I’ve had dogs all my life. I’ve gone sailing with them, gone to the beach with them, taken them to foreign countries with me. I have found them to be loyal, true and on my side, also full of fun, joyful at my coming home and great companions up and ready for just about anything.
Last year, after Spalding died of old age, I went into a deep mourning. I had felt close to my earlier dogs, but Spalding, a wonderful and mischievous Bichon Frise—had won my heart. I mourned for a year, and early on said I would never get another dog again. But now with the year over, I’m feeling ready for a new friend.
During this year, however, a strange thing has happened. I’ve never been much of a cat person. We’ve had cats around the house—left there by children who grew up, or some such thing—and I’ve tolerated them. They don’t bother me and I don’t bother them.
But now there is one cat in our lives who has stepped up to the plate. His name is Hank, he was one of my wife’s pets before I met her 10 years ago, and he’s been in my life for the most recent 10 years.
As she had her for eight years before we met, Hank’s a pretty old cat, probably around 19 at this point. Nevertheless, Hank has, in the past year, come around to thinking he’s a dog.
When I come into the house, he runs over and then runs alongside of me. When I sit down, he hops up on me. This is new behavior for Hank. As I said, before I lost Spalding, Hank was just part of the household menagerie.
At first I thought it was just that he was hungry and here was another adult in the family who might deign to feed him. Certainly I have done that from time to time. But then I came to see that this was not the case. He had been recently fed. He wasn’t looking for more food. He wanted me.
Sometimes after a long day, I build a fire in the living room, lie down on the couch and take a nap for half an hour. When Spalding was around, he’d jump up—he was a 15-pound dog—and sleep in the crook of my arm with me. After Spalding went off to a better place, at least at first, Hank paid me no never mind. But about four months ago, he took over that job.
It’s a different thing from when he jumps up in my lap when I sit down. In my lap, he is nosing around, looking to be scratched on his ears. If you don’t do it, he seems to get a bit out of sorts and will take to nosing your hand to get it to go there, or he will start licking your hand with his sandpaper tongue until you get the idea.
When I lie down, however, he knows it’s nap time. He just jumps up, burrows his head between my arm and body and is off in dreamland at the same time I am.
And there is more. Hank will turn around in your lap and begin swishing his tail across your face. It’s an incomprehensible thing to do, I know, something with cats that is unknown to humans, but there it is. I thought it annoying at first, but then thought it was kind of fun. Now I rather look forward to it. He will only stop if you gently wrap your fingers around his tail near to where it attaches to his body to make a loose fist and just slide the fist down his tail and off the end as if you’re straightening it.
As far as napping goes, he’s become a real trooper about it. Sometimes if I don’t see him for awhile but just lie down to take a snooze, I wake up and there he is in the crook of my arm again.
At this point, I am hesitating about getting a new dog. I think, well, I already have a dog.
Hank will do, maybe. I’m going to get him to learn to meow at strangers, to sit on command, to come when I call.
I’m blowing this way and that. I call his name and there are times he doesn’t pay me any mind. He just keeps on with whatever it is he is doing. But I keep at it. Hank. It’s your name. Perk up. When I call it I need you.
He’s deaf, my wife said. He’s 19. Don’t take it personally.
Yesterday, I tried sleeping with Hank. My wife was in the city for the night and is not much for having Hank on the bed. So here was my chance.
It worked out at first. But then, well, not. I woke up once and he was sitting on my chest and I sort of brushed him off. Another time, I was awakened by him as he walked over my body to see what was on the other side, which was, well, nothing. Then an hour later, I woke up and he wasn’t there at all. Then an hour later I woke up and he was back.
This was very disconcerting with all this coming and going and I decided it just wasn’t going to work out, sleeping with him. And I haven’t since.
He is, however, plotting something, he is, my cat, the dog.