This is a weird post to write after I’ve been telling you about the pets that have been part of my life.
By the way, I’m going to interrupt myself. In my twenties and into my thirties, we had two dogs. The first one my mother-in-law found downtown Kalamazoo. That first night, the pup had to sleep in her car in the garage because of the old dog my in-laws owned. It was early December, but my MIL made the car quite comfortable and warm enough for the pup out there. By day two, my MIL had given her to us. The gardener named her Muffin. Actually that was sort of a compromise. He wanted to name her Muffy or Scruffy or something undistinguished like that. I wanted a more complex and respectable name, but had to settle on the over-used name Muffin.
A couple of years later, I was waiting on a customer in our luggage store downtown when I saw another scruffy mutt run down the sidewalk. I grabbed a dog biscuit that I happened to keep in the drawer under the cash register and followed the dog down the street. When he hid under a car in a parking lot, I had to crawl under there in my newish khaki skirt (grrrr). I pulled him out and took him back to the store. The rest is history. I named him Oliver because he gulped down the only thing we had in the fridge, which I think was milk (not good for a dog’s tummy, I know). “Please, sir, I want some MORE!” (Oliver Twist from the musical Oliver)
These dogs were groomed together, so they began to look a little bit alike. They were both very well-loved. I found over 25 stray dogs over that period of my life, but located other homes for the rest of them.
When our kids were babies, these dogs were the most efficient vacuum cleaners, especially under the high chair and the kitchen table.
OK, I’m going back to what I wanted to tell you to begin with. I quit my volunteer job at the animal shelter! I’ve been there five or six years and love what I do there. There was a political situation, and I left to show solidarity with the most amazing HUMAN HERO FOR CATS. So that is that. It’s too Covidy out and about for me now, so I will have to wait to find a new shelter. That doesn’t mean I can’t help out as I see little ways to do so. It’s pretty devastating for me personally, but even more so for the cats at the shelter. I worry about them although they will certainly be better off than on the street or in abusive situations. I’m sad.
After writing about my kitty Toby in No Goodbye: A Cat Story I decided to write about my other childhood pets, as well as other animals I encountered in life. Sort of clearing my head about my upbringing with animals. So this isn’t a story, per se, like the one about Toby. It’s more of a list of animals.
The first memory that comes to mind that involves animals I actually already wrote about on this blog almost eight years ago. You can find it here: A Ride with Memory. It’s about my earliest scary memory, and I wasn’t even three-years-old yet. This story involves a horse.
When I was in kindergarten my grandmother babysat me every day before school and all afternoon until almost dinner time. My aunt and her springer spaniel Sandy lived with my grandparents. I was repeatedly warned not to touch Sandy. I needed to stay away from Sandy because Sandy was a biter. Actually, the only person Sandy had ever bitten was me, when I was a baby. She bit my eyelid off, and at the hospital, a doctor sewed it back on. I didn’t remember that trauma, and I still insisted on making a meat pie to celebrate Sandy’s birthday.
When I was five or six, the neighbor’s Dalmatian bit me in the leg, but it wasn’t too serious.
Before we got Toby the cat, we had a bowl with goldfish a couple of times, but they always died. I think I overfed them, and it polluted the water. I had small turtles, but they invariably walked away out of our yard and never came back. Once my father brought home baby ducks at Easter time. Not chicks, ducks. I don’t know what happened to them, but I was terrified of how fragile they were and that I could hurt them. We had chicks one year, too.
I am starting to see the thread here. My father bringing pets home for the family. I’m sure it irritated my mother. Then he brought home a big cage with two guinea pigs. My mother made us keep them in the basement. I’ve written a little story about this for my never-finished memoir, but to sum up: the guinea pigs were unfixed male and female. My dad helped me through the crisis that ensued.
A few months later, he brought home a puppy. A man he worked with had found the puppy at a lake where someone had tried to drown the entire litter. I suspect Perky was the only one left alive, and my father brought her home to us. My mother named her Perky after the man who found her: Mr. Perkins.
Here’s a scrapbook page my mom made for me of some childhood pets. The photo in the upper right is an example of how I always loved feeding the animals. But I still remember being bitten by a llama at Deer Forest Park. Perky is the dog with the collie-type coloring.
Yup, that’s me and the gardener in the center, bathing Perky. She was already getting old there. In the lower left she was playing on the beach at our lake cottage with a “local” puppy. My brother is almost eight years younger than me. At some point, Perky really became his dog because Perky could hang around him while he was playing outside. The gardener and I were out of town when Perky had to be “put to sleep,” and my father and brother went together to the vet and stayed with Perky. That was as it should be.
