Dusty came into my life as a kitten when I was seven years old, and despite my occasional lapses of trying to saddle her with tack from my toy horse, Thunderhead, we were actually great pals. Especially since I would sit through thunderstorms when she hid behind the couch and try to calm to her. I’m afraid singing was involved, but unlike Rosalind, she didn’t think my singing suggested I was in pain.
Dusty gets credit for inspiring what may actually have been my first venture into literature: writing her biography, illustrated with pictures from a Purina Cat Chow book on cats. It was mercifully short. However, I did learn that Dusty was a silver or grey tabby from my research.
Inspiring the wise aleck attitude of her literary incarnation in Bait and Switch, the real Dusty was quite the character. Not only a top-flight mouser (which will come into greater play in the third Jessica Minton novel), Dusty also taught the neighbor’s dog an important lesson in inter-yard relations. As my mother related the story, Spot (there’s an original name) had a bad habit of chasing Dusty, until one day her nibs stopped short, turned around, and, as if to embody that she’d had it with being a victim, unleashed her very sharp claws right across her pursuer’s nose. He never bothered her again –– even though she would occasionally sit on her side of the fence between our yards and do the cat version of “Nyah-yah!”
She also was undeniably the boss of us. If my brother or I spent too much time late at night sitting, talking in a car with our friends outside the house, Dusty would circle the vehicle growling, until we got out. Then she would march us to the back door and into the house, before she galloped off to handle the rest of her catlly night duties. Humans are so hard to take care of!
Also like her name sake in Bait and Switch, Dusty was quite the gourmand. She also delighted in Polish ham, liverwurst, or fresh turkey and chicken. Dusty additionally had some more unusual tastes for a feline: peach ice cream; potato chips; and, as you see here, corn still on the cob. Note that her place setting has four bowls: water, milk, and two types of cat food!
And woe to you if you didn’t feed her fast enough. My sister-in-law Pam got a sound smack on the hand once for not moving that chicken with sufficient alacrity.
Dusty may have had a secret scandalous life. She did give birth to three kittens (Tiger Butterball, Jr; Mitzi Gaynor; and Midnight –– I didn’t name them!). We also suspected she might have had a drinking problem.
All in all, Dusty was a dear and sympathetic pal, going for walks with me in the yard, nuzzling me when I was down, playing with me when I needed some exercise. She lived all the way up to sixteen, one day waiting for my mother to come home before taking her leave and making a final journey to the great beyond. I have many more stories about her to tell, so mayhap we can have some more Dusty blogs. I would love it if anyone else who remembers Dusty would share. I just hope my novels are a fitting tribute to a truly cool cat!