Most people are familiar with the old adage, “Every dog has its day.” However, I find it interesting that it’s one of very few timeworn maxims which can be interpreted either positively or punitively. For example: the punitive theory is that a “bad dog” (or person) will be disciplined at some point (or receive his comeuppance); the opposite side of the coin is that every “dog” that’s down-on-his luck, oppressed, or suffering will sooner or later be well rewarded. As an owner/exhibitor & breeder of Boston terriers, I’ve seen this proverb come to pass in countless situations, often within my own “GrayHaven Gang” of Bostons. What I failed to recognize until recently; though, is that there exists a murky, grey area where every dog doesn’t get its day in the best way, & often the finest breeders lose sight of their dogs in the fog.
I realized about two years ago – thanks to a particular rescue dog which parked himself within my heart & refusing to budge, that even though I provided all the best necessities & comforts for my dogs, somewhere along the thirteen years of exhibiting & breeding I’d lost sight of what my dogs truly mean to me. As a result, they were losing out. All the best kibble, comfy beds, & timely vet care cannot take the place of the singular bond between Man & dog. AKC ribbons & titles, so coveted by exceptional Breeders, can become empty rewards if the dogs are merely used vehicles on the ego road-trip to success. I’m ashamed to admit I took this dead end path.
Dogs have been a constant in my life since I was a toddler & some of my best childhood memories involve our family dog, Jo-Jo, a dog which patiently demonstrated all the interaction rules to two ignorant children as we grew up together. He was a shepherd-collie cross our family adopted from the local humane society as a tiny puppy. During his life of nearly fourteen years he taught me how to train dogs, that dog fur absorbs tears, & that no one messes with a young girl who has an ultra-protective, sixty pound dog on lead. I could go anywhere on my own, as long as Jo-Jo was beside me. My parents kept Jo-Jo as an outside dog, but I spent as much time as possible with him. He & I used to curl up inside his dog house, snuggled in the fresh straw together, just enjoying being alone & quiet. Jo-Jo taught me all the best things about the human-canine relationship & he was infinitely patient as I learned. Thanks to Jo-Jo, I developed a passion for all things dog & haven’t ever lived without at least one dog – & usually two or more – in my life.
When my husband & I made the decision to show & breed Boston terriers after eleven years of being owned by spayed/neutered “pet” Bostons, we outlined some specific rules for ourselves: Our dogs would be indoor dogs; no kennel, we’d own no more than six at a time; thus we’d have a one-to-one ratio of dogs-to-humans in our home, & we would be Responsible & Ethical Breeders in every way. We didn’t have any problems honoring our rules, except for the one about keeping only six dogs. Like nearly every Breeder we had puppies that we decided to keep, we purchased a couple of promising show dogs, & then we retired some adults but couldn’t bear to part with them. It wasn’t too many years before our Boston count had grown to ten. We still felt that with six family members that all was well. The dogs were happy & healthy & we were having fun; until tragedy struck.
Haley-Bop, one of our so-called “Texas Roses” because she & her half-sister ‘Amity both came to us from Texas, was attacked & critically injured by two of our other girls, which ultimately led to a wonderful transformation of her temperament. I think this horrifying event was the first sudden gust that would grow to become a wind strong enough to clear the fog for me. The damage to Bop’s front legs was horrendous & it wasn’t clear for several weeks whether or not the worst one would require amputation. Fortunately, our vet & his crew are amazing & with tons of intensive care & daily rehabilitation at home, Haley-Bop kept both her front legs. It was during her recovery that I noticed something about Haley-Bop: as the days & weeks of intense one-on-one care progressed, her attitude changed. She became a much softer, loving, & attention-seeking dog than she’d ever been before. I was mortified to admit, even to myself, that she had never really bonded with anyone but one of our sons (“her boy”) over the several years she’d been a part of our family. The nature of her injuries, which required us to “be there” for Haley twenty-four hours a day, finally created the connection she’d been lacking. Upon reaching this insight, I stepped back & took a long, honest look at my dogs & their emotional needs.
