As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.
~ Ellen Perry Berkeley
That statement was never truer when applied to my childhood feline, W.C. Which stood for “White Cat.” Pretty original, huh? Although “water closet” might have been more apt...
He lived to be 23 years old -- no, that’s not a misprint. Twenty-three years old -- as best we could tell, anyway. He arrived one day on our back patio in 1972, nearly fully grown and looking every bit the young stud muffin he was. At the time were still smarting over the way-too-early death of our dachshund Hamlet and weren’t really in the mood to give our hearts to another pet.
Guess how long that lasted?
(Sidebar: I got Hamlet as a gift for my fifth birthday. The fact that a kindergartener named her doggie after a Shakespearean tragic hero should give you an indication as to what kind of a weird kid I was. Need I remind you about my 10-year-old affection for Dr. Henry Kissinger?)
My soft-hearted mama fell hook, line and sinker for Dub’s charm and after one can of tuna consumed, he was ours. Whether we wanted him or not. Which we did.
And so he grew, in size and in personality. And antics. He was soon legendary around the ‘hood. Not in an entirely favorable way, either.
W.C. was perhaps the crankiest cat ever to walk the face of the earth. A feline misanthrope, he didn’t like much of anybody outside the family. And even that could change on a dime. My dad’s friend from college, known always and forever and mysteriously as The Mouse, lived down the street from us when both our families were young. As was his habit after-work, he would change out of his suit into shorts, leaving on the undershirt, dark socks and hard-soled shoes and come down to our house for a cocktail. One evening, when the scotch was flowing, W.C. decided that The Mouse should live up to his nickname and totally unprovoked, came over and tried to climb his arm. No damage was done (fortunately) but the shock of the incident alone still makes all the human parties involved laugh.
As might be expected for a big old crabby, ornery tomcat with a penchant for fighting, Dub was a regular at the vet's office. Torn ears, scrapes, missing fur -- he had it all. (If this how he came out after a scuffle, I couldn't help but wonder what the other guys looked like...)
The most unique trip we took to the vet happened one sunny Saturday morning. The family was outside -- Daddy doing yard work, me pulling weeds against my will (damn chores for allowance policy), my brother doing something unconstructive. All at once, up the driveway comes W.C.
Tail bloody. And suspiciously shorter.
Somewhere, somehow, he'd managed to come home with about 2-1/2 inches less of tail than when he left. And he wasn't talking.
My mother, always the protector, jumped in the car and drove slowly along his known route, looking for that piece of tail -- assuming that it must be like a severed finger and if found and put on ice, it could be reattached. No such luck. Of course.
I always figured that there was some poor old lady who got a kitty surprise when she opened up her car door (Dub was famous for never meeting an open window he wasn't interested in) and in the ensuing chaos, slammed the door on his tail.
He actually was no worse for wear. Didn't slow him down one iota and probably made him that much meaner.
It was also not unusual for Dub to pay calls on the neighbors, either. The guy next door did a classic double-take the morning he was coming down the stairs of his home, passing W.C., who was on his way up -- obviously having made the most of an open window somewhere in that house.
And then there was the time he jumped into the trunk of a neighbor's car and ran all her errands with her...
Some people say that cats are sneaky, evil, and cruel. True, and they have many other fine qualities as well.
~ Missy Dizick
Dub, as you might imagine, was infamous at the vet's office. We would board him there while we were away on family vacations, and without fail, at least once a visit, he would pick the lock of his cage, get out and strut around through the doggie area, subsequently riling up every canine in the joint.
He also had the habit of taking a whizz on personal items belonging to people with whom he was not pleased. He once completely destroyed a box of Christmas tree ornaments with his Toxic Urine, rusted the top of the lawnmower, and left a big puddle under the accelerator of my brother's Suzuki Samurai. Not all at the same time mind you. Thank goodness. Can you imagine...
I could go on and on. After 20 years, people still ask my parents, with a bit of fear in their voices, if "that cat is still dead."
In his later years, he drooled a lot (poor baby) and ended up with this weird snagglepuss thing going on. He was, in fact, a real life Bill the Cat. And his zest for life morphed into a love of napping. As happens to any of us when we age.
The whole family, men included, shed many, many tears when we had to put him to sleep. It happened two days before Thanksgiving -- boy, that was a rough holiday, as Dub would always have some turkey with us. We still miss him and I always have a silent gobble gobble toast in his honor.
Although the standing joke in the family is that good old Dub is not spending eternity in Pet Heaven...
One cat just leads to another.
~ Ernest Hemingway