Still Waters

I know I’ve been talking cats quite a bit lately, but what can you do? They’re such great subjects. Recently, I found that someone, who shall remain nameless, is failing at their job as servant to the almighty feline overlords. It’s me. That someone is me. I’m someone. Take note of the accompanying picture. This is Shaylee, one of my personal feline overlords, and she will remain locked in this very position, oozing contempt and staring at her water fountain until someone, like me, a trusty servant, turns it on. Even though she has a bowl of non-moving water right next to her heaping full bowl of food. But does that matter to her? Nope. I’ve heard some people say that it’s not good to leave big bowls of food out for your fur babies, but in the case of Shaylee, if it’s not full, she will annoy you until it is. Trust me on this.

Don’t even get me started on cat litter brands. A friend of mine was telling me that he tried a few times to switch cat litter brands, but his cat, Archie, wasn’t very keen on the idea. This orange bundle of joy decided that pooping in the bathtub would work much better than the new litter. While some people might think this cat was just being a dumb animal, perhaps his actions were far more genius than given credit for. Hear me out. Archie found a litter that he was very content doing his business in, it felt good on his paws, and didn’t have that overly perfume-y scent… but due to the lack of that product’s availability at the local store, his owner opted for a similar brand. Similar is not the same. Similar is different. Similar will not do. Archie checked it out, scratched it up a little, and then left. It wasn’t until the next morning that his owner was greeted by a fresh pile of cat poop while stepping into the shower. Well, at least it was in the shower, his owner thought, easy cleanup. Until it happened again that evening to his wife. That didn’t go over nearly as well. So, where’s the genius in this? Well, would you rather step in cat crap (or worse, be on the receiving end of your spouse’s rant about stepping in cat crap) or just drive the extra 20 minutes to get the litter your cat likes? That’s exactly what happened in this case, and needless to say, Archie got what Archie wanted. Dumb animal indeed.

Of course, I could have saved my friend a lot of grief if he had just reached out prior to making such an ill-conceived decision. I must say though, I’m impressed with his brave, albeit failed, attempt at asserting his … dare I say… ownership. Shaylee trained that out of me long ago.

Sometimes I think it may have been easier to raise kids than it is to keep these furry little hellspawns happy. For instance, Shaylee’s favorite place to be in the entire house is the bedroom. Unless the door is shut. Then, in that case, she wants to be in the living room. If nobody is present to act upon the ruling command of her highness, she will constantly rub up her paws against the door. Which is better than scratching it I guess, but it still produces a rather horrendously annoying sound. Think nails on a chalkboard but squeaky. Sometimes I just sit there and attempt to wait it out. However, my patience proves to be no match for Shaylee’s unrivaled determination. And I start thinking, “Hey, she won’t keep it up for long,” but time and time again, she proves me wrong. That god-awful noise will continue to resonate through the house until I answer the beck and call to let her out or in. And don’t even dare close the door after she leaves… or enters, depending on how this whole game started. Because the entire process will just start all over again. There are times when I sit down and think, she hasn’t noticed that the door is shut, maybe she’s occupying herself with other things or perhaps she’s conked out taking a cat nap, and I’m rewarded with a moment of precious quiet.  No sooner do I start a project or, God forbid, put my feet up, then BAM! The infernal sound of Shaylee’s paws against the door pierces my ears once again.

Okay, so have you heard about the snack zone? Let me tell you about the snack zone. Cat treats are kept in a pantry aka closet. The cats know this. But then again, MY food is kept in the pantry as well. As are my towels (hey, it’s a small condo, mind your business). If you open the door to the pantry, a treat is required every time. Every. Time. I feel like I have to pay a toll just to get into the closet. It has crossed my mind to try and break the habit and just not give her a treat whenever I’m getting stuff out of the closet but then I get to thinking. As intuitive and intelligent as cats can be, it may not be in my best interest to mess with her demands. It’s maybe a vicious and unforgiving cycle, but I feel it keeps me in her good graces.

You know, people have been training animals for years but with cats, I sometimes wonder if they’re actually training us. Who am I kidding, they are definitely training us. And, if that is the case, I don’t want to do anything that puts me on Shaylee’s shit list.

A Heart Broken

My heart is broken. Rufus the Invincible is gone. And the irony has not escaped me that the one little soul that would succeed in bringing a smile to my face in this time of indescribable sadness, is the one little soul that has caused me such anguish in its passing.  No amount of love or strength of resolve could fight Father Time or worsening health issues.  If only it were that easy.

