Thursday, August 30, 2007


After I bought my home here in Texas I knew that something was missing (aside from wanting to be in North Carolina). I decided that the missing element was a cat who could become my surrogate child. Since the demise of my beloved mostly Maine Coon Tigger in Georgia, my life hadn’t been the same. Bereft of feline companionship I wandered the earth aimlessly pondering the meaning of life.

Growing up with cats (lots of them) and my most recent experience with Tigger, that erstwhile Maine Coon of up to twenty-one pounds, convinced me that another Maine Coon with their loving nature, kindly disposition and great intelligence or even a like-signed Norwegian Forest Cat (Wegies to cat folks) would be the perfect choice. I contacted some Catteries in Texas and found that most were expensive as hell and wouldn’t sell to me anyway since I had no intention of cloistering the cat inside my home.

After consultation with Friends and Family, I went to the no-kill animal shelter, Dog & Kitty City, operated by the Humane Society of Dallas County near Love Field in north Dallas. I went in and amidst around two hundred cats and a lesser amount of dogs found this very young seemingly mostly Maine Coon standing in the middle of a litter box, back arched, ears flat on her head and spitting and clawing at anybody that would try and get near her. In a nutshell, she was not happy. I decided after looking at some absolutely gorgeous cats that this critter needed me the most. After some intense counseling, scrutiny and some well-pointed questions all intended to determine my suitability for parenthood, I was allowed to pay a reasonable adoption fee (all the animals are spayed and neutered) and that cat became my proud owner!

The orientation period turned out to be fairly short and before long I adopted a suitable (proud and noble) name for my new owner. Sister-in-law Barbara unequivocally noted that the cat was a Sophie and as an unashamed admirer of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, the Hobbits and the aristocratic Baggins Family, the die was cast. Ms. Sophie Baggins was christened and became a willing accomplice and member of the Buxton Family.

Sophie has proved to be the penultimate cat, using shrewdness and cunning to further her agenda and domesticate her large human. Her Jekyll & Hyde tact is to dominate by kindness and snuggling and, as necessary in the same breath, withhold her affection, the perceived ultimate cat behavior. In short, despite her tendency to regularly grace affection on her human she still retains, by nature, the tendency to occasionally embrace the solitary life. That, however, doesn’t appear to be an overriding consideration as I have found Sophie taking up nearby relaxed positions just “hanging out” and watching me as I work on the computer, watch TV, cook or otherwise engage a wide variety of other domestic activities. She has proved to be my buddy many times jumping up and resting on my desk, behind or beside my computer monitor as I work. She will sleep long periods when tired and in seemingly uninhabitable solitary places to include the empty space in the back of a small chest in my bedroom (how does she get in there?).

Sophie loves to play in water and rarely will drink in traditional cat style from her water bowl preferring to dip her paws in a full sink (no toilets please!) and lick them dry. The guest bathroom sink is usually full and reserved for Sophie’s nautical forays.

Sophie likes to go outside and eat St. Augustine grass which generally later resurrects itself in long, stringy, sticky lumps on my carpets. That by itself is sufficient motivation to keep the lawn cut, not the elusive Richland Yard of the Month prize. Sophie also likes to hunt for the plentiful Texas lizards, chameleons and cicadas though I have not yet witnessed a ritual killing. It would appear that Sophie would rather play with these new though obviously uncooperative Friends. Her ever so patient stalking and the attendant predictable pouncing and lunging is obviously part of some instinctive, primal play and chase activity literally engaged for its own sake (I don’t know why I’m doing it but I like it!). A recent incident seems to epitomize this when I found her cavorting; her head and part of her upper torso in one of my cowboy boots lifting it almost to the vertical in order to retrieve one of her feathered toys which she had no doubt dropped or kicked into the boot. As always, she was successful, emerging with the toy in her mouth. That kind of play is usually prefaced with a soft plaintiff yowl of boredom and plea to be let outside.

Ignoring other primal imperatives she won’t do her duty outside preferring to come back inside and use the litter box. That duty performed Sophie will immediately present herself at the back door waiting to exit the building and once again survey her domain.

I have noticed that my relationship with Sophie has taken on qualities unlike those I have experienced with any other critters (including humans) with the exception of Tigger. I have at times felt that we have transcended that mundane earthly plane and evolved an interspecies communication. Yes, Sophie and I talk with each other.

I am not talking about those “tsk”, clicking sounds or clapping though they are helpful to get her attention. I am talking about the English language along with some appropriate meows and chortles which she invariably returns. These meows vary in tone, volume and rhythm given the various situations Sophie and I may engage and will occasionally include a high pitched trill or chortle when she is in a rousing affectionate mood. Many times I will see her outside relaxing under a chair or a table and she will look at me and acknowledge my presence with a short meow or chortle (sometimes silent) and then go back to her business.

Sophie will communicate by posturing and body contact as well; witness her leg rubbing, nose nuzzling and occasional encouraging nips. I have been marked from stem to stern. I will allow Sophie to sometimes give me liberal baths though I soon discourage this further hygiene as I know where that tongue has been.

No, I’m not totally naive. I do understand that Sophie has been able to learn that certain sounds will generate a desired response whether its food or something that’s fun or feels good. She does, however, seem to have a larger language base than the other cats who have owned me. Despite this realization I feel that Sophie and I have developed the ultimate symbiotic relationship. In return for that nuzzling and lying across my right shoulder and chest with full bore purring and kneading, I will probably comply with most of her requests.

Early on, I tried to reward her with people food and she has turned her nose up at everything except Chicken of the Sea Albacore Tuna. She prefers her dry food and an occasional fix of wet food where she will ignore the meat and drink the gravy?

I do not threaten Sophie and try not to engage her too long with direct eye contact. I make it a point to stroke her several times a day and continue to grow the bond that we have developed. While combing her the other day I noticed that she has lost most of her ear tufts and her coat, despite the Texas heat and seasonal shedding, is getting more coarse, typical of a Maine Coon. By the way, on some 100°+ Texas days I monitor her outdoor forays closely as I have been concerned about the threat of heat stroke. I have, however, never seen her in distress and she is always cool to the touch. A smart girl, she frequents the cool, shady spots in my garden.

Sophie has proved to be a valuable companion with each of us giving and receiving in kind. Her affection has been earned and is now freely given without reservation or conditions. I would strongly encourage and solicit your support for the Humane Society of Dallas County and their no kill shelter or the humane society in your own towns.

Sounds like we could all benefit from that support and the friendship of our furry Friends, Aye.


Ned Buxton
Owned by a Cat
Richardson, Texas


'the Old Salt said...

Some 8 or 10 weeks ago Meg and I took off fri Hiram, Ga (drove near your old place) and after a quick sandwich at the "Steak & Shake" we proceeded to the Northwest Metro Animal Shelter in the rear of a "PetSmart" where we checked out their goods, the volunteers made several offerings, but we fell in love with a scrawny, upperresipratory infected Maine Coon female, she weighed in at about 6lbs. Now after several hundred dollars at Briarcliff Animal hospital and 8 or so weeks on a Meg imposed diet (a little chicken, salmon, cheese) in adition to the regular dry cat food we have doubled weight and increased in lenghth by about 6 inches, Augusta Maine Coon Cat now rules the Medernach-McCallum roost. She has put Bruno or 80 +- pound Black Mouthed Cur in his place. You gotta love em'. KM

'the Old Salt said...

Nick named "Auggie"