This morning the Misanthrope received the sad news that the only cat he has ever liked, Philip, was struck by a car on Monday and killed.
The Misanthrope and the 27 year old met Philip last October when we stayed with his owners, Hamish and Andrea, in Washington, DC. He was just a kitten then.
I 've always been firmly in the dog camp in the eternal battle between dog lovers and cat lovers. My proof that dogs are superior? Have you ever heard anybody say about a dog, "You'll like him. He's just like a cat."?
Of course you haven't.
Philip, however, won us over instantly. He was so affectionate and so fun to play with that it was hard not to be totally charmed. For weeks after we returned to New York, we talked about our love for Philip. Even the WMDs (Wallace and Maggie Dogs) were getting jealous.
Philip's passing got me to thinking about why it is that we form such deep connections with animals. Pet owners often mention things like companionship, unquestioning love, etc. Obviously, those are wonderful benefits, but I suspect that the real reason we form such attachments is because of the sheer pleasure, the deep joy of caring for somebody else. Caring for a cat or dog, an animal that is almost totally dependent upon you for its well-being, brings out the best of human nature. I know that I take pleasure in making sure that Wallace and Maggie have a good life and are healthy. We are always told that it is better to give than to receive and it always turns out to be true when we can remember to give. Taking care of a dog or a cat is like a constant reminder of that. What dog owner doesn't know the pleasure of getting his dog a treat or taking him to the beach and seeing the unbridled enthusiasm of a dog running at top speed with ears flying back and tongue hanging out?
So it came as no surprise that Hamish told me that Philip made his already wonderful marriage feel like a family.
I know the feeling.