Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A COMMENT OVER LUNCH

In 2015 Chicken Soup for the Soul published their holiday book Merry Christmas.  One of my cat stories, "Eggnog with Pickles," was in that book.  Coming this May Chicken Soup for the Soul will be publishing Life Lessons from the Cat.  My story, "Healing in the Company of a Cat," will be included.  I am immensely happy about this. 

Recently I shared my good news with friends over lunch.  They were all excited and supportive.  But one dear friend made this comment.  "You know, Carole, I think there's a message there for you.  You should be writing more about animals." She was right. And I heard the message loud and clear.


*****

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Life Lessons from the Cat on sale today. Find me and my beloved Cooshie on page 96.   More than just a pet, Cooshie was a teacher, comedian and most of all a healer. This loyal boy helped me through one of life's greatest challenges.  During a very rough time I found myself healing in the company of a cat.  For cat lovers everywhere I have direct Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound links for Life Lessons from the Cat on this site.  Scroll up and go to my books and articles page. Enjoy!

*****

Daisy
 I've been owned by many cats over the years.  One of my early feline relationships was with Daisy.  Coexisting with that furry girl was the beginning of being under the tutelage of wise and funny critters.  

It was early spring when the jet black cat with emerald green eyes showed up in our yard.  A search for her owners turned up no one.   I fed and watered her outside and she seemed content with that arrangement, but we lived in New England back then and nights were still pretty cold.  I was worried about her.  The fretting didn't last long.   One morning when I opened the garage door the homeless cat scooted in, making herself comfortable under the wheelbarrow.   To tell you the truth, I was pretty happy, and the kids were delighted.  Husband not so much.  We already had two cats and a dog and a loosely defined no more pets agreement.   Curling up in the garage, the cat allowed petting for the first time.   I felt her hard, round belly and took her to the vet.  Of course, she was about to have kittens.  Again, kids (and me) thrilled.  Husband not so much.

I found a large cardboard box, lined it with straw and a thick blanket and made the garage birth central.  Two days later Daisy, yes she had been named, had a litter of five cuties.  The following day when I opened the family room door that led to the garage, Daisy stood, stretched, picked up a baby by the scruff of the neck and carted it into the house.  She did this with every kitten, placing each of them (where else) under my husband’s chair by the fireplace.  And one by one I schlepped the kittens back to the box in the garage.  This routine continued for several days until (yippee) the entire family gave in.   With her litter safe, Daisy nonchalantly purred and preened.

When the kittens were ready, homes were found for four.   No surprise, the no more pets agreement fell by the wayside.  We kept the smallest kitten, a black fluff ball with Mama’s green eyes.   In the following days, I gave a lot of thought to the tenacity of our little stray girl.  She had a goal, saw it through with sweet determination, proudly purred and preened afterward.   Made me wonder which one of us was the wiser animal.   Perhaps, like Daisy, we should all set goals, be determined, pleasantly follow through, preen and purr and take pride in our successes.  At the end of the day, we are critters all.  

         
*****

Three Days in the Corner

It was day three - early morning.  A low fog draped across the bay, closing in on the barking otters.  The ferry glided from the dock, disappearing into the mist.  In the orchard on the side of the house an elegant doe and her two spotted fawns munched apples.  The late October air numbed my bare feet, but it was hard to move from the porch.  The outside distractions were welcomed. 
     Inside, the coffee pot grumbled through its perk cycle.  The toaster sprung. I slathered the crisp bagel with cream cheese.  Sharing my breakfast was his favorite morning treat.  The popping toaster would always bring him to the kitchen, but he did not come.  Except to lap some water and make hasty trips to the yard to relieve his ballooning innards, Sunny, my cocker spaniel companion of ten years, had kept his round body wedged in the small space behind the blue rocker.  His beige, freckled face and black nose stayed tightly pushed into the seam of the wall at the far end of the living room next to the fireplace.  The ribbons of silky hair on his long ears rippled down to the floor, blending with the tan carpet.  His stubby tail wagged when his name was mentioned, but the rest of him remained firm.  It was Wednesday, the start of day three, and Sunny was still in the corner.  

