Their search took them to Animal Friends, in Emsworth, where they met a 5-month-old gray-and-white cat named Lars. The couple, who say they take their pets everywhere, happened to have their dogs with them, so the cat and dogs met on the spot; the introduction was slow, but went pretty smoothly.
“We needed a cat who was willing to be around these two big, loveable giants, and Lars seemed to fit the bill,” Alko says. “After two weeks, there was total harmony.”
But having a good temperament wasn’t Lars’ only attribute. He also came with a fearless spirit that allowed him to be up for anything. For example, Alko and Caldwell do a lot of water training with Melody and Anchor, and Lars, who walks with ease on a harness, would accompany them to the water. He had his own life jacket and mini surfboard and would often ride on the front of a kayak. But that got the couple wondering.
“We thought, ‘Would he like swimming?’” Alko says. “So we just thought, ‘Let’s give it a try.’”
Intrigued by his carefree, daring nature, Deanna and John began investigating what type of animal Lars was. They would discover he was a Norwegian forest cat, a hearty breed of Norse cat that was often used to chase mice and rodents on Viking ships.
“It turns out they were Vikings who loved to swim and were very serious about their job,” Alko says with laugh.
“It did take awhile, almost nine months, but he got it,” Alko says. “And, while they can learn how, no, we didn’t teach him how to flush.”