Telltale Tails

With films like “The Secret Life of Pets” and “A Dog’s Purpose,” it’s easy to imagine that family pets have their own stories to tell. But it wasn’t always so

Editor Rick Broussard

Photo by John Hession

There was once a time when the average house cat was viewed less as a member of the family and more like an appliance — though not always a practical one. Cats and dogs served purposes and were largely replaceable.

My dad was of this old-school state of mind about animals. He found them amusing and could harbor sentimental feelings, but would never elevate them to the mythic levels that encourage 21st-century pet owners to write critters into their wills and family histories. He chalked up the infatuations of true animal lovers (like my mother) to what psychologists call “projection,” where one’s thoughts and emotions are made more real and vivid by attributing them to other beings.

In short, he thought true animal lovers (like, as I mentioned, my mom) were a little bit crazy. He may have had a point.

 Back in the second half of the 20th century, my mom acquired one cat too many. It was the third one to be taken in out of pity or sheer happenstance, but it was one more than my practical dad could endure. The unneutered male cat was named Hamlet. He had a broken tail that would flick jauntily as he sprayed to mark territory. There was also the persistent feline diarrhea that Hamlet refused to confine to the litter box, but my mom became his protector and that was that.

At least until one night.

My dad was teaching classes at a nearby military base for some extra cash and would disappear for a few evenings every week. On one of those nights, as the family Mazda rolled out and down the driveway, my mom caught a glimpse of something through the rear window: a jaunty broken tail bobbing over the back seat of the car. She put my older brother in charge of the younger siblings and packed me into the station wagon to follow.

It was a 15-minute drive from our suburban home to the barracks where the classes were taught, but we drove in silence, keeping our distance. Once we arrived, we found a spot in the safety of a nearby parking lot and observed as Dad got out of the car with Hamlet under his arm. There were military residences nearby and he walked to their general vicinity, placed Hamlet on the ground and then went inside to begin his class.

As soon as he was out of earshot we called out to Hamlet, who scampered up and was stowed into the station wagon for the trip home. I was sworn to silence and, as far as I know, Dad never even realized that Hamlet was back until the next morning when there was another acrid puddle of cat poop on one of the doormats (his favorite spot).

The prodigal cat’s swift return must have been a mystery to him, but he never said anything about it. But then again, how could he?


More edit notes from editor Rick Broussard

Getting Seussified

Did you know that Dr. Seuss was born in New Hampshire? To be clear, I’m not saying that the man who became Dr. Seuss was born here, just that he assumed that famous name while he was here.

Kindred Spirits

There was a death in my family just as the year was turning and it was an emotional time on every level, but through all the stress and grief, one member of our clan kept her composure.

The Future on Wheels

For me, the future arrived back in the 1960s. It came on wheels, packed with books, and when the door opened, it smelled like a cool breeze from heaven: It was an air-conditioned bookmobile.

Listening to Amy & Andy

Just 150 years ago, one of the most illustrious female orchestral composers in American history was born in Henniker. It’s sad to think that most Granite Staters have never heard her music.

Working on the World

The news told of the horrors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but I kept thinking about the brave work of first responders, volunteers and hospital personnel in the wake of such a nightmare.
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