I ask the cats, do you love me? They just regard me and purr. Do you love me? I ask the dog. His ears go up a little. His tail swings a little.

Certainly, feeding is one of our modes of discourse. But it would be a sign of my own limitations to think it was the sole (or even the primary) axis around which our relationships turn.

The older black cat, the Fuzzy One, settles into the lid of the shirt box I’ve set out for her on my work-table, right at my elbow. She rests her cheek on its edge and purrs as her eyes blink slowly and close. Underneath the table, from a crate draped in a bath towel, comes a light, broken snore. The Dog is resting. Having had his two breakfast biscuits, he has settled in. This is my work-time; he knows I will be right here. He knows what I’ll do. A good time for a nap.

As I lean over the page here, the fuzzy cat rises, stretches, and lifts her paw to comb my hair with half-extended claws. I lean in to her and we bump heads. I keep on writing, and she steps back into her shirt box, where she may curl up again, or may step out again to sit nearby, observing me and also watching out the window behind me where the birds are waking up, looking for each other.

Occasionally a car or a semi drives past the house. But normal society is, for me, populated every morning with feline familiars and the dog, and no creatures of my own kind. This doesn’t even seem odd to me. In fact, it seems so normal that I rarely think to describe it on the page. The critters are an antidote to the electronic distractions with which i have trashed my concentration, my motivation, and with them, my confidence. What they think of me — matters.

What they think of — in general — is an object of ceaseless interest to me. What do they think of? I can discharge any inquisitive energy they display by offering a treat — a biscuit, or a dab of peanut butter swiped from my own breakfast toast on the tip of my index finger. Certainly, feeding is one of our modes of discourse. But it would be a sign of my own limitations to think that food/feeding/provision in general was the sole (or even the primary) axis around which our relationships turn. Food is by no means the end of it. It’s just the easiest part for me to understand.

Food does not explain, for example, the night setting — the peace I wake to at 3 in the morning: the dog, knocked out and lying heavy and warm next to the back of my thighs, and the littlest cat, curled like a mink hat between us in a puddle of bed clothes behind my knees, and the nervous cat dozing, in sphinx pose, on the curved back of the day-bed by the window, and the third cat — the Fuzzy One — who, having somehow sensed remotely that I have come-to, drops with a soft thump to the floor in the other bedroom and comes into my room, hops up on my bed and stomps across the quilt to greet me, to purr and knock foreheads, then moves to the shelf behind my pillows where she tucks her feet under herself and dozes on.

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