Is it ever easy to admit you’re wrong? Once I scrutinized my dogs & our situation without the smothering fog of goal-acquisition blurring my vision, it was clear that I’d hit a dead end. My dogs were not getting their emotional needs met in the human-canine relationship. We had too many dogs to do them justice. My husband & I made some difficult choices & placed several dogs into Forever Homes where they would be cherished as individuals. We were saddened, but knew we’d done right; however, I’d still failed to see the whole picture before me.
A couple years after Boppy’s injury & subsequent recovery, an obese Boxer named Copper* was surrendered into our rescue & changed my life. For all his overwhelming size, he sneaked into my heart on cautious kitten paws & stole it. I knew I was keeping him within three days of his arrival. The past two years with Copper by my side have been the perfect storm to blast away the remaining fog before me. Copper’s reminded me again that dog fur absorbs tears perfectly; that no one molests a lady – no matter how helpless she appears – walking a ninety pound, attentive, loyal Boxer; & most importantly, that dogs are Man’s Best Friend. Thanks to Copper, I realized that I’ve been shortchanging my precious Bostons for years, even though I love them very much. None of them gets the time s/he deserves to have; the opportunity to develop the extraordinary companionship, respect, & love I’ve built with Copper. After admitting this hard truth, I made the tough choice to break away from showing & breeding to return to “pet” ownership. It was amazing how much better I felt after making that decision.
Once my husband & I agreed, I was dumbfounded at the relief I felt, & we even still had all our dogs! I hadn’t been aware of how much stress I’d been feeling. I think the hardest decision I made was to neuter my best boy, Boomer. A big part of me felt that as a wonderful, sound example of the breed, I had an obligation to place him out with another Breeder so he could be exhibited & implemented in a responsible breeding program. Then again, I was incredibly troubled at the probability that this sweet boy would once again become part of a pack, instead of the individual dog he needed to be. I waffled for weeks & even entertained a couple of offers for him; however, you’ll be happy to learn that I opted for love over breed improvement: I neutered Boomer & am keeping him. There are lots of nice Bostons out there, but there’s only one Boomer & I want the chance to build a special friendship with him. All of our girls are spayed & retired now; although a couple are still waiting/hoping for their new Forever Families to appear. We’re getting there. Our awesome dogs are “our dogs” once more, instead of being the means to the end of self-indulgent rewards. I’m already enjoying the clear, bright view from here… Plus, I’m incredibly pleased to finally be able to say truthfully that every one of our dogs does get its day – & it’s finally a GREAT one.
*Copper – read The Hunk to learn his story
When you own a dog, it’s inevitable: at some point in time, sooner rather than later, you’ll see an odd, quizzical expression overtake your dog’s (or puppy’s) face as she hurriedly plops her bottom to the floor & wiggles side-to-side. Immediately thereafter, she’ll appear nonplussed or slightly pained as she suddenly lifts her hind legs elbow-level, digs her front claws into the floor, & drags her madly itching anus across your pristine carpet. Your beloved dog slits her eyes & drops her jaw in ecstasy. You’ll totally freak. This disgusting, canine butt-scratching event is known at our house as the “Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie” & though every dog delights in it, owners world-wide live in daily dread of it.
This morning, my husband released the GrayHaven hounds – aka nine Boston terriers – from their safety crates & as the pack thundered through the house toward the dog door (located in the kitchen, at the opposite end of the home), our Alpha bitch, Sheriff Pinky caused a four-Boston pile-up in the middle of the living room. Alas, she’d been stricken with the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie in mid-run; not a pretty sight. As Chaos, Ruby-Ruby, Bouncer, & Rocket-Dog untangled themselves & resumed their stampede for the morning duping grounds; Pinky proceeded to scrape her delicate rose of a tush across my lovely patterned area carpet… She was blissfully unaware of events to come.
