I am not into “cat think” yet, unlike people in the cat litter marketing video I’ve watched about ten times.
I try. Take today for instance. I imagined I had run around outside chasing things, getting tired, perhaps tasting raw frog or feathers. Then I came inside and took a nap in a really warm room for hours, perhaps a little mouth breathing. I wake up and I imagine I’m getting really thirsty.
Most people my age have had numerous pets of their own, and also have had their children’s pets to contend with. In addition to that, I have a soft heart for strays of all kinds and have successfully passed the gene on to my daughters. I have grandpets. I truly know the joys and sorrows of pet ownership. Most people my age could live very well without any more pets, thank you.
But there was this small cat, barely out of its kitten hood, that my brother and his wife found. It was under their car as they were leaving a graduation party this spring, mewing pitifully. It was skinny, wet and cold, probably hungry. And it was black. For some reason, being black is a strike against a cat. They are least likely to get adopted once they are abandoned. My brother tried but could not find the owner and since the cat was overwhelmingly friendly, they took it home.
More than that, they had their vet look the little creature over and give it some drops for its eyes and an appointment to be spayed. It was litter trained already and acted grateful for a warm bed, food and people petting it.
This is where I came in, thinking that the husband might enjoy having a cat to pet and take care of. He’s retired and spending a lot of time at home without much to do. He’s gotten attached to cats in the past. It seemed reasonable. And the first few days, when the cat was tired and half starved, were peaceful days. And then it got frisky.
Now, several months later, I am very much reminded of what cats do. I have wiped up mounds of semi-digested cat food from the carpet. I have awakened in the middle of the night to find the cat sleeping on my chest. I have taken to smelling any pile of laundry left on the floor for the all too familiar odor of cat pee. I frequently walk around the house feeling like the cat is tied to my leg with string, trying not to trip over it. I sneak to doors and try to get through them before the cat hears me. I could go on – you’ve all heard about cats, if not experienced them yourselves.
So Shadow, as my niece named her before I took her, finally got well enough to keep her surgery appointment. We thought she might be in heat because of the way she kept running to open windows and trying to get through the screens. It was hard keeping her inside. I was glad she was getting spayed.
The vet called later that morning. “You have a very lively cat”, he told me. “She’s unusually active (which made me wonder what kind of fun they had anesthetizing her) and it took a little longer than we had anticipated. Oh, and by the way, we couldn’t find any female organs. She must have been spayed already. We looked extensively to make sure so she’s going to be pretty sore for a while.”
She was. There were a few more peaceful days until she had recovered somewhat. I cautiously let her go outside to sit in the sun. That’s what I would have liked to do if I were a cat. I would leave the sliding doors to the patio open just enough for her to squeeze through. She was definitely an indoor/outdoor kind of cat, who loved both worlds. She came running when I called her and loved to nap inside, but was just as eager to get out again.
It wasn’t long after that when I realized what she was doing outside. She was hunting. One morning I found a mostly dead mole, inside the house. I found him by following the trail of blood spatters on the floor and wall. It had to have been a tortuous way to go. This was followed in short order by several frogs who also bled and lost body parts. I got suspicious of her antics any time she seemed to be having fun “playing” with something.
I knew her skill was increasing one day when she brought in a bird. She had it cornered under a bookshelf and I was able to rescue it. It was so tiny and had a numb, dazed look in its eyes. I took it outside, wondering what to do with it, when it flew away!! I had saved it! I wish I could have done the same for the next two she caught. But I had to wonder… how is she catching birds?
We were having dinner on the patio one pleasant evening. The cat was also out and we were watching her tear around the lawn. Without hesitating she aimed at a tree and went up it like a squirrel to a fairly high branch. Hugging the dark branch, with leaves all around her, she was hard to see. I think that’s why the large flock of sparrows flew into the tree all around her and perched – poor unsuspecting things. So now we know she doesn’t wait for them to come down. She goes up and gets them.
This brings me to today. This morning Shadow brought in a small grey mouse and let it get away. She was waiting patiently by the couch where it had fled for shelter, waiting for it to come out and play again. I got down on the floor with the flashlight and witnessed it scurrying back and forth, trying to find a safe escape route. Definite mouse panic. I felt sorry for it, but what could I do? I couldn’t get under the couch either.
