Indulge me this morning and take a journey back in time with me.
It is the mid-sixties and my father (who works at a local meat
packing plant) is a wise man who knows how to manage his money,
providing for his family of six living in a two-bedroom bungalow.
A selfless man, he would occasionally treat himself to a can of
Sockeye Salmon, which at the time was a luxury that cost considerably
more than the cheaper and more readily accessible pink salmon. Think of
it as being the "caviar" of canned fish. At that tender age, I
personally did not have much of a taste for it.
One fine autumn day, the neighborhood cat Sparky came by for a
visit. Now Sparky was one cool cat who patrolled his territory with
both diligence and enthusiasm. In fact as a young boy, I used to enjoy
watching him stalk the local wildlife, often times catching a bird in
mid take-off only to casually stroll away to enjoy his meal in the
quiet and secure confines of his hideout. Even the neighborhood dogs
would pay homage to Sparky, especially since he was almost as big as
Anyway, honored by Sparky deeming me worthy of his company and the
opportunity to service him with a good back scratch, I thought that the
moment called for something special . . . but what? A meal perhaps, and
not just any meal mind you, but one that was fit for the royal lineage
of such a fine feline. You probably see where this story is heading.
Besides birds I reasoned, cats must also like fish. After all,
Sylvester on Bugs Bunny seemed to like fish as an alternative when he
inevitably failed to catch Tweety.
Looking through the cupboards, there amongst the cans of gelatin
chicken, waxed beans and other items that did not meet the culinary
interests of a pre-teen, was a can of salmon that seemed to shine like
the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.
I of course immediately grabbed it from the cupboard, and using the
manual can opener - you remember, the ones with the narrow, razor-edged
twist handle that left a permanent imprint on your inside index finger
with each grist-mill type turn - to reveal the succulent smell of high
quality morsels of fish.
Even though I was sure that Sparky would love the entree he was
about to receive, I did not want to take any chances relative to poor
service etiquette and decided to serve it to him on a dish from my
mother's best china. Only the very finest for Sparky!
I excitedly went outside to find HRH casually, and in his inimitable
cool cat style grooming himself with his right paw. As he looked up
with a "what took you so long, I was about to leave" expression I
humbly lowered the dish before him. I can honestly say that this was
the first and only time Sparky displayed any kind of emotion, as his
eyes seemed to light up.
With a joyous alacrity, he buried his face in the dish polishing off
almost the entire $1.89 (in 1960s currency mind you) can in a matter of
what seemed like seconds. Taking a line from one of my favorite movies,
it was the start of a "beautiful friendship."
In the world of Hollywood movies, this is where the distant music
would kick in as both boy and his new found feline friend would walk
off into the sunset together. Obviously, the real-life script writers
never had a hard-working father, who upon coming home from work would
find his wife's best china on the front stoop with little more than the
vapours of his anticipated treat for the day emanating skyward. Perhaps
the term "happy ending" would be a tad over optimistic.
I will of course not bore you with the details, other than to say
that from that moment on, I had to gain prior approval, and then sign
for any items I wanted to remove from the pantry. As for the use of my
mother's good china, that is for another day.
I tell you this story as a means of sharing with you the following story.
Move ahead to 2009. Picture a father of two young children and a loving wife who has a soft-heart for animals of any kind.
As a means of creating an historical context for the term "soft-heart" for animals, allow me to expand a little.
In the eight plus years Jennifer and I have been together, we have
had a cavalcade of "pets" including 2 dogs, 6 Guinea Pigs, 2 hamsters
and 4 Beta fish, one of which was named Elvis whose sullen disposition
prompted Jennifer to call the pet store to inquire as to how we might
go about "cheering him up." The store owner suggested that Elvis was
bored and that we should use a straw to play what amounted to an
aquatic version of go fetch.
There are of course many colorful anecdotes I could share with you
at this point including how at the passing of each Guinea Pig I assumed
responsibility for the burial services. A task that was made more
difficult by the fact that I was usually out of town at a speaking
engagement when the furry little critters departed this world, and
where upon my return that evening I would be required to dig under the
It took a few of these "night time" sorties, in which I would head
out to the back yard with a shovel and flashlight to bury a mysterious
package, before I came to understand why the neighbors would cross the
street whenever I took a walk. I am certin that even though we have
moved away from the old neighborhood, my escapades as an undertaker
have inspired many a "scary" story around the proverbial camp fire.
Despite these adventures, and an already "crowded house," Jennifer
and my 4 1/2 year old daughter Savannah, have been campaigning for both
a bird and a cat on the premise that the current 2 dogs and a hamster
are just not enough to fill the void of the departed Guinea Pigs and
fish. Pierce who has just turned 2, pretty much goes with the flow in
such matters, so he is not much help in terms of balancing out the
So you can only imagine my surprise when I went out on our back deck
the other day and found the remnants of a can of solid white tuna
(which is the equivalent of the 1960s salmon), on a dinner plate. Can
you feel my father's broad smile looking down upon me from heaven?
It turns out that the beautiful scenery of the forest behind our
house is also the breeding ground for stray and/or wild cats. One of
which possesses the aplomb of "my Sparky."
Black, with a tail that is reminiscent of the full plumage of a
proud peacock, this latest interloper as decided that he shall winter
on our back step. Rather than chase him (or perhaps her) away, the
co-conspirators who shall remain nameless, have actually built a comfy
home, furnishing it with the softest blankets from the house and
stocking-up on cat food to ensure the comfort of this new "guest."
All I can say is this . . . when the time comes, I guess I am going
to have to dig a bigger hole. As for my neighborhood walks, I guess I
will finally have to invest in a treadmill.
Your Saturday Smile: Sparky's Revenge (How To Build Your Own Wildlife Preserve)
Indulge me this morning and take a journey back in time with me.