He Ain't Heavy. He's My Brother

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Get out your hankies.


    I moved to southern California seven months ago, where three of my new housemates were cats. One was an ancient big grey guy named Elvis and the other two were adorable black and white kittens named Yogi and BooBoo.


    Yogi and BooBoo were literally joined at the hip. They played together, had adventures together, and slept together. Even when they split up, they remained psychically in touch. When one of them entered the room, the other was never far behind.

    Occasionally, they would try to coax Elvis into their feline hi-jinks, but the old boy was having none of it. Once BooBoo flew into Elvis with a flying rugby tackle, but the elder cat, with great dignity, picked himself off the floor without acknowledging the little fella and calmly left the building.

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    Every other night, the two little guys would find convenient spots in the vicinity of my legs and we’d enjoy a group snooze. On more rare occasions, Elvis would deign to enter and curl up on a comfortable spot on my face, particularly over a favorite breathing passage.


    And so it went over the months – kitty-hood, teen-hood, and young adult-hood. The two rambunctious litter mates and the solitary old gray.


    Four weeks ago or so, BooBoo came through the cat door without Yogi. BooBoo’s meows weren’t quite right. The next day, still no Yogi. BooBoo now looked visibly lost. I had a conference to attend, and when I returned five or six days later the poor guy was clearly distressed. I picked him up and he was a limp mass in my arms.


    It’s okay, BooBoo, Daddy is back. But your brother …


    We’re up in the mountains. Some of the wildlife is not friendly.


    So BooBoo learned to play alone, have adventures alone, sleep alone. Occasionally, he would nuzzle into Elvis, but cats are territorial, and the old guy was having none of it. But over time, I detected a subtle change. Elvis wasn’t so quick to reject BooBoo’s advances. This soon morphed into the old guy accepting the little fella’s presence, albeit at arm’s length.


    Here it comes …


    Two nights ago, I spotted Elvis and BooBoo curled up on the couch, sleeping together. BooBoo in serene contentment, front paw draped over his new older brother. The old guy, reaching out across the power of his own instincts, indulgently offering comfort to his newly-adopted younger sibling.


    Okay, little guy, I could almost imagine dear Elvis saying, pull up a spot – but don’t expect me to climb trees with you.


    “It's a long, long road
    From which there is no return
    While we're on the way to there
    Why not share
    And the load
    Doesn't weigh me down at all
    He ain't heavy, he's my brother.”

Published On: June 28, 2007