While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

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Cat Tales

Guess what time I’m writing this.  No, earlier – much earlier.  Guess why.  Yes, we’ve got A Kitten.  As I lie in bed, listening to the thunder of kitten paws running full-speed from the kitchen through the living room, into the bathroom, then a straight shot into my room, wondering how I can get this little guy to fall back to sleep – bam!!  He’s on the bed, chasing my feet under the blanket and – ouch!  those tiny claws are sharp as needles.  No sooner is he on the bed then he’s out the door, through the hall and back into the living room.  He’ll be 4 months old on the 4th of August and he has entered the Full-speed Ahead in Any Direction phase of kitten-hood.  He reminds me of our first cat, Leo.  Leo was faster than wind and no more easily caught.  This little one will be like that.  Leo wasn’t any good at hunting or catching (he wouldn’t slow down long enough to hunt even a catnip mouse), but our other cat, Toby, was the Boss Cat of hunting.  I remember seeing him strut up the walkway to our front door with a deflated rubber ball in his mouth.  He was so proud of that ball – it must have been a difficult kill.  One hot summer evening he proudly brought home a T-bone steak.  My neighbor, Dave, didn’t talk to me for a week after that incident.  One other time, Toby brought home a stray cat whom we named Chuggi, because of his slight limp.  He chugged along rather than gracefully glided, as a cat should do.  When I finally tamed Chuggi enough to take him to the veterinarian for vaccines and check-up, the doctor estimated his age to be about 9 months.  The doctor said he would outgrow the limp but never catch up in other areas; in other words, Chuggi wasn’t the brightest light in the house.  He had a habit of getting his front paw stuck in his collar.  The sight of him limping up the sidewalk to the front door, front paw tucked under his chin in the collar and a bewildered look on his face, is a memory I will always have.  He had one injury in the many years we owned him.  This injury resulted in having to wear a cone to prevent him from pulling out the stitches.  Poor Chuggi spent the entire first day back home from the clinic walking backwards throughout the house, trying to back out of the cone.  Toby was amused.  Chuggi was baffled.

And there goes Bemo, our kitten, full-speed into the bathroom door.  His little head must be very hard.  He’s brave, confident to a fault, and thoroughly inquisitive.  And a complete opposite of the cat who preceded him in our home.  Her name was Taggy, and she was a nervous, timid cat who was slow to warm up to life.  She spent her first 5 years with us under my daughter’s bed so I don’t remember much of her kitten-hood.  I can say that it wasn’t like this new kitten’s baby-hood.  But, later in life she became friendlier, and in her final years she turned into a loving, talkative companion who would follow me around the house holding up her end of the conversation.  I still miss her.

And I just saw Bemo fly past the kitchen and head straight into the bedroom.  My spouse is still asleep – how he can sleep through this amazes me.  I manage to entice Bemo out of the bedroom and into the living room.  I try to settle him down on his blanket on the back of the couch (he’ll be an indoor cat only) but he jumps out of my arms and attaches himself to the window screen.  He sees a bee on the blossoms outside the window.  Which reminds me of the time Toby caught a bee and was stung in the mouth.  The vet said he’d be fine and that the swelling would subside after a day or two.  And that reminds me of the time that our dog, Pippin, decided that Taggy needed to be chased around the house.  She – Taggy – ran under the bed and Pippin followed her, resulting in a long scratch across his snout.   The vet said, “You must have a lively household.”  Yep.

And there goes Bemo, again . . .



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The Cat that Mooed; some thoughts on companionship

As I was out walking recently, a man and his dog walked past me in the opposite direction.  The man was talking – I assumed he was using a Bluetooth or some similar device as I didn’t see a cell phone or a headset.  Not intentionally eavesdropping, I noticed his matter-of-fact tone of voice and assumed he was talking to a colleague.  But, then I heard “and you’re a good boy.”   Hmmm.  That’s an odd way to compliment a co-worker.  He reached down to pat the dog on its head and continued with his conversation.  The dog trotted alongside, listening intently, and apparently agreeing with everything its owner said.

Two days ago, we lost our elderly cat, Taggy, to a trio of diseases that came upon her within one year.  She was almost 18 years old.  Her first 16 years of life were lived free of problems – never sick, never injured, never lost, always lively.  And talkative.  She had more to say than our beagle ever said!   She out-talked our Siamese cat whose complaints seemed endless, and all our other (many) cats whom we have outlived.  She talked about everything – from the weather to her food, from birds who perched at the front window to rainy days, from stray cats who wandered through our yard to our resident crow; and she talked about our beagle, Pippin (aka That Damn Dog).  She used vocalizations that my spouse, my daughter, and I have never heard from any other cat.  Some people say that pets imitate their owners’ tone of voice, but I don’t recall ever quacking at my daughter or spouse, or they to me.  I know she imitated Pippin.  She would bark back at him after she was done hiding under the bed (he was loud).  She squeaked, squawked, whispered, chirped, and as already mentioned, quacked.  She meowed occasionally, too.  And, of course, she purred.  But the sound I will most miss, and enjoyed most, was her mooing.

Taggy had a favorite perch in the house where she would sit and talk to us as we walked by.  Sometimes she meowed – she and my daughter had many meowing conversations – but most often she would moo in a deep, quiet voice.  So, like any crazy family, we mooed back.  Tag’s mooing phase lasted less than one year but it was fun.  I think she enjoyed it as much as we did.

As her health deteriorated most of her vocalizations truncated to quiet, worried meows.  Occasionally, she would meow frantically as she followed me around the house.  All of us tried to calm her, and at times we were successful, but her discomfort prevailed.  The last two weeks of her life were spent by being held, comforted, attended to, and spoken to.  She didn’t sleep more than 2 – 3 hours at a time and demanded to be fed every 1 – 2 hours.  Cancer’s a brutal disease, and she kept us informed each step of the way.  And she told me, as clearly as I’ve ever heard, that her time to leave us had come.

For all who own or have owned pets, you know the wide scope of emotion they bring.  They fill our lives with love, humor, worry, joy, fear, and comfort.   But most of all, they give us companionship.  We are wise to accept this gift as is, with all the joys and sorrows, quacks and moos.

Because, after all, their love is unconditional.