About two weekends ago I lost a friend. A really good friend. His name was Toro. I even went so far as to post a photo or two of him on this blog a few months ago. Toro was our cat and with us for just shy of 15 years.
I write this blog because I really feel that too much of the world focuses on the down-side of life. There isn’t enough focus on the good, upbeat, positive sides of life. If you read exclusively the negative in life, you become a negative person. It is too easy to do. I want to avoid surrounding myself with only negative news and thoughts. Why do I mention this? Well, I could write this blog post dwelling on how much I miss this little guy…ok…well…he was a “little” 15+pounder…but you get the idea.
Don’t think this is a post swimming in sorrow. It is not. Rather it is a look at the times in the last few weeks I’ve remembered him. More importantly, why I remembered him in those moments. Plus, just how an animal can train you as much as you train them. Which to me is the somewhat laughable part in all of this. Because Toro had us trained in so many ways.
For instance, and the hardest part for me, was Toro would let me know when Sue (and later Sue and Maggie) were asleep for the night. Usually after they went to bed I would wrap up in a blanket and watch a little TV or read before going to bed as well. Not a second before, but as soon as the others were asleep, Toro would come over and sit on my lap and sleep as well. Did I miss him the first few nights? Of course. I even called him once wondering where he was. Now, I simply sit back and remember those times.
Two of the tougher items that show just how I was properly trained involved food.
One event was so automatic I’ve already done it twice. When I make something involving tuna, I drain the tuna into a bowl in the sink. So that I could set the bowl on the ground and Toro would typically come running. (Usually before I would even finish opening the can, but there were times he was sleeping pretty deep and wouldn’t come running until I tapped my leg with my hand. Why does that work so well with animals?) The last time I used tuna. I drained it into a bowl in the sink. Set the dish on the ground in the corner where he could find it. But, no one came running. Even after I, yes I actually did this, looked toward the living room where I suspected he was sleeping and tapped my leg with my hand. A sad moment? Yes. But it got me to thinking of the good times. The times he was a kitten and we would both chase each other around the house. The times, I staked out around a corner of the kitchen so that when that little tiny kitten would come casually around the corner I could yell in fun and make him jump. (No, really, I don’t know why he was afraid of his own shadow…really.) And those times, the reverse happened. I came casually around the corner to find he was stalking me. (Don’t think he was the “innocent victim” here.)
The toughest part of his training of me involved lunch meat. Whenever I would make a sandwich I would rip some part of the lunch meat off as I constructed a culinary masterpiece. Then I would take the ripped part and loft it over my shoulder to make a “splat” noise on the kitchen floor. (I do not recommend this if you have carpet in your kitchen. We did for a short time, it didn’t work well.) Once he would hear the “splat” he would make a bee-line for my heels stopping only if the little nugget of protein landed between his entrance point into the kitchen and where I stood.
He got to a point where the only time he really rubbed against my ankles, something most normal cats do regularly, was if I forgot to share the tuna water or didn’t drop some lunch meat. And if the rub against the ankles didn’t do the trick, then the whining would start. Looking back, what just annoyed me each time, was actually this little guy training me properly. Dare I say effectively.
The training was so thorough, so effective, so complete, that these habits are hard to break. It is as if they are ingrained into my melon for all eternity. I must have chucked lunch meat over my shoulder already 5 or 6 times since he passed away. What started off as something that made me a little sad, now makes me laugh as I realize how automatic these habits have become.
Now that I have a daughter, should I be nervous about a different type of training? If so, what? I know Toro’s tricks to train. What do little girls do to train dads? The entire experience has taught me many lessons. Not the least of which are that I eat a lot of sandwiches and canned tuna.