V Is for Vitality, Lack of: #atozchallenge

I thought I would write all twenty-six posts without them–I refrained from using them for Day C–but today I lack the vitality necessary to think of anything new. So on Day V I fall back on Cats.

William and Ernest.

As I recently posted, Ernest and I are having a disagreement over seating positions. My body and my massage therapist tell me I have to sit up straight and hold the laptop right in front of me. Ernest says he’s supposed to be right in front and the laptop can snuggle up to someone else.

I haven’t won, but, on the positive side, I’ve had to see the massage therapist only four times, and I now stand almost upright when I walk. In addition, I no longer get into the car like Audrey Hepburn. (That’s really more of a negative.)

Ernest spends more time than he used to sitting on David’s lap, he stares at me with an expression that implies he’s planning some outrage.

This evening we compromised. He curled up with his front on my leg, his head on the arm of the chair, and a narrow gap between. Because I feel guilty, I let him put his head on the keypad and, to keep him from sending emails, played Candy Crush. Then I moved my leg–it was numb–and he slid down, stretched out, and ended up squashed between me and the arm of the chair.

I took photos. They didn’t turn out–angle and proximity made it hard to get a good shot–but you might be able to get hint of our predicament. My predicament, really. As long as I rubbed his tummy, he didn’t care where he was. I don’t think he even noticed.

William occupied himself this afternoon with walking back and forth across the keyboard and me in pursuit of a bowl of granola bar crumbs that I kept moving back and forth so he couldn’t get to it. He’s so big and heavy (and determined) that when he decides to walk on the keyboard, he walks on it.

Nineteen pounds at his last checkup, down from twenty-three. I calculated the other day–I used to bowl with a ten-pound ball, and it wasn’t easy to lift. William is worth two bowling balls.

When he was a kitten, he would race me to my chair. Seeing me approach it, he would run across the room to get there first. It was both cute and annoying. I thought he wanted the chair. After a while, he stopped.

Lately he’s been doing it again, and I’ve realized he just wants to be petted. But he doesn’t want to give up the chair. I feel guilty for not snuggling with him nine years ago, so I push and pull him to one side of the chair and squeeze into the other–it’s a big chair, and we almost fit. Sometimes he stays wedged between me and the arm. Sometimes he struggles to crawl around to my lap.

If he jumps up when the computer is already in my lap, there’s no question of working. It’s all about him.

Well, that’s the update on William and Ernest. If I weren’t so sleepy, I would write something else–something brilliant, something scholarly and profound, cogent even, displaying my remarkable erudition–but on this Day V, the tale of two tabbies is all the farther I can go.

***

I learned all the farther from a co-worker who hailed from Minnesota. I love it. It’s in my personal lexicon to use on occasions such as this.

***

WordPress suggests I use yabbies instead of tabbies. Nah. Good word, but it doesn’t fit.

D Is for Stinky, Ruffy, and a Dollop of Muggs*: #atozchallenge

Probably no one man should have as many dogs in his life as I have had, but there was more pleasure than distress in them for me except in the case of an Airedale named Muggs. He gave me more trouble than all the other fifty-four or -five put together, although my moment of keenest embarrassment was the time a Scotch terrier named Jeannie, who had just had six puppies in the clothes closet of a fourth floor apartment in New York, had the unexpected seventh and last at the corner of Eleventh Street and Fifth Avenue during a walk she had insisted on taking.

~ James Thurber, “The Dog That Bit People”

 

Now you would probably rather read “The Dog That Bit People” instead of the rest of this post, and so would I, but bear with me for the next few paragraphs and then you can do what you want.

The Muggs James Thurber references was a “big, burly, choleric” Airedale who acted as if Thurber wasn’t one of the family. “There was a slight advantage in being one of the family, for he didn’t bite the family as often as he bit strangers.” Over the years, he bit everyone but Thurber’s mother, “and he made a pass at her once but missed.” Mrs. Thurber felt sorry for Muggs and often said, “He’s not strong.” Thurber says, ” [B]ut that was inaccurate; he may not have been well but he was terribly strong.” He was also sorry after he bit someone, she said, but Thurber observed he didn’t act sorry either. Mrs. Thurber’s philosophy was, “If you didn’t think he would bite you, he wouldn’t,” but the ice man didn’t buy it. “Once when Muggs bit Mrs. Rufus Sturtevant and again when he bit Lieutenant-Governor Malloy” she told the cops “that it hadn’t been Muggs’ fault but the fault of the people who were bitten. ‘When he starts for them, they scream,’ she explained, ‘and that excites him.'” The time he emerged from under the couch and bit elderly Mrs. Detweiler, Mrs. Thurber said it was just a bruise and, “He just bumped you,” but “Mrs. Detweiler left the house in a nasty state of mind.”

