The Story of Buffy

Buffy came to me about 12 years ago, via the humane society. My friend Sabrina first spotted her while doing some volunteer work at the center; she saw there was something special about the grey-striped kitty with the chill disposition and told me that I really needed to go and just give her a look. I had recently lost a cat to old age and my heart was broken–I was pretty sure that I wasn’t ready for a new critter. My Sophie had been a gift from #1 many years ago, when we were still in South Carolina, and the spunky little cat was the only thing I still had from that previous life. Losing her after 18 years together felt like I’d lost a part of myself, but I finally gave in and decided to go and check out this ‘special’ girl.

I met up with Sabrina at the animal shelter and we walked over to the living room set-up that is the showroom for about 20 cats of varying shapes, colors and sizes. I noticed a smallish, silvery-striped tabby lying stretched out comfortably on her back….on top of another cat. I laughed and Sabrina said, “You see her, huh?”

“That’s the one?”

“Yep…she’s something, isn’t she?”

I wasn’t gonna be had that easily though, and insisted that we do a walk-through to check out all the other available cats. Sabrina went along with it, but she obviously thought it wasn’t necessary. We started down the looping hallway lined with glass-fronted cages, stopping at each to read the placard put there to explain the idiosyncrasies of its resident (Pookie doesn’t like to be held, or Mittens is a quiet girl…etc.). Most of the cats were sleeping or playing, oblivious to our presence, and as we got farther along I could feel myself being pulled more and more strongly back to the fake living room where the uniquely relaxed tiger kitty was. Then it hit me…what if someone else saw her while I was dilly-dallying, pretending that there was any other cat there that I’d even consider? My saunter turned into a faster paced hustle, and Sabrina smiled as we rushed back to the cat she knew should be my new friend.

We asked to see the lounger and were led to a small side room to meet her. We sat and waited on a bench, and shortly the attendant came in with a box. She opened the lid and a sweet, curious cat face popped up. It was then that I noticed a pink, heart-shaped nose outlined in black, and two smiling green eyes with a crazy amount of personality. Within a few seconds I had two sets of claws lightly scraping my leg. “Say hello to Buffy,” the volunteer laughed, “I’ll leave you folks to visit for a bit.”

I swear it was as if that cat was auditioning for me…after she finished the ‘clawing disguised as a stretch’ against my legs she purred, stretched some more, rubbed her face on my hand and did all the adorable things cats are supposed to do, finishing up with her butt up in the air as an invitation to scratch her back quarters. I was totally smitten. Sabrina and I did note that she wasn’t afraid to use those claws, but she wasn’t rough or wild about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was sold.

In the years since then, the Buffster and I went through a lot together. I learned to handle her occasional sofa clawing, and she loved me with an aloof but wide-open heart that made my world a much better place. She charmed everyone she ever met and was loved so much by her Aunt Linda (a fellow cat lady friend who house-sat for me and always treated Buffy like a princess). They played for hours with a special ‘cat fishing’ toy that I keep behind a glass door in my entertainment center, and Buffy would run to that cabinet whenever Linda came through the door. She knew a sucker when she saw one!

We also made it through a few human boyfriend types–Buffy tried to warn me about one of them, but I was oblivious (Note to self: When the cats don’t like ’em, back away). She was notorious for using her ‘butt in the air’ trick when she liked someone, begging them to scratch at the base of her spine, and my latest boyfriend was graced by this gesture more times than we bothered to count. (He obviously wasn’t the one she tried to warn me about!)

Along the way Buffy and I lost a cat friend–Zoe, the beautiful but dumb one that I called my “Anna Nicole Cat”. After that we endured the somewhat chaotic entry of Pickle into our lives. We barely saw him for the first month he lived here…he hid in the basement, petrified of both of us…but he finally cozied up to her, and the two eventually became buddies. After about a year they were inseparable; her favorite thing was to cuddle with him and let him groom her…and then turn around and box his ears. She was the boss, and he adored her.

