Are you a dog person or a cat person? Well, convention would tell me most guys are saying dogs and most gals are saying cats. But, that’s not always the case. I found that out when I married my Tall and Handsome.
I’ve always been a dog person. I’m under the firm conviction all dogs go to heaven (well, at least most). On the other hand, I have a time or two borrowed a sentiment from my son on his feelings about cats…they are the spawn of Satan. Ok…Ok…that’s a really strong sarcasm on my part…his feelings, well, you’ll have to take that up with him, but he did have a big ol’ gray tabby cat named Daisy when he was a little boy…she was named after the duck. I think he really did like that cat, but in fairness, I would have to say he was slightly allergic to cats. Every time I suggested finding a new home for Daisy, he became very upset, so I was caught in a catch (or cat) 22 because his Dad “pure dee” hated that cat and I had to listen to his constant bitching about the cat. Poor Daisy had one major disability…she refused to poop in the litter box…no matter what we did…it just wasn’t her thing, and even though she was suppose to be his cat, my son had an aversion to cleaning the litter box. So, the basement was her domain most of the time. I never figured out why my son developed such a dislike for cats unless it was from his dad, my ex.
My ex, from this point onward known as Gomez, absolutely hated cats. It was almost pathological and it was there from the day we married, but I never thought too much about it. A few years before we divorced I knew something was seriously wrong when an incident happened that was highly alarming to me. I have been a birdwatcher and bird feeder for many years. This year, it was in the 1990’s, and where we lived, we had some very beautiful decks that were conducive to bird watching and feeding. The neighbors two doors up had several cats and they didn’t do a very good job of keeping them home. Their cats like to visit my bird feeders and feast upon my little visitors and friends. (Unfortunately, Gomez had latent racial prejudices and the neighbors were black; Gomez’s father had been on the Bull Connors police force in Birmingham during the 1960’s so his feelings came naturally. The poor neighbors didn’t stand a chance.)
Anyway, one day, one of the neighbor’s cats had come up to the house and was on the banister of the deck. The cat was young, maybe about 10 or 11 months old and pure, snowy white. When Gomez saw it preying on the bird feeders he became infuriated and went and got his pellet rifle. He said, “I’m going to take care of this problem once and for all. “I immediately began begging him not to do what he was about to do. I even reminded him it was illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits and this was some one’s pet. He loaded the gun, pumped the rifle up has much as he could, took aim and…and then I heard a “Whoosh” and a crack. I saw the little white cat jerk, then, wretch and twist up in the air twitching as brilliant, scarlet, crimson blood started mingling and trickled down the pure white fur. The little cat fell off the deck, roll down the hill to the bottom of our backyard and died. Gomez turned to me with a gleam in his eye, proud and said, “I went for the kill shot. Right in the heart.” He was stunned when I asked him with tears in my eyes, “How could you do that? You could have just shooshed him away!” He just turned away, walked down the hill, picked the cat up and put it in the garbage can. When we moved a few years later, the first thing he did was to put Daisy outside. We had moved into a new home on a mountain, in a rural setting that was being developed. The area was still surrounded by wildlife like deer and mountain lions. Again, I begged for him to at least allow Daisy to stay on the screened deck since she had never been outdoors, but it was to no avail, she disappeared into the dark that night and we never saw her again.
So, based on those past experiences, I didn’t know quite what to expect when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats. My first thought was, “oh, Lordy!” And then I thought ok, let’s be fair. In all fairness, he is an animal person. He just has a good kind heart. I guess the old saying is true…don’t trust anyone that isn’t kind to animals and children. My husband and his sister are major animal lovers. One of the reasons I love her so much, besides the reason she loves my husband so much, is the fact she has three lovable golden retrievers and a fantastic husband…oh yeah, and a cat. Those three dogs are the children, rulers, clowns and entertainers in the family and they’re a hoot.
