I’m reading a letter written by eight-year-old Bentley, from South Carolina. The letter is written with superb penmanship:
“My mom said to ask you if I can have a cat,” says Bentley. “…I’m nice to animals and they all like me… And my mom says they are work and please tell my mom I can have a cat!”
Bentley, thank you for the letter. We had a cat once. Her name was Rascal Lovebug Sassy Martin Dietrich. She had white and gray fur, green eyes, and the disposition of a cynical rattlesnake.
Long ago, my wife found her as a kitten on the side of the road. The thing was small enough to fit in someone’s palm.
Rascal took a long time to warm up to humans. In fact, she used to hide beneath our bed during the daylight hours like any normal, domestic vampire.
She’d hiss at those walking by and attempt to draw blood from anything entering her line of vision.
Finally, she’d traipse out of the bedroom around suppertime. Then, she’d sit on our dining table and stare at our dinner plates.
I would feel sorry for her. So, I’d offer her food. She’d thumb her nose at it, prance into the bedroom, and relieve herself on my pillow.
So we can see cats are unpredictable. In fact, for a long time, I wondered whether Rascal liked me. I know she did.
She was not a bad cat. She was merely a unique creature.
Eventually, Rascal became my friend. She’d even watch football games with me. She’d sit on the sofa. When I’d scream at the TV, she’d whip her tail along with my hollering.
And, each morning when I’d write at my desk, she’d sleep on my lap, curled tight. I came to love that.
I loved it so much, I found it hard to write without her.
Rascal lived for twenty years. That’s a long time for a cat. And to tell you the truth, it was not fun watching her age.
She lost her hearing, her eyesight was bad, and when she got hungry, she’d make a hoarse howl.
Her legs were too old to jump, so she’d stand at my feet, fussing until I picked her up. Thus, I’d carry her with me around the house. She’d lay in my arms, looking at the world.
I even learned to do dishes with her nestled in my right arm.
She died peacefully. On the day my wife and I took her to the vet we cried. The doc gave Rascal an injection while my wife held her.
“It won’t be long now,” the doctor said.
My wife kissed twenty years of our life goodbye and said, “Ssshhh, Rascal.”
Rascal closed her eyes.
We drove home, I held her still-warm body in my arms, wrapped in a sheet. I dug a hole in the backyard and felt sick.
The house was hollow without her. I didn’t write for weeks. I couldn’t. Not without my friend sleeping in my lap.
I’m sorry, I got off the subject. I don’t mean to make you sad.
So. Do I think you ought to get a cat?
I absolutely do, Bentley.
Melodie - August 1, 2017 1:51 pm
Tears and fond memories. Not a cat, but we did have our miniature long-haired Dachshund, Moxie, for 19 wonderful years. Yes, the ups and downs when they grow old, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The love we received all those years was worth every minute. I was with her when it was time for her to cross over the rainbow bridge. She waited until I got home that day, so I could cradle her, and tell her how much I loved her, and thanked her for the 19 years of joy she brought to us. She now lies, in peace, in the back yard with her little memorial stone, never to be forgotten. ♥
Rick Richardson - August 1, 2017 2:02 pm
The world is heavily populated with dog lovers. Those of us who love cats are greatly outnumbered. A cat’s affection is not easily won, but once you experience it, there’s nothing like it. I recently lost Maizie, my calico of 15 years, to a violent death. I did not get to tell her good bye. I am deeply saddened by that. Thank you Sean for giving the cat lovers a story that we all can identify with and that touches our hearts.
Martha - August 1, 2017 2:46 pm
Dang. Tears again.
Katy - August 1, 2017 4:30 pm
I adore your writing but cry every.single.time….and I don’t even like cats…
Sue - August 1, 2017 5:02 pm
Oh Sean, AGAIN you have nailed it.
You write about my life almost every time you write something. I have lived in the south since I was 15, and I am now almost 71, I came from Southern roots, and I know ALL these people you write about. I am one of them myself.
I have had cats like this one, I have had dogs like the ones you write about, I have family and friends and neighbors that you have written about, I eagerly wait for every article you post, because I feel like you are sending me news from Home.
Anyone who can touch peoples’ hearts like you do NEEDS to keep writing.
Thank you so much~~~!
P.S. You inspire me to try to be a better writer myself.
Janet Mary Lee - August 1, 2017 5:16 pm
Beautifully written. So many babies engraved on my heart! Yes, Bentley, I agree! You could use a cat! Be good to take care of your cat, you are it’s hero!
And I just want to add, adopt a shelter cat or kitten! There are so many to choose from that just want a home and a person to love!! Many to choose from in South Alabama!! Check out the shelters and rescues! Good luck!