Now, Pinky is one of my loveliest girls, in fact, my nickname for her is, “My Best Girl,” but seriously, no dog is attractive whilst performing the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie. So, once the terrier traffic jam cleared, it took my mind a moment to wrap itself around the horrific sight before me… Then, I freaked: “PIIIINKYYYYY!!!! Quit! Go outside!!!!” I yelled at the poor, butt-itchy dog. Of course, she ceased scootching in mid-cootch & gaped at me with her ears pinned back, totally clueless as to why I was hysterical at the fact she was rapturous from the rough caress of carpet fibers across her puckered posterior opening. Pink gave me her patented “Puss-In-Boots Eyes” with her hind paws hovering near her shoulders, confused & clearly wishing I’d leave the room so she could resume the Scootchie. However; I firmed my resolve against her hypnotic, bottomless eyes & pointed a trembling finger toward the kitchen, “OUT! Take your itchy bum outside, Pink. Go out, NOW!” At last, the Sheriff dimmed the eye-wattage, heaved a sigh, & headed for the dog door – but only after a final skilled side-to-side cootch. I can only suppose that, after having been stricken while running, then bowled over by her pack-mates, she felt fully justified in completing as much as possible of her HCS routine.
Despite the fact that Pinky’s morning attack hit while only family was present, it seems that this odd & revolting affliction fells countless canines when houseguests are present, always causing embarrassment & disgust. The more important your guests; the more likely it is your dog will perform the HCS in front of them. It never fails. I’ve attended parties before where, although of course I’m a dog owner & lover, I’ve been beyond appalled at the sight of the host’s dog(s) performing the Scootchie repeatedly in the midst of the guests over the course of the evening’s events. And I’m sorry, but there’s just no tactful way to overlook an eighty or one hundred-plus pound dog scouring its bum along the carpet (& we all know how they love the carpet, don’t we?), desperately searching for relief. How do you eat appetizers while a faint brown trail is being emblazoned on the creamy berber right before your eyes? For me it’s impossible, so I certainly can’t expect it of anyone else. Therefore, we long ago began safety crating the GrayHaven pack when expecting guests, specifically to avoid the mortifying effects of the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie which seems to surface inexplicably with the arrival of company.
Sadly, the Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie is a fact of life for dog owners everywhere; there’s no prevention, treatment, or cure; there’s simply an illusion of control at the moment of onset, as you frantically shriek at your dog to cease & desist (fully expecting her to obey) & she most likely ignores you, at least for the amount of time it takes to utterly defile a portion of carpet. If the Scootchie takes place when – to your dog’s delight, you happen to not be hanging about, you either never realize your carpet has been despoiled or you later ponder the origins of several dull cocoa streaks, never noticing your dog smugly scrutinizing your mystification from the corner of the sofa. It’s a lose-lose proposition for both you & your floor covering of choice.
So, what’s a dedicated dog owner to do? Here are some Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie safety tips:
- NEVER leave your dog alone with your carpet
- NEVER leave a teacup dog alone with the sofa (or bed)
- ALWAYS spot-check your dog’s bum after duping, to ensure no ‘danglies’ are present
- If you own a “serial Scootcher,” ALWAYS safety crate when expecting guests
- If visiting a friend with carpet lighter than tree bark brown, NEVER take your dog along
- If you’ve never seen your dog do the HCS, ASSUME s/he’s done it 5 times just this week
- NEVER leave your dog alone in a conversion van or RV (or any vehicle w/ carpeted flooring)
- Okay, just NEVER leave your dog alone with fabric of ANY kind; it’s a tragedy waiting to happen!
If you have some Hootchie Cootchie Scootchie safety suggestions, please comment & share them! In this way, we can improve the lives & carpet fibers of dog lovers everywhere!
Sleeping with a Boston terrier is like going to bed with a large rock that breathes & farts.
