the life and times of owning pets, and the reason i renamed my cats

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long ago, probably about five, six, maybe seven, eight years ago brad announced he knew someone, or talked to them in passing, or something, and mentioned that the person had told him about a cute, little, itty-bitty, barely-born, newly-arrived kitten.

he wondered if he could have it.

hum.

i have forever been opposed to pets because kids tend to think all they have to do is pretty much nothing. just occasionally (operative word here) engage with their newly obtained hobby. goldfish died due to an overload of food. while on the other hand, hamsters starved to death.

for me, it was too much to handle. little kids running around asking mommy this, mommy that, mommy, mommy mommy, which caused me to forget there was a pet in the house. i had tunnel vision. hence, supervised kids. unsupervised critters.

which meant no more pets. no. never. not on my watch.

until brad showed me, and roberto (a huge pet advocate), an adorable photo of the kitten he had mentioned. he caught me off guard. sly kid. the kitten’s big green eyes and fluffy fur was hard to resist, for all of us, apparently. please, please, please they both whispered, hands clasped into steeples, prayer-mode.

ok, i said.

say what? what did i say? i asked myself.

really?! they both screamed.

really, i mumbled.

as they were walking out the front door, i said, bring home two. (again, what the heck was going on with me?)

two? you sure?

yeah, you know, to play together.

within the hour they brought home Cassandra and Skyler (named later that afternoon by the boys). fraternal twins. one black, one multicolored. both with green eyes.

i was smitten.

still am.

roberto recently moved out and brad is a busy 17 year old. both engaged elsewhere, most of the time. so, aside from brad allowing them to sleep in his room, the girls belong to me. i tend to them 99% of the time, and i even renamed them. (the kids don’t know this, they’d probably think i’ve gone bonkers, but oh well, a caretaker’s got to do what a caretaker’s got to do, right?)

cassandra’s now-name is chicka-chicka-boom-boom (which, ironically, is the title of an adorable kid’s book about the lower case letters of the alphabet climbing a tree, thinking they know what’s what) because of her diva personality and i refer to skyler as skitter. so sweet, yet so nervous. she has never been able to fully relax.

ah, there she is. I can hear chicka-chicka-boom-boom’s deep guttural mew call me.  she wants in the house for a quick nibble of chow and a full-on vigorous back rub. she likes her cheeks gently caressed as well.

spoiled. i know.

 

If Only… Cats Can Talk

skyler

I watched my black cat antagonize a fat lizard for a few minutes. Well, really, Cassandra was just playing, pawing the lizard every time it tried to escape. And then I watched Skyler, my other cat, as she ran over to investigate, to find out what the commotion was all about. I let the cats have a moment with the reptile, then I scooped up the colorful creature, and let it go through a hole in the backyard fence.

That was twenty-four hours ago.

Now, twenty four hours later, I was feeling sick to my stomach wondering where Skyler was.

After the lizard drama, both cats ran off, in different directions, scouting the neighborhood, as usual. When the sun began to set, I walked out to the sidewalk in front of my house, and gently called their names. Cassandra, Skyler, I called in my singsong voice. The voice the cats trusted. Cassandra came running. Ran right into my arms. Then I called to Skyler, once again, as I walked back towards the front door.

Every twenty, or so, minutes I’d walk out to the sidewalk and call Skyler’s name. But to no avail. I spent the rest of the evening and all through the night calling to my shy, quiet, observant cat. In the wee hours of the morning I had resigned myself to believe that something had happened. Something bad. My sick stomach told me so.

But, I was wrong, because later in the very late afternoon Skyler walked into the house wide-eyed and fearful. As if something had happened to her. Something bad. When she heard the natural stomp of a foot, she ran under the couch, as far back as she could tuck herself in. She jumped at every noise. Noises that she had become immune to. With gentleness, my family and I welcomed her home, into our safety net. Allowing her to readjust, at her own pace.

The next morning, when I open the garage door, just enough for the cats to slip under, Skyler sat, and observed her neighborhood. Taking a moment to reflect on something. And then she slowly followed Cassandra out onto the grass, and watched as her sister caught another lizard.