After Pickle gave in to Buffy’s charms, he even started sleeping with us. He liked to snuggle up with his head on my pillow, and his sister would circle up into a ball right behind my knee. I was trapped, but happy with the arrangement, and I slept soundly.

Pickle and I are both sad right now. Our Buffy left us almost a month ago, and neither of us has yet figured out how things are supposed to work without her. He cries and looks for her, and usually tries to sleep on top of me these days. I toss and turn and wake up just enough to pat him and tell him it’s going to be okay. Eventually, it will be.

The afternoon after Buffy’s last trip to the vet was quiet and empty in our house. I sat on the couch, neither noticing nor caring about the few shredded areas of sofa material, scars from my girl’s errant claws. I turned on the TV but wasn’t watching it…I just felt alone. I shifted my gaze to see what Pickle was up to and, when I turned back, the previously closed glass door to my entertainment center was suddenly wide open. The same door that houses the favorite cat fishing stick and feathers, the toy that had been idle and untouched for some two months. That cupboard hadn’t even been open in a long while, but it suddenly just…was.

I smiled and picked up Pickle, holding him to me whether he wanted to be cuddled or not. He snuggled back against me briefly before he squirmed his way out of my arms, jumped to the floor and ran.

It really is going to be okay.

Sweetest. Cat. Ever.

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You have the right to remain…boring

So here’s the thing…I want to write. I need to write. I LIKE to write…but I got nothin’. I make lists, jot down random thoughts while in the grocery store, keep a dream dictionary, record strange non sequitur blog ideas, and then randomly just sit and start typing. I do all the things that have given me ample ammo in the past…but nothing sticks.

I tend to get hung up on feeling that, in order to justify doing this bloggy thing, I really need to have something to say. Something WORTH saying…something that a reader might find interesting, humorous or even annoying. Hell, I can only pray for those posts that might possibly even make coffee come out of someone’s nose…sigh.

But here I sit, whining that my once oh-so-sparkly life feels (dare I say it?) a bit normal. I have a regular old office job now, great friends, too many bills, two crazy cats and no boy friend. (Actually, that last one isn’t really so bad, considering some of the men I’ve let into my life in the past!) Just the same, all this normal is making this former ‘better strange than boring’ mantra’d gal just a little bit nervous.

Hell, the most excitement around here this week was wrasslin’ with Pickle to get him to the vet. (I only sustained a few scratches this time…the first vet trip for this boy with none of my blood drawn.) He actually broke out of one carrier (the cheap one) and I had to rummage around in the basement to find the smaller anti-Houdini version that he outgrew a while back. Then came the minor miracle of me stalking the wily beast with a pillow case, catching him for a second time, then successfully muscling him into his personal jail cell. It certainly wasn’t boring.

PICKLE IN JAIL

I started thinking that maybe the lesson here is that normal isn’t really so bad. Then I took another look at that face, and I decided it’s much more likely that the real lesson is that there’s nothing normal about Pickle.

NOTHING.

Goose, goose….DUCK!

I’ve never really liked birds all that much. Their eyes are too dead looking…cold and black…and how do you love something that has a weapon where it’s mouth ought to be? I’m sure that when I was little I was just afraid of all things avian, but since I was afraid of pretty much everything, that’s not big news.

My grandmama used to laughingly tell the story of walking down Main Street as a young woman, talking to her sister. She felt something land in her hair and, when she swiped at it with her hand, she managed to smear bird poo all through her lovely new hairdo. I’m sure that lovely tale fueled some bird-related anxiety for me, even though they say it’s good luck to be the recipient of bird crap from heaven landing on you. (Seriously, ‘they’ were really reaching with that one, I’d say.)

