in which we celebrate Shirley



Back in Maryland, she was a little awkward and unsure of herself. Speaking in broken grunts and spending most of her time head-butting corners of things, a debutante young Shirley was not. One year in Seattle has seen her grow into a Young Lady…

Graceful yet tastefully demure, she never makes a scene but asserts herself with a quiet, confident presence. Whereas Otis is content to spread himself into vulgar contortions achieving maximum exposure to whet his insatiable appetite for affection, Shirley will sit compactly at the foot of my bed, arms folded in, and sleep next to me while still offering a respectable personal distance. Upon my waking the next morning, she quickly establishes direct eye contact and stands at attention, but offers no whining nor passive aggressive suggestions of her hunger. Her assertions are subtle and respectful, yet at the same time persuasive.

When I read a book or use my laptop, Otis will pace back and forth at my feet while whining, or roll around on the floor and launch a unilateral preemptive attack on my pacifist shoes. Shirley, on the other hand, has taken the academic high road and jumps up on the seatback, peering down, softly purring. Not once has she asked me to pause before turning a page. Oh, young Otis, the pursuit of knowledge satisfies far deeper than your quixotic footwear battles.

Now that we’ve entered the four months of meterological bliss that makes living in western Washington worthwhile, both cats are expressing their desire to go outside. Otis does so by completely destroying both the carpet and door jamb, yeowling wildly, and defecating in places he shouldn’t. Though I will give him credit – lately he’s also been getting up on his hind legs and trying like hell to turn the doorknob with his forepaws. Shirley, on the other hand, will sit patiently every time I open the door, and even wait for me to walk outside, turn around, and request her company out of doors.

When outside, Otis runs around like a horomonally (or chromosomally) imbalanced whirlwind. Chewing grass, climbing trees and screaming for help when he can’t back down, and his new favorite thing is to run into other peoples’ houses. Shirley, on the other hand, finds the brightest, warmest patch of sun she can, and merely basks…

Also, she’s learned to fly.

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