What makes birthdays special?

Tomorrow is our birthday! We were born June 11, 2010, so we’ll be 3 years old.

It seems like only yesterday that we were still living on the farm. We wrote about our Mama Sophie and our aunts and cousins a while back. We don’t think we’ll be hearing from them — we never do — but that’s OK. Our family is here now, in the forever home we came to when we were 12 weeks old.

Two Siamese kittens pose for a photo.

Mischief (left) and Trouble at five months old.

We are expecting the day to be special. We know we’re getting presents, because Decca said so — and we saw her hiding something a few weeks ago. She went away over the weekend and came back with something, too, that we’re almost certain is for us, from our friends up north.

She also promised to stay in after she gets home from work tomorrow instead of going out again, so we’ll get lots of extra play time in. And snuggling. And back-scritching. Mischief really, really likes that

Human calls that “quality time,” we’ve heard. It’s better than any presents, you know. But we’ll take the presents, too! Trouble is hoping for a new plush mouse, since he’s pretty much knocked the stuffing out of his favorite one. Mischief wants tuna. Real tuna, not cat-food tuna. Not that there’s anything wrong with cat-food tuna. Tuna is tuna!

Do you celebrate your kitty’s special days? What’s more special — birthdays or the big adoption day? We can’t decide. Life’s been good since we came to our forever home.

Two Siamese cats

Trouble and Mischief look for their hidden birthday presents.

There’s one more thing Decca has promised to do for our big day: She’s going to make a donation to our local humane society in our names.

We’re lucky cats and we know it.

And she knows she’s lucky to have us. Humans have a phrase for that, too, that we’ve heard. Win-win. By giving each other something good, we all come out ahead.

We have a better way to describe it, though: Love-love.

If we had a cake (which we could — tuna with butter cream??) and it had candles on it to blow out, that would be our wish — that everybody would find that special furry companion and live the love-love every day.

Review: ‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw’ tells serious, thoughtful story

It’s easy to tell when a book has been written from the heart — it’s got a genuine quality that shines from every page.

Barry Jackson cover art

‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw,’
Hardcover; $24.99; 217 Pages

“Furry Paw, Third Claw,” by Barry Jackson, is just such a book. Though it is a novel, it draws heavily on Jackson’s life and the many cats that, willingly or not, he came to know and share his home with.

Told from the human point of view, the cats nonetheless dominate the narrative. Like many men, when Dean Parker meets Melissa, the love of his life, his choice was to accept her, cats and all, or face life without her. He grudgingly accepts the two cats into his home, secretly hoping he can somehow get rid of them or — a hope even more vain — change Melissa.

He uses lots of humor to tell of his secret battle with the cats to be the dominate animal in his own home, but it is the humor of hindsight. This is a serious story, involving quite a bit of loss and heartache.

The novel really is about Parker’s journey out of a lonely childhood darkened by the knowledge his mother didn’t want him to an adulthood in which he learns to be a loving family man with a deeper understanding of himself and the cosmos. Along the way, nearly a dozen cats come in and out of his life — each with lessons to impart.

These lessons aren’t easy, nor are they conveyed with a sweet purr and a cuddly demeanor. We can’t imagine many men putting up with the spraying, shedding, smelly litter boxes, yowling, clawing and generally untamed behavior that Parker endures. Melissa is a rescuer, quick to adopt street cats, feral kittens and felines with serious wounds or illnesses. At one point, Parker calculates that over the course of their marriage, he and Melissa have spent $121,000 caring for their cats. (And there would be still more to come!)

And it’s not long before four cats at a time becomes the norm in their household. Parker eventually begins to appreciate their better qualities — and love Melissa all the more for her generous heart. The real turning point for him comes, though, when their son Craig is diagnosed with autism and one cat in particular, Dash, becomes the boy’s friend, companion and pathway into the wider world.

Looking back on his life toward the end of the novel, Parker comments,

“I believe it was my destiny to live my adult life with Melissa, Craig, and the cats. Cats came into my life in the same way I found Melissa and Theo [a friend], by chance or by fate. They recognized my moods and helped me just by being there with their love that knew no limits. However, life with the kitties was not always roses: hairballs in shoes, sinks used as litter pans, a dead vole brought to my pillow, birds carted into the house to be shredded beyond recognition, and tens of thousands of dollars of vet bills. It was always easy to forgive the cats for their transgressions because they were innocent. Forgiving people was not as easy.”

The title of the novel, “Furry Paw, Middle Claw” means just what you think it might. This is a realistic book; Jackson doesn’t make any attempt in the novel to get inside his cats’ heads or sentimentalize them. He describes their behaviors, good and bad, and their effects on Dean Parker and his family. Parker’s transformation into cat lover is gradual, therefore believable, and never quite total — just like Parker’s coming to terms with his emotionally abusive childhood and the place he makes for himself in the world.

Jackson, a CPA who has served a chief operating officer of several New York City law firms (according to his officials biography), live in New Jersey with his wife and four cats. This is his first novel. While his writing in spots shows the greenness of a new author, the novel is very readable and rewarding.

“Furry Paw, Middle Claw,” published June 1, is available for Kindle and in hardback from Amazon or the publisher at www.turnthepagepublishing.com (ISBN: 978-1-938501-10-4).

We give this book four paws!