Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!

 

A dove strolled across our patio last week. Soft brown, a graceful, gentle visitor.

Squirrels appear occasionally but finding no acorns, swish their tails and move on.

Last week, two chameleons crawled up the screen, prompting Ernest to move.

Ours is a quiet life.

Then one afternoon David said, “There’s a snake on the patio.”

He said it in the voice he uses to announce the arrival of the Amazon truck. Nothing to get excited about.

I went berserk. Grabbed the camera, ran to the window. But before memorializing the event, I checked the tail and the complexion. The tail was small and pointy, and the spots were spots, not diamonds. I relaxed.

But it was a snake nonetheless.

Please spare me the explanation that snakes are God’s creatures, that they eat rats and other things that aren’t good for us, that they merit respect and benevolence.

I know they’re God’s creatures, but so are sharks, and I don’t care to cozy up to them either.

I once held the rear end of a boa constrictor and know snakes are soft and silky and sweet when they’re not swallowing goats.

But I take the Biblical view—a snake is a serpent. If it stays in its tree where I can’t see it and doesn’t try to strike up a conversation or ooze down and bruise my heel or the heels of my pets or my livestock, then I won’t try to bruise its head.

But if it has rattles on its tail or venom in its fangs, or if it surprises me by its presence, then I’ll grab the nearest shotgun and try to blow it to kingdom come, although I know practically nothing about shotguns because the only time I got to shoot one my daddy made me aim it into the river.

I don’t want serpents on my patio, and I don’t want to wake up and find one in my bedroom, which is where this one was headed. It slithered up to the glass, looked in, then settled into the sliding door track and headed out looking for means of ingress.

David had already taken preventive measures against marauding humans. Not trusting the sliding door’s lock, he’d braced one of my never-used canes in the track inside. When the snake’s intent became obvious, David quickly stuffed a wad of paper towels in whatever space might have remained and replaced the cane.

Unable to enter, snake went along and went along. David got the big square meter stick, compliments of the Lockhart State Bank back in the ’60s, went outside, reached over the grille work, and flicked the snake off the patio. It took several flicks, but David was gentle. The snake looked surprised and a little disgusted at being launched into flight and landing on the rocks outside. But he showed no sign of pain.

I have admit to feeling a little sorry for the visitor. Temperatures are dropping, and if I lived outside, I’d seek warmer accommodations, too.

In fact, after spending six days without heat during the February Freeze of 2021, I’m tempted to go out and gather every mammal, every bird, every chameleon, and march them, two by two, inside for the winter.

But not snakes. Both the biting kind and the tempting kind belong as far away from me as I can keep them.

I gave away my dad’s shotgun, which is fortunate, because if I woke up and saw a snake, I’d probably blow myself up trying to shoot it.

But I’m going to put that Lockhart State Bank meter stick beside my bed. Just in case.

Christmas: Pray, Love, Remember

The Christmas tree goes up on December 1. I love it.

~ Richard E. Grant

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts;  . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet 

*

 

The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.

I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.

This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.

Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.

She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.

We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.

This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.

So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”

We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.

We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.

I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.

Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.

The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.

With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.

So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.

Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.

***

 

Ragdoll Cat (Temporarily)

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville

When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.

This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.

While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.

After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.

That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He  felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).

By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.

Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.

He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.

I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”

On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.

Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.

And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.

*

I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.

Note the elegant tilt of the head.

 

 

Bedtime at the Davis Home

I swear I did not plan this, because where cats are involved, no one can plan anything, but–

I had just published the preceding post and turned off my laptop when William walked over and looked at the chair and then looked at me.

I spread out his blanket. He jumped up and settled in for the night.

My blanket spreading isn’t as neat as David’s, but no one has complained.

My new chair
My new chair

 

At Home with the Davis Family

David has a new recliner.

DSCN1528
David’s new chair

I have a new recliner, too, but I am a mean, contemptible battleaxe and I do not share.

(I do put a blanket on my chair and tuck William in at night. Ernest won’t share David’s chair, either.)