The black cat who inspired the title of this blog is curled up next to me on the couch right now. A second cat hovers nearby. A third is munching food from a bowl behind me. And a fourth is sleeping on a pillow near the fire. The dog has retired to his crate for the night.
There are five animals living in this house right now (seven if you count me and and my husband too) all those mouths to feed, all those personalities to contend with, all those little bundles of warmth with which to snuggle.
But twelve and a half years ago when I brought him home from the shelter (May 1, 1999-- I still remember the date) it was just me and my black cat. And it stayed that way for a couple of years until other pets began finding their way into our lives.
Gink (who is named after Dorrie's black cat in my favorite series of children's books by Patricia Coombs) instantly filled a void that really needed to be filled. Although I still had cats and dogs who I loved at my parents' home, I had not had a pet living with me for all four years of college. I craved one. I don't plan on ever allowing that void to form again. My life needs animal companionship.
This cat and I have been through a lot together. Relationships, break-ups, scares, serenity, midnight trips to the emergency vet, and moments of gut-busting hilarity. Gink spent the first six years of his life being a complete nightmare to most people and even when I pretended to be scandalized by his behavior, secretly I always loved it. He was my bad boy. Around age seven, he began to chill out. He took up a serious but mostly peaceful guard duty job at my front window and developed a taste for Greek olives. Instead of playing how-long-will-he-be-amused-with-this-toy-before-biting-me, we started singing duets while I showered and cuddling under blankets to read good books. Although Gink still goes into attack mode for a select few humans (you know who you are) fewer things ruffle him now, and most people can't believe he used to be such a terror.
These days, with a demanding job, a long commute, a husband, and four other pets to care for, Gink doesn't get the one-on-one attention that he used to. There was a time when I would come home from work, he would greet me at the door, and I would drop everything to scoop him up into my arms, rub his soft head, and ask him how his day was. Sometimes he had much to report.
But despite my busy schedule and lack of time (always always not enough time) there are moments when the activity in the house grows still and quiet and I notice that Gink is next to me-- sleeping or snoring or stretching or sometimes just watching-- and I stop what I'm doing and give him a kiss and stroke his glossy fur and rub the white spot on his belly. And it kind of feels like it's just the two of us again and I think about how much this black cat has meant to me and how much I still love him.
This is one of those times.