Like I said I grew up with dogs…mostly large dogs…Collies, Boxers, German Shepherds…yep, those kind of dogs for little girls, and we loved it. Butchie was our boxer and our protector. She would follow me around the block when I rode my bike and if another dog charged at me as if to chase me, Butchie would lower her head and butt the dog out of the way. My sister liked to play doctor/vet…she even had her own doctor’s bag. Well, Sis even took Butchie’s temperature with a twig…and I don’t mean orally! Butchie, patiently allowed all of that “doctoring” and usually she was dressed up in baby cloths! She had a favored delicacy…bumble bees. Every summer, without fail, we could find Butchie around shrubbery with flowers, catching bumble bees, and without fail, every summer, Butchie went around with bee stung lip. She invented the pout before some starlet in Hollywood…so Angelina eat your heart out!
I had a collie name Lassie, a part Maltese-part Shih Tzu name Gidget, and a German Shepherd named Major. We got Major from a great-granduncle who had fought in Germany and had brought Major’s ancestors over from there. Major was a beautiful dog, black and silver and we WERE his family. He watched over us and protected us. If daddy had to be out of town on business overnight, mom let him sleep in the house. Once or twice in the middle of the night he would get up and patrol the house, making sure everything was in order and his girls were ok. One night, my folks had gone to mid-week church service and my sisters and I were home alone. We were working on homework. My parents had left the garage door open…in those days, it was a “safe” thing to do. During the evening, my sister and I were in the kitchen, working away at the kitchen table when all of a sudden, we heard the basement door start rattling and crashing like it was going to be ripped off the hinges. It was Major! He was barking and snarling and growling and tearing at the door with all of his might…and believe me at 100 pounds, it was great. His commotion was followed by the shouting of two intruders. My sister and I heard them say something about a dog…get out of here…and that was it. We called the church…our parents came home…and Major saved the day. Major had a hobby, too. Carrying rocks in his mouth…sometimes, the biggest boulder he could find in the back yard. We never could quite figure out that one…why on earth he took up that little hobby.
After I was married I had a part Collie, Beagle, Basset named Snoopy. I believe he was mildly mentally challenged because he got lost two blocks from home and couldn’t find his way back. He was gone for months. He was the strangest looking dog. He had the face, tail and coat of a Collie; color of the Beagle and the body of the Basset hound…I called him a bagel. He loved popsicles. He would chase cars…in our fenced back yard…there was a little track from one gate to the next. It was curved and even had a bank like a race track.
I had a schizoid Irish Setter named Rusty. He was absolutely and amazingly beautiful, but he was the most hyper dog I’d ever had…and boy, did the dog love to dig. When I had him, my back yard looked like a bombed out war zone. Not a good thing for someone taking horticulture at the time. I had to find Rusty a new home when he just wouldn’t get along with poor ol’ Snoopy. One day he bit him so hard it broke Snoopy’s leg and we had to have surgery performed on Snoopy to set and correct the damage. Nobody messes with my poor ol’ bagel and gets away with it!
And, then one day an angel came into my life. Her name was Lady…and she wore a halo. Lady was a little roan (red) English Cocker Spaniel. When Lady came to live with us, she was on her second or third owner. Evidently she had been lost a time or two. The owner who had her before we took her was a true animal lover, but Lady was a face in the crowd at his place…one of many. He had done right by her though…when he took her in she had developed heartworms. He made sure she received proper treatment to cure heartworms…and she survived. The treatment can be kinda rough on some dogs, but my lil’ Lady was a survivor…like her Mom. But, after giving her the heartworm treatment, he wasn’t too careful with her diet and fed her “people” food like fried chicken livers, ham, etc. Well, guess what happened? She developed pancreatitis. He really need someone to take her in and asked if we would. At the time, he was paying our son ten dollars a week to walk Lady. I’ll admit at first I was against it because I’d never had a totally indoor pet. But, Lady was smart…she knew who to butter up…the pseudo-harda**-no-way-is-this-going-to-happen…moi. It also helped that she had the good Lord above working with her and for me (He knew I would need her in the future).
