In the past six months my extended family has lost two much-loved members, and I’d like to pay tribute to both of them. In December, just a few days before Christmas, my sister’s family discovered their gentle giant Max, a Rottie, dead, most likely stricken by a heart attack. Just five years old, he had the sweetest disposition of any dog I’ve known. And manners-wise he put Pablo to shame. He wouldn’t dream of begging and often had to be coaxed to take a treat!
And just yesterday my youngest sister’s family made the painful decision to say goodbye to Abby, a rescued pit bull they’d shared their home with for more than twelve years, who’d recently been diagnosed with cancer. Abby was the elder statesman (statesdog?) of our family, a stout-hearted and fiercely loyal dog. True, she and Pablo couldn’t be in the same room (pit bulls are known for being extremely territorial), but they did meet once during Pablo’s puppyhood to romp in the park, a memory I cherish.
Losing one’s best friend has got to be one of the most painful experiences of owning a pet. I still haven’t recovered from the loss of my first dog, Duke, and that was almost forty years ago. So my heart goes out to both my sisters and their husbands and children.
RIP Max and Abby.
Look closely at the photo. See a little dark smudge hanging off a tree branch? That, my friends, is a bat, and the latest visitor to our humble home. Yesterday morning started out uneventfully. I was sitting at my desk in my office, checking corrections for a magazine I’d been copyediting. I heard a few odd sounds coming from the light fixture above me, but I assumed it was nothing more than a trapped bug. I was wrong. How wrong became apparent seconds later when I heard a much louder noise, the noise of flapping wings as the bat–disturbed from its rest by the light’s heat–careened around my small office like a drunken sailor on leave.
Luckily, I had enough presence of mind to open the window and screen before fleeing from the office and closing the door behind me. (Thankfully Pablo and the cats were already downstairs.) Then I did what any 21st-century, liberated woman would do–I called my husband. He calmed me down some, and later I even managed to sneak into the office to retrieve my iPad.
That afternoon K returned home from work earlier than usual and went up to investigate. I’d like to say I went with him, but I stayed on the porch. K came back to report that the bat was sleeping upside down on a branch of my tree decoration. He took some photos (see above) and gently prodded it to leave. It yawned, opened its bat eyes, and refused. After a little more prodding, it finally flew out the window, no doubt grumbling at the shoddy accommodations provided by our bed-and-breakfast.
K thought the bat very cute and became quite enamored with it, even going so far as to wonder if they can be kept as pets. I’m fond of bats, as well. I know they perform a useful service keeping the bug population in check. But I don’t want another one in my house. Not ever.
It was bound to happen. One of the cats made a break for it–fed up, no doubt, with two meals a day, a multitude of cozy spots to cuddle up in, and an endless supply of toys and catnip. So when the window in the basement cracked and a piece of pane fell out, our prisoner escaped, hightailing it out the window and into the free world. Those who know our cats will be surprised to learn that it wasn’t the fearless Rita–she who roamed far and wide in her previous home in the country. No, it was timid OC.
I found OC many moons ago in Jersey City, camped out under a dumpster and meowing piteously. I scooped him up, took him home, and he’s been with me ever since–with absolutely no interest in the great outdoors (except when the cats sunned themselves on our roof deck in our previous house).
I didn’t discover the broken window right away. In fact, one night I heard cats growling right outside our living room window. I wondered why OC wasn’t down to investigate–and now I know. He was one of the cats, defending his territory from an intruder. I finally discovered the broken window one rainy morning when OC came to breakfast wet. A quick investigation revealed why. K boarded up the window and OC’s wandering days are over for now. He cried to be let out at first, but now he seems resigned that he’s an indoor cat again.
The Unrepentant Escapee
Thursday was the four year anniversary of my first date with K. Here’s Rita posing next to the dozen roses he gave me to commemorate that momentous occasion.
Although Ms. Flopsy regularly visits our backyard, the cats hadn’t spotted her–until yesterday. Usually she grazes over by the garage, but she decided to come right up to the house (in the photo she’s between Rita and OC’s heads). The cats didn’t know what to make of her–was she an unusually shaped feline, an overgrown mouse? Wait till they meet the humongous groundhog that sometimes stops by.
K snapped our backyard lagomorph mid-flight. She’s been around a lot lately. This morning I spotted her ridding our lawn of dandelions.
Our new place comes with its own rabbit, that iconic symbol of spring. I usually see her (him?) in the morning, calmly chewing grass in the middle of what passes for our lawn. But I’ve also spotted her hanging out in the low bushes during the day. Pablo coming back from our walks has surprised her a few times. She dashes off, her white tail disappearing under cover of ivy. My quest has been to get a decent photo of her, but so far that hasn’t happened. I managed a few shots from far away. As soon as I approach within shooting range, off she goes.
No, not Sidney Poitier. It’s Miss Rita. For the past week or so, Rita has sussed on to the fact that we feed Pablo his dry kibble at the dinner table. We do this because Pablo is the biggest beggar in doggydom, and if we fed him table scraps, he’d be tipping the scales even more than he does now. So I toss bits of kibble on the floor as K and I dine to the tune of Pablo’s increasingly frantic whines. Into this mix, enter Miss Rita, stage left. Rita prefers Pablo’s kibble to her own and is forever after me to give her some when I feed Pablo in the morning. I’ve been known to toss her a few, and she’s developed quite the taste for them. Come dinnertime, she positions herself in the corner and waits. When a stray kibble comes her way, she pounces. Pablo, chicken that he is, won’t challenge her because he’s afraid of her, and, to be fair, he has felt the sting of her claws in the past. Only OC stays away from the table. He’s too busy wailing at the door to our deck to be let out.
File this post under: The Joys of Dinnertime
Most mornings when I go to take a shower, I draw back the curtain to find Miss Rita there. If water is dripping from the spout, then she’s staring intently, occasionally pawing at the drops. Usually the spout is dry. But she’s still in the basin just the same. Waiting as patiently as only a cat can.