No, not really. Instead, let me tell you a story about a cat named Shadow.
I was at work in the ER one night back in January, 1997 when I received a phone call from home. My daughters Sarah and Jennifer were on the line, flush with excitement after visiting a local pet shop with our youngest offspring, Mary Caroline.
For weeks the two girls had been after me to get a kitten for Mary. Sarah and Jenni were both getting married in '97, Sarah in April and Jenni in October. Sarah was taking her orange tabby cat Woody to her new home while Jen was marrying a man who was owned by a big black and white tomcat named Frank. (Yes, I say 'owned' because any cat lover knows that people don't 'own' cats -- we are simply the servants of our beloved felines.) According to my oldest daughters, Mary was going to be lonely enough without them at home. How in the world would she survive without a cat to keep her company?
I'd been resisting their pleas since before Christmas, but with me out of the way at work, the three girls had worked their charm on their doting father. They'd found the perfect kitten for Mary, and being a cat lover himself, my husband had caved in quite easily. But he ageed to their plan only if I said yes. Thus the phone call.
Given the hectic atmosphere in the ER that evening, I had no time to argue the merits of bringing a new pet into the house. And what could I say anyway now that Fred was behind them? I knew when I was beat, so I surrendered with hardly a whimper.
I returned home that night expecting to find a kitten curled up on Mary's bed. Instead, I found THREE kittens! Two of them were females, striped tabbies from the same litter. The third was a big pawed gray tabby from a different litter, a male who looked up at me with soft eyes that said, "I'm all yours!" I immediately fell in love with him.
My daughters spun me a long involved story as to why we now had three newcomers in the house instead of one. It didn't matter; I was won over by the gray cat and the other two were just bonuses. Shadow (as we named him) grew by leaps and bounds over the next few months. His playmates were on a slower growing curve, always a pound and several inches behind him. The difference in size caused problems. Shadow wanted to play with his adopted sisters, but his roughhousing turned them into shrinking violets. They began hiding behind the couch each time he approached.
Shadow couldn't figure it out. He'd cock his head to one side and look up at me as if to say, "Hey, ma! Why won't they wrestle with me?" Our vet supplied the answer: the girls were afraid of Shadow. They weren't developing as they should and they needed to be separated from the big gray cat -- permanently. Eventually our son Matt took one cat to his apartment and a friend adopted the other. Shadow stayed with us.
Over the years Shadow grew into his paws and became, as my husband put it, "one pound short of a puma". During the day he followed me around the house, sitting on my lap and checking out the computer while I wrote, or helping me in the garden by stalking and destroying any leaf that dared to fall from a tree. Each morning he would circle the yard looking for intruders in the form of mice or rabbits, then trot back to the door and meow as if to say, "You can come out now. It's safe!"
In the evening, Shadow would lie on the patio next to our chairs, guarding us just in case a stray sparrow flitted our way. Then at night he would jump up on the bed, curl up next to my husband, and stare me in the eyes as he placed one paw on Fred's hand. I always felt he was claiming Fred as his own, letting me know Fred was his guy as much as he was mine. When he was sure I'd gotten the message, he'd jump down and go upstairs to sleep with Mary Caroline. Promptly at 5 a.m. he'd be back to wake Fred for work. We never needed an alarm clock; Shadow did the job for us.
I grew up with cats, lived with cats most of my life. But never have I known a cat like Shadow. For love and companionship, he had no equal. I will miss him.
In loving memory, Shadow, November 1996 - February 16, 2009.