Kathleen has a special place in her heart for Harry. He was a skinny adolescent street cat when he showed up at her back door in Coconut Grove and she offered him food. It took 30 days of free hand-outs for Harry to allow her to pet him.
I first met Harry when I was being administered The Cat Test. Kathleen would not have married a man who didn't get along with her cats. I was visiting Kathleen when Harry pushed his way into the kitty door. She said, "That's Harry. He doesn't like men." I clucked and patted the couch and he quickly jumped up next to me. I started petting him. "Oh," said Kathleen. "He likes his head rubbed, but don't touch his tummy. He hates that." I reached under his tail and put my hand between his two hind legs. He flipped over, stretched and arched his back as I slowly stroked his neck and chest. Kathleen looked at us dubiously. "He doesn't like his tummy rubbed," she said again. I passed the test.
As I rubbed his belly, he exhaled a soft, audible groan of pleasure. With so much on the line, my intuition was really turned up, and I noticed something else. "His name is Hye-e-erry. It's how he wants me to say his name. You should say it that way, too." Kathleen laughed, but to this day, when I address Harry, I say "Hye-e-erry," and he responds. I think Kathleen eventually decided I was right about this, because she calls him Hye-e-erry now, too.
Another thing about Harry. He's the only cat I've ever seen who has a wordless meow. I'll walk in on him, we'll make eye contact and I'll say, "Hi, Hye-e-erry." When he opens his mouth in reply, no sound comes out, just air. It's so cool.
Harry used to be a street fighter. When we lived in Miami Beach, he would go out every night and prowl the neighborhood. I suspected he felt it was his job to challenge every cat he saw on his night patrols. He would often come back all scratched up, and we would doctor him with peroxide. Once he came back with a notch in one ear.
Sometimes we'd have to take him to the vet to make sure he didn't have an infection. Harry hates going to the vet. His street cat instincts make him independent and aggressive and he absolutely hates having cold metal objects thrust up his butt. The vet finally gave us The Talk. "He's either going to have to run faster or be a better fighter, or you'll have to make him an indoor cat. You can't keep giving him antibiotics every week." So Harry has been an indoor cat ever since. We helped him make the transition by hanging a bird feeder next to the back window and scattering birdseed on the porch. The birds came, and Harry loved it. We called it "Kitty TV." Eventually the birdseed attracted 20 squirrels from the park, so we quit. By then, Harry was used to being indoors.
Most cats enjoy playing with little sewn "mousie" toys. Harry doesn't have a mousie. He has a Moosie. We got this small stuffed moose toy at Staples. It was attached as a promotion to a jumbo package of Scotch tape. We gave it to Harry and he fell in love with it. In the morning, after his breakfast, he'll bring his Moosie into the bedroom and cry for play. He also loves to remove the green jacket. We don't know how he does it, but putting the jacket back on has become a daily chore.
Harry earned the right to be called Sweet Harry thirteen years ago when Kathleen was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She had constant pain in her right arm as the nerves healed from surgery. Harry would lie next to her on the bed, and she would lay her arm on top of him. They would sleep together like that, and Kathleen claimed his body heat had a healing effect.
Harry is with us for the long haul. Everyone in our little family has taken heart.
He's more fragile now but, on good days, still carries a stuffed toy around the house, howling his hunting prowess. I hope we're as good when we're 100.