Mr. Paws Is A Very Real Part Of My Life
Mr. Paws is bigger than life to this family. He’s become another member of the family by showing love and compassion to our smallest family members. I’m going to share his story with you, and you can decide. Is he just a character? Or, is Mr. Paws bigger than life?
The little Shih Tzu in the picture above was named Shansi. We purchased him from a delightful Indian family in Apple Valley, MN when he was only six weeks old. The young children in the family called him “Two-Face.” We renamed him Shansi. He lived with us in Eagan, MN until we retired and moved to the house on the lake in Dunn County, WI.
We had huge plans for retirement, and Shansi was part of everything. He was ten years old when a groomer shaved off his moustache in error and we discovered why the kids originally named him Two-Face. The skin was pink on one side of his nose and black on the other. He was the goofiest looking little dog until that moustache and beard grew back again.
Shansi was a great traveler and slept for three days as we traveled to the Gulf Coast from Wisconsin each winter.
The Cat From Somewhere
We hadn’t lived in the house a year when a golden cat with no tail marched up on the deck one bright, summer afternoon. I was reading a book, and Shansi was at my feet. The cat showed no fear of the little dog who jumped up and began to sniff with excitement. The only cat he’d ever been close to was my son’s cat, and that was infrequently.
The following afternoon, I was busy in the kitchen when I heard Shansi barking excitedly at the sliding glass door. Hurrying into the dining room to see what was the matter, I discovered the same yellow cat sitting outside the door looking at us. I slid the door open, and Shansi ran out onto the deck making excited circles around the cat.
This process continued day after day. The crazy cat cuddled up to Shansi, and the two of them napped in the sun on the deck.
Fall and winter came. The cat never missed a day.
I was in the process of writing “Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals” at the time. Somehow that silly cat weaseled his way into my head and words. He became a character in the book. I named him Mr. Paws because he always reached up and tapped me with his paw when he wanted my attention.
Winters Can Be Brutal In Wisconsin
There’s one thing you can set your watch by in Wisconsin. By January, the temperature goes down to -10 degrees at some point and the winds take the wind chill factor down to 30-40 below zero.
On the coldest day of the year, the cat showed up as usual. Shansi had taken a nose dive into the snow earlier in the day when he went out to go potty and his feet froze up so quickly he fell over. I couldn’t put him out on the deck with the cat, but I was worried about the silly thing.
He always had a flea collar on until the snow flew, so we knew he belonged to someone.
In spite of all my misgivings, I opened the door, and the cat strolled in. Three times I put him out that afternoon, and each time he came back within thirty minutes.
The temperatures were unbearable!
My husband had been gone during the afternoon and was surprised to see the cat curled up with Shansi in Shansi’s bed when he came home in the late afternoon.
Without hesitation, I explained that I believed the cat’s owners hadn’t gotten home from work and must have left him outside in the morning by mistake. I pleaded with my husband to allow the cat to remain until I could find out where he lived.
We hadn’t been in the house all that long, but I’d met several neighbors. I began calling everyone I could reach.
No one knew anything about an orange cat with no tail. Each person gave me another name and phone number to call. I was on the phone for hours when the neighbor across the street finally came home from work. She thought she knew who the cat belonged to and gave us the name and phone number.
Mr. Paws Was Happy Where He Was
We left a message, and sat down to relax and watch television. A few hours later, the man called us back. He said he’d drive over and pick up the cat.
He was a nice guy and apologized for any inconvenience. Graciously, he explained that his wife was a nurse and worked the second shift. That’s why no one was home.
At least we now knew where Mr. Paws lived!
Mr. Paws continued to come each and every day until we made our trek south for the winter.
The coast was beautiful that winter, but just before we were ready to pack and head back north, Shansi became quite ill. He was fifteen, and I knew he’d been slipping for over a year. He struggled so hard to get well, but it wasn’t meant to be.
We both cried as we drove north with his ashes and the “Rainbow Bridge” packed in the seat behind us.
Mr. Paws Showed Up Immediately
Mr. Paws arrived at the door the next afternoon as if we’d never left. I opened the door and gave his ears a hearty rub, welcoming him back.
That crazy cat searched the entire house. I knew who he was looking for, but there was no way to explain to him where his napping buddy was. As the weeks went by, the cat showed up less and less.
There was no doubt in my mind who he was coming to visit. With Shansi gone, he had no reason to return.
We waited awhile before we started looking for another dog. I missed our little guy so terribly, but I enjoyed the freedom of not having a pet to have to take care of each day.
My husband wasn’t sure we should get another one and was afraid we might not outlive another dog. This time, we decided to adopt a dog from a rescue. Every so often I searched the internet for a dog. I wanted a black and white Shih Tzu.
Weeks turned into months, and none of the pictures I saw of dogs spoke to me.
A New Dog Joins the Family
I was working one afternoon in the fall and decided to search the Shih Tzu Rescue sites in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin again. That’s when I saw the picture of a beautiful little black and white, named Cosmo. His face spoke to me, and I knew this was the dog for me.
I began to read his description and discovered the dog was blind. How horrible for a dog to be blind and not understand why he was in a shelter. I assumed his owners gave him up because of the disability.
