Buddy

buddy

Buddy
Buddy appeared as unexpectedly as he disappeared. A flash, a flame, and he was gone.

It was a steamy hot, summer day in northern Indiana, the backdrop to all of my childhood memories, when he came into our lives. Tar bubbled up from the road and squished underfoot. Birds sighed in their nests and old men carried around handkerchiefs to wipe off their sweaty foreheads and dripping noses. Everything felt hot, unless we were lounging in a tree or swimming in the “pool.”

The “pool” was actually a large, yellowed plastic container, originally used for farm chemicals with the top cut off. Nobody knew that chemicals absorbed into plastic at that time and if they did, it didn’t matter.

We were the invincible riff-raff. We ran around topless and barefoot, living on red popsicles and white bread baloney sandwiches and only coming in at dark.

Yes, we were those kids, living that life, if you happen to be wondering.

Brains, my brother, and I splashed around in the pool.  We zipped back and forth across the plastic container, dodging horseflies and pretending to be otters, when Brains popped up from the water. We heard the same things, yipping and barbed wire banging against a fence post, the rustling and shaking of something big and wild.

“Puney, let’s investigate.”

I nodded at Brains. Investigate was our favorite word for adventuring into an abandoned barn or open garage. We jumped over the brittle, plastic edge of the pool and shook off like little wet dogs.

Like the little wet dogs that we were, we trotted off after the noise. We made it across the hot road, popping tar bubbles with each step and discovered the source. A dog with shiny black fur and white teeth, whimpered for help. Its powerful back legs were twisted up in the barbed wire fence. The more the animal fought, the worse its predicament became.

“Brains, this is bad,” I said.

My little brother nodded, “Let’s get Mom.”

He took off for help, a first responder and action taker from an early age, and returned with a basket of garden tools.

“There’s no time to find Mom. We have to do this now.”

With a pair of wire clippers and four little hands, the dog was liberated from the fence.

“There you go, Buddy. You’re free.”

The dog looked at us with gratitude in its deep, brown eyes. And like that, Buddy was off leaving behind only a ruined barbed wire fence, but that was for the grownups to figure out.

The Slow Blink

slow blink

The slow blink, it’s a sign of sleepiness or a medical condition in humans. In cats, however, it’s a form of communication. Some say that slow blinking at or between cats is like sending a kitty kiss and that it signals the slow-blinker as non-threatening. I always thought it was a way to show dominance (wrong) and to force the recipient into submission (also wrong) which is likely why I never received the expected response from my furry friends.

Somehow the silent message sent with the slow blink and the unbroken stare got mixed in my mind, as well as the fact that these techniques should only be used on felines not supervisors or presenters at business meetings.

It was a simple mistake, easily made by anyone who works from home and spends too much time away from people.

Yesterday, I regretfully tried to slow blink a presenter at a meeting in hopes of making him go away. He stood behind a podium reading numbers off of a power point slide which is definitely a presenting no-no, even for a head honcho.

As peon in the back row of the room, I had what I thought to be a secret weapon. I was going to slow blink him into submission and away from the podium. He would slide quietly into his chair while declaring the meeting adjourned, thus releasing his captive audience back to their respective work areas. I was going to be a hero.

I started the slow blink when he looked in my general direction, preparing for the basic and total submission.

Instead, we got nada-nothing-zip-zero response, just a disturbed look of annoyance, and another half hour of numbers and projections in the same monotone voice.

This prompted me to review the slow blink and its effectiveness.

Readers, it really is only meant for cats.

http://www.petsadviser.com/behaviors/cats-blink-slowly-at-you/

http://www.mewsletter.com/ask-fancy/cat-slow-blink

http://cats.about.com/od/amyshojai/a/Cat-Talk-Cat-Eye-Blink.htm

Hirsute Roommates

mad cat

Most days I work from home.

Sure, I miss going to the office to see other people and a different set of walls that those of my home. However, I don’t miss getting up early, scraping ice from my car every morning, fighting traffic, or micromanagement. I get up a little later, power up my computer and am suddenly “at work”. I take breaks for laundry or to grab a coffee with a friend and leave as needed for meetings and home visits with clients.

It’s a mostly perfect arrangement, aside from three problems, the roommates.

They never leave. This is naturally very exhausting so they spend most of their time sleeping. When they are awake, they are fully energized for at least a half an hour of chaos and disruption. Even worse, they use discretion in choosing their times of mayhem, which is generally limited to when I’m on the phone with my supervisor, a client in crisis, or a conference call.

