Now that I’ve been blogging for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors for almost a year, I thought it time to introduce some of my pets. Over the next few weeks, I’ll introduce you to some of the cats, dogs, and guinea pigs that I’ve owned. In doing so, I’ll also tell you how they’ve changed my life. Then in August I’ll get back to informing you about animal issues.
Having grown up with dogs, I know that canine friends love walks, kisses, treats, and attention. When I got up in the morning, came home in the evening, or whatever time it was, dogs were always there. If I laughed they jumped on me to share in my excitement, and if I cried they rested their paws against me to share in my grief. More than one of our family dogs took on the role of best friend. I could also teach them manners and tricks. What a wonderful life dogs gave me!
In contrast, feline critters love to sleep, hide, scratch, meow, and ignore. At least that’s what those whom I knew best told me about cats. And you know what? When I visited homes with cats, nothing ever happened to shake those negative impressions. Oh, sure, cats could be fluffy and fun to pet. They even made a nice purring sound—right before they arched their backs and maybe raked their claws on my skin.
In the fall of 2006, a cat took up residence in my bushes outside my rented house in Beatrice, Nebraska. And she rocked my world. How?
I call Lucy my angel cat. You see, the year Lucy came into my life I got assigned to work with detention students. This led to my coming home many days after work in tears. I would pick up Lucy, bury my face into her neck, and feel comforted. I also remember there being a lot of thunder storms. This led to Lucy and I often huddling in bed, a hallway, or in front of the television. Andy and I were not yet married, and he lived 45 minutes away in Lincoln; he would visit every weekend, but that left me with a lot of alone time. Lucy hung around me at all hours, took interest in everything I did, and put up with all my moods. And yet, at first I had to assume that she would only be with me temporarily, as Andy had bad cat allergies. But as the weeks went by Andy’s allergies miraculously never kicked in, and eventually we decided that Lucy was mine to keep. My heaven-sent cat came when I most needed a friend and forever changed how I viewed cats.
Whenever I think of Lucy, I remember most how she snuggled into me everywhere and anywhere. If Andy and I watched television, Lucy was in my lap. If I stretched out to read a book, Lucy made a bed of my back. Lucy has also laid at my feet and has curled up by my knees. I’ve been allowed to pull her against my chest and lean my head into her while she purred. Although Lucy had her independent moments, she totally obliterated any notion that cats aren’t affectionate. When my skin was wet, she’d lick off the water. One time when I got upset, she jumped at me and meowed in panic. More often than not, I had a cat at my feet whenever I roamed about the house. If I worked at the computer too long, Lucy made sure to sit on my hands. And I always had her company at night.
Some who know me best suggest that perhaps Lucy being a stray explains why she doted so much on me. Perhaps. Does it matter? Cats (like people) have their own way of showing affection. Our new girl, Cinder, doesn’t as readily snuggle, but she comes running to greet me when I get home, enjoys wrestling with my hands, and turns to me when she isn’t feeling good. Cats make good friends. They really do.
There are other ways I remember Lucy. For example, there’s playtime. I’d put up my hand, she’d put up her paw, I’d bat her, she’d bat me. We kept going until one of us tired out. She also liked to run about the house. Sometimes Lucy would stop to meow at the walls. Imaginary spiders? Other times she would find a new place to explore. One day she jumped to the top of our cabinets. That meant jumping higher than my height. Maybe that was her limitation, because she never did it again.
Or there’s outdoor time. Her having been a stray, I didn’t want to deprive her of the feel of grass on her feet and air against her face. Andy and I would take our pets into the back yard at noon for lunch. If Lucy spied a bird or squirrel, she’d crouch and start to slink. She always darted too late, but that didn’t keep her from twice catching a baby bunny (which we rescued) or eating a dead bird.
Then there’s training time. Lucy had pretty decent manners. She never begged for food. Although clearly excited for meals, Lucy also waited patiently in the kitchen for me to serve her. I also decided to teach her obedience. Day after day, we practiced SIT, STAY, DOWN, and COME. I often got the feeling that Lucy would have preferred just to be lazy, but most of the time she obliged me. She never learned DOWN. Also, I always had to seek her out when she decided to hide out in the basement; she never came when I called. Yet Lucy did learn to SIT, STAY, and TWIRL. We even tried to do agility. Jumping over chairs and through a hoop was her best feat.
Once upon a time, I used to be solely a dog person. In my eight years with Lucy, she did show a strong desire to sleep, she would often hide and ignore, and in certain moods she might meow and even scratch. In certain ways Lucy did fit my stereotypes of cats. Be she also doted on me, and loved to lay, and could do tricks.
Lucy was one amazingly tolerant cat. If I threw my hat on her, she just shook her head until the hat fell off. If I wrapped toys or clothes around her, she just wriggled loose. When I put my guinea pigs next to her, ignoring all expert advice, Lucy just sniffed them and let them be. If on my sick days I grumped at her, Lucy would leave for a time but she always returned. When she came back, she’d sniff me or lick me or otherwise show me that she cared. This isn’t to say Lucy didn’t have her moments. My hands held a few scratches. She clearly didn’t like dogs other than Barnaby. Cats in the yard made her snarl. But, I remain impressed with how much Lucy put up with.
I still love dogs. There will probably always be a dog in our home. But there will always be cats too. I can ignore them and love them all in one day. I can play and snuggle with them all in one day. I can get to know them and yet be mystified by them all in one day. Their purrs relax me, while their moods keep me alert. When I can find them, I can talk to them and they’ll listen or snooze—whatever is their preference. I can also teach them manners and tricks, despite beliefs to the contrary. And their hugs are simply the best. What a wonderful life cats give me!
All these things and so much more are what Lucy taught me. I lost her December 22, 2014, from chronic kidney failure. But thanks to her, my world is so much enriched.
PS If you wish to read even more about Lucy, check out: