Soon after we were married, my wife announced her
philosophy of life. It was to be,
“Daisies, daffodils and kitty cats!"
Since I had once had a dog named Susie and she had a cat named
Michael when we met -- mirror images of our names -- it seemed certain that fate brought us together, and our
shared lives would be filled with furry, purring creatures.
Not long after we
had a house of our own, she sallied forth and retrieved our first
cat, an orange tabby tomcat languishing in a rabbit hutch out in the
hinterlands. We named him Tigger since our daughter was young at the time
and the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too was a bedtime favorite.
early neglected upbringing left him somewhat at a competitive disadvantage
versus the established toms in his new neighborhood, and he became
devoted to us rather than venturing forth nightly to do battle with the
locals as a
Which suited both of us just fine.
Over time, he became a
cat of dignity and elegance, always well-behaved and a model citizen -- the
elder statesman of our cat family, as it were. Even as we accumulated
more cats, they all deferred to him.
Katie the Lady
Years later, when our daughter was in elementary school
and we were in a second home, a small black-and-white female tuxedo kitten
followed our daughter home from school one day.
It was a pitiful little thing, obviously lost, or possibly abandoned
by someone, and in immediate need of food and water -- and a little care and
kindness. We took it in, and our
daughter immediately fell in love with it as it had clearly adopted her as
its protector. We debated what
to do, because the kitten looked healthy and therefore almost certainly had
Finally, we decided to place a lost-and-found ad in the
newspaper and an announcement on the local radio station, asking for
claimants to contact us. As a
sign of her maturity, our very understanding young daughter agreed
with the decision -- even though she very much wanted to keep the kitten.
She realized that there might be some other child out there even at that
moment missing it and wishing for its return every bit as much as she was
wishing to keep it.
next day a very young and quite delighted little girl called to claim the kitten.
Brimming with the faith and clarity of
childhood, and a maturity and self-assurance beyond her years, she described
the waif in detail. “That’s my kitten!" she said in a tiny
but firm and emphatic voice. “She
wandered away, and I’m so glad you found her.
I’ll tell my Daddy, and we’ll come get her as soon as he gets home,"
she added, with utter faith in a quick reunion with her beloved
We promised to have the little black-and-white fur ball ready and hung up.
But, neither Daddy nor little girl showed up, that afternoon or ever,
confirming our suspicion that Daddy was the villain of the piece.
Likely, he had dumped the kitten far from home and then made up a fake story
for his own child, about the kitten wandering off and becoming lost.
There's no way to know the inner workings of that other
household, but one thing is certain; that is no way to treat a child.
In any case, that's how Katie came to live with us.
And, that’s how the Vole Patrol was born.
Because Katie was the most relentless vole hunter that ever lived.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Just to give you an
idea of Katie's personality, one example will suffice. She got along
fine with all of our cats, and, in fact, with all the cats in the
neighborhood -- except for one. Eventually, another tuxedo cat moved
into a house a few doors down. This drove Katie bonkers. Every
time this doppelgänger showed up in our yard, Katie was out the door like a
after this threat to her special place in our home. Katie was a bit plump, and
the imposter cat was younger and more fit, but no matter. He would
not, must not be allowed to steal her place in our affections!
She was Miss Personality super plus and an absolute jewel of a cat, and we
loved her dearly!
was but one of many animals that our daughter befriended as she grew up.
Others included a gerbil, a hamster, several parakeets, including one named
Blue Bell, a tank full of salt water fish, horses (that's a whole 'nother
story, and one that continues to this day!),
and inevitably, the frienemy of all cats -- a dog. Having expressed a
desire for one, and having researched the idea herself, we set out one day
to visit a lady with a litter of Brittany puppies. I had a Cocker Spanial myself growing
up,so I was delighted with her choice -- Brittanys are a beautiful breed, both
in form and function, having been bred as bird hunting dogs. As such,
they are alert, active and eager to please. Just the thing for a young
lady discovering herself.
We brought a pup home, and she was immediately christened, Jenny.
Naturally the cats were wary of this bouncing, energetic new addition.
And, of course, the pup was wary of nothing, but instead curious about
everything, bounding here and there with an energy and enthusiasm that was quite
evidently beneath the dignity of our rather patrician felines -- who avoided
her whenever possible. Jenny grew and prospered in her new home, and
all was well for awhile. And then one day the inevitable that must
happen where there are cats and dogs under the same roof finally did happen.
We heard a hiss and then a yelp from our breakfast room. We all
came running to see what had transpired. There was no cat to be seen, but Jenny stood there with a look of surpise and hurt
feelings in her eyes, looking to us for sympathy. We took one look at
her and had to laugh. For, on her nose were three perfectly spaced vertical
claw scratches. She had finally gotten too close, no doubt wanting to
play, and one of our cats (we suspect Katie!), taking offense at the audacity of such
familiarity, had given her a stripped nose for her presumptiousness.
The nose eventually healed, of course, but from that day forward Jenny knew
with whom she might play and who to avoid.
The next member of our
cat family was a tiny, odd looking little fellow who actually belonged next
door. He was a small but plump
little tomcat of uncertain provenance, partly white but with inexplicable gray-brown patches that made him look like he had been
assembled from parts of two or three different cats.
The neighbors didn’t allow their pets indoors, and I guess he noticed
that there were well-fed felines coming and going at all hours at our house. So
by-and-by, he showed up and began sampling the feed bowls along with Tigger
and Katie. He was such an
innocuous little fellow that hardly anyone noticed, and soon he became,
nominally, our cat. There was an
advantage to the arrangement -- the neighbor was a vet, and offered free
care since he was still, on paper, the owner.
Who could refuse!
He was the gentlest,
purest soul that I can ever remember encountering, man or beast, and we
named him Thomas Aquinas Noted Philosopher.
Thomas was quiet, he never complained about anything, and he accepted and
gave affection unconditionally.
He would sit in my lap for hours; even sit with other cats in my lap.
When he developed a fatal internal blockage and had to be put down I
was desolated. The vet, his
original owner, was so distraught that he could not perform the necessary
service and had to delegate the heartbreaking task to someone else in his office.
Thomas lies buried in one of our flower gardens, and his quiet,
gentle purr is a memory that will live on with me forever.
Abby the Tabby
The final member of the
Vole Patrol arrived from no one knows where.
Abby the gray tabby just wandered in one day, liked the food, shelter
and companionship, and decided to stay.
Abigail, as we named her, was the most inconspicuous of the four,
hardly ever doing anything of note
around the house. However, she
was a constant sidekick and silent partner for Katie on the hunt.
Together, they were the Vole Patrol in all their deadly efficiency.
We never knew which one did the actual pouncing and catching,
was always Katie that bought the catch back to our patio and devoured it
there, leaving only the -- well, you know -- uneaten behind for us to clean
For years, these four
cats, Tigger, the dignified old gentleman of the group; Katie, the ever
active live wire and instigator; Thomas, the pure and gentle soul; and
Abigail, the quiet ghostly shadow, shared our home and our lives and gave us
much pleasure. At any one time,
one or more of them could be found in my lap with me on my recliner.
And once, all four managed to find places to curl up there.
You know you are truly loved when four cats share your lap!
They are all gone now.
The Vole Patrol is but a fond memory.
Our current cat, Lucky, is, like Katie, a
silent and efficient hunter, and every bit as successful.
And sometimes in a reflective moment, I let my mind wander and wonder
what it would have been like if Katie and Lucky had been contemporaries.
Talk about a hunting pair!
There’d be no voles for miles around.
We could make a
fortune leasing them out to flower gardeners everywhere!
-- Michael & Susan
© 2016 Michael W. Masters
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