Just yesterday, I was on the phone with someone who was about to lose her home. She was crying and explaining how it all happened when the gang came barreling down the hallway. The two sisters were chasing Big White like cheetahs racing across the savanna after a doomed antelope. Big White ran for her life and leapt onto the table for my protection.

In her big clumsy hurry, she knocked my coffee mug over. The cheetah sisters followed Big White’s trajectory onto the table and over it after her as she continued to flee, now drenched in coffee. I muted the call and fortunately, the woman had a quite a story to share and was none the wiser. It was about this time that the sisters overtook Big White and a terrific fight ensued.

They were all put into the backroom from which they promptly escaped by the collective power of meowing and pounding on the door. Once they broke free, silence returned. I breathed a sigh of relief wrongly thinking I could return to work for a few hours until they were recharged again.

A few peaceful minutes passed before they had regrouped and returned with a new mission to obtain food.

First, they jumped on my keyboard to make sure I was paying attention. Then, they started to meow together like they had practiced this performance and Big White was the maestro. Lastly, the littlest one hopped onto a potted houseplant (not toxic to cats) and started to bite off the leaves and looked at me, as though to say, “We will find our own food if you don’t feed us immediately.”

What did I do?

I caved, of course.

I can’t refuse those little hairy roommates anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsutism

nose blind?

cat3
Recently, we were expecting company and up against the clock to prepare for their arrival. The house was a wreck, but only because of our three roommates. To put it simply, they are hairy, lazy bums. When they aren’t lounging on the couch or hacking up hairballs, they are kicking litter out of their boxes, digging in the potted plants, or tearing up random mail/papertowels/anything they feel like destroying.

And they don’t even pay rent!

In any case, we launched into a crazy, cleaning frenzy. We swept, mopped, dusted, and scrubbed. The fridge was cleared of mold covered leftovers, the trash was bagged, and the clutter was organized. After a few hours, the place was spotless from top to bottom. The floors gleamed and the windows sparkled.

It was impressive what we accomplished that afternoon. Our roommates came out of hiding (they hate the vacuum and all cleaning activities) and sniffed the air. They inspected each room before throwing themselves onto the couch with bored yawns and meowed for an early dinner. Bums, right?

As I put the cleaning supplies away, I heard spritzing from the next room. The spritzing noise traveled through the rest of the house. I tried to quietly creep towards the sound and was stopped by a scent-wave of artificial wild orchids that stuck in my throat.

Coughing through the mist and covering my eyes, I escaped into the unpolluted air of the living room. I found my darling husband with a bottle of febreze and a determined on look on his face. He was carrying out a self-imposed mission to spread the potent odor of fake flowers throughout our home.

When he saw me choking on the sweet air, he stopped and smiled.

With the bottle in one hand, he explained, “It’s in case we’ve gone nose blind from the cats.”

I couldn’t argue with him and suddenly feared it was true. This was something that I had heard about somewhere…the nose blind concept.  Could we have gone nose blind and even with all of that cleaning, the smell of stinky cats still lingered?

How embarrassing.

Nose-blindness is a stealthy condition that slowly overtakes olfaction when exposed to less pleasant smells on a regular basis. It’s an adjustment of the senses to a new normal that happens without one’s self-awareness of the change.

Yet again, he saved me, the hero of my senses.

Of note:

Later, I remembered where I heard about this condition.  The same place where I get all of my other reliable information, commercials from tv, of course.  This is a real condition, if conditions that are invented and coined by huge corporations as part of advertising strategies are real. The first article listed below actually uses science to explain the phenomenon. Whoa!

Check it out.

Here are some links:
http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/08/why-cant-you-smell-your-own-home.html
http://www.febreze.com/en-US/noseblind
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=noseblind

Post Christmas Puke

elf

There is nothing quite like running late for work the day after Christmas.

Everything was a mess from the holiday hustle bustle with rogue boxes on the couch, batteries rolled under the rug, abandoned sheets of tissue paper, and half-finished laundry on the table. Bags and opened packages were dropped in the hallways from coming back late on Christmas night and remained as cheery remnants of December 25/trip hazards in the morning.

Perhaps, most off putting of the morning, we were out of bananas for breakfast. Grocery shopping had not made the to-do list with all of the other shopping and preparations. The only option to save me from starvation was left-over Christmas cookies and old almond milk, the breakfast of champions and night time snack of hipster Santas.

