The cats that have owned me

You know the saying – “Cats don’t have owners, they have staff.” Pretty true.

195901 - Twee

This is Twee. Isn’t he cute? We adopted him in about 1957 or so; he got his name from a book I had as a child, Ounce, Dice, Trice by Alastair Reid, which suggested a number of good names for cats.

twee

It’s a very odd book, but then I have a very odd mind. It may have been a kickstart for my lifelong love of words and language.

TweeHell

When he grew up, he wasn’t so cute any longer. He would hide behind doors and jump out at my legs as I walked by, with malice aforethought. He ended up as the cat from Hell. But I still loved him, and was sad when I learned he had come to grief in New York traffic.

For another 22 years, as life took me in one direction and another, I was catless. But then in around 1982 or so we went to a pet store and got Sam.

Sam Reeding Time

He was a beautiful, elegant creature – a living ornament who moved from place to place and just beautified any spot where he happened to land. We took him to Switzerland with us for five months, where he had many friends, and brought him back when that adventure ended.

At around the age of 13, Sam became ill and lost his appetite; the only thing that he wanted to do was go outside. He was found by a neighbor in their back yard in the rain, and she went to every home in the neighborhood asking if he was theirs… except our house. She chose to take the word of three little girls across the street who declared that we didn’t have a cat. He was taken by animal services, euthanized, and cremated; I still feel bad that we couldn’t bury him properly. He was a good kitty.

After returning from Switzerland, we adopted Whisper and Wispy.Wispy and Whisper

These two pretty littermates were not terribly smart. They liked to sleep in the engine of our 1972 Mustang, and one day the inevitable happened. Wispy went through the alternator belt, and that was the end of her. She was replaced by Tickles, a tiny kitty with a broken mew and a giant purr; sadly I don’t seem to have any photos of her. Whisper and Sam didn’t get along that well, and he took to marking things in the house. We ultimately had to find another home for both Whisper and Tickles.

Before we moved in 1992, we adopted Buffy.

Buffy5

This beautiful girl was amazingly loving, and the whole family loved her. Any time I sat down or went to bed, she was there. It was like she had radar for a soft lap or an opportunity for a cuddle. Over time, though, she developed a terrible trait; she became afraid of her litter box, ultimately refusing to use it. As an indoor cat who was uncomfortable outside, this became a serious problem. We tried various solutions, various locations, different litters, all sorts of things. But she ultimately took to just using the entire house, and thus made herself unfit to be re-homed. We were moving to a new house and couldn’t afford to have her ruining carpets. Best Friends Animal Shelter in Kanab, Utah would have taken her… for $5,000. That was money we didn’t have; she ended her life at about 13, in the vet’s office, in my arms. I was devastated – she was my baby – but no other solutions were available.

After my second wife and I moved to Utah, we adopted Sensei in 2011.

Sensei (2)

He’s a beautiful Siamese-Maine Coon mix, and he remains the undisputed boss of our home today. And he sleeps in really odd positions.

About a year after we got him, we brought Tessa into the home, adopting her from some people close by who had several kittens they were trying to home. We thought Sensei would benefit from having a companion.

CatnipAddiction

Tessa was tiny when we got her; Sensei was mightily displeased, and took every opportunity to attack this bitty ball of fur… who was just feisty enough to stand up for herself. It didn’t take too long before we found them grooming one another.

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And ultimately they became good friends.

20120106 Sensei and Tessa

A few years later, the two were joined by Rufus, a little gray tiger-thing from a no-kill shelter in Rexburg, Idaho.

Rufus in the Cupboard

Rufus was a needy little thing, demanding lots and lots of attention, but a sweeter cat you’d never meet. He wanted to be around people, and he wanted the other two to like and accept him. But he was Omega Cat, and Sensei and Tessa just didn’t take to him.

Although sometimes he was “tolerated.”

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So when we moved to Maine in 2015, we found a family with three little girls who was willing to adopt him. Apparently he’s been placed with a different home since then, but as far as I know he’s still doing well.

Sensei and Tessa made the trek with us, and enjoyed a year in our apartment.

Charged

Here they are, fully-charged.

When we bought a home in the country with a cat door, we thought they would be in hog heaven… but one day shortly after moving in, Tessa just vanished. We “kitty kitty’d” all over the place, wondering if she had gotten stuck in some crevasse or outside in our barn somewhere.

Nothing.

We can only assume she made dinner for some local predator – a coyote, or an airborne raptor. She’s missed, but we gave her a good life.

So Sensei is still Master of the House, and we hope that he’ll be with us for a good long time yet.

So majestic.jpg

Ack! So majestic.

There is no solace for the loss of a cat but getting another cat. These little creatures worm their way into our homes and hearts and leave a big hole when they leave for one reason or another, but there are so many animals in shelters waiting for their forever homes and a shot at a good life that it makes no sense not to have one or two around. They have enriched my life beyond measure.

Stray Cat
Francis Witham

Oh, what unhappy twist of fate
Has brought you homeless to my gate?
The gate where once another stood
To beg for shelter, warmth and food.

For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny.
While he, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.

He scratched the furniture and shed
And claimed the middle of my bed.
He ruled in arrogance and pride
And broke my heart the day he died.

So if you really think, oh Cat,
I’d willingly relive all that
Because you come forlorn and thin,
Well….don’t just stand there…

Come on in!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

The Internet Doesn’t Have Everything Yet

I have written before about things I’ve lost over time, seen in a magazine or a book or elsewhere, and my efforts to re-locate them. As time goes on, more and more material gets uploaded to the Internet, but despite some successes, there are many lacunes.

I remember a great advertisement that appeared at the end of the 90s or thereabouts – it was, if I’m not mistaken, for the Sony Nightshot video camera, and showed – taken in infrared light – a cat and a dog surprised in a compromising position on the couch. The caption was something like “You’ll be surprised at what you can discover when you come home unexpectedly.”

I know that ad existed, because I can see it in my mind’s eye as plainly as could be desired, but thus far I have found no hint of it in the course of as many searches as I know how to do. It appears to have vanished without a trace. Now that may be the result of an unfortunate urban legend which sprung up around the time of the Nightshot’s introduction, specifically that you could see through clothing with it – but I’m surprised I can’t locate this particular ad copy, because it was funny.

I guess some things are either lost forever, or I’ll just have to keep waiting until someone finds it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

They should have hired a cat long ago

Along with all his other glorious insanity, Gary Larson created this gem:

Gary Larson - The Far Side

Gary Larson – The Far Side

The dog looking out the window had the answer right under his nose, but he failed to make the critical connection:

cat

Over at the BBC, you can watch Dexter help his friend Gizmo overcome the obstacle. Apparently this is not an isolated incident; Dexter the cat and his dog pal Gizmo were shut in the kitchen at owner Matt Hurst’s home in Sheffield every morning when he left for work. After finding them in the rest of the house for three days running, a confused Mr Hurst set up a camera to find out how they were making their escape. Click through for the full story and video.

Thanks to my friend Billy O’Shea for pointing out this lovely story.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Any dog can love

Certain breeds of dog get a bad rap, especially in the media. If ever there’s an incident where dogs frighten, hurt or kill a person, you can be sure it will be reported with much more terror and alarm if the dog happened to be a Doberman, a Rottweiler, a German Shepherd, or a Pit Bull.

dobie

Humanity has been living with dogs for a long, long time, and it would be well for us to remember that although domesticated, they are the descendants of grey wolves.

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There came a time when dogs realized there was value in a partnership with those hairless apes.

Done Evolving

Cartoon by Nick Kim

People who have had any relationship with dogs at all know that these creatures are some of the most loving, brave, and faithful souls that have ever been sent to earth.

Dogs Make You Feel Better

Most recently, therapy dogs brought comfort to those affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy.

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Quality

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when something goes wrong through no fault of yours and those you love take it out on you,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics…

Then my friends, you are almost as good as your dog.

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Here’s a lovely story that gets forwarded around a lot. It’s a glurge, and I still like it.

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years.

He wondered where the road was leading them. After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, a tall arch that glowed broke in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?” “This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered. “Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked. Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.” The man gestured, and the gate began to open. “Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveler asked. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.” The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road, which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book. “Excuse me!” he called to the reader. “Do you have any water?” “Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there.” The man pointed to a place that couldn’t be seen from outside the gate. “Come on in.” “How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog. “There should be a bowl by the pump.” They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them. “What do you call this place?” the traveler asked. “This is Heaven,” was the answer. “Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said……”The man down the road said that was Heaven, too?” “Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s Hell.” “Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?” “No. I can see how you might think so, but we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who’ll leave their best friends behind.”

—————–

A recent news article at the BBC describes a dog who kept a young girl alive in freezing temperatures.

