Pizza from Scratch, 17

... 2 February, 2006

The ship's cat continues his story, calming his audience

© Bill Lemmond (Actually, you're welcome to download and share these web-resolution images, and you probably won't be happy with printing them.)

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Archive History Story Arc Cast
Donate to Richmond,VA, USA, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ... please.

Sorry, I've been told I haven't had enough "warm fuzzies," experiences of happiness and contentment in my life. The last dozen years have been pretty good, but I still tend to go with the nice, the non-threatening.

And in 1995, after decades mostly alone, I finally had animal companions of my own, two cats. Winston arrived, Thanksgiving morning, around 6:30 AM. A friend of mine had been delivering the Richmond Times-Dispatch for months, on a motor route in the city. I took over that paper route, the next January, so I learned that one has to fall into a rhythm, driving the same route, every stop at the same time each day, taking the same steps from the same vehicle.

Cats don't know about weeks, or hours, but they do understand days. Winston the 'springer' kitten knew that car would be there every morning, in the dark, at the same spot at the same time - and it smelled like food inside! So when Craig stopped and opened his door, Winston jumped inside.

Craig's wife, Mary, was pregnant, and they didn't want to risk her contracting toxoplasmosis from a litter box. (Yes, I know if a family has had a litter box from before a woman gets pregnant, she already has antibodies that will protect her baby. Talk to a vet, and an MD.) So as soon as he was done with his route, Craig drove to the home of the one person he knew who might take in a kitten. Craig knew I had lost a cat, the year before.

My parents gave me a cat who had been bitten by their dog. Mom called her Monkey, because of her facial markings. I took Monkey to a vet and got some medicine. I thought she had healed up. I arranged for a neighbor to feed and care for her, while I was away for National Guard annual training. When I came back, there was bad news: the little hole made by a dog tooth had developed a bad infection. I took Monkey back to the vet,who gave us a stronger medicine. It wasn't enough. I tried the medicine for about a month, and Monkey suffered quietly. The vet said she wasn't going to get better, so we put her to sleep. Later that year, on my first visit back, with Winston, the vet said a new medicine had come out that probably would have cured Monkey, but it came out a month too late.

But now I had Winston, who would run up the leg of my jeans, up my sweater, and perch on my shoulder. He would curl up with me at night. He's what I've read is called a "lap fungus," a cat who wants to be as close as possible (He's in my lap, right now.) I couldn't always be home, and I didn't want Winston being lonely. I also didn't want him to grow up only around humans, a neurotic who wondered "Why can't I do what the big warm feeder can do? So on my birthday, that December, I got us a present. I scared the Richmond SPCA when I walked in with a cat in a carrier. They thought "Oh, no, another cat getting dumped!" "No, we're here to make a withdrawal." I explained that I wanted two cats, so they could keep each other company. "We're here for try-outs.

"I'm on disability income. Do you have a bargain cat?" They had Peter, a three-year-old ginger tabby, who was not allowed to follow his human into a rest home. He had already been neutered, had already had his front claws removed, and the old lady had seen to his shots. Winston and Peter seemed to get along, and over the next dozen years, they did get along with only the occasional spat (with no injuries). Peter was a little shy at first, but a few weeks later, he jumped into my lap and began to massage my chest with his front paws. So he became my massage therapist.

Peter would be 18 years old, but a few years ago, he got so weak from kidney failure that he could no longer walk on his rear toes; he had to walk on his heels. His last morning with us, he still climbed into my bed to wake me up, as he had done for years. I have a little bit of his fur in a medicine bottle, and he's buried in my back yard, under the same tree where Monkey is buried. I don't miss him every day, but I miss him. He was a big, gentle marshmallow. In this comic strip, Peter the kitten is named after him.