I am owned by a big orange tomcat who somehow missed that memo about cats having staff. He approaches his contact with humans using a very different mindset. I think perhaps he believes he is a dog. Although he hasn’t yet learned to wag his tail, he has totally perfected the doglike stance of sitting in front of people and staring up at them adoringly. Added to this is his propensity for licking. Fingers, hands, cheeks, noses—he literally rains kisses upon any human who will sit still for his affectionately rough tongue. When a friend sat in my home crying one day, he climbed up her lap and licked a few tears from her cheeks. Finding that it wasn’t helping, he began to kiss her nose repeatedly until she finally collapsed into helpless giggles, exclaiming “I think he’s trying to turn off the tap!”
Puff (full name, Puffy Socks Dragon, Esquire) is a “porch rescue”. Thrown out at the tender age of one year by a despicable owner who moved away and left him to fend for himself, he survived four years on his own in a harsh environment that included the second hottest summer on record in the state of Indiana, and one of the worst snowstorms ever to grace a January landscape. I honestly don’t know how he did it. If anything, I attribute Puff’s survival during those harsh four years to his ability to sweet-talk and manipulate strangers into caring for him by worshipping them.
I became aware of Puff’s existence when, as I babysat my then-four-year-old twin great niece and nephew, he began to come visiting. It was they who graced him with his unusual name, deciding that he resembled cats owned by their grandparents (Puff) and great aunt (Socks). “Dragon” was tacked on as a caveat to their favorite song, Puff the Magic Dragon, while I, feeling that “a little more made no never mind”, added the Esquire (in British form) to indicate his status as a gentleman cat. In any case, every Wednesday that summer the twins would arrive at my home and we’d head out to the back porch, since they (unlike so many of their counterparts) could not get enough of the great outdoors. And Puff would hear them and come running. I mean running! At that time, he’d made a den beneath the minibarn of the neighbor whose backyard abutted mine. I would hear the telltale rattle of lumber that the neighbors kept stored outside the mini-barn, and then Puff would appear, dramatically leaping their stockade fence, Superman-style. All he lacked was a little red cape. He would then rush to the twins and twine around and about them as they held and petted him in a mutual display of affection and admiration.
When summer ended and the twins went home, I caved. After an abortive attempt to find Big Orange another home, I brought him inside and commenced the frustrating challenge of introducing him to my already-overcatted household. “The Girls”—Zoe, Bella and Lilith Cats–did not take kindly to the male interloper in their midst. There followed a number of interesting months, but with patience (and a lot of yelling) Puffy Socks finally became a member of the household.
I would say that I have never regretted it for a moment, but there are times when, looking at the tatters of my formerly favorite curtains, I threaten Puff the Claw with a return to his friendless open-air existence. But then I sit down, and the big old orange guy climbs up my chest and, purring like a little engine, begins to kiss my nose. And I crumble.
As a child, my family always owned dogs. Dachshunds, beagles—we were dog people. I still adore dogs. I constantly buy new toys for my daughter’s Husky.
But, I have to admit, a Cat Who Thinks He Is a Dog, while he may not win a blue ribbon in the Dog of the Year contest, places pretty close—especially in my heart.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, from The Big Puff,
who adores you!