We all have special people in our lives who affect us in some way – emotionally, or memorably. Their specialness brings us joy at remembrance of the memory, experiences or any impact they bring to our lives. We’re lucky if we have more than one such person and blessed if there are many.
If we add pets to the statistics of memorable joys, a recent National Pet Owners Survey reveals there are over 90 million pet cats in the United States purring in 69 million households. I’m sure you all know people who love their pets and treat them like family members. Lots of love, joy and remembrances abound here. And we all announce that we have the ‘smartest cat.”
I had pets all my life. Many stray cats and discarded dogs all found their way to our home coaxed along by my siblings or me. Not everyone has had pets in their life. My husband is Sicilian, and his culture is quite different in that it frowns on “bringing animals into the home”. Many Sicilians believe animals are best left outside ~ animals are a helpful aid out in the countryside, but not welcome within the home walls.
Fully understanding this concept when my husband retired, I nevertheless wondered if he would enjoy the company of an outdoor cat while he worked outside in his garden which is his passion. He spends a lot of time in his gardens. Since I was still working, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pet to keep him company. It so happened that right after his retirement, there was a post on the company bulletin board that a one-year old male cat was up for adoption. He was an ‘outdoor cat’, who was also used to people and affectionate. Perfect.
He could keep my husband company while I was at work all day. My husband, Nello, was surprised when I came home, pet carrier in hand, with a beautiful tabby cat with black and white markings. His eyes were deep emerald green outlined by black markings. A very handsome cat, indeed.
Nello, was less than thrilled when I told him the cat would be his garden companion. His first welcoming remark to the cat and me was, “He can’t come into the house”. I assured him that this was an outdoor cat, used to the outdoors, and happy to be so and would not be invited inside.
Nello scowled, reluctantly put him in the garage and said, “Leave him in here or he’ll run away”. This was a good sign. He didn’t want the cat to run away. The cat immediately flew to the beams in the garage and we did not really see him again for a week or so, but knew he was in there. The food was eaten, the water dish was emptied and the kitty litter was used every day. There was no sign of affection or people-oriented traits. There was no sign of the cat, period.
After the week went by, Nello said, “Now he can go outside”. It had taken a long time to convince the cat to go into the garage – but it wasn’t hard to convince the cat he could go outside. He didn’t hesitate and flew out the door. We did not see him for days. But the food we left outside was always eaten and the water disappeared. Just like in the garage time.
I almost forgot that we had the cat because we never saw him. Life went on and the food and water always disappeared. Nello would occasionally mention that the ‘dog followed him around in the garden’ and of course, he meant the cat.
About a month later, I received a chatty phone call. It was such a beautiful spring day, I went outside on the patio and sat down on the bottom step. While I was chatting, the cat appeared. I was sitting down and on his level about 10 feet away. He started to eat, but instead, stared at me and moved away from his food. He meowed at me. It was so startling to actually see him and then hear him meow for the first time, that at first thought he had to be hurt or had contracted rabies and was rabid. Why else would he approach me?
He started to prance and dance around – coming two steps toward me and then retreating two steps. He continued ‘dancing’ and I thought that there was something very wrong with him. I hung up the phone and went to the front of the house and he followed me. I went to the front steps and sat down, again on his level. He kept up his ‘dance’ and meowed. Did he have rabies? I had copies of all his papers and he was given all his shots. A little afraid myself of what he would do, I hesitantly put out my hand to him and he came closer.
He was as hesitant as I, but ventured closer and closer. I left my arm and hand extended and he came closer and jumped up into my hand with his head; I petted him.
He stayed awhile while I kept petting him. He apparently had been socialized in his former surroundings and was use to being petted. When Nello appeared, I said, “Look who’s getting friendly” and Nello, not surprisingly said, “He can’t come into the house.”
The days turned into fall and Nello was in the yard a lot digging up his dahlia bulbs and the cat was right behind him. When he wasn’t following Nello, he was leaping in the air – literally – and running up trees and enjoying his freedom or tormenting the smaller residents of the garden. He would even venture up to the deck and indulge us in playing with some ‘toys’ from his former life.
I heard Nello call out to him one day – he called him Compare. Compare is Italian, means Godfather and with the Sicilian dialect, it sounds like Goom bah’.
The cat was named. This was another good sign. (TBContinued ~ Chapter 2)