My morning begins with exercise, however modest, moves to daily stoic, then reading whatever book I happen to be tackling, and some writing if time allows before I plunge into the daily routine of work and life. I’ve continued this long enough that it’s become habit, and there are worse things than beginning the day this way. I won’t win the CrossFit Games or Jeopardy, but I’m further along than I’d otherwise be.

A month after Bodhi passed, the muscle memory of my routine with him is fading. I don’t look out the window to see if he’s ready to come in, but he’s still lingering somewhere in my mind. But underfoot is a newer morning dance partner; Mookie joined us when the Red Sox we’re making their World Series championship run last fall. Once chipmunk size, she’s a lanky teenager now; full of energy, mischief and spirit.

Make no mistake: I don’t generally bond with cats. I’m a dog person, and always have been. But Mookie got hold of me early on, and I find myself picking her up and petting her when I might have ignored another cat (as I do with the older cat). So here we are, sharing our morning together once again.

It starts from the alarm going off, and she follows me from the closet, down the stairs and at my feet while I hydrate. When I’m done with exercise and sit down with my coffee and book she bounces back into my life and inevitably finds her way behind my right shoulder, surveying the action out the windows behind me. And that’s when it starts… the tail flicks once, wacks me in the cheek. A second time, swatting the top of my head. And then a steady beat of rhythmic whipping begins as her eyes flit from robin to chipmunk to a hummingbird working the honeysuckle. It feels like a fight scene from the old Batman TV show complete with kitschy Smack! Bang! Pow! thought bubbles.

And I tolerate it. I’d never tolerate it from another cat. But I tolerate it from this one. This cat has worked her way into my routine. Strange days indeed.