Needless to say, I was not seizing the day. I was stumbling towards my one and only goal for the day: make it to work before my supervisor noticed I wasn’t there.

Fortunately, I had enough foresight to lay out my least wrinkled sweater, scarf and pair of socks the night before to save time in the morning.

After aimlessly shuffling around and getting nothing done, I mustered up the strength to take a quick shower, feasted on cookies and milk and pushed the X-mas junk into a pile for later. I just had to get dressed and head out the door. The sweater was in my hands, a millisecond away from going over my head, when I noticed it was wet. In fact, it was more than wet. There was also a massive hairball and several perfect circles of bright, yellow bile on the sweater. I suppose I should mention that the goo wasn’t contained to the sweater only, it also found its way to my scarf and socks that were meant for the day.

After a quick sweep of the room, I found the guilty party. She was sticking half way out from under the bed skirt watching me cry out in disgust as I stepped into another pile of goo. If she could have giggled or snickered, she would have at that very moment. Her whiskers quivered and her little cat face smirked at me without a hint of remorse.

Just eight hours earlier, I called her my white princess and hand fed her snacks while she purred on my lap. I struggled to understand how she could do such a malicious thing to me a few short hours later.

“Why?” I cried out, partially expecting an answer.

It felt personal, this attack of biological warfare.

Still trying to get a grip on the situation, I cleaned up the mess, found another sweater, and hurried to the office considering what a mean creature shared a pillow with me at night. Maybe it was time that she got her own pillow, I mused vindictively.

When I finally made it and settled into my cube for the day, I looked down at what I was wearing. Stripes and spots, great. I was glad that everyone else had taken off the day to spare them the confusion of my outfit. I cursed the name of my white princess again and shook my fists in the air.

Before I could really start the day, I needed to get ahold of myself. I needed to take a tour of the internet news and check my horoscope and any other links that popped up demanding to be explored to get my mind off of the mess and the sweater saboteur living in my home.

At the bottom of a random page, it said, “It is best to err on the side of compassion…”

I think there was more, but I was already considering the implications of this message for my day. Of course my white princess wouldn’t intentionally sabotage my work outfit. So what if she did, it was probably so we could spend the day together after being apart for Christmas.

Kitty logic, go figure.

Erring on the side of compassion is a mistake that I can afford to make with my darling cat.

Oh hard heart, how fast a well-placed quote can soften your edges.

I’m just not sure if I have enough reserve to do the same with humans.

Distractions

At the sound of the approaching voices, Lilly froze in her tiny office. Her body started to shake and quiver. She willed her heart to slow and freeze, like the rest of her, fearful that the thudding would give her presence away.

There was a crowd of co-workers just outside of the room, talking and laughing. She twitched at their unprofessionalism. This is a place of work, she thought with distaste, not a bar or a common coffee house. Her heart hardened against the cacophony that broke the normal harmony of the office.

Then the voices faded and she breathed a sigh of relief. She heard the sound of typing from her office mate. Click, click, click. His pudgy fingers struck the keys of his computer with a clumsy, steady grace. It was a comfort to her, the same clicking and shuffling of papers. No loud noises, just the sounds of working throughout the day.

She stood up, stretched her arms over her head and peeped her head out of her office. Safe, she whispered to herself. Anxiety held her captive, while loneliness slowly killed her. It wasn’t her co-workers she resented, it was the disruption of routine, the interruption from the norm, and their loud voices. On second thought, it was definitely their loud voices that she resented the most.

Lilly’s tightly wound nerves started to relax and her heartbeat returned to normal. It was as though a winter storm had just passed and the blue skies were beginning to return. Birds were chirping again from frozen trees as snow melted onto the white ground. Lilly was refreshed and recharged from her recent scare.

Lilly held onto the edge of the tissue box and pulled herself out. Fresh air filled her lungs and the bright office lights made her squint until her eyes adjusted. She squeaked and scurried over to her office mate who stared straight ahead at his computer screen, still typing the last thing she said to him.

He glanced down at her and asked, “Are you ready, now?”

Lilly squeaked again and ran up his plaid sleeve to rest on his shoulder where she started to whisper the rest of the story.

Two for the price of one

This weekend, my husband and I drove to southern Indiana to house-sit for a friend.  We came back today with well-deserved hangovers and two kittens.  While the details of the great cat acquisition remain somewhat hazy, it is clear that the kittens are here to stay. 

