black brother-and-sister whom we took off a friend's hands a couple of years ago. They have gotten large enough that they no longer can use the wallpaper for traction to climb up the wall to the top of the book cases, but they do sleep in the in/out baskets and are especially fond of participating in new-client consultations.
The entire corps of Feline Associates actually has been great gatekeepers, screening out potential new clients and non-feline associate candidates who do not like cats - a character trait that we at The Amlong Firm do not find acceptable. If someone does not like them (with the exception of those persons who are simply seriously allergic), then they probably are not going to like most anyone else at The Amlong Firm either. Some things are better established early on.
Feline associates, a/k/a "cats," do not live forever, however. We let Tom go to sleep in the Spring of 2004 after chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop his brain tumor. Clicquot had a fatal stroke in November 2006. And Thursday, Amy Moshier, our intake paralegal, said "Good morning" to the little grey-and-white bundle who was curled up on the floor of her office.
Moët, however, did not respond. Our founding Feline Associate had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
We will miss her.
But her tradition, The Amlong Firm's Feline Associate Program, lives on.
Feline Associate Moët with lawyer Rani Bolen