In 7th grade, the girls and I cut through a vacant lot and someone’s backyard to get home from school. We didn’t notice the white German Shepherd in the dog house. He lunged at us, incensed at our audacity. We ran like crazy, but he was on a chain (poor thing, no wonder he was crabby) and so we were safe. Or so I thought. I slowed down just a moment too soon. He could still reach me, s0 he took a chunk out of my ankle. After that, I was scared of German Shepherds until I became an adult.
When I was fifteen I bought myself a cage with two finches: a brilliant scarlet one and a beautiful green. Of course, the green one managed to get herself egg-bound and although I held her over the steam like the book said to do, she still couldn’t pass the egg and eventually died from the exertion. I kept finches for years, but they were all gone before my kids entered my life. Good thing, or my babies would have been eating birdseed off the floor. Finches are lovely to look at, but very messy because when they eat they hurl the hulls of the seeds across the room.
As an adult I’ve had dogs, cats, the finches, hermit crabs, and a rat. (She was the best pet). I’d like to have donkeys, but it’s looking doubtful that that is going to happen.
Lots of sad times with the animals. And some painful ones when I was bit (three dogs and one llama). But none of it deterred me from being an animal lover–from fish to horses, I love all the species I encountered.
In this pandemic I am so grateful to have my six cats. But last night Felix had to go to the ER. He had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, and hadn’t peed in 38 hours. The vet said his bladder was small, so that was a mystery, but I was glad he wasn’t blocked. I hope he gets better fast and that it’s not something bad. Poor baby.
Here’s Kana to say HI and BYE!
Perry hasn’t said HI in awhile, so he wanted to hop in here, too. Cutie pie.
Starting last winter the gardener and I had a business project begin that has taken up a lot of our time. It’s been difficult to write in the midst of it, although I tried to do some writing. I also had my mother here for about 10 weeks in the spring. Throw in a couple of trips on top of the extra work. Then recently Mom was here again for two weeks, and I began The Artist’s Way program (FYI: bad timing to begin at this time of year). Felix had serious health problems beginning in August, as well.
Then week before last my grandcat Meesker had a urinary blockage, just like Felix. He, however, needed further surgery because of stones in the bladder. Although he’s doing fine it upset our holidays plans, as well as some other big plans in our family.
We had to change everything. And my daughter’s boyfriend had to change the date for a marriage proposal. This past week was pure chaos as we made a business trip to California, had car trouble the third time in a row, made it back in time for the proposal and little party afterwards, and then had our Hanukkah/Christmas family celebration.
I am ready to COLLAPSE. Seriously. Collapse.
The gardener and I developed colds, but I’m so glad that everyone seems pretty well right now other than that–including all the cats, the grandcats, and the granddogs. We had that darling puppy Riley here all day on Saturday. She was so good, only pooing in the house once. The cats were interested in her, but she tended to nap when they stared at her.
Going back to the proposal. YAY!!!! We are all excited because we love her boyfriend. They were friends for twelve years before dating, so we’ve known him for thirteen years. He proposed at the elegant Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, which was decked out for Christmas. In fact, they have a Winter Wonderland, complete with pageant, every year.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort lobby
He proposed at the fountain in front of this giant Christmas tree that changed colors. The song playing was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It was on a music loop, so it was just chance that it wasn’t an uptempo Christmas song, but a more romantic-sounding song.
The staff was in on the proposal, so they were relaying information by text messages to each other and to a group of us waiting in hiding:
“They are leaving the restaurant.
They are stopping at the bathroom.
They are rounding the corner.”
All went well. My daughter is over the moon with happiness and loved the old-fashioned-style proposal.
Saturday my son made gluten-free latkes for us. He used an entire bag of giant russets, so we still have leftovers. (Yay because they are my favorite). I prefer them with sour cream, not apple sauce. How about you?
My mother pulled a fast one on me, by the way. When she was here, she had me drop her at the mall. Apparently while she was there, she purchased me an entire set of Fiestaware dishes! Then she had my daughter pick them up and hold them until Saturday when the kids all carried them out to me.
I’ve wanted Fiestaware for ten years, but couldn’t justify it because I have perfectly good dishes that I hate. I was so touched because it’s one of the nicest things my mother has done for me. She might be 85, but she still loves me :).
Hah, I don’t like to think that I am that materialistic that purchasing an item shows love, but the whole notion of my mother getting the idea of buying them for me and carrying out the plan because she knew I love the dishes really made me happy.
