Times were tough. I was barely able to make the mortgage. Four years before I had been fired for refusing a direct order to lie to our customer, the government. The sudden loss of income really hurt. But I already had substantial experience free-lance consulting so somehow I survived. My income was now much less but at least I had retained my self-respect, my honor and my dignity. Those days I was working a sixty hour week, filling the occasional contract, developing new clients and increasing my technical skills.
My dear Sarah had an idea. She had been keenly observing my struggles and concluded that I needed refreshment. Without telling me, she had been doing some homework. And she found the perfect answer. One day she announced that tomorrow we would be driving up the coast to bring home a kitten. Not just any old rag-tag kitten would do. She had in mind that the perfect companion for me was a Bengal Cat.
Sunny, Sarah’s orange tabby cat, a gift of our marriage, had grown feeble with age. One day, while I was working with a client, I came home and Sunny was gone. Sarah had saved me the grief of that last trip to the vet. In the years since then I had really missed that small bundle of cantankerous joy and her practical jokes.
In those long-ago days there was a thing called a newspaper. In its back pages were classified ads placed by the common folk. Sarah found one from a cattery an hour’s drive away. Due to complaints from his neighbors he was going out of business and was hoping to find good homes for his latest batch of kittens. Not any kittens, though; these were Bengal cats. What a find! Just what she had been searching for. Sarah leaped on the opportunity and the next day we drove north.
Bengal cats are a newly developed hybrid between the wild Asian Leopard Cat and domestic American Shorthair. It takes five generations of cross breeding before they are recognized as domesticated. Bengals are big, smart, athletic, affectionate and downright beautiful. For a long time the cat establishment refused to recognize the breed – they were just too darned attractive! This new breed was threatening to become too popular. The day of our excursion Bengals had still not been officially recognized. We were on our way to acquire an outcast.
The cattery was located in a typical California middle class neighborhood – and that was the breeder’s problem, and our opportunity. The owner welcomed us into the house and escorted us to the backyard. There, in a large cage, was an enormous cat. Male Bengals can occasionally get to be the size of a small bobcat. This fellow certainly was bobcat size.
The cat was sitting on a ledge in the back of the cage. I walked up close to get a good look at him. He jumped down and propped himself up next to my nose, opened his mouth, and let out an enormous deep throated roar! Involuntarily I jumped back a couple of steps. The cat’s owner laughed. “He likes you. He really likes you.” Still recovering from the shock, I didn’t understand. “He only greets people that way if he very much likes what he sees.” I wasn’t convinced then but now, with more experience, maybe I have figured it out. This breed is very vocal. They talk incessantly, and are very loud when they are happy. But when they get really angry watch out, they can be truly scary! He certainly scared me with his too enthusiastic greeting. In this case, though, it seems that Big Dad was happy to see me.
But that unexpected greeting also explained the problem the breeder was having and why he was going out of business. This was not a creature to be kept caged. The breeder knew this and let him roam under the condition that he stayed out only for specified brief periods. The cat knew the rules and obeyed. Bengal cats are eminently trainable. Small European circuses often prefer Bengals to dogs as trained animals. That trainability is something we later very much valued.
Please do visit again to see what happened next with Big Dad.
© 2022 Chester L. Richards. All rights reserved.
From Chester L. Richards
Hello, and happy to see you here! A little about what's behind these stories: Having retired from the world of aerospace engineering, I now spend time reading, inventing, listening to music, taking photographs and sharing them with friends. And writing stories. Often about people I've met as I've traveled to exotic places, learned about music, surfing, white water rafting, optics, photography. Every story is true. I hope you enjoy them.