Rufus

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What’s Socks Got to Do With It?

How did humans get so lucky as to evolve next to dogs? Did our hominin ancestors see wolves on the horizon and know that someday we would exist co-dependently? We might have still been on each other’s menus back then, but did they recognize the possibilities? As wolves crept closer to our campfires to feed off the scraps we threw, did we realize then what a critical role we would play in each other’s lives, for time immemorial?

Owning a dog can actually lower your stress, so they say. I’m not sure I believe that, but we’ll just go with it for argument’s sake.  Ultimately, pets encourage our body to release oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Touching or talking to a dog can actually lower a person’s blood pressure. Unless they throw up in your lap. Which happens. Oh yes, it happens.

Dogs are so loyal and protective even the smallest one will stand up to the guy carrying the big scary boxes to your porch. They encourage a more active lifestyle… hey, don’t roll your eyes at me! It can happen!  Not in my house, because my dogs are consummate couch potatoes like me, but it happens!  Or so I’ve heard anyway.  With the right parents at the helm, dogs can help teach children empathy and responsibility.

Of course, dogs help ease feelings of grief and loneliness. I mean, you just can’t be lonely with a dog. Or alone. With a dog, there’s always someone there, watching you. Have you ever tried to sit down with a plate of food in front of a dog? Or open a chip bag in a building where a dog resides? You find out very quickly how not-alone you really are.

There are countless incredible service dogs. Dogs who can alert their human to an oncoming seizure and then comfort them as they are recovering. Some individuals with autism have dogs who help calm them when the world around them becomes too much. There are dogs trained to retrieve things for those with mobility issues, walk next to their person and help provide stability. Be the eyes for someone with blindness and ears for someone with hearing loss. Some are trained to seek help from another person when necessary. (Quick PSA: when you see a service dog without its person, that person is most likely in trouble, so follow the dog.)

I haven’t even touched on search and rescue dogs who find people buried in avalanches or detection dogs finding firearms and drugs. There are therapy dogs who provide comfort and affection to a range of people in institutionalized settings like hospitals, group homes, and prisons. The list goes on!

What can’t dogs do? Well, okay, they can’t make me dinner after a long day of work, but they can keep me company while I cook. And they do clean up the floor when I make a mess, so that works out well.

As pets, dogs bring us simple joy and lots of laughs. A trainer once told me that everything a dog does is to benefit the dog… down to playing fetch or being affectionate. She claims that dogs only do things to better their own lot in life, so to speak. I don’t believe that. I believe that they want to make their owners happy, and I swear they smile with us.

My 12-year-old Yorkie, Rufus, is my “heart dog.”  He’s had some pretty rough medical issues through the years, but it has not stopped his instigation of our favorite game: ‘Give me those socks!’ which takes place every day. He could stay in bed or lounge around on any one of his many strategically placed pillows and no-one, least of all me, would say word one to him. But no. Even on days where he’s not 100%, he drags himself into the hall to lurk oh-so-obviously when he knows his chance at a rousing game of ‘Give me those socks!’ is on the horizon.

Here’s the gist of the game. Every time I take off my socks and toss them into the laundry pile, he grabs one and leaves. He then prances back, instigating a chase by stuffing the other sock in his mouth along with the first one he has already stolen. Then, I say, “Give me those socks, Rufus!” and he takes off happy as can be. He then trots back into the room to show me the socks, with a smug look on his face, and we do it all over again. “Give me those socks!” I say, and off he goes. It’s never been an out and out chase so much as keep-away – sort of like trying to take a cookie away from a two-year old while said two-year old is sitting in a high chair.

We have played this game ever since he was a puppy. Twelve years of playful sock stealing, and I still don’t know who enjoys the game more. Me or him? I’ve been wondering lately what his intentions really are with this game. Does he play because he loves the reaction? The thrill of the thievery? Or is he stealing my socks because he sees the enjoyment I get from the game? That in his mind, I’M the one who loves the game, and he’s just going along with it to make me happy.

I’ll be honest, as much as I love to see Rufus enjoying himself as a sock thief, he’s not alone. We’re both reaping the happiness reward. Maybe Rufus has the same thought.

Never Lonely

Who’s watching
Tell me who’s watching
Who’s watching me
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy 
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Tell me is it just a dream
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Who’s playing tricks on me? 
 
 
 
*song lyrics: Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell
 
 
 
 
 

The Cat in the Car

Is it true that all cat owners have lost their minds—or is it just me?

