I think it was about 10 years ago that my father and his wife adopted two black kittens. He named them Jack and Andy, after two of his favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth and Jackson Pollock. The kittens provided hours of fun as the brothers frolicked and chased each other around the huge house. “There’s nothing like kitten siblings for a rollicking good time,” my father would say.
The first time I met Jack and Andy, they were super cautious because they only knew my father and his wife. It took some time for them to warm up, but we were able to engage them in some kitten play. The cats were inside cats only. My father’s Vermont home at the time was a hilltop with stunning views into the Adirondacks from the front and the Greens on the back side of the house. Although there were other homes within sight, the hilltop was quite wild with plenty of coyotes that would love a nice cat for lunch, so Jack and Andy were designated strictly as indoor cats.
My father sold the hilltop home, and they moved to his wife’s hometown in Georgia, about 40 miles southeast of Atlanta. It is the bucolic town where Joel Chandler Harris wrote the “Brer Rabbit” books. While the house was every bit as large as the Vermont home, the environs were downtown on a busy street, so Jack and Andy remained as indoor cats. On my visits there, Andy was a bit more skittish than Jack, and usually, after a couple of days, Jack would warm up to me. Andy was Belinda’s cat. He followed her around the rambling house and liked to take up residence in her lap.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s visited itself upon Belinda and her vivacious, outgoing character soon faded as her mind slowly devolved. Before long she required around-the-clock care at a wonderful facility some 20 miles away. My dad visited her every day, so strong was his devotion to her. At the same time, poor Andy, equally devoted, began to decline. I don’t think he was much more than 6 or 7 years old at the time. I recall seeing a plush black cat on Amazon and sending the link to my father. He purchased one, and Belinda was delighted to have a new companion. Andy continued his slow and synchronized decline along with Belinda.
When she passed, Andy seemed to sense it. He developed some type of carcinoma on his lip, and the vet told my father that even though it was operable, it would likely return and end Andy’s short life. It was a tough decision, but my dad allowed Andy a quiet escape through euthanasia. Jack missed Belinda, as well. My next visit, however, found Jack to be happy to have the company.
The two cats had always been somewhat aloof, but when my father moved into his new home back in Vermont, Jack was a changed cat. Suddenly he loved company, and I could tell that he looked forward to my daily visits. I learned that this big (over 20 pounds) cat loved his “Uncle Arlo” as my dad would call me when in Jack’s presence. I also learned that Jack loves to get his ears rubbed.
Before long, my father began to allow Jack some outdoor time. To say that Jack loves his outdoor time would be a big understatement. He never wanders far and keeps his outside visits brief. On the warmer days when my father and I sit under the pavilion and enjoy a good cigar or two, Jack comes over and expects a good ear-rubbing session from old Uncle Arlo. Big black Jack is one of the happiest cats I know ... and he is understandably thrilled to be back in his native state of Vermont.