Confessions of a cat lover

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2002

I blame it all on my husband, of course. I always thought of myself as more of a dog' person. I had bought into the notion that cats were stuck-up and aloof creatures that wouldn't give you the time of day.

But Benny wanted a cat to join the ranks of our little family. (Let me point out he didn't bother to ask the dog about this.) And, quite unexpectedly, we found said cat while we were on vacation in Denver one fall.

Other people bring back t-shirts and mugs from trips. We visited the Denver Dumb Friends League and brought back a one-year-old medium-long haired cat with enormous green eyes and the softest silky gray fur on the planet. Her name was Smokey.

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She'd been adopted there as a kitten and returned when her family had to move. It was the way she pawed at the window and gave a silent meow' on our second visit to the shelter that got to both of us.

And then in the visiting room when the worker said, "Oh, I don't think she's much of a lap cat," Smokey proceeded to stop cavorting about through my legs and immediately hopped up to curl up in my lap. She was smart as well as beautiful

and yours truly caved in.

Smokey didn't like a lot of people. She was frightened of small children and she grew to merely tolerate our cock-a-poo terrier. But let me tell you she loved her parents.' And somehow, we both felt it was an honor to have been favored with the affections of such an elegant and lovely creature.

Later circumstances forced us to subtract our dog from our household (he went to live with my in-laws) and Smokey was quite thrilled to be the only pet.

Then two homeless kittens, a pair of striped tabbies, showed up at our townhouse's door one cold November.

They were cute, friendly and ready for a good meal. I put bowls of kitty food and water outside the door while Smokey fumed on the inside.

It was inevitable, I suppose. The weather turned colder and the snowflakes began to fall.

"We can't leave them out here in this," I wailed. So in they came and a dozen years later, here they still stay.

Smokey was naturally displeased with our decision. She used to chase the kittens, poor Ginger in particular. On occasion Smokey (who was now quite the full-figured puss) would jump up and sit right on top of Ginger if the younger cat happened to be curled up in one of our laps.

However, those happy-go-lucky kittens took it in stride, no blood was shed and we all, more or less, got along pretty well.

Smokey fell ill and passed away all too soon a few years later.

For a while it was just the four of us until we moved back to rural Alabama. It seemed new opportunities to take in strays bombarded us from left and right out here in the country.

We added an outdoor dog to our family; when she was mysteriously killed we eventually added another.

My mother and father who lived nearby had the same problem. Hungry stray animals would show up all too frequently on this dusty red clay road. It was hard to turn them away… (part two next week)