I met Muggs and got to know him intimately (practice, practice, practice) for a high school prose reading competition, and I’ve loved him ever since.

Well, enough. If you want to read the story, here’s the link, but I hope you’ll wait till I’ve told you about my dogs.

First came Stinky, when I was about three years old. He was a rat terrier. My dad had tied a rope to the handle of my little red wagon so he wouldn’t have to bend double when he pulled me around in it. Stinky watched, and, intelligent dog that he was, often took hold of the rope and replaced my dad at the helm. He also took the helm when I wasn’t in the wagon; on hot, moonlit summer nights, through their open bedroom windows, my parents heard him pulling the wagon around the back yard. I don’t remember it, but I was told that one day I ran into the house crying as if my heart would break and said, “I hit Stinky.” I know what happened–I had invited him to jump up on me, and he did, but pretty soon I’d had enough and he hadn’t, and I hit him to get him to back off. My heart was breaking, and over sixty years later, I still get teary when I think of it. I’m always sorry after I’ve someone. Except for my friend Phyllis, but that’s a story for another time. H, perhaps, for hit.

My mother brought home Ruffy, a Border Collie-Shepherd mix, when he was only four weeks old. The giver insisted that was old enough. It wasn’t. The acquisition of a second dog surprised my father, who, I presume, thought it should be a family decision (even at that age I was surprised they didn’t discuss it, but I suppose Mother thought a 2/3 majority was enough), but he didn’t say anything, simply set his jaw in the same way he did the summer before my senior year of college when I said I was going to drop out and go to work for the IRS. I stayed in college and got my degree, but if I hadn’t, I’d have been spared a lot of school-teacher grief and would now have federal employee health insurance, which is a super deal.

(My dad played ball with all our dogs when he thought no one was looking.)

Except for a white bib and little brown “eyebrows,” Ruffy was all black, even his eyes; his hair was thick and wavy. His official name was Rough Bones, which shows why you should never ask a pre-schooler what she wants to name a pet. We gave our dogs bones from steaks and roasts, and they gnawed on and then hid them in the lush St. Augustine grass, and I stepped on them with my perpetually bare feet and cried out in pain. Two or three times a day. At four weeks, Ruffy wasn’t yet weaned, so Mother had to feed him warm milk mixed with white Karo syrup from little doll bottles I’d gotten for Christmas. At first I woke for the four a.m. feeding–yip yip yip–but soon stopped hearing his call and slept through it.

As a young adult, Ruffy, who spent most of his time confined to a big back yard plus the adjoining quarter-acre of chicken yard that lay on the other side of the driveway, chased a twelve-year-old neighbor boy who was passing the house, and ran another one up onto the porch across the street. The stiff, heavy pocket of his new jeans saved the second one from puncture wounds. After that occurrence, we confined the dog for ten days, the time prescribed for making sure he didn’t have rabies (he’d been vaccinated).

My parents took his behavior seriously but my mom noted that both boys teased him through the hog wire fence every time they walked down the street. She believed the dog considered himself provoked; she definitely considered him provoked. (She’d told the boys to stop teasing him, to no avail.)

However, when some of Mother’s out-of-town relatives couldn’t rouse anyone at the front door and offered to enter the back yard through the picket gate, Ruffy told them in no uncertain terms not to bother.  We decided he was being a conscientious, if overzealous, watch dog. We weren’t home when they came and so couldn’t call him off. Considering these particular relatives, I thought he’d been provoked.

(When it came to me, my parents always gave the dog the benefit of the doubt. “You know Sabre snaps when you pet him; leave him alone.” Sabre, my cousins’ Cocker Spaniel, didn’t often see me, and didn’t like me bothering him (probably didn’t like me at all), and he did snap, and I knew he would snap, but he was a dog and I couldn’t help myself. I saw a dog, I petted the dog. When common sense set in, about the time I was forty, I learned restraint.)

The situation with Ruffy became clear, unfortunately, the evening we had a yard full of other relatives sitting in lawn chairs and eight-year-old Sharan appeared from down the street. While she was standing in the middle of the family circle, Ruffy walked up, in my mother’s words, “smiling, with his tongue lolling out and his tail wagging,” and bit her on the thigh.

