Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Tail of a Cat

I have never wanted a cat. Or a dog, either. Or a gerbil or a bird or any other kind of a pet, for that matter. I had one week's custody of the class hamster in third grade. He bit me! And I had one or two ill-fated turtles, before they stopped selling them in every dime store for fear of salmonella, and once an Easter chick that everybody knew from the start was destined to wind up in my grandparents' chicken yard, to provide eggs or meat depending on its gender.

But I didn't mind. My friends read dog stories, or horse stories, or both. I read mysteries, or ballet stories. And anyway, I was "allergic to animal dander." My brother, however, minded a lot. He NEEDED a dog. And so my parents got him a beagle puppy, who lived strictly outdoors, in respect for my allergies. When "Cal" died when my brother was in high school, he was never replaced.

Many years later (he was forty-two), my brother married a lovely lady who was a cat person. It was understood that if he wanted her, Gypsy was part of the deal. And as Gypsy moved on to cat heaven, she was replaced by Samantha and Thomasina. One of them (I can only tell which under direct coaching) has adopted my brother. And the other one (I think) usually deigns to jump on me a couple of times whenever I visit. I have always considered that cat exposure enough for me. I choose not to remember that my allergies have departed along with my NOT LAMENTED allergy to chocolate.

However. . . . I also married, a man whose family had a succession of both cats and dogs all through his childhood, and even after he left home. And he is observant enough to know that I don't have my chocolate allergy any more. So ten or so years ago, when our children begged for a dog, I was outvoted seven to one. I could have cast a veto, but I was assured that they were old enough to take care of a dog, and I wouldn't have to do anything. That was as true as most such promises are. But I kind of got used to "Bo", and when he had to be put down because of lymphoma after only four years, I sent a baggie of cheese and chocolate -- his favorites -- along with the brave souls who were taking him to the vet.

We were pet-free for about a year after that, but I, at least, am incapable of telling a group of wistful children "Nope, no dog again ever." We eventually adopted "Joe", who has been a member of our family ever since. He is definitely Roger's dog, which is good because walking him makes my sedentary computer guru get some exercise. But not so good is the fact that when we want to make a weekend trip out of town to visit the grandchildren we have to find someone to take care of him. We have some awesome friends and neighbors who are willing to do this, but as the kids leave home and the grandchildren multiply we'll want to be gone more often, so we had determined -- no more pets.

Allow me to backtrack a little . I have not yet finished writing the Mom's-eye-view of Katie, our fifth. And I haven't begun at all on Tommy, our youngest. This has partly been because I've realized that they are still living through the parts of life I've described for the others. But I need to give Tommy a couple of sentences here.

Tommy is smart, articulate, computer-savvy, and self-confident. He gets his good looks from his dad, and his pig-headed stubbornness from me. He is wonderful with Daniel and Camilla; patient, kind and willing to have their kind of fun. And a couple of months ago, he got himself into hot water. It wasn't a big deal, really. I almost had a sense of relief that now we knew what the "wrinkle" in raising this one was, since each of the other five had had one. (Some of them I've mentioned here, some not.) But the result was that he wasn't too happy with us for while.

But ten days ago Tommy came into the room where I was ironing with an interesting smile on his face. "Hello, dear beautiful sweet intelligent mother.." Can you tell where this is going? He wanted to know if he could adopt a kitten! He and Katie assured me that the kitten was free (true), that it had had all its shots (not true), and that they would do all the work and pay all the expenses (true so far, except that sometimes I have to open a door that we keep closed in the summer for cooling so that Lucas can reach his litter box.) Obviously, I eventually I said yes.

And I'm very glad I did. Tommy, who begged us for a little brother or sister until it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen, now has something younger and smaller to care for. He spent his entire last paycheck on Lucas' vet visit. He wakes up reasonably cheerful in the morning to the sound of a bell on a collar. He cleans the litter box without being reminded.

Of course, right now, Tommy, like all red-blooded American boys, is taking a Sunday afternoon nap. And Lucas, who seems to have an insatiable urge to be "UP" as high as possible, has made his way onto my desk and is blocking my view of the monitor as has chases his tail. I still don't have any desire for a pet. But I guess I don't mind being entertained by somebody else's!


Lindsay said...

If you get one with a nice temperament, cats can be wonderful to have around.

Jen said...

I really want a cat, but unfortunately I am kind of allergic to cats and Matt is massively allergic to cats. So we've ended up with dogs.

George said...

I find it somewhat ridiculous, mother, that you have no problem openly naming Lucas, or putting quotation marks around "Joe", as some sort of pseudo-pseudonym, yet feel the need to fake the nickname of our first dog, Callebaut, aka Cal. Not "Bo", Cal. And while I'm not sure what Uncle Bo called his childhood pet, I'm betting it wasn't "Cal". This internet anonymity stuff is a bit odd, I know, but the 35,600 Google results for "callebaut dog" aren't likely to lead anyone to find out who were really are.

Christy said...

I think it's wonderful that you have a cat! I will admit that we hit the jackpot temperment-wise with Gumbo, but I think a decent cat will convert anyone into a cat-lover. I just don't know how you got him to keep a collar on!

Uncle Bo's wife said...

ah, yes, the cat in front of the monitor. sounds correct especially since all cats know that anything you're doing is not as important as paying attention to them. Have fun and, as I warned your DH the other day, just wait for the curtain climbing.