A Blind Cat and a Chunky Dog

A Blind Cat and a Chunky Dog

They taught me a few lessons about being a better person.

I spent a lovely morning with Roscoe, the slightly overweight Jack Russell Terrier, and Shadow, the blind cat. Both are stewards at Darrell’s, a local auto service center located just yards from the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad and adjacent to the Future’s Rehabilitation Center. Once I parked my car in the lot and opened my door, Roscoe, the owner’s pet, escorted me into the garage, waddling ahead with his mouth open and tongue hanging over his teeth; inside the building, he rolled onto his back, waiting for his belly rub, tongue still drooping off to the side, in exchange for his escort services. I was there for a car inspection and would spend the next hour in the waiting room accompanied by what might seem like a mismatched pair of socks.

 After the owner checked me in, I inquired about the wandering cat. Darrell said that once the workers at the garage starting feeding Shadow, he left his feral life behind and became domesticated, calling the shop home. A black male cat with emerald green eyes, he wore the scars of a warrior as seen from the three puncture wounds near his eyebrows to his half-chewed ear. Hibernating in the shop during the winter months, he chases the mice away from the stored cars so wires aren’t ruined by these pests chewing away. He keeps the place rodent-free in exchange for room and board.

I left the owner and selected a 2018 issue of Travel and Leisure magazine from the array of publications on the table and sat on the bench in the waiting nook, reading an article about the island of Bermuda. A few minutes later, Shadow jumped onto my lap and into my open bag, and like a child ripping through an Advent calendar, he sniffed for treats that might be lurking inside the many pouches and pockets.  He rummaged around for a few minutes, surely disappointed in finding nothing edible. He jumped out and onto my black sweater, all ten front claws catching on the yarn, but I didn’t mind. He was still exploring, rubbing his face against mine. I untangled him from my clothing and he proceeded to sit next to me as I read the local newspaper, staring at the pages intently as if he was studying the stock market. Shadow eventually left to navigate the outdoors, sidling up against the glass front door, face tilted upward, absorbing the sun’s midmorning warmth and light.

Meanwhile, Roscoe, waiting his turn for love and affection, trotted over, bypassing the cat, and sat by my feet. After I had scratched under his chin a hundred times, his six-foot tall owner walked over to show me how Roscoe could run and jump four feet high onto his thigh—quite a leap for a small dog. After three more intervals of running and leaping, Roscoe, tired out, left looking for his water dish.

With nothing more to read, I gazed out the windows, filmy from the mechanic’s cigarette smoke, and noticed that customers, tender-hearted folks, watched out for Shadow to ensure that he was not under someone’s tire as the cars pulled away or in the path of the road as drivers entered the facility. Roscoe too was there as his shepherd, keeping him safe from distracted drivers, barking orders to move out of harm’s way.

Before long my car was inspected and it was time to say farewell to my friends. But they were busy, off greeting new customers. I learned a lesson that morning from a scrawny feline and a chubby canine. Greet everyone with a sloppy smile and a woof to welcome them. Keep people company as they wait. Snuggle when appropriate. Be nice to strangers. And most importantly, accept whatever physical deficiencies you might have by strengthening another skill. Shadow, though blind, doesn’t let that stop him from meandering through the car parts and office and back outside into the weeds to hunt for dinner. His whiskers are his seeing eye dog, enabling him to seek new visitors, warm bodies to pounce on, open purses to explore, welcoming faces to rub against, and crossed legs to curl next to, never hissing or spitting, but purring in contentment at having food and shelter and companions.

Be kind, said the dog.

Keep going, said the cat.


Lessons we can learn from animals.

About the Artist

Ann Hultberg,  McKean County
Published:  January 28, 2021