I was in the house and didn’t see him bite. When they told me they had to take Ruffy to Dr. Matthews to be watched for ten days, and then Dr. Matthews would find him another home, I cried so hard they gave me a St. Joseph’s (baby) aspirin and put me to bed. The aspirin didn’t help. Dr. Matthews told my parents Ruffy was too good a dog to put down, and he would give him to some rancher living out in the country, away from little girl visitors. I was sad but understood. Later Dr. Matthews told them that when the ranchers he offered Ruffy to learned he’d bitten someone, they declined to take him, and so . . .  It was years before I realized what had happened to him. I asked and was told the whole story.

We later learned that Smoky, a litter mate owned by another family in town, also bit. They were both sweet, beautiful dogs, good playmates for their children, and we wondered if there was something in the genes that prompted them to bite strangers. Probably not.

I have pictures of Stinky and Ruffy, but they’re not, shall we say, accessible, so I can’t post them. The dogs pictured here don’t do them justice.

So. I’ve expended all these words on two dogs. Like Thurber, I’ve probably had more dogs than one person should have, but I’ll have to write about the rest of them later, perhaps for M, as in More Dogs.

Okay. Go read “The Dog That Bit People.” You’ll be glad you did.

***

*D is also for Dogs.

***

I wish I could post pictures of Muggs, but I’m sure they’re under copyright. However, the two links in the second paragraph take you to Thurber’s sketches of him.

Image of James Thurber by Fred Palumbo, via Wikipedia. Public domain.

Image of Rat Terrier by kteri3565, via Pixabay.com

Image of Border Collie by PascalCottel, via Pixabay.com

This Emptor Should Have Caveated

 

Nov. 26: Ordered quilt online; multi-cat design; not  quilt in picture, and not cat either

Nov. 27: Received email confirmation; processing time 5-7 days; everything handmade and impeccably “sawn”; hoped quilt would be more impeccable than proofreading

Dec. 1, 4, 7, and 8: Received emails re more quilts available for order

Dec. 10: Received email re quilt finished, ready to ship, tracking number to follow

Dec. 10: Received email re discounts on six other quilts

Dec. 11: Received email re same discount on same six quilts

Dec. 12 – Jan. 17: Received no emails at all

Jan. 17: Emailed company re Where is my quilt/Did I miss an email with tracking number?; very polite

Jan. 18: Received email re Quilt is ready and on the way.

Jan. 24: Received quilt

Jan. 25: Put queen quilt on queen bed; quilt barely covered top of queen mattress; I kid you not

Jan 25: Measured queen quilt

Jan. 25: Pulled up company website to check dimensions of ordered queen quilt; website down until all quilts ordered before Christmas have been shipped

Jan. 26 – present: Considering options:

  • Email company re Did I receive double or twin quilt in error? and if so, I’ll send quilt back in exchange for queen quilt
  • Email company re I will send quilt back and await refund (and hope refund arrives before end of 2019)
  • Email company re I will send quilt back in exchange for king quilt (since queen might not be large enough either) and will send more  money as soon as I receive king quilt
  • Email company after website is back up and I know exact dimensions of queen quilt I ordered and have better idea of what more action to take
  • Email now re usual 30-day limit on returns
  • Email company re what I’m really thinking
  • Email re I’ll volunteer to help package and ship quilts ordered before Christmas (possibly necessitating a trip to China, where I suspect they’re made)
  • Rive my hair and wail like a banshee
  • Put quilt on dowel and hang on wall

It’s a silly quilt, cute in a kind of ugly way, but I finally decided I might as well adopt the title of Cat Lady and stick images of cats all over the house. And I thought Cat Gentleman would like cat quilt, since he adopted his title years ago. Quilt was supposed to be a Christmas present.

I ordered late and thus knew Santa Claus might not bring quilt on the First Day of Christmas, but I assumed the Magi would deliver it by Epiphany at the latest. Now I hope to get this thing straightened out before Pentecost.

Worst case scenario, the correct quilt will arrive in time for Advent. And I’ll give it to Cat Gentleman for Christmas.

 

A Tale of Two Christmases

Christmas Compromise, 2009

 

Posted on Whiskertips, December 24, 2009, when William and Ernest were still young adults.

 

If you read my earlier post, our Christmas tree
has been the subject of intense, but not unexpected, conflict.

As soon as the tree lit up, so did William and Ernest.
William had to be physically restrained from chewing on the lights.

