My little About blurb on my sidebar is a lie. It says I am both a cat owner and a dog owner, and as of July 26th, 2015, I am not.
I grew up a dog person. We had a Dalmatian, a Christmas morning surprise one year for my sister and me, and I adored that dog. She was smart and beautiful, had an arresting bark, and an adorable way of turning her head when you asked her a question. As an adult, I had long longed for a dog of my own, was just waiting to get settled into a house and a marriage before taking on that responsibility.
I became a cat person. After the Peace Corps, I moved in with my sister, and her cat, Tigger, became a part of my life. She was a big cat, a blood donor at the vet hospital, who came to my sister already saddled with her silly name. My sister believed her to be part Maine Coone. She was medium-haired and haughty. She had this swagger to her walk, wearing what my sister called her fuzzy pants because of her long fur. She was gorgeous, and had such a personality, I was smitten. I had thought cats were flat, standoffish, boring. She was standoffish at times, but never flat nor boring. No, Tigger was a fine ambassador for felines.
And when my sister’s boyfriend, and his two cats, Binky and Roxy, moved in with us, I learned that cats have personalities as distinct as dogs’. Another misconception I had about cats was that they were all the same, but with three in our apartment, I learned that was not the case at all.
Fast forward to my sister, her cat, her boyfriend now fiance, and his cats all getting their own place, and me on my own. Then Bennet (so named after the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet) came into my life. He was found abandoned on the street near my sister’s house not long after my nephew was born. My sister’s two cats (Tigger had since passed away) were not willing to accommodate another addition to the household, and so I took this kitten in, and he changed my life.
As I told him when we said goodbye at the hospital, “I didn’t know how lonely I was until you came along.” And that was true. My life was so enriched by sharing it with Bennet. I spent long days at school, teaching and coaching, and I was so lucky to come home to my whiny kitty. Bennet was a talker. He was part Siamese, part American Short-hair, a breed called Snowshoe, and he had the Siamese sassiness, oh yes.
Bennet was a good judge of character. My mom says she knew how right Jim and I were for each other because of the ease with which Jim got along with Bennet, and perhaps more importantly, the ease with which Bennet got along with Jim. Before we married, I joked with Jim about having him sign a pre-nup that said he didn’t get the cat if we broke up.
Our neighbors called Bennet “Handsome Cat.” I attribute this to his clear blue eyes, the white lightning streak across his forehead, and the distinctive soul patch of darker fur on his chin. He was a very handsome cat, and very fastidious, too. He was always grooming and, aside from his bad kitty breath, he always smelled clean. He was also a very talented acrobat, turning somersaults in pursuit of a mouse on a string, jumping to the tops of the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets, and dashing down the hall in his pursuit of kitty treats.
Bennet’s death came unexpectedly. He was only eight years old. After a day of listlessness, we noticed swelling in his face. We thought perhaps he was having an allergic reaction to a bug bite or something. We took him into the emergency vet hospital and learned he was feverish. The doctor believed him to have an abscess, so they kept him overnight. They found it, full of bacteria, and gave him antibiotics, anticipating a return home the next day if he responded well to the treatment. Instead we received a phone call at two in the morning that he’d gone into respiratory arrest. We arrived at the hospital to say goodbye before asking the technicians to let him go.
So, now, I am no longer both a dog and a cat owner. Bennet is gone and there’s a hole in my heart that he once filled.