Monday, August 15, 2011
If you had asked me, 6 or 7 years ago, if I'd ever let my baby play with this cat, I'd have told you "No way." In fact, when we first met Sanford, everyone, adult and child alike, was wary of him. He was a badass and he didn't care who he had to scratch or bite to prove it. He got "fired" from his job catching mice in the lumber shed at the ReStore for scratching and biting the customers and the staff too often. Janet even needed stitches! He was great at catching the mice, but his customer service skills left a great deal to be desired, so he came to live with us at the Apple Pharm.
After he settled in at the farm (read: once he established dominance over all the other cats) he decided I was the person for him. He liked to get up on my bed to snuggle, but I had to abide by the rules - no petting below the neck, no sudden movements, certainly no blankets over him and no handling his feet or touching his belly. It was a bit tense. Breaking any of his rules meant hissing and running away at best, biting and scratching at worst. But slowly he started to be more tolerant and trusting, at least of me, though he still scratched other people quite frequently. He brought me the freshest, most tender young rodents, fetchingly displayed on my bedroom rug, to show his affection.
When the time came to move out of the Apple Pharm, we had a group meeting to divvy up the cats. Sanford was unquestionably mine. He moved with us to an apartment in town where we lived for a few years until the house was finished. He dominated the small apartment complex from the start. He bullied the other cats and even went after raccoons, dogs and deer. He walked into our neighbors' apartments like he owned them, and ate their cats' food. He memorably came home one evening with his white fur covered in blood - and not a drop of it was his own. We grew to be a family, and he accepted Iggy and Sprout as part of his pride.
He loved it when we moved to our current house. He loved the territory and the rich hunting grounds (mmm, tasty little bunnies!). He loved and trusted us. He was no longer the wild, ferocious alley cat fending for himself. We could pick him up, pet him all the way from nose to tail, even treat his wounds and pet his belly. But even so, when Conan was born, I was nervous about Sanford. Would he put up with a baby? A toddler? Well, I needn't have worried. Sure, Conan had to learn about boundaries, and got a few scratches in the process. But Sanford always, clearly, understood these were just teaching scratches. He wasn't trying to hurt the kid. He loves Conan as much as he loves me - even more, I sometimes think. I'm not so sure he'd put up with me using him as a pillow! They are truly buddies, and it warms my heart to think about just how far this wild, trust-no-one cat has come.