The next morning Kathy found the tree lying on its side and the cats out of sight.
The tree spent the day en deshabille, as it were.

After lengthy trilateral negotiations, a compromise was reached.

Ornaments and tree skirt are, of course, out of the question.

Gifts will appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.

 

 

***

Christmas Compromise, 2013

After Ernest began eating everything he found interesting–
thread, twine, string, ribbon, “elongated things,” the veterinarian said–
and his health care became repeatedly expensive,
David and Kathy decided Christmas tree needles shouldn’t be allowed in the house.

David bought a small artificial tree complete with lights and set it on a chair.

William supervised setup and checked for stability.

 

A certain instability was discovered, but William said Ernest was at fault.

Ernest said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

 

Since then, however, nothing untoward has occurred.

William continues to keep watch.

In 2018, gifts still appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.

 

***

Note: The black thing William is lying on started as my bearfoot slipper
but soon became a soft, squishy thing for William to make biscuits on. 

 

Another note: I don’t think my cats are cuter
than other people’s children and grandchildren,
but I don’t have children or grandchildren,
so William and Ernest get their pictures broadcast worldwide.

 

#AtoZChallenge Day C: Contrariwise

I believe I’ve fallen behind.

My Day B (April 2) post went online about five minutes before Day C started in my time zone. Now, less than four hours before Day D begins, I’m just starting on Day C.

Technically, I’m okay–observing the letter of the law (take some time to chuckle over that before reading on) but giving the spirit short shrift.

I haven’t observed a few other guidelines, either. I was supposed to–or maybe just invited to–choose a theme and reveal it here last month. But I couldn’t settle on anything, so I skipped that step.

It’s a shame, because I had a pretty good idea: Contrariwise. In the first place, I love the word. It reminds me of the first time I saw it in print, Alice’s meeting with Tweedledum and Tweedledee:

They stood so still that she quite forgot they were alive, and she was just looking round to see if the word “TWEEDLE” was written at the back of each collar, when she was startled by a voice coming from the one marked `DUM.’

`If you think we’re wax-works,’ he said, `you ought to pay, you know. Wax-works weren’t made to be looked at for nothing, Nohow!’

`Contrariwise,’ added the one marked `DEE,’ `if you think we’re alive, you ought to speak.’

`I’m sure I’m very sorry,’ was all Alice could say . . .

`I know what you’re thinking about,’ said Tweedledum: `but it isn’t so, nohow.’

`Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’

I was seven years old, lying on the back seat of my Uncle Joe and Aunt Laura’s new car, on the way home to Del Rio after a week-long visit with family in Fentress, and reading Alice in Wonderland, when all of a sudden, my stomach revolted. We stopped at the next service station so they could hose me down. My grandfather, who occupied the other half of the back seat, somehow managed to stay out of the line of fire. Aunt Laura said, “I told you lying down to read would make you carsick.” But it never had, and it hasn’t since, so I think other forces must have been at work.

Anyway, I’ve loved contrariwise ever since. Go figure.

I learned the base word, contrary, long before Alice. My great-aunt Ethel used it to describe her mare, Lady. It was an apt term. That horse personified the expression, “Beauty is only skin deep.”

She never unseated anyone; she simply refused to cooperate: hard to catch (she could walk faster than I); hard to bridle (she was taller than I); hard to saddle (she found the nearest pecan tree, leaned against it, and walked ’round and ’round while I followed, holding the saddle shoulder high and trying to heave it across a moving target.

Once saddled, she gave up being a moving target and became a stationary one. If I wanted to go one way and she wanted to go another, she didn’t insist on her way. She just stopped. And stood. And stood. And stood.

When I was four or five years old, my father let me ride her around in the little fenced enclosure where we kept chickens while he worked. Every time we neared the gate, she stopped. I would holler for my dad. He would come, say, “I told you not to let her get near the gate,” and lead her past. We would make another circuit. She would stop. I would holler for my dad. He would come, say, “I told you not to let her get near the gate,” and lead her  . . . You get the idea.

So there it was. Contrary Lady. Contrary Kathy.

Oh, darn. It’s nearly midnight. Day D.

Contrariwise.

***

To read what other bloggers in the Blogging A to Z Challenge wrote on Day C, click AtoZ.

***

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Life of an Artiste and Cat H—, Part II

I’m collapsed on the bed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Fort Worth. I am tired.

