My dad has never been a big animal lover and has never been particularly fond of cats. Since my mom, brother and I are big cat lovers, his dislike of the old feline never really carried much weight in our house. For most of my childhood through college, we had a cat in the house.
You could say that dad co-existed with our cats and they gave him back much of the same. Each time we adopted a new cat, he’d point out that it would be the last pet. Of course, it never was. You need to know that about my dad before I tell the rest of this story.
Shortly before Christmas in the ‘70’s we had this indoor/outdoor cat named Frosty (yes, we let our cats out in those days). He boxed with my little brother, disrupted my study sessions, controlled chipmunks and other vermin in the yard and was this wonderful loving cat. Unfortunately, our beloved Frosty liked to cross the street when he was roaming the neighborhood. Shortly before Christmas, he was hit by a car and died. Christmas was officially ruined and this horrible sadness filled our house.
The day before Christmas Eve, my dad was late coming home from work. He was never late and on the heels of the tragic story of Frosty I became very worried. My dad finally came home about 90-minutes late with something moving under his coat. He had stopped by the Danville Humane Society and adopted a kitten for us for Christmas.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of pets as gifts. In my days as a shelter volunteer, too many “gifts” end up returned or dropped off at the shelter. If it’s an open admission shelter like Danville’s, that is often a death sentence for an animal. However, my parents had agreed to this one very special gift and luckily Tigre was a kitten that was very good with kids once he finally met us.
Frosty had been with us since birth and realistically, he could never be replaced. In fact, we still tell stories 35 years later of funny things that Frosty was prone to do. But here was my dad, the man who had no use what-so-ever for cats with this loudly purring tabby kitten tucked in his winter coat. It made this one gift all the more special to me.
The fact that he rescued this cat from a very high kill shelter (the Danville Humane Society is still high kill to this day) was icing on the Christmas cookies as far as I was concerned. To dad, thanks for rescuing that kitten so many years ago at Christmas.
In the years since, I’ve only had a few short years right after college when I lived a cat-free existence. For the past 20-years, a cat (or two or three) has been a key part of my household. My dad still isn’t overly fond of these furry beasts and still tries to ignore them when he comes for a visit. It never works out in his favor because, much to dad’s dismay, Max the therapy cat parks himself on dad’s lap every time my parents visit. Even dad laughs at that one.
This Christmas holiday keep your furry little family members close to your heart. And please put a lot of thought into the notion of a pet as a gift. Here’s a link to a good list of questions to consider before adding a new pet to your home.
I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of my column. It’s been fun writing about animal rescue and about the many great pet-focused businesses in Chicago this year and I’m looking forward to telling many great stories to come.
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