Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Broccoli and Happy Endings

My husband, Bob, attracts lunatics. One is a stand-alone screwball. Hey, I heard that! It's not me. It's our 6-year-old cat, Murphy. Of course we adore him and he's the happiest being we've ever known.

Murphy's not just dimwitted, he's also a thief. But he swipes things that no cat with even half a brain would want. Well, I'm not being fair. Murphy doesn't have half a brain.

There should be a sign over his head that reads: "Vacancy."

He's lightning fast. One night, in a flash, he jumped on the table, grabbed an entire crown of broccoli that was twice the size of his head and raced away with it, all the while scarfing it down so that none of our other cats could have what every cat dreams of (sarcastic): broccoli.

His favorite food group? Dust balls. Yes, we vacuum. They appear out of nowhere like Bob's ex brother-in-law who's suddenly in our living room wanting to borrow more cash.

Murphy has an incessant desire to rip tape off UPS boxes. When I extract the tape from his throat, he doesn't notice. Can you imagine sticking your fingers 3 inches down your cat's throat without him even caring you're doing it?

Murphy's race to eat everything recently took a disastrous turn on a late Sunday night. Bob put a pill on the counter for our dog, Gracie. This pill is so bitter that no pet will take it unless owners disguise it in something tasteful. But Murphy made a beeline to it and ate it.

We called a poison hotline. We were told he needed to get to a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital immediately. I'm disabled and can't move late at night. Bob rushed Murphy to Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Bourne.

We figured they'd pump his stomach and send him home. We were wrong.

Bob called me from his cellphone after the vet saw Murphy. "He has to stay here three days. They made him vomit, but the toxin is still in his system." He was sobbing. "He could lose all kidney function."

"Did the vet say he could die?"


I felt as much anguish for Bob as I did for Murphy. He went on, "Murphy's so innocent," he said, crying harder. "I hate myself for letting this happen."

"Oh Sweets, you didn't mean for this to happen. I wish I was sitting next to you." We cried without speaking. Then I said, "Don't drive. Not when you're like this."

Then I called the vet. I asked her for emotional guidance for Bob. She said, "This happens all the time. It happened with me and my cat. He needs to forgive himself. It's impossible to prevent these things 100 percent. Plus I've never heard of a cat who'd want to eat a pill, especially one that tastes so awful."

"Bob's in your parking lot. Would you please go to him and tell him what you told me?" And she did.

Three days later, Murphy came home happy and healthy. When the vet called and asked about him, I incorrectly assumed she knew about Murphy's insane antics.

"He's back to normal. He just presented me with a dust ball the size of a Burger King Triple Whopper! Isn't that great?"


"Don't worry," I said, and then cemented myself as a bonehead. "Nobody's getting near MY broccoli again!"

She asked to speak to Bob. I said, "He's busy. UPS came. Bob's racing like a cyclone, ripping tape off the boxes before disaster hits. You know what he's like around UPS tape."

She sounded confused. "Bob?"

I laughed. "Not Bob -" Before I could explain she interrupted, "Please have him call me."

Bob's role as a caregiver is not a role he asked for, but one he feels blessed to have.

He takes care of me with my spinal cord issues, our old pet duck who's arthritic, our young border collie who can never run again because of a genetic spinal problem and our very sick cat Josie, to whom Bob administers IV fluids daily.

"How could I be so lucky?" Bob says, every single day of his life.

Yesterday at dawn, as the light gently filled our bedroom, I slowly turned over to see which of Bob's brood was in the protection of his arms. He was cradling beautiful Murphy, who was sound asleep on his back in the crook of Bob's armpit. Bob's eyes were open but I didn't say a word. I knew he was preserving the precious moments for as long as he could before Murphy would wake up.

I watched as Murphy opened his eyes then curled his paw under Bob's chin. I heard him purr when he closed his eyes again, preferring to remain in the safety of Bob's arm for just a little while longer.

And so, snuggling next to Bob, I closed my eyes again, too.