Smudge’s Two Paws
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It is said that when you have a multi-pet household you need to be extra careful not to show favoritism to one animal over another. Just like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from feelings of jealousy and abandonment. With that said, I love all of my cats equally in their own special way. But my cats, free of human feelings of equality and justice, have no such limitations on who they love more. My oldest cat, Magoo, definitely loves my wife more than he loves me. Bella is pretty much equally indifferent to both of us, although she does enjoy her morning makeup sessions with my wife. Dolce leans more towards me, but in her own fiercely independent way. The last member of our household, Smudge, loves my wife and his grandma, but there is no mistaking who he holds in highest regard. Smudge is my cat and I want to tell you about Smudge’s two paws.
Although he has four paws, Smudge’s two front paws speak for him. His left paw says “I really do” and his right paw says “I love you.” It has taken me more than eight years to figure this out, and it required nearly losing him to kidney failure to finally grasp what he was trying to say.
Smudge first tried to tell me this as a kitten when he would fall asleep on my chest as we lay on the couch and watched the television on lazy Sunday afternoons. He would curl up in a warm comfortable ball for several minutes and then suddenly stretch out his paws. First the right paw, “I love you.”; then the left paw, “I really do.” Without understanding what he was saying, I responded instinctively with a loving massage on the back of his neck. To him, this was cat for “I do/am too.” Smudge and I have repeated this conversation more than three hundred times without realizing it.
As he grew up, Smudge has tried to teach me his two paw communication in other ways. At night, once everyone is settled in bed and the television is off and then only sound is the other cats and my wife snoring, Smudge will stretch out beside me. Shortly thereafter I will feel a little cat paw on my face. It is usually his right paw that pulls the blankets from around my face and then softly lands on my cheek. When the world is silent and dark, Smudge quietly says, “I love you.” Regularly he even adds, “I really do.”
Sometimes Smudge does not wait until everything is quiet to say those beloved three words to me. He has interrupted my reading of a book by rubbing his cheek forcefully against my hand. I think that means “I want you to talk to me.” If I ignore him, he uses his left paw to pull the book away. “I really do.” He says.
There are times when Smudge just needs to tell me how much he cares. He will hop up onto my lap and start kneading, first his right paw, then his left paw. I love you; I really do. He must think that I am a little slow, for he will continue to tell me that over and over again. I always give him the human equivalent and tell him that I love him too, but I don’t think he cares until I massage the back of his neck. Then and only then does he accept that “I do too.”
It was during one of our “I love you”, “I really do”, “I do too” sessions that I noticed how skinny he had become. Where there once was strong muscular shoulders, I now felt the bony ridges of his shoulder blades and spine. Luckily, his annual vet appointment was coming up quickly on the calendar. We would find out why he was losing weight and we would get him fixed up good as new. But Smudge was fated to never be good as new; he was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. It was a condition we can only manage, never cure or fix.
We left him at the vet for treatment, but made a point of visiting him the next day. He looked terrified and small with the IV hanging from his left arm. His eyes said to me “I’m scared.” I lovingly massaged the back of his neck and told him “I am too.” As he lay in his cage and I tried to reassure him that everything was going to be alright, Smudge placed his right paw on top of my left hand. “I love you.” Once again I told him, “I do too.”
It was then that I realized what he had been trying to tell me all those years. After all those Sunday afternoons; after all those middle of the night reminders; after all that kneading on my lap; I finally understood. It took seeing him in cage at a vet’s office with an IV stuck in his arm and feeling his soft paw being placed on top of my hand to open my eyes to what he had been saying. When he was at the scariest moment of his life and he was all alone, he made the effort to tell me “I love you.”
When faced with his kind, gentle spirit; I know that I am not as noble of a creature as he is, but he doesn’t seem to care. Each night since he has been home, Smudge has said goodnight with his two paws. “I love you.” “I really do.” Somehow my response “I do too”, which appears to mean the world to him, does not match or even come close to depth of emotion Smudge shares.
C.D. Smith http://fourfurrycats.blogspot.com