Earlier this year, the United States Postal Service issued a set of stamps honoring Dogs at Work, featuring dogs in familiar jobs — guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs, military dogs, and search & rescue dogs.
Despite their reputation for indolence and indifference, cats have jobs, too, and I felt they should be honored for their contributions to our daily lives. Don’t try to put these on envelopes, though.
That admonition reminds me of a story which pops up in a couple of the many fun history books we have all over the house: in 1874, the city government of Liege, Belgium, in an act of sheerest optimism, attempted to train the town’s cats to deliver the mail. It didn’t work. The New York Times archive has a stickily twee contemporary article (PDF document)* describing the experiment, but here’s the quick summary:
The town fathers of Liege presented the town cats with a pile of letters.
The cats looked at the pile of letters.
The cats looked up at the town fathers, said “no,” and left to complete the other projects they had scheduled for that day.
*Both pages of the New York Times article are in the PDF; scroll way down to see the first column.
More About “Cats at Work”: ink, Copic marker, and colored pencil on Borden & Riley #234 Paris Paper for Pens.
Four of the cats here are modeled on cats we own or have owned. The gray and white “Meditation Teacher” cat honors our late, great cat Argyle. His official job title in real life was, more accurately, “Benevolent Warrior King.”
Archie, one of our current cats, has dedicated his life to defending America–or at least my husband and me — from the Red Dot Menace.
Henry was our sundial — to borrow from Christopher Smart’s poem about his cat Jeoffry, “For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him,” although Henry’s love affair with the sun, and the world, ran through afternoon, early evenings and in dreams all through the night, and likely continues on to this day, somewhere in the universe.
Gingersnap, poor little man, was a cat of very little brain, but much affection. His kneading massages were accompanied by a window-rattling purr, and less attractively, a cascade of drool.