Dog people need read no further. This is about cats, the companion animals which don't need or give constant emotional reassurance - perfect pets for a self-involved writer.
There are too many feral cats on the island and June is a kitten month. A big-hearted farmer friend is distressed by the kittens being abandoned on his road. "I love cats but I can't trap and feed dozens of them," he said. "Still . . . the little buggahs sit in the road at night, not knowing where to go or what to do."
Get your cats neutered. Dogs, too. End of sermon.
The flock of felines around the house began as a colony of kittens. Sharing - that's her legit name - began the colony at a spot below the house. Somehow, the feeding station ended up in the front yard. After years of trapping, neutering and feeding wild and abandoned domestic cats, Sharing had to cut back on her efforts and I became "that old guy who rides motorcycles and has all the cats." Sharing still tends the colony a couple times a week. She's a good jackleg vet when it comes to infections and the like.
Cyrano, a one-time member of a Maui Community College colony, is master of the house. Although all the other cats have watched him go through his personal door to the kitchen, it takes a wide-open people door before they'll tentatively venture inside. Usually just once or twice. Named for a heart-shaped spot on his nose, Cyrano is a sweet, quiet buddy who requires only food and a warm lap. He's psychic, able to tell at a glance when he has to park himself off to the side. It's hard to type or read with a 10-pound hunk of orange and white fur in the way. Ignore him and he moves away but likes to stay within petting range.
Two of the outdoor cats would like to be in the house but Cyrano will have none of it. Personality clashes and territorial imperatives can be ignored outside, but not inside. The alfresco clan currently includes Tubster, Malone, Zipper, Baby Black, Patches and Fat Face Charlie.
Tubster is the patriarch, a gray tabby who is well up in years. He's not as spry or as fat as he once was and is given to yowling periodically for no apparent reason. He has taken to sleeping in the garage where a work-light provides a little heat for his old bones.
Cyrano and Tubster have had their innings. One day they got into a rolled-in-a-ball, screaming fight. I broke it up. Cyrano took off. Tubster hung on and was dragged 30 or 40 feet. Later examinations showed no damage to either animal.
Zipper is a youngish cat adopted by Tubster. He's named for the black markings down his gray back. He hates confrontation and usually goes to who-knows-where during the day and waits until the others have eaten before he attacks the big bowl of kibbles left out 24-7. At night, he's usually curled up with Tubster.
Malone is a feisty people cat. He loves being petted to the point of being almost, but not quite, doglike. Although his coat and markings are identical to Cyrano's, Malone isn't about to share space with a house cat. Malone also beefs the other cats on occasion.
Baby Black is the smallest, but she doesn't brook any nonsense. She's more than willing to take on a transgressor twice her size. She'll come around to be petted but violently objects to being picked up. One of her favorite past-times is nuzzling slipper-shod feet. Go figure.
Patches is a shy tri-colored female who has to be fed separately from the others. She lives in an abandoned furo house and has the most melodious voice. Lately, she's become a little less shy, coming out of hiding to lie in the sun some 50 feet from the house.
Fat Face Charlie is the newest and most disruptive member of the colony. When he first showed up, he was painfully thin and showed signs of surviving many a battle. Regular meals have turned him into a good-looking, gray hulk. Judging from the fact he likes being scratched, he was once a household pet. Today he's a terrorist. He'll attack for no apparent reason. The other cats give him a wide berth.
There's a lyric written, I think, by Stephen Stills. It goes "two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cause of you." Coming home in the afternoon, all the guys will be lying peacefully around the yard, waiting for supper. Life definitely is beautiful.
Want to find a warm spot on a cold day? Go where the cats are.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.