On the weekend she was suppose the go home to her former owner after her littler trial visit with us, the Great Blizzard of 1993 hit Alabama. Yes, you heard me…a blizzard. No, I’m not talking about an inch or two of snow…I’m talking about 18 inches and more of snow. I had drifts of snow in my backyard that measured 24 inches. Now, if you say the “S” word in most places in the south, you will invoke certain reaction…from mild elations and joy on seeing the white stuff, to major panic that cupboards are not stocked accordingly. People make the required rush to the supermarket, stand in line for HOURS…usually to buy bread and milk, and then sit in major (like hours of) gridlock to get home. An inch of snow can close school, an ice storm can wreck major havoc…but a blizzard, but an all out honest to gosh wind blowing white-out blizzard…OH MY GOSH! Let me interject a small disclaimer here: In all fairness, normally, most places in the south, especially the Deep South are just not prepared to deal with that type of weather…they don’t have the need to or are equipped to deal with it…most of the time. While most of the US deals with the deep freeze and snow and ice, I have been known to run my air conditioner on Christmas Day.
So, back to THE blizzard of 1993…Lil’ Lady was a true lady. How can I put this delicately? Ummm… I know! She had no desire to make yellow snow! No matter how many times the Gomez trotted her outside, the little thing would not tinkle or poop on the snow, so, he had to go out and shovel through several inches of snow to make a doggie potty just for Lady…and it work! Tell me my dog didn’t have manners … when she came in from the snow, she looked like a little Clydesdale pony…there was so much snow in the fur around her paws and it was all fluffed out. We were the fortunate ones that year…we were only without power about 12 hours. Many in the Birmingham area were without power at least 10 days. My net gain was that Lady got to stay…and she did…up until she went to doggie heaven…actually she outlasted Gomez, proving that dog is woman’s best friend, too.
Lady saw me through my last cancer surgery. When I was sick, she wouldn’t leave my side…she was my little red shadow. I believe she knew how sick I really was before I did. Some research has shown recently that some dogs can “sense” or even sniff out cancer cells.
After I came home from the hospital after having 60% of my left lung removed, I’ll never forget seeing it take my dad, son and Gomez to hold back that little 24 pound cocker spaniel because she was overjoyed and beside herself to see me coming home. She became very gentle with me; she knew something was wrong. Because they either break you ribs, or saw out a section of your ribs, during the type of thoracic surgery I had, you end up with broken ribs…and it makes it difficult to breathe…on top of everything else. So, I had to sleep sitting up, or in a semi-sitting up position, and the Lazy-boy, made that possible. Lady would usually settle in right by my side on the floor, but late one night I woke up with a surprise…in my lap was a little red, furry bundle…my little red Lady…I guess she knew I had been having a particularly hard time and she had hopped up to make sure I wasn’t by myself.
I called my little Lady “love on four legs”. When she went to doggie heaven, it nearly killed me. She had seen me through an illness, the end of a marriage and the starting of a new life. Her big ol’ brown eyes had been the only thing to greet me when I came home from work, tired and sick…after being out of the workforce for over 20 years and having to go back into it disabled. She was smart as a whip, playful and charming…to me she was the picture of perfect…my angel.
So, when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats, I thought, oh my, oh my…will the twain meet on this one?
Let me tell you about the cats. Cats are perceived as being aloof, cold and calculating. They are independent…to a point, and I had never seen many warm, fuzzy, cuddly cats. Well, read on…
Tall and Handsome had two. My reaction…insert the picture “The Scream” and you will know my private hell…hehe…just kidding…kinda sorta. One cat was a humongous, orange, furry tabby named Kramer. My pet name for him was that Big Orange Abomination. He was the pretty boy…a gorgeous cat, and he knew it. Picture bitchy valley girl…bitchy head cheerleader…wall street mogul…anybody that is your idea of someone that needs to be cut down a size or two because their head is way to big for the doorway. Well, that fits Kramer. Kramer loved to beat up on his brother, cause havoc and go places he wasn’t suppose to…and eat everyone’s food…he weighed 21 pounds. He was a feline bully…yes, he was Garfield living and breathing, oh, but he looked sooooooo innocent. His purr was loud and lusty…I called it a weedwacker purr. I have so many Kramer stories, but, there is one…yes, one that sealed his fate.
