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'Hear no evil'

There are some occasions when forgiveness is not an act of will, but a pristine state of being. Not long ago, we had returned home from a weekend away to find not one but two cats patiently awaiting our arrival, side by on the brick steps. Buzz Saw, our tortoise-shell tabby, had been an only cat for three years and was contented with her lone reign. In the time we had been gone, though, she had reluctantly acquired a partner. He was a small, white Persian cat with one green and one blue eye, who wore a perpetually quizzical expression. Whatever their relationship had been in our absence, Buzz made clear she wished it terminated at the door.

As I opened the door, she began to trot into her home. The Persian, with the air of one who expects nothing but acceptance, started to pad along beside his newfound companion. Buzz set up a low-pitched growl and froze in place, halfway across the doorjamb. She stared fixedly at a nonexistent spot on the floor, growling all the while. The little white cat, who became aware that she had stopped, halted too, sat down beside Buzz, and searched her face inquiringly. When it became evident that her growling was not having the desired effect on him, she turned swiftly and smacked him on the nose with her paw. The Persian merely backed away from her a bit and sat down on the steps to study her. Exasperated, Buzz raced into the house with a peremptory "mrouw!"

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We did not name the Persian, pretending to ourselves that he was not our cat and, if ignored, would leave. The Persian, however, knew that he had found his home and waited patiently among the flowerpots on the back porch. I relented several days later and began to give him food and water when it became apparent that he was not going to abandon his vigil. He accepted the bowls gratefully, purring and rubbing along my legs before he tasted the first morsel.

Buzz Saw appeared to be irritated at having to share any part of her home with this little stranger. Stepping slowly out onto the porch, she would scan the clutter with an annoyed expression to determine if the interloper was still in residence. When she had spied him, curled up on a piece of newspaper in the sun, or stretched out under a bicycle, sound asleep, she would strut back and forth, watching his reaction to her. Having invited but received no response, Buzz would then stalk off.

While she invariably failed to awaken him and provoke a confrontation with these maneuvers, his response to her return was a different matter. When Buzz leaped the two stone steps to land with a soft "thud" on the creaky old boards, the Persian would rush up to welcome her delightedly, purring and rubbing his face into hers. When Buzz would back up, slightly aghast at his forwardness, start up a warning siren in her throat, and finally smack him across the nose, the white cat seemed to take no offense whatever. He simply rubbed himself along her side, purring affectionately. This absolute ignorance of her hostility seemed to baffle Buzz, who rushed off in frustration, leaving the white cat looking puzzled, but still purring.

His determined affection for Buzz surprised us both, particularly in view of her repeated growls, hisses and sirens. Standing at the back door one day, I called several times to the sleeping Persian, who was curled up on the mat at the door. He slept as I opened the screen door, talking to him. As I stepped onto the boards, he started up, staring wildly around, looking for whoever or whatever was there. He was deaf! Having finally seen me, he rushed up, purring, and put both forepaws on my legs in greeting. All this time he had not heard any of Buzz Saw's hostile warnings. The Persian had simply wished to express his affection for Buzz, and his gratitude for a home, and was not in the least hampered by her attitude toward him.

Buzz Saw has since softened her attitude toward the Persian. She appears to realize that he does not hear and so no longer growls when she has had enough of his purring and rubbing. Instead, she puts a restraining paw on his nose. The other day I found them curled up side by side in the sun, enjoying a lazy afternoon nap in each other's accepting company.

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