I guess my expanded love for animals comes from my wife who is a born again Dr. Doolittle. She just has a natural way with animals and they trust her, even some of the wild things in these parts. But she has also taught me to love cats, an animal that I used to detest, and here on the farm we have many for, with horses around, cats are a must. Our large group of barn cats keep the rodents away and, otherwise, we'd probably be overrun since horses are notorious for spilling their feed when they eat. The cats watch the barn like hawks and take care of any unwanted intruders.
One little cat that we rescued, Rusty, shown here, reminds me so much of a neighbor cat I remember when growing up. At the time I hated Inky the cat, for she terrorized the neighborhood and it took me until many years later to appreciate what she did for her master. She kept rodents and pests away and she certainly kept the dogs away. She was a fearless orange tabby with a splotch of black on one shoulder, like an ink spot, plus she was missing an eye. It must have happened in the only fight she lost for I never saw her back down from any engagement.
Inky loved to sleep on the door stoop by the front door steps at her house. On a hot summer day it was in the shade and the concrete was cooler than any other spot. She would sprawl out and rest but she always remained alert. If any pet or other critter not wanted in her yard came by, her good eye quickly opened wide and the look she gave was one of you better watch out. Now this was back in the 1950s when there were no leash laws in the small town where I grew up, so neighborhood animals roamed about freely. I guess today we would say this would be dangerous but we never had problems with strays back then because people were much more loving and responsible for their animals. I never saw an animal dropped off to fend for itself, an unfortunate happening today.
On one particular afternoon while Inky was resting, a prissy older lady who I'll call Mrs. Daley was out for her afternoon walk with her dog Theodore, a pure-blooded Eskimo Spitz. Unfortunately for Theodore, Mrs. Daley raised him in the same prissy manner that she had become accustomed to and the poor dog was never allowed to be a real dog. Every hair on his body was immaculate as if he was on his way for a portrait, and on this afternoon Mrs. Daley with Theodore at her side was approaching on the sidewalk.
Theodore was very well behaved and, of course, leashes were not common back then. Mrs. Dawson would turn him loose and he seldom strayed for more than ten feet from her. On this afternoon, however, he decided to briefly "nose" around in my neighbor's yard and a group of us kids who were nearby in my front yard just decided to watch.
Theodore started sniffing around in the yard and began to approach the door stoop. The poor dog was unaware that any other animal was around and he certainly wouldn't have gone where he was headed if he knew Inky was waiting. As he approached the door stoop I saw Inky's good eye open fast and wide and she assumed a crouching position.
Theodore stepped directly beneath her on the grass and Inky sprang into action, leaping onto his back and latching on like a jockey in the Kentucky Derby. The poor dog howled and ran across the street to the island in the middle of the the cul de sac and rolled twice but was unable to dislodge Inky. Meanwhile, the fur was flying and it almost looked like that little island of green was covered by snow.
It didn't last long, probably no more than a minute or two and when Inky realized that she had taught Theodore a lesson she let go and victoriously trotted back to her napping station. Poor Theodore, now looking like a sway back mule with so much of his beautiful fur missing, meekly came back to his mistress with a very sad and dejected look. The poor lady didn't know what to do but my mom, ever the neighborhood nurse for all living things, came out and checked him out and tended to his minor wounds.. He was okay, but his pride would never be the same.
Come to think of it, I don't think I ever saw Theodore on his walks without a leash in the future. And as for Inky, the neighborhood bully, she lived to the ripe old age of fifteen. That was one tough cat and she would have done well out here on the farm.
All I can say is if you don't like cats but have never had one, try one for a pet. They are smart, efficient and you'll never have rodent problems if you have one. You just have to let them grow on you.
So here's to the memory of Inky, one tough cat, and to cats and their masters everywhere. A little food, water and love and they'll love you forever.
Like stories like this? You will enjoy my book: Honey, We Shoulda' Bought the Ark. Now available at www.outkirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark and www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick. Animals: Wonderful Gifts from God.