Cat Chronicles: Enter Sydney

In my last post, Briggs had entered our home. Though the loss of Buster and Rocky was still keenly felt, the antics of a comical little kitten worked like a balm to heal both of our hearts. But it was time to find him a playmate. I scoured the internet and found a woman who needed to find homes for the feral kittens she had rescued.  We made an appointment to go see them. They had all just recovered from been spayed and neutered.

The owners cats were curiously watching us from the stairs as proceeded to the “kitten rooms.” The girls were in one room and the boys in the other. We were there two hours, going from one room to another. Buster was a talky fellow so I was looking for one with the same qualities. Among the males were Tony, a solid light orange, and Frankie, a flame point Siamese mix, and his brother who could have been a twin, Sammy. It was so hard to choose, but in the end Sammy was the one who stole my heart. His fur was as soft as a bunny and his eyes a brilliant blue, and a little bit crossed at times. He kept coming up to me wanting to play. I fell in love.

Sammy became Sydney and we couldn’t wait to get him home to introduce him to his new brother. We still have a picture of Sydney in his carrier and Briggs peering in at him. If he could have talked I’m sure he would have said, “C’mon open up already, I’m ready to play!”

I think there was one hiss and that was all. Sydney was used to being around lots of cats and he was undaunted. And Briggs was so happy to have a playmate he didn’t know what to do. He played so hard he literally panted like a dog. Several times we had to rescue poor Sydney by removing Briggs from the scene so Syd could recover. Sydney was a scrapper though. He got his digs in as well.

And so our little family was complete again. Briggs was even-tempered around people and loved everyone just like Rocky and Sydney just wanted me. He was bottle fed so he was used to human handling and actually preferred that to anything else. It was like my prayers were answered. My niece had been born around that time and I was missing her terribly. I was 12 hours away by car and an hour and 45 minutes by plane and I needed my arms filled.

Sydney became my baby. He was totally content to lay upside down in my arms for hours. The Siamese came out in his meow which sounded very much like an infant crying. People would hear him in the background and often ask if there was a baby in the house.

It was as if God had answered my prayer by filling my arms and heal my heart that was missing our Lauryn, the first ever baby in our family.

Faithful Friends to the End

Rocky and Buster lived to be old men in cat years. As all pet owners know, when you open your heart and your life to an animal there will come that time you don’t like to think about. The terrible, horrible goodbye. For Rocky, our gentle giant who never met a stranger, it was just that he was old and weak in the hips. When he fell and couldn’t get back up the decision was easy. Elaine’s Dad insisted on going and the tough old Texas oil man cried like a baby as they administered the shot and he fell asleep in her arms.

And poor Buster grieved the loss of the cat he was never without. He actually hung his head and it was painful to watch. Our beautiful Bustini who looked like he had royalty in his veins, with his sleek Abyssinian body, cinnamon coloring and jewel green eyes was in mourning.

Enter stage left……..Briggs. We mistakenly thought bringing a kitten home would help poor Buster. Elaine was still sorely grieving Rocky when we wandered into PetSmart one day. They always say (and it’s true) you don’t find a cat, they find you.

It’s been my experience they enter your life when you need them most. 

It’s a spiritual thing. I would be skeptical if I hadn’t seen it happen over and over. The magical power of the purr is well known to anyone who has known and loved a cat.

To those whose tears have been absorbed by the soft fur of a creature who somehow knows what to do with our emotional pain with grace and understanding is to partake in a small miracle.

Anyway, there were kittens. One in particular was running around like crazy and Elaine heard the man say, “Who would ever take that freaky cat? He’s nuts.” Or something like that. I said, “Look at his long legs, just like Rocky!” Elaine has always had a soft spot for the underdog, (undercat in this instance). As she bent to pick him up, he burrowed into her neck and gave the loudest purr she had ever heard. Hence the name, Briggs, for the Briggs and Stratton engines.

It was love at first sight.

But not for poor Buster. His little soul wanted to play so very badly but his poor body was just too sick. Little Briggs was constantly rebuffed. Buster retreated under my bed and we knew it was only a matter of time before he joined Rocky. It was a nightmare. Every day I’d look under the bed expecting the worst. One night he tried to jump up on the bed where he slept with me and didn’t make it.

The next day we wrapped him in a towel and we made the second trip to the vet. It was determined he had cancer. They rattled off all these things we could do to the tune of thousands of dollars. It all felt very cold. We decided Buster deserved better, so I held him in my arms as they administered the lethal dose that would end his suffering. Our little comedian, paperboy, growler, part dog part cat was gone.

