Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 21, 2016

H is for -- Hamster.

This afternoon Mattie and Little Debbie shyly asked me to meet with them on the loveseat in the living room at 3 p.m. Daniel would be at work, the other male staff person would be shopping at Walmart, and the house would be quiet. We could talk with no interruption.

After lunch, I kept busy on my Kindle, and I'm guessing the two cats were curled up somewhere, taking their afternoon naps. At five minutes to three, I heard muted meows and saw two furry bodies leap up on the loveseat, Mattie sitting at one end and Little Debbie at the other. I turned off my Kindle and inhaled deeply three times, then went to sit between them.

Thoughts tumbled around in my head. What this is all about? They are well-fed, have cozy beds and napping places, there are lots of toys to play with and windows to look out of, they are safe from the coyotes that have moved into our town, and they know they will be loved by us forever. What more could they possibly want?

I soon found out.

"We want hamsters! Mattie wants a boy hamster, and I want a girl hamster!"

My mouth fell open. I was speechless, but only for a moment. "For WHAT? To eat? You don't eat the food we serve you now. What makes you -- and me -- think you'll eat a live, fuzzy animal?" *gag*

Little Debbie vigorously shook her head. "No, no, no! We want them as PETS!"

"But YOU are pets," I countered. "Pets don't have pets!"

"Yes, they do," Mattie argued. "It's even in the Bible about the lion lying down with the lamb. As a Lutheran pastor's daughter, you should know that. Animals have pets. We want our own pets."  

I couldn't contain my laughter. "And do you know what Woody Allen said about that lion-lamb situation? 'Someday the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep.' It would be the same with you two and hamsters."

Without missing a beat, I continued: “That’s from Isaiah 11:6, The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.’ It’s about the time of peace when Jesus will reign as King over the earth AND NOT ABOUT ANIMALS HAVING PETS!”

“All right already,” Little Debbie said, leaning back into the throw pillow behind her. “Stop shouting.”

I slapped my hands on my thighs, startling the two cats. “And who’s going to buy the cages? After all, we can’t let them wander around the house. They’ll disappear forever during the first half hour! And who’s going to buy the bedding and water bottles and hamster toys? Who’s going to clean the cages? Who’s going to feed the little darlings and keep the water bottles filled? Answer me that!”

Both cats looked expectantly at me. Mattie spoke up. “You and the rest of the staff do such a great job taking care of us. What’s two more little bodies? And they’ll be in one cage, not two, so easier cleanup. Buy a cool hamster cage with several levels and a ramp or two and a little house for them to sleep in and a wheel for exercise. They like empty cardboard toilet-paper rolls to chew up and make soft bedding. Oh, this sounds like so much fun for them!” 

I choked back a scream. “And that’s another thing. You want a boy hamster and a girl hamster in one cage? Do you know what that will lead to? More hamsters -- LOTS more hamsters!”

“But,” Little Debbie countered. “I’ve heard that newborn hamsters look like cute little wads of pink Play-doh. So hairless. So helpless. Hmmmm, I wonder how they taste. Maybe they could be a snack for us, plus we’d be keeping our hamster population stable at only two adults.”

“No, a thousand times no!” I shouted.

Mattie looked thoughtful for a minute, then raised her paw. “Okay. How about this idea? – we each get a kitten. You’re used to feeding cats, cleaning out the litter boxes, and following cat rules. Don’t kittens sound like fun? Awwwwwwwwww! Fun, fun, fun! We can watch them play-fight with each other!”
“What a great idea!” Little Debbie enthused. They can cuddle up in my soft fur when they take naps.”

Mattie snorted. “I don’t think so! They’ll smother between your rolls of belly fat. And you’ll probably roll over in your sleep and crush them.” Speaking of rolling, Little Debbie rolled her eyes at Mattie. Mattie rolled her eyes at Debbie. I rolled my eyes at both of them and started to get dizzy with all the rolling going on.

“So,” Mattie continued. “Let’s get back to the topic on the table. Which can we have as pets – hamsters or kittens?”

