(Editor's note: This column first ran in the News in 2004.)
I have a cat who likes to lick my ears when I hold him in my arms and scratch his back. This tender gesture somehow makes the world OK for him, and for me, and it is one of the many endearments that he still displays at 20-plus years of age.
Mr. Kitty became a part of our family during the time I was making numerous trips to Pennsylvania to be with my dying father and subsequently, Peter, my husband, filled the empty house with another cat. Our first cat, Walla Bear, died the summer before and we missed the warm and enlightening presence of an animal in our lives. Peter headed off to the local animal shelter, where he found this beautiful, abandoned Seal Point kitty and brought him home. For the past two decades, Mr. Kitty has filled our lives with adventure, joy, a little worry, and most definitely love.
Our summers were spent living in the middle of a golf course where, in the early evenings my husband and Mr. Kitty would walk the 130 yards to the third green, which is surrounded by large, sandy bunkers. Kitty would utilize this vast wasteland as his personal kitty litter box, then, with a bolt, he would shoot out of the sandy valley with a speed that my husband, who had a head start, couldn't match. Before you knew it, Kitty was back at the house waiting for Peter to catch up so he could be held in his arms, where he would rest, and the two would feel one another's hearts beating.
Mr. Kitty also used to be the quintessential champ at Wiffle Ball retrieving, proudly placing it at the feet of his playing companion, waiting for the next big toss when he would tear after it with wild abandonment and return it time and time again.
His cleverness earned him a knighthood that was performed with ceremonial splendor surrounding him with sprigs of catnip and of course his most desired treasures, my husband and me. Sir Kitty, who by now was being carried back from the third green after his long walk out, was an animal who held his title well.
He's not chasing Wiffle Balls anymore, but he still walks down my garden path looking for his patch of catnip even though he wobbles a little in his gate and he doesn't hear me anymore when I call him back, or tell him that I love him. My veterinarian compares him to the Ever Ready batteries that keep going on and on and on, but I know his batteries are beginning to wear down.
We've since added a dog to our troop, who thinks he's the head of the household, but Sir Kitty still reigns as the leader of our pack.
What a gift it is having these beautiful animals in our lives, and how sad to know that there are so many unwanted cats and dogs available at the local animal shelter waiting to give their love and joy to somebody who is looking for a treasure, as we had found. Every animal has a gift to give and you might just be lucky enough to find one who will
lick your ears.