And of course, there are the stories of Hachikō

1Blogger1

Red Dog

red dog 1

The red dog monument

red dog 2

Koko (go ndéanai Día trocaire air)[1], the kelpie who starred in the iconic movie,

and Greyfriar’s Bobby.

Greyfriars_Bobby

Albumen print (ca. 1865), thought to be of Bobby (from Wikimedia Commons)

Although Bobby’s story has been challenged by numerous authorities, there is no end of documented tails [sic] (see Hachikō above) of dogs who have demonstrated extraordinary love and faithfulness.

I’ve known many dogs, but none as faithful or loving as Céilidh. She was the very best… we covered thousands of miles together on our walks.

Ceilidh2

For what it’s worth, there are cultures in the world that consider dogs unclean. I can only pity them… they are missing out on one of the greatest sources of love and friendship that the Earth has to offer.

All of this having been said, there is no breed of dog that has ever exhibited a tendency for more aggressiveness than another. The breeds I mentioned above have gotten an especially bad rap because many people train these dogs to be aggressive for use in security, police work, or the heinous activity of dogfighting. Because they are animals, they will respond exactly as they are trained – consciously or unconsciously – to do.

A famous poem by By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. has a lot to say about dogs as well as children:

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Dogs are even more intuitive and less reasoned than children. Mark Twain once famously said,

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

Any dog that is raised with love will give love, devotion, protection, and service in return. Any dog that is beaten, abused, starved, chained, made afraid, or tortured is a candidate for aggressive behavior – I don’t care if it’s a Pit Bull or a Yorkshire Terrier… dogs have no sense of their own size, as anyone with a chihuahua can attest to.

Pit bulls tend to get the worst rap of all, and it’s entirely undeserved.

FearFact

This poster by the National Canine Research Council (full-size PDF file here) outlines a number of fears about Pit Bulls, with the documented facts about the breed. The same things, however, could be said about any breed of dog that is looked up on by the public (again, largely thanks to the media and the entertainment industry) as being dangerous.

BanStupidPeopleNotDogs

To end this essay on a lighter note, I share a story that I first heard in Irish. The translation below is mine.[2]

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Ti-Boy and the Dogs

Like his father, Ti Charlie, and his uncle, Ti Antoine, Ti-Boy LeBlanc was a big strapping fellow, and never was there a more terrible bully in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, than his dog. The other night, Ti-Boy was drinking beer and eating boiled crawfish with a couple of his buddies in a bar on route 20. In comes a stranger, and after a few words with the bartender, up comes he to Ti-Boy.

Stranger: Is that your big dog out there?
Ti-Boy: Yeah, he’s mine.
Stranger: Well, my dog just killed your dog.
Ti-Boy: Your dog killed my dog? Incroyable! What kind of dog do you have, anyway?
Stranger: A Chihuahua.
Ti-Boy: A Chihuahua?!? You’re putting me on! There’s no chance in Hell that a little bitty dog like that could do any damage to a dog that’s as big as a horse!
Stranger: I’m telling you he killed it.
Ti-Boy: How?!
Stranger: The little creature got stuck in its throat…

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Irish = “May God have mercy upon him,” said when mentioning someone deceased.

[2] The original story:

Ti Boy agus na Madraí

Dála a athar, Ti Charlie, agus a uncail, Ti Antoine, fear mór scafánta ba ea Ti Boy LeBlanc. Bhí maistín mór millteach aige an madra ba mhó i bParóiste Terrebonne, Louisiana. Tráthnóna amháin bhí Ti Boy ag ól beorach agus ag ithe boiled crawfish lena chuid cairde i dteach tábhairne ar Route 20. Tháinig strainséir isteach. Tar éis cúpla focal leis an mbartender, chuaigh an fear seo go dtí Ti Boy.

Strainséir: An leatsa an mada mór amuigh ansin?
Ti Boy: Sea. Is liomsa é.
Strainséir: Bhuel, tá mo mhadasa théis do mhadasa a mharú.
Ti Boy: Mharaigh do mhadasa mo mhadasa? Incroyable! Cén sórt mada tá agat, anyway?
Strainséir: Chihuahua.
Ti Boy: Chihuahua!?! Tá tú ag tarraingt asam! Dheamhan seans ag mada beag bídeach mar sin aon damáiste a dhéanamh do mhada atá chomh mór le bromach!
Strainséir: Tá mé á rá leat gur mharaigh sé é.
Ti Boy: Cén chaoi?!
Strainséir: Chuaigh an créatúirín i bhfostú ina scornach…

(Originally found at http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~bj333/HomePage.home.html – link now 404)