Tuesday, August 24, 2010


BCE or Before Cat Era there was Dog Era. We had 2 during my growing-up years, both of which were poodles. My parents never liked cats; they walked on the cars in the driveway and left paw prints in addition to hiding under the shrubs next to the bird feeders. My only exposure to the neighbor's cat ended with a scratch when I decided to help kitty into my wading pool. How was I to know cats didn't like water?


Shortly after setting out on my own, with an apartment and nobody but myself to consider, I came across a small kitten after work one evening in the middle of Chinatown. It scurried across the street and under a pile of boxes at the side of the road, waiting for trash day. Concerned it might be injured, I stopped to check that it was alright. Although I knew nothing about kittens, this one appeared to be rather young; no momma cat in sight. Ah, well, certainly it didn't belong to anybody, else it wouldn't be out at 1 am unsupervised. I'll just bring it home and drop it at the shelter in the morning so it can find a good home. The 7-11 was still open and I picked up a litter pan and some food to make sure kitty was taken care of until I could get to the shelter. I set her up in the bathroom with food, water and her own toilet and went to bed.

The next morning I could hear her mewing behind the bathroom door. She had curled up in the sink and gone to sleep but now she was ready to get out and explore her surroundings. So cute! How could I bring her to the shelter? I made the somewhat impulsive but never regretted decision to adopt this little stray. Her name was officially Tyler, after the street she was found on, but for her entire life, she was really just called Miss Kitty.

A quick trip to the vet revealed that Kitty was a She, about 6 weeks old and in seemingly good health. She had her shots and all the other routine things a cat needs. True, she wasn't the easiest pet to have: slightly feral (though I didn't know enough about cats at the time to realize that) and she never liked to be touched. I probably didn't socialize her enough when she was a kitten, working a crazy schedule and not knowing that cats, like all creatures, need a good bit of attention. Out the window with the myth that cats don't need interaction. True, they can survive without it, but they do much better with plenty of it. Lesson learned.

She moved 3 times with us, first when Joe and I got married, then to a second apartment and finally to our house. Sadly, she didn't live more than a couple years once we had our home, collapsing suddenly at 6 years old of a presumed heart ailment. She was a bit wild and very difficult for any vet to vaccinate, let alone examine, so she never had a proper physical. She had a short, but hopefully happy life with us. Surely, it must have been better than being a feral cat in Chinatown?

Once I got to know a cat on an intimate level I realized how complex and interesting they are. How affectionate, intelligent and personable. Yes, each one has a very unique personality. Shocking! More wary than dogs, it's hard for a casual observer to discern a cat's uniqueness.

After Miss Kitty's untimely demise Wilson and I made a trip to the shelter and adopted 2 adult cats, Benji and Charlotte. A year and a half later, a third joined the ranks when we brought Gomer home. Joe's only stipulation to the adoption was that the name given him at the shelter remain intact. The shelter was right-on, Gomer turned out to be a lovable, goofy, affectionate cat.

Benji was a gray long haired boy who was an alpha cat if there is such a thing. He had no tolerance for any other felines trespassing in his territory. He had a particularly scrappy summer when a white Tom moved in down the street. Numerous trips to the vet were required to repair his constantly injured ear; he didn't seem to come out on top of these fights and would pursue White Tom down the street if he caught a glimpse of him. Thankfully, Tom disappeared as suddenly as he arrived, but his memory remained in Benji's thereafter deformed ear.

Charlotte was a true lady. She loved being carried around the yard as I checked on the gardens. She'd sit contentedly in my arms and survey with me. She slept with me at night and had the loudest purr of any cat we've had to date. Both she and Benji were lap cats and would settle down with us in the evenings to watch television. Sadly, both are gone now, but they lived into ripe old age, for cats anyway. Benji was around 15 and Charlotte 18-ish. They are now resting in their favorite spots in the yard. Benji under the burning bush and Charlotte under the bench she used to love to sit on.

The girls, as we call them, came into the house as 8 week old kittens. Much wiser and with more time available, I was able to spend plenty of hours playing with Millie and Gracie during their formative youths. The effort paid off in that they are delightful, sweet, very social and love to be petted or played with.

Millie, it turns out, is the more adventurous of the two. She has been known to sneak outside if the opportunity presents. She's a terrific fly catcher, able to grab one in just a paw and eat it up with one swift motion. She will visit at night but won't sleep with us, preferring to come for some scratching and a snooze, then returning to play downstairs with Gracie.

Neither will sit on our laps on the couch in the evening, no amount of cajoling will entice them.

Gracie will, however, sit on my lap while I do my morning and evening treatments. She has a certain way she likes to be petted (right hand only on her head, left hand cradling her two back feet as she lies on her side or back). Any deviation from this preferred method results in getting kicked with 2 hind legs. I may not be brilliant, but I do catch on after a bit. Sometimes I wonder who is training whom?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dirty, Pretty Things

The last time it rained enough that the garden didn't require hand watering was probably back in June, so the daily routine has been: cup of coffee, water and weed the garden, then pick whatever is ready to be harvested. Saturday it was our first eggplant. Last week there were the first cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Today there are carrots!

The routine takes anywhere between 15-40 minutes, depending upon how much maintenance is needed. Admittedly, I enjoy lingering; seeing what has grown since the previous day and admiring the fruits (well, veggies) of my labor. Even on the most uncomfortable, humid days it's still a pleasure.