I draw animals. They come to me, trust me – even the ones who usually growl at strangers and then rip flesh from their legs. When I am pregnant, dogs and cats cannot keep away; I give off some hormone that turns me into the Pied Piper for house pets. I have never known anyone as attractive to animals as I am.
Until now. Now, pregnant though I am, they ignore me. They give me a cursory once-over, and then move along. They know there is a better game in town.
That’s because I am always with Benjamin.
Now, all kids like animals, and Zachary is as into them as any other child his age. But Benjamin? Ben has a gift. Dogs, cats, horses, it doesn’t matter. They turn away from all other humans the minute he walks into the room.
He has recently discovered bugs. Actually, both kids have, but Zach’s response is to run screaming from the room every time a fly enters. Benjamin has a different approach.
“Doodlebug!” he announces. And sometimes he is right. Sometimes, however, it is a little roach-like creature that got stuck on its back and died on our front step.
“No, Ben. That’s a dead bug.”
“Hi, Dead Bug!” he says, bending down and waving. It is all I can do to keep him from inviting it in for supper.
He is a miniature Doctor Doolittle. And our new neighborhood provides all sorts of willing animals for him to commune with. There are dogs on leashes, squirrels running about, birds in the trees. And, there is The Cat.
Our new neighbors on one side include a concert pianist who practices every night while we eat supper on our deck (no charge!) The other side has a house that could use a remodel (or a wrecking ball). It also has Cuddles, known to Benjamin merely as “CAT!”
Cuddles is the neighborhood whore. She lies in the middle of the sidewalk, spreading her extraordinarily long legs our to trip anyone who dares try not to stop, and waits for victims. And everyone seems to know her. They stop, they pet, they sit down and spend ten minutes pampering this feline who clearly has never met a human she didn’t like. She will expose that furry belly to anyone with hands. She is totally indiscriminate.
At least that’s what people thought until we moved to the neighborhood. Now, old friends are getting slighted. There they’ll be, petting her, and Benjamin will come tearing down the sidewalk, shouting with glee “CAT!” And Cuddles turns her fickle tail on whoever is petting her; her lover has arrived.
“I feel a little hurt,” one old friend of hers remarked, watching as the two did their mating dance on the sidewalk.
“Don’t take it personally,” I responded to this neighbor. “He and the cat had a special relationship.” And so they do. He tries to feed her grass (I’m sure her owners really appreciate him tearing up their lawn). He pets her gently. He talks to her. He offers her his giraffe blankie, the greatest gift he has to offer.
“Why do we need to get a cat?” my husband wants to know. Don’t tell him, but he may be right. Everyone seems perfectly happy with the current arrangement.