I don’t know where the mouse is. I came in the living room this afternoon to find the recliner upside down – the one the husband usually sits in. He’s doesn’t know where the mouse is now either, but he’s pretty sure it was in/under the chair. I think we now have two house pets.
Do I hope the cat will catch the mouse? I can’t quite decide. But I am renaming her. I’m calling her Shadow of Death because it fits her very well. Just sayin’…
Five days to go, then
the adventure starts. I’m worried.
It’s another rest day, with only about 4,000 steps. My legs
are feeling tired very quickly and there’s a hint of shin splints. I’m worried
that this will continue, or that I’ll do something unwise like switch my shoes
out, or forget something important, or get sick.
For some reason this is also the week when we have meetings with a lawyer to get our wills settled (a two hour trip to the city), and the week when paperwork for our house sale closing is being mailed back and forth, a physical exam for a new life insurance policy, and the week when youngest daughter is flying here to be with her dad while I’m gone. There is a lot going on. A lot to get ready for.
That is why I took time yesterday to run away to the empty
sun porch over at my brother’s house. It was a time to just sit, do some
journaling and thinking. It was a time for “dog therapy”. Scruffy came and sat
on my lap.
Scruffy and I have gradually gotten used to each other over
the last few months. I sometimes take him for a walk, and I’m usually along
when his mom and dad take him for a walk. I always pet him and try to make him
feel special. He didn’t always come up and want to sit on my lap, but we seem
to have bonded now. I pet him, and since
he can’t really pet me back (but I think he would if he could) he licks my
hand. I think that’s dog language for “pet me more”.
Scruffy and I have things in common. For one, we have hair the same color. We both love to go for walks and are easily distracted when we are outside. We’re both a bit aged. I could think of more, but that will do. All this to say that when we sit somewhere together and just chill, it is relaxing, for both of us, but especially for me. I think I worry about more things than Scruffy does. Dog therapy is quite effective since I take my cues from him and don’t worry about anything except whether my lap is comfortable for him to lay on. He is most definitely a lap dog.
Scruffy says hi to
Cricket and Ellie and wants them to know he enjoys their astute comments. Dogs
really have it together. Just sayin’…
This will be a short post because I can’t think of a way to explain the irrational love that I (and many other women) have for horses. I liken it to the way that a man will throw money at something like a boat that is seldom used, for I seldom have time or opportunity to be with my horse.
I have been scared near to death on a horse,
injured on a horse,
frustrated nearly to the end of patience by a horse,
money poor because of a horse,
and yet I love horses.
And though, unlike boats, they can get sick and die, also unlike boats they are living and can love you back. They are a bit like people – some handsome, some not so much, some with great personalities, some a little cranky – all kinds of apt comparisons. If you’re at the right end, they smell really nice, like fresh hay and they have wonderfully soft noses. That’s some of it, but like I said, it doesn’t really explain it all.
I have posted this sequence before but it was fun (funny) and I love to relive it.
Love, whether or animals or people, involves risk. Let me amend that, love involves the certainty of pain and eventual loss, always. Because we know that, every moment that we spend with each other or with a “quasi-human” pet should be filled with awareness and appreciation of life. Over a lifespan, the love we enjoy far outweighs the pain of separation. It leaves us enriched, more experienced, and better able to process what we know will come.
For some reason many of us as children were fascinated by the idea of sitting on a horse. Our mothers set us up on the horse of our choice on the carousel. Maybe we got to ride a real pony around in a circle at the fair. We read Black Beauty, and watched My Friend Flicka. I did all these things. So did my children.
For many of us the fascination wears off. We discover that real horses are bigger than we thought, and stronger than we knew, and less inclined to be caught and gently led, let alone ridden. But for some, like my daughter Julia, the dream goes on, and if horse ownership is denied for lack of money, time or any other practical reason, the dream builds pressure until it explodes. And so, a horse entered the life of our family and had effects that are still in operation today.
Julia, her sister Esther, and I had ridden and worked at a small stable in northern Wisconsin for several summers when the owner brought in a new string of horses she had bought in Minnesota. They had to be ridden a lot and carefully gauged for their trustworthiness before any of the “dudes” were put on them. The owner, Miss Lolly, had one that was her favorite – a nearly white quarter horse mare she called Ghost. She rode her most of the time but occasionally one of her better outriders were asked if they wanted to try her. That was the summer Julia fell in love with Ghost. The next year she bought her, one payment at a time, with her own money.
