THOUGHTS FROM A STRAY (cat) - Hilda Lunn
J. Darlene Meyer
by Joanna Harkin, President-Founder-Director
of Alliance for Stray Animals and People (ASAP)
I met J. Darlene Meyer in the early 90s when Tom Curtis, a cat rescue colleague, introduced me to Darlene. Darlene was a good friend to Tom Curtis and his long-time companion Frances Chastain, both of whom did so much for street cats back in the 90s when TNR (trap-neuter-return of stray cats) wasn't as accepted as it is now. Tom and Frances lived in an apartment on K Street. Naturally they brought in a few friendly cats to rehome, and Tom would leave a note on the closed bedroom door "Darkroom! Do not Enter!" to preclude unnecessary nosing around by building personnel in their absence. Anyway, Tom was a familiar figure tending to hungry cats who awaited his daily visits made on foot in the downtown area, and after I got to know Tom, he introduced me to Darlene whose town house on Church Street (a block above Whole Foods on P Street) was generously made available for spayed cats in need of a place to recover from surgery.
Then, in 1995 I rented an artist's studio on Church Street next door to Darlene's townhouse, and Darlene and I got to know each other better. In fact, I believe I told Darlene about the job opening at Pet Pantry at Van Ness on Connecticut Avenue where Darlene helped manage that pet store before moving on to her position at the Washington Post. In 1995, Darlene agreed to keep a cat for me, and the particular female cat she agreed to "foster" was an escape artist who honed her skills at Darlene's whose front door opened to directly on Church Street. This made for many wonderful games of "catch the kitty" which were a challenge for Darlene and me - not to mention a wonderful sport for Pus. The cat was friendly enough, but once out, would have nothing to do with being trapped or picked up. Finally after collaborating with Darlene, one evening I fed Pus on a blanket and, picking up four corners of the blanket, ran with the cat to Darlene's door. Darlene was on "high alert" and opened her front door immediately before the cat could wiggle out of the blanket. Fortunately for me and for the cat (less so for Darlene who now couldn't open and shut her front door any more without keeping a close watch) Darlene accepted this challenge cat back with one of her famous twinkles indicating, "I'm smarter than this cat!" And Darlene proved to be victorious over this kitty character, and gave Pus a wonderful life thereafter.
Darlene passed away in January of 2012, and Darlene's family has made a generous gift to support ASAP. It is much appreciated. I remember Darlene for her kindness to animals, secondary only to her genuine kindness and caring for people. Darlene was quite intelligent and always gave you a calculating look that assured you she had assessed your situation or predicament, and wise counsel or an offer of help would ensue if you wanted. Darlene had a wonderful reserve yet never imposed herself. She could, however, always be counted on when needed. Darlene was one good "cat," and as is true of cats, had many lives, from forming and running her own business to a short stint managing a boutique pet store on Connecticut Avenue until her Washington Post position opened up, where she was an active union member and officer. She was a blessing to her fellow colleagues there, though perhaps occasionally a thorn in management's side. I say this because Darlene never would: she was unfailingly modest, though she could out think most others. That glimmer in Darlene's eyes gave her away however when her intelligence got the best of her, and her good-natured humor shone through. What I liked most about Darlene is that she fought for the underdog (and cat!).