About a year ago, Mowse died. Mowse was a large, beautiful, all-white cat who’d owned us for a decade. While she’ll never be replaced in our hearts, she left us with an empty space around the tree at Christmas time. With mixed gratitude to Barb – my cat-loving wife – the space has been filled.

The newest member of the family circle is a six-pound, two-year-old Calico from a local shelter. Officially, we’ve named her Clementine. Since we’ve long had a Rat Terrier named Winston, it seemed only natural. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, Clementine has been shortened to Clemmy. Or, as in the case when her youthful exuberance goes too far, D.C.. Damned cat!

Anyone who’s brought a new cat into the house knows the first thing that happens is they make a dash under the nearest furniture and hide for several days. You can hear them at night as they prowl and examine their new home. Just standard cat operating procedure. Nature of the beast as it were.

Not Clemmy. Barb sat her down on the floor, expecting the usual dash for that safe space under the couch. Didn’t happen. Clem sat there, looked the place over, found a soft spot ON the couch and settled in. When a lap eventually became available, she was in it. Purring. If she was picked up and held, more purring. Toys. Mad dash, play and – purring. Food? Purring. Litter box? Purring.

When it was time to meet Winston, he showed us how wrong we could be about his gentle, accepting nature we’d known for so long. Since he had lived most of his much-loved dog life with Mowse for a friend, we thought this would go well. It did not. He looked at us as if we had betrayed him and slowly walked to the bedroom and his usual corner of the bed. “Damn!” That’s Rat Terrier for “Damn!”

Clemmy would not be denied. She jumped up and laid down beside him. Purring. “Damn!” You could hear it clearly as he left the bed.

It’s been several weeks now. As usual, in the evenings, Winston lays down on the couch next to Barb as she reads. But now, Clemmy curls up next to Winston. For awhile, he’d get up and move. Not anymore. While he still softly utters an occasional “Darn,” he more often just lays there and endures the warm, six-pound “purr box” snuggled up by his side. And lately, if she leaves, he’ll look up to see where she went.

When Clemmy comes into a room these few weeks later, Winston doesn’t leave. While they’re certainly not “buddies,” she has at least won him over to accept her presence in the house. Purring and continued loving will do that. She purrs, too, when she settles down next to him on the foot of our bed each night.

And that’s what we’ve learned from Clementine as she’s melded into our family She has “loved” her way into our hearts with her continual purring and her desire to be close. Even when reprimanded, she soon comes back with a purr and a rub on our legs. We find ourselves wondering who could possibly have taken this loving animal to a shelter. Why would you give up something that just keeps coming back? That just keeps loving?

So Christmas at our house has a complete circle again this year. The tree is up and decorations abound. Clemmy, of course, loves that. And we, of course, now love Clemmy.

If we acknowledge the small, life-changing gift of love placed in our lives that first Christmas – if we accept and practice the eternal charge to “go forth and share His love” – if we approach all our relationships with caring for each other – then we’ve learned what that Baby was sent here to teach.

Still, though we’ve understood that at our house for many Christmas’s, it’s been good to have a small, calico cat remind us that love is best when shared. Repeatedly. Constantly.

Merry Loving Christmas!

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