We choose cats because they’re supposedly less work than dogs. Cats are independent (which means they almost always come with an attitude). Cats don’t need as much attention as dogs to stay happy. Like introverted humans, they’re happy with alone time. You think they’re less demanding than other pets, until you have one, that is.

And then we do outrageous things that our cats didn’t sign up for in any way shape or form. We might dress them up in little socks or costumes. Or buy them harnesses and take them for walks. Or… ahem… put them in cat carriages so we can push them in a stroller while we walk.

As a cat owner, I can testify that we are all, in fact, at least a little bit crazy. Some of us more than others, if I’m being completely honest. It’s me. I’m some of us.

Well, the other day, I did something a little bit crazy for my evil feline friend, the ne’er-do-well. To be fair, this was my daughter’s big idea, not mine. I really don’t want to take any credit or have any part in this whatsoever… other than, you know, putting the plan into action so to speak. The ne’er-do-well is really my daughter’s cat, after all, and I think her fondness for humanity may stop there. I’m certainly not included in that benevolent bubble, that’s for sure. To say she is spoiled is an understatement. Of course, I mean Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well) and not my daughter. Um, yeah, right, of course Holly.

So, what was this grand adventure, you ask?  A car ride.

It may not seem like a huge deal, but this car ride was Holly’s first time in the car where a visit to the vet or a household move wasn’t the final destination. Instead, we stopped at Starbucks for a Puppuccino… for our cat. Did I mention I haven’t seen my mind in a while?

Usually, Holly is content riding in her crate. Well, content isn’t exactly the word, but at least she remains civil. It’s all we can ask for, really.  But this time, my daughter’s big idea was to let her roam around the car so she could look out the windows and enjoy the ride. And by all appearances, she did enjoy the ride. She LOVED the Puppuccino. Yeah, I know. I did mention a certain someone was spoiled, remember? It’s up to you to figure out which one.

And hey, who knows, maybe this will create some good karma for me. I mean, I know that Holly has been plotting my demise for quite some time—hopefully, that Puppuccino will make her think twice.

These were taken as we were parked outside of our building… Holly sat/was held quite contentedly and out of the way in my daughter’s lap for the actual ride.

On Guard

After sharing a day from the life of Holly aka Evil Incarnate aka The Ne’er-do-well, I thought it was only fair to give equal time to the guardian of the house, Rufus.


Dear Diary,

I was a good boy today! I protected the family, and we are all safe, now. Well, let’s start from the beginning. Mom fed me breakfast, and it was delicious! I couldn’t wait to have lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again.

Mom left home, again. So, it was just all the pets and the girl today. It’s not so bad, except for the cats. They’re the worst. I swear… if Shaylee rolls her eyes at me one more time… And don’t even get me started on Holly! She annoys me to no end. No end, I tell you! No matter how much she may have deserved it, I didn’t kill her today, so I think Mom should give me extra points – and treats, for that.

Other good boy things I did today include letting Petra cuddle with me (even though I don’t like it or her), leaving mom a present in her sleeping spot, and not peeing in the house.

I always leave my favorite chew toy in Mom’s bed under the covers while she’s at work. I make sure that it’s all nice and slobbery and chewed too.  That way, she’ll come home and see that I protected her spot all day and that I was thinking of her.  I’m a good boy. Mom never seems happy to find my chew toy, especially if she gets into her spot before finding it. She makes an odd noise when that happens. Sort of sounds like Petra before she throws up in a shoe. I don’t understand why Mom doesn’t always appreciate all the things I do for her. I know she loves me though, that much is very clear, so that makes me happy. And she feeds me breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again. I wonder when I’ll get a treat. I haven’t had one for a long time, at least an hour.

I also tried to teach Petra the importance of protecting hearth and home. There are monsters all around us.  Outside. Above. Today I saved our girl from a FEROCIOUS lizard that dared to crawl onto our patio! I might not have been able to get at him, but I did give him a stern talking to through the patio door and he was duly frightened and chagrined at his transgression. The girl didn’t seem too impressed, but I did my duty regardless of her disdain. I am a good loyal boy.

But that Petra… I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her. I tried to teach her how to bark at the people in the parking lot across the way. We need to tell them to stay away. Petra just doesn’t take her job seriously. She doesn’t know what it means to be the protector of the family. Not like I do.

Before Mom comes home, I always sniff under the front door to see if she’s close. Today, I got nothing. She must have been very far away. I wonder where she goes every day. Anyway, I took a nap so that I could be at my best before she came home. And I was.

Today was a great day. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Rufus