I lightly clapped my hands. “What do you think about this idea? How about if we adopt an adult male cat from the local cat shelter?”

“Oooooooooo,” the two cats responded in unison. “Yesssssssssss! Of course, he’ll have to choose us, not we choose him.”

“Well, you two won’t be able to go to the shelter with me, but I’ll take your photos along and describe your personalities.”  

“Uh oh,” Little Debbie frowned. “Be sure to take photos that show off our best features and talk about how much fun and how wonderful we are.”

“Oh, to be sure,” I smiled. “I don’t want to have to force a male cat to come home with me.”

Mattie and Little Debbie jumped off the loveseat and struck various poses in front of the full-length mirror in the dining room. “Is my butt too big?” wondered Little Debbie out loud.

“Not only is your butt too big, but your thighs and stomach are too. They should rename you ‘Thunder Thighs’. You do really need to go on a diet and play with the catnip toys Uncle Steve sent us.” Mattie pushed her out of the way and strutted back and forth in front of the mirror. “Look at how thin and sleek and shiny I am! I play with those toys for a full half hour at least twice a day – and it shows!” She stretched out on the window sill so we could admire her sleek body and shiny coat.

I decided to end this happy discussion before it trailed off into who knows what side road. "Okay. then it’s settled. Right now, we’re grieving for Dido, but…”

“Who?” interrupted Mattie and Little Debbie.   

“Dido.” I found myself again rolling my eyes. “Probably this spring, the rest of the staff and I will visit the cat shelter to see if any male cat wants us to adopt him and come live with us -- not to replace Dido but to honor her memory.”

“Whatever. Spring sounds good. That’ll give me time to lose some weight,” said Little Debbie. “Be sure to interview any orange-and-white male tabbies, since we haven’t ever had one of those living here, and any black Maine Coons like Kuro. Here are a couple of photos to help guide you in case you forget.” 


"Sure thing." I stood up. "This meeting is adjourned." 

“And oh, check out the kittens, too,” the two cats chorused.

“No! The meeting has been adjourned already, and Elvis has left the building. Time to think about supper.” 

Friday, January 15, 2016

G is for -- Goodbye.

"Hey, where is our black sista with the blurry white spots on her back," asked Mattie. She lifted up her left paw and assiduously licked both sides of it. Pausing in her washing routine, she continued, "I haven't seen her around since this morning."

Little Debbie (aka Fat Debbie) reluctantly left her dinner plate and waddled closer. "You don't know?" she hissed under her breath.

"Nope. Haven't seen her lately and was just wondering. She parades around the house like she's some kind of princess. It's such fun to hide behind the recliner and jump out as she's sashaying by and bop her on her nose. So where is she?"

Little Debbie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "She's gone."

"Whaddya mean 'gone'? Like she stupidly ran out the front door when Daniel went out to get the mail? Doesn't she realize the temps are going to drop again? She'd never survive outside when it's zero degrees. She's just skin and bones and matted fur."

Little Debbie opened her eyes and took another deep breath. "No, not gone like ran away gone. Gone-gone."

"What the heck does that mean? Oh, wait! I get it. Our human staff -- as you know, dogs have owners; cats have staff -- finally realized what a pain she is and decided to give her away."

Little Debbie waddled even closer and gave Mattie's face a gentle pat with her paw. "It's even worse than that. You remember that the staff took her to the kitty doc-doc a bunch of times a few months ago to treat that bladder stone and her constipation, right?"

"Yeah. So? She got several enemas and special food and is okay now, isn't she? She even went back to rhe kitty doc-doc a few days ago, but nobody said anything more about that."

"Some stuff got fixed but something else was wrong that the tests didn't show." Little Debbie sighed.

"Oh, c'mon. She seems to be doing just fine -- yes, she's a bit skinny and her fur is quite matted, but she's been sitting in the windows, talking to the birds and squirrels, and sleeping on her heating pad (and on MINE TOO!) and using her litter box and eating like there's no tomorrow. In fact, she's been eating OUR share of food that we've turn our noses up at and is ruining our cat-like reputation for being finicky!" Mattie exclaimed indignantly.

