|Tado, Toronto, 2000|
I DIDN'T GROW UP WITH CATS. I became a cat person both by accident and by inclination. We were a "dog family," but I ended up with my first cat as an act of mercy. Though if you think that means I was being merciful to the cat, you're very wrong.
Keebler was a stray, a big tuxedo tomcat that my friend Howie had been feeding. I'd become friendly with him while cat-sitting Howie's two other cats. Howie had to move and didn't want to leave him to the mercy of the next tenant, so he offered to take him to the vet and pay for his shots if I'd pick him up and take him home.
|Keebler, Toronto, Nov. 1992|
Keebler was the benchmark - the gold standard for cats. Solemn and dignified, he brimmed with empathy, and was my constant companion after a long, miserable breakup and for many years of bachelorhood.
He liked other cats, though, so after a year I decided to get him one of his own.
|Nato, Toronto, 1998|
Nato was a kitten when I got her from the pound. She never grew much, but made up for her lack of size with almost constant chattering. She was needy and possessive, and gave my wife a hard time when we moved in together. She was also a hopeless camera hog, walking nonchalantly into my studio when I worked, practically begging me to take her picture. She even ended up on a CD cover.
Nato left us early, dying of cancer just seven years old, while I was on a travel junket in Spain. Nobody was as lonely as Keebler, though, so we waited barely a week before returning to the pound to get him another friend.
|Tado, Toronto, June 2006|
We called her Cortado, which shortened itself to Tado, or Turtle, or Duds. A ball of furious energy as a kitten, she eventually calmed down, and became the presiding presence in our home after Keebler passed away eleven years ago.
Tado left us early this week, after a brief but harrowing illness. We're still living in a shadow of grief.
Good St. Francis, you loved all of God's creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us to follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. St. Francis, Patron Saint of animals, watch over my pet and keep my companion safe and healthy. Amen.