Not too long after hubby and I had moved to our current location, I decided it was time to wax my eyebrows. (Remember, I told you I’m a do-it-yourself-er.) This particular bathroom has a pedestal sink…no vanity, so I had set the wax warmer on the toilet. I was busy looking in the mirror and pulling back my hair when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and there he was…the Big Orange Abomination sniffing around the wax warmer. I shooshed him away and assured him he didn’t want to tangle with the wax and wax warmer.
I returned to my task at hand…my eyebrows…and had just gotten one brow waxed and the required flesh from my face ripped off with it when I heard the most ominous, chilling sound…a giant thud and thunk. I spun around just in time to see Kramer amidst the dumped wax warmer and…wax spreading everywhere. Kramer was covered in gooey, sticky, viscous wax…his paws, his tail, his body…EVERYWHERE! There would be no “wax on, wax off” for that kitty…no sir…
He immediately knew he was in deep dodo and took off…with me right behind him, calling in a calm, sweet tone and voice, “Kramer, baby, come back here you piece of crap so I can kill you.” It didn’t work…my words must have belied my tone and he was gone…spreading wax everywhere. I knew he would come back…all criminals return to the scene of the crime, so I returned to the bathroom to survey the damage. It was a good thing the little mobster was out of my reach!
And, then I looked in the mirror and realized…I had only one eyebrow waxed and all of my wax was on the floor. How do you spell grrrrrrrrrrrrr ? But, I was right about one thing…the little villain did return to the scene. I pounced, picked him up and surveyed the damaged. Not only was he covered, but, he had waxed his tail to his body…smack dab glued that sucker flat…and there was no way he was going to be able to poop. I knew then we were all in deep dodo. I tried pulling it loose, but there was no way, no how his tail was going to budge. I managed to confine Kramer in the pet taxi. Keep in mind, too, this all happened about 4:45 PM.
Well, the next thing I did was call Sally’s Beauty Supply and explain my situation. (I had gotten my warmer and waxing supplies at the Sally’s in Alabama.) Surely they had some “takey off” stuff. I can tell you this…you learn to find small blessings in times like this…mine? I’m so thankful I don’t have a video phone…I just hate wearing paper sacks over my head. I’m sure, at first, the clerk thought I was one of those phone calls yanking her chain…but, I reassured her I was sincere. Maybe she detected the hysteria in my voice. After she finished laughing and telling the other clerks in the store what was going on, she essentially told me there wasn’t anything there that could help me. Ok, Plan B…
I found a vet…one just for cats…and called them. I got kinda the same reaction with a couple of additions. They were about to close and could look at him in the morning, but it sounded like he needed help this evening (ya think?!) She also recommended I place paper napkins or paper towels on Kramer where the wax was so he wouldn’t “accumulate things”. Wwwhhhaaattt?! I had visions of Kramer lugging the dining room table and chairs around as he accumulated them in the wax. So, I get Kramer and “place” paper towels over the wax. You know that bridal shower game Toilet Paper Wedding gown? (Attendees break up into groups and are given toilet paper and their mission is to design and gown one of their group.) Kramer wouldn’t have won…and he wasn’t very happy. The vet’s office also recommended we take Kramer to an emergency clinic…sigh.
So, Plan C and time to call hubby at work. I had to retell the tales of Kramer (no pun intended) once again…and he knew it was time to come home. I wish I had a picture of Tall and Handsome’s face when Kramer sauntered out of the pet taxi, dragging his paper towels behind…and bedside…and on… He was speechless. He loaded Kramer back up in the pet taxi and off they went to the pet ER. (Where’s George Clooney when you need him?) I was talking to hubby on the cell phone all the way and I could hear Kramer putting in his two cents worth. Once at the clinic and in a room, T & H takes Kramer out of the pet taxi and I hear him say, “Oh, this is ugly.” (That’s Tall and Handsome speak for ‘OH MY GOSH!!’) I wished then I had sent him off with his own personal paper head sack. I took a deep breath and ask, “What’s wrong?” Long story short, on the way to the clinic, Kramer had tinkled…and now his paper towels had accumulated cat tinkle…sigh.
