By Sonny Rhodes

For it is in the giving that we receive.”

That quote, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, is one of my favorites. In terms of truths, in my book it ranks with the closing couplet of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road”: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Being in the midst of the holiday season, a season of giving, the quotes seem an appropriate way to begin this Thought.

Over the years I’ve realized that in being a cheerful giver—giving without expecting anything in return—I’ve enjoyed blessings many times over.

Speaking of which, my hands-down greatest blessing in the past year was the birth of a second grandchild: Sebastian Thompson Gunn Rhodes. He arrived September 7. Welcome to the world, Sebi!

I look forward to someday hiking Pinnacle Mountain with you and your brother, Ben.

φ φ φ φ φ

On a lighter note, imagine this scene: A solitary figure stands in a parking lot in a hard rain. He’s apprehensive, awaiting a handoff. A car pulls up beside him, a man and a woman get out, and after brief pleasantries (it’s raining, you know), they retrieve something from their backseat, and hand him the “package.” He puts it in the rear of his car, and after quick goodbyes, drives off.

The “package” actually was the latest addition to the cat pack at Chez Sonny. And this little kitty has greatly changed the dynamics around the house, especially for Tiger and Precious, the other cats who share their home with Team Rhodes.

Rio (more about that name momentarily) is like her fellow felines in that all are of uncertain lineage.

A Good Samaritan found Tiger alongside Little Rock’s Shackleford Road about 10 years ago. The flea-bitten kitten was scrawny and anemic. He was nursed to health by kindly folks at an animal clinic, then came to live with us. He’s now a big ball of white and orange fur, following me around like a puppy, sleeping in my lap whenever he can.

Precious came to us about that same time as Tiger. We don’t know for sure, but we suspect she was abandoned by neighbors who left abruptly. Whatever the case, she kept showing up in our backyard and climbing high in trees. I invariably had to rescue her. She kept hanging around, so we started feeding her and she’s been with us ever since. She looks mostly Siamese.

As for Rio, last summer my friend Jimmie V put out the word that he was looking for adoptive parents for three kittens, the results of a liaison between his cat and an unknown tom. So we decided to take one and, on a very rainy Saturday in August, I met Jimmie and his wife, Brenda, at a central spot for the exchange.

Back home, I cuddled the bobtailed, calico kitten to calm her, and turned on the television to watch the Summer Olympics. Pretty soon we were both asleep on the couch. That evening, we named her Rio de Janeiro. Years from now, the name will remind us that we got her in August 2016, when the Summer Olympics were held in Brazil.

Of course, Tiger and Precious have had to make some adjustments.

After considerable yowling, hissing, batting and nipping the first week or two, Tiger has grown accustomed to the youngster. Mostly. He hardly ever hisses anymore, other than when Rio attacks his tail.

Precious, on the other hand, has decided to take up permanent residence in the front yard. On pleasant days, she can be found sleeping under the low-lying limbs of a photinia. She takes her meals on the front porch.

And, as it turns out, that first-day nap on the couch was the most sedate Rio has ever been.

I have never, ever seen anything with so much energy. She’s often a blur, zipping from one room to another, poking her head everywhere. She can bound completely around the living room without ever touching the floor, leaping from the arm of the couch to the back of the loveseat, to the TV stand, to the hearth, to the back of my easy chair, to a table, to an ottoman (if it’s positioned properly), then back to the couch.

Sometimes she’ll pause in front of the television and bat at whatever images are on the screen.

You can’t buy entertainment this good.

Rio de Janeiro Rhodes: the gift that just keeps on giving.

Abyssinia next time!

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