While I lived in Ohio, a friend thought I was lonely for companionship in the long evening hours I spent in a compact attic apartment. She herself lived with Natasha, a five-year-old alley cat who’d just had a litter.
Kathy hoped that the antics of one of Natasha’s kittens might help me wile away the hours after returning home from teaching. So, upon her urging, I visited her home one day after work. Delighted that I’d accepted her invitation, she led me to an upstairs bedroom.
For over an hour, I lay on the floor, watching Natasha groom her brood, one by one, in their cardboard box. The rasping of tongue and the answering mews bemused me.
The last kitten she licked, the lone female of the litter, wore white with black blotches. When Natasha wearied of mothering, she lay back to nap. Her four kittens, just four weeks old, jockeyed for position against her, eager to suckle. When they, too, wearied, they nestled in a heap against her belly. Their eyelids slowly closed and they slept.
When they began to yawn awake, I held my hand out so they could smell me. I said nothing, merely held my hand steady. Would my scent attract the black and white one?
Long moments passed. Her eyes discovered my hand. With the tip of her tongue leading the way, she staggered toward me. Close now, she licked my index finger, claiming me as her own.
For the next three weeks, I visited my friend’s home often to begin bonding with my new companion. During my third visit she gave me her name: Dulcinea—the “sweet one.” Within the month I shortened this to Dulcy.
In the years that followed, I learned that her deepest heartwish was for me to be a one-cat human. She, of course, would be the one cat. But at the outset of our lives, I didn’t know this. So I also brought home one of her brothers: Ishmael.
His heartwish was to be surrounded by laughing children. Within three months, he’d wandered away and found them. I visited his new home and watched as he played hide-and-go-seek with these children. Seeing his exuberance, I assured them and their mother that Ishmael could stay with them. I mourned his loss but knew that the children could give him the life I couldn’t.
Did I settle down after that with just Dulcy? No. Dunderhead that I am I thought she needed a feline companion for when I was away teaching each day. So I brought another cat—Bartleby—into our home. Eight years passed and he died.
Only then did Dulcy’s heartwish come true. Just as she’d planned, I became a one-cat human. For the next eight and a half years, she was the one cat. And I was the human lucky enough to be chosen by her.
Many postings on this blog will be about Dulcy and the eleven other cats who have shared their lives with me and who have tirelessly trained me. Dulcy was the first to fine me worthy of training. In my more imaginative moments during our years together, I saw her as Antigone in the citadel of ancient Thebes. She was born to rule as queen. I, of course, was born to serve her as handmaiden.