Six years ago, just about this time of year, I attended a holiday gift show at a school in Exeter-West Greenwich. Wandering around, I stopped at the booth for the Exeter Animal Shelter. They had elected not to bring animals to the show where they might easily have been overwhelmed, but they did have enticing photos of dogs and cats who were awaiting adoption. Having recently lost a member of our happy feline triumvirate, I looked at the images with interest, honing in on one attractive black female that I thought might make a welcome addition. The shelter representatives eagerly invited me to come in person to meet her.

A few days later my husband, Dave, and I visited the Exeter Animal Shelter and met the feline in the photo, but instantly felt she wasn’t a good fit. There was, however, an overly friendly male vying for our attention the whole time.

“Oh, that’s Sherlock,” offered one of the workers. “He’s been here about five months and is very friendly.” Sherlock was long, lanky, black as coal, and very vociferous. He also was “working” Dave, and Dave was buying right into it. Being a responsible shelter as are most, we were required to fill out an application and submit to a thorough investigation, which would take several days.

A few days later, after our vet had “vetted” us as responsible pet owners, the shelter called to say Sherlock was ours. Since Dave was unavailable that day, I went alone, armed with just a cat carrier and a sense of euphoria.

When I arrived, the director of the shelter cheerfully informed me that she would have to get a ladder because Sherlock had climbed the wall in the play area and was sitting atop a door frame. Red flag #1! After she scooped him up, and I pulled the checkbook from my purse, she informed me that the original $40. adoption fee would now be only $15. “He’s on sale today,” she chirped. Red flag #2! We stuffed Sherlock in the cat carrier, and as I drove away, he began shrieking in a deafening tone, screaming non-stop from Exeter to Hope Valley. And what was the date? December 7th ... bingo! Red Flag #3!

We changed his name to Greenberg, a nod to Aaron Greenberg, friend and former weekend editor of this newspaper. He too was long and lanky and very loquacious, but it turned out he was no match for our Greenberg!

From the beginning, Greenberg was not your typical cat. He was neither timid, nor afraid of strangers, would go with anyone, and absolutely refused to be intimidated. That meant he could scale the bookcase some six feet up in one single bound, sharpen his nails on the carpeting despite our hollering, dive bomb into the neatly piled cartons in the cellar, jump on top of the refrigerator, grab our watches and other jewelry off the dresser while we slept and take it down to his hiding place in the basement, and a host of other “bad boy” antics. Yet if we admonished him loudly, he’d stand pat and stare us down as if to say, “What else you got?” If we shook a finger at him, he’d swat it away ... or bite it.

I wasn’t sure this was the cat for us. Perhaps we had made a mistake; and although I’d never done it and hated to think of it, perhaps he should be returned to the shelter. Dave would have none of it. The more Peck’s Bad Boy misbehaved, the more Dave got a kick out of him.

Fast forward six years. Greenberg is now eight-and-a-half years old and hasn’t slowed down one bit. He can still scale the top of the living room wall unit, still race from room to room, has decimated the carpeting, sectional, and recliner, and is Dave’s constant companion. The two are joined at the hip in friendship and frequently collude against me.

As for me, I’ve made my peace with this engaging black hellion who cuddles in my lap every night, snorting sweetly; yet if I try to move him, he bites me. He runs this house, runs us, and there’s absolutely no chance it will cease.

His name is Greenberg ... and although I might not admit it to Dave, I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

Considering an animal for your family? Please consider adopting. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at or 401-539-7762.

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