One of the realities of life when you have kids is their longing to acquire pets. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters... the list is endless. In this day of pampered pets, it's hard to envision a time when the dog was not allowed in the house. The cat was an outside cat. And no one even considered taking either one to the vet. People could hardly afford a doctor for themselves--let alone an animal.
When one of my puppies was hit by a car, my father borrowed a gun and put it down. That was harsh pragmatic reality. Veterinarians were few and far between and primarily dealt with farm animals.
Under those conditions, acquiring a pet takes on an completely different aura of responsibility. So the day my eleven-year-old son showed up with a tiny kitten, claiming it followed him home, I was less than enthusiastic about his new acquisition. In the two years before then we'd lost a number of pets. And as much as some people rationalize that losing a pet will teach children about death, I'm not sold on that, either.
After some discussion, the kitten was banished to the grape arbor as all the kids banded together to hide it from their dad who'd declared No More Pets!
Of course, we immediately had several days of extremely hot weather, topped off with violent thunderstorms. So each afternoon, someone would feel sorry for the kitten and bring it inside the house where it was dry--and air-conditioned. And inevitably, the house hunk came home early from work one day and discovered the kitten curled up on the end of the couch.
Up to this point, you may have noticed that said kitten didn't have a name. When the hunk picked up the kitten, intent on ejecting her from the house, she snuggled up close to his chest and purred. He fought the good fight. Really, he did. Maybe for five minutes or so. And then he said, "If we're going to keep her, she needs a name. And she can't go outside because I'm tired of burying pets. She'll be an indoor cat!"
That's how Pattie the traveling cat came to live with us. When we were transferred from Houston to New York state, she stayed behind in a kennel until we were settled. Then in one day, she traveled on a plane, a train, a bus, and finally a car to our new home. By then, she was one whacked out kitty.
Pattie lived with us for seventeen years. Inevitably, one day she slipped out an open door to explore the great outdoors. Since she didn't move as fast as when she was younger, she lost the race she had with a car driving down our street. After seventeen years, she was a member of the family. We all felt her loss keenly. But we have some fond memories of the kitten who followed my son home.