by Bill, from 1990
There once was a cat named Dinko who loved food more than anything else in the world. Of course, when you’re a cat, food is probably the single most important thing in the world; so none of this should come as any great shock.
Sure, being cuddled and petted and sitting on the laps of his owners was pretty neat. But for Dinko, food was the thing. It was more important than petting. More important than the companionship of his two cat friends, Conan and Bart, who shared the house with him. For Dinko, food was the meaning of life!
Things in cans were the best. Anything in a can. Even if it tasted terrible, if it came in a can, Dinko would eat it. He loved canned food so much he could recognize the sound of a can being opened even if he was outside! Dinko was so attuned to things in cans he would sometimes show up — out of nowhere — meowing excitedly as the can was being taken off the shelf, before it had even been opened!
Whenever his people opened a can of tuna, Dinko was there, just to make sure he got his fair share. He never did get his “fair share,” though, since as far as he was concerned his fair share meant he would get the whole thing!
One day Dinko wandered off, only to end up in the local grocery store. In this store he found aisles upon aisles, each with shelves upon shelves of cans, cans, cans! He had never seen so many cans in his life! How could there possibly be so many cans in one place?, he wondered. He thought he had died and gone to heaven!
He meowed excitedly, hoping someone would come along and open up the cans for him — every can, all at once. The owner of the store did not appreciate Dinko’s incessant meowing, however, and he quickly shooed the little cat out of the store.
Determined to get at those cans, however, Dinko returned to the store the very next day. This time, one of the store clerks, a teenage girl, found Dinko staring at the cans. He was mesmerized by the seemingly endless supply.
Dinko looked into the young girl’s eyes and meowed his most pitiful meow. This always worked with his people at home, and he hoped it would work on the store clerk, too.
It did. And the young girl opened up a can of Spam for the little cat. Hardly anyone bought Spam, anyway, the girl figured. She’d might as well give it to a cat, right?
In spite of the fact that the can’s contents weighed almost as much as Dinko himself, the little cat devoured it in seconds. Once finished with his meal, Dinko did as he always did at home. Stuffed to the gills and feeling lazy, he promptly took a nap in the middle of the aisle. He was very much in the way of all the shoppers, but he did not care one bit. His people at home always walked around him whenever he did this. The people in the store could do the same.
“Give ’em an inch, they want a mile!” the mean old store owner growled upon finding Dinko in the middle of the floor. “Feeding a poor starving cat is one thing,” he chided the young clerk, “but we can’t have a cat sleeping in the middle of the store, now can we?” And once again the store owner shooed Dinko out of the store.
The very next day, Dinko reappeared. This time, however, the store owner met him at the door. “This is ridiculous!” said the man. “I can’t feed this cat every single day! Doesn’t he have an owner? I’m calling Animal Control!”
Meanwhile, Dinko’s owners, Don and Diane, are very worried at home.
“Where’s Dinko?” asked Diane.
“I don’t know,” said Don. “I hope he’s all right.”
Dinko was not all right. He was on his way to the pound. And, in a matter of days, he would be put to sleep if Don and Diane didn’t come and claim him. Then Dinko really would be dead and in cat heaven, and he wanted no part of that! Heaven on earth was one thing, but actual heaven? Not just yet, thanks!
As the animal shelter woman took Dinko out of his temporary cage, Dinko did what any self-respecting cat would do. He escaped. Took off like a shot. In less time than it took to scarf down that can of Spam earlier, Dinko had escaped from Animal Control.
Scared out of his wits (which were limited, anyway), he bolted hither and yon, not really knowing where he was going. He knew why he was going, but really had no idea where. Home, if he was lucky enough to find it. But that was asking a lot.
Back at Dinko’s house, Don was saying, “I don’t know, Diane, I think maybe we’ve lost Dinko for good this time.”
“Don’t say that!” Diane scolded. “Little Dinko will show up. I just know it!”
“I hope so,” said Don, but he was not optimistic.
A full day and night passed, and still Dinko was nowhere to be found.
“I’m calling Animal Control,” said Diane. “Maybe they’ve got him.”
When Animal Control informed Diane over the phone that they did have Dinko, her spirits rose. When they went on to say that the little cat had escaped, however, Diane’s spirits sank once again.
“If only he hadn’t run away,” said the woman at Animal Control. “We could have kept him safe and warm and well-fed until you picked him up. But, he was a little wild one, and he ran off so quick no one could catch him.”
“Yeah,” said Diane dejectedly, “he is a little wild one, at that.”
Several days later, however, through miraculous homing skills he didn’t even know he had, little Dinko found his way home. Don and Diane were away at work when Dinko arrived, so he used the “kitty door” to get in. When Don and Diane returned from work, they had no idea little “Dinkster,” as they sometimes called him, was back home.
“I sure miss Dinko,” said Don dejectedly. “He was a good cat.”
“Yes,” Diane agreed sadly. “If only . . .” She stopped mid-sentence when, who should she see but little Dinko sauntering casually into the kitchen where they were standing.
“It’s about time you got home,” Dinko said, though all Don and Diane heard was a long, drawn-out “Meow.”
“Dinko!” the husband and wife shouted happily in unison. “Where have you been?”
Dinko happily explained everything that had happened to him over the past several days. But the two silly humans could not understand a word of cat-speak, and all they heard were several “meows.”
Yes, Dinko was home and safe at last. During those several days between the animal shelter and home, Dinko survived like a true cat of the wild. He’d caught two birds, one squirrel, and seventeen bugs of every description. He enjoyed quite unprecedented success hunting down “wild game,” actually.
It occurred to him as he made his way home that maybe he didn’t really need humans in order to survive, after all. With so many birds and bugs out there, who needs cat food? But, in the end, he decided there was more to life than just a steady supply of food.
During that several day trek back home, he realized there was one thing he missed more than anything else in the world. He hadn’t been petted by a human in at least a week! And who can survive without being petted on a regular basis?!
And canned food? “Ah, who needs it?” he said to himself. Sure, it was great, and he would never pass up the opportunity for more. And it was good to know that he could survive on his own in the wilds if he had to. But he had finally gotten it through his little cat skull that love and affection (with the occasional canned food, of course) were, in fact, the most important things in his life.