You all know me as KJ, the lover of pugs. AKA, kjpugs. We got our first pug Oliver when I was a senior in high school (from my dad’s coworker who bred his pugs) and I never turned back.
Yes, a few gratuitous pictures of my first puggy love, Oliver. We only got just over four years with him and I miss him so much. He deserved to grow old with me.
But there is a side of KJ that you don’t know. A nerdy, cat-loving side. A side that actually went to cat shows in the Meadowlands. A side that knows a Manx from a Maine Coon from an Abyssinian. That’s right… I was (and still sort of am) an Aristophile.
Also, I quite possibly made that word up. I swear to you, in one of my nerdy cat books, it said that a lover of cats was known as an ‘Aristophile.’ Just like a lover of children is known as…. well, nevermind. But in google-searching I cannot find any proof of this being a real word. In any case, I’m using it, whether or not it’s true. Since when I was eight I used to tell people “Hello, I’m Kelly, and I’m an Aristophile.” So let’s not let eight year old KJ down, k?
When I was in first grade, my mom let us get a cat. Which was HUGE since my mom generally hates animals. I had named her Frau Blücher after a character in Young Frankenstein (my Dad cultured us early in everything Mel Brooks) and I decorated the cat’s “corner” in our dining room with pictures of little Frau wearing a pink bow in her hair, riding a bike, etc. I even remember the orange and pink shirt I was wearing that day as I ran home from the bus stop to see her.
Turns out, “Frau” was a boy. And my Mom named him Freckles. “And we can’t change it because I already told people.” Thanks Mom. (And thanks from FRECKLES too. I’m sure he enjoyed fifteen years of the least manly name ever.)
(My only digital photo of Freckles, from circa 2004 or 2005 when he was in his teens already, sitting on Bruce, my Corolla.)
Freckles and I had a bunch of great memories together. Like when I was trying to watch TV and would spray him with a water bottle for playing with my hair. Or when I’d force him in a cradle and pretend he was a baby. Or when I might’ve ran his tail over once or twice with my bike. Or how about that time when I asked the vet how they KNEW he was a boy (I was in denial) and he told me, “See? The pattern on his forehead makes an M!” I won’t tell you how long I believed that one.
Or the time when I was in Middle School that he almost died from a fight with an animal outside, and I found him in my sister’s closet crying with a chunk out of him. And I cried in the vet’s office until I found out they fixed him, and then diligently cleaned his drain (yes, he got a drain for his absess) and fed him medicine. I loved that cat. We were so close… he would never bite a soul, after years of putting up with me, he’d just lightly touch you with his teeth as if to say, “I could be biting you. Please stop.” He was the most precious baby.
At some point while I was still in elementary school, we got a second cat, Panther. My sister Min got to pick him out. She was ENORMOUSLY FAT as a child so she picked out the fattest cat of the litter “because he’ll get skinny, like me!” Nope. Panther did NOT get skinny. Panther weighed 40 pounds at his heaviest. Panther and I weren’t as tight as Freckles and I were, but we had some funny memories.
(And no, I don’t have any digital pictures of Panther, unfortunately.)
(But I do have this fantastic photo of the nametag I made for Sorority rush. It was supposed to be memorable and “about you,” so when they asked what it meant you could tell them. “I have a 40 pound cat” worked pretty well.)
Panther was so fat that he once broke our cat carrier in the middle of the vet’s office. Just fell out while my mom was in line. He probably had some sort of thyroid problem, since no diet ever made him lose weight, and he was too lazy to groom himself. We had to shave the parts of him he couldn’t reach to groom when he got super fat. Once, I woke up thinking I was dying, and realized Panther was just sitting on my chest. It literally took all my strength to get him off me.
The cats got really fed up when we got Oliver, and pretty much lived in the basement, where Oli wasn’t allowed. Right after getting Oliver I went off to college. The beginning of my freshman year, my dad passed away. So at that point, I knew we’d never have another cat again. (Remember, my mom + animals = notsomuch.) The beginning of my Junior year, I got a phone call. Classes hadn’t even started yet, and I’d only been down in North Carolina for about a week. Freckles had been sick- he was more than 15 years old- and he had been put him to sleep. I hadn’t been that upset since losing my dad. A year later (almost to the day) the same thing happened with Panther. Almost exactly a year after that, our pug Oliver lost his short battle with liver failure after being poisoned by the xylitol in some sugar-free gum that he found.
Months later, Big Daddy and I got our puggy girls. And then our puggy boy a year after that. But I still SORT OF have cats. Sort of.
My crazy neighbor does feral cat rescue. She has a cat pen, and feeds lots of ferals outside her house as well. Most of them are just mean cats that hide in our yard and then try to fight the pugs when they accidentally almost pee on them. (Which makes me nervous, because the cats all have claws, and let’s be honest, pugs lead with their eyeballs.)
But then there’s Helen.
I ADORE Helen.
I had a little photoshoot with her last weekend (she was laying on top of crazy neighbor’s 12 x 12 cat pen. I’m not kidding, it’s that big.)
Helen likes to hang out on our porch or sleep in the plants next to our steps. She loves being pet and ignores the pugs. (Wish I could say they do the same.) She is sweet and loving and absolutely brightens my days when I see her sitting outside our door.
So I kind of still have a cat. And kind of don’t. But I miss them!