tarzanThis is Tarzan. He’s coming up on his 22nd birthday.

Tarzan’s been a fixture at my neighborhood petshop since kittenhood, greeting customers, doing a little product testing and keeping the owners company when business is slow.

Most times I’ve seen him, Tarzan’s been snoozing lightly on his perch by the front counter, patiently enduring the awed customer comments. “22 years old? I didn’t know cats GOT that old.”

There’s a sign on the counter explaining Tarzan’s age and the fact that he’s a bit fragile, “so please enjoy looking at him,” i.e., don’t pet him.

I never have, and mostly I’ve just wondered at the cat that seems to catnap his way through his twilight years. He looks old, and feeble, and just a tad on the scroungy side, but he’s still a beautiful cat.

Last time I was in, Tarzan was unexpectedly sitting up on his elevated cat bed, alert and interested in passersby. I greeted him, but I wasn’t doing anything interesting so he pretty much ignored me.

Today Tarzan jumped on the counter as I came in, mewed a polite hello and batted a pencil under the cash register. “Wow,” I said to the kid behind the counter (I think he’s the owner’s grandson), “I’ve never seen him that active.”

“Yeah, he’s up and at ’em today,” he replied, engulfing Tarzan in his arms and giving him a cuddle. “We’re feeling frisky. We could take on ANYbody.”

Tarzan put up with it for a few seconds, then gave an annoyed meeeeow and leapt lightly back to the counter. His head hung a bit, and he looked sleepy, but he gamely paced the length of the counter and inspected my selections as they were being rung up. I itched to pet him, but held back, mindful of the “fragile” notice.

A chunky Himalayan padded up from the back and rubbed against my leg; Tarzan took no notice. “I didn’t know you have two cats here,” I said conversationally.

“Yeah, we thought we ought to start bringing him in and getting him used to the store so when–” and he stopped, looking stricken. “Uh, I mean, well…”

“Yeah, I know,” I said gently, “That’s probably a good idea.” I looked up, and saw the boy’s eyes swimming a bit.

He looked away, “It wasn’t my idea,” he said defensively, “This is Tarzan’s place. Just Tarzan.”

Tarzan rubbed his chin against the cash register and purred.