Reilly’s best friend when he was a puppy was a cat named Mouse. We brought Mouse into our family long before Reilly.
In fact, Mouse was about ten-years-old when Reilly joined us. She had survived the death of our first dog and a move from one house to another. In many ways she was the little furry witness that took in a number of transitions in our lives. She had a front row seat for my mid-life crisis (I opted for a puppy instead of girlfriend and a sports car), my wife’s ascent from teacher to department head to administrator, and both our sons’ journey through a few teenage years peppered with the odd bit of hijinx and tomfoolery.
When Reilly first came home, Mouse was less than impressed. After all, she was an old cat and here we were throwing a new creature into her domain. For his part, Reilly had no respect for old age. Always demonstrating a poor understanding of personal boundaries, Reilly would follow the cat around even though Mouse despised the attention. He would also try to play with her which she also didn’t like. The odd time she would swat the little puppy either across the nose when he got too close or on the bum as he was walking past her. Eventually, the dog and the cat came to an unspoken agreement that could only be described as detente or peaceful co-existence.
By the time Reilly turned one, he and the cat had been ignoring one another for long enough to realize that they actually didn’t mind each other’s company. And then a nightly ritual emerged that confirmed the fact that a bond had been made.
Each night, my wife and I would make our way upstairs and get ready for bed. The minute we’d turn the lights out the rumble would begin. I’m not sure if Mouse would jump up on Reilly’s perch (a love seat in our master bedroom that essentially belongs to the dog) or if Reilly would just lunge at the cat when she walked into our room. Who started the ruckus was irrelevant because, no matter who was responsible, the next five or ten minutes would see the cat and the dog chasing each other from one bedroom to the next. The dog would engage in a frantic but joyful run while the cat – named Mouse after all – would effortlessly engage and retreat to keep Reilly from getting too comfortable. That’s right, she was playing a game of cat and mouse with the dog.
Seriously, this went on every night – and Sharon and I loved it!
Over the first three years of Reilly’s life, the two grew closer and closer. When Reilly and I would go for our walks, Mouse would walk us to the end of the street and wait for us to come back under a large evergreen tree on a neighbour’s lawn. Upon our return, and once Reilly was safely across the street and heading up our cul de sac, Mouse would run at him and swat his butt with her paws. And Reilly would trott on as if nothing was happening. Love taps I guess. For my part, I had a front row seat for these two best friends prancing up our driveway to our front door.
We lost Mouse a couple of summers ago. Old age and a full life had caught up with her. A very active cat, Mouse was almost constantly perched atop the fence, getting ready to either attack a bird in a tree or a mouse on the ground. Yep, lots of treats were left at our back door. After she died, Reilly started to spend more time in our backyard, scanning the fence line, often running to each corner of the yard. To this day, I am convinced he is looking for Mouse.
I miss Mouse and think of her just about every day. I miss her graceful walk, her persistent meowing, and her selective attention. But most of all I miss the bond she built, first with us and later with Reilly.