May 1995 - April 27, 2008
I had just finished stocking the
wood burning stove, turned off the downstairs' lights
and was ascending the stairs with a book in hand when
Miles, our youngest male cat, raced by me, making a
mighty leap onto the bed, claiming prime territory for
the nightly scratch he knew was coming.
A lifelong dog person, I can
remember my wife's words when I announced that I wanted
to make Miles, 'My cat.' "You'll never make him
'your cat'. I'm the one he first saw when he first
opened his eyes, and I'm the one who feeds him. I'm
'Mom', and he'll always be my cat."
Yet as I watched Miles, in his
Sphinx like stance, watch every move I made, there was
no doubt in my mind, she was wrong. While our other two
cats meandered about waiting for my wife, Miles watched
attentively, waiting for me to open my book, the signal
indicating that I was finally settled in. Moving quickly
and boldly up the outside of the bed, as if to tell the
others: "Stay back, this guy is all mine!" He
quickly settled into the valley created by my raised
chest and knees and awaited the adoration he knew would
Miles never makes eye contact,
he never has, but he can't hide the smile that quickly
develops as I methodically stroke the full length of his
body, and slowly but surely, a slow, steady purr begins
If asked to describe me, 'Cat
Person' would be one of the last descriptive terms those
that have known me most of my life would use. While my
mother was a cat-person in her youth --and still is --
my father's career as a naval officer, and the many
moves that it brought, was much more suited to dogs.
From my earliest of recollections, dogs were the sole
animals in my life. It was Chris, a collie mix, not my
mother, who cleaned my face after every meal while I was
still crawling. Panda, a classic pound mutt, was my
constant companion from the time I was first allowed
outside by myself. Lad, an oversized Sheltie, was our
third dog and, like the first two, I saw him gently
placed into his grave after a long and happy life.
While bachelorhood brought an
end to my long line of 'family' dogs, it ushered in the
period of 'my' dogs. For sixteen long years, PJ, my
trusty Jack Russell, was always at my side. Though cats
came with the marriage deal, PJ jealously guarded any
approach to my person by my wife's cats.
Unlike dogs, cats prefer to pick
the time to be sociable. The older the cat, the truer
this fact seems to be, which explains why my wife's
fully grown cats were often never to be found when I was
in the house. Of course, the fact that PJ chased them
didn't help much, but such is life.
My first real taste of what life
as a cat person was like came after the adoption of
Jordie, a juvenile coal-black Persian-something Manx.
Unlike the two older cats that would stare dumbfounded
as I tried to get them to play with one of the many cat
toys my wife had collected over the years, Jordie
relished the attention. He would spend hours leaping
mightily into the air in fruitless attempts to snag the
prey dangling at the end of a stick and string.
Immensely curious, nothing was
safe from Jordie's prying paws. When you sat down, he
was in your lap. Headed to the bathroom? He was ready
for your undivided attention. He had no problem banging
on the door when he wanted out, and if you were headed
out, you could bet money on it he was ready to come in.
For Jordie, humans were God's number one gift to 'catdom.'
The fact that he had two people paying attention to him
made it only better
In spite of my best efforts,
however, I was still a neophyte when it came to being a
cat person. Being home all day, not to mention being in
charge of daily feeding, gave my wife an insurmountable
edge when it came to Jordie's attention. While he liked
me, he adored my wife, and there was nothing I could do
to ever change that equation.
I soon resigned myself to the
reality that the closest thing to a cat I could call my
own would be our barn cat, Tasha. At least she would
acknowledge me, although it was usually in the form of a
Then, one late spring day, a
local farmer dropped by and handed me a burlap bag, at
the bottom of which cowered two immature Manx kittens.
Unable to part with them once they were in her hands, my
wife spent the next month bottle-feeding them. As I
watched my wife fuss over her new charges, I realized
just how far I had yet to go in my journey to become a
Of course, my wife's doting had
its intended consequences, and soon both kittens were as
attached to my wife as a fly to flypaper. Miles and
Squeak are small cats as cats come. Tigers, their Manx
breeding gives them a slight downhill build, which might
account for their great speed during their frequent
'tears' about the house.
