When people ask me if I have a cat, I usually reply, "My wife does." The one came with the other, and there are times when I don't know which relationship I've worked harder at. My wife found Emma at a shelter, and so we know nothing of her kittenhood, although given the evidence, we imagine it to have been a nasty and brutish time in which she survived by tooth and nail. I read somewhere that cats were the last of the major animals to have been domesticated. This news seems to have passed Emma by. I have the scars on my hands to prove it.
Emma has become notorious among veterinarians around Camden. "She's really very sweet," my wife assured one scratched-up vet, whose disbelieving look could not hide his pity for us. And in truth, Emma is adorable with my wife. The cat (a pretty calico) follows her around the house as if connected by a string. At night they share the same pillow.
I disclose this information because, unless you asked me point blank, you'd never know I owned a house cat. It's that way in Maine, a state that by one measure (see page 72) leads the nation in households with felines. As we were brainstorming this story among the Down East editors, I asked how many of my staffers owned cats and was stunned to learn that five out of eight did. None of us had mentioned our cats before, although we all knew who in the office owned dogs. It was a revelatory moment.
Emma and I have occupied the same living quarters for eight years now, but we only reached accommodation when I purchased a reclining chair for the living room. Almost immediately the cat began a new routine with me. After dinner, as I sat down to read or watch the Red Sox, she would leap into my lap and curl up to sleep. This nightly pattern felt like an important breakthrough. I was no longer an interloper in Emma's space or a rival for my wife's attention, but, instead, a dependable fixture in her small world. So what if my role was only that of a warm resting place? Emma and I had at last formed a true bond.
Then one evening we happened to have guests over. After dinner my friend Jim settled into the recliner with a cup of coffee. Immediately Emma jumped into his lap, closed her eyes, and began to purr contentedly. I watched, heartbroken.