By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Over the years in my humble and frequently fur-flown household, I have been surrounded by women: one wife, two daughters and various animals. The pet population has included a dog, four cats, two frogs, approximately 147 goldfish, half a dozen hamsters and too many gerbils to count because, face it, gerbils can’t do math.
Of these many fine, furry and finny friends, only one (to my knowledge) has been a guy. His name was Henry, one of our quartet of felines, son of Kitty, brother of Bernice, no relation to Ramona. He thought Lizzie, the dog, was his mother.
Henry was a mama’s boy because he loved Lizzie and loved my wife, Sue, even more. He liked his real mother, Kitty, but he had little use for me, his surrogate daddy and the only other male in the house, perhaps because he saw me as competition for female affection but more likely because I would get rid of the scores of eviscerated creatures (birds, rabbits, mice, squirrels, practically everything but the mailman) he left at the back door or, worse, wanted to bring inside.
Henry was a paradox: He was the most ruthlessly efficient killer I have ever known (not that I hang around with murderers, in case the police are reading this), but he also was the biggest wimp in the world.
And he was, indeed, big. I conservatively estimate he weighed 200 pounds, give or take 180. He was like a small mountain lion.
Most of it was fur. His rich black and white coat was so long that sometimes you couldn’t see his feet, which were armed with razor-sharp claws that left a scar on my left wrist from the time Sue and I attempted to put flea powder on him. It worked because I haven’t had fleas since.
I’d say Henry was a Maine Coon except he wasn’t from Maine and raccoons were about the only fellow beasts he didn’t count among his trophies. As a result, our yard -- and, by extension, the entire neighborhood -- was devoid of vermin. Not including me.
On the other hand (or, rather, paw), Henry was afraid of his own considerable shadow. We had him for 12 years, but just about every time he saw me or any other human besides Sue, he would cower and run away. I always treated him well. I fed him, I brushed him, I tried to do the male bonding thing.
“It’s just you and me, Henry,” I would say.
“Meow!” he’d shriek. Then he would make a beeline upstairs.
That was another thing about Henry: He sounded like Frankie Valli.
“What’s the matter, Henry,” I would ask, “is your underwear too tight?”
Then again, he purred with love for Sue. He followed her around so much I was tempted to get a restraining order against him. If I fed Henry, he’d eat only a little bit and wait for Sue to give him more.
“He wants me to feed him,” Sue would explain.
“Suppose you weren’t around for a few days,” I’d respond. “What’s he going to do, go on a hunger strike?”
Between his critter diet and his regular cat food, Henry looked like he missed very few meals.
One thing he did miss, however, was Lizzie. They were inseparable. Henry loved to sleep right next to Lizzie, often with his head on her hind leg. He even took on the canine characteristic of giving the paw whenever he wanted something.
Henry hadn’t been the same since Lizzie passed away last year.
Now he’s gone, too. The house is a little quieter and, considering his size, a lot emptier. Sue misses him terribly. So do I. And although he wasn’t a typical guy, a man’s man with whom I could bond and goof off and do paw bumps and watch sports on TV, I have to say that, all things considered, Henry was the cat’s meow.
Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima