I grew up in a home filled with things. This is not important except to say that one of the many things my mother collected was animals. There was Mop-It the dog that looked like a mop, Bark E. Lee who got his name because he never stopped barking, and Grandpa the really large lop-eared rabbit. There were three other rabbits I don't remember the name of, several turtles, numerous fish, numerous cats, a cockatiel
name Damian and of course princess, the cat who ruled the neighborhood.
Out of literally hundreds of animals, I've only been close to a few. Princess was the first, but even though we called her my cat, she was really my mother's cat. The two of them would sit on the couch eating cheese corn and watch late night T.V.. They were two peas in a pod. Had I grown up in the age of Youtube, they would have been the source of many quirky pet videos.
The pea in my pod was Mindy. She was mixed with everything and then some. She had the long body of a Dachshund but she was too tall. She smelled like a hound and she had this red stripe down her back that would stand on end. She was very territorial and even among my family, whom she loved, she'd defend me to death. I was her person.
I first met her when she was the property of a young couple. They had adopted her from the animal shelter. She did not like them very much-- people can force themselves on pets when their temperaments are not compatible. I'm not saying they were bad to Mindy. They were very good to her. She just didn't like them and to be fair, Mindy didn't like most people.
Much to the couples surprise, their dog didn't try to bite me, but hopped right into my lap. They let me take her for a walk and our relationship was cemented. After they took Mindy home, I said to my Mom that she was going to be my dog.
The next day, Mindy showed up on our door step. And the next. And the next. Every time the couple took her home, Mindy came back. Still, they were determined that she was their dog.
Finally, their war came to a head, when Mindy chewed everything in their camper. And by everything, I mean if it wasn't nailed down it was shredded. And if it was nailed down, Mindy had put in her best effort.
They showed up with Mindy and ribbon around her neck. "She's your dog, by her choice."
In the years I had her, she never once chewed a hole in anything. Her biggest vice was wheedling her way into my bed every night... and threatening to chew anyone who looked at me sideways a new asshole.
I eat, sleep and breathe writing, so it really feels like overkill to talk about it on my blog. Crazy right? A writer who doesn't write about writing? But there's really only three things you need to do to be a good writer. (Thought I was going to tell you, didn't ya? Ha.)
Anyway, one of the writers in my critique group has a story with a cat in it. This got me to thinking that I could tell a few pet stories. I've had pets my entire life, except now. I live in a small apartment and I just don't think it's fair to have a cat or do. I'm a gold fish murder as well as a plant killer. So no fish.
But, let me tell you about Princess. She came to live with my family when I was about five and not because she wanted a home. She was a stray who would have been happily stayed a stray if my mother wasn't late for everything. Consequently, it was a rare day that I didn't waddle into school late. On this particular morning, I left our house and walked the two blocks to school among few stranglers. We happened to be living in a Norman Rockwell kind of town. Parents rarely drove their kids, even us kindergarteners.
By the time I had arrived, the bell had run and the playground was deserted except for two kids and a black and white cat. I can't remember if the kids were girls or boys. I do remember they had cornered the cat on this strange sloping architectural element. I really don't know what it was for, but on recess the big kids would kill a soccer ball up and down the slop. The cat was dirty and miserable because it was also raining.
After a second bell rang, the big kids dashed into the school. I immediately re-cornered the cat, scooping her into my arms. And she promptly set about scratching and biting for the entire two blocks back to my house.
I entered the house with "Mommy!" And I think this was promptly followed by some shouting as to why I wasn't in school. This was followed by several exclamations as she come out of the dinning kitchen and saw me standing there with a cat, covered in scratches, and wearing copious amounts of blood. I quickly explained how I had bravely saved the cat from the big kids, embellishing of course. I had rushed in under the spray of stones to save the cat's life from bully's who then chased after me. I'd had no choice but to bring her home.
I don't really remember how I persuaded my mother to let me keep the cat or her transition from feral stray to a member of the family. Maybe, she believed the story I'd told. At any rate, she was named Princess. I do vaguely remember arguing with my sisters on what her name would be. I don't really know who chose it.
Princes was a unique cat. I don't think we tamed her, but rather she adopted us. She and my mother both shared a fondness for cheese corn and TV. The cat and my mother would sit on the couch watching late night shows.
If Princesses dinner wasn't timely enough, she'd get into the pantry, pull out an individual packet of cat food morsels and open it. She never had a litter box. She came house broken and would yowl at the top of her lungs until she figured out how to open the back door and let herself out. I don't believe she could open the front door.
She came and went, living with us when it suited her and living in the wild when it suited her. At some point, she started bringing us gifts of dead squirrels, skunks and opossums. She loving deposited them on the front porch for us to find on our way to school in the morning. Despite being wild, she let my sisters and I dress her up in baby clothes. We even put blush on her checks and rolled her around in a baby carriage.
Next to our house with a random duplex. Crotchety, Mrs. Blake lived next door. She had a fat gray cat and was probably a cat lady. She'd watch my sisters and I rolling Princess around in a stroller dressed up in baby clothes.
"Stop abusing that cat!" She'd shout.
I don't know if we were or not, but I do know for certain Princess didn't mind. She was a character and by that I mean, she hated everybody but us. One of her favorite pastimes was to lay on the side walk ( and later Mrs. Blake's walkway.) She'd roll over like she wanted her belly rubbed. A strange cat, she actually enjoyed being scratched there and all the neighbors had seen us petting her like that.
So, at one time or another about all of them walked up to her lying on the sidewalk and reached down to give her a pet. At which point, Princess would lock on to their hand, all four claws and teeth, and not let go until it suited her. Usually, after the neighbor had started shouting for help.
Our mother would come out of the house and say, "Princess," in a stern voice.
Princess always released the neighbor in a way that could only have been her idea. She'd then go bounding to our porch and sit upon the railing like a queen to her thrown, tail curled around her paws. When she did this she always wore that hard, disapproving look only cats have. Over time, the neighbors would gaze up at her as though asking for permission before passing our house. If Princess came off the porch, many would cross the street.
And that brings us back to Mrs. Blake, the cat lady. She thought that she had a way with cats and was determined to rescue Princess from being dressed up in baby clothes. And was promptly attacked by Princess.
After that day Mrs. Blake held a deep hatred for the black and white cate. Princess apparently felt the same way because she took to find creative ways to surprise Mrs. Black. This included spring from a tree branch onto the old woman's shoulder when she went to get her news paper. She'd also just lay on Mrs. Blake's walkway staring at the door and flicking her tail the way cat's do when they think.
After that, her favorite spot became Mrs. Blake's front step. The old woman took to leaving the house by the back door. After several years of being haunted by Princess, Mrs. Black moved. And that's when the whole neighborhood knew without a doubt that Princess ruled us all.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and 17 chickens.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018