Do you remember your first pet?
My memories of the velvet black cat that followed me home are bittersweet…tangled with my annual summer idyll at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn and the events that took place after I left.
Brooklyn, New York may not seem like a country retreat to you…but it was for a little girl from the heart of Manhattan. My grandmother’s house was on a tree-lined street…her backyard blooming with flowers and fruit trees was a paradise…a true Garden of Eden.
My grandmother had thirteen grandchildren…and as soon as each was old enough to sleep away from home, they were invited to spend two weeks during the summer with this very special lady.
The Summer of the Black Cat took place when I was about eight years old. It was the first morning of my two-week stay and my grandmother had sent me to the grocery store around the corner to pick up some milk and bread. I felt very proud and grown-up as I selected the items and paid for them. Leaving the store, I noticed a beautiful black cat sitting on the curb. Walking over to her, I patted her sleek fur and then turned and started back to my grandmother’s house. Crossing the street, I turned and noticed I had a little shadow following me…the black cat.
Perhaps she smelled the milk in the grocery bag or perhaps she was just lonely and had enjoyed the attention I had given her. But she followed me all the way back to my grandmother’s house! I went inside and gave my grandmother the milk and bread. “Grandma, grandma” I exclaimed. “A beautiful black cat followed me home…can I keep her?”
My grandmother was quite hesitant, but I should explain that she had many beautiful singing canaries. “Vivian” she said. “You know that birds and cats don’t belong in the same house.”
The tears that were starting to trickle down my cheeks must have touched her heart. “You can give her a bowl of milk, but under no circumstances can she come in the house.”
I was THRILLED! I quickly ran to the kitchen and poured some milk in a small bowl and hurried out to the cat. I set the bowl down next to her and sat there, watching Blackie (for so I had named her) lap it up. As soon as she finished she climbed up on my lap, curled herself around and settled herself contently. And I was content as well.
For the next two weeks, I had a constant companion on my walks around the neighborhood and while I sat reading in the backyard. I was always very careful to close the screen door carefully so that Blackie would not come into the house.
But all too soon the two weeks were over and it was time for me to return to my own home. I was sad to leave Blackie, but there was no way I could take her back to our apartment in the city.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. A few days after I had returned home, someone left the screen door open and Blackie got into the house. Before anyone realized it, she had jumped onto a table and reached one of the cages…and there was one less voice in the canary chorus at my grandmother’s house. When my grandmother discovered the dead bird, she was extremely upset and angry. Searching for the cat, she found it hiding under the sofa. She realized that just putting it out of the house was not enough because the cat would try to get in at the first opportunity and someone might forget to close the door again. So she put the cat in a shopping bag (this was many years ago before high tech pet carriers) and took a trolley to Coney Island and deposited the cat there…hopefully the next person who gave the cat a bowl of milk didn’t have any pet birds.
What would you have done in my grandmother’s situation?
Here are some options available if you find yourself with an unwanted pet:
- Contact a friend or relative who might want a pet.
- Call your local ASPCA or other animal rescue shelter.
If any of you have other suggestions, please leave a comment and share them!
My grandmother reacted in the heat of the moment, as many of us do sometimes. But her main concerns were always for people and I have to be grateful for her willingness to allow a little girl to have her first pet.
I keep thinking that each Grandma Chronicle is going to be the last one…and I really thought this one would be. However, there is one more story that I think relates to many young children who have separation anxiety, as I did. Stop by tomorrow for The Grandma Chronicles: The Aborted Sleepover.