Just a word or two about my wonderful cat, Cleo. Ain’t she the cutest little thing? She was adopted by my family in 1998, back when my office was located near an animal shelter in Boston’s South End. Both Daughters Number 1 and 2 came to visit me at work one day, and, on a whim, after we had lunch at a local pizza joint, I took them to the animal shelter to see the doggies and the kitties. There, in one of the cages roughly at eye level, was little Cleo. Stuck to the thin metal bars at the front of her cage was a small placard that gave her basic information: her name (which was, as it is now, Cleo), the fact that she was a 2-year-old Siamese, and the reason she was given up, which was because she “talked too much.”
Well, I took one look at Cleo and I knew there was no chance I could leave without her. For one thing, she was exactly the same type of Siamese my old cat was who I grew up with, Junior. Other than lacking the crossed eyes and crinkled tail Junior had, they looked very similar. But what really did it for me was how forlorn she appeared. Cleo at that moment was very thin and you could read the sadness on her face. When I tapped on the bars and said, “Hey kitty!” she meowed in a plaintive way that utterly vanquished my heart.
When we brought her home, she spent nearly an entire week underneath the futon/sofa in the TV room. One time I dragged her out to show her where the food and water dishes and litter box were kept, which she then used only surreptitiously. Respecting her unease at being so abruptly placed in such strange surroundings, I did nothing further to force her out. She would allow me to stretch my arm in underneath the sofa to stroke her, which evidently pleased her from the loud purring it elicited. I could only imagine what horrors a poor, dumb creature such as herself might have experienced: expelled from her home of two years, kept in a small cage to be gawked at by strangers, and then suddenly finding herself in this unaccustomed environment.
After that week, however, Cleo fully took possession of her new home. In some ways I’m a little soft-hearted, and I quite consciously took pains to give her as much attention as I could. Because of that, I think, I became her favorite. To this day, whenever I’m home (and provided she’s not napping), Cleo is in the habit of following me around, hoping to play little games we’ve invented, or to hop onto my lap when I sit down. I like watching movies on the big television set downstairs, and, once I have installed myself just so, comfortable and prepared to stay in that position for an hour or two, I’ll call to Cleo and she’ll run to me, spring onto my lap and stay there for as long as I’ll let her.
I know we humans are fond of assigning certain characteristics of our race to the lower animals (remember: we’re animals, too!). We allow ourselves to think our pets are in sympathy with us, that there exists between master and pet an understanding and mutual regard. I remember my grandmother insisted her little tabby understood every word she said when she talked to it. You hear of great acts of heroism dogs perform for their masters, and we call this proofs of love. Well, here is one I sometimes dupe myself in believing: I could swear Cleo almost has a schoolgirl crush on me! For instance, I sometimes play rough little games with her where I sort of throw her around a bit on the bed and she takes playful nips at my hands in return. When at last I finish and walk away, often Cleo comes running after me and tries to hook me by the ankles with her paws, not willing to let me go so easily. When I walk into a room and shut the door against her, she’ll stand outside and yowl for me to let her in. Whatever room in the house I choose to be in, that invariably becomes her room of choice, too. She’ll stay there as long as I do. Such loyalty, respect, admiration and love I couldn’t possibly wring from my wife or daughters, but Cleo gives them to me freely!
Do you have a pet? Or did you? What kind? Any unusual pets out there, like snakes or lizards or falcons or orangutans? Are you as soft-headed about cute, furry creatures as I am? Let me know.
What can I say? Monday’s Monty seems somehow appropriate!