About Admiral Janeway (my cat)

Fig. 1. Admiral Janeway

This (figure 1) is Admiral Janeway. And if you don’t like reading sappy posts about cute animals whose humans think they’re really remarkable, now’s the time to close this browser window.

Admiral Janeway really is a very special cat. She is responsible for two A’s I’ve gotten in my academic career, including the course grade in a Ph.D. level class, and I attribute the quality of my analysis of employment statistics to her.

How is that possible? I don’t know. It just is.

Admiral Janeway was born, according my memory of her original veterinarian’s records, on March 1, 2001. Her mother was run over by a car and she was, if I understand correctly, weaned by a human who was in the habit of keeping her between her breasts—a place Admiral Janeway most definitely did not like being (she still hates to be held). Apparently, the Admiral, then named Yogi (again, if memory serves), was passed down to this human’s daughter, a massage therapist who lived at Lupin Lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos.

Admiral Janeway does not like to move. Many people who live and work at Lupin live in old travel trailers (which have since been moved to a much less prominent location). And the daughter moved from one to another. Apparently Admiral Janeway took quite a while to adapt to this move. But then the daughter decided to leave Lupin (and thus avoid, intentionally or otherwise, the drama which was yet to come).

I’m guessing that it might be because of the way Admiral Janeway was weaned and that she didn’t have a full course of her mother’s milk that she has a sensitivity about food and that she developed a horrible sore on the back of her neck that she would not stop scratching. The daughter failed to figure out that this was a food allergy and thought Admiral Janeway just really didn’t like the new condominium and attributed the sore accordingly. And as the sore refused to heal, the daughter eventually reached the conclusion that she would have to return the cat to Lupin.

This sounds worse than it is. She drove Admiral Janeway back to Lupin and dumped her there. She could do this because she knew that there is a woman there who makes sure all the cats are fed and keeps an eye on them health-wise. It’s still harsh, but given the misdiagnosis, I can understand her decision. It wasn’t that she didn’t care, as she made clear later when she helped connect me with her original veterinarian’s records and she came and offered tuna (which I had to refuse because a dermatologist put her on a restricted diet) and told me that the Admiral likes to play with a particular kind of crinkly ball.

In the meantime, I had moved into the daughter’s old place at Lupin. This was one of the larger trailers with a built-on wooden addition. The wooden addition was mostly uninsulated but was spacious enough to easily accommodate my queen-size bed. There was a double layer of plastic sheeting between the ceiling of the wooden addition and the roof of the old trailer. This particular detail becomes important shortly.

So one night, I stopped by my trailer before continuing on to do some grocery shopping (by the way, this was long before I turned vegan). It was pitch black out, but for some reason I sensed that some creature was there. And I felt a breeze past by ankle when I opened the door.

Deciding I’d better check this out, I turned some lights on. And sure enough, Admiral Janeway was doing an inspection of what, unbeknownst to me, was, after all, her home. Eventually, I picked her up, saw the horrible sore and put her back outside. Grateful (temporarily, as it turned out) that I wasn’t responsible for dealing with that sore, I was hoping this was the end of the story.

As I backed out, I saw her glaring at me. It was a look that said this story wasn’t over.

I went on with my grocery shopping and I have to admit I was somewhat relieved that I didn’t see her when I returned home. But it was around five the next morning I heard what sounded like a cat in a paper bag. Only I’d brought the groceries home in plastic bags, I didn’t have any paper bags around, and I didn’t think I had a cat.

Wrong again. Eventually, I looked up and saw a cat in between the layers of plastic—yes, those layers of plastic I mentioned earlier—between the ceiling and the roof of the old travel trailer. Great, I thought to myself, I’ll have to get a maintenance person out to rescue this cat. Of course that couldn’t happen til later, so I turned over and tried to go back to sleep.

Then I heard a thud. And the next thing I knew, here was this little cat walking up the length of my body (I was under the covers and she had pushed her way through a seam in the plastic and jumped seven or eight feet to a hard floor) and purring loudly. A few things were rapidly apparent. First, she had no home. I checked. The woman who takes care of the cats—even without seeing her—immediately identified her as Yogi (her former name). Second, she (the cat) was in charge.

There’s something I have to explain here. I had, a few years earlier, been involved in the founding of the San Francisco chapter of StarFleet International, a Star Trek fan club. As such, and in due course, I became captain of the U.S.S. Augusta Ada, NCC-55011, a modified hospital ship involved in deep space research and armed for bear as it was anticipated that this research might bring us into contact with hostile civilizations, and occasionally behind enemy lines. It also had fully upgraded warp drives.

