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Masters and staff

The old saw is that dogs have masters and cats have staff.

The Legal Genealogist has only ever had two dogs, in long-ago childhood days, so can’t really speak to the former.

But I have been owned by cats essentially all of my life, and can certainly attest to the latter.

The first pet my family ever had was an AKC-registered collie named Doc. I was too young really, when we had him, to remember Doc, but I sure remember one of my mother’s favorite stories about him.

Because he had such a good bloodline, my parents decided to … um … there isn’t any delicate way to put this … put him out to stud.

So the plan was to put the pretty little female dogs out in the backyard, and bring Doc out to meet them through the kitchen of our Colorado home.

It didn’t go quite the way it was planned.

The story goes that, when we moved away from that house, there were two physical reminders of the breeding effort. First, the claw marks across the floor where my parents literally had to drag Doc — resisting every step of the way — across that floor to get him out the back door the first time there was a female in the backyard. And, second, the new screen door they had had to install when Doc launched himself enthusiastically through the closed door the second time there was a female in the backyard.

But my own pet memories begin, and will end, with the cats that have owned me.

The first cat I can remember is a black-and-white furball named Friskie. She came to live with me when I was in elementary school and was with me until I went off to college. She was one of the culprits in the Great Thanksgiving Massacre. The family went off to Virginia to have turkey with the grandparents; the cats stayed behind in a house with a cage of canaries. They decided if we were having bird, they were having bird.

The birdcage got moved then, and again when I ended up home briefly after college needing nursing through a bout of pneumonia. I brought my cat Tiger with me and, within minutes after arriving in the house, she had climbed the front of the birdcage, had the door open with one paw and was swiping into the cage with the other.

Except that the bird flew out and away and the cat cried because she couldn’t get down. The cage was moved after the fourth or fifth time that we had to “rescue” the cat.

Junior and Missy came next — in 1972 — and were with me through some of the biggest changes of my life. A pair of tiger tabbies, he was generally referred to by the full name “#$%&@ it all Junior get down!” and she by the moniker “Missy Prissy Fat Fanny Pee Pants PoohBear.” The nicknames alone will tell anyone who’s ever been owned by a cat all you need to know. They were with me for nearly 18 years.

After I lost them, my mother’s cat had kittens — and several of the litter were solid white with light eyes. That’s a likely indicator of deafness. They’d have no chance out in the country where my mother lived, and it wasn’t likely that they’d be adopted. So, in 1990, two of them came home with me. Mist and Snow, both solid white, both congenitally deaf.

I learned quickly that yelling at a deaf cat is the ultimate in futility, so I bought a plant mister to use to try to convince them not to do whatever it was they weren’t supposed to be doing. Snow soon began to run as soon as I picked up the plant mister. Mist, on the other hand, would curl up, cover her face with one paw and swipe at me with the other.

Mist is also the one who acquired the nickname Fang. As a kitten, she managed to get inside a rocker recliner where she’d gotten her leg tangled in an upholstery cord and was hanging upside down, screaming. I cut through the upholstery to get to her and had one hand to hold the cord away from her leg, one hand to use the scissors and no more hands to hold the cat, who was frantic. By the time I got her out, there was blood all over the place (and on a solid white cat, even a little blood looks like a lot). I threw her in the cat carrier, flew to the emergency vet, they cleaned her up, looked at her, looked at me, and solemnly advised, “Ma’am, there’s nothing wrong with this cat.” All the blood was mine, where she’d bitten me. I still have the report from the emergency vet: it says the cat was given a muscle relaxant and calming agent, and the owner was sent to the hospital for treatment of cat bites…

My most recent pair are called Clancy and Ciara. The boy is a ginger tabby and was screamingly red as a kitten, so his name had to be Gaelic. Clancy means red warrior in Gaelic, despite the fact that he’s lover, not fighter. I needed a Gaelic name for the little girl, a tiger tabby. Since she has black paw pads, a black tail tip and a black nose, I went with Ciara (pronounced KI-ra), which means black-haired.

They’ve been with me for 10 years now, and we’re working our way at the moment through a medical situation with Ciara that’s desperately worrisome. What we thought was “just” urinary tract or kidney issues turns out to be far worse: she has a pituitary tumor and will need radiation to control the tumor and buy her a bit more good time for pets and cuddles.

After my usual “when in trouble or in doubt, run in circles! scream and shout!” stress reaction, I’m getting my emotional feet back under me and doubling down to give her the care she needs for the best life she can have for whatever time she has left.

Because the fur babies — the pets who’ve owned us — are also a part of our family history.

And sometimes the very best part…

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