She chose four colors, plus serving pieces in other colors. Here are three of the colors. Aren’t these pretty plates?!!!
Now that we celebrated with our family, the rest of the month should be less hectic–and for that I am grateful.
Hugs as you travel through sluggish traffic and on cantankerous air travel, if you are doing so. And I can’t imagine too many don’t have to go out on the busy streets.
I’ve witnessed a spin of the circle of life again.
Mourning upon mourning
My dear darling oldest cat Mac passed away yesterday morning. He had been battling a congenital heart problem, diabetes, and chronic kidney failure for a long time and suddenly he took a turn for the worse. He refused food and water, and hubby and I could see it was his time. I sang to him for awhile, mainly nursery songs like “Billy Boy,” “The Riddle Song,” and “Tumbalalaika.” Then we took him to the vet. I held him, bundled in a beach towel, in my arms while he passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Mac had a huge personality. He put everyone he met under his hypnotic spell. I don’t know how he did it, but it was simply from the force of that dynamic and powerful personality. I am too sad to do much except clean up the house from the effects of his recent illness, but I will post a few pix, along with a story about him that I wrote a few years ago.
My friend, Barbara Tapp, a talented artist, made this picture for me of Mac:
As you probably know by now, my father passed away in May, so this is another blow.
Here is the story of how Mac came to be part of our family.
Our new house came with a stray cat, but we did not realize this until after we closed on the property. Apparently the previous owners had been feeding this predominantly white calico female in the backyard for quite some time, but when they moved, they didn’t mention the cat to us. Our new next door neighbor told us he was going to “shoot that damn cat next time it comes around here.” I wondered if he would pry that beer can out of his hand long enough to do so, but I suppose there are some people who are great shots even while drinking.
Though I came to the house for two weeks to feed her every day, one day the calico just disappeared. I felt a twinge of relief because she seemed to be half feral and would not make a house cat and then sadness welled up in me. Although it’s unlikely my neighbor actually killed her, I grew furious with him.
We needed to remodel the house before we moved in. The workers ripped off the façade of the house on the side where a new room would go. This left a large gap behind the bathtub. One day the workers were framing as we gardened, when I heard a yell from Brad, one of the workers. He told us he saw an orange and white tabby kitten pop its head out from behind the tub to look. We ran over there and found three kittens: the orange kitten, a calico, and a black and cream tabby with fur almost as long as a long haired cat. Brad explained that he had seen the kittens the other day and was sure that they no longer had a mother. The orange and white kitten, still so young he had blue eyes, walked boldly out and looked at us with curiosity. He was followed by the calico, and then the long haired tabby crept out bashfully. Those two seemed to be following the orange kitty.
My daughter was ten and had grown up with two dogs in the family. The preciousness of a furry kitten appealed to her and she began a fierce campaign to keep one of the kittens.
He said he hated cats!
Hubby said, “I hate cats.” Those big blue eyes peering out of the tiny furry face forced me to argue with him, “You just don’t know cats since you’ve never had one.” I told him how beautiful my childhood cat had been.
Finally, hubby relented and agreed that we could select one kitten, but we had to “take the rest to the shelter.”
I took the friendly orange kitty on my lap and dialed my vet’s office. I talked to Jan, the tech. Jan told me to choose the orange tabby because they are friendlier and more dog-like. As she well knew, I was very used to dogs. This viewpoint was confirmed for me because the other two cats were meeker than the orange; he was already melting into my lap as though he belonged there. Jan encouraged me to bring in the cat I was going to keep for a thorough exam and vaccinations, but she issued one caveat; under no circumstances was I to bring in the other two cats because the office already had a litter of kittens they were trying to find homes for.
DON’T BRING THOSE OTHER CATS IN HERE!
When I got off the phone my friend, a veterinarian who worked at the vet’s office, called and told me to choose a boy: “they are more outgoing and friendly.” She said she’d run over and look at them real quick on her way to an appointment, so I tried to ignore the sexism in her statement. She examined each kitten in turn and declared them all boys. Years later, I read that most calicos are girls, so I still wonder if that boy was really a girl or a rare cat.
I found one big cardboard box in the garage and put all three kittens into it on an old garage blanket which sported pieces of dried leaves clinging to it and which I covered with a clean towel. I drove the kittens immediately to my vet’s office. I know, I know. But I didn’t know what else to do with the other two kittens.
I heaved the box up onto the counter in front of Jan. She couldn’t resist the temptation and peered inside. “You brought all three; I TOLD you not to!! “ She grimaced. “Aren’t they cute though?!”
