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.

Oh Sealy Posturepedic, I wish I knew how to quit you…

So the new job is going great. It’s a wonderful company with amazing benefits and a great product, and the folks in my department are fun and supportive. Hell, they even give you free popcorn and fruit and there’s a cafeteria and a vending machine with healthy stuff in it. What’s not to like?

7:30 AM…that’s what.

(Just a warning…here’s where I’m gonna whine a bit. If you don’t like it, well…go back to Trivia Crack, I guess. )

I’ve never really been a morning person anyway, so having to be at work that early is a bit of a challenge. Just consider that I have to show up at work:

  • dressed (in something other than an over-sized ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ t-shirt);
  • at least partially made up (I can’t even go into my own kitchen without mascara);
  • at the very least semi-coiffed (I don’t just wake up with beauty queen hair, you know); and
  • functionally awake (they don’t like it when you aren’t lucid yet – one day this week I actually shook up my full coffee cup in the work kitchen..it wasn’t pretty).

To accomplish all of this and be able to walk into the office by 7:30, I have to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 AM. Even the cats don’t like it, and I’m getting lots of eye daggers (especially from Buffy, but she’s a bit of a drama queen).

Which brings me to the main challenge – getting out of my glorious, cozy, wonderful BED. I’ve always just loved to sleep…at any time, and anywhere. I’ve mentioned before that it’s my super power, and it’s never been more true.

Up until my new work schedule, one of my favorite things for quite a while has been to wake up at around 7 and spend the next 30 minutes catching up on emails, checking out Facebook…all the things they tell you NOT to do in bed with your cell phone. All this recent early rising, however, has made that impossible. I use the most annoying alarm I could find (on that same phone), and I sleep until the last possible moment. Every second is precious to me – I just can’t get enough sleep!

I’m also starting to fade at the most inopportune times. Trying to watch a movie…better hope it’s a short one or I’ll be snoring on the couch. Going out after work on Friday? Heck yeah, count me in…well, until maybe 8:00 PM, when I’m all, “Hey, ya’ll got any nachos here…and can I get those to go?”

I guess the good news is that I can now afford to buy nachos and pay the mortgage…and get that fancy limited ingredient cat food that Ms. Kitty Girl likes…without having to resort to a life of generic toilet paper and store brand cheese. So life is good, I’m extremely grateful for my job, and I’m hoping that I’ll eventually get used to being an early bird. (Please?)

And it’s now Sunday afternoon, so time for a nap!

jealous much

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.

 

The Christmas present that peed on my stuff

We supposedly had a dog named Scout when I was little, but I don’t remember him, and the only evidence of his existence was some claw marks on the inside of our downstairs bathroom door. I take that as a sign that it wasn’t a particularly fun life at our house if you were a dog…and I’m betting he wasn’t really much of a scout either. I don’t know what ever happened to old Scout, but I’m guessing there was a car ride to a lovely farm involved.

There are two pets that I actually do remember from my childhood. One was a cat that my sister and I got for Christmas when I was about 6. We promptly dubbed him ‘Christmas’ (aka Chris for short…see what we did there?) and he was famous for going on walks with my grandfather and a neighbor’s dog. The three of them would just meander around the neighborhood…Granddaddy in stride with Buster (a squat friendly beagle that belonged to our friend Cathy from across the street), and Chris bringing up the rear.

Once my sister threw that cat down a flight of stairs because she was mad about some silly thing. Well, that didn’t sit well with Granddaddy…Lynnie still talks about that spanking to this day, her head lowered just a bit. (No, she didn’t usually torture animals, but she did have quite a temper on her. And no, Granddaddy wasn’t a child-beater, but he was an animal-lover, I guess.)

Tammy doll

Her hair even looks a bit like mine!

Chris eventually decided to do his business on a pile of clothes that were for my favorite doll. No Barbies at our house…I had a TAMMY DOLL. (Note that she had a little more meat on her bones than the anorexic…and much more popular…Barbie.) I’m pretty sure that no one ever had that poor cat neutered, so he was just marking his territory, but Tammy’s things went into the trash, and Chris went away as well. Hmmm…I wonder if he ended up at a different lovely farm, or if there was one just for cats?