If only cats can talk, I said to myself. I sure would like to hear the details of where Skyler had disappeared to. And why she returned home feeling anxious. 

poolside

pool

A house with a pool is a dream, I suppose for many. When looking for a new home, in general, lookie-loos consider a pool in the backyard a lap of luxury. I’d agree, but honestly, for Rudy and I, we just wanted a house to live in, to provide stability for our children. Just a simple house. Something cozy. That’s it. A glistening pool wasn’t our focus when looking at places to settle into.

So, to our surprise, the house where we immediately grabbed hold of each others hand, a secret sign that we had agreed on beforehand, a way to express our interest without saying a word, came to fruition only a few feet within the entryway of the ranch-style home. Both of us just knew without even having toured the place that this house was the one. Our feelings inter-mingled, tingled through our fingertips. And as we stepped into the living room, and the owner pulled back the curtains, there in front of us was a built-in pool, shining brightly through the large windows, set smack-dab in the middle of the backyard. A bonus. Something not looked for, yet there it was. Refreshing luxury to take a lap in.

Our kids were so excited about having a pool in their yard. They’d swim after school, on weekends, with friends, without friends, late at night, early in the day, when they should have been napping, or could have been doing homework. In other words, the pool was their life. Until it wasn’t. One day, after observing them slouching on the couch, on a warm summer afternoon, talking about how boring life is, I made the most obvious statement. “Go swimming.” And that’s when reality hit. “Nah,” the kids replied. So there the pool would sit, day after day, without playmates. So, in a sense, the idea of a pool is awesome. The reality of it is “Whatever.”

One day, the pool guy began the process of draining the water so that he could replace the burnt-out light. The unexpected result? The kids and I discovered a new fascination. An empty pool is pretty cool. And not only for us, but for our two cats as well. As the water level slowly went down, Cassandra curiously stepped down onto the first step, considering if she should take a sip of the chlorinated liquid. When the water was nearly gone, we decided to take a stroll into the depths of the plaster-covered cement. Amazing! Really. We sat in the pool, just feeling its vibe, the huge expanse of it.

pool light

Later that evening, after the light was replaced, and the water began to fill again, I turned on said light, and we sat there, for a second time, inside the pool, amazed by the beauty of it all. The large hole in the ground, the old retro-looking walls, looking super bright, with the illumination of the newly installed light fixture, was worthy of our time. We talked, simply bonding. And then the light blinked off. Automatically.

The following morning, I went out to check the progress of the water level. Higher than the night before, but still low. I crawled into the pool again, this time with Skyler, who seemed to be as in awe as I was. Pools are awesome. Fun. Refreshing. Entertaining. And so on. Yet, now I know, that when the pool is empty, those things simply double in pleasure.

When I Pet My Cats It’s My Dad That Comes To Mind

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As far back as I can remember, when I was growing up, we always had some kind of pet at our house. My sister was the person who had a deep love for animals, especially strays, and would bring them in, care for them and incorporate the various pets, cats being the most preferred animal, within our household.

Over the years I, too, loved those sweet animals, but it was the cat I liked the best. Yet, ironically, when I moved into a place of my own, I never considered bringing a domestic animal into the house. Not even when the kids started asking if they could have a cat, or more enthusiastically, a dog.

“No. No. No.” I’d always say when asked.

Until the day Brad showed me a picture of a kitten, a multicolored bundle of fur. And her twin, a dark-haired beauty, both with green eyes. Not only did Brad beg and beg, but so did Roberto. They worked me. And it worked. Maybe because the boys were so adorable when asking, or because the kittens really were gorgeous, or maybe I was just ready to bring cats into our life.

No longer kittens, but full-grown cats, I find myself cuddling the girls, rubbing their bellies, and patting their tails bones. Something my dad used to do with the cats in the house I grew up in. At first he’d use his hand, eventually switching to a walking stick, to pat their heads, rub their chins, and vigorously pat the space between the end of their spinal cord and their tail. And boy were the cats in heaven.

I seriously love that I, too, attend to my girls with a very simple gesture, without thought, just as my dad did with the kitties he loved and that loved him. It’s such a natural way to give attention to my feline pets, Skyler and Cassandra. I find myself patting them in exactly the same way, with my hands. And every time I do so a visual of my dad pops into my head, and I remember him sitting in his chair, in the household library, reading, writing, thinking, or talking while passing his love onto those cats through the gesture of petting.