A woman and her elderly mother peered into the box. The younger woman oohed over the kittens, asking me what I was planning to do with them.
Without missing a beat, I said, “I’m keeping the orange one and taking the other two to the shelter!” My words had the desired effect of horrifying and motivating her. The woman told me she would give them a home if I liked.
Conferring with Jan in private, I discovered that the woman was there with an injured squirrel, so I figured we had a winner. I offered to pay for the neutering, but the woman told me she would take care of that herself.
My new kitten was examined and vaccinated and declared a fine, healthy specimen. I brought him home to our “old house” to meet our two dogs, Oliver and Sandy.
Before we let the dogs see the kitty, I put him in my daughter’s bedroom because it was connected to the Jack and Jill bathroom she shared with her brother and it had a little walk in closet. The room was small at 10×10 feet, but with the closet and the bathroom, it was the perfect size for such a young cat. While the kitty got used to the bedroom, my daughter and I went to PetSmart and bought supplies, including a plastic carrying kennel.
Later that night, we put the kitty in the kennel and introduced the dogs. Sandy began to growl and yip at the cage, but Oliver took one look at the tiny cat and barked a sharp order at Sandy. Sandy never bothered the cat again. I wondered if animals teach each other in the same way that people often teach one another. When our first dog Muffin was alive, Oliver was dog number two, and Sandy was not yet part of the family. On the rare occasion that Oliver would get a little testy with the children when they were quite young, Muffin would bark at him exactly the same way. It’s as if the older dog warns the younger dog to be careful of the youngsters, no matter what species the youngsters are.
Very quickly, Mac and Sandy became best friends.
Mac with Sandy
Now there was only one other family member to win over and that was hubby.
I had named our new cat Macavity, after the T.S. Eliot cat known as the “hidden paw.” I should have known better because Mac lived up to his name, hiding as many of hubby’s belongings (keys, notes, ring) as he could tote off. He didn’t try to win over the husband.
But one day I came home and Mac was curled up around hubby’s head as he lay on the couch watching TV. And from then on, they were great friends. Mac never stole another object belonging to my husband. He started a campaign to reduce my earring collection by 50% by stealing one earring from each set. All these years later, we’ve never found the earrings.
That’s how Mac-the-cat (one of his nicknames) became part of our family
Another nickname is Monkeybunnyratowlpig.
Eventually we accumulated three other cats that are still part of the family. But it was Mac who persuaded hubby that cats are pretty cool people. It’s because of Mac that we both volunteer at the shelter with the kitties. And it’s because of Mac that hubby and I have been crying.
Did you think that all the time hubby and I have been spending at the shelter playing with the kitties was going to increase our cat count at home?
A lot of people have mentioned that they expected me to bring home more cats.
But nah. I did spring one of the cats, but not for me. My son and his girlfriend saw the photos I had taken of some of the shelter cats and fell in love with an 8 month old kitten called “Precious.” They have a beautiful black velvet cat named Meesker. He’s already two years old–a fact I have trouble processing as it seems he was just a little kitten a couple of months ago. The kids decided they wanted Precious as a little sister to Meesker.
So I sprung the little sweetie two weeks before I would be seeing my son because the cat room had become so crowded at the shelter. We had a lot of new kittens and the anxiety level of the “roaming” cats was fairly high. I decided on the spur of the moment to bring Precious home to my house. She lived in my office.
On Monday, hubby and I drove Precious (now called Lily) from Phoenix to California so that Lily can live at the beach with her new mom and dad and big brother Meesker. Lily traveled in a large dog kennel that belongs to my oldest cat Mac.
She was so good the whole six hours, although for the last 1 1/2 she lay face down and it seemed clear to me that she had a tummy ache from the bumpy ride.
Imagine our surprise when we put two very sweet-natured cats together, and they didn’t get along very well. Lily played in Meesker’s favorite toy, his long fabric tunnel, and it made him sad. Lily chased Meesker, and he hid under the bed.
For awhile, Lily lay on the couch and Meesker on the floor, but it didn’t last long.
My son is going to get a gate for the bedroom so that the cats can sniff each other without worrying about losing any fur. I’m hoping that my son and his girlfriend will go very slowly in reintroducing the cats to each other. Then they can all live as one happy family.
So, no, I didn’t get a new cat for myself. However, if this works out well for them, there is a sweet black cat at the kennel who has been there far too long. Actually, there are two, but how many will I be able to slip past hubby without him really grasping how many cats live at our house?