I’m a dog man, plain and simple, my affinity birthed as a little boy in the axiom of dog being man’s best friend.
As a child, my canine affections were stoked by watching episodes of Lassie, panting faithfully by Timmy Martin’s side, then going for help whenever trouble arose and returning to save the day. My love for mutts and assorted pooches was cemented by seeing trusty Rin Tin Tin or Petey, the adorable American pit bull terrier of the Little Rascals.
My first pet was a dog. Not a turtle like my cousins had, although I later had goldfish, until I discovered them floating with googly eyes atop the clear glass bowl.
Goldfish can’t lick you with affection, can’t come a-wagging. Can’t protect you, wrestle with you, stare back at you with puppy dog eyes.
Our dog, a golden shepherd mix we named Lady, forever cemented my love for canines. Lady made me forever a dog man.
So the prospect of spending this Thanksgiving with a cat is, shall we say, raising my fur.
It’s my eldest daughter’s cat. I guess that would make it my granddaughter’s cat as well. The cat’s name is Chicago. It’s a Seattle cat. It’s a male cat. His nickname is “Buddy.”
He is 1, a short hair cat — a tabby mix. Apparently (I had to look it up), a tabby is a domestic cat (Felis catus). It has a coat with “distinctive stripes, dots, lines or swirling patterns.” This is all French to me. To a dog man like myself, a cat’s just a cat.
“I forgot y’all had a cat,” I say to my daughter on the telephone, sounding, I’m sure, a bit ill at ease. I pepper her with follow-up questions. How is the cat? Is it a male or female? Aggressive? Does it obey? Where does he sleep?
My daughter senses the tension. Or is it trepidation?
“He’s a good cat,” she answers, half-laughing and reassuring me that all would be well. “I can put him away when we go to bed.”
Hmmm, what about locking him away for my entire stay? That was a fleeting thought.
“Oh, OK,” I say, laughing. “I’ll be OK.”
I cannot confess to suffering from Felinophobia — fear of cats (I had to look that up too.). At least my unease over being around cats, of the possibility of them creeping up on me unawares or slithering across my leg, or staring at me with those creepy catty eyes, has never been diagnosed as a full-blown phobia.
I confess that I’ve never lived with a cat. To having never spent more than a few uncomfortable minutes around a furry feline. And to having been peppered with perhaps way too many cat tales, some of them harrowing stories told to me by mother.
One in particular is that cats suck the breath out of babies, drawn to them by the scent of milk. Some say this is just a myth. But others who claim to have witnessed it say it is true.
I don’t drink milk, except for a little cream occasionally in my Kahlua. So I think I should be fine.
Then there are stories about cats sometimes bringing their owners the bounty of their explorations in the form of a tail, dangling from their mouths and the mangled body of a mouse on the other end.
On this Thanksgiving, I will make one of my own — for the love of daughters and granddaughters.
But it better not involve me awakening to Chicago the cat, standing over me and glaring into my eyes, doggonit!
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Email John W. Fountain at Author@johnwfountain.com