Our grief was immense. We buried Buster next to Rocky, out in the corner by the fire pit. Could any other cat be big enough to fill that void? Of course you never replace a cat or dog, just like you don’t replace a child, you add to. And Briggs proved very worthy of the task. He played so hard he actually did somersaults and panted like a dog. I had to wrap him in a blanket and make him a taco kitty to get him to stop so he could rest. When he got tired he would lay on his belly on the tile floor with his back legs straight out.

We decided to take him on a road trip to California when he was about 8 or 9 weeks old. We gave him the whole back seat but he insisted on riding on Elaine’s shoulder as she drove. He had his first taste of ice-cream on that trip and got a big fancy jungle gym from Auntie Carolyn.

I’ll never forget his little eager face when I would come back to the car after getting gas or snacks. His eyes actually lit up, he knew me! He succeeded in stealing both our hearts. But the time was coming to get him a companion. Briggs needed a brother.

Enter Sydney……

Buster

Cat Chronicles, Buster (then)

After his initial dusting with flea powder, we decided it would be best to give both cats a flea bath. Rocky was first. Gentle giant that he was, he turned into a cougar when wet and it took us both to keep him from lunging out of the sink like a large furry banana. When he was done it was poor Buster’s turn. He was so small and so stressed that when it was all over, he collapsed. Horrified, we thought we had killed him. That was the last bath they ever got.

Turns out Buster was part dog (he growled, and fetched). He also had a penchant for opening drawers and retrieving underwear which he scattered different places for us to find. The front door had a window you could see through and several times people must’ve thought there’d been a break in when they saw clothes strewn up and down the stairs.

We also found out he didn’t like whistling, not one bit. I started whistling to the Seven Dwarfs tune watching an advertisement one night and he leapt from where he was on the living room floor, and headed straight for my face the source of the infernal sound. 

When he was a kitten, he tormented poor Rocky endlessly. He jumped on his back, and clung to his tail and ambushed him every chance he got. Every now and then Rocky would have had too much and just held him down with one giant paw as if to say, “Okay now sonny, I’m still boss here.” But it was obvious they loved each other.

Buster also liked cookies and would try to bat them out of my hand before they got to my mouth. Rocky and Buster went through several out of state moves together which they handled like pros. They observed all through bright curious eyes, except the time we encountered a violent downpour crossing the desert and both of them dove to the back under the blankets. Buster was thrilled with the Arizona house with its wooden banisters two stories up. He scared us to death by sailing through the air and landing on the skinny railing, part cat, part monkey.

The next move to New Mexico was also just fine as long as we were all together, except for our stop in Gallup. Buster went mad and wouldn’t stop yowling and we couldn’t figure out why. Later we found out that there was a frequency there that humans couldn’t hear.

After our two years at Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho, NM we both put in for a transfer. We longed to move closer to California so we transferred back to Arizona. 1 hour and 45 for a flight, and 12 hour drive is do-able.

Our temporary stay for the first weeks there was a local business hotel with many rooms and a homey atmosphere right in the center of Chandler. There was a Great Pyrenees dog show nearby and they were all lodged at the same hotel. Buster and Rocky just took it in stride. They never had potty accidents there or any other place. 

In fact, the only bathroom incident Rocky ever had turned out not to be. While we were still in California, my Mom had kicked off her Birkenstocks and Rocky decided there was a smell on her shoes he liked so much he had to mark it. While we all looked on horrified, he filled up the entire shoe. We determined he was exactly a size eight bladder.

Arizona was our home again from 1998-2016. After renting for awhile we put an offer on a nice house on a corner lot. We built a huge fire pit in the backyard which Rocky loved. Happy times were spent there. But those times also were tainted with sadness. Rocky and Buster were getting along in years.

Now: We have spent almost 5 years living here at my Aunt’s property in a Motorhome and four and a half months without a cat family member. (Since 9/28/2020) when we put Briggs down. There are cats around, the two Weigumina’s and George at my folks. But we miss the patter of feet. The constant presence, the expectant looks, the furry body in the lap, and the purrs. It’s amazing how one small cat can fill up a space in a home and a heart.

