Riggs was a rescue cat, that Jim retrieved from one of Denver’s animal shelters about thirteen years ago. An affectionate pet, he is also quite vocal in letting the world know when he wants attention. We suspect that his frequent meowing was the reason someone abandoned him in the first place, but his gentle nature, and the fact that he has never clawed furniture or carpeting, make up for Riggs’s feeble attempts at becoming an opera singer.
He is a creature of habit and can be located easily at any time of day, beginning in the early morning, when he can be found in the basement TV room lounging on the big sofa. That is where his food, water, and litter box are, but most of the remainder of each day Riggs spends in the sun room on a wicker chair, then on a small camel-back sofa in the master bedroom upstairs, and finally in the wing chair in the library on the main floor, always in that order, almost by the clock. Relocating seems to give him the benefit of variety and of empowerment in choosing his varied rest areas. You can almost see in his eyes the decisions he makes, “Well, it’s time to head for the wing chair now.” When watching TV in the evening, I can always expect Riggs to spend some time on my lap being petted and talked to before his final spot of the wing chair before bed.
Riggs uses his scratching tray in the basement to exercise his claws, as Jim and I don’t believe in declawing, which seems cruel and unnecessary, especially since Riggs has run out the front door a couple of times and was gone for days at a time, completely vulnerable to whatever he might have encountered in the outside world. Riggs is the only cat I know who comes when he’s called, and his purring sounds like a little outboard motor wrapped in cotton. He is what most people might consider the ideal feline companion, one whose heartbeat and “personality” add so much to the domestic peace of the house.
Then there is Dudley, my West Highland White Terrorist (Oops! I mean Terrier). He comes from Tipton, Iowa, where his breeder retired in 2008, Duds being the last pup, which she reserved for me. My previous Westie (from the same breeder), Cody, died on July 18 of 2009 at the age of almost fifteen. He was much beloved by everyone who met him, and when he died in my arms that day, I was devastated. I phoned Marty, Cody’s breeder to find that she had one pup left from the final litter, and that she was retiring from raising Westies. Dudley was born the same day Cody died, so all signs pointed to my having him as my next dog. His father’s name was Cody II. That info prompted Jim to drive me all the way from Denver to Tipton, Iowa to get Duds when he was nine weeks old. I named him after the angel played by Cary Grant in the 1947 film, THE BISHOP’S WIFE. For the first few weeks he stayed in a crate at night in the sun room and was quickly house trained. Riggs accepted him almost immediately with what we believe was an attitude that this clumsy puppy was no threat to the urbane and sophistiacted Riggs, who when tired of the pup’s attempts to start a squabble or wrestling match, would simply walk up three of four stairs toward the second floor, knowing that Dudley was a devout coward when it came to any stairs. This remains true. Now the two of them still tumble around locked in bear hugs around the living room and sun room but are essentially buddies who would never dream of hurting each other.
The dog run is twenty-five by forty feet of pea gravel just off the sun room and is surrounded by a six-foot cedar fence with a bonnet all the way around that curves inward to keep out coyotes and to keep Riggs from climbing over it into unknown territory. The sun room has an electric pet door for both Dudley and Riggs, who wear magnets on their collars to give them access in or out whenever they wish. They love to sun themselves out there together, even on winter days or shade themselves under the large blue spruce.
Both pets have a sixth sense, and they know when I’m going to go away for a few days, even before I get out the suitcases. Duds is already suspicious about a trip Jim and I are taking over Thanksgiving to visit his aunt and uncle in Knoxville, Tennessee at their beautiful log home in the country. Our friend Debbie always stays with Dudley and Riggs at the house, and they love her, but Dudley is already beginning to stare at me for long periods, the way he always does before I leave him for any travel. Looking into his eyes or the eyes of any other dog or cat always makes me know they have stories they want to tell about their deepest feelings. That’s why pet shelters are so important, and why we must be voices for pets in order to protect them and sometimes rescue them.
There is something miraculous about having a dog or cat in one’s life. The bond cannot easily be expressed in mere words. Dogs and cats improve our humanity, giving us an added purpose to each day in caring for them, enjoying their warmth and gratitude for our providing for their simple needs, and most of all in their teaching us what devotion really is.