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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Whatdya mean I have to wear pants?!

Big news…I’m finally going back to work at an honest-to-God 8 hour a day so-called normal gig. For the past four years I’ve done free-lance project management which (somehow) paid the bills, but it was never very dependable. There have been quite a few sleepless nights — sometimes because I had to work all night to meet a deadline, and sometimes because I had no idea where the next insurance or mortgage payment was coming from. The best part was that I got to work from home and, while it can get boring not going into an office, at least you never have to work with a nosy office mate or smell anyone else’s lunch being nuked. Best of all though…PAJAMAS! There were some times when being dressed certainly added to the experience, but sweats and yoga pants were usually fancy enough for even the most formal conference call.

Six months ago I took on a second job, doing some part-time front office work for a small heating and air conditioning contractor. It was fun having an office to go to again, and since almost all of my work was computer and phone…no dress code. To top it off, there were regularly dogs in the office, which is a definite perk.

Buck happens to like my 'style'...

Buck happens to like my ‘style’…

Working the two jobs simultaneously was challenging, often requiring me to get up early for my freelance job to take client calls and then stay up late to meet a deadline…squeezing in 6-8 hours of phone work in between. I could no longer wear pajamas all most of the time, but jeans were standard and no one even cared if I bothered to wash my hair (scrunchies were practically encouraged). As you can see from the photo, my office mates were very non-judgmental.

My wonderful new job won’t have fun puppies to pet, but it will have a regular schedule (no more over nighters!), a 401-K with matching funds, insurance that will only cost me a small percentage of what I’ve been paying, and lots of other exciting benefits. I’m really happy about the whole thing, but there is the (unfortunate) requirement that real clothes be worn. Welcome back to the world of business casual, Tammywhich typically does not include fuzzy pj bottoms with bunnies or super hero logos on them, and where yoga pants just won’t cut it. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll now have will make it easier to do more writing…assuming that I don’t have to spend the whole weekend doing laundry!

 

 

 

Remember it right, girl!

I was reminded by my mother yesterday that some of the memories I’m sharing here are a teensy bit…shall we say flawed. I called to thank her for her annual shipment of Christmas meat (via Omaha Steaks), and I asked her if she’d read my most recent post.

“Oh yeah,” she replied, “but I wanted to tell you that what you wrote on that one blog wasn’t right. Our dawg’s name wasn’t SCOUT! Where’d you come up with that?”

I paused…WHAT? Of course it was Scout…wasn’t it? “Huh? What was it?”

“Don’t you remember? Your grandmother got that dawg and named it after her favorite TV show…Cheyenne.”

My head was spinning! I just knew to my core that the damn dog (that I don’t remember ever actually seeing) was named Scout. I also couldn’t imagine that my grandmother had been the instigator of the dog situation…it reeked of my granddaddy.

“Mama…are you sure? Why on Earth would Grandmama have gotten a dog anyway? Y’all don’t seem to have exactly been dog people…”

“I think because Granddaddy probably told her she couldn’t.”

Cheyenne

Grandmama’s crush: The real Cheyenne

NOW it all made sense.

And so ‘Cheyenne the Rebellion Dawg’ has now replaced ‘Scout the Plain Old Door-Scratching Dog’ in my mental Rolodex.

I googled Cheyenne to find a picture for this post, and in doing so realized that Clint Walker was the TV star who played him. THEN I remembered that an old boyfriend used to tell a story about living in a trailer park in Los Angeles back in the 1980’s, and he swore that his neighbor was CLINT WALKER…ahem…Cheyenne! And so it turns out that there are only two degrees of separation between me and my grandmother’s hunky TV star crush!

Oh, and Google also told me that the character Cheyenne was a former Army SCOUT.

I love it when life gives you a big old reminder that it’s all just a damn circuitous journey that doubles up on itself if you give it half a chance, and I can practically hear Grandmama hooting over this one (wherever she is).

What I did last summer (-40 years)

My mama worked, so she used to pawn my sister and I off on relatives during the summer months. When Lynnie was 10 and I was 11, my Aunt B won the “Who gets the girls” lottery and we were shipped off to Fort Benning, Georgia. Her daughter Ellen (my 1st cousin once removed…I actually looked that up to make sure I had it right) was 18 and still at home, so she was given the job of hauling us around and making sure that we didn’t get into trouble. That poor thing…she just graduated from high school and got stuck with two little girls for her last free summer!

She did make it fun for us though, and we loved hanging around with a real teenager. (I don’t know about Lynnie, but I felt eminently cooler, just by association.) Ellen was (and still is) a beautiful, artistic, hilariously funny human being. Her best friends, however, were animals.

My cousin is a real-life animal whisperer…no joke. She has this power and can walk up to just about any animal and put it at ease. Dogs, cats, horses, even birds (which I’ve never understood)…pretty much anything non-human. When there’s any kind of animal emergency, this is the woman you want on your team.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I was an exceptionally fearful kid, and animals were definitely on the list of things I wasn’t too keen on. During that summer in Georgia my fears really got put to the test, because Ellen took us to the stables almost every day. Yep…stables where horses lived. Big, scary, stomping, huge toothed HORSES! She had a beautiful male bay named Bay Blitz, and so it was that we were initiated into the world of horse grooming, horse poop, horseflies, and horse (gulp) riding. 

Anyone who knows me in person will probably snort at the idea of me riding a horse…and rightly so. To say it didn’t come naturally to me would be a gross understatement! On occasion we would go on short rides, usually with Lynnie riding double with Ellen, and me on another horse with one of my cousin’s friends. I was never comfortable, but I got used to it, as long as we didn’t do anything fast or fancy. Once Ellen took off and yelled for us to race them. When the horse I was on started to gallop…well, I screamed. I don’t remember the name of my horse-chauffeur, but she slowed down to keep me from freaking out. Lynnie describes the end of the ‘race’ as she and Ellen waiting and waiting until the horse I was on slowly came into sight…I think the way she put it (with sound effects) is something like, “Galump…Galump..here comes Tammy.” It wasn’t my only horseback screaming incident but, over the course of the summer, I slowly learned to be a little less freaked out.

horsefall

Bring in the stunt Tammy

Eventually I got brave enough to be coaxed into learning to mount a horse by myself. I successfully mounted and dismounted several times in a row and was supposed to ride a short way on the last attempt. Well, that attempt ended with me doing…well….this:

My foot stayed in the stirrup but the rest of me hit the dirt. Naturally, the horse decided to walk away from the whole thing…dragging me with him. Luckily, the only thing hurt was my pride, which was crushed…I did all of this in front of at least one cute boy! I think when we told Mama about it, she probably just said, “Well honey…you know how clumsy you are!”

The best memory of that summer was when a horse at the stables started foaling earlier than planned. There was no vet, so my 18 year old cousin jumped in and calmed the mama horse down, assisting with the whole birth. It was an amazing moment, and I got to see a horse coming into this world. Ellen later went on to become a vet tech, and I eventually went on to become an animal lover. I owe much of that to her and that summer…even though I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time. (I still don’t understand birds though…they’re just strange.)

Oh, my cousin Ellen is also a seriously amazing artist, specializing in animal portraits. (This is me bragging…look at this stuff!)

Portraits