So, once again, long story short…Kramer had to be sedated and shaved…from his neck to the very tip of his tail. A cat tail is an ugly thing and not meant to be seen by human eyes. He was so denuded of fur, we were warned by the vet that if he went outside he would sunburn. When hubby and what now looked like a big field rat with a cat’s head attached arrived home, the other cat freaked out and started spitting and hissing and batting at him…my feelings exactly.
And then there is Kramer’s brother, the other cat…Winfield. They are as different as night and day. Hubby had Winfield a few months before he acquired the Orange Abomination. Winfield is a Tuxedo cat…charcoal gray with white makings…and he’s a big cat, too. Somehow, hubby manages to grow big cats. Winfield has a little upside down white heart on his face, a pink nose and white paws. Tall and Handsome rescued Winfield when he was a kitten and he found him abandoned and nearly frozen to death. He had a rough start and as a result was a little neurotic. He’s the only cat I know that would suckle himself…when I first saw him do that, I told hubby, “I just didn’t feel quite right watching him do that. I feel like I should leave the room.” And the poor little thing was purrless…it was months, if not a year of more before I heard Winfield purr.
Winfield was smart…he pulled a Lady…he knew what side of the bread to butter as the old saying goes. Hubby says Winfield was always smitten with me…I don’t know about that, but he set about winning me over. He would bring me things…fabric, a fireplace glove (that was as big as he was, and he carried it up a flight of stairs), and my Boyd’s Bears…sigh. He knows his place…like we don’t get up on top of the refrigerator, do we…unlike Kramer and he learns quickly. Now, Winfield purrs…a deep happy, earthy, content purr. And yes, he is cuddly and affectionate. Hubby says I’ve taught Winfield to do something he’s never seen a cat do, and that is eat out of my hand…I just thought that was normal…dogs do it.
One thing really sealed Winfield’s fate and place in the family. A few months ago we inherited a little Miniature Schnauzer puppy…can we say boundless energy, smart, affectionate, stubborn, playful, little clowns? Not creatures welcomed into a cat’s world with open paws. I think I might have determined Watson…our little tyke…was the alpha of his litter. Well, even more angst for two ol’ territorial, set-in-their-way cats. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth…and paws…and claws.
But, I began to notice a little pattern developing. Kramer was going to have nothing to do with this new creature, no way, no how. He vanished into the walls. Winfield was different. If the paths of the three happened to cross and Winfield felt Watson was bullying Kramer (hard to do since both the cats are twice the size of Watson), Winfield would charge Watson and beat the snot out of him. Kramer would scoot away and watch the fray from afar. If Winfield was the one getting the perceived pummeling once again, Kramer watched from afar, never lifting a finger, hum paw, to help out his life long buddy. Well, I’m really BIG on and admire loyalty…score a big one for Winfield. Then after about two or three weeks, Winfield began to show back up in the room at the same time as Watson…all be it perched warily in the edge of something . But, he made his little point…this was HIS family and he was going to be part of it. Hubby has always said Winfield picked me to be his person, and I guess that proved it. Score another for Winfield. I admire tenacity in the appropriate situations also. Winfield was set.
So, in all seriousness we knew some changes had to be made. Kramer didn’t fit in, plus he beat up and bullied Winfield. His fur was killing my allergies and harming my health and the circle just didn’t fit Kramer any more…never really did. He needed to be in a family that could adore him and him only, he needed to be an only cat…and so did Winfield…and Watson needed more stability. We found a fantastic home for Big Orange and get periodic updates and he is as happy as a Cheshire cat.
As I write and look around me, I have my laptop in my lap and Watson and Winfield are curled up on the bed…and they have come to an unsteady peace, one only cats and dogs could broker. So, we have our little two member menagerie…Watson and Winfield…and they are content, happy, healthy and thriving. They add cuddles and smiles and nudges and purrs and warm hearts to our lives, and that, my friend, is all about dogs and cats.
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved.