“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” — Sigmund Freud
“Cod” was what he went by. Ol’ Big Cod. And anytime his name came up at the old feed mill in my hometown, folks knew things were about to get serious.
That’s because Cod took his work serious. Very serious. And he earned everything he had, especially his good job that kept his big belly full and gave him top-notch health care.
Yessiree. Ol’ Cod cat-apulted his way to the top, and all he had to do to stay up there was keep making sure all unwanted critters abided by the mill’s “No Trespassing” policy.
Ask any reformed rodent, raccoon or humbled street mutt and they’ll agree: There was no escaping Cod’s deadly judo swipe.
He was one mean kung fu fightin’ kitty.
In fact, Cod made such a big impression that the mill workers who adopted him and made sure he got to his vet appointments did something special: Cod was awarded “Employee of the Year.” The framed picture in the break room said so.
Ol’ Cod’s gone now. But his whiskered legacy lives on.
The same goes for the cats who curled their ways up into my life.
Take “Lucky,” for instance, a striped gray tom cat who earned his name for one good reason, particularly due to all the rough dogs that roamed my childhood neighborhood.
Lucky was lucky he stayed alive.
He held his own, though, and he hung around for a long time, even once returning home after riding for miles to school under the hood of our pickup. No one realized he was under there until he shot out and vanished down the road.
We figured that was the last we’d see of him. But ol’ Lucky greeted us under the carport about a week later, eager to keep catching rats from our backyard shed and deliver his kills to the front door mat. All of them would be arranged in a neat row, meticulously spaced apart, like trophies on display.
My mother wasn’t a fan of Lucky’s deliveries. She told him so, then asked if he’d kindly start taking his kills elsewhere.
Lucky settled for her flower bed.
Another great feline was good ol’ Jersey, a paunchy black cat who lived his life under the delusion that he was a dog. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jersey held a prestigious rank — or at least an honorary one — within the American Canine Association.
Sure, some may say Jersey thought he was applying for membership in the other ACA — the American Cat Association. But those who truly knew him knew better.
No “true” cat would have allowed himself to be dressed up as a jolly elf every Christmas and never seek vengeance.
Jersey had the earthly body of a cat, but the soul of a purebred Labrador.
Extremely outgoing, playful and loyal, Jersey also was a skilled duck hunter, as evidenced by all the feathers that had to be plucked from his fur upon his triumphant returns from a nearby pond.
Jersey would have made a fine bird dog, too. Sort of.
Once, he managed to haul a huge one into the house through his cat door in the window. Only he failed to put the poor thing out of commission, resulting with it flapping wildly around the bedroom and showering feathers everywhere.
My wife, Kim, nearly died.
Of course, Kim was the one who adopted Jersey, having discovered him at the Humane Society’s “Cat House” in Tuscaloosa. From the time she stepped inside to look at all the prospective furry pals, Kim found herself being pursued by ol’ Jersey, who meowed nonstop and stayed under her until she finally decided to just carry him around.
By the end of her visit, Kim reckoned she’d take home the cat that refused to be put down.
Naturally, this evolved into Kim toting Jersey around the house in a baby carrier wrap to keep him content. Then it evolved again, years later, when our son, Kaleb, started lugging Jersey around like a sack of potatoes.
That cat loved Kaleb. But it was obvious he much preferred the baby wrap.
Jersey departed this world last year, passing from old age. His final week was his cuddliest.
Now two black kittens have taken his place. It took two to fill the mighty void Jersey left behind.
One of them, whose chest and feet are white, goes by “Oreo.” He’s convinced he’s a dog, too, always licking and slurping on whoever’s nearby. The other kitten, “Shadow,” likes to eat plastic bags and wrappers.
Never a dull moment with cats. They’re good people.
Keith Huffman can be reached at email@example.com.