Velvet Love is a pimp’s name.

One day, we brought home a young stray male cat from the SPCA. Looking back now, I bet Mum and Kim had wanted a pet. I don’t recall thinking about it much. Mum had always loved animals though.

We didn’t know how old he was – maybe a year. He was slim and small, with big green eyes, and a mix of grey, brown and black tabby stripes, a white neck, and white gloves and boots on his paws, and tufts of fine brown-grey fur flowing off the sides of his cheeks. In cat terms, he was kind of a mutt, but a handsome and sweet little fellow, who must have had some long-hair breeds in his pedigree. His fur was very soft and fine, and as we drove home from the SPCA I tried to stroke his back while he careened around inside our little car, seemingly interested in everything at once.

Kim immediately wanted to name the new cat Star. I said that Star was about the stupidest name ever for a boy cat.  She said that her friend had gotten a Hamster and had named it Star, and I’m sure I smirked or rolled my eyes.

After a brief family debate, Mum decided to name the new cat Velvet, after the Elizabeth Taylor movie “National Velvet”. Compared to Velvet, suddenly Star didn’t sound so bad, but it was too late for me to argue – the women in our family had won. (I must admit, that little cat did have very soft fur… kinda velvety.) Velvet Love sounds like the name of a pimp from a cop show, but Velvet was what we called him from then on.

As it turns out, he was pretty popular with the lady cats – definitely more of a lover than a fighter. Over the years, I’m sure he was responsible for many feline pregnancies. I once found a little white cat calling for him outside our place. She was crouched in the bushes below our living room window, and looked very pregnant. I found out that her name was Ghost. I still feel bad for her, abandoned and pining for her absentee lover. As you’d expect of a tom cat, Velvet was a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy. Jesus, we really should have gotten him  snipped.

Velvet Love was with us for another seven years, when one of his prospective girlfriends must have rejected one of his advances, and almost took out his right eye. Weeks later, against our protests, Dad declared that a one-eyed cat couldn’t survive well out of doors, and so Velvet would have to be put down. In truth, Velvet wasn’t doing very well by then, with his eyelids swollen and protruding out of his eye socket. He just laid around in the basement, seeming listless and tired all the time. I think his eye had become infected. In that regard, as a family, we didn’t take proper care of poor Velvet. Our family could have been so much more responsible about his care. Ever since then, Kim and I have done much better by every pet we’ve had.

Velvet had always been a big part of our family. He hunted mice and spiders in our kitchen, smiled and lay on the living room carpet with his paws in the air (a sign of complete happiness and security) and bitched at the front door for Dad to let him in each morning (to which Dad would reply “Good morning your Highness”). Except for the questionable decision to end his little life, he was well-loved and well-treated, like the Star that he might have been.

Not every pet was that lucky.

One evening, a kid that me and Kim knew told us about there was this old dog that we should go see. We followed the kid to a trailer where an old dog was tied up on a short length of thin rope.

Kim and I had always loved animals, and so naturally we both went right up to it. The poor old dog trembled whenever we petted it. I could actually feel its skin shaking under my hand, but it was very gentle and did seem happy, although afraid at the same time.

I wondered why it had these strange bare patches on its back, but I soon realized that the poor dog was being beaten by its owner. There was nothing we could do except give the poor thing a few moments of tender affection whenever we passed by.

It still breaks my heart to think of it to this day.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love