Any regular reader of this blog will know that I am a cat person. We had a dog when I was very young, and I will discuss that sad story at a later date. Tonight, I will relate how we got our first-and-only cat.
It was the summer of 1980. One evening, we heard some noises coming from the woodpile behind the house. Eventually, we'd get around to tossing that wood into the basement, and then re-piled, but we had not got around to it yet. Anyway, we heard these noises.
The next afternoon, we still heard the noises, only weaker. My younger sister, who reads this blog, ventured over to the wood pile and after a few minutes rescued this little gray kitten. He was hungry and dehydrated; we figured someone had dropped him off on the side of the road, and that he had wandered over to our property. We ended up naming him J.R., after J.R. Ewing of "Dallas" fame. If you recall, this was the summer of "Who Shot J.R.?". Spurred by this craze, and our extreme youth, we had little choice but to name him that.
Over the next 6 years, J.R. took quite a shine to me; he spent more time with me than with any other member of the family. My mother hated cats then and barely tolerates Newbie now, but even so, I'd bring him up to my bedroom in the evening to stay with me, rather than in the basement, where he could escape and roam around outdoors. I spent quite a bit of time with him. I would hold him and pet him and by times he seemed to be my only friend in the world. Cue the violins.
I eventually graduated high school, went to university, and became busier and busier. I spent less and less time with the cat, and he spent less and less time with us. Like I said, he had a way by which he could get outdoors, roam around, grab a bird, bring it to the basement, and have a meal.
The last time I remember seeing him was sometime in the summer of 1986. I was listening to a record album ("Dirty Work" by the Rolling Stones, if you must know), when J.R. saw me outside the bedroom window, hopped up on some staging my father had rigged for work he was doing outside the house, and jumped into my bedroom. I wasn't exactly neglectful of my cat, just... I don't know, busy, and distracted, and self-absorbed by whatever crap was going on in my life at the moment to the point that I did not spend enough time with "my" cat.
Shortly after that evening, he just disappeared. We still to this day do not know what happened. Of course, by now, he would be long dead; but back then, he may have been killed by a car, or by another animal, or maybe he just found another place to live that was more welcoming to him. We will never know, and that is the sad part.
I still have a picture of J.R. somewhere around the house. I look at it from time to time with a tinge of regret and want to kick myself for not having been a better pet owner.
Perhaps out of guilt, or the perception that I would not be a "fit" pet owner, I stayed away from having another pet until 2006, when Newbie plopped himself into Patricia's arms, and I took him home. A couple of thousand dollars later, Newbie is still here, and saunters around the house like he just paid off the mortgage.
I don't let him out of the house. I make sure he stays inside all the time. And he doesn't want to leave. It is a nice combination, one that assuages my guilt over J.R. from all those years ago, and at the same time ensures that at least one cat around here is guaranteed to be safe from the elements and the teenagers that would torture him because that is what some teenagers do.
I am pretty militant about cat ownership. I do not understand why people just open the door and "let the cat out" every day. I reveal here now, for the first time, that I used to be one of those people, to my everlasting regret. If I had not been such a jerk about it, and made him stay indoors, J.R. would have lived for many more years than he did. I would have taken him with me to the city when I moved out in 1988, and we would have many pleasant, human-and-cat years together. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.
Newbie is behind me in a box as I type these words. He discovered this box last week and watches me from it when I am down here working. In fact, he is with me nearly all the time when I am home, and watches me from the living room window as I leave, and waits by the same window in the evening when I arrive back home. I wouldn't trade that for the world. He is about 2.5 years old and can easily live another 15 years, maybe longer. I will be with him until the bitter end. And he will be here with me.
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