They’re cute and appealing in their spot-lit pet store cases, sometimes several to a display; bouncing, wrestling, yapping, and napping…Puppies. Adorable purebred puppies, shelved like designer jewelry within starkly lit acrylic boxes, waiting to be bought and carried home. Sooner or later, someone always buys. It keeps happening because hundreds of thousands of unaware people satisfy their instantaneous urges for puppies. Indeed, the decision to purchase a purebred dog should not be impulsive; rather it should take place with help from a Reputable Breeder, because doing so increases the probability of acquiring a healthy, well-tempered companion and also thwarts demand for ill-treated, unsound, maladjusted “puppy-mill” dogs.
Ignorant of “puppy-mills” while searching for a dog, one naïve young couple bought Bugsy. Undeniably; however, the murkiness & stench of the kennel should’ve been their first clue that something was amiss, while the pathetic, abhorrent conditions of the adult dogs caged inside should’ve been their second. Unfortunately, they didn’t know enough to heed the visual evidence, and they weren’t resolute enough to leave the single remaining puppy, so the couple took home their first Boston terrier. Within days, three month old Bugsy was being treated for anemia due to profound parasite load, demodectic mange, and ear mites. He also demonstrated a serious lack of socialization which rendered him incapable of forming close bonds. This eager couple, like many people buying their first purebred dog, had no idea there were “Reputable Breeders” and “puppy-mills;” they thought breeders were breeders. As a result of their ignorance and the greed of the puppy-miller who churned out Bugsy, the short life this couple shared with their unpredictable, unfit dog was filled with frustration and anxiety, his ultimate loss nearly a relief.
Reputable Breeders – of which this author is one (Boston Terrier Club of America, Inc Code of Ethics) – strive to be fair and just, and pride themselves on not only producing sound, quality, well-tempered examples of a given breed, but also on how well their dogs are raised and treated in their homes: as family pets. Their dogs are prized, fed high-quality food, and provided timely and appropriate veterinary care. What’s more, females aren’t bred until mature, are only asked to produce a very limited number of litters (2-3 as a rule for Boston terriers), and are then spayed and pampered, whereas a puppy-mill bitch will likely produce ten or more litters in the course of her sad life (“10 Things to Know about Puppy Mills”). Furthermore, Responsible Breeders spend great amounts of time playing with and socializing puppies to ensure they are prepared to handle the world they’ll soon join, and serious care is taken to interview and choose prospective puppy families so that the best matches are made. Additionally, spay/neuter purchase agreements are used to protect both parties, plus the dog; they typically include an abiding health guarantee, an unconditional guarantee, and a lifetime return clause. Reputable Breeders expend these efforts because they want their cherished dogs in wonderful Forever Homes, so if a puppy placement isn’t proceeding in a positive manner, or if a placed puppy becomes ill, a good Breeder wants to know about it so s/he can rectify the situation.
Puppy-mills, in contrast, pull out all the stops to maximize the number of puppies produced for pet store sales each year, and this mass-production contributes to the abundant problems seen in these unfortunate dogs. To meet demands, ‘millers must breed every female on every heat cycle (regardless of age), disregard basic rules of genetics (inbreed), cram many dogs into as little space as possible, feed non-nutritious foods, and often deny even essential veterinary care. This drastic ‘corner-cutting’ means no cuddling for the pups, as there are too many dogs and puppies, too few humans to care for them, and typically no concern by the ‘millers. So, even though the pet store puppies appear active and playful, it’s quite customary for them to have little interest in shoppers who wish to interact with them; their brains did not make the ‘socialization connection’ at a critical time of development (“From Puppy Mill to Pet Shop”) – a misfortune which likely haunts hundreds of thousands of new families each year. Even worse, significant health issues in puppies have been reported from both pet store puppy buyers and pet store employees (“Pet Shop Puppies”). Numerous heritable canine maladies frequently seen in pet store puppies, such as “cherry eye,” epilepsy, mega-esophagus, heart disease, and hip dysplasia are (just a few) defects that Reputable Breeders eliminate from their breeding pools to decrease the odds of producing afflicted puppies. At the opposite extreme, puppy-millers incessantly propagate and exacerbate deficiencies by having no interest in eliminating defects to begin with, and then they create more extensive flaws by inbreeding affected dogs (“Puppy Mills”).
