Not Only Dogs

T he dogs that shed and barked and piddled their way through the last fifty years of my life were properly loved by my children, I'm sure, even if they were occasionally burdened with the feeding and grooming.

As a kid I did some feeding but very little grooming. Dogs and cats were useful animals like our horses, for which we had cozy outbuildings so they were kept outside. Their responsibility was to warn against strangers or feed on mice and rats.

That was while I was a kid. Not so after I married. Dogs and cats ate store bought food and were free to come and go like the kids. And the pets were a changing scene. Dogs were run over by cars, or died from old age. Cats that weren't adopted by friends or neighbors simply ran away. Or maybe they were kidnapped but that's hard to believe. At any rate we had an inexhaustible supply and somehow a renewable source.

We were without cats after we moved into an apartment but not because we didn't have helpful neighbors. My webmaster, when he was seven years old, came home hugging a furry armful.

We didn't keep that one but others came along. And stayed. One fall, Ron and I splurged on a plane trip to a dozen cities in as many days. When I called home to see if our sixteen year old was watering my plants properly, he said he was. Somehow one plant had fallen off the stand but he managed to put it back in the pot, he said, none the worse for wear. Oh. Oh. The plant was not a meat eater, losing its balance when it reached out for a flying tidbit.

Something was up.
You'd better believe it was. Two wild yellow kittens played tag between the drapes and the furniture. Our son brought them home after his Dragon Quest hostess rescued them from the wild hedge in town when they reached the ripe old age of six weeks. They were immediately sent to the shed. One got miffed at my attitude when he matured and was absent for days at a time. His name was Tututkamun. And true to the kingly need to proliferate, succeeded in populating the neighborhood with striped yellow progeny until he finally disappeared for good.

The second cat, Abernathy, was petted and appreciated by Ron and the sixteen year old savior. I tolerated the cat and hinted that someone out there was dying to have a sweet yellow cat. Those hints fell on deaf ears. One day he marked his territory on the back of Ron's new recliner. Soon a man and his daughter answered our ad for a free cat.

I held Abernathy in my arms discussing his lovable feline characteristics while he became more and more restless. He did not want to be handed off to strangers. I decided that a box would be necessary to confine him until he could settle in his new home. The little girl didn't believe it and reached for him. He scrambled off into the shrubbery and never 'spoke' to me again. He wouldn't come within touching distance.

Abernathy stayed close to Ron. Ron blocked the storm door open just far enough for the cat could pull it open to come into the back entry where I kept food and water. After Ron's health deteriorated and Bruno died, I turned my back when Abernathy snuck upon the bed to nap against Ron's back.

But his narrowed eyes kept a apprehensive watch on me. Just to show him who was boss, I scatted him out once in a while. After Ron died Abernathy never came into the house again except when the savior came home from college.

I did not want the back door left unlocked for Abernathy so I installed a wooden panel with his own personal swinging door. He maintained his cool distance, accepting food, water and a weekly raw egg beaten in milk as his due. Until one day after four years of distant respect, he appeared in the entry, sick and bloody, with a hopeful look of forgiveness. I hurriedly brought his egg and milk, which he drank amid watchful glances then curled up in the corner in grateful acceptance.

In the morning his curled body was stiff and cold.


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Last Modified: Sunday, 29-Feb-2004 01:29:27 EST