Thursday, February 28, 2008

Serendipity ... (part one) ...

I am a cat lover.

When I was a kid, there always seemed to be both a cat and a dog in the house. And, they got along. In fact, seemed to be best friends. They would romp and play, groom each other, and sleep together (the cat curled up right next to the dog's tummy).

I don't know how my folks managed to do that! I don't remember them ever bringing home a kitten and a puppy at the same time. Whatever they did, tho, it worked!

We had a cocker spaniel for years, and a collie, too (I really liked that dog!)... I don't remember what kind of dog it was that we had when we lived out on West Arndale Road in Stowe, Ohio. I think it might have been some kind of 'setter'.

Our cat, at that time, was just a tremendous mouser, which was a good thing. We lived out in the country a little bit, and raised Rhode Island Reds. (It's hard for me to even imagine such a thing, looking back on it, but I know it actually happened. I was there!)

Anyway, daddy came home from work one night and -- after eating, went traipsing all over the place looking for our dog, who was missing. (You know what? I think that dog was a setter ... a pretty good size, longish, reddish-brown hair, tail that wagged incessantly, and tongue always out [either panting or wanting to lick somebody].)

He was gone for a long time. Finally, daddy came back, tears just streaming down his cheeks, cradling our dying dog in his arms. Some awful person in the area had found it necessary to lace meat with rat poison. Our dog was not the only one that died that year. I don't think we ever found out who did it.

Years later, I'd come home from college to visit. I don't remember seeing a dog then, but there was always a cat. Daddy liked to walk home for lunch and then take a brief snooze on the couch before heading back to work. Their cat would wait patiently for him to settle on the couch, and then "Bingo!", up the cat would leap and settle right next to daddy's tummy and the two of them would enjoy their nap together.

I've had lots of cats. I don't even remember all of their names. One, tho, we had in Indiana, who -- while not formally tested for intelligence -- was certifiably (by me) mentally retarded.

We were renting a house out in the country, and there was a problem with field mice coming in through the stove, somehow. We had a cat, so what was the problem? I mean, I ask you! Well, the problem was that the cat was simply ignoring, not interested, not hungry, blind, wasn't in the mood to 'play' with the skittering toy that so willingly presented itself time and again.

Finally, I took matters into my own hands. I would 'lay in wait' for said skittering creature and then, "Wham!", would hit it as hard as I could with a broom. That, at least, would temporarily stun it. I thought, "Well, I can permanently dispose of it later if the cat still takes no interest."

It was at that point, would you believe, that our cat -- you know, I think this might have been the one we named "Timid Timothy" -- now thought that this looked like a really fun toy, and started batting it around and mauling it a little bit. I'm pretty sure this was the same cat that, if we moved his food dish an inch or two he couldn't find it. Heavens to Betsy! Maybe he had no sniffer??

"Buffy" came along in Ohio. I was teaching 1st grade, hubby was teaching at Ohio State University, and DD (Darling Daughter) was attending Columbus School for Girls.

Everyone had left the house except for me, and I was about to leave. I was frantically looking all over for Buffy. I had to make sure 1) Buffy was in the house and 2) that she was separated from and couldn't get to, even if she tried, our parakeet.

I couldn't find her! Just sick at heart, I made sure the bird was secure and headed out to the car. And there, just outside the back door, lay Buffy. She was gasping for breath! Her eyes were already glazing over. I didn't know what could possibly have happened, and visions of my daddy carrying our dying poisoned dog from years earlier came rushing back over me!

I called my husband, who was already at work, and -- sobbing so hard that I could barely speak -- told him what had just happened. He told me to go ahead to work, that he would come home and see what was going on, take Buffy to the vet and get an autopsy -- you know, all that horribly gruesome reality stuff.

I was only a few minutes late to school. I think my husband had called to tell them that I was on my way. When I got there, the principal was actually the one waiting in my classroom with the children.

He had already told them the story of what had happened. They all looked so sad. I was a mess! I've seen other people cry, and their eyes look luminous and kind of pretty. When I cry, my eyes get all red, blotchy, and swollen, and I can hardly see! It doesn't seem fair, somehow.

Anyway, we spent several minutes talking about losing one's pet and grief. Some of the children had already experienced a loss like that in their young lives. They knew exactly how I was feeling. They were so supportive and sweet. I love that age!

Later that evening, my husband told us that the vet said Buffy had not been poisoned, that she had been hit by a car, rupturing her diaphragm. The vet told him that there would have been no pain, that she would have died instantly.

We all knew that wasn't the case. Our house sat back perhaps thirty yards from the street, and Buffy had managed to get all the way to the back door -- she was trying to reach us, to get help. She came close!

Buffy was anything but slow. She was a mighty hunter, and would often proudly bring home her latest 'trophy' to show us. Usually it had been mauled so badly that we had no chance to save it. We would simply bury it in the back yard. We were never able to break her of this habit. (She would have had a 'field day' in Indiana, wouldn't she?)

We had a planter in the combination dining/game/family room that seemed to both fascinate and challenge her. She knew that she wasn't supposed to dig in it, so she would wait until we weren't looking, make a lightning leap up to it, and dig furiously because she knew she had only a few precious seconds to try and have a little fun!

Sometimes we'd notice her eyeing the forbidden object, her muscles twitching in anticipation of a quick leap and dig, and we'd warn, "Buffy!". Usually right after that she'd come over and meow and purr, and knead with her claws, showing us how much loved we were and what a good kitty she was.

We always thought she would meet her demise at the hands of a large wisteria we had right outside the back door. Somehow or another, tho, she never chewed on it ... must have been some kind of instinctive thing.

She challenged a car, instead, and lost her final dare.

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