Tag Archive | cats

The Vinnie Story – A True Account

scan0001I rarely talk about my cat Vinnie because he is a fraidy cat. Nobody knows we even have him, unless of course, I forget to clean his “box.” He scurries under the bed when the door opens. He’s either shy or just plain unsociable–I haven’t decided what his problem is, but then again, I’ve only had him 12 years.

It’s been rather unsettling to have such a shy guy because Parnelli, his predecessor, was a big, fat, ham. He actually LOVED people. He was playful and funny. He’d play fetch with a fake furry mouse, he did “dog” tricks like sit, shake, high five, and wave bye-bye all on command (for a treat, of course) and he loved to sit on anybody’s lap.

But not Vinnie. He’s a cat of another color — well, that’s not exactly true. Vinnie is black and white like Parnelli was, but under the fur he’s a whole different animal.

Vinnie spends his days sleeping in a dog bed in my bedroom. (Ernie has no use for a “dog” bed; he feels he’s entitled to sleep in the big bed with Mom and Dad.) Vinnie only comes out for his tuna in the morning, makes sure his food dish is filled to the brim for snacking during the day, and then he returns to the bedroom. Once in a while he’ll come out to watch the afternoon soap operas, and in the evening, he’ll lay by my feet to watch television. We have discovered, however, he does enjoy Animal Planet, so if we turn on his favorite channel, he’ll grace our presence for over an hour.

Vinnie’s also a talker. Like his Parnelli, Vinnie communicates through different sounding, “Meows,” and he usually initiates the conversation. As a dumb human, I answer, asking him “What do you want?” Only to be told in cat talk that he doesn’t like to repeat himself, but for my benefit he will meow again and again until I get the message.

But even with his shyness, Vinnie is the sweetest cat I’ve ever had. Every night before he settles down, he brings his little Snoopy stuffed animal into the bedroom and rocks him to sleep with a kneading motion he does with all four paws. After several minutes, he gently places Snoopy in his bed, sings a little goodnight song, and then Vinnie goes out into the living room and puts himself to bed in my writing chair. I think this is one of the sweetest behaviors I’ve ever witnessed with one of my pets.

This pet story is just so adorable I had to tell you about him. Just like Parnelli, Vinnie has given us many hours of entertainment and joy–even though it’s been packaged in a totally different way.

Parnelli – The Wonder Cat

Parnelli in his Bowtie

Parnelli in his Bow tie

If you know anything about cats, you know they choose you; you don’t choose them. They decide who strokes them and feeds them. They decide who they will love and who they won’t. You don’t own them; they own you. And the day Parnelli decided he was going to own me, I was very lucky.

We met at “Orphaned Felines” when a warm, friendly woman led me to a room filled with cages. Each held a little  fur ball of energy. Up until now, I was a dog owner and didn’t have a clue how to select a good cat. So, I surmised, the first animal that would let me hold him/her and purred in the process, would be friendly enough to take home.

So, I went about my task — opening the cages, picking up the kittens, stroking them and then returning them to their cages because none of them purred. After handling about twelve animals, I grew worried . . . obviously; my selection process wasn’t working. But I promised my children I would bring home a kitten, so, I kept trying.

As if he read my mind, a six-week old, black and white kitten with Peridot green eyes and a very pink nose beckoned me with a series of tiny meows from one of the bottom tier cages. He stuck his little white paw through the steel bars, begging me to give him a chance.

I opened the cage and picked up this mouthy kitten, and the second I held him close, he nuzzled my neck, and purred as loud as a lion. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Either you love me very much, or you know the way out of here!” Either way, this little rascal was smart enough to be making the trip home with me.

The children were so excited when they saw him. He was playful and loving. He allowed the girls to kiss and hug him. He never scratched them. He never hissed.  He never jumped up on tables and other kitty “no-no’s” – in fact, he was more like a puppy than a stereotyped kitten—with the exception of not having to “house break” him.

We named him, “Parnelli” because he’d race around the house as fast as he could go, stop on a dime, fall over, and fall fast asleep a second later. It was if he was the famous race car driver Parnelli Jones making a pit stop.

In a few weeks, my eight-year old Sarah had Parnelli riding in a doll buggy, wearing a baby bonnet. She tucked him into bed in her doll cradle at night, read him a story and a kissed him goodnight. This little trooper took all the loving two young children could dish out. When he had enough, he would jump up on the bookcase where they couldn’t reach him and take a break.

Parnelli learned to sit, come, and shake paws. He would even perform all of his tricks for company–providing there was a few treats in it for him. He played his own version of “fetch” with a furry gray “mousy” that we bought in the grocery store.  Curiously enough, he enjoyed getting dressed up He especially loved to wear a bow tie–you could just tell the way he proudly pranced around that he knew he looked good.

As Parnelli got bigger, our love for him grew. But then tragedy struck. Ten years after Parnelli came to live with us, our family when through a divorce, and I had to leave. As much as I wanted to take him with me, I thought it would be terribly unfair to the girls to take their pet – so Parnelli stayed with my daughters and their father.

As you might imagine, being sent away from my family was torture, and my angst included Parnelli. It was months before I stopped looking down, so not to step on him because he usually was under my feet.  I missed his snuggling at night and his funny antics that made me giggle throughout the day. I even missed his demanding “meows” early in the morning when he announced it was time for breakfast, and he spurred me into action to fulfill his wishes.

Everyone at work thought it was very curious that I kept Parnelli’s picture on my desk right beside the children. He was more than a cat or a pet, he was just a four-legged child. I had to accept Parnelli and I would never be together again.

Then one night after supper, I received a distress call from my youngest daughter, now age eighteen. “Mom. I need some help. Would you take Parnelli? Dad’s going to put him to sleep!”

Panic rose in my throat, “Is he sick?”

“No,” she answered. “Since I moved out, Dad’s sick of taking care of him. That’s all. I can’t have him where I’m living. Parnelli’s perfectly fine. Please say yes, Mom.”

“YES, Of course! YES!” I hung up the phone knowing my “baby” was coming back to me!

Ten minutes later Parnelli was in my arms. It was a joyous reunion, and even though his living quarters had shrunk to a two-bedroom condo from a four-bedroom house in the country, Parnelli seemed happy. He purred non-stop for a month, snuggling with me whenever I was still. We “talked”  because he knew I understood his meow intonations. He seemed elated he was “home” again.

Parnelli lived his retirement years in the lap of luxury. He lounged on a heated king-size water bed in the boudoir most of the day, sometimes getting up to stretch, have a snack or make a needed trip his private “box.”  He properly trained my new husband, Ken to his satisfaction. He made sure he got his milk in the morning and his treats at night. And every evening after supper, Parnelli sat between us on the sofa as we watch television and stroked his silky black and white coat. One year on Thanksgiving, he jumped on the chair at the head of the table and sat there waiting to be served. You see, Parnelli never realized he was a cat.

As I watched his round, eighteen-pound body sprawl in the sunshine by the patio door, stretching and yawning before he returned to his most comfortable sleeping position on the couch, I was so grateful he was with me again. He’d chatter at the birds by the window, and on good days, he played like a kitten. Parnelli loved to crawl into empty boxes, and I laughed so hard when he tried to get his fat self into a tiny jewelry box, as he looked at me as if it was my fault he didn’t fit.

Parnelli’s life was long and good. We enjoyed each other as much as a human and a cat can. When his tired, old seventeen-year old body couldn’t sustain him any longer and  he had to leave me behind, it was the saddest day in my life.

But a friendship like ours endures the ages, and I know someday we’ll walk together cuddle again, reminiscing about the good old days when we both were young.