NORTH BEND AND THE THAI AMBASSADOR
A snippet of Korat History

(written by Claire Dodds)

 

About Claire Dodds

I imagine more than one reader is scratching his/her head wondering who is this Dodds person and what are her qualifications to write about the Korat. While my name is not familiar several of you are familiar with my cattery name, Royale Swan. I was one of the earliest breeders of Korats, my first one purchased from Jean Johnson from the second litter born in the United States. I hope you will enjoy the bit of Korat history printed below... (Claire Dodds)

I acquired my first Korat kitten from Jean Johnson in 1959. Cedar Glen's Isis of Royale Swan was born in the second litter produced in the United States, giving me the dubious status of one of the earliest Korat breeders.

By 1963 the few Korat breeders then existing had managed to increase the population to a viable number. From the beginning one goal was to introduce the Korat to the Cat Fancy as well as the general public. In an effort to do my part to achieve this goal, Isis was exhibited in California and Washington shows. She was the first Korat seen in those states.

Late in 1963 a personal friend Robert B. Duncan, then a Member of Congress from the 4th Congressional District of Oregon, told me a new ambassador to the United States from Thailand would be arriving early in 1964. He suggested it might be a nice gesture to present His Excellency with a Korat kitten as a welcoming gift. He added we could probably get some great national press. I had given Bob and his wife, Marijane, a Korat after he fell in love with Isis. Jean thought it a wonderful idea.

Isis delivered her third litter of kittens in late November, two males and a little female. One of the males had the classic crook in his tail highly prized by the Thai to hold the luck. Since I lived in North Bend, Oregon and Bob said the kitten had a bend in his north end when heading south, the kitten was named North Bend.

A few days prior to our departure for Washington, DC the local Coos Bay-North Bend newspaper published an article about North Bend. Our local TV station also ran a couple of spots on the kitten and his imminent departure for a glamorous life in Washington, D.C. The day before boarding our flight for the first leg of our journey I received calls from both Portland newspapers. They ran lengthy articles on the Korat and especially little North Bend.

Arriving in San Francisco we were met by reporters of several papers, all anxious for pictures of the little guy and a history of the Korat in the United States. May I say that my normally well behaved, well mannered little kitten quickly became a HAM! He loved the attention showered on him from all quarters.

North Bend was formally presented to His Excellency Sukich Nimmanhemin, the Ambassador from Thailand the day of our arrival in Washington. Did North Bend enjoy a pampered life at the Thai Embassy? I am sure he did. Before the formal presentation the Ambassador entered Bob's office, bypassed the protocol officer, and coming up behind me plucked the kitten from my shoulder.

"It really is a Korat," he said. "I would have happily traveled to Oregon for this kitten."

Looking from left to right: Marijane Duncan (wife of Congressman),
the Ambassador, a much younger Me, Robert B. Duncan

The Formal Presentation of North Bend to The Ambassador of Thailand

The informal presentation of little North Bend to the Ambassador did not meet with the approval of the State Department Protocol Officer in charge. He quickly rounded up the principles, placing the Americans in a proper receiving line, ushering the Ambassador and his entourage into a position to make a formal entrance.

Then and only then did the formal presentation proceed duly reported by the press and filmed by the US Information Service for showing overseas. Printed below is the script dubbed into the film. This script was also broadcast by the Voice of America to countries in Europe and Asia.

THE TALE OF A SIAMESE CAT

This is the tale of "North Bend" a rare blue Korat cat with a kinky tail -- the bearer of great good fortune.

The story begins about six months ago, when Mrs. Claire Dodds, owner of the Royale Swan Cattery of North Bend Oregon, and breeder of Siamese cats, discovered that she had a blue Korat kitten with a kinky tail. According to a superstition, such a cat must never be sold, but must be given away so that it may bring good fortune to its owner.

The problem was who should be the recipient of such a good luck cat? Mrs. Dodds wrote to her congressman in Washington, Mr. Robert B. Duncan, for his suggestions. They decided that the most logical person to be honored with the gift of a blue Korat cat with a kinky tail was His Excellency, The Ambassador of Thailand.

