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By Jessica Donohoe
Beauregard is the Granddaddy of All Cats. East Bay cats, anyway. He used to be the Daddy of Them All in comportment and, to a certain extent, in fact: For a while, there was even a little club of Beauregard-kitten-owners.
My last year in college, I had a studio upstairs from a band. The neighbors were on their big world tour when I moved in and, aside from the old cars that filled up what had once been the front yard, there were no clues as to why my place rented for so little. It was when they came home that the evidence started to mount: little holes in the furniture, in the cereal boxes, in my clothes. The strings of all my beaded necklaces were chewed through. It seems that all the rats and all the roaches that had squatted in the six-bedroom flat downstairs moved into my apartment, and my reptile menagerie was no match for them. It was that bad.
I patched and I pounded. I cornered and I cajoled. Nothing worked. I needed a mouser.
A coworker lived a few towns over, in a house that was the locus of much feral kitty action. Several families of cats ate from the bowls left out on the porch, and some left gifts in return. I went over one moonlit night and waited in the center of the manicured lawn. I felt like the virgin in the forest, waiting for the unicorn.
One by one, the kitties came. They sniffed, snuggled, and slunk off again, until finally the alpha male deigned to meet with me. He was six years old, and an enormous cat: 20 pounds in his stocking feet. The household had called him 'Bo, a.k.a. Rambo, for his fiercely muscled physique and his clearly virile nature. Of course he was much too dignified for that. That name may have worked in the suburbs, but he was moving to Berkeley. So he became Beauregard, after a favorite friend's favorite alias. Beauregard T. Rambunctious sat in my lap and purred, then looked me in the eye. He was ready to go home.
He climbed onto my shoulders and nestled there for the whole long ride home (and has never since seen the inside of a car, of his own volition). He kept very busy, killing rats and scaring roaches, and even eradicating a drunken neighbor or two from our doorstep. When he'd cleaned up the house, he patrolled the neighborhood like a furry vigilante.
A box of Burmese kittens turned up on the porch one day. They'd been a gift for the girls downstairs, who were too high to deal with them, but gosh weren't they cute. The box sat out there all day, and all the next morning. I wasn't sure what to do beyond food, water and blankets, but Beauregard knew: He brought them inside, one by one, and settled them on the sofa. He fostered them through their first several months, and taught them good kitty etiquette: how to eat and drink in turn, how to use the litter box, how and where to sleep. If he caught one on the dining table, he would bat it off, firmly but gently. The only time he ever really growled was when they broke into the butter dish. He was a good dad, in spite of his new reproductive status.
One day, as I sat on the sofa (in the same spot where the kittens slept), he started a game of chase with my very long braids. It was fun, but I was suiting up for a croquet game, so I pulled my braids over onto my shoulder.
The chase was on. Beauregard leapt over the back of the couch and landed in my lap. Where my hands were situated. Which was not what he had expected. He kicked off hard with his hind paws, quickly realizing his mistake. There was an enormous gash in my hand and an abysmal puncture through a vein in my wrist. I'd never seen my own blood gush quite like that, in rhythmic spurts. This was what I got for bending to the pressure of my croquet peers: my regulation white blouse was now pretty much red.
Beauregard mewled from under the table. He'd hurt his mommy.
The emergency room doctor asked if I'd been mauled by a big cat.
"Well," I said, "pretty much. But he felt really bad about it."
That was ten years ago. There are still marks, but they're pretty and dainty, almost like jewelry. I gazed at them the other day, on what would be either Beauregard's third night in the kitty hospital or his first in kitty heaven. I was never so happy to bear a scar as I was that night.
Maybe he felt my anguish, and maybe even my stumbling thoughts: What will I do? Should I get a new cat right away? There are so many great cats out there that need homes; some of his foster cats, and maybe even his own progeny, still roam the streets alone. But he could never be replaced.
We called the vet early the next morning, the day we were to Make the Call, and asked if we could just come and hold him while we waited for his final test results. "I think he can go home," she said. "He's eating and drinking again, and weighs an almost-lifelike six pounds." We dropped everything and brought him home.
An old shepherd named Sophie left her humans and trotted up our stairs yesterday. She bumped the front door with her nose and whimpered, then bumped it again until I came and opened it for her. She gave me a liquid-eyed look, as if to ask Can I help?
I squatted down and let her sniff my hand. "No, sweetie, you can't come in. We have a very sick cat inside." Sophie licked my hand, then turned and walked away.
He can't make the rounds as the Daddy of Them All, so instead Beauregard receives visitors. This seems befitting for the Granddaddy of All Cats.
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