Man, Dottie was a special cat, and it’s so weird to think that she’s gone forever, but here we are. The truth is, she would never really give me the time of day, regardless of how much affection I showed. For nine years I actively sought her feline approval like a child pining for the slightest acknowledgment from a parent checking Facebook, but she would only ever give me the cat version of a cursory glance: I’ll let you pet me for, like, 5 seconds and then dump you like a summer camp boyfriend.
I always tried not to take it personally, but kitty rejection still sometimes hurts! Shannon, on the other hand, received the full gaze of Dottie’s unbridled affection. I can’t think of a time when Shannon would be sitting in the chair or laying in the bed and Dottie wasn’t cloyingly making a move towards Shannon’s lap, chest, neck, or face.
This would get annoying for Shannon at times, and she would often need to reestablish some boundaries, but her patience seemed bottomless. I always admired how she let Dottie have her way regardless of how not-in-the-mood-for-this-right-now she was. I’m sure she would trade just about anything for just one more day of it.
The Smartest of all the Cats
Dottie was fiercely intelligent. She had long since figured out how to open doors which led to more than one instance of pants-crapping terror when the bedroom door would fly open in the still of an early morning because someone (me) forgot to lock the door! She also worked out how to open the closet door which led to many an afternoon discovery when upon coming home from work we would find a finely shredded shirt and a ticked off cat. We learned quickly to leave the closet door open if we couldn’t lay eyes on Dottie before leaving for the day.
We also frequently remarked how Dottie seemed to speak English. There were so many times where we would say something like, “ok, time for bed!” and Dottie would hop off the bed and make her way to her alternate spot on the front door mat, which she would spend the majority of the night eviscerating like the gutted prey I’m sure she imagined it to be. Meanwhile, poor Lucy would still be sitting rather dumbfounded on the bed, wondering why Dottie left the room after the humans wahh-wahh’d at them. Oh, in my mind, we sound like Charlie Brown adults to the cats. Eventually, Lucy picked up on these instructions and can now be coerced from the room with a verbal clue, but we have to be a lot more theatrical about it. “Luuuuuucy, it’s time for beh-ehhhhhhhhhhhhd! Tiiiiiime for behhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhd.”
A Special Bond
The connection Shannon had with Dottie was one I never fully understood, and I’m not sure I do now. There was a, dare I say, spiritual connection that transcended normal pet-human interactions. I’m sure some of my readers are rolling their eyes at this kind of nonsense, but I’m just telling you what I saw. She was truly unique in all of catdom.
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I was jealous of Shannon’s relationship with Dottie. Here was this animal who poured out so much affection for one solitary human while systematically ignoring every other person on the planet.
We’ve always had cats, and with us not having children, the pets often received our full attention in the house. They were our comforters and silent (mostly) confidants. Even still, Dottie… she was very different, and I knew it right away when we saw her in the pet store. She stretched herself awake at the top of a kitty-city in the back of the holding area for the cats at the Memphis Pet Smart, and it was love at first sight for Shannon. It’s a bit of a long story as to why we didn’t come home with her that day, but needless to say, we both had determined that she looked like a sick kitty, and having recently gone through a rough releasing of an ill cat, we were reticent to pour ourselves into a pet that might not be in it for the long haul. It’s tragic how on-point our hunch had been, but if given the choice again, I would bring her home each and every time. So, we brought home Lucy instead but Shannon was nearly apoplectic that night, knowing Dottie was the one. So we went back and got Dottie the next day and yada, yada, yada, we were a three cat household (counting our sweet boy, Buddy).
So Dottie never really paid me much attention. I would receive the usual petitions when the food bowl had emptied, but I imagine to her I was just the feeds-us-and-scoops-our-poop guy of the house – a custodian of base feline needs. Even though she was never a part of my life beyond her presence in the home, I have discovered in the week of her absence that I miss her terribly, and the only thing I have to relate it to is the death of my dad. I know it sounds crazy, and I’m not explicitly comparing the passing of a nine-year-old cat to the passing of my own father, so allow me to explain.
The Death of My Dad
I loved my dad, and the longer he’s gone the more I realize how much I loved him and how much I draw upon the example he set for me as a husband and a man. That said, we were never really close. We never had a relationship that evolved beyond the teenager version of me. We never did much of the usual Father-of-the-year stuff like playing catch in the backyard. He never gave me the talk, nor did he walk me through my first heartbreak. It sounds like he was a non-existent entity, but what he did do was love my mom and us kids unconditionally. When I grew up and left the house, we never really spoke much beyond the usual holiday-type stuff. A phone call here, and later, an email or Facebook post there along with the annual birthday card. What I’m trying to say is that he was not a part of my daily life. My day-to-day world was not affected by his death, and yet when he passed, I felt the absence of a vibrational energy in the universe. Somehow, the world hummed along differently without him in it. Weird, right?
It feels the same with Dottie. The vibrational energy of our home resonates at a noticeably different frequency now. The house feels quieter on a deeper level that transcends the disappearance of her loud meowing. Her absence is felt by everyone in the family, and it’s something you can’t really put your finger on, but it’s a palpable feeling. Perhaps it’s because it’s so soon after she left us, or that we had pet hospice come to the house to help us with her passing, but it resounds through rooms.
If I still my mind long enough, I can hear the notes missing from the chord of my life with the death of my father, and it’s bittersweet to do so. I imagine after these strings stop resonating so loudly, I’ll be able to do the same with our sweet, sweet Dottie.
Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.
He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.