We found out he belonged to an old man in Milwaukee who died. A nephew had taken him to the local pound where Shih Tzu Rescue of Central Wisconsin picked him up. The nephew didn’t know much about our boy, so we didn’t have much background information.
They thought he was about four years old, but having raised Shansi we thought he was closer to eight, and our vet agreed.
What we quickly discovered was that he was terrified of being left alone. We found a doggy daycare south of town, and Cosmo attended his first Halloween party dressed as a cowardly lion. (It seemed appropriate because of his fears of being alone, being in the car, rain, thunder…and the list went on and on.
Mr. Paws Returns
We hadn’t seen the cat for a couple of months.
One rather warm fall day, I took Cosmo out on the deck with me as I cleaned up some flower containers before winter.
I had heard him before I saw him.
Mr. Paws meowed with every step across our yard. He walked up the steps to the deck and immediately marched over to our little blind dog. Mr. Paws tipped his head to the side and rubbed his face across Cosmo’s face.
“How does he know the dog is blind or that he won’t bite him?” I said the words out loud.
Now instead of coming only once a day, Mr. Paws checked on his blind buddy early in the morning and late in the afternoon each day. They ate together, took naps together, sat by the screen door and listened to the sound of the wind blowing through the towering pines outside.
They Quickly Became Inseparable.
Cosmo began to sit at the door each day about thirty minutes before Mr. Paw’s arrival. He waited in the mornings, and again in the afternoons.
His friend never disappointed him.
We continued to go to the Gulf during the winter. Worried about Mr. Paws attempting to visit on the colder days, we always made sure to close the curtain on the sliding glass door so he couldn’t see in. I hoped he’d get used to this as a signal we weren’t home each winter.
Regardless of our love for Mr. Paws, we felt perhaps we could soften Cosmo’s fears if we got another dog to keep him company. Our carefree retirement suddenly became a bit of a problem.
We couldn’t leave the house together. Cosmo would go crazy and start jumping up on furniture. He’d have accidents. We were afraid he’d get hurt.
We called the Shih Tzu Rescue of Central Wisconsin again. She told us she had a little female, rescued from a puppy mill down in Missouri. The dog needed to be spayed, so we’d have to wait for awhile before we could bring her home.
Mr. Paws continued to arrive twice a day, each and every day.
Another Dog Enters the Picture
We finally made the trip to Wausau to pick up the newest member of the family.
Cosmo was over-the-moon to have a constant companion. Everything seemed to be working out so well until we realized our calm little girl was being taught to be afraid of storms and of being left alone.
Now we had two dogs we had to hire a babysitter for so we could get out of the house. Thank goodness for thirteen-year-olds who like to make a bit of extra spending money!
By now, I was writing the second book in the Elle Burton Series, “Missing.” Mr. Paws made it into book two, but he didn’t make it back to our house.
Well, I guess that’s not correct. Mr. Paws did show up the morning after we got her as normal. He strolled into the dining room when I opened the sliding glass door and dipped his head to rub against Cosmo’s face.
Suddenly, the cat’s head went up, and his nose began to twitch. I’ve never seen an animal scramble as he did to get out of the house.
Poor little Hailey was asleep across the room, but he smelled her. It was the first time I’d seen him balk at being around a dog.
He was out the door in a heartbeat.
Mr. Paws Disappears
We didn’t see that silly old cat for six months. He never came back.
I don’t know if he decided that Cosmo had a new friend, and he wasn’t needed anymore, or if the decidedly female scent the dog gave off shortly after her surgery spooked him.
We missed that old cat. I finished writing Missing, and the edits began. Fall descended again, and I was back out on the deck cleaning out the planters when I saw him strolling across the yard.
I tried to remain calm. “Hey buddy, how are you?”
He looked up at me and appeared to be trying to decide if it was safe. He didn’t see any dogs, so he marched up those steps as he always did and came up to me, flopping down on the boards of the deck, waiting for me to scratch his belly.
Mr. Paws Returns
I saw him in the yard the next day and went out on the deck again. He came up to me, and I picked him up. That cat snuggled into my arms like a baby.
I carried him into the house, and Cosmo immediately ran up to greet him.
Mr. Paws dipped his head and rubbed it across Cosmo’s snout. Nothing had changed, except for the little girl who came bounding up, so excited we had a guest.
The cat hissed at the dog this time but held his ground.
It had taken several weeks before things got back to normal, but Mr. Paws kept returning twice a day. He was back on schedule, “Missing” was nearly ready to publish, and life was good. Our new addition no longer intimidated the cat who picks which family he spends his time with each day.
You’ll find the three of them lined up on the sofa most mornings as I write from the recliner next to their chosen bed.
Home Is Where The Heart Is
Fall turned into winter, and Mr. Paws continued to come twice each day. He’s still attached strongly to Cosmo, but he tolerates little Miss Hailey.
You’ll find Mr. Paws under the tree at Christmas, and somewhere close to Cosmo the rest of the year. As for Elle Burton? Well, if you read the books, she has a cat who arrives each and every day. She has no idea where the cat comes from, but she’s always wanted a dog. I wonder if she’ll ever get one?!?