Cat tales tell us stories

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2007

I appreciated Ben Hillyer’s column last week about kitten named Tuxedo. Alias: Draino.

When I began to read, I cautioned myself that I wasn’t cotton-puffed enough to read an animal column if it had a tragic ending.

When I was child, my mother had to remove me from matinees that had animal characters. Same goes for books, but the first book she presented to teach me to write my own stories was called Kitty Kat Tales.

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Seventy years later I am still cross with the hunchback man in the book who dropped his cat off a London arched bridge, tied in a gunny sack and weighed by bricks.

To this elderly day, I dislike that culprit. If I’d been New Orleans born, I’d have stuck pins in his poppet. Instead, being of Canadian northern reserve then, I held feelings in.

But, a happy ending came in that story. The cat freed itself from sack and became a celebrity in English society.

There’s pathos in many animal stories. Animals are so dependent on people who either entwine with love and loyalty, or instead aim abuse or do not aid animals from circumstance — drains, cold, hunger, sheltering, companionship; whatever their meek needs.

So, Ben, I was pleased with your column. It showed mankind’s sensitivity. It showed too, a writing, artistic husband comforting a wife.

Your column displayed too how writing in grief, with its sharing, expanded your character. Your mother must be proud.

I had two sons. One’s lost. When he was 7, he got a badge for belonging with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the children’s branch.

I thought I was going to lose my other son two years ago. He went to New Orleans to cover Hurricane Katrina. As mother to a journalist I’m always wanting to warn, “Don’t go. That’s where people are leaving from, not going into.”

A week later, my son visited in Natchez.

There sat my son on secure couch beside me. It made for the happiest day of my life. He had taken his cell phone to New Orleans — it was incapable of communication — but it held digital pictures of cats and dogs on rooftops, or in boats or dog-paddling. And it made such a loving postscript beyond the images of people on TV.

A Katrina cat flew home with him the next week to tell her story to a grandchild.

There are Katrina cats and there are draino cats. Some don’t live their nine lives, but their mini-lives tell stories.

Corinne M. O’Begley

Natchez resident