Tabby’s Place has yet to welcome a cat from Ireland.
Lebanon? Legions. Oman, oh yes. Okinawa, you got it. Turkey? Only the perkiest.
But not even our Dublin Dudes were actual emissaries from the Emerald Isle.
So on St. Patrick’s Day 2023, we must find ourselves an honorary Irishman, the Grand Marshal of all festivities green and jigging.
We must, and we shall. And his name shall be Shaggy O’Rosenberg.
You see it, right?
There could be no other choice.
Shaggy, seven pounds of undiluted delight, is the Shamrock Shake of Tabby’s Place. He vibrates at a speed exceeding most leprechauns; he tells tales with an entire sky of twinkles in his eyes; he knows how to find luck and make luck and turn hard-luck history into clover and bliss-stories.
He knows that nothing at all has anything at all to do with luck.
Shaggy was shaken straight out of his rainbow last year. When his owner could no longer keep him — and his kinsfolk Velma and Juel — all the colors came crashing down, arcs of sorrow splashing in the sea. It would be enough to convince a lesser creature that love is little more than fool’s gold.
But Shaggy is greater than grief. Shaggy shakes his shillelagh at the very idea of being stuck. Shaggy says that the stories we can’t avoid are the very stories we can tell around a future fire.
Shaggy believes, as all Irish-at-heart do, that there’s always a future fire.
And so Shaggy, with the courage of the entire FDNY and NYPD combined, slid down the pole of the past into the four-alarm circus known as Tabby’s Place.
He told the sad stories — Irish-at-heart are always brave enough to bear the truth.
He told the hilarious stories, becoming one with hilarity (“I shall jump through the glass into the Lobby!” “I shall duel with gravity!” “I shall duel with Juel!” “I shall command corned beef to manifest through the door by the sheer force of my ridiculousness!” “I shall behave at all times as though I am as tall and strong and glorious as my fellow Irishman Shaquille O’Neal! Which, of course, I am!”).
He put all his hopes and all his optimism and all his love on parade, come what may.
Where others saw stale steel-cut oats — old age and abandonment and skin allergies and a riotous rap sheet in the behavior logs — Shaggy saw marshmallows.
Where others saw humans, wrinkly curmudgeons with issues and egos and infuriatingly inadequate bowls of beef stew, Shaggy saw lovables, valuables, pots of gold with pot bellies and pure hearts (in there somewhere) and the potential to provide pot roasts, plural. He WOULD love us until we were covered in his spit and his shag and his sloppy, salving sweetness.
Where others saw toys, ordinary scraps of fabric with the occasional shrill bell or crunkly crinkle inside, Shaggy saw wee bairns, lads and lassies in need of being launched throughout Suite B like children tossed higher and higher by their most mischievous uncle when Ma and Pa are not watching. He WOULD love them until their stitches were loose and their rainbow colors were drool-faded and their threads were bare.
Where others saw danger, Fireman Policeman Shaggy O’Rosenberg saw the opportunity to love hard and loud and lastingly.
Where others would hang their harps and hand in their resignations, Shaggy invented new forms of jubilation.
And jubilation, like any parade worth its confetti, makes a mess.
Shaken from the rainbow as he was, Shaggy gets “mess.” He arrived on our shores a little splintered, a little scattered, a lot, well, shaggy…but in the annals of the Irish and all the brave, this meant precisely one thing: he had, in fact, been loved on this particular planet.
Whatever bagpipe dirges had darkened his days, there had clearly been great light and priceless gold. Someone had shown him kindness. Someone had gilded him in the good stuff. Someone had planted lasting lyrics and limericks in his little heart, and it had all made him larger than life.
Love had shaped and shaken him. Nothing else could explain a heart so brave, a firelight so kind, a step-dance so…Shaggy.
Love on this earth is a raggedy thing, a pretty clover with nibble marks in the leaves. We can’t love perfectly, so sometimes we try not to try. We can’t be loved without getting dusty and shaken and shaggy, so sometimes we grab our shillelaghs and walk alone.
But you can’t parade alone.
You certainly can’t jig alone.
And once you share a continent with Shaggy, you can’t hold onto the illusion that you are alone.
So you’d better get comfortable with being shaggy.
Being loved may mean being misunderstood, brokenhearted, confused and kerplunked. Being loved may mean being rearranged, feeling strange, learning that you are a diamond and an emerald and far more important than you necessarily want to be. Being loved may mean being startled, having your sharp corners sanded off, losing your loneliness and finding your freedom. Being loved may mean being drooled and furred and puked upon. Being loved will mean being put-upon, put-out, put on the spot, put out of joint, put in position to feel fully alive.
Being loved well will make you shaggy.
Loving well will keep you as green as new grass, even when you are old and ragged.
And leaning into the green even when all you see is grey…well, that will make you shaggy, and starry-eyed, and inscrutable to anyone without a sturdy song of their own.
Which is precisely why those are precisely the persons you need to love with all the Irish in your heart.
Someday — mark my words, kittens — Shaggy will be sprung from our humble pub. The Person will come, and Shaggy’s Irish eyes will smile, and all the faith he’s flung into the bank will yield a dividend called Forever.
And when he does, our tears of joy will dye the Delaware green.
Until then, let’s love ourselves ragged and love each other shaggy.
When the storms rage and the sadness shrieks and luck itself runs out, love will rebuild the rainbow.
Every single time.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my hearties.