"Calm down," Little Debbie warned. "Cats are supposed to be calm. Back to the subject of where she is -- I heard the staff talking quietly last night."

"And ...?"

"The staff's conclusion was that, since Dido isn't gaining any weight and she's really slowing down, maybe her time has come. And she yowls now and then. Supposedly, that's a sign of confusion and old-age dementia in cats."

"Huh? 'Her time' they said? Her time for what?"

Little Debbie closed her eyes again, sighed, then opened them. "Time for Dido to cross the Rainbow Bridge. In fact, the staff took her to the kitty doc-doc for the last time this morning. The kitty doc-doc gently sent her on her way across the bridge around 11:30."

A look of horror crossed Mattie's face. "So Dido's in kitty heaven now? Wait a minute! If she's gone, who am I going to pick on?"

Tears rolled down Little Debbie's cheeks. "I didn't like her all that much either. I hissed at her when she walked past me and tried to chase her into another room. I even called her nasty names under my breath. Like you said, she acted like a princess, but she never gave us any trouble. In fact, I was even a bit jealous of the attention she got. The staff liked to cuddle with her and brush her and carry her around the house like she was a precious human newborn baby."

"Nobody's ever gonna get me to set paw on that Rainbow Bridge!" Mattie huffed

"Oh, your day will come. You're young now, but the years go by awfully fast. I'm almost 14. My days are numbered. I'll be lucky if I make it to 15. The staff mentioned the kitty doc-doc guessed that Dido was at least 14 and maybe as old as 16, but he just didn't know. And I've heard kitty heaven is a cool place."

Mattie shook her head. "Hey! I don't want to be the only cat in this house. Think positively!"

"The staff loves rescuing and adopting cats, so you won't be alone long. Maybe that'll happen before I go to kitty heaven. I wouldn't mind a cute male around here again like Thomas Jefferson or Rasputin or Kuro. Kuro was especially nice. We can only hope. Meanwhile, remember Dido with happy thoughts and try to finish your dinner every evening. Dido won't be around to finish it for you."

* * * * *

The heartbreak of pet ownership is having to someday say goodbye. Nowadays, with good genes and regular medical care/intervention, humans can live as long as 100 years, or at least into their 80s and even 90s. With good care and a safe life indoors, a cat can live to be at least 15, and maybe even into its 20s.

She was a sleek, black stray with a white patch on her belly and another under her chin plus several blurred white spots on her back, like an angel had dripped white paint on her. She started to hang around our back door in early 2010, hoping for a meal or two. We gladly obliged. And so she hung around through the spring and summer.

We discovered she had been spayed and front paws declawed, so that meant she had belonged to someone, had maybe snuck out of her house, and maybe was greatly missed. We checked with area vets and shelters, watched for newspaper notices about missing cats, and looked at flyers posted on telephone poles and in area stores. Nothing.

We decided to invite her into our house and join our family that included rescued Mattie and Little Debbie (aka Frida Kahlo), adopted-as-a kitten Rasputin, and rescued Kuro (aka Boswell). She readily and even cheerfully walked through the open back door and made herself at home. We named her Dido and sometimes called her Princess Dido because of her fastidiousness and slow, regal walk.

We didn't know how old Dido was and wished she'd had a forehead camera that we could check back to learn about her former life. We also had no idea of how long she had lived outdoors. We figured with no front claws, it hadn't been too long.

What amazed us is that she never tried to dash out the front door when it was open, but sat down and waited patiently nearby for whoever left to return, especially if that person might just happen to bring in fresh catnip from the little garden next to the driveway. And it was like she was thinking, You can't tempt me to go out there. Been there, done that! No fun at all! 

Rest in Peace, sweet Dido.
We loved you so very much and will miss you terribly! We hope to see you again when our turn comes to cross the Rainbow Bridge.