Sunday, June 28, 2009

Butterfly and Stinky

When my daughter was almost three she started asking for an orange cat. I thought maybe she had seen one on TV but it wasn’t that at all. She wanted a tabby. It was about time for the kids to have pets anyway.

I’ve always liked cats as pets because you can put a bunch of food in a bowl, provide a fresh box of litter and disappear for a few days. Especially if you have more than one to keep each other company.

My ex’s family are definitely not cat people. I think some people secretly fear cats are judging them. They were allergic, of course, and would have to stop visiting. I thought I’d accidentally stumbled onto something good.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. People who think cats don’t possess the same unconditional love just don’t get the cat psyche.

There’s no denying the independence of cats. I grew up with both cats and dogs.

My dog always had shots, tags and a collar. He was always legal. In those days dogs ran wild in the neighborhood. If you didn’t see them for a couple of days they’d be at the pound. The tag kept them from being destroyed too quickly. I remember the whole neighborhood alerting each other when the dog catcher was around.

The cats, on the other hand, never got shots. We didn’t know you could have them fixed so our cat was always having babies. We never had trouble giving them away. They ran just as wild as the dog.

As a young adult my girlfriend Pam moved away leaving me her cat. The cat played fetch and acted pretty much like a dog. I got very close to it. I found out how important visits to the vet were. It got sick and I had to learn how to give it injections. It got sick again and we went through blood transfusions. The cat didn’t make it. It contracted kitty leukemia. If I had known I could have had him immunized, I would have. I hadn’t learned my lesson though.

For days I woke up, opened the back door and called for it to come in. It broke my heart. I was living with my friend Nancy at the time and she understood what I was going through.

So now I had kids and Christmas was coming. All Chloe would talk about was an orange cat. Kim and I went to every shelter and pet store we could think of. You’d think an orange tabby would be the most common cat in the world. We couldn’t find one anywhere.

The day before Christmas Eve I made one last attempt. I went to the Humane Society on Macklind. I must have spent a couple of hours there going through every cage. I almost compromised with a Calico but I realized it wasn’t really the same. As I was leaving a small, solid gray kitten began to yowl. He wasn’t going to let me leave without at least being noticed. He was in a small cage in a corner. I hadn’t even noticed it before. He was beautiful. I walked up to him and discovered he had a roommate. It was a full grown orange tabby.

Christmas morning the kids opened a gift that held a note. They were instructed to open the basement door. When they did two cats ran out.

Chloe grabbed the orange one immediately. Squeezing it too roughly she screamed, “Butterfly!” Kim and I looked at the gnarled, full grown, butch cat and then looked at each other. What a perfect name! Dylan named the gray one Tuffy. I was never comfortable with that name. His baby sitter had a cat named that and I thought it deserved its own name.

To this day the cat responds to both Tuffy and Stinky. In fact that evolved into Stinkapuss in homage to my friend Tracy’s long time cat Funkapuss.

Eventually the curse returned and Butterfly contracted kitty leukemia. I’ll never forget teaching a skydiving class at the Sullivan airport when I got a call from Kim. She was in tears. She had to hold Butterfly as they gave him the lethal injection. I have to give her credit. I never could have done it.

Chloe has another cat now named Jamie but she still keeps Butterfly’s ashes. She mentions missing him from time to time. Stinky is still going strong in spite of the fact that the vet said he had kitty AIDS several years ago. I’m convinced that I gave him the wrong dose of antibiotics once when he was sick. When he was tested, his immune system was out of whack.

The vet told me that was entirely possible. We don’t want to pay to confirm it. It’s a pretty expensive test. Kim had Jamie’s front claws removed so she wouldn’t accidentally draw blood from Stinky during a fight. Unfortunately she loves to go outside. We have to keep an eye on her because she’s defenseless. Luckily, unlike most cats, she loves going for walks on a leash.

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