Back in South Carolina, I remember seeing lots of blue jays and cardinals, some crows and tons of pigeons (aka rats with feathers) whenever I went downtown. Oh, there were certainly other types of birds there, but I wasn’t very observant, and I would usually go out of my way to avoid too much contact with anything (shudder) WILD. I also remember a few times when I caught a glimpse of a far-off, V-shaped group of geese flying somewhere, usually at sunset. They seemed elegant and somehow romantic, winging their way to someplace far from the stifling heat of Columbia, South Carolina. I never actually had any up-close goose encounters, but there would have been screaming if they got too close to me, so I was satisfied with the idea of them.

When I moved to Oregon I started paying a little more attention to birds in general. I’m certainly no birder, but I did notice that the blue jays here look more exotic than the ones I was used to. The pigeons and crows are normal, but I was almost a little disappointed to realize that we don’t have cardinals at all in Portland. The trade-off, I learned, was that I would get to enjoy seeing the V formation of Canada Geese on a regular basis…it became something to look forward to during the changing of seasons, and it reminded me that I live in a really cool part of the world.

And then I started my new job, where geese (and I mean LOTS of geese) are an everyday thing. Our campus is part of a wetlands area that is apparently where every damn Canada goose in Oregon (and at least half of those in Canada) come to breed! At first I was all, ‘Wow, we’re surrounded by geese…how cool is that!?” Now, after three months of it, I’m continually watching my back around the tyrants…they think they own the joint! It’s bad enough to have them giving you the stink eye all the time, certain that you’re making a ninja move toward their babies, but then they randomly just decide to walk down the middle of the street, backing up traffic…babies in tow! Since when am I more dangerous than an SUV?

Worst of all, though, is when the damn things fly. Let me tell you, looking up just in time to see a couple of critters the size of the biggest Thanksgiving turkey you’ve ever even heard about swooping right by your head is a bit unsettling.

Goose shitThis shot shows just a small sample of the goose population that our offices are surrounded by. And folks, where there’s a goose, there’s goose poop. Thousands of geese generate lots and lots of it. The security guards actually have to hose down the front walk every morning, and you just learn to watch your step at all times. We even hear periodically about some poor employee leaving after a hard day at work, only to be poop-bombed on the way to their car.

Oh, I still enjoy watching the goosey circle of life, but I try to keep a safe distance, and I’m basically over my love affair with geese. It was nice while it lasted, but I’ve moved on. Let’s just hope I don’t get lucky any time soon!

Did ya miss me?

I just realized that it’s been almost a solid month since I’ve posted anything, and that’s just WRONG. I’ve certainly thought about it plenty of times, but too much work and too little sleep just don’t contribute a whole lot to the creative process.

Not much new and exciting to report…it’s fall again, so my yard once again smells like a Welch’s grape jelly factory — it’s a beautiful thing but I do seem to be buying a lot more peanut butter than I normally would.

Big banking news…I used my debit card online so much that the bank thought terrorists had it and shut that sucker OFF. I didn’t really buy that much actual stuff, but (note to self) it’s probably not wise to have five Amazon repeat orders, two eBay finds and a pet supplies order in the same week. cat thingy

The good news: the cats have a new scratching post tower climby thingy that was on the last credit card charge before the plug on the BofA connection got pulled. The bad news: I must have picked a dud, because those damn ungrateful cats don’t seem the least bit interested.

I’ll try very hard to have some better adventures before my next post.

 

 

Too much livin’ I tell ya!

