Joey finds a comfortable spot to nap on the top of a chair. (Bobby Dower / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, June 04, 2012 10:52 AM
They prance and cuddle their ways into our lives, and if we’re lucky, they brighten our days for 10, 15, maybe close to 20 years.
So it was with Joey, aka the Joe-meister, Joe-Joe, My Old Buddy.
Nearly 10 years ago, co-worker Kelly Deshotel brought him to the newspaper. Her youngest son, Landon, developed an allergy to cat hair and Joey, already 18 months old and fully grown, needed a new home.
She asked around the office.
One look and I said, ‘‘I’ll take him.’’
I was smitten immediately. Maybe it was Joey’s dark brown mask, ears, front legs, back and tail combined with his white chest and socks and tan back and sides. Maybe it was how pitiful he looked as he hid amidst some boxes in an empty office, petrified as to what his fate might be.
Maybe it was just time for me to have a new friend.
Cats have always been a part of my life. There’s a black-and-white photo of me as a 3- or 4-year-old, sitting on my grandmother’s back steps with her two cats, Rudy, a dark tabby, and Satchmo, pure black.
Two big white cats, Duffy and Tuffy, purred their way into my heart when I was a teenager, but my mom would tease that they were her cats, not mine.
Marty, a charcoal gray and white stray, adopted me in my 30s. Toby, my younger brother’s cat, and Peanut, my dad’s pet, followed.
I loved them all.
And then there was Joey.
Docile and skittish to an extreme, I first had to gain his trust. When I first took him home and let him out of the cat carrier, he scooted up the stairs and found comfort underneath my king-size bed. I laid down in the floor, stretched my arm underneath the bed and actually fell asleep in that position one night. He stayed there for our first two days together, only to come out for food, water and his litter box after I went to work.
On the third day, though, his curiosity got the best of him and he cautiously began to explore my den while I sat a comfortable distance away on the sofa.
The bonding soon followed.
In my former house, Joey loved to sit on the back of an old sofa and watch birds and squirrels feed in the backyard. And he would often sit in the front window in the late afternoon, waiting for me to come home.
The routines continued when we moved to our new house more than two years ago.
Thankfully, the new house had a sun room of its own and a larger backyard, a playground for blue jays, sparrows, doves, cardinals, mockingbirds and squirrels which captivated his attention.
The new layout also provided ample opportunity for our rituals, some old, some new.
One of our favorites was when I would stop midway down the stairs so that we were eye level as he stood on the second-story landing. Joey took full advantage to be stroked, petted, nuzzled and kissed between his ears.
Just like at the old house, he would come running to greet me when I came home in the evening, his tail crooked in the air in that tell-tale, or in this case, tell-tail, sign of happiness.
At night or on weekend afternoons, Joey would lay on the back of the sofa as Ann and I watched TV, his back foot propped up against one of our shoulders or back of our necks as if to say, ‘‘In case you didn’t notice, I’m here.’’
Our best custom came when I was ready to retire for bed. I’d normally find him in the sun room and ask, “Joey, are you ready to go upstairs, go to bed and go to sleep?’’
He understood every word.
He’d trail me by a couple of paces through the kitchen and up the first three steps, then race past me and flop down four feet inside my bedroom door, waiting to be petted before he jumped into the bed and curled up either at my feet or beside my pillow.
He could never get enough loving. I’d stroke him 8, 10, 12 times and when I would stop, he would reach one of his paws out to me and motion downward, begging for more.
All of that came to an end 10 days ago when Joey suddenly and inexplicably died. He had been in good health and had given no signs of having any issues.
His passing has left a huge hole in my heart. I’ve shed tears on several occasions when I look for where he would normally be or remember one of our funny little quirks we shared.
Our pets don’t ask for much: some food and water, a dry, comfy, safe place to sleep, a calm, reassuring voice and some loving strokes.
In return, we get unconditional love.
It’s a relationship that is tilted totally in favor of the master or mistress. We get so much more than we give.
My older brother, Tom, said that in our lifetime, there’s always that one pet that we forge a closer bond with, and thus our relationship becomes more unique than with all the others.
Joey was that one for me.
Time will heal the wound and I’m sure I’ll adopt another cat at some point.
But there will be only one Joey.