My Cat Toro and Samuel’s Hodge

Toro is a very fine cat indeed

Since I don’t like the word “pet,” I won’t say it when I refer to my two-year-old tabby, tom Toro, a family member. Toro pays a portion of his rental fee and is a controller of rodents in our dilapidated humble apartment we long to escape. But that’s another story, and this story I am going to unravel is for Toro.

Toro before entering the clinic

It was that time again to get Toro’s annual physical exam, also required for his Hills prescription Urinary care food. So we took a trip to the vet at Little Tokyo, and all’s well that ended well. His weight was steady at 11 pounds, the same as the last year (what an excellent dieter he is!). He got his FVRCP, FelV, and nails done and was proven generally healthy. What a relief because I had been concerned about his taking more naps than usual and tired expressions with half-cast eyes. The doctor told me that it was customary for cats to show such symptoms as they grew bigger. So albeit my mom thinks that I am overly concerned about Toro’s otherwise fine status quo, aren’t we all concerned about the general well-being of our flurry fur babies?

Samuel Johnson and Hodge

It all makes me think of the story of Samuel Johnson and his cat Hodge. Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest men of letters from 18th century England and the author of A Dictionary of the English Language, had his beloved sale-furred cat Hodge, who was immortalized in literary works and as a bronze statue outside his guardian’s once resident abode. We first come to know of Johnson’s cat Hodge thanks to his lawyer friend and biographer James Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Johnson used to go out to buy Hodge’s favorite food, oysters. He refused to let his loyal and faithful Jamaican-born master-servant Francis Barber because he felt that it would be degrading to Francis to do such errands for him. But I like to think that it was more affection toward Hodge, whom he called thus: “He is a very fine cat, very fine indeed.” When Hodge was nearing to cross the rainbow bridges due to his old age, Johnson would get valerian, an herbal painkiller extracted from the flower to lessen his fur baby’s pain. But the end of Hodge wasn’t lost in the inner circle of the ether, for his life was memorialized in ‘An Energy on the Death of Dr. Johnson’s Favorite Cat’ by Percival Stockdale, published in 1778:


The general conduct if we trace
Of our articulating race,
Hodge’s, example we shall find
A keen reproof of human kind.

Samuel Johnson is one of my most admirable literary persons because of his humanist rules of thought articulated in his mastership of the English language. Hence it gives me a feeling of kinship with his love of Hodge. His affection for Hodge felt genuinely caring and familial, which was never mawkish or superficial. So, likewise, my cat Toro is a muse of my writings: whimsical, independent, intelligent, and affectionate. Sometimes, I wonder if Toro is really a little boy bespelled a tom. Well, what more can I say? Toro is a very fine cat, very fine indeed.

Hodge’s bronze statue was inaugurated in 1997 by Sir Roger Cook, the then-Lord Mayer of London. Note the oyster at his paw as his eternal token of Johnson’s affection.

‘Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything’ by B.J. Fogg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When you feel that something important about your approach to your current life isn’t working, you should adopt a new way of sailing your ship at life’s sea. Hence, following my read of Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall, I continued pursuing the answer in Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, a self-help book based on Aristotle’s dictum that virtue is a habit in 21st-century parlance.

Fogg’s approach to habit-forming practice is categorized into small steps that require no intellectual, or philosophical commitments, as in the case of new year’s resolutions. He refers to motivations and willpower as “fair-weathered” friends who hooray and holler at our resolutions to change at first but disappear into the lost memories of the first initiation when our souls plunge at the lowest later. Instead, we must befriend “Aspirations” and “Outcomes” as faithful friends who will help us build a Behavior Design that best matches our disposition and lifestyle by which we can realize our affirmation as the functionary of noble ideas. For example, if you want to save $500 as an emergency fund, you can start by curtailing your Starbucks visits or bringing your lunchbox to work, rather than saving a lump sum of money from your paychecks; as the saying, “Drop by door fills the tub.” Fogg refers to such small practice as the principle of “Golden Behavior,” which you can do when you feel like calling it a day, even on your most challenging day.

Notwithstanding the noble intentions and the greatness of simplicity in Fogg’s guide to habit-forming, some carbuncles I find incongruent in his examples of his successful people who are comparatively well-off business owners or professionals. Of course, that is not to avert his excellent idea that the simple is the best. Still, I hoped to find examples of everyday working-class people struggling to make their lives better who have fewer resources, such as seeking help from a person like Fogg, a Behavior Scientist at Stanford University. Maybe I could inadvertently judge his study results only with limited information based on my reading. Still, I only wish that he would include a broad social spectrum of subjects in the advantage of Golden Behavior. But then I could be a captious reader feeling left out of the selected successful achievers.

In all fairness, the book is worth reading if you are especially keen on Aristotle’s way of happiness, which I regard as personable and approachable, compared to Plato’s metaphysical way of interpreting how to live a perfect life. But let’s forget about the ancient Greek school of philosophy. Still, Tiny Habits do matter.



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Old Astrologer

An astronaut may orbit
the earth in spacecraft
and colonize the moon,
but an astrologer watches
the constellations of stars
that house the spirits
like he’s done for thousands
of years from the sacred
stairs of the ziggurats of Ur
and tells of the stars
that made us.