“Animals are proof God loves us”

Before the World Stirs

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I awoke in the dark to owls calling. I counted three slightly different tones. Weigumina the cat led me to our early dawn swing session, tail in the air as cats do. She likes to head bonk my coffee cup so I had to hold it up to keep it from sloshing while she settled on my lap. My thoughts took on the rhythm of the swing. Another weekend, a little island oasis of rest once more and for that I am so grateful.

As I often do, I was thinking about Creation and all its creatures. Feeling the absence of our little Briggs still I was ruminating about people who call themselves “Dog people” and “Cat people” and how that can’t really be a thing unless you don’t dig deep enough into your own soul. To fully enjoy what both have to offer us as companions is to embrace each unique difference.

And do you ever hear people define themselves as a bug person as opposed to a fish person? God could have stopped at one hundred or one thousand animals, but He kept going. Why? Because He has a boundless love for the beauty of individuality.

To quote James Herriot:

I have felt cats rubbing their face against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love.

And of dogs:

If I had been a little dog I’d have gone leaping and gamboling around the room wagging my tail furiously…..And, “Dogs like to obey. It gives them security.

I am thinking of Daney now, the service dog at our school. How she comes up to me friendly faced with a favorite toy, wagging her tail in greeting each day. It is a comfort to stroke her soft ears, and see the loving trust in her eyes.

I think of the beauty of the sunrise and the moonrise. How different they are but each has the power to take your breath away. I think of my many years in the desert and how captivated I became of the desperate and wild beauty there. What a loss if I had closed my mind to it and refused to let it speak to my soul.

And now I’m back here in California where there is not as much sky to see because of the trees (messy trees says E.) Soon the leaves will be scarlet and every shade of yellow and orange. It’s the weekend again. These are stressful times for us all, and yet I have this little island of peace at the end of the week.

A thought on love and loss: Every heart has its own time and way of mending and each must determine when the time is right to receive another. That loss is a sacred part of us we will never forget and we shouldn’t, yet there is something in us that knows that it is right and good to move on.

Goodbye faithful friend….

Goodbye faithful friend….

The dawn broke around us gently and beautifully with promise but with a pall quiet as a distant church bell of sorrow. Tomorrow we lose you and it doesn’t seem real. Tears come and go at unexpected times but we keep to the rhythm of the day’s routines because somehow that rhythm is comforting. As if things are as they’ve always been for the past 20 years. 

You get as many treats as you want today, buddy. You have told us in your own way that it’s time. You are hurting and we know it. Tomorrow our world will have been shifted off its axis as it does after a loss. The reminders will come, like darts to the heart. 

We will think we hear you everywhere. We will wait for the familiar sound of your feet jumping off the bed heading to your bowl for a drink. We will watch for you underneath our feet and the emptiness will feel unbearable. Everyone thinks their dog or cat is the best, but you truly lived up to what E. called you, perfect Briggs. You never got sick, never did a thing wrong, never had an accident in the house. You always came out to greet company. You were a people cat. A cat of cats. 

Thank you for making me laugh this sad morning. I thought maybe you would forget about secondses, but when I looked down you were looking up at me waiting for your second helping of fish eye gravy (it’s really Fancy Feast but it looks like fish eyes). We will think of you at Shrimp-o’clock, and five in the morning and every hour in between. 

Your name plate remains forever, Briggs Dupree: Venture Capitalist by day, Jazz Musician by night, and larger than life Superhero changing into your red and blue cape to save us. Because sometimes, God knew we would need something soft and furry that purrs or barks that comforts the way no human can.

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The morning is quiet and the mockingbird sings, picking up the same endless melody he closed with last night.

David Nevue hymns play softly in the background and I am praying for my nieces little cat who is very sick. Seems to be something she ate. There are little teeth marks in the interlocking rubber floor mats in the bedroom. And now there is a big bill, but that pales in comparison to a girl who is heartsick. Oh Lord, sometimes we just get tired of all the sorrow. The world is weary. We are weary too. 

As I sit here amidst my tears there is a joy deep down resting at the bottom of my soul, in a feathered nest. It’s that quiet peace God gives. The living promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. That there is still joy for the taking. The assurance that in the end, all will be well.

I walk outside and see yet another mangled baby bird that will never sing a note. This is the fourth. Why do things have to die? I guess sometimes things can be rescued and sometimes they can’t. I think of the little mouse I saved one morning. Two bluejays were attacking it mercilessly. They would pick it up in their sharp beaks and then drop it to the ground. The mouse was terrified and when I went to pick it up it squeaked in fright. The poor thing didn’t know I was trying to save it.

