I grew up in the farming and ranching community of Kingsville, Texas, population 23,000 or so. My family, however, were railroaders with Missouri Pacific Railroad until my third oldest uncle bought a ton of land and created his own ranch.
I’ve had every kind of pet you can possibly imagine — Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl family, snakes, pigs, horses, cattle, fish, dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice, even a monkey which I eventually had to give up to the San Antonio Zoo.
My favorite pets were always dogs. My first was Bosco, a mutt. Then I had Bougher, a Welsh corghi. Then it was a pair of purebred beagles, Union and Pacific (named after the Union Pacific Railroad). Then Sugar, a chow/besenji mix, and Penny, a long-haired dachshund.
Sugar rode on the back of my motorcyle with me.
I disappeared from College Station, Texas, on April 15, 1993, letting only one friend know what I was doing. He came down from Waco, Texas, and took the two dogs. I took off in my 1989 Ford Mustang GT for who knows where, eventually winding up in San Diego. I never went back to Texas. Midlife crisis, I am here.
I didn’t have any pets from 1993 to 2006. On Thanksgiving Day 2006, a feral black cat came to visit me. I gave her food and milk; she accepted everything and then took off. Nothing like eating and running.
She returned on Christmas Eve. I guess she understood human holidays. I gave her more food and milk; this time she stayed. Jim named her Sophie.
We tried to make Sophie into an indoor cat. She was happy being inside until the sun went down. Then she would howl and howl until we opened the door to let her out. She’d come back the next morning and scratch on our bedroom window to let us know that she was back and wanted in. Sometimes she’d bring us a gopher, or snake, or rat, or bird………… Typical cat.
On September 19, 2007, in the wee hours of the morning, Sophie was hit and killed by a car. A black cat on a black asphalt road in the black of night. I knew it would happen eventually. A neighborhood lady found her smashed body, removed her nametag, wrapped her in some old towels, and called to tell me what had happened. I went and got Sophie from the side of the road and gave her a proper burial. Unfortunately, I unwrapped the towels to make sure that it was our Sophie. It was, but it was the most gruesome sight I have ever seen. I was devastated.
You can see more pictures of Sophie at her memorial web site.
That afternoon Jim and I went down to the El Cajon Animal Shelter to get a cat……….. an indoor cat. We settled on Zoey, with the name spelled Zoe. We were not able to pick her up until 24 hours later. I added the Y to Zoe to create Zoey, so that it would rhyme in sight and sound with Joey. Makes sense.
Zoey had been with us about three hours when she took this position in the chair in which I sit at this very moment:
“What a cool cat!” I remarked, and after that it was always “Zoey the Cool Cat.”
I am now officially a cat person.
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