In Hot Pursuit of What Matters to Us
Dante was a cat made for the jungle who was stuck in the suburbs.
I sometimes wondered if he was disgusted by our radiators and the water dish we put out for him, our lined boots in the winter and fans in the summer.
The cat was built like a linebacker: muscly legs, broad shoulders, tough face, body bigger than a breadbox. His fur was the tan of milky coffee and- let’s stop right there. Dante wouldn’t take to us dwelling on his looks.
My first sense of Dante’s wildness was when he showed up at our backdoor with a mauled ear. I suspect he sauntered to the park across the street to find raccoons and skunks to play with, the neighborhood cats being too docile, obedient, lap-loving to be meaningful to him. Plus, that cat was never a joiner.
I don’t remember him chasing yarn or caring about the balls, bells, fake mice he was supposed to be interested in. I do remember him lying in the driveway beside the basketball hoop like a lion in the savannah sun, owning the earth he lay on.
There was the idea of domestic cats, and then there was Dante. He had real spine. His days were spent in hot pursuit of what mattered to him, while the neighborhood cats watched from their pillows on their porches.
Dante had been made for a landscape wider, wilder than the one he found himself in. But he didn’t tame or bend to his surroundings. He stood tall and defiant, and in so doing, made his surroundings rise to him.
So if there is any way to describe Dante, it would be to say that his was an admirable life, a wonderfully wild creature among smaller, tamed ones. And a bigger-than-a-breadbox sized reminder that there is more to living than shrinking to our surroundings.
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