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  • There are worse things than a paw to the face

  • The photo shows the side profile of a contented kitty. The text reads, "A small cat reaches out its paw to touch your face, and you are no longer lost or lonely."
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  • The photo shows the side profile of a contented kitty. The text reads, "A small cat reaches out its paw to touch your face, and you are no longer lost or lonely."
    Or, in my case, no longer asleep. For that, too, is my moggy's favorite way to help me greet the day.
    Tap. Tap. Tap. Wakey! Wakey!
    I squint into Squiggy's wide, emerald eyes and she blinks once. Twice. Then offers a "meow" for good measure.
    All of this is her gentle way of helping me understand that her lack of an opposable thumb makes it imperative that I hie my snoozy fanny out of my warm bed and feed her breakfast.
    Never mind that it is barely past dawn on Saturday morning. Or that because of a deadly combination of too much late-night chocolate and an impromptu karaoke session I did not drift off to meet Mr. Sandman until way past midnight.
    None of this matters to Squiggy. Nor should it. She's hungry. She wants food. She should get fed. And petted.
    For time is precious. Especially when you're loved by, and in love with, a 17-year-old cat.
    Truth be told, it was never in either of our plans to end up together. But I think we are equally happy with the arrangement.
    The venerable tabby came to me via my former beau, The Englishman. He needed someone to care for his sick kitty while he was traveling. I needed to see her get well. I had watched her decline for too long from a mystery ailment that had her teetering on the brink of chronic invalidism or the Big Needle. Neither option was acceptable to the three of us. And he was leaving. Again.
    "Bring her over here," I told TE. "If I can't get her well, I'll do what needs doing."
    A few vet visits, several medications, some dietary and lifestyle changes, and Squiggy was on the mend. Eventually she returned to complete health. But she never returned to her former home. She was too busy stealing my heart.
    I love animals. Dogs, cats, horses, parrots, bunnies, rats, hamsters. The list of critters that have added love to my life is long. But when asked, I typically described myself as more of a dog person than a cat fancier.
    Dogs will defend you with their lives. Dogs are always happy to see you. Heck, you can't even take a cat for a walk, I'd say.
    I'd bought into the myths that cats are aloof. That they don't really love us. That they only love what we can do for them. Think aloof, independent, indifferent. Think cat. Or so the story goes.
    But I don't think that's true. I think a cat can be just as much a loyal and devoted a companion as a pooch. And I'm not alone.
    Homer, the blind "Wonder Cat" who was the beloved hero cat who came into the life of writer Gwen Cooper as a 3-week-old kitten, died peacefully at home, in the arms of the woman he loved so much he once chased an intruder out of her bedroom.
    As a panicked Cooper struggled to call 911, Homer took on the battle, flinging himself at the man the minute he heard her gasp of horror.
    "He didn't hesitate in that moment to fight — as he always had, as he always would — for the things and the human he loved," she wrote in her loving tribute to "Homer Bear."
    Lest you think this is the delusional rantings of a bereaved cat lady, the cat of my brother's girlfriend, from back in the day, did the same thing.
    The gal's domesticated mini-tiger hurled himself onto the head of some freaky creeper who'd snuck into her apartment, planning Lord knows what. Before he got a face full of cat claws.
    I have no desire to test this theory personally. But I also have no reason to doubt the veracity of these tales. Or that cats aren't every bit as doggedly invested in our relationships with them, as, say, dogs.
    Squiggy was only a month or so into her recovery, and still living in my studio, when I put the last of my canine pack down because of age and injury. Twirly Jane, my sainted border collie, and Squiggy had an uneasy peace. Squiggy, a former only pet, was highly suspicious of the big hairy beast. And I figured it would be better for all of our nerves if each had their own space. So I did a lot of bouncing between cottage and home studio.
    But on the evening of that sad day when Twirly ascended to that Great Dog Park in the Sky, Squiggy moved into the cottage.
    Frankly, I needed her. Way more than she needed me. Yet she quickly began greeting me at the door of my Rogue River cottage. Just like Twirly did. She began following me from room to room as I putter about. Just like Twirly did.
    Unlike Twirly, she fits comfortably on my lap when we hang out on the couch. But she prefers to snuggle up against my back at night when we're sleeping. Just like Twirly did.
    And, let me say, when it comes to the early-morning wake-up calls, there's not much difference between a paw to the piehole and a slurp to the snoot.
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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