Every Saturday morning, as soon as my feet hit the floor, Dickens gets up and races to his living room "cat table." It used to be a coffee table, but when Dickens came into our home, it became a cat table. It's the only spot where, when I am sitting in my recliner and Loretta is on the couch, Dickens can see both of us. More importantly from his point of view, because he loves attention, we can see him. It also puts him on the same level as people, and he loves people. I'm pretty sure he thinks he is one. It's a little difficult to explain to guests who are used to a coffee table being a place for beverages and snacks, and are surprised to have an enormous cat jump up and introduce himself, nose to nose.
Saturday mornings, when Loretta and Zorra are still in bed—that's when Dickens and I have our weekly meetings. After I get my coffee, I sit on the couch, he sits on the cat table, and we talk. (I'm perfectly serious. Dickens is very vocal. If you talk to him, he talks back. I have no idea what he's saying, but I suppose it makes sense to him.) I give him a few cat treats, brush him, and sometimes, if he will allow it, give him a manicure.
I call Dickens my "dream cat." When our first cat, Mycroft, died, we talked about adopting another cat. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. It would be like trying to replace Mike, and to me, Mike was irreplaceable. Then, about a year after Mike died, I had a dream. In it, I was cradling a small ginger tabby in my arms. The next morning, I told Loretta I thought I was ready to adopt another cat.
Shortly after that, we were at PetsMart shopping for supplies for Cleo (our little old lady calico). A rescue group was holding an adoption event, and I decided it wouldn't hurt to check out the kittens. There were about a dozen of them, but the one that immediately caught my attention was a little ginger tabby that stuck his paw out through the bars of the cage to get my attention. I asked one of the volunteers if I could hold him. When I cradled him in my arms, he looked up into my face, just like the cat in my dream. He still likes to be held that way. Every morning, before I go out to get the paper, I have to pick him up and give him a cuddle. It's not easy, now that he weighs 20 pounds.
Mycroft was our first cat, and for years he was an only cat. When we adopted Cleo, he resented her presence in the house. There were terrible fights between the two of them before they reached the point where they could barely tolerate each other. Cleo had now gotten used to being an only cat. Also, she was a bit old to be asked to put up with a frisky kitten. Understandably, we were concerned about bringing another cat into the house. But we needn't have worried. Dickens loves other cats as much as he loves people. He was eager to make friends with Cleo, but when she had enough of his antics and hissed at him, he knew to back off. When Cleo died and we adopted Zorra, Dickens and she quickly became best friends.
|Zorra and Dickens|
Dickens was not always the easiest cat to love. When he was a kitten, he suffered from a chronic respiratory illness. His nose was constantly running, and he would have terrible sneezing fits. He would spin in a circle, spraying snot all around him like a lawn sprinkler. He also had frequent, explosive bouts of diarrhea. (One unforgettable episode occurred under the Christmas tree a few days before his first Christmas.)
Fortunately, Dickens outgrew his kittenhood illnesses to become a healthy, happy cat. He still loves attention, people, and other cats. He is always glad to see me—every morning when I get up, every afternoon when I come home from work, and especially at our Saturday morning meetings. I love him like the dickens.