I grew up with dogs. Not the heart-rending snivelers from a rescue shelter with sorry eyes. Nor the perky mutts that know with the practiced eye of a tramp who is an easy mark for a meal. No, I frisked with pedigree English setters when I was little more than a puppy myself.
Dad was a hunter. Pheasant season brought the guns out to be oiled and the dogs had euphoric fits over the smells in the harvested fields of stubble.
Cats had no place in our home until the day Mom put her foot down and picked out a sweet-faced puff of a kitten. Fluffy received endless cuddling and cooing but he was his own cat from the start eschewing the easy life for endless hunting.
Fluffy was too feminine a name for this loner who prefered stalking the fields. Rambo or even Dirty Harry would have better suited our macho male. He tolerated Mom's caresses and hung out with Dad whenever he could escape the house. Dad was evening out our lawn with enormous wheelbarrow-loads of dirt and sweat.Fluffy loved to supervise the strenuous task atop a dirt pile in our wished-for lawn.
His occasional purrs of affection were for my dad alone who ignored the cat. No matter how ardently Mom loved that cat, he was Dad's cat from the start. I was a mere blip on Fluffy's radar screen.....he ignored me..His heart belonged to Daddy. .
Fluffy, for all of his fierce predatorial ways, would freshen up with the dainty licks of his snadpapery pink tongue before heading back out to his dirt pile throne,
One day Fluffy went off on a hunting expedition and didn't return. He wasn't prowling in the fields when we called. He wasn't watching from atop his dirt pile observatory. His filled dish was untouched.
Mom worried and fretted. Dad finally suggested that she take the car in next day's light to check the roadsides.
Sure enough, mom found Fluffly stiff with his beautiful fur matted in blood. Even in our rural area, he had found the path of a lone car and now lay shrouded in a garbage bag.
Our dog Ginger could be counted on. If we wanted affection she lavished it without a thought. She loved each member of the family uniquely yet the same. But Fluffy had something our sweet setter never could.......he belonged to himself only and always. We entered his world by his leave. He was regal and dignified.
Years have passed and cats have come and gone from my life. The farmlands lie beneath macadam and spit-levels, gambrels, colonials and capes now. I am hemmed in with cars which speed and houses. I now have a slobbering, goo-eyed dog whom I love for all of his gangly goofiness. We had a cat who decided one day that he would not share his kingdom with peasantry another moment more and he left on an autumn day never to return.
We searched the roadsides hoping to never find him. We never did. Maybe he was smarter than I and realized something I should have remembered from Fluffy--that roads are bad for cats.Cats are kings of the field, forest and jungles. They are also not too shoddy despots of homes either. The road recognizes no royalty.
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