This may come as a shock to some that know me only as Sauerkraut’s Pops, but before the days of our favorite little sourpuss, I was a Dog Person. That’s right, with a capital D and capital P. A dyed-in-the-wool canine fanatic. A paid member, and at times perhaps officer of the board of directors, of the Cat Skeptics Club of America.
So how did I get from *there* to *here*??
As I was growing up, we had family dogs. The first one I remember was a poodle named Caesar. He wasn’t necessarily the friendliest dog, especially to my mom when he’d been sleeping with my dad on my parents’ bed for a few hours and was plenty comfortable right where he was, thank you very much. But he was the family dog, and us kids loved him.
Me, age seven and a half, with Caesar
After Caesar, we had Brandy, the golden retriever that everyone loved. She went from adorable, playful, fluffy puppy to loving adult to cherished old family dog. When I was in college and would head home for the weekend, I would tell my classmates, “I’m goin’ to see my dog for the weekend! …and my family will be there too, I guess.”
We temporarily had one cat when I was in high school, a white cat named Cleo, and she was (in my memory anyway) not the friendliest cat. Being an early riser, I was almost always the first person out of bed, and each day Cleo would greet me by dashing out from some hiding place, implanting as many claws as possible into my legs, and then rocketing away. Having no experience or understanding, I was just as happy when she found her forever home and left my poor legs alone.
When I became an adult, my first pets were a pug named Harriet, and my mutt Tigger. They were both a mess. Harriet was a diabetic, cancer-surviving tub who lost one eye to an infection, and Tigger was a skinny shelter dog that had to have one-on-one training before we could even get him to stop eating raw pork chops off the kitchen counter. I absolutely could not have loved them more if you had paid me to.
The first pets of my own: Tigger and the one-eyed pug Harriet
So how did I make the move? Dog lovers will ask… Pops, what *happened* to you?!
When I met Humom about eight years ago, she had a dog, who is still with us, named Winston. She somewhat jokingly tells people (though I’m convinced it’s not a joke) that the only reason she married me is because Winston liked me. He didn’t take too kindly to men, but I somehow passed muster.
Soon after we got married, she said, “You know, I think I wanna start fostering cats again.” My reaction - literally - was, “Fine. As long as I don’t have to touch them.”
And then the kittens came home. Our first group of foster kittens were very, very small - four tiny bottle babies. One was quite sick when we got them. It took Humom’s days and many sleepless nights to try and keep them alive and healthy, and despite heroic efforts, we lost one of them to illness.
In that brief time, I had somehow become attached to these little kittens. Upon reflection, I think there were several factors. First, it was the independence they showed, even as tiny kittens. Second, their fierce curiosity and zest for life. Third, their deep pools of intelligence. Fourth, their soulfulness - it’s like you could look into their eyes and see the universe swimming inside.
As I became more familiar with these kittens, and later with many other cats and kittens that have passed through our home, I learned how to speak with them - through the slow blinking and head-bumping; how and where to pet them; and how to play with them.
When we lost that tiny kitten in that first group of fosters, we decided to name him before we buried him in our yard. Humom chose “Jack” after the Leonardo DiCaprio character in Titanic, who also died tragically young. We decided to name the other fosters after other characters in the movie: the studly oceanographer played by Bill Paxton; the feisty busybody played by Kathy Bates; the aloof boyfriend played by Billy Zane. That’s right… Brock, Molly, and Cal.
I was hooked by cats. Their mystique, their charm, their playful inventiveness, and their aloof and stubborn nature. I found it a delightful challenge at times, and a comfort and joy at others. Dogs are simple: get excited, and for even no reason they will celebrate with you; if you’re sad, they will grieve with you. But to get a cat to sit with you, celebrate with you, even something as simple as eat what you’ve served them.. THAT takes dedication and know-how.
A Kraut and her Pops
I am a convert. I love cats. By the time Sauerkraut came along, I was already convinced. And she has cemented my love of felines for all time. I do still love dogs and their goofy nature.
Can it be that there are actually people in this world who are dog AND cat people? I certainly hope so, because I count myself as one of them. And I couldn’t be happier about it.