That Cat May have Killed my Mother
by Regis Boff
I bought a cat as a gift for my convalescing mother who had had a mild stroke in the spring. That summer while she laid on our hammock sleeping in the shade, that same cat hatched a plan to climb up a tree just over and above her and have a heart attack itself. It fell into her sleeping lap and died. I was finished with cats.
Growing up I was never really without a dog. My father who had honed himself to near absolute zero in cheapness during the Depression never really bought us dogs. There was none of this shit about loading up the kids and heading off to some pet shop and picking the one that licked you face. No, my dad would just show up with them and that would be that. We postponed our affections for weeks worrying that some neighbor would arrive at our door to demand it back.
My father approached dogs and cars in much the same way. He would think “car” and in his mind’s eye he would cut away anything one might find enjoyable about a car, things like radios, heat, automatic gears, etc. As far as dogs were concerned even tails were luxury items to him. Later in my life, like in high school, I resented this deeply, but it did help teach me how to get a girl to have sex with me in a car that would normally embarrass her.
Where I grew up dogs were killed with astonishing regularity because they all ran free. I know there were people who would deliberately run over a dog if the animal crossed in front of their car. I was told my father actually beat up some poor kid for killing one of our dogs on the street in front of our house. I, of course, was pleased with this story, true or not.
It was impossible to be a “good dog” in our house. The poor fucking beast was expected to be psychic when it came to behavior or he was chased around the house with a rolled up newspaper and beaten. It was not uncommon for my dad to try to hit me with the bristle side of those old fashioned straw brooms so I had a certain kinship with our animals.
Everyone ran to my mother for protection from him, the dogs, the birds and me. The strange thing of it was, the dogs all adored my father and would lie underneath him when something really scared them, (other than him, obviously), like thunder, lighting, fireworks.
Dogs have strict hierarchies of authority ingrained in them. In our house they always consider me the boss. This can be an extraordinary pain in the ass because when I am alone with them they just stare at me waiting for commands, like is it time to go kill that squirrel just say the word or shouldn’t we be hitching up that dog sled?
Dogs are also unashamed about announcing by their behavior which humans they love the most. I had this one dog for nearly eight years before I met my wife. This dog and I were isolated companions for all that time, inseparable. Now maybe it was because the dog knew that I loved her but I doubt it, either way the moment she walked into the room, the very first time, he made it maybe just a little too obvious that he loved her most.