Once upon a time... well, actually, it was sometime last October when I brought two adorable kittens home from my parents house. These kittens looked like miniature reproductions of my two old cats, Max, a black and white cat who is still with us after nearly sixteen years, and Attila a calico who we had for fifteen years. We took the kittens despite Brandon's feeble attempts to resist. He argued that the already existing tumbleweeds of animal hair that can be found in the corners of our home, and his ongoing struggles to keep cat hair from his paintings, are not problems that will get any better by having three cats. And he tried to imply that it was unfair to Max to bring his replacement home while he was still here. I countered that it is not the cats fault that we aren't good housekeepers, and cat hair in his paintings could be one of his signature techniques. Art historians of the future will be able to accurately classify his paintings by the color and age of the cat hair, right? Besides, Max might be lonely, and he needs exercise, and everybody knows old cats that just want to sleep all day love to be chased by and pounced on by kittens. And we can't just get one kitten, because it wouldn't have anyone to play with beside Old Max, and you know how much Max hates to play. So, with this irresistible logic, combined with the irresistible personality of New-tilla (a.k.a. Newt), she and Ditto came to live with us.
Despite the similarities of appearance, it was immediately apparent that Newt did not have Attila's personality. Thank goodness. She was sweet, friendly, and gentle. Ditto, on the other hand, is feisty, energetic, and in the beginning, had no awareness that his claws were extremely sharp and painful. Like all kittens, he loves to chase and play, but in the early days most games ended when he drew blood. This was not helping me convince Brandon and Max that he was a cherished member of our family. Thankfully, as he has gotten older and bigger, he has learned to sheath his claws, and he's much more fun to play with. I catch Brandon playing and snuggling with him all the time now, so I think his position as pet is secure. Just don't ask Uncle Max what he thinks of being pounced on. All Ditto has to do is walk in the room and I can hear a low growl from Max as his ears lay back.
Gentle Newt, who was so friendly that when we would pet her she was determined to return the favor by licking our noses, met a tragic end by the neighbors dog at Christmas. I know from having lots of pets over the years that they don't last forever, but I guess I've had good luck with my pets for the past sixteen years, considering Max's good health, so I assumed that getting kittens meant I was signing up for another decade of nose licking and extra cat hair cleanup. When she escaped the garage through a hole in the eve, which I new was there but thought was too high for the kittens to jump from, and she wasn't in the yard, I had a very bad feeling. I made a tour of the neighborhood making inquiries, and left Brandon's phone number and a note for the neighbor with the big dogs (way too many big dogs). After he found my note about the missing kitten, he called from our driveway asking Brandon to come outside. I watched through the window since I knew why he came in person, and I didn't trust myself not to say something about his dog collection, which even I think is excessive, and I'm the lady that that thinks is reasonable to have three cats, a dog, two chickens, and five fish.
To really picture this scene, you have to know that our neighbor, who we refer to as Roscoe, is very short, very round, has a classic long curly mullet, drives a very large tow truck for a living, sports a confederate flag on his garage, and has a voice that can easily carry across both of our yards through the din of his constantly yelping dog collection with a pure eastern Kentucky mountain accent. He normally address Brandon over the fence from his deck with yells like "Hi Neighbor!! What yore grill'n shore smells good! I'll be right there! Hahaha!!" Then proceeds to yell at the dogs, "Cis-Co! Ain-Gel! GIT YORE ASS OVER HERE DAMMIT!!" He doesn't speak to me at all, since it's not polite to speak to another man's woman. On the day he came to tell us about Newt, I saw him put his hand on Brandon's shoulder, as he said with real feeling, "Buddy, I'm shore sorry but yore little cat is dead."
Because there is only one kitten now, Ditto has to entertain himself by torturing Max while I'm away at work, but he does get to be the center of attention and the subject matter for my cell phone photography art. My phone as a program that I recently discovered where I can make photos look like drawings with a click of the button, and Ditto's black and white contrast show up very well. I think he is very photogenic, but I'm probably biased.
Ditto is about eight months old now, which is probably why several weeks ago I came home from work to find him missing, and a new hole excavated in the eve of the garage. Ditto hadn't been to the vet, and the call of the wild can be very strong in un-neutered male cats. I called for him, and searched for him, and when I couldn't find him I was convinced that Roscoe's dogs finished him the way they did poor little Newt. When Brandon got home after dark, he used a flashlight and could see the green reflections of his eyes deep under the outbuilding, but he wouldn't come to us. I could tell something was wrong. After trying periodically for several hours to get him to come to me, I took old Uncle Max outside and stuck him under the edge of the outbuilding, which he did not appreciate. I tried not to have my feelings hurt that Ditto would come to Max, and not me, even though Max was hissing and acting like an idiot because he didn't like being Ditto bait, and I was the one who was concerned. As soon as he got close enough to grab I picked him up and I could feel a giant blood filled bruise under his arm. He had two bloody holes in his back, and one on his tail, and he wouldn't eat for a day, but he started to recover the next day and he's now growing hair back where he was wounded. If he survived the neighbors dogs, then he definitely used up at least one of his nine lives.
The End (thankfully, not quite Ditto's end!)
Ditto has taken a trip to the vet since then, and hopefully his desire to roam has been snipped away, and he will have a long life as my photo model.