Tippy / Lexy 1989

Cats vs Dogs

My family wasn't big on pets, but one day Harry Rambo brought a box of puppies into my father's luncheonette. I remember they were half beagle, half German Shepard and obviously so cute that my parents agreed to bring one home. My grandfather took one as well. We named ours "Charlie," since Harry Rambo insisted on calling my brother Russell by that name. My brother would call him Mr. Rainbow, which was the name we gave to our grandfather's dog.

Although my brother and I loved Charlie, we were too young to devote the time and effort in proper pet care, leaving Charlie often confined to the yard and the taunts of neighborhood kids. In short time, my parents thought he'd be better off with another family. But Rainbow remained with my grandfather for many years, cementing my status as a "dog person."

On the other hand, my experience with cats had been many terse moments in the back of the luncheonette. Dozens would appear from nowhere every evening to dine on the cold cut scraps that came from the tray and inner workings of the deli meat slicer my grandfather cleaned every night. But it didn't matter how hungry they were, if you tried to get close to one of them - they'd all scram in different directions only to sneak back later to finish the bits of bologna, ham and cheese. I actually caught one once and would have suffered fewer lacerations if I had been the one cleaning the slicer, while its blade was spinning. Sealing my disdain of cats was my Aunt Christine's (Aunt Teen) home. Estimates of anywhere between 50 and one hundred cats roamed every inch of the house and property. I don't recall their personalities as much as I remember the smell.

Tippy  / 1997Now, some twenty-years later, I'm faced with a situation of bringing two kittens into the apartment. Out of a litter of six (two white, two orange, and two gray) they were the only "pair" to be females. Their original names were Conrad and Lexington. When kittens are born, it's really hard to tell between the sexes. When it became obvious they both were females, the names became Tippy and Lexy. There's no doubt I became attached to them as they matured, but it wasn't until after my ex-wife left, leaving those cats behind, that I grew to love them.

Both cats became my closest companions, very loyal and unconditional with their love. And I appreciated the fact that they can take care of themselves. Cats are indeed independent and can survive without much attention, but with care and attention they can become very special companions. If you want adoration, get a dog. If you're willing to earn respect, live with a cat.

My favorite two stories about Tippy and Lexy involve trips, one with them the other without. I never had a problem leaving the cats alone for the weekend, even three days. They had food, water, fresh litter and each other. They always came to the door when they heard me fiddling with keys on the other side. Then came the trip down to New Orleans for the NAB Convention. I was gone 5 days. I had left various bowls, pots and pans filled with food and water. Two massive litter boxes were placed in an open back closet. They were indoor cats and would have run of the place. Since cats sleep an average of 22 hours a day, how much would they miss me anyway?

When I opened the door, they were waiting; both crouched side-by-side with tails batting the floor. In front of them was a pile of assorted knickknacks, socks and other items removed from various perches throughout the apartment. They were not pleased. From that point forward, anytime I had to go away for more than three days, I arranged for a pet sitter to come in.

Odie 2005The other was when I accepted a position in Birmingham Alabama. I fretted greatly about how they would make the long trip. I left Philadelphia in the afternoon with my first stop, a good friend in Gettysburg, only a few hours away. Both yowled and hissed from the confines of separate pet-carriers for the entire ride. The journey south seemed destined to be a disaster. The next day, the same scenario played out for just under an hour. Finally, I pulled into a rest area, hoping that after a sip of water or a moment in the make-shift litter box, they would calm down. Actually, I was prepared for them to jump around the car like cornered prey looking for any possible escape. Instead they both took seats and sat down. It was evident they knew leaving the car was not an option, but they did not want another moment in those carriers, so I gave it a try. I squeezed the carriers into the trunk and we drove off. For the next six hours they sat, maybe once going to the water dish for a drink, but promptly returning to the seat. Unbelievable.

Cinnamon 2001-2002I called ahead to a Marriott in Knoxville, Tennessee. They accepted cats. I put out their food and litter box then brought them in to sniff around. After an hour or so, I went out to eat. When I came back, I peaked into the small opening of the curtain. (Motel curtains never close all the way). There they were, both on the bed, watching the television I had left on. Was this a dream?

The next morning, I packed up the car, leaving the cats and the litter box for last. When I came in, both had gone to the bathroom and were standing next to the carriers. Once in the car, both cats took their seat. It was on to our new home in Birmingham Alabama. Nine months later, after a brief stint programming Oldies in the heart of Dixie, I returned to Long Island. The trip went much like the way down, except during a heavy rain in Chattanooga, when Tippy paced the back ledge.

Slurpee & Odie / click for larger image

On a very sad note: Less than a year after joining our family, Cinnamon was hit by a car on March 18, 2002 and had to be put to sleep.


Our current pets , here's a picture of our current cats; Slurpee and Odie. Linkin is too busy eating for any photo op.


Goodbye to a special friend

Lexy / 2002Out of the six cats in the litter, she was the friendliest. I remember the orange stripe down her forehead that remained until the end. I remember holding her, wrapped in a washcloth in my one hand, feeding her milk out of an eye dropper because the mother didn't have enough. Still, when Lexy and her sister Tippy were brought into my apartment back in 1989, I was none too pleased. Four years later, they stayed behind when my second marriage was over.

Through 2 houses, 4 apartments, a brief stay at my parents and four states later; Lexy and Tippy remained the one constant in my life. Tippy had died before Tanya and I married, but Lexy fully integrated herself into our new family and home. I remained her loyal favorite; although she would often choose Kyle at his bedtime. This strong bond culminated in his insistence to be there during her last moments.

It's easy to relate with the oft-spoken truths about our relationships with our pets. Those who have experienced that closeness know exactly what I'm writing about. Yet, there will never be another pet like Lexy, mostly because my life is different now. My family has grown and my wife and children have taken center stage. Lexy had accepted them into her life as well. But there was a time when Lexy was whom I came home to and her companionship was what I counted on when there was no one else. For that, I am grateful and I I take comfort knowing that I provided her with as good a life as any pet can have. Mew, Lexy, mew.

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