Yes, breeders who sell puppies to pet stores must be USDA licensed and inspected (Animal Welfare Regulations), so thousands of puppy-mills operate within federal guidelines, but the laws which govern “commercial dog breeding operations” (“Puppy Mills”) are sorely lacking. For example, although the law states it is legal to imprison a dog inside a wire cage only six inches larger than its body length (Animal Welfare Regulations), for its entire life, do you know anyone who would consider that humane? What is more, many USDA inspectors overlook puppy-millers’ blatant disregard of Animal Welfare Regulations, leaving dogs and puppies to suffer endlessly. At one site, inspectors paid no heed to numerous dogs with horribly injured and even missing eyes, clearly not receiving veterinary care over the course of five years (Puppy Mill Awareness Day). Dogs, ‘Man’s best friend,’ America’s most beloved companion animals, are handled with less regard than ‘farm stock:’ dairy cattle, or hogs grown for slaughter, which routinely receive fresh air, sunshine, clean bedding, quality feeds, and exercise (“Killing Charlotte: Breeder Says New Dog Law Made Him Do It.”). What is wrong with this picture?
There exists a tremendous population of puppies confined in plastic and starkly lit for the world to see, waiting to be bought on a whim, yet too many eyes are blind to the dreadful reality: Pet store puppies are produced in conditions no reasonable, dog loving person would deem humane or appropriate for family companion animals (Puppy Mill Awareness Day). So what will you do when you’re ready to bring a purebred puppy into your heart? Will you step into that store and shop through those clear cases, pointing out the puppy you must have right now, like it’s a charm bracelet under glass? Then again, are you strong enough to do what’s right, to make time to locate a Reputable Breeder (“How to Find a Reputable Breeder”), secure in the knowledge that this is the best path toward enjoying a happy, long life with your new best friend? Will you – can you – deny that momentary urge which propagates the suffering of so many?
Angel, Jennifer. “From Puppy Mill to Pet Shop.” New York Daily News. N.p., 1 Nov. 2011. Web.
08 Oct. 2012.
ASPCA. “Puppy Mills.” ASPCA. N.p., 2012. Web. 08 Oct. 2012.
Awareness Day. “Puppy Mill Awareness Day.” Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Awareness Day,
2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
BTCA. “Boston Terrier Club of America, Inc. Code of Ethics.” Bostonterrierclubofamerica.org.
BTCA, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
HBO. “10 Things to Know about Puppy Mills.” Madonna of the Mills – A Documentary about
Puppy Mills. HBO, 2012. Web. 09 Oct. 2012.
HKC. “How to Find a Reputable Breeder.” How to Find a Reputable Breeder. Harrisburg Kennel
Club, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. .
Puppymill Rescue. “Pet Shop Puppies.” PuppymillRescue.com. N.p., 1999. Web. 09 Oct. 2012.
USDA. “Animal Welfare Regulations.” aphis.usda.gov. USDA, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2012.
Worden, Amy. “Killing Charlotte: Breeder Says New Dog Law Made Him Do It.” Puppy Mill
Awareness Day. Awareness Day, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.
My life is not an entirely pleasant one. No one’s is of course, but for the most part the general population manages to go about their days free from the dread that gnawed at the psyches of World War One trench soldiers like plague rats on decaying flesh: gas. For me, this anxiety is a daily reality that haunts me, sometimes waking me at night with its stealthy, stinking presence. No, I’m not insane & no, I’m not creating fiction for your entertainment; trust me. I live in a near constant state of distress because I share my heart & home with six Boston terriers & a Boxer – brachycephalic dog breeds which have a propensity for discharging fogs of fetid flatulence ad nauseam.
