Douglas, or Dougie, was our first family cat. He appeared at our house one summer Saturday afternoon when we had company from out of town. He was a big yellow tomcat who seemed to know his way around the 11 kids we had here that day.
He apparently found the food handouts to his liking and was able to evade the children when he grew tired of them, so he decided to move in.
I thought I was allergic to cats, but we decided to let him stay awhile because Monday I was going to the hospital for gallbladder surgery, and we thought a new pet on the premises would keep the kids happy while I was gone. I was to be replaced by a tomcat. Where was my self-esteem?
The first night I was gone, Dougie invited some of his friends over for a sing-a-long. They perched on the driveway wall under our bedroom window and began their performance.
Tired as he was after spending the day in assorted hospital waiting rooms worrying about me, and bedding down eight kids by himself, Bill could not sleep with the cats caterwauling.
He decided to throw a bucket of water on the cats from the front porch. It seemed like a good idea, and probably would have been, but someone had spilled a rock collection on the porch before he went to bed and “forgot” to pick it up.
Bill stepped out onto the dark porch in his bare feet with the water bucket in hand. When his feet met the rocks he did a memorable dance with some verbal accompaniment, which resulted in more water on the porch and Bill than on the cats. However, Bill’s performance did end the cat choral under the bedroom window.
Douglas and I got along just fine when I returned home. I appreciated his independence, and he seemed to know I was the person behind his regular feedings. In other words, we pretty much ignored each other.
But then one night I settled into the recliner with my old portable typewriter on my lap to meet a column deadline after everyone else was in bed.
Douglas decided it was time for us to bond. He jumped up and lay across the keyboard. I scratched him behind the ears and put him down.
He jumped back up and almost dared me to put him down. A most unusual situation. I couldn’t think of anything to write about anyway, so I petted and he purred.
Finally he tucked himself on my lap between me and the typewriter and slept contentedly until I was finished.
The next morning the kids were outside playing when our phone rang. It was Mr. Crawford, who had a business just down the street from our house. He warned me he had bad news for me. A big yellow tomcat had been hit by a truck in front of his business. He was pretty sure it was our cat.
What to do? I didn’t want the kids to see their kitty cat smashed on the road. Mr. Crawford was a good neighbor. He offered to have one of his men remove the cat, and he even agreed to have his man bury the cat on the hill in back of our house.
I loaded all the kids into our car and took them to a friend’s house on the other side of town so they wouldn’t miss the cat before I had a chance to figure out how to tell them the cat was dead. We got home just before their dad came home from work.
As Daddy came up the walk, our 5 year old ran to meet him, yelling out the day’s most important news event. “Hey Dad, guess what? Doug ran into a truck in front of Crawford’s. It mashed him flat. Cats don’t last long on this street.”
Apparently their neighborhood playmates had already introduced our flock to the harsh life cats live on a busy street.
In spite of their firm grip on reality, the kids were glad that their pet was buried over the hill in back of the house.
He was the first of many pets which found their final resting place over the hill, courtesy of Mr. Crawford’s guys, but Dougie was the only one who got a memorial service and a bird bath erected in his honor. It seemed appropriate because Dougie spent a lot of his short year with us watching the birds in our backyard.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on Nov. 17, 2004.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.