This picture of Socks in his salad – um, catnip – days is ubiquitous on the web, but I swiped it from Chaos in the House of Cat.
I think it probably dates me that I remember when Socks the Cat moved into the White House. Back then, he’d just outgrown kittenhood. Now comes the sad news that Socks is sick with cancer and not expected to live much longer.
He apparently enjoyed good health through last spring, when U.S. News reported that he was “still purring” at age 18. He had a thyroid condition that caused his fur to look a bit mangy, but otherwise he was okay. He must be 19 now. That’s a pretty good run for a cat.
I’m sad about this. It’s not just Socks; I rage, rage against death no matter where it strikes. Sure, it’s the circle of life and all that, but I don’t have to like it. Then, too, I’m always saddened when a beloved animal dies, even if it wasn’t my beloved animal.
But Socks was also a symbol of an era, wasn’t he? It was always clear that Bill Clinton had more of a connection with their dog, Buddy. I honestly couldn’t picture him appreciating a cat’s less-obsequious affections. Still, Socks brought a dose of feline grace into an administration that had lots of graceless moments.
What I really don’t understand: Why, upon leaving the White House, did the Clintons hand Socks off to Clinton’s former secretary, Betty Currie? I could not do that with a beloved animal. I left GK with my mom for some months when I first headed off to Germany, but once I had a stable living situation I dragged her across the pond. Maybe the Clintons felt they traveled too much and once Chelsea was grown, Socks wouldn’t have a steady companion. Both Bill and Hillary were allergic (though this was oddly not an issue during their White House years). Socks and the Clinton’s dog, Buddy, allegedly clashed. But still! (I guess this is one of the very few things I agree with Caitlin Flanagan on. Eek.)
Anyway, it sounds as though Betty Currie has given Socks loads of love. Last spring, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online published a feature that portrayed them as besotted with each other:
She is his biggest fan.
And the feeling appears to be mutual.
Socks lies on the back deck of the Currie home and nuzzles Currie’s toes with his nose and face as she grooms him to prepare him for photos. Her attention is one of the only things that has roused him from his determination to nap. …
He’s even won the somewhat grudging affection of [her husband] Bob Currie, who says he’s not really a fan of cats.
‘‘He really has a nice personality,” Bob said. ‘‘He’s really smart.”
Like both Hillary and Bill Clinton, Bob is allergic to cats. For Bob, too much exposure to cats causes ‘‘sneezing, coughing, his eyes to get swollen,” he said, especially when Socks gets up on the Curries’ bed and curls up on one of Bob’s shirts, just for instance.
The cat ‘‘lives better than I do,” Bob says as he looks down at Socks lying on his shirt, not seeming to mind that much.
Maybe Socks ended up right where he needed to be after his retirement from politics. Here’s wishing him – and the Curries – peace and comfort.