The second chapter in the best-selling sequel to “About A Dog”, written by Richard Bloss.
We decided to call the cat “Bohemian”.
There just happened to be a Queen melody on the radio at the time and as none of us could think of anything better, – and you can hardly call the cat “Gaga”, – in reference to the radio song – there was a sort of acceptance that Bohemian was the best of a bad choice.
The problem was the cat was part of a set, so to say; he had twin brother; we could hardly call his little brother and twin, “Rhapsody”.
No, that just didn’t work.
After further thought, we decided to get a bit “family”, and in homage to our previous cat who had died some years before and was buried under a tree in the back garden until the foxes dug him up one night, and who was called “Clyde” – we thought that maybe “Clyde Junior” would fit – or “CJ”, for short.
Somewhere in our distant memory, there used to be a TV comedy where one of the Michael. J. Fox type of characters was called “CJ”, sort of down at heel, sidekick to the main character. So, CJ it was.
The trouble was that you can hardly shout down the garden – “Bohemian – dinner time”. This was just too upper class even from the des res areas of Devon. There had to be a better way and a better name than this, and as with every Christian name, society tends to shorten or modify all our first names – so “Bohemian” became “Boh”, and it was also easier to shout at the cat. It was direct, almost aggressive, it said that we meant business. We were not sure what business this actually was, we thought that both cats would develop their individuality in a week or so, or maybe a bit longer or maybe never. Actually we had no clue.
Both of the little kittens started life snuggling up on their one cat bed, and there was this semblance of family stability, a greater team. And true to form, Boh was clearly the more vocal, he had more coloured markings, and a pure white tummy and little white tabs on each of his paws as if he had been dabbing in a tin of white emulsion or white socks. On reflection, CJ was the quieter, more mellow, even in those early days. Except that we were too preoccupied to notice the subtle differences. All we knew was that we had two cute little cats, who on their good days jumped around and played and seemed fun.
But in the same way that you can never judge a marriage from the nice painted front door of a house – so we were blind to the subtle behaviour differences of each of the cats, Family has got to work, not just seem to work.
And family stability is indeed a wonderful thing. It is a human and religious concept and you could say that it is the glue that holds society together. In the modern world we live in – “families” are democracies. They exude respect, tolerance – up to a point. There is a pecking order but also a sense of equality. Sure, there are good days and bad days, but, somehow – everybody gets along.
Unfortunately, Boh did not see any relevance in the need for tolerance or the need to get along with anyone. If there was any doubt that Boh did not understand the concept of family, this was proved by the speed in which he disposed of his twin brother, CJ, who disappeared from the family home suddenly one morning.
Even as a little kitten, within one week of taking up residence in his new home, CJ was heard deep in the undergrowth at the foot of the family garden, late at night, whimpering – and lost. No amount of calling, shouting, flashing of torches, crawling down the steep banks into the undergrowth, straining our eyes for little even minuscule reflections of cat – succeeded in locating the little kitten who somehow had lost his way. Picking up little Boh from his own bed – and carrying him down in our arms to the foot of the garden – and plaintively asking him with as much concern as we could summon “ What on earth have you done with your brother?” – did nothing, apart from the realisation of its desperation – that Boh indeed only spoke cat.
He hadn’t the faintest idea what we were talking about, or frankly any interest in doing so.
There was a look of confusion in his eyes, even at just a few weeks old; “and you woke me up for THIS?”
No, – C J was on his own, mate.
What was clear as we trudged back into the house, was that Boh had already commandeered the cat-bed. He could stretch out. He had the whole bed – to himself. He had the whole utility room , to himself. He could get up, paddle about with his enormous paws, claim ownership of His Space. This was a learning experience. What we had thought was a nice friendly couple of twins,
each with his own companion – quickly became the realisation that Boh did not need any friends, or any companion. We had a lodger but not a family member. And Boh did not care. As long as he had breakfast and dinner every day – then he had his life, and we had ours. The only question was – whose life took priority?
Boh was beautiful in many ways. He had a luxurious tabby brown and black and white coat. He loved gentle stroking, behind his neck. He would stretch out along the edge of the sofa, and watch the TV. He had a pure white underbelly that was soft, inviting caressing and gentleness. He had big oversized feet. Even at just a few weeks old, he could climb lounge window curtains in no time flat.
Boh also had claws that came with rapier speed if anyone alas attempted to stroke the inviting underbelly. He had blue green eyes that glistened with evil if you came close to invading his space. His claws cut deep into anyone that reached out in friendship. He accepted with nonchalance the ritual banishment to the garden if with a casual swipe of his paws, he injured the provider of friendship.
In many ways, Boh was a contradiction, a loner, but one who came home each evening, liked sleeping on the sofa, but not the hugs associated with that. The consensus among the family was that, despite the power play, Boh needed love, he needed approval, a value and recognition of his part in the family structure. But what was equally clear, was that he would not discover this on his own. It would be up to us to show him pointers, almost a chess game, – if we offer this or that, can he learn that certain routes of behaviour are better for him, and so forth.
The question tho,- was, what steps would these be? We could hardly sit on the stairs with Boh and have a heart to heart.
“So, Boh, -and how did you feel, being booted out in the rain?”
What was becoming obvious, was that Boh had similar levels of friendship and antipathy, with our neighbours too.
There was no concept of territorial limits. Boh would happily meander into the driveway next door where our neighbour cooked special breakfasts of prime steak, for the cat. This was five star luxury that even I could not attain in my frequent stop overs at The Holiday Inn. It occurred to me that perhaps I should just rock up at Reception and try to look cute. Then again, I could hardly ask the Receptionist to stroke my tummy.
And to be fair, Boh was establishing his own agreeable side of his identity within our own family environment too, he knew he could jump on the family bed in the morning, and he had his favourites; he especially liked my son Ben’s bed, and frequently chose that venue for long conversations with Ben.
Ben became known as the Cat Whisperer. Somehow, he had a knack of picking up the cat whenever there was an issue, dumping him on his bed, where the cat would settle down, and Ben would go back to sleep.
Boh would surface several hours later, wander downstairs, use the bottom of the stairs as a scratching post, make a small “miaow” as if to say “hey guys, well, here we are” – and either even at that early stage of just a few months old – sit by his food bowl and look up, in the way we expect waiters to deliver pre-dinner drinks. Or he would stretch out on any vacant space on the family sofa.
The problem was that we had no clue what to do next.
Several times, one of us would try to reach out and stroke Bob’s soft white underbelly, and be met with a vicious swipe of a paw, that dug deep. It took several lessons of speeding up our own reaction times, and we became much more aware of the subtle movement of Boh’s tail as it whisked just a little too near in our face.
We also worked out that buying the cheapest supermarket cat food just didn’t work any more. Boh would sit by his dish, look up, and then miaow, then there would be a subtle extension of claws, and then another direct and frosty look.
“Are you sure these are the Jamie Oliver lamb cutlets that I asked for?”
No, we had to take this one day at a time – but clearly we needed a strategy for the longer term.
Indeed, it would be a further four years before the solution presented itself.
And none of us could ever have guessed that the saviour of Boh, would have four legs, a scruffy coat, and come in the form of a little Dog.