You can learn a lot about a man by the way he treats animals and waitstaff.
I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats animals and restaurant servers.
Even if you aren't an animal person, and honestly, I'm not, there's still a way to treat creatures with respect and kindness. My husband and I had many dinner dates early in our relationship, and I was always impressed with how he treated waitstaff.
He was polite, he didn't flirt with the pretty ones, and he always tipped well but not gratuitously. And, at home, he had a rescued greyhound that he took amazing care of, so I knew that he was a decent human being.
But there was one event that happened early in our relationship that really helped me see the kind of man my husband was.
One rainy day he got caught in a logjam of traffic on a two-lane road. Cars were backed up, and some were veering onto the shoulder when they reached a certain point.
It wasn't until he got right up to that point that my then-boyfriend saw what was causing the slow traffic; a tiny kitten, barely more than a soggy ball of fur, had been hit by a car and was hunched on the yellow line, hissing at the passing cars in desperate defiance.
The cars all crept by this tiny, helpless creature. Until my husband arrived.
He didn't hesitate. He stopped his car, put on his hazard lights, and got out in the rain to grab the broken and bloody animal.
He had no idea how hurt the animal was or whether it had any chance of survival; he just knew that leaving it injured in the middle of the road wasn't something he was capable of doing.
He received quite a few scratches for his trouble; the kitten was terrified. He also received some honks and unfriendly hand gestures from the other frustrated drivers. He didn't care. He put his waterlogged and seriously pissed off bundle on the floorboard and headed to the nearest vet.
The kitten, which the vet estimated to be about six weeks old — barely old enough to be declawed — had definitely been hit, his tail so damaged that it had to be amputated. We weren't sure whether his spine and walking would be affected.
My boyfriend called me at work to tell me all of this, and I knew without having to ask that we had just bought ourselves a cat — an expensive, possibly special needs cat.
Did I mention that I'm not really an animal person? But to hear my manly man telling me matter-of-factly about the vulnerable animal he'd defied traffic and weather to rescue … hell, whose heart wouldn't melt?
So that's how we got ourselves a cat. A witty coworker of mine suggested we name him Ocho, since he used up one of his nine lives and was left with eight. This struck us as brilliant, and Ocho he is. (He may actually be down to Cinco now, but I'm trying not to count.)
After a brief period of adjustment to being sans tail, Ocho made a full recovery and has been a great pet. I truly believe that he knows we (well, my husband) rescued him, and is deeply grateful — a gratitude he unfortunately likes to express in the form of dead birds. Le sigh.
But few men will put themselves on the line, on the way to work in a freshly pressed button down, no less, for a tiny fuzz ball feline, just because it was helpless and needed them.
But that's the kind of guy my husband is, which is one of the reasons I knew he would be a stellar father.
Oh, and for the record, he has been an amazing cat dad ever since. He tackles litter box duty. When the cat head-butts me in the middle of the night, wanting some affection, my husband will yank him over to his side of the bed and pet him so I can grumble myself back to sleep. And I have never once had to drive that animal to the vet.
That's exactly how he is with the kids, too. He takes responsibility for their care without me having to ask him to.
He jumps in on bath time and doctor's appointments. He cuddles the one with the boo-boo when my hands are full with another one. And there is never any childcare-related duty that he has shrugged off as not being his job. Gah, he's amazing.
So ladies, if you're curious about the kind of dad your beau will be? Watch how he treats animals. It isn't a foolproof test, but in my case, it surely revealed what a catch I'd landed.