A reader of my blog suggested that it might help me deal with my grief to get a dog. He suggested that having a dog to take for walks, feed, and care for might help me to focus outside myself and my loss. In other words, to help me move beyond my grief. It was a very thoughtful suggestion, and I certainly appreciated it. However, I replied that I am a cat person. To that end, I dedicate this blog post to three people: Chuck, Brent, and Sheila. Chuck suggested that I get a dog, and Brent and Sheila regularly send me photos of their cats.
When I was a child, some neighbors found a Mama Cat who chose their yard to have four kittens. I begged my parents to please allow me to have a cat. They said nothing. One day while running some errands, Mom drove to the library and pulled up right in front. She handed me her library card and asked me to pick up the book waiting for her at the circulation desk. I couldn’t believe my eyes — It was about caring for CATS. I thought just maybe my parents would let me have a cat. But no. Better — I got two! I named the little kittens Rainbow and Smokey.
Some years later, one of my brothers had a cat named Phredric Phredricson. I was a wee bit concerned that Phred was a tad too interested in my goldfish: Ichthys, and Piscis.
But he behaved and didn’t eat them. One day when I was in junior high, Phred disappeared. We put an ad in the paper, and several people called us – but none were Phred.
Eventually, we got a call from a lady who lived near the high school and said she thought she had our cat. My mom was a teacher, and she picked me up after school to see if the cat was Phred. The poor little guy wasn’t. But the lady must have had fifty cats in her house, and she told us that her husband wouldn’t let her have another cat. How he would notice there was another cat we hadn’t a clue. There were cats EVERYWHERE. But my mom talked to me and suggested, quietly, that we adopt the little black cat. So after school, we went back and claimed him. My Dad named him Otto. Not just any Otto, but his full name was Otto von Bismarck.
Dog people have often told me that, unlike cats, dogs are very intelligent and will be loyal and go anywhere with you. Well, let me tell you about our brilliant cat who could tell time.
Around 3:30 pm on school days, Otto would often walk two blocks from our house and sit by the mailbox on Upton and Wellesley’s NE corner. That mailbox was on my way home from elementary school and high school. I walked south down Upton to get to Wellesley, where I turned to go home. It was so nice to be greeted by Otto and then walk home together.
My Father, who worked downtown, would often take the bus home in the evening. If I noticed the time, and it was a little before 6 pm, I would say to Otto, “let’s go meet Dad.” Otto would immediately join me, and we would walk to and wait at the SE corner of Upton and Wellesley, which was where the bus would stop. It was a fairly busy street. But Otto would sit and wait patiently. When Dad got off the bus, the three of us would walk home together.
We had Otto for many years. In 1973 we were away for three weeks on vacation. Our neighbor was taking care of him. But when we came home, Otto had lost much of his fur and could hardly hold his head up. We think he despaired that we would not come home again. We took him to the vet, who gave him a shot and some vitamins to help him recover. Otto healed in no time and lived many more years.
My parents kept Otto when I went to college and grad school, during which time I came home to get married. Otto was a remarkable cat. Not only was he well-loved, but he often helped my Dad with his reading. He sometimes kept my Dad company at breakfast, as well! Otto was the last cat our family had. But there is still more to the story.
Twenty-some years later, my husband and I had a little daughter who wanted a cat. But that story deserves a tale all its own. Stay tuned!