I could feel its little heart beating in my gloved hand, and then it was my turn to be a little afraid. What if it ran up my sleeve? I hurriedly carried the stunned little creature to safety and settled it beneath some shrubs. I wonder if that’s how God feels about us? We fight so hard when He’s only trying to save us from ourselves. 

He looks down at the way we’ve chosen to mangle our world, our lives, and then He watches as we walk right past the gate that would swing wide and welcome us in.

He longs to pick us up and settle us in the only place we will only ever find peace and safety? “Rest my child,” He beckons. Finally, exhausted by all our own efforts, we collapse at His feet. He welcomes us, takes us as we are.

He’s the God of second, third, seventh, one-thousand chances. This morning I didn’t think I had any words at all. But God supplied a few, as it turns out.

The  train sounds in the distance, life propels forward. And the joy outweighs the sorrow once again. Despite everything, we have hope.  Pray with me friends? That a little cat a girl loves will be okay today.

A Rescue Story

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I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. As we rounded the corner of the medical complex to go in, there he was. The smallest kitten, no bigger than a minute, all alone. He was scared and crouched behind a shrub. A lady in clacking heels was nearby with a small box. She said, “I’ve been trying to catch it for hours.” I looked at Elaine who sighed big time because she knew I could never leave the situation alone. She proceeded to the lab to get her blood work with a sense of foreboding that the day had just taken a turn and somehow she would be involved. I seem to find kittens and cats everywhere. It’s not like I try.

Anyway, this office lady was on her break and clutching this box to put the little guy in. I crouched down quietly and held my hand out for him to smell and he walked right up to me. My heart did a flip as he nuzzled against my neck and purred. She looked on in amazement and said, “I am taking him to the pound to see if they will take him.” I said, “Let me make a call.”

We exchanged phone information and I told her I would wait right there. In a small panic I called one of the patron saints of Animal Friends Connection, Marion. She told me that if I could keep him a few days she would see that he got into the vet. It was no surprise to me when she came back with the little guy in the box to tell me they had no room at the local pound.

I put him in a carrier and off we went to my Mom and Dad’s house where I explained the situation. I was able to keep him there two days. My Mom has some memory issues and she was upset by the little guy’s presence. She kept asking why the cat was here and who it belonged to. The Angels at AFC accepted him into their community. I had named him Stash by that time for his brown mustache. He promptly went to the vet where he was treated for several things. I gave them money to help with his care. I was already hopelessly attached.

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I went to visit him in quarantine after the vet. He was being treated for several things common to kittens left to fend for themselves. He peered out through the cage at me but I couldn’t hold him. My heart ached and ached until finally he was taken out of quarantine and brought into the shelter where I could go and visit. All the shelter workers were sure I would adopt him and in my heart he was already mine. And yet, I had a elder cat at home who had been a faithful friend for 19 years and I didn’t know how he would react to a kitten. I had done that in the past with disastrous results.

When you volunteer at a shelter, this is the risk you take. You wonder when you will meet “The One” who fully captures your heart. You tell yourself the rewards outweigh everything else and really, they do. But now it had happened to me. And every day I wrestled.

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Every time I went to the shelter I wondered if I could resist bring Stashie home. Each time, after I loved on all the other cats, I spent extra time cuddling him and holding him close. Maybe it was my imagination that he remembered me as he nuzzled my ears. But maybe it wasn’t. I cried over him. One particular time coming home from the shelter Elaine had her phone ready to video his homecoming. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it.

Our Briggs has been so loyal for so many years, and his health is not the best. I could not bring myself to subject him to a new cat friend. I know me, if he rejected him and was miserable, I wouldn’t give Stashie back, I would deal with it and it wouldn’t be fair to either one. So for now I go visit, and I’m praying for the best home for him. He is a great cat. He doesn’t try to get away when I pick him up. I can hold his paws and he doesn’t mind.

For now, it’s a rescue story. Soon, I hope it will be an adoption story. Maybe he’ll even get adopted with a special friend to grow up with. The good folks at Animal Friends Connection continue to care for Stash and all the other doggies and kitties who will someday find forever homes. And I am so grateful for all they do.

Summer 2019

 

It’s been awhile…….words continue to be elusive, just out of reach. I try to relax and realize that this is just another season and to let it go. And yet, I miss the release that comes with letting words and feelings go and maybe send a little healing out to you readers, if any of you are still there. If you are, thank you for your tenacity in believing I still might have something to say. 

