For the love of cats...
The little lady at the convenience store counter sized me up, looked at me shrewdly for a few seconds.
“How many cats do you have?”
How many cats?
Oh. She’d seen the bag of kitty litter I’d lugged up to the counter.
Two, I said.
She was quiet again.
“I had a cat,” she said. “He was named Charlie.”
More quiet. She was a woman of very few words. But she was telling me something. Her eyes twinkled.
Ah. She’s one of us: The many. The proud. The cat lovers.
I had a cat named Shadrack, who was shy like this woman but melted my heart in the short time we were together, years ago. I forgave him long ago for stealing my chicken and hiding the bones under the bed. I remember how he snuggled in my arms as we fell asleep.
I had a cat named Chico, a stray who was my best pal for almost 16 years. Nobody did it quite like Cheeks. We had so many adventures together, so much loving. When I couldn’t bear to leave him home for anextended period, I took Cheeks on the road and smuggled him into a hotel under my jacket.
I had a cat named Blizzard, a stray who was my best pal for another 16 years after Cheeks. He loved everyone, and he loved good food.
I have fond memories of Blizzie running off with spare ribs, leftover ham, and pizza. If it was meat, and unattended, he was all over it.
Blizzie died last May and I mourn for him every day. I look at my favorite picture of him, poised on a chair, looking his impetuous best. And I remember good ol’ Shaddy and Cheeks.
But I still buy litter, and cat food, and treats for my current feline employers, Scooter and Willie.
Scootie is my big, orange, long-haired beauty, a snuggler and a lover of good treats, still going strong at 17. He used to be as shy as our lady of the counter – still hates to be picked up - but we bonded one day years ago at the vet’s office.
I calmed Scootie down, told him it would be OK when the doc gave him a shot. It was, and my sweet big boy has gained confidence each day. His big, deep rumble is the best noise of all.
I wasn’t planning on adopting another kitty when I went to the vet’s office for a story years ago.
But there was this little guy, chasing my finger up and down in a double-decker cage.
And now Willie is about 12. He jumps up onto my shoulders when I come home, and he stands up on his hind feet, stretches out against a wall, and waves at me, and goes crazy when I wave a shoestring around.
My mom loved the story about how I once found Willie relaxing in a cool, clean crockpot, looking back at me as if to say, ‘What? It’s nice in here! You got a problem with that?”
I’ve got absolutely no problem with that, buddy. Anything you do is fine with me.
Except going away. You can never go away.
It will kill me inside – again – if you go away. Just so you know.
I think my lady of the counter knows that pain. She had Charlie, Charlie had her.
Love ‘em up. Just love ‘em up, as much as you can. Crazy, nutty little heartbreakers.
I wish they could stay forever, but they never do. Nothing gold can stay.
Love, love, love ‘em right up.