By Tina Wagner Mattern
When our cat, Brodie, was born, his mother, Ginger, developed a breast infection, so he and his siblings had to be nurtured and hand-fed by their human grandmother, my good friend Ellen. She tended them devotedly; hers was the first face the kittens saw in the morning and the last one at night. In their minds, Ellen was their mother, and since she was human, they must be too. Consequently, Brodie had no idea he was a cat—as far as he was concerned, he was a vertically challenged kid in an orange fur suit.
From the first day that Brodie came to live with us, we could see that he, like his surrogate mom, was a people-person. His philosophy was clear: Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. He was crazy about everybody. And he was absolutely certain that everyone felt the same way about him. Whenever the doorbell rang, Brodie would jump up and bolt for the door, radiating “Someone’s here to visit me!” excitement. Salesmen, visiting friends or family, all were welcomed with hyper-drive-purring, head-butting enthusiasm.
One afternoon, we had a repairman in our home to fix our refrigerator. Brodie was ecstatic to meet him and followed him like a puppy to the kitchen. I was busying myself around the house with laundry and dusting, etc., when I heard a deep male laugh coming from behind the fridge. I peeked around the corner to find the man down on his hands and knees working…with Brodie perched on his shoulder, supervising.
“Good grief”, I groaned, “Brodie, get down!” The man laughed again and said, “Nah, it’s okay. He’s just helping.” Brodie gave me a smug look and made himself useful by giving the nice man a shoulder massage.
Throughout all the years Brodie was with us, our furry little goodwill ambassador took great pride in his charismatic charm. Even those folks who were “not cat people” somehow changed their minds when confronted with Brodie’s sweet, seductive attention. He reigned undefeated until the day our beautiful friend, Terra, came to stay with us for a month.
Terra loves animals—all animals—cats included. But she is very allergic to the fur of felines: one touch and she breaks out in hives, her sinuses go nuts and she’s just generally miserable. So it’s understandable that she would avoid like the plague being in close proximity to a cat.
Brodie took one look at Terra when she walked in the door, and fell head- over-paws in love. Our dear friend apparently exuded some mysterious human-catnip essence that Brodie found absolutely irresistible. Food, toys, even coveted kitty treats were suddenly unimportant; getting close to Terra became his prime directive.
With no doubt as to his reception, Brodie waited until his beloved sat down on the sofa and then launched himself into her lap. Placing his paws on her chest, he turned on his purr-box full-throttle and stared meaningfully into her eyes. This gambit had always guaranteed quality petting in the past. Terra giggled, all the while trying to push Brodie away without actually touching him with her hands.
“Brodie!” I cried, “Get down!” When he completely ignored me, I retrieved him and sat him down beside me. “You can’t bother Terra,” I explained. “She’s allergic to you.” Apparently, Brodie wasn’t buying it; as soon as our attention was diverted by conversation, he was right back in her lap again. Variations of this scene continued to be played throughout the next month. He pursued her as single-mindedly as a starving ant at a Martha Stewart picnic.
One evening, after Terra headed upstairs to get ready for bed, I heard her laugh out loud. “Tina—you’ve got to see this!” she called. I ran up the stairs and found her in the bathroom, where Brodie, wearing an expression of triumph, was on his back in her sink. The message was clear: If you want me out of here, you gotta pick me up! Terra kept the bathroom door closed from then on.
Well, there’s more than one way to skin a mouse. Our determined little furball was not to be defeated so easily. A few evenings later, after Terra was settled for the night, I was once again summoned by a squeal and giggle. Brodie had flown into the room, pounced onto the bed, and begun massaging her back.
“Guess you’re going to have to keep the bedroom door closed too,” I groaned and picked Brodie up and brought him with me downstairs. “Now listen,” I told him in no uncertain terms, “You have to leave Terra alone! She’s ALLERGIC!” Brodie sulked for the rest of the evening, but somewhere in his creative little head, a new plan was already hatching.
It took several days to work out the logistics, but once Brodie figured his new strategy was foolproof, he settled down to wait patiently for the perfect time. It didn’t take long.
My husband, Fred, Terra and I had watched a movie and were pleasantly surprised that throughout the evening, Brodie hadn’t even attempted any of his usual ploys for his sweetheart’s attention. In fact, he seemed to have mysteriously disappeared.
“Maybe he’s finally losing interest,” I said, hopefully.
Terra just smiled, “He’s so sweet, poor little guy. Well, I’m off to bed”.
Upstairs, (as Terra described the following scene to us later) she got her pajamas on, washed her face and brushed her teeth, all the while keeping an eye out for her little stalker. But Brodie was still nowhere to be seen. “Goodnight!” she called out, and, taking one last look around for her furry shadow, opened her bedroom door and went in, closing it behind her. Once in bed, she sighed contentedly, turned off the light and settled herself for a good night’s sleep. She was just dozing off when…Foomph! An 8 pound kid in an orange fur suit, landed squarely on her chest, purring jubilantly. His strategy had worked! Hiding under the bed for two hours had paid off! Surely his sweetheart would finally see that they were meant to be together!
We could hear Terra’s laughter…and wheezing, all the way downstairs. Her amended nightly routine from then on, included checking for furry little monsters under the bed.
Brodie was one of the dearest members of our family for many years. He was unfailingly sweet, clever, and irresistible. We have countless memories of him to treasure, but none as unforgettable as the time our boy set out to win (and he did, of course) our friend, Terra’s heart.