Then There Was You
Few bonds compare with those between us and our devoted pets. Here, Anne Roiphe reflects on her incomparable bond with her beloved cat, Joey.
I took him to live with me. When my husband came to bed and saw Joey curled up by my side, he would say, “Hey, cat, that’s
my lady. Off the bed!” Joey would jump down, and a few moments later he’d come up on the other side to lie on my pillow, his
face in my face, our breathing intermingled. I would smell cat food on his breath, and he would smell the coffee I drank,
the spices I consumed, my daily coating of soap and shampoo, sweat and powder. His whiskers would sometimes tremble in his
sleep as he dreamed.
And so it went. My daughter got married and didn’t ask for Joey back (though I wouldn’t have given him to her, regardless). My black pants were coated with his white fur. My black sweaters were most often in desperate need of cleaning. And when friends came to dinner, I would say, “Don’t put your coats down on the bed,” because Joey would nestle among them. Thick bundles of white hair got embedded in the fibers and wrapped around the coat buttons. If I forgot to vacuum a sofa or a chair (and I often forgot), my guests would rise with white hair covering their bottoms. It was embarrassing.
When I had guests with cat allergies, I would keep Joey locked up in a bathroom until they left. I hated to do it; he was my proper shadow, my four-legged self, my friend—not to mention a happy reminder of my dear daughter, and her act of rescuing a tiny, helpless kitten from a Dumpster.
When my husband died, in 2005, Joey claimed his half of the bed. If I woke in the early hours of the morning, I would stroke his belly until he purred with joy, then go back to sleep. Or Joey would lick my face with his sandpaper tongue. Or I would hide under the covers while he kneaded the blankets with his front paws.