Then, a few years later, there was a poor (doomed) little box turtle named Stanley Myron Handelman, named after a popular stand-up comedian. I just Googled this guy, and he was famous for being on Flip Wilson, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson, and I guess he does look a little turtle-ish if you squint your eyes.

SMH

The real Stanley

Our Stanley had a short, sad life that ended in decay…literally. I wouldn’t touch him to move him so that I could clean the bowl, and we had to bribe my sister to comb her hair, so the likelihood of her cleaning a turtle bowl was non-existent. Luckily, the real Stanley lived to be 77 and had 4 wives, which makes me somehow feel better about our Stanley’s untimely end at the hand of two prepubescent turtle murderers…regardless of how great their pet-naming skills were.

Doggone it

I keep telling people that I want a dog, but I know good and well I’m not nearly grown up enough to own one. Dogs need to be walked and socialized and trained and, most importantly, you can’t leave them at home alone for any length of time. Cats are so darn easy…it’s really hard to break them, and they have so much attitude that they keep your on your toes.

Anyone who knows me understands that I love cats. That does not, however, mean that I’m a ‘cat lady’…one of those old gals whose house reeks and who are featured on Hoarders (“Oh my god…there’s a petrified calico under this pile of Ladies Home Journals from 1938!”) Okay, so I admit that I’ve camped with cats, driven across country with cats, and have had at least one at all times during the past 30 years, but I like to think of myself as a cat loving lady.

praying_cat2

Not really Buffy, but I couldn’t get her to pray on command

My current roommates are Buffy and Pickle. Buffy is bossy, but she loves everyone. She’s cool and collected most of the time, and everyone pretty much thinks she’s the ideal cat. Pickle is…well…I like to refer to Pickle as my ‘special’ cat. When an old cat I’d had for 16 years died, I waited a respectable amount of time before going to the Humane Society. When I got there, I had it in mind that I needed a male cat, and I needed him THAT DAY. I walked through the facility checking out all of the males, but there weren’t many, and they were all either old or rough-looking, and one actually had a BEWARE sign on his cage. I asked the attendant if they had any other males.

“Well, there is this little boy in the back, but…” she hesitated, “…he’s pretty…shy, and he has an upper respiratory infection that we’re treating.”

She left me in the ‘meet your potential new pet’ room, and returned a few minutes later with a pitifully scrawny, wide-eyed black and white cat that looked like he might be down a few lives. There was a card taped to the cardboard carrier he was in that had the word “PICKLE” scrawled on it. Pickle? Seriously?

Left alone in the room with the Pickle carrier open, I sat quietly until he poked his head out. After a while he finally ventured out…creeping around the room waiting to be eaten. He even brushed up against me for just a second. He was still scared, but I got a good feeling about him. After a few minutes he seemed to warm up to me a little, so I decided that he was ‘the one’. (I didn’t hear any screams of joy after I left the building, my ‘prize’ in his cardboard carrier strapped into the back seat of my Jetta…but I bet those ‘humane’ workers were whooping and high-fiving.)

To say that I ended up with a ringer would be a bit of an understatement! Once I got that kitty home, he hid under the bed, and then in the basement, for almost a month before I saw him again. He snuck upstairs to eat only after I went to sleep at night, and Buffy and I just went along with our lives as if I’d never even found a boy cat to bring home.

One day, about two months after coming to live with us, Pickle just walked into the living room and sat on the couch to watch TV with me…just as though he’d always been there. I could tell that his breathing was still labored, but trying to get him into a carrier and to the vet to get it checked out was a bit of a challenge. After 4 missed appointments and some badly scratched arms and legs, I finally got him to the doctor, who put him on steroids. It turned out that the ‘upper respiratory infection’ Pickle had been diagnosed with by the shelter was actually asthma. No wonder he was so scared…any time he got excited he couldn’t catch his breath and thought he was dying! Hell, I’d hide in the basement too if I thought anyone I saw was choking me.

Pickle then and now

Pickle…then and now

I won’t even go into the details of having to give a critter a pill every day for the rest of his life, and the fun of learning to use a kitty inhaler (yes, they exist…look it up). It’s been about four years now, and Pickle is a happy boy these days. He’s huge and has a high, squeaky voice (well, he’s juicing!), is obviously neurotic, and is still scared of pretty much everything except me and Buffy, but we’re okay with that. After all…he’s special.