They look like fat little tigers and run with a hopping lean off to the left, like their legs are unevenly matched in length.  It’s an endearing gait that makes everything they do precious.  I hope the vet agrees with my impression of the situation as something cute and not neurological/physiological.  

As we continue to be delighted with the duo’s antics and endless energy, Big Jelly does not share our sentiments.  Big Jelly is an old, overweight cat with a long list of things that she doesn’t like; little cats top the list.

Thankfully, the kittens are napping now from the car ride home, hours of tearing through the apartment after each other, climbing up the backside of furniture, and taunting Big Jelly.  We are just as tired from chasing after the little cats and preventing the cat fight that is certain to ensure between the kittens and Big Jelly.

I am sure that with enough time and coaxing, the kittens and Big Jelly will become fast friends or least will tolerate being in the same room.  By Christmas, I hope to send out a card with the three curled up together on a cushion with their human caretakers, with a message that says, “The more, the merrier.”

Life is a funny and unpredictable journey filled with twists and curves along the way; where we end up and who is there with us is an ongoing mystery.  Who could have guessed that we would come home with two, naughty little kittens?  Or that they would have already brought so much happiness and laughter?  

What is the secret to attaining the same level of kitten induced joy without adopting an animal?  Appreciate the small things of life, take chances, and then go ahead and treat yourself by adopting a kitten or two.

Too close to the quick

The morning was dark and I felt too lazy to flip on the lights.  As I lounged on the couch and sipped from a mug of hot coffee, Miss Kitty purred next to me.  She looked lovingly up at me when I scratched behind her ears, pleased to have company for the day. 

I set my mug down on the table next to the couch and noticed a pair of forgotten nail clippers, abandoned by my husband after the previous night’s project (his toes).  It suddenly occurred to me as the perfect time to trim Miss Kitty’s nails.  The cat, the tool, and the time were practically bundled up and tied with a bow for me.  I would be a fool to ignore the chance to snip her claws, I foolishly thought.

“Miss Kitty,” I said, petting her soft, white head.  “It’s time to go to the beauty shop and get your nails done.”  

Her loving look turned to one of suspicion as soon as I picked up the nail clippers and tucked her underneath of my arm into a gentle but iron-strong hold.  She stopped purring and began squirming, wriggling back and forth, desperate to escape.  She knew what it meant to “go to the beauty shop” and it always ended in sore paws. 

“Not so fast, Miss Kitty,” I said and tightened my grip. 

I held her little paw in my hand and squeezed out the first claw.  She yanked her paw back and I lost my grip.  It was a wrestling match, woman vs. cat, and I’m sorry to say we were both losers.  In the struggle, I snipped one nail too close to the quick.  Miss Kitty screamed like a Hell demon and stared at me with wild and untrusting eyes.  I shrieked in surprise and she scratched me, afraid of more nail trimming.

She has not forgotten about the experience yet, but appears to have forgiven me with the help of Whisker Lickin’ treats, excessive apologizing, and more head scratching.  I knew we were on the mend when she started to purr again, and fell asleep next to me for a nap later in the day.  If only forgiveness was as easy with humans, to be cut to the quick and still able to forgive, but never to forget.  Remembering is what makes us human, right?  

What to do about Brownie

Image

When a stray cat peers into your living room from the window

Shivering from cold and hunger

Don’t put out a dish of food every day

Just so you can pet her mangy head

After she eats and looks at you with big green eyes

Don’t instantly give your heart away

To the grungy, brown creature

That might be carrying fleas or rabies

When your husband discovers your new hobby

Don’t make him build you a cat shelter

Out of a cardboard box, old throw rug, and a Mylar blanket

Just in case she gets too cold overnight

When your inside cat throws herself relentlessly against the window

From which your outside cat peers in

Don’t chastise her for being naughty to her sister

Definitely don’t buy special, high protein snacks, like chicken breast or anchovies in oil,

To give your outside cat enough energy to get through the day

Or spend half a day at work surfing on-line

Learning how to transform your wild cat into fat and happy housecat

The very first and last thing not to do when dealing with a stray cat

Is to give her an adorable and fitting name

Because then you really will have to decide

What to do about Brownie

Other takes on dealing with strays:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/stray-and-feral-cats

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/what_to_do_stray_pet.html

http://www.baltimorecats.org/stray.htm “What should I do if I find a stray.”