November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving, marked the passing of a very special cat named Anna. The 7 lb red head with a feisty spirit decided that her life here on earth had come to an end.
I write this tribute to Ms. Anna because I had the pleasure of knowing her. She was an ambassador for the cat grooming movement, giving selflessly toward the efforts to train more pet grooming professionals to safely handle felines and groom them to perfection.
Anna, one of a few lucky felines to be a part of Melissa Verplank’s family, served on more than occasion as a demo cat for my lectures at various tradeshows. The first time Anna and I met was in Knoxville, TN at the first Pet Stylists Super Show. Anna was gracious enough to work her coat into a bit of a mess for the occasion, thus giving the attendees an opportunity to watch, up close and personal, how to turn twisted, tangled cat hair into a velvety smooth lion cut with crisp lines at the legs, neck and tail.
For added dramatic effect, as well as teaching opportunities, Anna brought her attitude to the stage. Cat groomer vs. angry flame point Himalayan. Clippers vs. mats. She was truly perfect for the event, eventually drawing blood and leaving me with some memorable wounds on my forearm. In the end, however, Anna looked spectacular and certainly felt a whole lot better. She responded to the handling exactly the way I had earlier explained to the audience. She helped teach a variety of handling techniques, cat behavior responses, and the importance of mat prevention when educating clients about their cat’s grooming needs.
In addition to her work at tradeshows, Anna also served the grooming community at Paragon pet school for many years. Melissa writes, “Every feline we have is a rescue that wormed their way into our hearts and home. Anna just happened to be the fanciest kitty to cross our path. The care of that coat – and at times, a wealth of attitude – taught lots of students how to safely groom cats over the years, including me!”
Anna made her entrance into the Paragon family in 2001, where she first appeared at the local vet clinic. Anna had obviously been outdoors for sometime prior to being brought in as a “lost and found article,” as Melissa puts it. Her coat was a wreck, and she was in serious need of grooming. The staff at the vet clinic sent her over to Paragon for a make over. Melissa took one look at Anna. It was love at first sight! Never mind the fact that Melissa’s husband Marc was allergic to cats! Anna was moving to the farm.
Despite the fact that Anna was declawed and sported a long, fluffy Himi coat, she had a penchant for escaping outdoors. Foxes, coyotes, hawks, barbed wire, and all kids of prickly weeds and bushes posed real threats to Ms. Anna. She ignored all of this however. In her mind she was a skilled huntress and could hold her own. Fortunately Anna survived her various breakouts from the safety of the house and lived to a ripe old age. Melissa’s best guestimates put Anna somewhere between 16-19 years old at her passing.
Anna was a constant companion to Melissa during the three years it took her to write Notes From the Grooming Table. She would lounge on Melissa’s desk, rearranging piles of research papers to her liking. (So like a cat!) When it came time to create Melissa’s publishing company, Anna acted completely annoyed that it was named White Dog Enterprises, after Melissa’s Maremma Sheepdog. What an insult! After all, it was Anna who had worked so diligently to supervise every word and drawing that went into the project. The dog simply lounged on the floor the whole time, doing absolutely nothing!
Melissa shared a humorous Anna story with me, that I think sums up the personality of this diva feline. One morning Marc and Melissa were sitting at the dining room table enjoying their coffee. Their dining room is on an upper level overlooking a large great room. Melissa writes, “As we were chatting, Anna was feeling very fresh than morning. She was racing around like a crazy cat. We were both chuckling as we caught glimpses of her streaking by. On one of her passes, she cut sharply to the right – right through the railing – and was suddenly airborne, her creamy coat all poofed out along with all four feet. It was if she thought she was a flying squirrel. Marc and I both heard a thud. I raced to the railing and looked down expecting to see the worst. But instead, peering back at me, was my smooshed-face little cat. She clearly told me, ‘I meant to do that’ as she shook a front paw and walked away from her landing spot, tail up.”
Good bye, Ms. Anna. You are already missed!
Anna, Flame Point Himalayan
1992 (approx.) – November 23, 2011