“Pakobel Canon AM Liiv-Holt of Cotuit and Middletown, Rhode Island” is the full name of our black and white tuxedo cat. We adopted Pako 7 years ago or, truth be told, Pako adopted us! We went to the Potter League (Aquidneck Island’s Animal Shelter) just to “look”. As we walked in the door, there was a big cage incarcerating a litter of “black and whites.” They were all sleeping, except for Pako who was wide-eyed awake, running around the cage like an Olympic sprinter. I walked over to the cage to check him out. Pako stopped running, reached his little black-arm-with-an-adorable-pure-white-tip paw through the bars of the cage, snagged my leg and I was instantly hooked (in love actually). I looked at Karin with eyes as wide as Pako’s that said, “I’m ready to buy this kitten’s freedom.”
Karin wasn’t so sure: “I think he might be a little bit too wild.”
Not to be dissuaded, I asked the attendant if we could take Pako out of the cage. “Of course,” she said. She reached in, picked up Pako and placed him in Karin’s arms. That wild little kitten, knowing instinctively (wicked smart!!) that he had a chance to win the Mega-Millions Cat Jackpot, instantly fell asleep in Karin’s arms. She looked at me as wide-eyed as Pako and I said, “I’ll start the paper work.”
The next stop was a Christmas-in-July for Pako at PETCO: New litter box, fresh litter, engraved collars, grooming equipment, the filet mignon of kitty dry food and a beautiful new drinking bowl. Pako did win the lottery that day and it is the gift that keeps on giving. Pako gets whatever Pako wants whenever Pako wants it. Tiina, my mother-in-law, immediately accused us of spoiling Pako, especially when Pako refused to drink out of his new bowl and would only drink out of a correctly positioned running water faucet. It was hard to refute Tiina’s criticism until one early morning, while we were visiting her, I came downstairs and found Tiina at the kitchen sink with Pako attempting to get his morning re-hydration. Tiina was lovingly asking Pako in her beautiful, Estonian-accented voice, “Pako is this the right angle?” Yep. She was hooked too!
Sometimes it does get a little much. Recently, a certain preacher’s wife has been heard singing hymns from an earlier era around the house. My personal favorite is the new lyrics she composed to the old tearjerker “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The lyrics have been re-composed to “What a friend I have in Pako.” I am not sure how Jesus would feel about this, but he’s not around at present to take exception, so as Tiina would say, “It will be what it will be.”
Of course, I am no better. Pako wakes me up every morning at exactly 4:30 AM (which is why I am writing this post at 5:30 AM) in order to get his morning drink from the our sink’s fountain, then he disappears down the basement for his morning constitutional, followed by snuggle-time between Mom and Dad in bed. Pako does not have his own bed. His bed is our bed. We are only temporarily renting space from 10 PM to 7 AM, Monday through Sunday. He makes this abundantly clear, at any given hour on any given night, when he makes us change our positions in bed if that is the spot where he wants to curl up and sleep. By the way, Pako also gets his mushy wet food promptly at 4 PM each day. If I forget, he nudges me with his incredibly artistic black, pink and white nose. If I am unmoved, he chases after my feet attempting to nip me into submission, at which point, I humbly apologize for my defective parenting skills and reward his dogged determination with an extra dose of high-quality salmon wet food.
Yep. I am totally and unashamedly hooked. I am convinced that Pako was born of the Virgin Cat Mary and has to be the second coming of the Cat Messiah. I make no apologies for my firm belief in this. In the words of the old spiritual, when it comes to faith in Pako, “I shall not be moved.” Do you know why? Because even on the worst day of my 63 years Pako makes me smile. I don’t care how bad it gets or how downcast I am. I don’t care how shaken the foundations of our world, when I come home Pako is waiting in the hall with his wide eyes staring me down. I reach down and pick him up and, just like that day with my wife at the Potter League, he snuggles in next to me and sometimes he even seems to give me a cat kiss. My frown instantly sets and a smile dawns. How good is that?
People ask me not infrequently why (or how can) I believe in God. I usually attempt to answer their question intelligently by elucidating on St. Thomas’ Aquinas’ “Five Ways” or some other erudite argument for the existence of God. After all, I did go to seminary for three years. But laugh at me if you wish, in my heart-of-hearts the simple truth that “Pako loves me this I know” coupled with his never-failing and miraculous ability to bring a smile to my face even on the worst of days is all the proof I need of a Divine Presence that is alive and well in my life and in our world. Pako lives! God exists! So be it! Amen!