On a cold January day, my dog, which I had rescued from the local shelter and instantly became a member of the family for over 13 years, became severely ill and in a great deal of pain. After a quick trip to the vet, we found out her kidneys had shut down and there was no hope for her recovery. I could see the pain in her eyes as I held the dying dog’s head in my lap and waited with her in the vet’s office. The doctors had done the best they could do to help our dog, but the time had come for us to say good-bye.
That was just over three years ago, but I catch myself still looking in the afternoons as I arrive home from work, out toward where her kennel once stood. I often think I do hear her barking as she always did, telling me it was time for our walk into the backfields as we did each day. Of course, I understand that is from habit of doing something for over 13 years everyday, but it is hard to get over missing an old faithful friend like my Sally. I’ve never replaced my dog. Oh, I keep thinking I’m going to get another one, but it is just hard to start over. Sally and myself understood each other. That’s just the way it is with a man and his dog. Maybe some day I will make another friend, but I will know when I find the right one.
However, in the mean time, I have had some good intentioned people trying to help me with getting a companion pet. The only problem is they suggested I get a cat. I have nothing against cats. Having lived on a farm all my life, cats have been a part of the farm landscape, but one thing about all the cats I have ever associated with is that no one actually owns a cat. They either accept you or they don’t. They endure you or they don’t. They need you or they don’t. Plus, they don’t take anything off anyone. So, I have basically avoided being a cat owner. I know John Wayne had a cat in the movie “True Grit”, but he also only had one eye in that movie which I don’t wish to deal with either.
For over two years I had lived without a pet, that is until this past summer. Due to the “kindness” of some unkind individual, I was left a rather large, yellow tomcat on my farm. I know, if you don’t want to keep an animal, don’t feed it and I still didn’t have a real likeness for cats. But on the Read farm nothing goes hungry and this cat was very thin plus hard to get close to, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give it a little feed every now and then. It even liked my Hamburger Hinder.
Everything seemed to be going fairly well for a while. We both kept our distance and I just thought I had a stray cat to watch over the barn. That was until one Saturday morning I was awakened by a strange scratching noise at the backdoor. Not knowing what it was, I get up to find the yellow tomcat was scratching on the backdoor demanding his breakfast. He had taken up residence on the deck chairs and made himself at home. Of course, I fed him, and the rest has become history. Colonel Mustard, his new name, now meets me when I come in from work and walks right in front of my feet all the way to the door. He even has made himself at home by sitting at the back porch window and watching me in the house eating my meals and doing whatever I do until I close the blinds. He still demands his meals by tapping on the door, which makes me wonder about his early life. He’s not your everyday tomcat. He has been fixed, if you know what I mean, and he is very particular a bout whom he associates with. And yes, he has a very nice bed on the back porch where he gets some pretty good cat food thanks to the guy who doesn’t care for cats.
I know, I’m still a dog man, but that silly cat I just couldn’t let starve. Just like farmers have been doing for years, we still take care of a lot of unwanted animals out in the rural areas. I’m still planning on another dog sometime in the future. It just may have to be one that will get along with the Colonel. He does have command of the back porch.
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org