Our first pet when I was about 6 years old was a cute kitten named Bootsy. He was gray with 4 perfectly matching white boots, hence his name. Unfortunately, my brothers and I only got to enjoy him for just a few short months until my dad accidentally ran him over and killed him in our driveway as my dad was arriving home from work.
We were very heart-broken about losing him so young. After a little while, my dad brought home another kitten from the animal shelter to help us with our grief.
Frisky was supposed to be for all of us three kids but he was more attached to me and vice versa. He was so pretty! He was a brown long-haired tabby with the bushiest, fluffiest tail I have ever seen.
It took me 4 days to finally coax him out of our basement in our house in Flint, MI. He had either been frightened being cooped up with constantly barking dogs at the animal shelter or else he was just frightened in the new surroundings in our home.
But he had found a dark cubby hole underneath our basement steps and he refused to come out and he refused to eat. It was only with my gentle persuading and his growing hunger, that I encouraged by leaving a trail of treats, that I was finally able to win his trust.
After that he became quite friendly and gentle but he was definitely attached to me. He always slept next to me if he was home at my bedtime.
My dad always insisted that cats should be outdoor as well as indoor cats. He actually would have preferred that our cats primarily stay outdoors since he had been raised on a 300 acre farm in Missouri and the barn is where all the cats primarily stayed.
We lived in the city, we did not have a barn, and I kicked up such a fuss that it was mean to have a pet stay outside in all kinds of weather and only show up for mealtimes. What’s the sense of having a pet then?
So he relented and Frisky stayed half the time indoors with us and half the time outdoors when he wanted to roam and explore. But if he was in the house and it was bedtime, he would be right there ready to curl up next to me on my pillow.
When we moved out to the boonies in Flushing Township when I was 10, Frisky loved roaming through the weeds and the meadows and the woods that were behind our 5 acres. I had to spend lots of time brushing out his coat, especially his quite fluffy tail, because they would constantly get matted up with burrs and little twigs.
My grandma, who still lived in Flint, would sometimes be picked up by my parents and brought back to our house for dinner and to spend the night. I had a full-sized bed so she would always sleep with me.
My grandma liked cats but she didn’t particularly like the idea of having one sleep with her in the same bed. And I tried to keep Frisky out of my bedroom but he yowled and cried and scratched at the door for so long, that my grandma would grumpily tell me to go ahead and let him in.
One hot summer night, grandma, Frisky and I were trying to sleep. I had my window and the curtains opened, hoping to bring in any kind of a breeze. Frisky had been out roaming for a day or two and had come back home all full of burrs again, but because of my grandma’s visit, I had not had the time to brush him out.
My grandma always denied that she snored, but she did, and loudly too, with her mouth half open. On that hot night she was snoring away while Frisky lay all curled up between us.
Frisky suddenly decided that he wanted to jump up in the window, and as he did, his long, bushy tail with the burrs still in it, slid through my grandma’s open mouth. She woke up spitting and choking and very, very mad.
“Did that cat just put his tail in my mouth?” she said as she began to pick out a burr and long cat-tail hairs from her mouth. “Not on purpose, grandma! You were snoring again and you had your mouth open and Frisky’s tail accidentally slid in when he jumped up in the window. It’s not his fault your mouth was open!”
“I do not snore! My mouth was not open! Get that cat out of here!” “But grandma, it wasn’t his fault” I tearfully replied, feeling that my grandma, whom I adored, was not being fair to my cat, who I also adored.
“I will not sleep in a room with a cat who thinks it’s funny to deliberately put his tail in my mouth! Jeneane, get that darn cat out of here!”
So I scooped Frisky out of the window and put him outside my bedroom door, whispering many apologies in his ear. He mournfully yowled for a few minutes but I think he knew better than to keep it up with the mood that my grandma was in.
He ended up sleeping on the couch all night. He let me know that his dignity and pride had been damaged, though, when he ignored me all the next day in a manner that only a cat can do.
Frisky was an un-neutered tom cat. But unlike most toms who roamed far and wide to find appealing females, Frisky had the ladies come to him.
He would sit, nonchalantly, on our porch, carefully and fastidiously washing his face, deliberating ignoring his harem. There would be 3 or 4 female cats below him on the lawn, rolling around, yowling and crying, trying to do anything to make him pay attention to them.
He would continue with his bath as the females’ pleadings grew louder and louder as their rollings and other gymnastic moves became more frantic. Eventually he would finish with his bath and look his harem over with a critical eye.
Then he would select a particularly attractive female and the two of them would stroll off together into the meadow and soon other ear-piercing yowls and hisses would begin.