Well, to say that I’m disappointed in how little writing I’ve been doing wouldn’t be nearly whiny enough, so I’m just going to vow to do better. Here’s what I currently have going on, in case you think I’ve just been slacking off…

  • Two jobs
  • Yard work (since I’ve finally acknowledged…after 13 years in this house…that it won’t do itself)
  • A vegetable and herb garden (now that I’ve decided that eating things that grow in the yard isn’t a sin…and hell, if I’m out there anyway…)
  • Two crazed kitties with a new-found addiction to being outside (with their mama, while she slaves over the crops)
  • Worrying about if I still have any followers when I do write
  • A (more than) crazy, on-again-off-again boyfriend
  • A serious addiction to HBO
  • Periodic bouts of totally necessary retail therapy
  • Listening to my neighbor children grow up (to the South we have a budding Ethel Merman in the making who belts out that song from Frozen over, and over, and over …on the North we have a toddler named Wyatt who, if my ears don’t deceive me, may just be the most perfect child ever, cause all his mama ever says is, “Good BOY, WYATT!” She yells it a lot. A whole lot.)
  • Returning a lot of beer cans and…um, never mind that one

See? And I didn’t even mention all the time it takes me to put my makeup on and do my HAIR…I don’t wake up looking like this, you know!

The other issue is regarding what comes out when I finally DO write. Let’s just say that my last post was, well, maybe a teensy bit self-indulgent. Don’t get me wrong, everything I wrote was true, but I didn’t really need to dump all that on ya’ll. This is supposed to be a happy, feel-good break in your day…a time to check in and see what old wacky Tammy has going on. I can just hear you thinking to yourself, “NOW what has that girl gone and done?” or, more likely, “Damn, that girl better get funnier FAST, or I’m outta here,” or, “Hmmm…isn’t America’s Got Talent on right now?”

Well, keep your britches on…I’m still here and, like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m vowing to get back into writing more regularly. I’m also learning to type while drinking and watering the garden, so the odds are in our favor!

 

 

How I’m the Cesar Milan of exes

Being a cat lady in training, I usually write about feline critters, but hubby #2 and I actually had two cats and a dog. Not being a particularly active couple, we should probably have gotten a puppy that would happily grow into a couch potato (like us), or so Animal Planet (and common sense) would tell you. Naturally, we instead opted for an incredibly hyper, Mensa-qualified Australian Shepherd who was more neurotic than I am. We named her Callie, short for the name in the old Louis Jordan song (“Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?”) I had no idea how appropriate it would end up being, that’s for sure!

To add fuel to that smoldering inferno-to-be, #2 truly believed that it was a dog’s job to bark at strangers and to protect us. Yep, this 6’4″ almost 300 pound man needed a 40 pound dog to guard US. By the age of a year and a half, our little Callie was a noisy, annoying, obnoxious dog who spent a lot of time herding me around the house. (Her favorite was to try to drag me by the hem of my bathrobe, but jeans would suffice. There was also a lot of good old heel nipping.) A few times she tried to back-foot me out of bed, so that she could be with her man! #2 would just laugh and laugh at our problem child.

Callie

This is what I was dealing with…yeah, she looks cute in this Glamour Shot, but looks are deceiving!

The duo spent a lot of time together while I was at work (and they…um…weren’t), so my efforts to enforce order (or at least reason) were pretty much useless. I often came home to find them sitting on the living room floor howling together like wolves, or passed out on the couch in each other’s arms (at least #2 was the only one of the two sporting a purple Merlot mustache). Callie’s giant Alpha would have fierce tug-of-war games with her, encouraging her growls and nips…it was a runaway train.

We took Callie the Fierce to doggy daycare for a while, but it was expensive and the folks who worked there said that she rarely played much with the other dogs…she just sat on the sidelines and whined. We stopped taking her there…or much of anywhere actually…because any time she rode with us she would herd other cars while in our car, actually crashing into the windows! We conveniently lived just down the street from a dog park, so we took her there daily to help run some of the crazy hyper out of her. Well, we took her for a while, but she eventually started attacking any dog that came near us. It was at that point that I decided that we needed to do some real training, in spite of #2’s protests.

I found a trainer who would come to our house (no driving!) and I threw myself into working with her to try to bring Ms. Callie back from the dark side. #2 joined in for a bit during the first lesson, but he grew impatient pretty quickly and gave up. (I think it was about the time that the trainer turned to us and said, “I don’t know what you two were thinking, but you do NOT need to have a dog…at least not THIS ONE.”)

