It had been about fourteen months since the passing of my dog, when a friend joked about bringing me a cat for the holidays. It had been a long fourteen months. An empty, lonely fourteen months. I looked at dog rescues and had constant “puppy watches” of a pet store’s website. Dogs are a lot more expensive than sixteen years ago, when I got my dog. It cuts down on puppy mills, so I guess it’s a good thing. But I balk at spending more than a rent payment (or mortgage payment now) on a canine companion. So I have hovered on the precipice. Do I? Don’t I? It’s a lot of work and with my new work schedule…
I was stuck in an anxious state of indecision. “Whatever you want to do,” the husband says. Not helping. I needed a decision made. It was too overwhelming. So when teased that my friend would show up with a homeless cat on my doorstep, I said, “Sure.”
“Yeah, I won’t turn a poor, homeless thing away.”
“You haven’t been drinking, have you?”
“Okay, I had to make sure.”
A week later she showed up with a skinny tabby and cat starter kit. I haven’t had a cat since childhood and even then they were always my sister’s. I was a bit worried the husband would be allergic or the cat would have the habit of peeing on the couch. Instead, we had to watch the new cat make sweet, sweet love to his petbed.
“Oh no, I’ve brought you a broken one,” my friend groaned.
And that’s why we named him, Bukowski, after the writer of ‘Notes of a Dirty Old Man’ fame. He chose one hell of a way to break the ice. ‘It still isn’t a dog,’ I thought. ‘It’s like a weird night owl roommate moved in.’ He hit it off with the husband, who wasn’t allergic after all.
I was still guarded for the first couple days. I had time off for the holiday and spent it on the couch writing, watching the cat poke into corners of my house. Right away, he made his point. “The litter box goes downstairs,” he said. Uh-huh. I see. I cleaned up the mess and reset the box per his specifications.
We returned to the couch and eyed each other. Who was going to be the Alpha? I was used to be being pack leader. Now this stray sat staring at me with a mischievous glint. He was impressed that he got his point across, but he still wasn’t sure about me. He slithered away at the sound of the door and hid. The husband walks in.
“You just missed him. Bukowski’s under the couch.” And we’d sit and wait until he reappeared.
I would go run an errand and when I returned I called out for the cat. Sure enough, I’d soon hear the jingling of his bell as he emerged from his hiding place. That’s how it was for several days.
I returned to work and on the second day back I got an early morning wake up call. A gentle pawing on my face from the side of my bed. “Now?” he said. “Now?” Ugh, I don’t have to be awake for another hour, but how can I be mad when you’re so cute! Bukowski was hungry and since I had taken full responsibility of his care, he came to tell me so. It took a few weeks to figure out a feeding schedule that now keeps the wake up calls to a minimum.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and it looked like Bukowski was checking on you,” the husband says when we had Bukowski a week or two. Oh? That’s strange.
The next day, he says “He only talks to you. Have you noticed? He doesn’t talk to me.” Honestly, I hadn’t noticed. He meowed, I meowed, he meowed back. I was still getting used to being a cat person. The hair, it was everywhere! My dog didn’t shed!
It took me a while to realize what Bukowski was doing. I would get up, Bukowski would follow. I’d come out of the bathroom and he’d be there waiting. We’d go down and eat breakfast together. I’d return to the bathroom to brush my teeth and he’d either sit outside the door or explore behind the claw foot tub. Once, he decided to jump into the sink just as I was spitting. He took off like a shot and was minty fresh for the rest of the day.
I came home from work and he would be waiting by the door. That’s when it hit me. He got it. He understood what I needed. Here this adopted cat was pretending his best to be a dog. It’s amazing how our pets can read us. For the first time in over a year things are a little brighter.