Briggs is still with us. We enjoyed a trip to the beach not long after summer vacation started and he had a rough go of it on the way. He was fine after we got the Motorhome settled and brought him some shrimp from Phil’s which he loves.

Moss Landing was a blessing as always. I went on my usual quest for sea glass and was not disappointed. I was breathing out a prayer of thanks for the treasure I was finding one morning and shortly after that He rewarded me with a very special piece. A color I’d never found before.

Not long ago I did something I have wanted to do ever since we moved here. I bought myself a little one person tent from Amazon and dragged it and the mattress down by the river. The inflatable mattress was a little too fat and that didn’t leave much breathing room for me but I was very comfortable all night. I left the door flap open and a whisper of air came in. I even got a little chilly which was wonderful. I was serenaded by an owl which was like a dream. It held magic, that night. 

I want to do it again, but poor Elaine hardly slept. Briggs didn’t know where I was and he yowled and was up and down all night. Poor guy. He has slept on my bed for 18 years and he didn’t know what was going on.

Lately I have been treasuring my time with Mom. She is lost in her own life and not doing really well. We have entered yet another phase with the memory loss. Dad is her anchor right now and she wants to be wherever he is which is extremely hard on him being the solitary person he is. She asks me questions now like “Why aren’t you at work?” “Where do you live now?” But it is easy to do things for her because she is so very sweet.

Dear readers, hopefully someday the tap will be turned on once again and words will flow freely as they once did. I try and think why it was so different in Arizona and I can’t come up with anything. Maybe I felt freer there. Maybe it was because I felt more secure. Maybe I miss our home. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Books continue to be a joy and for that I am grateful. I look for excuses to go the library. I mingle with the homeless and the other odd library people and I feel at home in between the shelves. I remember when they built that library and when I close my eyes I can still hear the wooden card catalog draws slide in and out.

There is something to be said for having a history with a place. I wish you grace, mercy and peace from our Lord Jesus my friends. 

Christmas with the Kittizens

 

This morning I decided to bundle up and go down for some prayer and quiet time. I felt I needed it, though I confess I didn’t much feel like it. I opened the gate which was blocked by a snowbank of leaves from the disastrous winds yesterday.

I called to Weigumina, (sister) to come along. She hadn’t followed me down there since her injury and I missed her. Her brother had since taken her place and I think she felt a little pushed out of shape about that. (These are the neighbor cats but they aren’t home much and we started feeding them because we felt sorry for them) We took to calling her Weigumina because Vern Weigum had his 1956 Belair parked in my Aunt’s carport and that was her favorite place to enjoy the sun.

Once down there I fired up my heater and shut the door to keep the heat in. I was sitting there feeling a little dejected but grateful for the warmth. I heard a scratch and small meow at the door and there she was! I was so glad she made it down there and of course all my prayers were totally disrupted. She made herself at home on my lap and proceeded to stick her nose in my coffee and beg for my cooky.

All the while she had her eye on the door watching for brother. Sure enough, he showed up too. She was perturbed and commenced growling and even gave him a little swipe when he got too close. He wasn’t much affected by that. I could hear him in the corner batting around Sydney’s little feather-ball I gave him to play with. Then he jumped in the sink and watched us from there. They are both such clowns. I guess God knew I needed some entertaining (thank You)

Yesterday E was sick and Briggs stuck close to her side all day. We are so glad he is still with us at 16. He is of course, perfect. He has taken riding in the Motorhome in his stride even at his advanced age.

Earlier that morning I was at my brother’s house putting lights on the tree and I noticed his neighbor’s cats (who he has also started feeding because they are neglected and ignored, yes it runs in the family) playing with the leaves out front. It was so cute.

The tree was cause for great excitement for Pencil Neck, my brothers youngest cat. He runs around with a zip-tie in his mouth and will retrieve for hours if you throw it. And Mima, the queen of the house has earned her status over the years by handling many different animal situations with grace and dignity.

It’s Christmas with the Kittizens for all of us and we are glad for the comic relief and comfort they give us all year long. We continue to miss Tyler, one of the best dogs there ever was. To his credit, he always knew which cats belonged to the family and knew not to chase them. And Sydney, we still miss you so. I sometimes still expect you to come when I pop the tuna can.

They make our lives better all of our fur-families don’t they? I can’t imagine what we would do without them. Merry Christmas from our fur-house to yours.