We have recently added a new member to our household, a creature both alien and familiar. At first, I didn’t think we could get along, but time has somewhat warmed my feelings for this creature. Although, like this morning when it decided to take a sip of my coffee while my back was turned, I have the urge to impale it with a sharp object. What creature can cause one to respond with kindness one moment and blind hatred the next? Why, it’s a cat, of course.
Now, the Mistress of the Manor and I didn’t go looking for a cat. If I was looking for a pet, it would be a dog. Dogs provide unconditional love, while cats only cozy up to you when they want something. The rest of the time, they wouldn’t care if you were on fire.
Our cat, that term still gives me chills, was apparently a well-cared-for feline (she had been fixed) until its owners decided to move without telling it to pack its bags. It ended up with our neighbor, who was expecting a new arrival of her own – a Great Dane puppy - in a few days, so she asked if we wanted the cat. Oddly enough, the Mistress of the Manor seemed inclined to the idea, but once our neighbor brought the subject up in front of our grandson … well, we had to take the cat. Wild Man quickly decided on Maple Leaf for its name and it begrudgingly joined our household.
Now, pets are nothing new to me. Growing up, we had two dogs – a loving, sweet, collie named Jack, and a terrier-Chihuahua mix named Cookie with the temperament of Rush Limbaugh on crack. Just ask her veterinarian. He’s dead now, and I’m still not sure she didn’t have something to do with it. Jack would sit quietly while the vet vaccinated him, but when it became Cookie’s turn, that little bit of hell went berserk. She destroyed more than one muzzle, as well as a few fingers. She developed cancer, and her passing was a blessing … for everyone concerned. The vet even sent a congratulations card.
I was also very familiar with cats by this time, since my sister had somewhere in the vicinity of a million, or, at least, it seemed that way. Of course, one winter we cut that number down to size, and mean that literally. It seemed the cats and kittens alike found they could keep warm by crawling up onto the motors of our cars at night. The first time this happened, it resulted in fillet of kitty the next morning. Although we tried to check each morning, sometimes we forgot. And when we forgot, another kitty or two went to that great scratching post in the sky.
My all-time favorite pet was a German shepherd-collie mix named Booger. I got him from one of my drama professors while at college. We bonded the first night I had him when he crawled into bed with me. As I was dozing off, I felt Booger step up onto my chest. I then felt a warm sensation, followed by a wet sensation. Booger had peed on me.
Despite his eventual 120-some pounds, Booger proved over the years to be a gentle creature, except when it came to skunks. That dog sought out skunks, which was a bad thing in more ways than one. Not only did he return from his skunk hunting smelling to high Heaven, his face would be swollen to the size of a basketball. The vet said Booger was allergic to skunks, but, to his credit, Booger never flinched from his mission of destroying all the smelly creatures he could.
While my kids were growing up, we had dogs and cats galore. My daughter had, at one time, cats in the double-digits, and, although we never had that many dogs at one time, we had more than enough. One dog in particular, Boogie, was as dumb as a bag of hammers. Others were smart, some were noisy and some hated cats. As our kids got older, our number of pets slowly diminished, until we didn’t have any. And that was fine, because we were petted out. At least as far as animals were concerned.
My daughter, or “Dammit”, as she was known during one exhausting shopping trip one Christmas season (her brother, who was known as “Hell Fire” at that time) loved the cats as a youngun’, but is now totally a dog person. Her beloved Gilbert, who looks like a miniature German shepherd, was a bit neurotic for a portion of his life, and would bark at the Mistress of the Manor and I, and would not let us pet him unless Bernadette (her real name) or Eric (her husband) were standing next to him. That only lasted eight years. Gilbert is now cool with us, I think because we make sure we have a healthy supply of bologna on hand when he comes to visit.
Although we love Gilbert, we hadn’t felt the need for another pet for the past 12 years or so. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. We now have Maple Leaf, who was on shaky ground the first couple of weeks. For some reason, she would sleep about 20 hours a day and then rouse up about 5 a.m. in the morning. Since she was up and ready for action, I guess she figured we should be up too, so she would jump into our bed and began rubbing against our heads and start meowing like she was auditioning for a “Pet Semetary” remake. It was rather disconcerting, not to mention downright annoying.
She seems to have calmed down over the past couple of weeks, and now acts more normal, which is a good thing. I actually have begun to develop a warmness toward her. However, don’t get me wrong. Any more of that devil cat stuff and her furry butt is in a heap of trouble.