Emily Dickinson had her precious solitude.
I’m no artistic legend, but I have the best muse of all…Webster.
So you can well imagine my surprise - nay, horror - when certain people who shall not be mentioned (but whose names may or may not rhyme with Ronathan, Fanielle, Zeter and Tharon) started talking some funky jive about a certain muse-y brown tabby.
He bites, they’d say.
He’s not nice when you’re not around.
Actually, he’s not always very nice even when you ARE around.
Lies! A thousand lies! Fie on goodness!
But he ran up and bit Jonathan on the calf.
Well, surely Jonathan must have done something to provoke that.
Um…walking into the room?
Sure. Webster would never, ever do something like that without a good reason.
But he races up to Zeter every day just to mess with him.
Oh really? Then Zeter must be asking for a good messing-with.
By petting him??
How about the fact that he latched onto an elderly volunteer’s hand with his teeth and wouldn’t let go?
I don’t know. I didn’t do it. But Webster surely had his reasons.
For a long time, I had the perfect response to all this slander: I’d never seen Webster act like anything other than The Sweetest Hug-a-Bug Ever Born. These supposed “incidents” all happened on weekends, or when I was out of town. Innocent until proven guilty, I say, and I saw no proof.
I mean, sure, volunteer J.M. seemed uncharacteristically cautious around Webster. And there was something funny about the way Webster jumped off my desk and started circling J.M. - his longtime friend - with leery glass-green eyes. “Eeeeeeeeasy, Web,” J.M. cooed with not a small amount of anxiety. “I’m not going to hurt your mama…”
But it had to be hallucination/temporary insanity (other people’s or mine, it doesn’t matter). When I heard the accusations, I’d gasp and remind misguided individuals that they must have the wrong cat. (Sometimes I’d also just plug my ears and go “nanananananananana.” This is an effective measure, by the way.)
Webster isn’t a biting cat; Webster is a hugging cat - maybe even the hugging cat. Pick him up, and he will wrap his front legs around you, hugging you so tight it’s like he can’t get close enough to love.
But then came the fateful Thursday when I became a witness.
You couldn’t imagine a much sweeter or more wonderful volunteer than M.B. She’s been with us since the dawn of time Tabby’s Place, and she is that miraculous combination of a gentle soul, a crackling wit, and an unsung job as The Hardest Working Woman in New Jersey. There’s nothing M.B. wouldn’t do for a cat.
It was an ordinary Thursday, a day well populated by cuddles and kisses and tender beef feast for Webster, and our brown tabby had nothing to complain about. M.B. came by to pet Webby in his little bed. A seasoned cat-whisperer, she knew it was best to let him sniff her fingers before just reaching out to touch, and so she extended a friendly, nonthreatening hand. Snifsnif…CHOMP.
Webster…yeah, he bit M.B. Actually made her bleed. Kind of a lot.
Kind of unprovoked…but, no. No. I have to believe he had his reasons.
This is Webster we’re talking about. There’s not a mean stripe on him. I’m about as mystified as to why he’d want to bite M.B. as I am about the popularity of The Real Housewives of Everywhere…but I’m convinced he meant no harm.
So let’s consider this a case closed, OK? Webster is innocent until proven guilty. No, that’s not it - he’s innocent even after being (repeatedly) proven guilty.
He’s just innocent. Period.
And, for what it’s worth, I’m sticking to that verdict even if he decides, one of these days, to bite - heck, even to bite off - the very hands that are inspired by him.