Logistically, it was crazy. We had moved to Florida and had no place for a horse. So Ghost lived in Wisconsin on Lolly’s farm and she and Julia continued to work together in the summer. But the time came when school and work made the summer trips up north shorter and Julia missed her horse. It was time for Ghost to come to Florida.
We knew little to nothing about trailering a horse over that distance. Our borrowed one-horse trailer was hitched behind a mini-van, of all things, and I have pictures of our travel arrangement that make me wonder how we ever made it. The roughly 30 hour trip had one overnight, as I recall, and lots of stops where we would check on Ghost’s water and hay. Only once did we actually take her out of the trailer briefly and let her walk around at a country exit off the interstate. I think we were worried we wouldn’t be able to get her back in.
She made it to Florida and to Springrock Farm where she spent a number of years with J.C. Barnhill watching over her. Julie’s regular trips to care for Ghost benefited the horse but also furthered Julie’s interest as she learned how to trim hooves, care for horse teeth, and feed and exercise horses. One of the biggest surprises was when it was discovered that Ghost had come to Florida in foal. Rocker, a pretty paint colt was added to the family. Several years later Ghost was bred to Barnhill’s thoroughbred stallion, Officer, and had a filly. Julie named her Fea, and although she came out brown, she soon was the spitting image of her mom. The family was a herd of three.
The family spent time at several other properties as the years unfolded, always necessitating Julie to travel daily to watch over, feed and ride. They were her charges, her dependents. Her knowledge and interest in veterinary care of large animals increased and ultimately led her to enter the DVM program at UF, Gainesville. Ghost and the family moved to a small farm there for four years. The next move was to Jacksonville, FL where Dr. Julia began her job with Jacksonville Equine. At the small boarding pasture where her herd now lived, Dr. J. had to deal with Ghost’s problems of advancing age, especially weight loss and inability to compete with other horses for feed. The last few months were a triumph for Ghost and Dr. J. as Ghost was healthy, energetic and looking well nourished. Only a few weeks ago Dr. J. and some friends took her on a trail ride with Rocker and Fea and all did well.
We’ve all heard of the benefits of having pets. There Is even more to a long term, committed relationship to the care and welfare of an animal. It is much like parenting, in that patience is learned, along with so many other skills. Love is practiced through good times and bad. Faithfulness has its demands for both owner and animal. Those demands, decisions and courses of action can be stressful and sudden.
A week ago Ghost had a medical emergency, colic, another name for equine bowel obstruction. It could not be resolved with initial treatment and Dr. J. took her quickly to the UF vet hospital for diagnosis and ultimately, surgery. Given every chance, Ghost was still unable to survive. She has been laid to rest in a quiet corner of her pasture and will not be forgotten.
What is it with girls and horses? There is an affinity there that becomes so obvious from a veterinarian’s perspective, especially when the veterinarian is also a female. I’ve been riding around in the vetmobile for a few days and it always gives me some unique character studies to write about, some experiences with blood and manure, and a lot of hours sitting in the truck. But, girls and horses first…
Today we made a call for some routine immunizations and dental work. There were three horses, two women and a toddler. It was the mom and her baby girl that were most interesting to watch. If there was such a thing as a stereotype horsegirl, this gal would win the title for sure. Cute little thing (the mom), slender, tight jeans with bling on the pockets, western boots, big smile and horse, horse, horse in her talk. Both ladies took in horses as rescue projects, whether they could afford it or not.
Mom was evidently teaching her little girl to be at ease around big animals and at the same time trying not to let her walk under the horses or get near their feet. She was more than busy running after the child and keeping her away from the dental tools, the antiseptic bucket, the vet truck and the yard gate while still keeping her fairly happy. Was she frazzled, upset with the child or feeling sorry for herself? No. She was relaxed, calm and equally loving her mother role and her horse girl role.
All these horse girls talk about rain rot, cleaning sheaths, varying consistencies of manure, multiple kinds of horse feed, supplements and medicines like it was second nature and the most interesting stuff in the world. They love to watch Dr. Julia work and to ask her questions. And more than once this week I’ve heard something like “this old horse has been with me for __ number of years so I’m going to take good care of him now”. And they say it when they’re looking at a pretty hefty bill for meds and services.
