PETS ARE PEOPLE TOO
Through the years we have shared our home with a number of people of the furred and feathered variety, and one or two that were neither, like the tortoises.
Among the canine crew were Sputnik, an intrepid Scotsman with Dachshund connections, and gentle Paddy-paws, a toy Fox Terrier-Schipperke cross. Both so different, both so loving, they were incomparable companions to the family. And there was Circe. When Circe ran it seemed her back legs were anxious to overtake her forelegs; she stole the smaller children’s toys and Granny’s garden shoes, and hid them. To supplement her gourmet diet she ate bees and snails, holding the shell over with her paw while she scooped out the succulence with her tongue.
Then there were the cats. Supreme among them, China and Pawpaw came from the local cattery. Unrelated, China was the older cat. She sat tall and smooth, elegant and poised, like a black and white china figurine. Her greatest pleasure was to lie on the Boss’s lap at the end of the day while he brushed her with a stiff clothes brush until her fur crackled and sparked with electricity, and she rumbled with contentment.
Pawpaw was a cat with classic Siamese conformation and character, but he was a sleek coal black with emerald eyes. Speaking eyes, with which he communicated many things. He did not ‘meouw,’ his spoken language depended on ‘frouw’, which varied from soft content to harsh demand. He would not enter or leave the house through an open window. He disdained a cat door. He would go to the nearest door and ‘frouw’ loudly. But he was impatient, moving rapidly from one door to another, his call becoming successively more demanding. We soon learned to divide our attention between the doors, when he would enter with his nose and tail in the air and never a backward thank you.
We moved from a big house in a small village to a small house in a big city. China had died of old age. Sputnik took up residence with a farming family. Pawpaw went with us.
It was a long drive. Angrily sedated, Pawpaw refused to enter the cat basket. He lay under the driver’s seat of the Mini, spitting and swearing every mile of the way. When we arrived he wouldn’t budge but stayed under the seat, keeping up his furious monologue while the furniture was unloaded from the van, and the house set to rights. He had to be forcibly removed, and we buttered his paws before settling down to cooking a meal and unpacking suitcases.
Three days later Pawpaw disappeared. We searched the tiny garden and the neighborhood. No cat. No news. Tired and dispirited, we had our evening meal and settled down with various projects for the evening. At about eight-thirty we heard the first ‘frouw.’ Three doors. We all ran, crowding the doorways. No Pawpaw. We settled down again, half-listening for another call.
The house was a small ranch-house style, the service rooms of the house toward the road. An ivy-covered dividing wall separated the main entrance from the kitchen door, and huge glass French doors overlooked the garden on the other side of the house. The garden was well laid out with shrubs and roses, fenced and hedged for privacy. A huge jacaranda tree in one corner provided beauty and shade on hot days. The gardens along the street were miniature, the houses close together.
The second ‘frouw’ came within ten minutes. Again we flew to open the doors. No cat. We walked into the garden calling softly, “Pawpaw, frouw! Pawpaw, frouw!” No Pawpaw.
This was repeated four or five times. With each call we became more frustrated, more concerned that the cat might be injured or afraid. We crawled under the shrubs, “Pawpaw, frouw!,” tore our arms and legs on the roses, calling more loudly, “Pawpaw, frouw! Pawpaw, frouw!” But there was no Pawpaw.
An hour later we finally gave up. I wondered what the neighbors thought of the new tenant’s parlor games. As we trailed back in through the kitchen door, I looked up. There was Pawpaw, sitting under the eaves on the dividing wall, watching. When he saw that he had been spotted, he jumped down with a self-satisfied smirk and sauntered indoors.
He remained with us, a much-loved tease and tormentor, for several years before a vicious dog tore him apart. And we mourned.
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