The doll carriage I played with as a child was made of real, woven wicker painted white, with a bonnet that swiveled to either head or foot. It was a beautiful baby buggy. After years of play, it grew tattered, and I suppose Mom channeled it discreetly away to the dump at some point. As to its wear and tear, no blame goes to my favorite doll, Sally. It was likely due to all the cats who briefly rode in it. Most of our cats staved off my attempts to make them my “babies” and quickly threw themselves from the buggy, limbs flailing.
My first real pet, when I was small, was a male, brown tabby named Tommy, whose hefty bulk was too much for my delicate doll carriage. Tommy, who sowed his oats at neighboring farms (we didn’t spay and neuter then as we do today), usually arrived home spent and ready for a long snooze. In his weary state, he allowed me to mold him like clay, stuffing his “arms” into tiny doll sleeves and pushing an elasticized baby bonnet around his tattered, boxed ears. He accepted placement in my carriage as any prince would take to his royal bed. My prodding of his physique, he willingly dealt with in order to enjoy the luxuries of our home (and the handmade bedding of my doll carriage).
Tommy and our fox terrier, Fido, found their way into many of our family photos. Tommy could be found in the background washing, reclining under bushes, or rounding a corner to join in our activity but, most often, he was rubbing against the chubby legs of a bonneted, ruffle-dressed toddler – me.
The wild, skittish cats that hung out at the barn found their way into our house when a screen door hung open just long enough to tempt them while no humans were near (or sometimes, when a little girl thought she had things under control). In spite of the old expression, their curiosity didn’t kill them – just got them booted back outside after a ruckus in the house – except for the time a kitten (more feral than I’d bargained for) panicked at the prospect of the inside world and climbed our dining room curtains. How could such a cute kitten not relish being tamed by the likes of me?
That dining room set the scene for several pet-related rumpuses. Grandma’s parakeet, Oscar, outside his cage for flight exercise around the house, caused a fracas at the supper table one evening when he came in for a landing in a dish of applesauce.
Though our hay mow is gone, the barn holds an allure when I relive fondly reaching along the wall containing the hay and felt the soft, warm lumps of a litter of newborn kittens. I suppose the healthiest, friendliest cats became our select house-mates, paying their keep by doing nothing more than occasionally curling up on our laps with a purr.
That’s still the going rate for our cat Lloyd who’s as friendly and companionable as a dog. With his games of chase and peek-a-boo, he stirs up his share of excitement. His wide-eyed wonder always charms, never disappoints.