Over the last five years my dogs and I have created this bond of love. We have come to this understanding of the depth of our ties to one another. This is what it has meant to have two small dogs dependent on me. I have felt like I stumbled into the quintessential master-dog bond, the one anthropologists expound on. I have believed nothing could shatter our little pack.
Then last week I got a bright idea. I was moving into a new studio. Out in the world there were little kittens in need of homes. The word euthanasia clouded my brain. Now I did not like cats. I remembered the one I had tried to keep in Africa. It was so obnoxious I allowed my garden boy to have Kenwa for dinner. I grabbed a pet monkey instead, and lived happily for the next two years.
I spoke to the local humane society.
“Got any cats looking for adoption?”
“Two really cute ones, a brother and sister.”
“Maybe I could take one to keep in my art studio?”
“You will be leaving them alone, sometimes?”
“I think you will want both of them. They are cute. We will pay for them to be spayed, nuetered…….. Come see them. They are really sweet, and full of mischief.
I dragged Patti up to the humans society. There they were. Two little fluff balls. Big fuzzy ears. Inquisitive faces. Racing across the room after one toy or another,
I believed, I knew it without a doubt. Cats could be left more easily than dogs. I knew they were more independent. Give them food and water, keep their litter box clean. They could survive virtually without people around. Probably did not even like peopel. I was only doing these poor, feral kittens a noble favor. I was single-handedly saving them from the dumpster.
I visited them in the humane society a few more times. I listened to instructions for their care, to intimate details of their immune systems. (Those, I learned, can be compromised by being feral.) I was told about their poops.
They are just cats. They will survive. Nine lives and all.
Then I moved them into my studio. That room took on a new identity. Here was a cat paradise. Sticks abound. Some of them stood up. Trees. Twigs lay across the floor. Toys. Mobiles hung in the corners. The eyes on these kittens grew huge. They raced around the room with wild abandon.
I noticed I was beginning to look differently at my furballs. They attacked an assemblage I had carefully constructed. I did not race to protect it from the beasts, I chuckled.
These cats seemed to like the fact I was there. They came and climbed over me as I sanded a piece of wood. They crawled across my back, into my hair. This was not the dog affection I had grown accustomed to. There was a wilder nature to it. I believed.
I finished my work for the day, prepared to leave. I checked their water, surveyed the mess in my studio to be sure I was not leaving out any dangerous chemicals they could get into. I walked toward the door. They looked almost sad, regretful that they were going to be left alone.
I retreated to the comfort of my dogs. I did not tell them about their cross-town rivals. We snuggled into bed as if nothing were different.
The next morning I arrived at my studio. As soon as the key turned in the lock I watched the kittens bound across the room, jump onto the counter so they could get the first view possible of me coming to them. They genuinely greeted me! They knew they were my cats.
Guilt washed over me. What was I doing? I was a dog-person. I had a sweet, lovely pair of dogs at home. I had committed my hearts to them. I allowed them to entwine their bodies with mine as we slept. I couldn’t be intimate with another set of animals. Or could I…….
I worked for several hours gluing sticks together. These were to be my Christmas angels. I needed something to have on hand for the holidays four months in the future. As I worked, the kittens wound their bodies around mine. They bound across the room climbing century plants and batting at my sculptures. I barely flinched when my bobbly-structured piece, the one I had spent hours balancing, became a punching bag for them. After all they were having fun! When I left, I neglected to put my emerging Christmas ornaments away,
My parting was once again sweet. I stroked the kittens soft backs. With another twinge of guilt I rushed home to my small pack of dogs. They danced in joy as I approached.
Is his how men feel when they have secret families? Aah guilt! I know you well!
Those ornaments were now strewn across the floor. My work on these pieces was apparent only in dry globs of glue at what was once the joint between the two pieces of wood. And I did not really care! Dangerous! This was the first inklings of love. Watch out dogs. You have rivals.
I do not expect I will ever share my bed with two cute cats. That space has been promised to canines. But as I stroke my dogs’ necks, scratch their backs, my mind slinks over to my studio where two cute little kittens must curl up together in amongst sticks of dry wood, with no human hand for comfort. I have got to get up, go work in my studio!
For the past few days my dogs have been getting extra-long walks each morning for my penance. No walk today. I must move beyond this guilt, accept the fact it is OK to love both cats and dogs. And, besides, those cats need my company!
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"