Between sentence #1 and sentence #2, I stopped and tried to scrape a little black bug off the side of the monitor–it was at the very edge of the screen, and I had no idea where it came from but knew it would somehow scoot under the chrome and stick there, halfway in, halfway out, forever, and look awful and drive me crazy–and then I realized the little black bug was the little black cursor arrow thingy. That is how tired I am.

A bottle of Heinz Ketchup.
A bottle of Heinz Ketchup. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) by I Tinton5 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

We just returned from Pappadeaux, where I wanted to order crawfish etouffee but ordered fried oysters instead, even though I sort of remembered I didn’t like them the last time we were at Pappadeaux. I ordered wrong because once upon a time I loved oysters, but also because David ordered them, and I’m always sure if I don’t order what other people get, I’ll be sorry. While he was cleaning my plate, I told him that the next time we go to Pappadeaux he’s to demand I order the etouffee, and to remind me why.

A digression: I know Pappadeaux is a higher-class joint than we normally frequent, but still, there’s something radically wrong with any restaurant that serves a plate heaped with french fries and oysters without providing a big bottle of Heinz ketchup. If they’re concerned about appearances, they could remove it when it’s not in use. Those little dabs of ketchup they serve just don’t do.

Anyway, against all odds, we got to Fort Worth. It happened in this wise:

First, David lay on the bed upstairs and coughed once in a while and then asked William to come out, and William did. David carried him downstairs and put him into the carrier. William banged against the sides of the carrier so hard I thought he would break out. David took him to the vet.

Upon hearing William banging, Ernest scooted upstairs. I remained where I was and kept on writing. David came home and sat down. He said he guessed we might not make it to the festival. I said we would. (I’m a pessimist who lies a lot.)

I got tired of sitting, so I went upstairs, closed the bedroom door behind me, lay down on the floor, and looked under the bed. It took a few moments, but Ernest’s big eyes finally became visible. I wished, as I do every time he hides under there, that the bed weren’t queen-sized. And that it weren’t built so low to the ground. Why do they do that?

David brought me the leash we never use, and I tossed one end toward Ernest and pulled it slowly back, over and over, as if I believed he would actually chase it so I could grab him. David brought me the meter stick. David lay on the bed, ready to pounce. I lay down on the other side of the bed and poked around and obviously made contact, because Ernest shot out the other side. David pounced. Before they made it to the carrier, Ernest freed himself from David’s clutches. Ernest is muscly.

 

We followed Ernest downstairs and tried to flush him out from behind our recliners (which are joined by a cat bed ingeniously constructed from a straight-backed chair, a double-decker end table, and a piano bench that needs to be reglued, topped with a variety of pillows and a quilt (you have to be there). He got past me and ran upstairs, where all bedroom and bathroom doors had been closed. Oops!

David went up after him. Ernest ran down, got past me, ran behind recliners/cat bed, ran back upstairs… several times.

Desperate, David dragged the double-decker bed over and placed it at the foot of the stairs. I added to the barricade with cardboard boxes, suitcases, and the red-and-black tote I got at Malice Domestic 2015, which had my laptop in it. While I was barricading, David brought the carrier back downstairs (it went up and down several times during the morning) and set it atop the double-decker cat bed. Then he went back up for Ernest, somehow got hold of him, and carried him down. Jubilation ensued.

Ha!

David was lowering Ernest into the carrier when I saw the opportunity to help: Ernest was doing the I’m-going-to-spread-my-hind-legs-so-far-apart-you’ll-never-get-me-into-that-thing, so I reached over to squeeze them closer together. I don’t know exactly what happened then or why, but I ended up with a great big hind-cat-toenail lodged in my arm. I had to grab his foot to free my arm.

But somewhere in the chaos, Ernest ended up in the carrier, I stuck three Neosporin-covered bandaids on my arm–tiny bandaids, I couldn’t find any regular ones–and we scooped up carrier and bags and headed for the vet’s, and made it in time to leave at our ETD of 12:02 p.m. and arrive at the hotel at our ETA of 4:10 p.m.

Our original ETD and ETA were 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively, but because we prize flexibility, we’ve mentioned the changes only once. That was when David said we would have to take the Texas 130 toll road because at noon IH-35 between Austin and Georgetown is a parking lot.

Well, we’re here, and David’s film runs at 10:00 a.m., so I’ll sign off. I expect to sleep well. The morning workout was so invigorating, I don’t know why I haven’t already passed out.