Sometimes I’m offered mercy; granted a few moments to escape by the sound of the ‘bomb’ releasing from across the room. Although the easiest farts from which to flee, these noisome raspberries are strident & quite mortifying when guests are present, as they range from furtive, airy “Pweeeeeeeeeee!!!” whistles up to floor-rumbling bass, where-the-hell-is-the-toilet-paper, moist, trucker-jeans blow-outs. My Boxer, Copper is the Champ at trucker farts. He prefers to hold them until he knows I’ve settled into bed & am perhaps nearly asleep, but not so far gone that my sense of smell has shut down. Usually, I’m lying there rigid as a botoxed forehead with my eyes huge as golf balls, staring blindly into the dark, just waiting for the attack to begin. I’ve learned through the years that the most devastating air strikes take place under cover of night… And it comes, as it always does. If I’m cowering under the blankets, all I notice is a thunderous reverberation through my pillow – but I know what it is, I know what’s coming next, & I know I can’t escape.
It’s nigh impossible to describe the vile, staggering essence that issues from these pursed doors to Hell. I’m not a connoisseur, you see. I’m simply a victim of circumstance. I’ve suffered this torment since 1988 & I’m afraid I know too much. Each strike delivers a unique bouquet, not only special to that dog, but specific to that particular emanation. No two discharges are ever alike; much like snowflakes, but critically deficient in both sparkle & artistic value. The putrid odors produced by my dogs have routinely put to shame grown men who pride themselves on gassing their wives beneath the marital blankets. When women such as these proud survivors rush out of a stricken room gasping for air, I know my dogs are dangerous. And I’m incongruously proud. Go figure.
The “silent-but-deadly” hits are the absolute worst, & Pinky the Boston has the best guerrilla warfare tactic to get in, make the hit, & get back out undetected. At eight, Pinky is currently our eldest Boston terrier, the Alpha & Sheriff of our pack. She rules with an iron tongue; she licks when she’s happy & she licks when she’s upset, she just does it differently. Pinky has also perfected her “Puss in Boots” eyes. This ploy is perfect for begging to be picked up when she wishes to plant a silent-but-deadly. Once held in arms, Pinky then employs her tongue, licking every bit of skin she can reach to distract whoever is holding her from the fact that she’s practically grunting with the effort to expel a fart in their arms & onto their clothing. Once she accomplishes her mission, she makes a leap toward freedom & it isn’t until ten or fifteen seconds later that the stench steals into the nostrils of whomever unwittingly fell for those huge, liquid eyes of hers… She gets me every damned time.
I love my dogs dearly, but it’s exceptionally difficult living this way, never knowing from which direction the next blast will come, or how horrendously ruinous it might be. Trucks rumbling by on the road out front have sent me running from the room in blind terror, certain I was about to be killed outright. I beg my husband not to feed the dogs any sort of ‘people food,’ but he claims it doesn’t make any difference what they eat, they gas us regardless. I secretly tend to agree with him, but I’m also petrified beyond belief when I see him considering a bit of leftover pork chop or chicken breast… And I know from raucous, rank, sickening experience that mashed potatoes are a recipe for disaster. Gads!! (shuddering)
As I share these thoughts, I find my eyes skittering apprehensively about me; taking in the cozy scene of this evening’s three ostensibly amiable, devoted companions, all snuggled warmly about me on the bed. But I’m neither naïve nor unwise; I’ve been engaged in this conflict for nearly twenty-five years & I know not to let appearances deceive me. For all their outward charm & quirky, bulgy-eyed appeal, I have learned the hard way that smushy-faced dogs are nothing more than fur-coated mobile barrels of self-replenishing bio-hazardous gas that seek only to lure unsuspecting humans into range; the goal: to trigger their Hellish sphincter release valves. If you’re fortunate & they give you a fair chance, you’ll at least hear a sinister, squeaky “Pweeeeeeeeee….” At that point, it’s every human for herself (or himself, of course – you big guys are certainly free to escape, too) & you’d better hope you’re wearing a turtleneck, as I am right now. Whatever you wear, if you plan to visit our Bostons & Copper the Boxer, anticipate lots of sweet kisses & cuddles, but come prepared for massive amounts of malodorous malevolence…Trench warfare has never been so adorable.
