Samson was easier. By the third or fourth time I came up to visit before I was living with her, Samson would bark rousingly when he heard me walk up to the door. Then he would flop on the ground for a session of belly rubs.
Juno, being a cat, took more time. Yes, she would occasionally acknowledge my presence, but there was that decidedly feline aloofness, as if she were taking notes and feeding them into a computer to decide if I was worth trusting. A few days ago, it would seem, the computer’s algorithm produced a result that deemed me trustworthy.
I was in bed, lying on my back, and suddenly, Juno crept up, and with an obligatory kneed of her paws, settled on my chest. I scratched her neck, and, with the knowledge that comes from 45 years of cat ownership, knew exactly where to scratch behind her ears.
Before long she was purring, and brushing her face against my hand. Within five minutes, she bestowed on me the ultimate benediction: she started licking my fingers.
Granted, this could very well be a case of my being a pawn in a complex political power game between Juno and Samson. Occasionally, he will snarl at her, and Juno will run off. It is clear, from Juno’s dispeptic look, that she is not fond of this.
I often picture Juno and Samson playing long, bitter games of Risk, with Juno’s sister, Piper, rolling the dice and moving the pieces while Juno consults a complex log of strategic and tactical battle plans.
“We could fall back to Central Asia to consolidate our forces,” Piper would say.
“No,” Juno would snap, “Kamchatka must never be given up. Never.”
Perhaps I am simply one more bit of territory in this ongoing battle for house supremacy. I do imagine Juno looking at Samson as he walks into the bedroom, saying something like “he’s mine now. He belongs to me. He’s not yours anymore.”
Fortunately, Samson, having a short attention span, forgets these nightly liaisons, and by the morning, he is once again swatting my shin with his paw, demanding love and affection.
Whereas Samson would write letters to me in crayon or with a large pencil meant for kindergarteners (his paws, after all, are quite large), Juno would write letters in fountain pen, her copperplate penmanship in stark contrast to Samson’s block letters.
I do, however, like to think that some of this, and Juno would never admit to it, may just have something to do with Juno having developed a genuine bond with me. Perhaps the political gains are a secondary benefit, though Juno would never admit to this.
“I gave you affection for purely territorial reasons,” I hear her saying. “Nonetheless, I feel a certain lightness when I am with you. Antacids have done nothing to allay this.”
Whatever the case, I will take the affection as a positive sign. When the girlfriend’s four foots decide that you are worthy, life is good. And now, each night, when I get into bed, Juno is there to tell me, I hope, that in addition to the importance of Kamchatka in affairs of world domination, she does indeed like having her head scratched.