So back in real life, here’s this cat ordering around a “starship captain.” Obviously, she must have the rank of Admiral because that’s the only way such things happen. This also occurred after the end of the Star Trek: Voyager series and a movie in which Captain Kathryn Janeway put in a cameo appearance, having been promoted to Admiral. I had not approved of some of the decisions Janeway had made in the Delta quadrant, finding them ethically dubious. And so I certainly did not approve of her promotion to Admiral.

With my sense of irony, I named this cat Admiral Janeway. But mostly, I call her “sweetheart” and she seems to know I’m referring to her when I say “sweetheart.” I doubt she knows I’m referring to her when I use her actual name.

I would spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars taking her to veterinarians, including a dermatologist for animals in Campbell, about that horrible sore on the back of her neck, to end up with a conclusion that, having ruled everything else out, it must be the food. It turns out that even the kibble the dermatologist prescribed, however, wasn’t as good for her as Organix, which, apart from an experiment with vegan cat food (probably not a good idea; it certainly reawakened her allergies), is what I have fed her for most of her life.

I also have to be very restrained now in taking Admiral Janeway to the vet, because she is terrified of riding in cars, and she feels profoundly betrayed when I take her. In fact, I would have to say, given an experience of how quickly she mastered the art of escaping the various sorts of devices vets came up with to try to stop her from scratching at that sore, that where before I had an abstract notion of personal autonomy, Admiral Janeway has made it much more concrete. She definitely has a way of withdrawing that makes her trust in me all the more precious and the loss of that trust the most hurtful thing imaginable.

So I have to trust her not to become ill and not to become infested with fleas or any other parasites. And she has mostly obliged. Which is good, because even the monthly flea treatment that veterinarians recommend infuriates her—for weeks at a time.

Less than a year later, I was back in school—at California State University, Hayward, which would later be renamed California State University, East Bay—and at some point in the course of finishing an undergraduate degree I took a philosophy and science fiction class to fulfill a general education requirement. I was having trouble writing a paper and Admiral Janeway was watching over my shoulder.

The progress of human thought has carried us far away from a simplistic naïve sense of reality. But Admiral Janeway reminded me to “keep it real.” And that’s what I did. Referring to her and the wildlife which were then part of my daily life, I wrote of a simpler view. The teacher loved the paper, gave me an A, but sadly, only an A- for the course.

Time went on. I completed the Bachelor’s degree, did a Master’s and went on to a Ph.D. program in Transformative Studies at California Institute of Integral Studies. I had thought my mind had been twisted before, but I was nonetheless completely unprepared for an Introduction to Transformative Studies class, in which the object was to break students out of a particular linear view of the world.

I didn’t take that well. I had been a computer programmer earlier in my life and, at this point, favored what would apparently be considered a post-positivist perspective, which basically accepts all the fallacies of positivism, accepts that they are fallacies, does little to nothing about the fact that they are fallacies, and carries on in what is effectively a positivist paradigm.[1] Finally, in frustration, I posted (this, as is the Human Sciences program at Saybrook I begin next Thursday, is an on line program) that my cat was reminding me to keep it real.

The professor loved this. He had us all post photographs of our cats and he pronounced that Admiral Janeway was now teaching the class. (But he still awarded the grades, and gave me an A.) And I’m still trying to wrap my head around what was supposed to happen in that class.

Throughout my academic career, I’ve also been trying to get a handle on unemployment statistics and trying to find a way to lessen the effects of ideological (which, as a discipline, economics is, more than most social sciences) manipulations of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In February 2010, under Admiral Janeway’s supervision, I finally hit upon my present approach.[2] And so I credit her with two A’s and an analytic approach to unemployment statistics.

But being smart doesn’t protect a human or a cat from trauma. And she’s had her share. Given all that she’s been through, losing her mother, being handed off from overbearing mother to daughter, and then abandoned, she’s become very attached to me. She expects me home at night. So yes, I’ll be driving home every night from the upcoming Saybrook Residential Orientation and Conference (August 25 through 31) which is being held in one of the hotels just south of the San Francisco International Airport.

Because I’ve been through some trauma too. I know what it’s like. And she’s worth it.

  1. [1]Egon G. Guba and Yvonna S. Lincoln, “Paradigmatic Controversies, Contradictions, and Emerging Confluences,” in The Landscape of Qualitative Research, 3rd ed., Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008); Colin Robson, Real World Research: A Resource for Users of Social Research Methods in Applied Settings, 3rd ed. (West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 2011).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Admiral Janeway’s U3 statistic, take two,” DisUnitedStates.org, February 7, 2010, http://disunitedstates.org/?p=1302

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