I didn’t give up though. This woman knew her stuff, and pretty soon she had my terrible dog sitting quietly. Within a few hours she taught Callie to stop whatever she was doing by using one command: CONTROL. I was stunned…just like those crazed dog owners that Cesar Milan helps on TV! I was thanking her for her work when she took me aside, looked around to make sure #2 wasn’t listening, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know…these training tips work on PEOPLE TOO. I’m not telling you your business, but you should try them on…um…people.”

Over time I sorted out the mysteries of how this sweet dog got turned into a mess (naturally submissive, forced into an aggressive state, too smart to not have a job…the list is long). Callie ended up being much better after she and I learned her magic word, but it only worked for me…#2 never picked it up. I could get her to stay put, drop whatever I didn’t want her to have, or stop growling by just using a word, while my husband just mumbled under his breath about how I had ruined his dog.

I tried to follow the trainer’s advice about using the training tips in other other ways, but I never quite mastered any trick to get #2 to behave or to be happy. What I eventually did figure out was the word that worked best for ME: “Goodbye.”

Epilogue:

Callie went on to live in New Jersey with her grandmother and her Alpha. I’m told that she once chased a moving car until her face caught it and she lost a canine tooth. She supposedly had a good (if not CONTROLLED) life.

I now have a dog who comes when I call her and sits on command…but that’s another story.

 

My grudge against Mother Nature

We’ve had three days in a row of sunshine and temps over 60 degrees…spring is here in the Pacific Northwest! The daffodils and crocuses are blooming, the tulips aren’t far behind them, and even the roses are starting to put out leaves. How lovely, you’re possibly thinking. Well…yeah, it is nice to see the flowers and greenery after a gray winter, but the harsh reality is that, about the time those flowers fade, the weedy green stuff that fills the rest of my yard will be knee-high and, even worse, cat shedding season starts.

2011-07-25 11.39.26

I call this one “A kitty yin yang thang”

I pretty much gave up mowing my lawn a few years ago. It just doesn’t suit me, and my back doesn’t like it one bit. I save all my strength for brushing these two shedding machines and for vacuuming every 15 minutes during the warm months…it’s a curse, but well worth it once I see these two critters being so damn cute.

These days I usually just give in and pay someone to mow my lawn and trim my roses. I really did try to do the gardening thing for a while, but it just made me crabby and dirty, and I think I’ve made it pretty clear that dirt is not my thing.

And beyond that, I’ve actually had a grudge against roses in general since I was 5. I was on the playground in kindergarten and decided that I wanted to learn to skip (no, you’re not necessarily born knowing how to do it). I tried and failed for about 20 minutes…maybe Mama was right about me being a klutz? I finally got going and was so proud and excited! Well, at least until I decided that I didn’t know how to stop…I mean, I’d learned to skip, but I’d never tried stopping before (gee Tammy…over-think things much?!) I just kept going, gathering momentum, and before I knew it I’d gleefully skipped right into a big old rose-bush! I emerged, covered in bloody scratches, my dress torn and stained, a welling hatred of all thorny things building with every step. I like to think that I raised my 5-year-old fist to the heavens, shouting, “Curse you, Mother Nature…I’ll never be scratched again!!!” but I’m pretty sure I just stood there with tears running down my face while the other kids snickered at me.

So yeah, rose bushes are pretty, and I do live in Portland, the City of Roses, but anything on my list of arch nemeses just doesn’t get a lot of tending to. We have an arrangement – I leave nature alone, and it just sits there and looks pretty. I’ll vacuum and do all manner of inside chores, but I look at the yard like it’s a foreign land, filled with weedy jungles, mysterious plant life and thorns….lots of THORNS. I won’t be bloodied again, I tell you!

I think this e-card pretty much sums up my attitude about yard work…

Swiffer mower