This time last year, in Italy, it was just beginning to turn warm. Spring was coming. We could all feel it. I walked down the street with my sidekick, and there was a new lightness in her step, a new smile on her face. Even I felt better. It was the sort of warmth in the air that makes me keep my head up, scenting spring on the horizon, and wagging my tail as I trot along.
Today, it’s 0 out. Fahrenheit. So cold the furnace is breaking, the pipes are freezing, the windows are exploding, and I’m curled up in as small a ball as I can be, typing this one letter at a time with my paw.
So, happy Valentine’s Day from the frozen tundra of New Hampshire. Valentine’s Day has always been interesting to me. In college, my sidekick read me the poem where Chaucer pretty much invented it—I don’t remember which one it was now—and now I see people getting so worked up over it on the TV shows my sidekick watches. But she’s never gotten worked up over it, so neither do I. But today, I am thinking about Gastone.
Gastone is a cat.
I know what you’re thinking, but Gastone and I were good friends.
In Italy, our landlady, Stefania, had six cats. I’ve met cats before, and I’m usually pretty good with them. There are times, I’ll admit, when I forget that I am a lot bigger than they are and my playing maybe scares them a little. But usually I’m pretty good. But six cats is a lot, even for me.
So when I found out there were six cats and no dogs where we were going to be living in Italy, I wasn’t so sure. I might like cats, but usually cats don’t like me. And I’ve always had dog friends, at school at the Seeing Eye, at Kenyon, at home with my sidekick’s parents. Now, there were only cats. Lots of cats.
At first, they were scared of me. But then, they started to get curious, especially since I’m a good girl and I don’t bark or growl or leap out at them. One of them, Gastone, really seemed to like me. He was the biggest, maybe ten pounds. He liked to sit on our doorstep, so that every time we left the apartment, there he was, waiting. And when I appeared, he would purr very loudly. And I would wag my tail to say hello. Stefania started talking about the grande amore of Mopsina and Gastone, but it wasn’t really that. Gastone would purr at me, and I would wag my tail. Seeing Gastone did make me happy every morning, because it reminded me that even though I missed my dog friends and my people friends from Kenyon and New Hampshire, I still had friends here. And I still had my sidekick. We weren’t alone.
So last year on Valentine’s Day, with spring just around the corner, I celebrated a different kind of love. Thanks to Gastone, who reminded me I was not alone, I celebrated my love for my sidekick. She is my best friend in the whole world. She takes care of me, and I take care of her. I make her laugh, and she scratches all the places I can’t itch myself. I keep her safe, and she takes me new places to have new adventures. So this Valentine’s Day, as we huddle for warmth and try to decide where we will be going to school next fall, where the next adventure will be, I still celebrate that love and that friendship. Wherever we go next, we go together.
So thank you, Gastone, for reminding me every morning last year of all my friends.