War Horse competition entry by Mak Yee-ching

War Horse competition entry by Mak Yee-ching

We asked our readers to write a review of a film or book about a meaningful relationship between a pet and its owner. Here is one of the entries. It has not been edited

Many people have a meaningful relationship with their pets. I have heard many a story about the meaningful relationship between a pet and their owner. Typically, of these stories, the ones that stand out the most are ones that describe a pet helping a child with some sort of disorder through the aforementioned disorder. However, after reading several books about the relationship between a pet and its owner, I have found that the story that has dug its way deep into my heart is not one of such things, but one of a stray street cat and a drug addict.

I first came across this story through the film of the same name, A Street Cat Named Bob. At the time I had watched it, I thought nothing of it, thinking that it was just another fantastic story that some random person cooked up. It was only upon stumbling across the book by chance while I was visiting the library that I realised the story was true. And upon reading the book, the story truly made its way into my heart.

Life-changing events rarely come, and you never know what they manifest themselves as. For James Bowen, it came in the form of a stray cat he happened upon one day. Picking the battered and bruised ginger tom up from the hallway, where he had decided to make his territory, James thought he wouldn’t be keeping the cat, as he was already struggling to keep up with expenses for himself, and even the mere idea of having another responsibility to take care of was disconcerting, given that he couldn’t even take care of himself. See, James was a drug addict who had been trying to get rid of his heroin addiction, as it was greatly affecting his life, but to no avail. Little did he know, that little bit of responsibility he picked up was going to benefit him greatly –– much more than he would have ever imagined.

After picking him up, James decided to name the cat Bob, after a character in a movie he’s watched before. Originally, he thought that Bob would only be a temporary arrangement, as he felt that he did not have the ability nor income to take care of him for long after nursing him back to health. Boy, was he wrong! In trying to get rid of Bob, he had inadvertently brought Bob out on the streets, where he stalked behind James, who was on his way to the spot where he usually worked, as a busker. When James noticed, he found himself burdened with the responsibility to keep Bob safe, as he couldn’t possibly allow him to walk across the dangerous street, where he might get hit by a car. James found that Bob was very attractive for the customers, so he took to bringing him along, hoping to gain more than he did before, especially since he now had Bob to take care of. It worked. This is the start of Bob’s impact in his life.

At this point, we can already see the impact Bob has on James. As he had always only had to take care of himself, James has never had too much care for taking care of himself, as he could always do whatever he wanted, as long as he had enough money for it. But now, with another life for him to take care of, he pushed himself to new lengths, trying to get his life in order so that he would be better suited to take care of Bob. He found a new job that paid less than his previous one but was actually legal, finally took the step to stop taking drugs, and with these changes, he himself changed. He started to see the world in a different light, and finally put away the previous feelings of anger and paranoia he had harboured. When he was invited by his mother to visit, he did, and that journey did him a lot of good, both mentally and physically, through reuniting him with his mother and finally giving him an outlet for the emotions he had been keeping locked up inside a chest up until now.

Now, to this point, Bob may just seem like an accompaniment in James’s life who doesn’t do much to impact it, so my argument that he changed James’s life must be false, right? I disagree, so I’ll lay it out here, the effects Bob had on James’s life, clear and simple.

  1. By simply being there, Bob has helped turn his life around. Being there for James to take care of provided James much of the motivation to turn his life around, as James finally found a purpose in his life: to take care of Bob. In order to do that, James went through a lot of things. Perhaps the most important of that all was stopping his habit of taking drugs. That not only set him on a better path, but the withdrawal also strengthened the bond between James and Bob.

  2. He changed James himself. Before he met Bob, James had been a bitter person, angry at the world for never giving him any breaks, and getting high whenever he got the chance. After meeting Bob, he realised that most of the failures of his life were caused by his own bad decision-making, and he finally set out to change that. That was a turning point for him. Additionally, he made James more… human. Now, this may not make much sense, but by letting James take care of him, Bob has made James seem more human and be more of a people person, thus encouraging him to go to visit his mother, which made his life much better.

  3. He made James famous, and gave him a big opportunity to turn his life around. This should be obvious. Through having this cat, James experienced life-changing things, and wrote a book about it, giving himself an income. This story has also been made a film, and that gives James an even higher income.

This story of a cat’s presence changing the life of their owner is one full of emotions, and it ultimately is quite a happy ending, but, even though I love the bond between James and Bob, I think that even more importantly, this reflects the type of treatment that many people on the streets get: they get shunned for being homeless, and even though they might actually want to change their lives for the better, they have no opportunity to because they are stereotyped. With James’s story, it was only through the power of having a cat that James was able to turn his life around. Many people are not so lucky, and those are the ones we should be focusing on, instead of this individual story about a meaningful relationship between a man and his cat.

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