March 6, 2009

He Had Me At Meow

Filed under: About The Animals — Ann @ 7:53 am

Note: This was written on March 6, 2009, long before Geronimo ever appeared on the scene [see "Here Cat!]. Wolfie was the first cat to insinuate himself into our lives; at the time I wrote this tribute, I never dreamed another Sudden Cat would soon fill the void.

As I write this, there’s a cat on my income taxes.

He could have his pick of any soft spot in the house – our bed, the green director’s chair (which, after he claimed it as his own we began to call “the cat hammock”), any number of pillows, or even a sunny spot in the carpet. But this morning, for some reason, he jumped up on the kitchen table and curled up on the blue folder which contains our unsigned 2008 tax forms. And, though it is Friday morning, which is a day of energetic house-cleaning for us, now neither of us will vacuum or be otherwise noisy, lest we disturb the sleeping Wolfie.

Wolfie — a beautiful silver-black-grey Tabby — does not belong to us, and I don’t mean in the sense that cats don’t truly belong to anyone. I mean, literally, he’s the neighbors’ cat. He belongs to C & Z, the young couple across the hall in our apartment building. When they first moved in and I realized there was a cat on the premises, I panicked. At the time, I was truly madly deeply in love with a mated pair of California towhees who lived in our side and back yard. After research told me that cats kill 568 million birds a year in the U.S., I asked cat-lover friends how I could humanely keep Wolfie away from my towhees. Their answers had me chasing Wolfie around the backyard, trying to spritz him with orange oil (don’t ask). I still remember him crouching in the junipers, no doubt vastly amused by the crazy woman with the aerosol can.

Then, after a long tenure, the towhees died. We grieved, put away the birdseed along with our hopes of ever having them eat from our hands, and moved on. Then a strange thing happened. Wolfie started visiting us.

At first he just came in for short stays, encouraged by our sharing tidbits of whatever food was on hand – sardines, tuna. Then he began to find places to curl up and stay awhile: under our bed, in the aforementioned green chair, in a box in our closet, on top of Neal’s tall drum, under our coffee table and, most recently, way on top of the entertainment center. I always waited for him to find the one perfect spot which would lure him back again and again, but instead the opposite happened: he would often surprise me by curling up in a spot he’d never before considered – like behind the door where we keep the ironing board. And he began to hang out with us for hours on end – sometimes all day. And, in the process, he snagged both our hearts, big-time.

IAMS catfood started showing up on the grocery list. We stored the big green bag on top of my piano and often Wolfie would jump up there and start caressing the bag with his beautiful tiger-striped face, to our amusement and delight. The mat by our back door became the cat’s feeding place, decorated with two little Pyrex dishes – one filled with IAMS crunchies and one with fresh water.

I’d never had much interest in cats before, but now I started surfing websites, looking for secrets to their care and happiness, and trying to learn to speak Cat. Wolfie has so many different sounds, that what we teach our children — “A cat says ‘meow’” — is a tremendous disservice. He trills, he chirps, he growls, he “merps,” and, when he’s looking at birds, he makes chittering sounds. We watch, fascinated. I learned that a cat’s purring can heal their bones. One day, I sat and watched him take his entire bath, from face-pawing to tail-grooming, and it felt like a meditation. No need to turn on the TV – watching a cat bathe is tremendously entertaining.

I learned that sometimes Wolfie will seek out affection – this morning, unbidden, he came to me and rubbed his head all over my hands, arms, and torso, before licking my finger with his emery tongue – and sometimes when you reach out to pet him, as he passes he will lower his body just under your hand such that he remains an inch below your efforts.

Through Wolfie, I learned cat. Oh, not fluent cat, but just enough cat to get by. And though we really couldn’t call him “ours,” we couldn’t love him more if he were. I have a million nicknames for him, my favorite being The Enigmatic C-A-T. The young couple later got Wolfie an adopted brother, Maguro, whom I called The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee. Predictably, Wolfie hated him and we think that the appearance of Maguro may have even been the reason that Wolfie began visiting us in the first place – to escape the energetic and annoying black kitten from hell.

Every animal story has an unhappy ending.

Last week, C told me that, because their baby will be born soon, she and Z are moving. Oh, not far away, but far enough away that we will likely never see Wolfie again. My eyes fill with tears as I write those words. Stupid cat. It was so much easier when I was chasing him around the backyard, daring him away from my birds. I’ve fantasized about catnapping him, asking the neighbors to leave him (“You’ll have a baby; won’t you be too busy for a cat, let alone two cats?”), or even going to the shelter to try to find my own Wolfie-like Tabby.

But that’s the thing: there will never be another Wolfie. Wolfie who had a way of showing up at our doorstep to comfort us on the mornings when my husband had to have a medical procedure. Wolfie who was sleeping one day in the green chair while I was trying to put away the vacuum, noisily, and when I finished I looked up to see him standing in the chair, neck craned around with a look on his face like, “Do you mind?” Wolfie who “merps” at us every time we go near the refrigerator, in hopes that we’ll feed him some $7.99 per pound chicken lunchmeat (of course we don’t, do you think we’re fools?). Wolfie, who lets me stroke his beautiful striped tail for long hours. Wolfie, who purrs from the bottom of his soul and makes me feel like purring, too.

Soon he’ll be gone. Right now he’s keeping my income taxes warm. I think I’ll go tell him merp.

March 1, 2009

The Falling-Off-The-Couch Moments

Filed under: My Funny Valentine — Ann @ 7:29 pm

In the past few days, these conversations have taken place at Chez Attinson:

We’re watching “Jeopardy” and one of the questions refers to a “Berkshire Hathaway” as if it were a geographic feature. I turn to Neal and ask, seriously, “What’s a ‘Hathaway’?” and he responds, laughing, “Oh about 4 or 5 pounds!” I fall off the couch laughing.

We’re watching a “Star Trek” re-run and one of the red-shirt actors is just awful, awful. Neal, knowing I love theatre, asks me how I would ‘fix’ him and make him a better performer if I were in charge. “Seriously,” he asks me, “what would you say to him if you were the Director?”
I replied, “I’d say, ‘Son….’” and waited for Neal to get it. It took him a second, then he fell off the couch laughing.

We were in the kitchen just now, rinsing dishes, and Neal asked me if I’d heard the news story about the “naughty octopus,” and then goes on to tell me that an octopus in some aquarium somewhere turned on all the water and flooded the joint. Expressing amazement, I asked, “How?!” Neal said, “I don’t know, I think he turned a valve.” I replied, “Well if it was an aquarium it must have been a bi-valve.” He didn’t fall off the couch because we were in the kitchen, but hilarity did ensue.

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