Living close to the road, my
wife chose to make the pair indoor cats. I felt sorry
for the pair as they sat and watched the other three
cats let out every morning, but they quickly developed
there own unique indoor routines, and soon, going
outside was the last thing on their mind.
Intrigued by birds, Miles spends
hours defending a window-mounted bird feeder. Hidden by
a mirror, Miles sits for hours, waiting for a bird to
come within his imaginary reach. A quick thump to the
glass sends everyone flying, and Miles, with an air of
having completed a task well done, hops down for a quick
bite, before the birds forget what had scared them and
return to the feeder again. I'm not sure who is worse,
Miles, who spend hours waiting for the perfect time to
thump the glass, or me, who spends hours waiting to see
him thump the glass.
Unbeknownst to me, demographics
were on my side in making Miles, 'My cat'. A lap, no
matter how cat friendly, can only take so many cats. Top
priority on my wife's lap went always to the two
original cats. Jordie, being the 'baby', had been
adopted by the older two, and always had 'his' spot.
'Squeak', being female, offered no competition to the
two other males, and always was welcomed. For Miles
however, getting onto my wife's lap was a struggle at
As the youngest of three males,
he was the lowest on the pecking order; as such, his
options were limited at best. He could bide his time and
wait for an opening or brave my Jack Russell and occupy
my wide-open lap. Fortunately for Miles, PJ had long ago
realized that chasing cats was more effort then it was
worth, and, in his advanced age, could only manage a
grunt of disgust at the sight of Miles headed in our
I soon found myself mixing my
attention between PJ and Miles. Hours of petting would
pass as I sat and studied. When one had had enough, the
other would gladly move into its place. Soon PJ, once
the poster child for cat-hating Jack Russell's, and
Miles, were fast friends. Outside, PJ was the sole focus
of my animal affection. Once inside, however, PJ was
only too happy to surrender my affection to Miles, and
troop off to his bed for a long evening of undisturbed
With no one to compete with,
Miles quickly learned my routines, and, without skipping
a beat, always took advantage of every opportunity
afforded him. I like-wise, took every opportunity to
encourage him. During meals I would feed him from my
plate, much to the frustration of my wife. When his
cries for affection from my wife went unanswered, I
would reach out and scratch him.
Soon, as if on cue, he began to
appear out of nowhere when I opened a book, and would
quickly settle in by my side. At night, while the other
cats engaged in their evening struggle for a spot next
to my wife, Miles settled in alone, next to my chest.
While the other cats 'disappear' when my wife goes away
on business trips, Miles is ever-present. He follows
every step I take from the time I walk into the house to
the time I leave it.
Over the years I've heard lots
of opinions for the best sound to listen to as one falls
asleep. Some thinks it's the sound of leaves rustling in
the wind. Others, the sound of a babbling brook. But for
my money, nothing beats the sound of a purring cat,
happily sleeping next to 'its' person. While to purest
'cat people', I'll never be one. To Miles, I'm as good
as it gets.
Miles passed away April 27th, 2008 after a year long battle with cancer. No matter how bad he felt, he still managed to summon up a good purr
whenever someone picked him up.
Two weeks ago he began to lose his battle. On Thursday, his last trip to the vets, we we're told the end was near.
On Saturday Miles got to do everything he always loved to do. Sleep in the sunshine, nap with my wife, eat chicken, sit on the counter while
dinner was made, sit between us as we watch TV, and fall asleep on my wife's pillow as we turned in for the night.
While I always called him 'my cat' he never really was. He loved my wife, and would purr her to sleep kneading her hair. He died peacefully on
her pillow as she slept.
"Farewell, Master, Yet not
Where I go, ye too shall dwell
I am gone, before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept."
Pastor Wade Martin:
Do Pets Go to Heaven