PULLMAN, Wash. - Jordie the cat is blind, and his owners, Mark and Wiwiek Bordsen of Colfax, say he possesses uncat-like abilities. By meowing boldly and threading himself around his owners’ legs, he reminds them to raise the American flag in front of the house each morning and to lock the main door each night. He even follows commands, they contend. He sits. He stays.
What’s more, if you whistle the theme song from the musical "Cabaret,” he follows.
The Bordsens and Jordie returned to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital recently to visit the surgeon who operated on this wonder cat two years ago.
After entering the examination room, Mark Bordsen, to prove his point, began whistling a few bars from "Cabaret.” Jordie twitched his ears and began to slink out of his cat carrier in the direction of his owner.
‘I just knew’
Ten years ago, Wiwiek Bordsen saw the headline "Loving home wanted” on a small newspaper ad. Placed by the Colfax Veterinary Clinic, it featured a photograph of a large, cream-colored cat - one eye sewn shut, the other milky and bulging from its socket.
The image latched onto her brain and wouldn’t let go, she said: "I just knew we were supposed to have that cat and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. He was like a magnet.”
The Bordsens moved the cat into their home on a trial basis. At first, he moved tentatively and low to the ground, using his extended over-sized paws to feel his way around the house, they recalled.
The veterinarian in Colfax speculated that Jordie’s left eye had been surgically removed after it was damaged by herpes feline virus when he was a kitten. His right eye appeared to be left with little vision, said Mark Bordsen, former planner for Whitman County.
"We figured out that he couldn’t see stationary objects but he could see some light and movement,” Bordsen said. "And he didn’t know what to make of us. Whenever I tried to pet him, he pulled away.”
Jordie may have been blind, but he knew good pet owners when he found them. Over time, he began sitting on their laps and following them around the house. And like any much-loved cat, he nestled comfortably on the bed.
Slowly, he started responding to basic commands and making sure daily routines were followed, such as putting up the flag and locking the door, said Bordsen.
"We realized what an extraordinary cat he was and felt blessed to have him in our lives,” he said.
WSU saves eye
In 2010, Jordie injured his remaining eyeball. Fortunately for him – and his by then adoring owners – WSU’s veterinary hospital has an ophthalmology unit. Terri Alessio is board certified in veterinary ophthalmology, the medical and surgical care of animals’ eyes.
She examined Jordie and found that he had severely punctured his cornea - the dome-like covering of the eye - although it wasn’t clear how.
"I gave the owners a grave prognosis for successful repair of the cornea and vision,” recalled Alessio. Because the Bordsens wanted to try to save Jordie's eye, Alessio covered the puncture with a tissue graft from another part of the eye and sutured it to the cornea.
The procedure worked.
To have access to skilled veterinary specialists and high-tech treatments in a quiet region surrounded by wheat fields "is truly remarkable,” said Bordsen. "The procedure Dr. Alessio performed helped save what vision Jordie still had. I doubt many places could have offered this level of care,” he said.
Life is a cabaret
When the Bordsens brought Jordie back to WSU to reunite with Alessio on a recent Friday, Mark Bordsen - who, in his dark cowboy hat, Wranglers and sports vest, resembles a horse person more than a cat person - performed his whistled rendition of "Cabaret.” As Jordie meowed, everyone beamed around the exam table.
Afterwards, Alessio examined Jordie’s eye as the Bordsens looked on: "The graft is in place and the shape of his cornea looks a lot better. You two did a great job taking care of him,” she said.
"We did, but it helped that we had such a good surgeon,” replied Mark Bordsen, as Jordie’s favorite tune seemed to linger in the air:
"What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Come to the cabaret.”