Old Patch

Charley Clements

© Copyright 2002 by Charley Clements


Photo of Patches after a disagreement with another cat.

I first became acquainted with Mr. Patches on the occasion of my first date with Sherlyn, the angel that the Lord had sent unto me to become my future bride.

When I arrived at her home to pick her up for the evening, I was introduced to her two teenage daughters, a wonderful little dog named Tootsie, and a young tom-cat named Patches. Seems like there may have been another dog and maybe another cat or two, but if so, I disremember their names.

The two girls greeted me politely, and Tootsie immediately adopted me and became my dog from that moment on. Mr. Patches, however, just gave me that cold-eyed contemptuous stare that cats are famous for, and then proceeded to ignore me--which didn't bother me at all, since I had always been a certified card-carrying cat hater.

That first date with my angel led to another and another and another, and it wasn't long at all before I realized that I wanted to keep her, and so I began talking about marriage.

When we finally made the decision to merge our two families we realized that we needed a bigger place to accommodate her two girls, my two boys, the pets and the two of us, and so we found a bigger home and prepared to move.

When we moved into the new house I established some ground rules, which included no pets in the house--except for Tootsie, of course. Patches was banned from the house and became an "outside" cat, which didn't do much to improve our relationship.

Patches took up residence in the garage--which I gracefully allowed--and then began to explore the neighborhood. He was a relatively small cat, but he was lean and mean, and so it wasn't long before he became the boss cat of the neighborhood. Patch put the fear of God in all the other neighborhood tomcats--and most of the dogs--and seduced all the sweet young lady cats. He had his kingdom that he ruled over, and I had mine that Sherlyn (occasionally) allowed me to rule over, and whenever Patch and I happened to meet in the driveway or the garage, we just politely ignored each other.

Patch was a lover and a fighter, and judging from the number of "Little Patches" that we eventually began to notice around the neighborhood, and the constant late night sounds of a cat fight close by, he seemed to pretty much divide his time evenly between those two hobbies--both of which he was pretty good at.

There were occasions over the years however, when Patches would have to hole up in the garage for a day or two nursing his wounds from his latest altercation, and a few times when he was beat up bad and needed doctoring.

On those occasions, I relented and allowed Patches to recuperate in the house, so that Sherlyn could nurse him back to health. Upon his recovery, I would again evict him, which didn't seem to bother him since he disliked me as much as I disliked him.

As the years went by and the kids all grew up and left home, we had various other pets come and go. We acquired a delightful little Dachshund named Queenie, and then another one named Mary, and we also wound up with more cats. As is the nature of things, one of the cats gave birth to a litter of more cats, despite my strict orders for that not to happen. A couple of the kittens were born deaf, and since it was obvious that they couldn't make it outside, I gave in and allowed them to be house cats.

I need to digress for a moment and explain here that there had been some significant changes in my life over the years. My angel had finally been successful in leading me back to the Lord--not by preaching and prodding, but simply by her witness and her example. Naturally this had made a huge change in my life, and I had become a kinder, more understanding and better person. Also, along the way one of our daughters had presented us with a grandson, and she and the grandson lived with us for several years. As any grandparent can attest, whenever you have one of your grandkids living with you they pretty much get what they want--including cats in the house.

And so it was that eventually I just gave up on my rules and regulations con cerning house cats, and just learned to tolerate them.

Patches, however, continued to be an outside cat. Sherlyn would occasionally bring him in, either to nurse his latest wounds or just let him in for a visit, but he always wanted back out. I think it was because he enjoyed his freedom, or perhaps he just still bore a grudge against me.

Mr. Patches was getting on up there in years, however, and as time went on he spent more and more time in the house recovering from war injuries. Then there came a time when Patch disappeared for days, which wasn't really unusual, but this time he was gone so long that we began to think we had lost him. But, we found him in the driveway one morning all beat up and cut up and just barely alive. This time his recovery took awhile, and for a time we didn't think he would make it.

But Patch was a tough old cat and he managed to pull through--although he sure wasn't the man he used to be. When he was fully recovered, we let him stay in the house, and this time he didn't argue. The time had come for Old Patch to retire, and he seemed to realize that, and so he settled in and became a house cat.

I didn't have a problem with Patch moving into the house and was willing to let bygones be bygones, but Old Patch evidently wasn't, and he still avoided me when he could and snarled at me when he couldn't.

Not long after Old Patch had moved in with us, Queenie and Mary both died within months of each other, and Tootsie also passed away. Sherlyn and I both grieved over losing each of the dogs, but Tootsie's death was especially hard for us. She was a very special little dog that came as close to being human as any dog ever has, and we used to joke about the fact that she didn't realize that she was a dog. Around the same time that Tootsie passed away, we acquired two twin Border Collies named Jake and Dottie, and most recently we inherited Mr. Stubs, a stray that one of our grandsons adopted. They are all wonderful dogs that we love dearly, but Tootsie still has a special place in our hearts.

Several months after Old Patch had retired, Sherlyn made a trip to Virginia to "assist" one of the girls who was living there in giving birth to another grandchild. I was left in charge of the house and the pets, and so Old Patch had to learn to tolerate me--at least at feeding time.

One night I went to bed and left the bedroom door open, and when I woke up the next morning, Old Patch was sleeping in the bed with me. The next night when I went to bed, Old Patch came in and jumped up on the bed, and then crawled up on my chest and began to purr. Now, in years gone by, if anyone had tried to tell me that I would allow a CAT to sleep in my bed--let alone on my chest--I would have told him or her to seek psychiatric help. But, I felt sorry for the old cat, and so I let him be.

From that night on, Old Patch was my cat--or rather I was his human--and even after Sherlyn returned Patch continued to sleep on my chest. During the day, he would curl up in a basket underneath my desk while I was working, and every step I took Old Patch was right behind me.

The best we could figure, Old Patch was around 17 years old at that time, and his age and his past lifestyle were beginning to take their toll. He was blind in one eye, and he developed an inner ear infection that affected his equilibrium, which he never fully recovered. He would often stumble or stagger, and at times would appear disorientated. We took him to the vet several times, but they said he didn't have any real health problems other than just old age.

Over the next year or so, Old Patch had his good days and his bad days, but for the most part he seemed to be enjoying his retirement. I would lie in bed reading at night with Old Patch on my chest, and occasionally I would notice him looking at me with that one good eye and a slight smile on his face, and I knew he was remembering the old days, and I believe that he was content and happy that we had made our peace with one another.

Old Patch died peacefully in his sleep a couple of months ago, and I sure do miss him.

I loved that old rascal.

Charley Clements is the founder and director of The EagleCross Alliance (www.EagleCross.net) and resides in Houston, Texas with his wife Sherlyn, 3 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, 2 pet squirrels, a parrot named Noah, 2 parakeets and, at last count, 10 cats.

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