When you are among people who love animals, you are among friends.
Although I've always known this, the point was reinforced on the road in Georgia, first in the big city of Atlanta, where the world's largest cat show came for three days in November, and then in the small town of Thomasville, where I spent time with friends and their four cats, four dogs and a cockatiel.
Some 3,000 miles from home and I couldn't have been happier.
In Atlanta, I rode up and down elevators with luggage that meowed, as the world's top pedigreed cats made their way from the hotel to compete at the Cat Fanciers' Association International show. An Abyssinian named Tinbats Morgan's Passing, owned by Reg and Lynn Martin of Chatsworth, Calif., topped nearly 1,300 other cats at the show. But for most of the cat-lovers who came, the name of the winner wasn't really the point of the exercise.
The show was really a celebration of the feline, with cats about as varied as cats can get. Patched cats and solids, ticked coats and tabbies, long-haired and short, slender and chunky, each as breathtakingly beautiful as the next, and all with fur that begged to be touched (torture for the cat-lover, because petting the cats is not allowed at this show -- or any other). Eyes of many colors and shapes glistened with good health and, occasionally, ill temper. (These are cats, after all, and cats aren't all that enthusiastic about noise, crowds and strangers.)
Solace could be found among the vendors of the Georgia World Congress Center in what had to be the best collection of goods for cats and their people ever assembled. Toys, jewelry, books, beds -- anything you could imagine, times four. A cat-lover would have a hard time escaping with her line of credit intact, and I managed to only because the car rental agency had already put its claim on it.
This is one fine cat show, and if you're anywhere near Kansas City, Mo., when it moves there next November, you shouldn't miss it. Even if you won't be allowed to pet the cats.
How hard is it to survive without those pats? I know, exactly. By the time I got to Thomasville, four hours from Atlanta by car (and nearly to Florida), I was vibrating from the strain and in need of a major fur fix.
A tiny tabby named Robocat was happy to help, as were a trio of handsome retrievers by the names of Sundance, Calypso and Lucky. My friends Peg and Joe love animals and laughter, and on the wide porch of their old house we shared plenty of both, as the worst of my withdrawal pains started to ease with every touch of my fingers on warm fur.
Robo's purr could be heard a block away, carried on a cool South Georgia breeze, and if I had been physically able to do the same, you could have heard my satisfied rumble all the way back home in California.
Were it not for missing my own dogs, I might never have gone home.
Pets on the Web: While dogs have been enthusiastic in their pursuit of airborne discs from the moment the first Frisbee came out of the package, the creation of the sport traces back to a single dog, a whippet named Ashley. The slender beastie and his owner slipped on to the field during a nationally televised football game a couple of decades ago and put on a show that brought roars from the crowd. They were shooed from the field that day, but were invited back so many times afterward that Ashley became a media star. The dog is long gone, of course, but his fellow Frisbee hounds now compete in a series of regional events leading up to a national championship in a sport that's still a kick for all involved.
If you think your dog has flying-disk potential, take a peek at the Web site of the National Capital Air Canines group (motto: "Where the Fur Comes to Fly"). The site (http://www.discdog.com) is comprehensive and well-organized, with many links to other related Web pages.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies" and "Cats for Dummies," and is the editorial director of the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
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