If we are going to talk about cats and dogs, we have to go to my childhood home. That is the only place I’ve lived that has had both cats and dogs at the same time. Our cats and dogs did not fight like cats and dogs, and I still have never been in a house where the two didn’t co-exist peacefully. Of course, I have never seen it rain cats and dogs either, so you can’t really put any faith in those old sayings.
When people talk about cats and dogs that have been in their lives, you know that the animal meant something special to them – even if their stories are about how crazy or ill behaved they were. Living with an animal is unlike anything else. There is just that certain “huh?” factor that comes in even when you think you know who they are and how they are going to act. I am going to skip way ahead to my last pet, an English Setter named Becky. She hung around with us for 16 years, and even though she had gone through a couple different personalities, at the end of the day I thought I knew who she was. One day, near the actual end of her days, when she was in diapers because she was incontinent, I came upon her in the living room. She was not the dog who went through the trash or chewed on shoes or really snooped into anything. Yet this one day I discovered her with her nose deep into the canvas bag where we kept her diapers and wipes and other paraphernalia. She slowly pulled her head out, and there in her mouth was a brush that I had used once or twice on her. She gently held on to the brush, turned her head, and then stopped when she saw me looking at her. We stared at each other for a moment, then she laid the brush on the floor and walked away.
You think you know, but you just never know.
Backing up to my childhood home, we had a collection of cats and dogs, but for the most part never more than one of each at any one time. I have varying degrees of recollection of them until we get to the daddy of all cats, C’mere. I ask you, is there a greater cat name than C’mere? That was my mother’s bright idea. What do you say to a cat when you want them to come over? You say, “C’mere cat” of course. And let me tell you, that was one indifferent animal. He could not care less who was around or what you wanted, you had just better leave him alone. Unless, of course, you were my dad and you had a crumpled up cigarette package to toss. Have you ever seen a cat fetch? C’mere would chase those cigarette packages down the hall and bring them back to my dad so that he would throw it again. Along the way C’mere would drop it and play with it, bat it around a little bit, but in the end it would always end up back with my dad so that he could throw it again. C’mere would do that five or six times until he got tired of it and left, but the next day he would be back again.
My mother hit a sweet spot of naming pets right about that time. One of my older brothers brought home a cat he had adopted at college, and the cat was pregnant. She had her kittens in our basement, and one day decided it was time to bring them upstairs to be with the rest of the family. She grabbed one in her mouth, scampered up the stairs, and then meowed to let us know that she needed the door opened. Unfortunately for the kitten in her mouth she dropped it, it went through the open stairs, and landed on the concrete floor below. That kitten was never quite right. When all of the other kittens were learning to walk, he could barely hold up his head. When they were running around the living room, he was making an attempt to get mobile. His version of walking was to pull himself with his front legs, then sort of hop with his back legs, dragging them along. He looked like a frog. And so my mother dubbed him Phrogg. You know how when you dangle a string in front of a cat they bat at it with their paw? Do that to Phrogg and you could have the string put back in the drawer before he would react. He was the epitome of the “the lights are on, but nobody is home” but he was a sweet, sweet thing. Another one of the kittens my mother named G’way, just to balance out C’mere.
My younger brother ended up with custody of Phrogg, and he carried on the naming tradition. His next cat had six toes, and so he was named Toed. And the next one was named Ranidae, which is the family name for true frogs. Rani lived to a ripe old age of 22.
And so that brings me back to Becky. How many people get 16 years with a dog? She came into my life a couple of months after my mother passed away from colon cancer, and right after my husband and I bought our first home, a townhouse. My oldest stepson, who was fifteen years old, had come to live with us at that time too, so it was a period of adjustment for everybody. We had her a couple of weeks and she never made a peep. Then my husband’s ex-wife came over and Becky barked up a storm! You have to love that in an animal. She was sweet and gentle and such a good dog.
I could tell you stories but I think they wouldn’t mean as much to you as they do to me. That’s the thing about cats and dogs. I don’t think you can appreciate someone else’s pet the way that you appreciate your own. You can tell me stories about your cat or your dog and it won’t have the same impact on me as it does on you. Truly, you have to be there every day. You have to survive the vet visits and the litter boxes and the oops on the rug with that one precious animal to know.
I’ll tell you this though. Becky came to me in a dream a couple of weeks ago. I could have written “I had a dream about Becky a couple of weeks ago” but that would not be what I believe to be the truth. I have had dreams with Becky in them. In one of the dreams the fact that she was there made me realize that I was dreaming so I stopped what I was doing and went on my merry way. In this dream, however, Becky came to me. She was young and she was spry and she was bouncing around just like she used to do all of those years ago. I said to my husband who was in the room, “Look! Becky is here!” but he couldn’t see her. I knew she came just for me. I got down on the floor and I put my forehead on her forehead like I used to do, and I looked right into her eyes and it was her. It wasn’t dream Becky. It was Becky. I was so happy. When I woke up I wanted to see her again, so I willed myself to go back to sleep. I immediately fell back into a dream, and Becky came bounding towards me again, this time all soaking wet like she had been playing in the rain. In this dream my daughter was there, and I said “Look! It’s Becky!” but she couldn’t see her either. I toweled Becky off, and I scritched her on the head, and I sent her on her way.
In the end, that’s all that we can do. We send them on their way.