Recently, I was asked how I remain so optimistic about life. I explained that, "True to my Welsh namesake - The Happy One - I carefully filter the information I'm exposed to particularly prior to bedtime." I only read stories that make me smile before I sleep.
The latest book that I've enjoyed reading brought many smiles and good old fashion belly-laughs. It's filled with thrilling adventures and called The Saga of the Three Compañeros: Pantera, Leo and Tigre by John Ryan.
Cats are mysterious animals, and unlike dogs, they basically accept people as equals as Ryan describes, "on their own terms, which goes a long way to explain their haughty independence."
I was intrigued to learn that all cats are descendants of Felix silvestris lybica, a Near Eastern wildcat that is native to the deserts of the Middle East. It is a storied lineage dating back at least 100,000 years. Domestication of cats took place at about the same time of wheat cultivation some 10,000 years ago because these critters are exceptional mice and rat hunters. Since then countless millions of people have bonded with felines.
Today in America there are over 74 million domesticated cats. Ryan lists many famous cat-loving people including President Abraham Lincoln whose cat was present during his inauguration in 1861. Other Presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter also brought their cats to live in the White House.
Perhaps the finest tribute to domesticated cats came from the 'Grandfather of Science,' the incomparable Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci who wrote "the smallest feline is a masterpiece."
The Saga of the Three Compañeros is a captivating story about three pussycats and a charming geography professor named Dr. John Ryan.
Had Ryan not been a cat-lover and an observant student of his surroundings there would be no story. Ryan recounts that the kittens' mother, Tigger, who lived next door, meowed incessantly and led him to the neighbors garage, one extremely warm July day.
It is amazing that the three kittens survived the extreme heat without food or water for days. It turned out that Tigger, her kittens and a big black Tomcat named Harley were abandoned by an erstwhile tenant in the neighbor's dwelling.
Ryan was elated to have saved those kittens and made room for them and Tigger in his basement since he already had a 16-pound, highly territorial old tabby named Spice at his home.
At first he was determined to find the kittens a new home once Tigger nursed them back to good health. Yet, as all pet-lovers know "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agleyy" (to borrow a famous line from Robbie Burns' poem "To a Mouse"), especially when animal's are young and that first affectionate bond between a human and an animal forms.
Ryan found good, loving homes for both Harley and Tigger and of course he fell in love with the three compañeros.
This is a touching and descriptive story about their lives outgrowing kittenhood, an enchanting grand adventure about how the three pussycats have remained the staunchest of friends.
He named them rather easily. The female was sleek, short-haired jet black miniature panther, so he called her Pantera (Spanish for panther). The tawny buff and yellowish-brown rascal who excelled at leaping, he called Leo (after many characteristics of a lion). And the third one is El Tigre - the exotic little tiger.
Once Ryan named them, they were his pussycats, as he says: "the joy of his life."
Interestingly, there's no alpha leader amongst them, but rather they exhibit a loving respect for one another. Moreover, they even share their food with one another. Even as kittens, if one cried out, the others would rush to the rescue. Their friendship is so endearing, as Ryan regales, that the two brothers miraculously saved their sister's life.
This is a terrific book that will bring smiles and even tears of joy to your face. It is with pleasure that I bring to your attention this splendid tale with many heart-warming pussycat pictures.
Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of The Incomparable Honeybee and the Economics of Pollination.