Aldridge column: Week of 12-8-22
“Secondhand animals make first-class pets.”— Author unknown. I’m guessing it was a street-smart cat or a dog in the PR business.
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I’m an “appreciator of secondhand treasures.” Old car. Old records. Aged guitars with a nice sound.
And critters in need of a human.
A house without a dog or a cat isn’t complete, and a dog or cat without a home is sad. It’s no doubt quieter and a little more organized home, but to me, animals just pick up where the kids left off after growing up and moving out.
Mom had cats. Typically, walk-ons. That’s probably why, as soon as I bought my first house up in Mount Pleasant 50 years ago, the first thing I did wasn’t to buy furniture. I adopted a cat.
“Second Kitty” came a little later on April 24, 1974, a date etched in my memory. The day of my first solo flight while under the tutelage of instructor Doyle Amerson at the old Mount Pleasant Municipal Airport. The take-offs and landings came out even, fortunately. So, with feet back on the ground and traditional new pilot celebrations done, I followed up on a lead. Someone knew I was looking for another “gimme cat.”
Two kittens were ready for adoption. I took both, certain mom would welcome one. They looked like a mixture of Siamese and traveling salesman.
I gave mine the catchy name noting she was the second cat that was later shortened to just “Kitty,” and she traveled with me to other destinations before we ended up in Center about five years later. During that time, she watched the beginnings of my young family. And I never hesitated to warn them all, “Be careful, Kitty’s been a family member longer than any of you have.”
That lasted until my son came along. Lee was, shall we say, a “high-energy” youngster. In some households, cats climb curtains and bounce off furniture. At our house, the cat watched and learned from Lee.
When Kitty failed to show up for her last chow call, we were never certain if something happened to her or if she ran out of nerve pills. Just packed her bags and hit the road.
She goes on record, though, as having had the best unplanned vacation ever. Next-door neighbors, Kenneth and Theron Sanders, were loading their travel trailer one morning with plans of a stay in Galveston. We wished them well, promising to keep an eye on things around their house while they were away.
The following day, Kitty was nowhere to be seen. After a week went by, we were sure she was gone for good. A few days later, however, the Sanders returned home with a cat riding high in the front seat between them.
Seems that as our neighbors were packing with the trailer door open, curiosity took hold. It didn’t kill the cat, thankfully, but it earned her a week at the beach. According to Theron, at their first fuel stop, a wide-eyed cat peering through a trailer window was startling.
After discovering the stowaway, the Sanders made an extra stop for cat food and litter box and welcomed Kitty to the party.
Other pets came and went after that, all of them re-runs. One, a terrier mix my daughter, Robin, adopted. Known as “Buggie,” she was thrown away—literally. Someone put the puppy in a box and placed it with our curbside trash one morning. The dog would have perished with the garbage had the trash collectors not heard noises in the box. Instead, the dog was rescued and became Robin’s best friend.
A basset named “Max” graced our lives in the Hill Country. The old gentleman was also needing a new home. He was duly documented in many of my columns over the years and spent occasional Fridays at the newspaper office sleeping beside my desk. Hence his nickname, “Office Max.”
So, today my herd numbers …? I’m really not sure. Let’s see: Pretty Boy, Fuzzy, Marshmallow, Cat-Zilla, Little Tom, Last Walk-on, Pain-in-the-Rear, Willie Ray, and Toothpick.
They think I don’t know it, but they send text messages all over the neighborhood about free meals down on my corner. And raccoon or two dripping in during feeding frenzy time is not uncommon.
“A house becomes a home when you add some furry four leggers and that indescribable measure of love that comes with them.”
I don’t know who said that either, but I’m convinced nothing defines a culture or a person more than how they treat animals.
Unless maybe it’s their appreciation for old cars, good songs, or mellow-sounding guitars.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.
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