Janet Mary Lee - August 1, 2017 5:20 pm
Just as many in South Carolina!!! Great rescues!!
Wendy - August 1, 2017 5:40 pm
While our daughter is here for an extended visit, so is her cat. Kacy, as in K.C….as in kitty cat.
Kacy hisses when our Maltese gets nearby, but the boy pup just wants to be friends. They’re about the same size. My “guard dog” is puzzled by her spurning. I wish I could explain it to him!
Bobbie - August 1, 2017 6:37 pm
I absolutely do too…consider a rescue!
Charles L. Scott II - August 1, 2017 7:18 pm
Hi Sean! I really enjoy your writing! In regards to this story, ease up, the kid’s mom does not need to hear works like “Disposition of a Rattlessnake” its gonna be a hard sell anyway! I Love Cats, I have a 15 near 16 year old that has been given 6 to 8 months to live by his vet. Bad teeth and kidney problems are his excuse. To Hell with that, I’m pushing every vitamin, Medicines ,slipping him more water in his food, old cats are notorious non-drinkers. I’m coaching him in exercise and we’re going to beat the Death Sentence!!! I’m 75 bachelor now and he is my only live in Pardner, I would miss him too much!!!
As a 55 year Broadcast Journalist I applaud your work!!
Jack Quanstrum - August 1, 2017 7:46 pm
Your story made me smile. Thank you Sean. Well written!
Sam Hunneman - August 1, 2017 8:34 pm
Expletive! I’ve just relived losing several fur-faces plus the utter despair I felt afterward, but yes, it’s all part of a piece and kids should know it all so they go in with eyes wide open. And, like Katy said, I don’t even like cats… much… well, depending…
Pam Norwood - August 1, 2017 8:39 pm
Helps me remember how good it felt to love an ole cat. We have dogs now, labs-mother and daughter, but I sure do miss an ole yellow cat.
paula jones - August 1, 2017 10:23 pm
Cathy W - August 1, 2017 10:26 pm
We’re right there with you on the cat thing. My high school sweetheart husband of 41 years, wasn’t too much of a cat person when we married. When we found Trixie as a wee little thing, his heart was stolen for good.
Like Rascal, she lived to the ripe old age of 20 years. The day we took her to our vet to help her cross that bridge remains one of the saddest days of our lives. We’ve had several cat pals since then, but none compare to Trixie Wayne Hildreth.
I still think of her every day.
Janis - August 2, 2017 1:03 am
When my Tucker had to be euthanized in 2012 at 13 years of age, I realized that this was the first time in nearly 20 years that I did not have a cat! Fast forward five years, and I now have four cats, two of which were added earlier this year! Shopping for kitty litter today was a special treat that brought three total strangers together on the pet supplies aisle! We each had stories to share and advice to give. There is a special bond among cat owners that is so transcendent! Bentley…welcome to this unique club!
Judy Harris - August 2, 2017 1:39 am
“It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” (A.L. Tennyson) That goes for cats too.
Marty from Alabama - August 2, 2017 11:25 am
Yep. You did it again. You have convinced me, and I’m sure a lot of others, that you are a big soft-hearted teddy bear! You do have a furry face.
I love furry faced, soft hearted teddy bears. Please don’t ever change. The world needs you.
Kay Keel - August 2, 2017 1:49 pm
I absolutely do too, Bentley! Yes, pets are a lot of work, but so are lots of other things. And the other things can’t curl up in your lap or beside you on the sofa and purr.
Pam - August 3, 2017 1:16 am
Myrna McDougal - August 3, 2017 2:03 am
Thanks for the loving story. I have had many cats over the years and not one of them was like any other. I love their strong and independent behavior, always knowing what they want and making sure sure that you knew what it was too. Many have lived until their twenties but some have not. Some have grown old gracefully and died on their own terms. Those were the easier ones. The ones who became ill as they aged but needed assistance to crossover were the hardest maybe because we koved them more? But all have left an indelible paw print in my heart never to be furgotten. Yes, I too would get a cat.
Lucretia - August 3, 2017 2:05 am
Thank you, Sean. Comfort in the telling of your relationship to Rascal.
Nancy - August 6, 2017 12:54 am
Like many, I have had many cats, and even more dogs. The cat that lived the longest was a tiny, brown tabby that lived until she was 19. My husband and I found her soon after we were married. She was a prankster all of her life. Eventually, I would have to check the closet every afternoon to see if she had peed in my husband’s Birkenstocks. She did that fairly often. But he never found out…I don’t think. I still miss her. She’s been gone over 30 years.