If I don’t sleep, it’ll be from guilt. I poked my dear, sweet Ernest with a meter stick. I’d never done that, never expected to do that, and, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I feel pretty awful. I scared him. And I did it so he wouldn’t be home all weekend, alone and scared. How dumb is that.

David @ the Lionshead Film Festival, Dallas, July 8, 2017

He’ll get me for it. He’ll give me sad, dirty looks for several days. He’ll boycott me. He’ll never allow either David or me to lay a hand on him ever again, so we’ll never get him into a carrier, and consequently, I’ll never get out of Austin ever again. David will go to all the film festivals by himself, and he’ll come home with stories of camaraderie and whooping it up* in big cities like Beaumont and Conway, Arkansas, and I’ll smile and pretend I’m happy for him. And Ernest will sit between us on the chair-piano-bench-double-decker-end-table-cat-bed and look at me and smirk.

Few things are more maddening than a smirking cat.

***

Our film festival experiences haven’t included any whooping up, but I can imagine.

Pavlov’s Cat

A recent Paws N Reflect post displays a picture of a cat and a quotation about realigning oneself. For the rest of this post to make sense, please click here and read the quotation.

Thank you.

The juxtaposition of cat and quotation prompted a question: Do cats really realign themselves?

Initially, I said, No. Cats come into the world perfect. Cats are the creme de la creme. Miss Jean Brodie need not apply.

On reflection, however, I realized that cats sometimes do realign. A case in point:

Ernest the Cat Davis is a compulsive snuggler, a compulsive stomper, and a compulsive pest. I am a born victim.

When I’m lying down, he marches back and forth across me, turns ’round and ’round like a dog, and makes biscuits. Lots of biscuits, and I am his bread board. When he’s ready, he settles down and snuggles.

When I’m sitting in a recliner, working on the laptop, he jumps onto the arm of the chair, right side, reaches over, and tugs at my shirt. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. I pet him. He tugs the shirt again. Etc. I know I’m reinforcing the tugging, but it’s either that or lock myself in the bathroom.

Tired of tugging, he turns 180 degrees and straddles my forearm–the one attached to the hand sliding the mouse around on the chair arm/mouse pad. Then he settles and tucks himself in, leaving my hand in what would be prime tummy-rub position, if I weren’t holding the mouse. When it comes to pinning, Jesse Ventura has nothing on my cat. I eventually I manage to extract my arm.

Then he crawls onto my leg. I quickly shift the laptop to the left. He goes into stomping mode.

This is where the real battle begins. While stomping, he backs up and tries to straddle my forearm. I resist. There’s one upside: The sight of him making biscuits with his front feet and at the same time stabbing one hind foot in the air, trying to glom onto my arm, is funny, and I laugh and release endorphins all over the place. The endorphins almost make up for having to hold his tail to keep it out of my face.

Finally he tires and collapses, on the keyboard if possible. Once in a while he hits the Enter key. His rear has sent several unfinished emails. If I’m lucky, he turns over so his tummy is exposed for easier rubbing. If I’m luckier, he oozes down to the footrest.

It’s a lengthy and exhausting process, and it takes place several times a day.

Now, here’s where realigning comes in. For quite a while, I’ve tried to influence Ernest’s behavior.

While he tugs and stomps and kneads, I say, “Lie down, lie down, l-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn.” It’s begun to sound like a mantra.

For the first few years, he ignored me. But lately there are signs it might be working.

He doesn’t stomp as long as he used to. Today we set a record. I said, ” L-i-i-i-i-e-e-e dowwwwn,” only fifteen or twenty times before he obeyed.

Obeyed isn’t the correct word, of course. Cats don’t obey. They don’t react to stimuli. They are the deciders. There’s a reason Pavlov had a dog.

But Ernest is changing. He’s realigning.

I took some photos of Ernest realigning. To see captions, hold the pointer over pictures. The black-and-white stripes are my shirt. I wanted to get a shot of the tug-holes in the shoulder, but my arms are too long.

Just Enough

William visited the vet Monday to assess the efficacy of the weight loss program he began in December.

DSCN0081
Christmas 2014: William, Ernest, their rug, their welcome mat, their mice, bits of cardboard from their scratch lounge. © MKWaller

Before continuing, I’ll note the difference between this visit and the one last December: On Monday, David took William for his checkup, and a good time was had by all. In December, I took him, and he bit me, and I had to go the emergency clinic so my arm wouldn’t fall off.  And the vet tech was doing the same thing to him both times. But I needed a tetanus shot anyway.

To resume–I wasn’t surprised when David reported there had been no efficacy at all.

