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Were it not for a cat, I may have been a doctor in the States

Were it not for a cat, I may have been a doctor in the States

Years ago, I had a bit less than half a chance at going to the United States to further my education. The varsity placed an announcement in the papers with a list of candidates, presumably those who didn’t bother to join the alumni or leave an address to which outstanding invoices could be forwarded.

My name was on the list of candidates. I heard about it in my pub. I made the motions of following it up, but not with any great conviction. I had commitments. I had a pet that I couldn’t leave behind.

I grew up with animals around me, and here I am not just referring to the people with whom I shared classes. There were cats, dogs, tortoises and even some short-lived goldfish. They file through my memory like a roll call of old friends, each with their special attachments.

I can’t remember all their names, nor can I be bothered to sit down and make an overly sentimental list over which to get maudlin, but I remember the sight of them.

Everyone who knows me or meets me realises instantly that I have pets. I carry their hair with me wherever I go. Thanks to the profusion of stand-out cat hairs on whatever shade of black I have decided is fashionably cool this week, I immediately know who is allergic to cats. Bless you, my sympathies and tough luck! Have you tried anti-histamines?

Being fond of animals, I have always stood up for them. I believe that people who kick animals should be kicked in their turn, preferably with steel-capped boots.

I also take issue with those who say that animals don’t have souls. To my mind a soul is the seat of feelings and our ability to express them. As far as I understand those who deny the animal soul, animals don’t have feelings or, what we mistake for displays of animal emotions, are nothing more than deceptive flukes.

If this were the case there would be two possible replies.

The first would be that if animals don’t have souls because they don’t have feelings and emotions, then we need to question the validity of what we, the human race, knows as feelings and emotions. The feelings and emotions that humans display are very often the same as those that animals display.

Witness in this case the phenomenon of my Alsatian called ‘Dog’, a genuine example of genial but overbred stupidity and the perfect, generic ‘hound’. He hasn’t figured out the concepts of tiles or the glass in the front door. When I let him in through the back door, he skids towards the front door and bumps his nose on the glass. I know embarrassment and puzzlement when I see it. If animals don’t have emotions, then how do you explain away a dog trying not to blush?

The idea that what animals display is nothing more than a deceptive fluke is also invalided by the example of ‘Dog’. A fluke is a one-off phenomenon. ‘Dog’ routinely connects with the glass in the front door and the embarrassment is always the same.

To those who still doubt, you are welcome to your beliefs. I am sure there is a special Heaven for you with a sign at its pearly gates saying ‘No Pets Allowed’ and no cat or dog hairs on angelic robes.

I often think back to the advertisement and the future that I dismissed. If I had single-mindedly pursued the opportunity, and in the unlikely event of winning the scholarship and abandoning my cat to the whims of fate, my life would have been different.

I would not have met my wife or had the daughter whom I love so much. I would probably have met someone else and had a different child, but I can’t imagine being as happy with any other family. Perhaps the cat was divine providence.

Most religions preach that the demonstration of love and caring is a virtue. I believe that the aspects of being loving and caring are absolute and that the soul is indivisible. You may have show the virtue of being kind to another human being, but being unfeeling to a pet or an act of unkindness will, on the other hand, leave its mark upon your soul.

It’s strange, but I believe our connection to animals makes us all the more human.


About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the Namibia Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.

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