Congressman Duncan got in touch with the Ambassador, Mr. Sukich Nimmanhemin. Yes, came the answer, Mr. Nimmanhemin would be delighted to have the kitten.

Mrs. Dodds took a plane to Washington, a distance of some 3,000 miles, bringing the kitten in a small woven hamper. The poor little animal was airsick all the way and arrived looking very peaked and woebegone.

Congressman Duncan, meanwhile, had made arrangements for a presentation ceremony in his office. Shortly before the hour, movie cameramen, radio technicians and reporters moved in.

Promptly at four o'clock the Ambassador arrived, a tall, distinguished gentleman of evident good humor and erudition, who seemed to relish the ceremony about to take place. The congressman made a speech in Thai language, which he had learned for this special occasion, telling of his interest in Thailand, and his hope that this slight gesture would be another token of friendship between the two countries. He said that because the cat had a kink in its tail it had been decided to name it for its birthplace, North Bend.

Mrs. Dodds explained that when the tail is wholly kinked, as in the case of her cat, it "holds the luck in." She expressed the hope that the kitten would bring unalloyed happiness to the Ambassador and his household.

While Mr. Duncan held the kitten, it looked at the assembled group with large, frightened green eyes, its wistful, pointed face turning from side to side, its four feet extended as if it might suddenly leap and run away. But when the small animal was handed to the Ambassador, he cradled it in one hand against his chest, while with the other he stroked the silky blue-gray fur, chucking the kitten gently under the chin and rubbing its head in a light circular motion.

Almost at once the tiny animal quieted down, began to purr, and watched the remainder of the ceremony through half-closed eyes. His whole attitude seemed to say: "The nightmare is over. The airplane ride, the sickness, the fright are things of the past. Now, I'm Home."

The Thai Ambassador, speaking in perfect English, acknowledged the Congressman's speech and said he was happy to know that Americans think of Siam when they see a Siamese cat. He said he was not ashamed to admit that he preferred cats to dogs. He said he already has two American cats with poetic Thai names, Khwan Ruan (Glory of the House), and Khway Chai (Glory of My Heart), and that he was delighted to have a blue Korat. (He added that he also has six birds and an aquarium of fish. He said he keeps the birds in his own room and does not allow the cats to enter.)

His Excellency said that in North Thailand there is a legend that the Lord Buddha was so troubled with mice eating his robes, he picked up some mud and formed it into a shape, breathed life into it and made a cat that would protect the royal wardrobe. He added that to this day, this legend is responsible for the fact that no one ever kills a cat in Thailand, for to do so is equivalent to killing a Buddhist monk.

The Ambassador recalled from his childhood, a song, which he sang:

"O Thou mewing cat of sleek and trim appearance
Whose speedy response to thy owner's mewing call,
And whose affection can be felt in thy rubbing against one's limb
Show that thou returneth affection for thy owner's love,
and helpeth to watch over the house against mischievous mice;
This affectionate gratitude of thine should not pass without appreciation
And thy lovable example should be remembered by all good little fold!"

When he was asked if he thought the three cats would get on well together, the Ambassador said: "Americans and Thai people have been good friends for over 130 years -- so why would not American cats be nice to a little blue Korat?"

After the speeches, Congressman Duncan's wife served tea to the guests. She recalled that her home state has yet another tie to Thailand through an elephant that was brought to the zoo in Portland, Oregon, from the zoo in Bangkok several years ago.

"Our Siamese elephant is the most popular animal in the Portland zoo," observed the Congressman.

NOTE: I learned from the Ambassador about a year later the American cats welcomed North Bend into the household with open paws. He lived his life happily and comfortably on Embassy Row.

Some editorial license was taken by the writer of the above piece. North Bend had recovered from his air sickenss, suffered only on the first leg of our journey, by the time of the presentation. Far from woe-be-gone, North Bend was his old mischievious-playful self by the time of the presentation. He did, however, fall instantly in love with the Ambassador.

Claire Dodds
Royale Swan Cattery - USA