Our introduction was looming. The cat seemed a bit ethereal as it slid between pockets of light & inky blackness, disappearing momentarily, only to reappear a couple feet nearer. The only way for certain I could tell it didn’t stop somewhere in the dark was that its grumbling purr grew steadily louder. Abruptly, the cat surged from the sharp edge of a deep shadow, startling a surprised “Eeep!” from me. This didn’t faze the cat a bit; it stopped about six inches from my toes & tucked its haunches comfortably beneath itself, tail tip twitching near its front paws. Its wide amber eyes held mine. Again, it pronounced quite precisely, “Mi-aow!” I could feel its rumbling breaths ruffling the hairs on my knuckles, which were still wrapped tightly around my legs.
I didn’t know what to do. We didn’t have cats; the only cats I was even familiar with were the feral cats my grandma cared for around her home. Some were tame enough to pet & hold, but most were terrified of contact. My dad didn’t even like cats, so I was a little worried that this one was even in our yard. What should I do? I peeked at Mom & Dad again. They were smoking & talking, totally ignoring what was taking place a few feet away from them. I looked back at the cat & it regarded me patiently, unblinking, as if it had all the time in the world. It kept purring.
I slowly stretched out my left hand.
The cat didn’t move an iota when my trembling fingertips touched its forehead. Its only reaction was to close its eyes & – unbelievably – amplify even more its internal engine. I stroked its head & down its back, enthralled by the thick silky fur, but also shocked at how skeletal the cat felt beneath the luxuriant coat. When my hand reached the root of its tail, the cat stood & stretched. It opened its eyes & met my gaze as it stepped forward with clear purpose. I quickly folded my legs down into a crisscross style lap & the cat climbed in, circled once, & lay down with a contented sigh, purring heartily. I kept stroking the cat, but it was a while before I realized I was crying.
To my complete surprise, my parents took pity on the hungry cat & allowed me to adopt it. By the light of day, the cat looked even worse; not nearly so mysterious & much more ragged & unkempt. It was clearly starving & in need of loving care. Scabby & bony, but covered in the thickest, richest blue-gray coat I’d ever seen, with huge amber eyes; I also discovered that the cat was male, & unaltered. I bought him food, he got vaccinations & de-worming, & I fashioned a shelter for him against the side of the patio. I found a leather collar at a yard sale & a neighbor engraved his name on it: “Panther.” I officially had a cat.
Panther was one of those cats that made “regular cats” look bad. He was a true friend, a confidant, an unselfish spirit – unlike the majority of felines which demand servitude of humankind. Panther clearly enjoyed loving & being loved; he was simply a happy creature with a huge heart. He would race up & down the alley with me, for no reason but to run & play for the sheer joy in it. I could call him & if he could hear my voice, he would come, although sometimes it would take him almost half an hour to get home from wherever he was meandering… But he’d always race up the sidewalk in response to my call. He recognized sadness in me & would stick to me like a burr when he sensed it. I was never sure whether he was worried about me or if he was trying to comfort me, or perhaps a little of both. Panther never complained. He was happy someone cherished him & held him & told him secrets. He didn’t care that I couldn’t afford the most expensive food. He never bit anyone, he never scratched anyone; he just doled out his calming gaze & his hypnotic purr, letting his love pour over everyone he met. He was very unusual, but it was a wonderful unusual.