This Side Up

Finally, a welcome home


There’s nothing like a dog’s greeting. Yes, cats can be endearing with their purrs and rubbing, although most of the time they tend to ignore you with a look that says, “Oh, it’s you again.” We’ve had two family cats, the first from the start of our marriage.

Sam came with Carol. They were a pair before we were married. He had an independent streak, which I believe is a characteristic of all cats. He also had New York City smarts.

Carol lived in the city when we met and Sam was her companion in an apartment not much bigger than a phone booth. He tolerated me and actually, after we married and moved away from New York, accepted me.

It was on one of those first visits to Carol’s apartment that I was introduced to Sam’s unique traits that cemented my opinion of him as a “cool cat.” Carol had a scratching pole for Sam, as well as a few toys. Like most cats, he loved chasing a shred of yarn. But what was missing from the abode was a litter box. Sam did his business on the toilet. Apparently, Carol found him sitting on the throne one day. He just figured it out himself. No, he didn’t flush the toilet.

The second feline member of the family was a sweet cat that loved being with people. She came to us via a neighbor who had a batch of kittens. We took two, a male and a female. The male, a marmalade cat, lasted barely two weeks. Whether it was wanderlust or us, he left and never came back. His sister, who simply became known as “Kitty,” was amazingly tolerant. She accepted – even purred – as the kids played with her like a rag doll.

Neither Sam nor Kitty were known for their greetings, whereas every dog that’s been a part of the family eventually was excited about our return home. I say “eventually,” because it has taken Ollie a long time to come around.

Maybe he had some cat in him, because even after announcing our arrival with shouts of “Ollie, we’re home” or calls and whistles, the house would remain eerily silent.

Had he gotten out, maybe through a window screen?

If that was the case we could be in for trouble. Ollie loves his escapades. He’s led us on too many chases.

A frantic search of the house found him lying regally on our bed, eyes open, obviously fully aware of our calls. He didn’t even as much as lift the tip of his tail.

Was he sick?

The answer became apparent after the third or fourth of these “so what if you came home?” receptions. We figured he had cat genes. He wasn’t excited about seeing us.

Then something changed. He’d come downstairs when we got home. We’d get a few wags before heading to the kitchen to see if there might be something for him.

Had we won him over, or was this simply a food check?

He still doesn’t bother with a greeting every so often, but he has grown expressive.

There’s lots of wagging followed by nuzzling, barking and jumping around. Cats just don’t do this. Well, of course, the barking would be extraordinary, but Sam could have probably even learned that.

Then there was my return of last Wednesday.

Ollie heard the car and was waiting at the door. This was a first. As I reached for the handle to enter he howled with anticipation. I couldn’t imagine what I was in for. What a reception.

As soon as I was inside he raced around, circling through the living room, dinning room and back to the front door. Then in a stampede he charged upstairs. He was growling. I knew what was coming next.

He raced down the stairs frantically shaking one of several strands of knotted rope that we keep for him in a basket – a pullie. He pushed me with it, clearly an invitation for a game of tug of war. Enthusiastically I yanked at the rope. He planted his feet and tugged, turning up the volume of growling that would surely dissuade anyone who didn’t realize this is sheer bravado.

This was a greeting that surpassed anything from the dogs that have been a part of the family.

It left me wondering, was Ollie doing this because he loves the pullie or he loves me? Either way, he was happy to have me home, and that’s what counts.


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