Dr. Julia and an associate vet performed surgery in the field one day. There were two procedures needing to be done and only a short window of time in which to do them before the anesthetic wore off. One doc took the castration and the other, the hernia repair. It’s interesting how you get a horse to lie down on the ground with his feet in the air.
The two vets both went to the next client as well. This horse had an interesting procedure done. It was blind from glaucoma in one eye. In cases like this, pressure continues to increase in the eye and it can become painful, and even rupture. It is better to remove the eye, and that’s what they did. Not fun to watch, lots of blood, no pictures. You’re welcome.
Two days worth of clients. All the horses were owned and attended to by women. That is not to say that men aren’t involved, but they seem more content to provide the finances, build the barns and fences and then let the women actually touch the horses. So what is it with women and horses? Didn’t it used to be the cowboy that was in love with his horse?
As usual, visiting Dr. Julia gives me time with Tess the dog and her sidekick cat-with-no-name. Every morning when I let Tess out, she sits for a moment on the top step and surveys her yard. The cat comes and joins her. I didn’t catch it in the photo but I often see them both staring out with their backs turned toward the door, like two old friends on the porch. It’s beautiful.
They were friends. She didn’t know why it happened and she hadn’t really asked for it. They had moved in to the house where her new friend apparently had lived sometime in the past. Let’s call the new friend… call her Kitty.
She knew Kitty hung around, a lot. Most of the others ignored her or actually shunned her. But she hung around outside a lot too and that’s why she and Kitty got used to each other to the point of toleration. She didn’t look for Kitty, ever, but Kitty evidently kept an eye out for her and came running whenever she came out the door. As she walked around the grounds she had a companion at her side. When she sat on the deck at the top of the stair, Kitty sat with her.
Although they didn’t have a lot in common, except the time they spent together, that was enough. They became a pair, a pair of friends.
Sometimes it is just too hard to figure out what is happening in life. It is hard to think of something to write, something that is a finished thought, when you get nowhere with thinking. I have been on a very simple track of just doing what seems necessary and not a lot of questioning for weeks now. And I still don’t feel anything worthwhile on the verge of appearing. What I do know is that even in times like this, especially in times like this, a cute dog or cat is still undeniably cute. That is why dog and cat videos abound in cyberspace. We run to their cuteness like we run to comfort food. Even better is having your own cute dog or cat in your house.
I have been thinking a lot about cute dogs since I am with two of them. They belong to my daughter but they’ll settle for me when she’s not around. How can a dog appear so content just lying in one place or another, most of the day, waiting for it’s person to move so it can follow? How can that be enough?
As I said, any person, even myself, can be adopted by a dog if they can be closely associated with food and petting. I have been here only a week and already this dog knows my patterns of sleeping, waking and taking walks, all of which he accompanies. His name is Charlie and he “dogs” me all day except when my daughter takes him for a walk without me. I get to observe a lot of his cuteness.
Charlie looked like this when I first came. He seemed to have a lot of fluffy hair. That changed when I got to take him for a session at the doggie spa. He had “the works” and although he probably didn’t lose much weight, he looks a lot thinner now. He was so hyped up when I came to get him, I could hardly make him sit still for a picture. All the grooming girls said he was very cute – they noticed, and how could they not?
Like most dogs,he likes taking walks. The first one we took together was a little ambitious for us both. There was a lot of hill climbing and I had to lift him over some fallen trees. But perhaps it bonded us that I was able to get us back home in one piece. He slept very well that night and so did I. Over the 4th of July there were fireworks being set off all over the neighborhood. Dogs, as a rule, do not like these loud noises but Charlie didn’t pay much attention to them. I think he may have had a little anti-anxiety medicine to help him, still he went to bed and didn’t whine or be restless, and I would have expected some of that. His night cuteness is that he curls up in his bed on the floor and sleeps pretty much until I get up. He’s there a lot during the day too, just being cute.
I’m just sayin’ that this reliable cuteness seems like a gift from God when the rest of life is not making a lot of sense and is not being very reliable. I’m thankful for Charlie (and for cat videos – I watch them all).