An Open Letter of Apology and Explanation to Charlie, Our Dog, as to How in the Hell a Cat Came to Live Here

The Next Family

By: Tosha Woronov

Dear Charlie,

First and foremost, I think you know, my sweet puppy, that I am an insistent, indignant, Dog Person. So I, too, am baffled by this. I am in fact, greatly allergic to cats. (Which doesn’t alone explain my lifelong aversion to them; I find them mysterious, aloof, creepy.) My blood tests from last year confirmed that my skin, my lungs, my sinuses cannot handle certain pollens, mold, dust, and every type of grass on this planet, but most of all, cats (a 4 out of 5 on the allergy scale). By contrast, you are hypoallergenic, if there is such a thing. I can and do happily bury my face into your non-shedding soft coat daily.

But still there is a cat here –a kitten, to be clear. And you have to admit (can you admit?) that he’s pretty damn cute. Have you ever seen a thing so small and yet so scrappy? Even you, at 9 weeks, with your giant head and paws and bravado, hid from the vacuum cleaner, trembled in the dark. This one, the runt, owned the house by Day Three, tried to eat from your breakfast bowl at the same time you did, and squared off against you, nose-to-nose, paw-to-paw, your 48 pounds to his 1.

Does it hurt when his crazy dagger-fangs sink playfully into your ankles? It hurts mine like hell, but they’re not adorned as yours are in that year-round, wooly sweater. (I shave.) You are so patient, so tolerant with him; it breaks my heart. I hope more than anything that his youth will preseve yours (somehow you, now at 52, are older than all of us); that you will chase each other through the house while we’re gone; that you’ll become, simply, the best of friends. We have five minutes of video to cherish of you, tail-wagging, and he, paw-swiping, that confirm forever what we already knew: that you are such a good sport.

Speaking of biting, thank you, thank you, for gnawing only on Dad’s cleat, and the corners of a few books, when you were young. Thank you for licking on, and not snapping at, the new baby when he came to share your home six years ago. Thank you for actually closing your eyes and waiting patiently, growl-free, while I struggled to release from your sensitive whiskers the sticky grasp of a visiting toddler’s fingers. Can you help teach the kitten some manners? Do you have an inside track at all? Perhaps his ancient bobcat genes are too prominent. (Last night Leo ran from his room into ours, slamming the door behind him, in order to take refuge from Tanner, who bit him on the face while he slept. Fuck! I thought. I hope we didn’t make a mistake.)

The things I love about this kitten are the same things that drive me nuts about him (he would make a good husband): He likes to crawl up on the desk and stare at (and follow, and swat at) the cursor as I type. I can’t see my writing, and lord knows I need no more distractions from it, but it’s adorable nonetheless. He insists on hiding under the sheets while I make the bed, which is impossibly cute and very annoying. It’s not easy to dig a clawing kitten out from under the elastic of a bundled-up fitted sheet. He can get into and up on anything. This terrifies me, as I scan the room for all the pretty things I’ve placed just so. But the fact that he can do it, swiftly, with no sound, well…you gotta give him props for that.

We got a cat because I believe very much in the importance of pets for a family. And I was feeling the need for another soul in this house. (Two hamsters, a fish, and a frog were just not cutting it.) And he was a Christmas present for Leo, a way to say to him, this thing is yours to love. We are a One-Everything family, as mandated, rightly so, by your dad. One child, one dog, (and, presumably, one wife). So another puppy was out of the question, and even I would have felt guilty, sharing my love with another of your kind. But today I worry the opposite: are you thinking, A cat? How could you do this to me?!

Charlie, nothing will ever come between you and our love for you. His nose alone could never compete –that tiny, brick-colored triangle –against your giant black donut of perfection. (He does have the sweetest chin though, all white and feathery. I suspect his chin will get a lot of attention.) You were the first love I found after meeting your dad. Everyone (and I mean everyone) adores you.

Please forgive us and keep up the good-sportsmanship, for you are undyingly loyal to your family, of which this cat is now (for better or worse) a part.

The Mama

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