We welcomed our first-year college student back for the holidays last week. It was Katie’s second trip home; she returned for Thanksgiving too. Her dog and cat welcomed her each time in their own distinctive ways.
Booker, our Welsh springer spaniel, is the ideal greeter. When you come home after an extended absence he gives you a hint of what it must have been like to go onstage as a Beatle. Freely translated it runs thus:
“YAY YAY YAY YAY, you’re back, lemme show you my squeaky ball! Want to throw it? I’ll go get it! No? Maybe later? How about now? No? OK! YAY YAY YAY!"
Booker accompanied us to the airport to meet Katie both times, and after a wagging frenzy in the back seat he became emotional, putting his head down on her arm and letting out a sigh equivalent to tears, like a kid seeing Mom after his first day of pre-school.
Back home his enthusiasm returned and he did all the tricks Katie had taught him during his puppy days.
His attitude on Thanksgiving and last week was the same: Welcome back, hurray, and no hard feelings.
Our cat, Ruby, who idolized Katie and slept with her back in the happy high school days, wasn’t so quick to forgive; she had her purebred Siamese pride. Her translated comments at Thanksgiving:
“You come waltzing back here after four months smelling like a dormitory and I’m supposed to throw my hat in the air like that feeble-minded spaniel. Well, I don’t think so. Not after 120 days when I didn’t know where you were. Not after 120 nights when I YOWLED MYSELF TO SLEEP."
Her plan was to forgive Katie gradually, but just as she was starting to, Katie went back to college, fouling up the whole process and leaving Ruby with no one to make up with.
I used to disparage the intelligence of cats in general and Ruby in particular, but I’ve stopped. By the time of the second reunion she had made a mental adjustment.
When Katie came home for Christmas, Ruby yowled twice to show her opinion of the most recent absence, then curled up beside her on the couch, purring. She has stayed with Katie ever since, having made a mature, flexible decision to cut her pride down a notch and take the best deal possible.
What struck me about these reactions was how recognizably human they all were "” our parental greeting, after all, was the same as Booker’s, minus the wagging and the squeaky ball. It’s a reminder of how closely related we all are to our pets, which is why, no matter how bad things get, we should never eat them.
Happy holidays from all of us here at the Kiraly home, except Ruby, who only cares about immediate family.
SHERWOOD KIRALY is a Laguna Beach resident. He has written four novels, three of which were critically acclaimed.