Frisky would then sedately walk back, alone, to our porch where he would neatly clean himself from head-to-toe again until he finally picked out another female cat from his harem.
My dad said that he had never seen a tom cat do that before but I proudly thought that Frisky must be the Frank Sinatra of cats, cool and smooth.
In spite of the tasty and nutritious meals he would get at our house, Frisky would still catch and eat numerous mice and birds. The bad result of this would be that sometimes he would get worms.
One day Frisky hacked up a big pile of long, still squirming worms. That was disgusting to clean up and disgusting to know that they had been in poor Frisky’s tummy. He was also beginning to look a bit raggedy and he began to lose weight.
I begged and begged my dad to please take him to the vet or at least buy him some of the packaged worm medication sold in the grocery stores. He also was a bit hard-hearted in an old farmer way in that he believed that cats and dogs will either get better or they will die if they get sick, no sentimentality or running up a vet bill is necessary.
But I tearfully pleaded so extra hard that my dad promised he would get Frisky some worm medicine in a week when he did his usual grocery shopping.
But before that week was up, Frisky came up missing. He had been lately staying completely in our house, but one night my dad let him out and he wasn’t seen for 4 days after that.
I was frantic because I knew he hadn’t been feeling well. I went outside every chance I could and called for him and called for him. I went looking for him in all of his favorite hiding spots, indoors and outdoors, but I couldn’t find him. I would take the can opener out onto the porch and make it whirr because he always came running at that sound, but still no Frisky.
Four days after I had last seen Frisky, I decided to check out one last place I had forgotten was one of his favorite places to go whenever it was hot and muggy like it had been.
There was a shallow drainage ditch on the far east side of our property that allowed the spring rains to run down into the bigger ditch next to the road. In the hot days of August it was empty of water but it still felt nice and cool in the soil of that ditch shaded by the overhanging wild grasses that grew on the vacant acres next to ours.
Frisky loved to lie down in that shallow ditch in one particularly cool spot so I ran over to that side of our property and began to hold back those wild grasses as I looked all along inside the shallow ditch.
I found him but as I knelt next to him and began to pet him, he was stiff and cold to my touch. I started crying as I picked him up and cuddled him, hoping that he was just sleeping and that I could warm him up and make him wake up. But he was dead.
I carried him in my arms, screaming all the way back to the house. My dad, who had just arrived from work, was getting out of his car when I came running up to him, with a dead Frisky in my arms.
I yelled at my dad, “He’s dead, he’s dead! And you killed him! If only you had taken him to the vet when I first asked you or if you had only bought that medicine he would not have died! I hate you!” And I ran into the house with Frisky and told my mom and my brothers where I had found Frisky dead in the drainage ditch.
I cried and I cried and I cried. I cried as I wrapped Frisky up in an old towel. I cried as I put him in the grave my dad had dug way out in the back of our property next to our very old oak tree. I cried all the way back to our house and I lay on my bed still crying my eyes out and I refused to come out for dinner.
I hated my dad then, I really hated him. How could have he been so mean and seemingly so uncaring about Frisky? He was just as much a part of our family as us kids and wouldn’t he have done everything he could if we were as sick as Frisky had been? Maybe not, maybe he would just say oh well, you will either get better or you will die.
I just could not understand his cavalier attitude towards pets. Our pets are a part of the family and you have to take just as much good care of them as you would to your child or to your parents or your friends. All I knew then at the young age of 12 was that my beloved Frisky was dead and it was my dad’s fault.
My dad knocked on my bedroom door twice, asking to come in and talk with me, but I refused to open the door. I just yelled at him that I hated him and for him to just go away and leave me alone.
My dad finally made me sit down and talk with him the next day. He apologized that he had neither bought the worm medicine nor taken Frisky to the vet in time. He had been convinced that Frisky was not as sick as I kept telling him he had been and he said he was really sorry because he knew how much I loved Frisky. I half-heartedly apologized to him for saying that I had hated him, just barely meaning it.
And I think my dad knew how much I barely meant it too at that time. My mom told me many years later that my dad had tears in his eyes when he told her how many times I had told him I hated him, and that he really was very, very sorry that he had not done more to help Frisky because my dad was so shocked that he really had been much more sick than my dad had believed.
My dad was quicker after that to take any pets we had to the vet so maybe some good came out of Frisky’s death. My loss and my hard feelings towards my dad lessened in time and my grief was helped a lot when we soon adopted Catrina, a kitten that my brothers and I were convinced was Frisky’s daughter.