For the past three months, we’ve fed the guys less, and better quality, cat food, but William’s waistline hasn’t shrunk. Neither has Ernest’s, and he could stand some shrinkage, too. They rarely ate all they were fed. But even less food was too much.

Solution: No more grazing. No more nocturnal snacking. When they finish a meal, food disappears. That’s it. No more. Nada.

Today we began serious dieting. Breakfast was served between 10:00 a.m. and noon. (I got a late start, so they did, too.) They left half uneaten. I trashed it. Dinner would be served at 6:00

In the early afternoon, they appeared in the living room. Ernest did his usual thing–positioned his posterior on the arm of the recliner and propped his front end on my shoulder, then tried to scooch the rest of the way across and drape himself over the rest of me. I can’t see the keyboard that way, so I did my usual thing and resisted.

But William did the unusual–he sat in front of my chair and stared at me.

Christmas 2014: William's dish.
Christmas 2014: William’s dish. © MKWaller

By mid-afternoon, I felt like a swimmer in a shark tank. I typed, they circled. Then both sat and stared. Then they sashayed back and forth from me to the empty dishes.William meowed. Most days he speaks only to Ernest and to David, and in a conversational tone. My meow sounded like a cuss word.

I promised their papá would serve dinner at the appointed time.

An hour later, the situation had worsened . They trotted around the house at my heels. They emitted faint little mews: “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

I truly sympathized. I felt their pain. I suggested they do something to take their minds off their stomachs. That’s what I do.

Such as, once about a zillion years ago, when I was in the third week of a medically supervised liquid fast, I took my mind off my stomach by feeding the sad, hungry stray dog that had occupied the garage for a week, thus ensuring I would feed him the next day, and the next, and every day after that for the rest of his life.

(And to put minds at ease, I’ll add that what the other participants in the program and I commonly called a fast was not the kind Gandhi went on, that doctors were in charge, that I was adequately fed, and, after the third week, not hungry, and that I never felt so good in my life as I did during the seven months I lived on 520 calories a day. There is nothing so energizing as a ketosis high.)

Well, anyway, the guys pooh-poohed the stray dog idea and kept on channeling Oliver Twist.

I couldn’t stand it. “Three bites, I will give each of you three bites. That’s it. Three bites.”

Ernest vacuumed up his bites as soon as they hit the dish. William sat on his haunches, looked at the kibble, looked at Ernest, looked at the kibble, looked at me. I’ve known for a long time that William is passive aggressive.

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Christmas 2014: Ernest’s dish. © MKWaller

Finally I said something like, “Eat the (*$))T(#@^&^ food.” I don’t approve of strong language, but I was trying to hold Ernest back from invading William’s territory and scarfing down a total of six bites. Cussing seemed right. Especially since William had already cussed at me.

When he was ready, William ate, slowly and daintily. He then padded into the living room and lay down on his rug. Poor old Ernest kept on begging. His metabolism is faster than William’s. He moves around more. Sometimes it seems William has no metabolism at all.

And that’s what makes this kitty diet challenging–two cats, different needs. Could I try feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door?

Not unless I want the door to be shredded. Which I don’t.

It’s now nearly midnight. Two kitty dishes sit on the kitchen floor. They’ve been there for four hours, too long, really. One is empty. The other appears untouched.

Ernest just ate a bit more and now sits on his rug, washing his face. William sits there washing his feet. I don’t know when he last partook.

I wish I could make them understand that soon I will remove both dishes. When they want their midnight, or whenever, snack, it won’t be there.

I don’t want them to overeat. I want them to satisfy their nutritional needs. I want them to eat enough. Just enough.

Just enough to keep them from goose stepping all over me in the middle of the night.

Just enough to stave off hunger pangs so I may wake in the morning, all by myself, refreshed, no cat standing on the pillow batting at my nose.

Just enough. Oh, sure.

Fat chance.

William Bit Me

William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.

IMG_2679 (3)

 

***

Jane Carlyle, wife of philosopher Thomas Carlyle, was not a demonstrative woman. But one day when writer Leigh Hunt arrived for a visit, Jane jumped up from her chair, ran across the room, and kissed him. Surprised and delighted, Hunt memorialized the event in a poem: “Jenny Kissed Me.”

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

###

My apologies to Mr. Hunt and Mrs. Carlyle. I mean no disrespect. I couldn’t have written the parody if I didn’t love the poem.

