A cat named Rover

Alabama Living Magazine

By Hardy Jackson

Illustration by Dennis Auth

My column about the dogs I have known and loved might have left the impression that I am not a big fan of cats.
Well, let me tell you about Rover.
He got his name because he roved up one day.
Black and white and skin and bones.
Arriving without fanfare and without pedigree, lost or strayed or just passing through and taking a break. Had there been an alley in the neighborhood, he would have been an alley cat. Had it not been for my sympathy for the dejected and downtrodden, I would have sent him on his way.
Instead, I fed him.
He stayed.
Now, at the time, there was another cat in my life. Growltiger, who belonged to my daughter, was ill-tempered, ill-mannered, vain and conceited.
Though I fed her every morning, Growltiger treated me with a mixture of distain and disgust. She ate as if I wasn’t there, as if somehow she and she alone had willed the food to miraculously appear simply and exclusively because she was not just “a” cat, but “the” cat.
Which is why Growltiger did not like Rover.
Which is why I did.
Unlike Growltiger, Rover appreciated the food I gave him. And he appreciated the little cathouse I fixed for him out back when winter approached. He appreciated it when I dressed his wounds, for Rover was a fighter but not a very good one. He was a better lover, to which the number of black and white kittens in the neighborhood attested, and I am certain that many of the cuts he brought home for me to tend were as much the product of passion as pugnacity.
And Rover, as you might have gathered by now, was male. Everyone else in and around my house wasn’t.
Rover and I bonded.
Rover liked the warm and was a master at finding a sunny spot and going to sleep. As the years rolled by, sleeping in the sun became his favorite pastime.
Eventually Growltiger went to Kitty Heaven. Well, maybe not Heaven. But Rover hung in there. His age as undeterminable as his gene pool, he lived on and well.
His favorite sleeping spot was in the middle of a sun-warmed street, and since the road we lived on was short and dead ended, he was safe from speeding cars. So, every day that the sun shone, and some days when it didn’t but the asphalt was still warm, you could find him there.
One bright day he slowly made his way out to his favorite spot, pausing from time to time to shake off the ache in his ancient joints. Then he lay down and closed his eyes and sometime between then and sunset he died.
I buried him in the garden, right next to the compost pile, the decaying heat from which, I figured, would warm him on his way.
No marker. But if there had been one it would have read “Rover. Good cat. He weren’t no trouble.”
Not a bad way to go.
Nor a bad way to be remembered.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hhjackson43@gmail.com


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