The love of animals runs deep in my family. I’m told my grandfather spent time in the woods, loved being out in nature with his cocker spaniel, Smokey, and he was forever bringing home orphaned critters he ran across. Baby squirrels, little red fox cubs, and maybe a bear cub or two.
I can’t be certain about the bear cubs. I never knew my grandfather, and my mother is no longer here to ask. But I want to believe I have that right. I am certain, however, this habit of his was the vexation of the next door neighbors, and I would imagine words were crossed. Mother confirmed it, this I remember, and she was surprisingly benevolent about it, even on the neighbor’s side at times, because some of these animals smelled.
All my siblings have pets, rescues or bred on purpose, and I am the only one petless. As a child I was afraid of dogs, having been bitten more than once. We never had cats, and I never wanted one, their personalities a mystery to me. But this doesn’t keep other people’s cats from seeking me out, even when they hide from others, doesn’t keep them from rubbing against my legs and majestically displaying their tail and other things for me to admire.
And then, a couple of weeks ago I invited myself to dinner at my sister’s. Mostly I was going to see my new great-nephew, because I heard he would be there, and, low and behold, food. There was something about the evening. Impromptu, easy, no expectations. Just a few of us, and Bill Jones.
I think he may have Russian roots, he has the coloring. He is, if not moody, self-contained. On the edges, observant, mysterious.
But, oddly, not aloof.
So, as we were watching the baby tear around the living room, amazed because he is an early walker, I sat on the floor and Bill Jones curled up on the chair, and we had quite a pleasant evening together.
When I was a kid, the D volume of the World Book Encyclopedia was grimy on the spine, so many grubby hands pulling it from the shelf to look up dog breeds. We had dogs at home, strays, a mean rat terrier, procured precisely to cure my older brother and me of our dog phobia. A miniature dachshund left in our care when one of my brother’s girlfriends went off to college.
We loved all those renderings of dogs in their classes—working dogs, hunting dogs, toys—we spent hours discussing which ones would be ours, if our parents were only reasonable.
The C volume of the World Book stayed pristine. We weren’t interested in cats.
But after an evening with Bill Jones, calm, loving, and not at all needy, I came home and googled cat breeds. Thought I might need me one. It was interesting to read about the breeds, their personalities, and to see piles of kittens in baskets, as if they stay like that for long.
Bill Jones is surely part Russian blue, and there is much to admire about his attributes. But a British shorthair is pretty great, too, with a hruumpy old man’s face, broad shoulders and chest. They look like they are just on the verge of speech. The exotic shorthair is pretty cute, too, bred to look like a shorthaired Persian.
I spent several days in happy revery, my little cat and I, and my cat-loving friends were gently encouraging, but never pushy. Because taking on a pet is a serious thing. I must tell you now, the feeling passed, and I suspect some of the love and glow of that evening with Bill Jones sprang from an easy visit with family, the newest generation toddling around like a little clown and filling us with hope for the future.
But still, something lingers, and while I am not committing to any kind of pet, and I have done a serious assessment of my own dedication to caring for another life, there was something connecting in that evening, and old Bill Jones, who showed up one day and simply stayed, was a nice part of it.