Thursday, March 30, 2006

People Who Photograph Their Pets

Brian lived a good part of his adult life in North Miami Beach pet free. It was too much of a hassle feeding the pesky cats that would find shelter in the back shed or the dense shrubbery of trees, bushes and assorted foliage that hides two-thirds of his house from view. Besides, who would feed them during those merry spring and summer months when the call came to rockhound the west?

Maybe he started to feel something of a pang when he saw his tenant Chris's cat, with her nose at the window, longing for some adventure in the wild, or running along with her master to 7-Eleven for an early evening sub sandwich. Eventually, Chris let the cat out, part-time anyway, at first, and then full-time when the cat decided it preferred the wild to a cluttered efficiency apartment.Then,alas, Chris moved on, leaving the cat to fend for herself because Brian still had no desire to tie himself up with the duties of daily pet feeding.

We saw that Chris's cat was still around, getting her food, no doubt, by following a fat black and white cat with an enormous fuzzy tail that had been enjoying its residency in Brian's front yard, food or no food. This fat cat, that had a face that resembled a panda in reverse colors and huge whiskers, was so well fed that Chris's cat must have calculated that it had several reliable food sources. The good part was that The Panda kind of took her under his wing (or fat belly) and didn't mind showing her the ropes of a seasoned alley cat.

Well, all worked out for awhile for Chris's cat and The Panda but then came Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, two scary cat-astrophies that rendered Brian's house unlivable. Branches were downed all over the yard, amid roof shingles, nails, tar paper and fallen cactus. And one day, shortly after the first hurricane, Brian found Chris's cat, hiding under the shed, bruised and wretched looking, her voice calling out a weak miserable plea.

So, what do you do when you see a cat so ripped up and scared from a fearsome hurricane? What Brian did was give her a name and make her his, and so by way of the storm, she became Katrina. Chris's cat was now Brian's cat and she was only too happy to accept her adoption. He petted her, and she rolled over and talked a funny language all her own.The roof became her permanent home and the front porch or back shed her feeding station. Of course, as things go in life, one hand washes the other, and Katrina wasn't about to forget her old friend The Panda who now started hanging around more than ever. With his awesome stare, huge whiskers, fancy tail and ability to escape any hand that tried to pet his bountiful furry body, he soon became known as the strong, silent type. So, now there were two cats to feed, with The Panda requiring ever more food to fill his unusual furry girth.

Also, around the time of the second hurricane, Wilma, a new tiger striped cat soon to be labeled "The Pest" made an appearance, quickly followed by an all out effort to ingratiate herself to Brian and hence to Katrina and The Panda. Katrina wasn't fooled because she knew this cat was a man stealer and she was soon proved right. It was mating season, and Brian spotted The Panda chasing The Pest. Well, you know the rest of the story-or maybe you don't. Now, every time Brian opened the door, The Pest would run inside and hide in the closet and he would have to chase her out. One day when I was at the house, she ran in and I couldn't locate her, and then suddenly I saw The Panda in the house also, giving me a wide eyed stare as he guarded the bathroom. I checked it out and there was The Pest in the bathtub, preparing her future bed for childbirth.

We were not present for the blessed event, because there were minerals and folks to see out West, so the adventures of Brian's brood were left in the capable hands of Aaron, his tenant, who coincidentally happens to work for the Humane Society. As all cat tales go, this one had one happy and one not so happy ending. The happy was the birth of Mini-Pest which made Brian the master of a handsome family of three. The unhappy was Katrina who had started it all and was now the jealous cat, the one now in left field, or in this case, relegated to the backyard.

Now,as I ponder things, I realize that throughout the years,I've looked at any number of photos of beloved dogs and cats but they never seemed unique to me. Maybe I ought to have asked for the stories that came with them because I am certain now that it's the stories that make the pictures come alive. Recently, my cousins Jane and Alan suffered the loss of Jose, their beautiful jet black cat with enormous eyes. I am sure that the many photos they have of him provide fond memories of a cat that possessed an remarkable personality, a cat with many tales. I wish I had known him.

The photo above is of the great Panda.