The plea had come via email.  A good friend in Seattle was divorcing.  She would barely be able to manage her two kids.  I was the only one she trusted.  Could I PLEASE take her young dog?  Giving little thought to the consequences of adopting my friend's pet, in the early hours of the previous Monday I had headed to the city.
     Fudge pop eyes twinkled through a snowy coat.  Pointed, pink-lined ears stood at attention.  A curious black nose sniffed my hand.  Fifteen pounds of sweet-smelling white fur plopped into my lap.  A slow, wet tongue on my check sealed the transaction. "His name is Brodie, He's a West Highland terrier, almost a year old, and I just can't thank you enough," said my friend through hugs and tears. 
     "Ooh, how cute."
     "Is it a boy or girl?"
     "What's its name?"
     "Can we pet him?"
The ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island was overflowing with kids - curious, bouncy, exuberant kids - on my lap, on my toes, on the floor with the dog.  Brodie rolled over for belly pats. 
      On shore, the hour-long drive home from Bainbridge was perfect.  Brodie curled in the front passenger seat of my Jeep and slept. I stroked him periodically, but there was not sound and only the movement of easy breathing.  In the days to come I would consider the possibility that my "friend" had slipped Brodie a Valium before our introduction in Seattle.

Once home, he tore into the house.  He ran through the kitchen, up the stairs, through each of the bedrooms, back downstairs for a dash through my office, and two loops around the living room.  Back in the kitchen, he took a hearty drink from the water bowl and ran the course again.  He skidded along the upstairs hall and came to a crashing halt against Sunny who wobbled and staggered out of a peaceful sleep. Brodie sniffed wildly from Sunny's wet nose to frozen tail.  He jumped on and off Sunny's shivering body and ran back and forth, challenging the stupefied cocker to a chase.  He yapped and snorted in Sunny's face.  Except for a puzzled glance in my direction, the commotion immobilized my mellow old dog.  After a slow recovery from paralysis, Sunny lumbered downstairs and through the living room.  The fireplace andirons rattled and clanked as he heaved his old bod into position behind the rocker.  And now, on day three, Sunny remained in the corner.   
     The transition had been no less traumatic for Brodie.  Fleeing my hissing cat, he had tumbled into the bathtub.  Escaping the scary vacuum, he got locked in a closet.  And the grazing deer in the yard sent him into a frenzy.  But despite his misadventures, several times a day Brodie had gone to the far corner by the fireplace to yap his high-pitched Westie yap at Sunny's stationary rump.  Now, on the morning of day three, I, too, was frazzled and folded into the couch pillows for a good cry.  I had decided my bawling would kickoff an extended period of feeling sorry for myself.  
     Two warm, sloppy tongues began lapping my cheeks.  Brodie nested on top of my head, peering down into my face.   His tail vibrated against the lamp on the side table.  Sunny planted himself in front of me and nudged my body, first with one paw and then the other.  I looked into their wise, intuitive eyes.  They knew I was heading for some serious wallowing.  I knew they were communicating love and maybe a little get over yourself girl.  I scrubbed the long agenda of self-pity.
     Over the course of the next few days, we became a functioning pack.  Sunny, who loved food almost as much as he loved me, was given the first piece of bagel.  Little Brodie waited his turn.  Brodie, who loved play more than anything, got first pick of new toys.  Sunny happily claimed the remains.  Brodie's day required at least one mad run from room to room. During the dash, Sunny retired to the safety of the couch and I played an Enya CD.   Sunny's needs included ear stroking from all visitors and naps in sunbeams. To accommodate, Brodie moved in behind Sunny waiting his turn for pats and slept in the thinnest portion of sunlight.  

In a short time, my sweet boys had adapted well.  The precarious beginnings of their relationship behind them, the dogs had rallied, savoring each moment sassy and happy.   I was in awe of their hasty return to balance, their complete focus on the present.  And while they had artfully cajoled me out of prolonged pouting, I doubted my ability to exist in the "now" automatically.  I thought, perhaps, I'd spend three days in the corner.  
Brodie

Sunny

*****

Because She's a Cat 

Her body packed with leaves and dirt
she deposits same on my brand new shirt.

A bowl of fresh food ready to nibble
she sidles on by and eats the dog's kibble.

Hissing if my strokes are too great
loud purring alarm should I sleep too late. 

Yowling for help from the tallest pine
til I haul out the ladder and she climbs down fine.

To curl in my arms rubbing this way and that
knowing I love her just because she's a cat. 
Cat in the Night Woods



Cat in the Night Woods available on my Specialty Nature Prints page. 


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A COMMENT OVER LUNCH

In 2015 Chicken Soup for the Soul published their holiday book Merry Christmas.  One of my cat stories, "Eggnog with Pickles,"...