Diary of Louisa May Alcott: Virtues and Vices

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The Davis Tribe of the Tiger

Louisa wrote in her journal about a conversational lesson with Mr. Lane:

“What virtues do you wish more of?” asks Mr. Lane.

I answer:–

Patience,                Love,                Silence,

Obedience,            Generosity,     Perseverance,

Industry,                 Respect,           Self-denial.

“What vices less of?”

Idleness,                  Wilfullness,      Vanity,

Impatience,             Impudence,     Pride,

Selfishness,              Activity,            Love of cats.

   from The Girlhood Diary of Louisa May Alcott, 1843-1846:
   Writings of a Young Author

William
William of Orange

Ernest
Ernest, Earl Grey

Judith

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Yesterday evening we had the pleasure of attending a celebration of our friend Judith Rosenberg’s seventieth birthday.

We first met Judith several years ago when she joined the 15 Minutes of Fame writing practice group. Through both her writing and our conversations over lunch, we’ve learned that she hails from New York, that she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, that she sings and plays the guitar, that she writes poetry, that she likes Indian cuisine, that she has thought of writing fiction based on her doctoral dissertation.

Now. Reading over the preceding paragraph, I’m struck by its inadequacy. I should have taken notes during the open mic segment of the party, when people who have known her for many years, worked with her, traveled with her to the Texas-Mexican border reminisced about their friendships, using words such as dedication, service, tirelessness, brazenness, and spirit of anarchy. 

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In fact, brazenness and spirit of anarchy make me wish I’d both taken notes and asked questions. I believe I missed some interesting stories.

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The Judith story I’ll share will seem trivial compared to what others have told, but it relates to something in her personality and character that I have personal knowledge of, and that appeals to me: Judith likes dogs. Not long after we met her, she adopted Chucho (Chuchi to his friends).

According to my research, chucho means dog, mutt, or mongrel. Depending on where in Latin America you happen to be, it can also mean long-eared owl, sweetheart, rawhide whip, jail, shiver and shake, gossipy, tamale, and custard-filled doughnut. It can mean something else, too, but I won’t go into that. It’s enough to say that Judith’s Chuchi is a sweetheart. There’s a bit of custard about him, too.

When Chuchi became part of Judith’s family, our writing group was meeting in the large back room of a small but popular coffee shop. We arrived early on Saturdays and took over a far corner, moved tables together to accommodate the usual six or seven people, and settled in for the next two or three–or four–hours. Because the City of Austin allows dogs on decks and patios of eating establishments, Judith brought Chuchi along. He was blessed with the enthusiasm of (large teenage) puppyhood, but he behaved admirably, especially when Judith was with him. When she went inside the main room to order breakfast, leaving David to act as dogsitter, Chuchi loosened up, danced around a bit, greeted strangers. David is not a strict disciplinarian.

While we breakfasted, wrote, and read, Chuchi lay on the floor beside Judith’s chair. Occasionally he took a stroll, bumping legs, poking his nose out from under the table, reminding us he was there, willing to accept all morsels that came his way, probably wondering why none ever did. Chuchi wasn’t allowed people food.

This pattern continued for the better part of a year, until one day a man with an air of authority about him approached Judith and kindly told her that Chuchi was violating a city ordinance: dogs are allowed on decks and patios outside. The room we met in had once been outside, but since the gaps in its concrete block walls and its partial roof had been closed, and it had been gussied up with paneling and A/C and a heater, it was now inside. He was sorry, but Chuchi could not return.

We were sad, but soon afterward we moved our meetings to a library, where dogs don’t even think about entering. So Chuchi wouldn’t have been able to stay much longer anyway. And since libraries don’t serve food, he probably didn’t regret his banishment. He enjoyed our society, but the aroma of sausage seemed to be the real draw.

We couldn’t get a picture of Chuchi last night because instead of attending the party, he went to a sleep-over.

All right. End of Chuchi story and back to his owner.

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Judith’s passion is social justice. She is board president of Austin tan Cerca de la Frontera, an organization that seeks to address conditions of social and economic injustice along the Texas/Mexico border particularly as they affect women and communities of color, and to find community-driven alternatives through transnational solidarity and fair trade. She’s also involved in Women on the Border, the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, and Fuerza Unida. She organizes delegations to travel to Mexico to meet with maquiladora workers in communities along the border.

You can read more about Judith and Austin tan Cerca’s activities at the ATCF website. Judith may show up again here as well. There’s still research to be done on that spirit of anarchy thing.

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Happy birthday, Judith.