Friday, July 12, 2013

Home Is Where The Fur Is

I've always lived in a house with pets.  My mother could never turn a stray away from the door - so our home became the Delta Street chapter of the ASPCA.  And since I developed my love of animals from my family, my home includes a revolving supply of lint-rollers, carpet cleaner, paper towels, air freshener, litter, plastic baggies, pet food, treats, toys and fur...lots and lots of fur.  I'm pretty sure that the longest stretch of time I've ever gone without some type of animal hair on my clothing was about 6 months.  My dry cleaner hates me. 

And I couldn't imagine my life any other way. 

I grew up mostly with cats.  One cat in particular we had from as far back as I can recall. She was sweet and aloof, she would curl up and sleep at my feet or walk by ignore my very existence.  We had to call the fire department to rescue her from a tree once (turns out she had already rescued herself and was sleeping comfortably under the bed by the time the firemen declared they couldn't find her from the ladder).  We moved across the city and in a show of anger and defiance at being relocated, she promptly disappeared.  We searched high and low - but to no avail.  She finally came back about a week later, hungry and dehydrated, but on her own terms.  She never left the house again after that day.  There were multitudes of cats we picked up around the neighborhood - some strays we would bring into our home - others that just lived in peace out on our patio - but she was the Queen Cat, and she made sure everyone knew it.  She lived to be about 21 years old - and when she finally passed, we consoled ourselves by saying that she tried to hold out until all the other cats in the house bumped off so she would have it all to herself again. 

When I moved across country (the first time), I found myself rather homesick.  My boyfriend at the time encouraged me to go to the animal shelter and pick out a cat to help keep me company.  Inside one of the cages was a mother cat and her 6 kittens, all looking very sweet and demure and very adoptable, except for the two in the back corner causing a ruckus and fighting with each other.

Yup.  Guess which ones I brought home.

Tigger and Taz were with me from that day forward.  I dragged them from state to state, home to home.  We added another "brother" to the mix after about the fourth year - Moofasa; each with his own little quirks and personality.  For example, Tigger and Taz would both jump into the bathtub after you stepped out of the shower.  Taz would drink from the sink faucet if you turned on the water.  Tigger loved to lick the condensation off of anything - bottles, cans, cups - it didn't matter.  He also liked his coffee black.  Taz was the only cat I ever knew who had an "early warning" system when he was about to hoark up a hairball.  It was the most horrendous meow you would ever hear - but as soon as he started it, he was scooped up and swept off to any room with vinyl flooring (thus saving my carpets much wear and tear).  Tigger went through a brief stint where he loved drinking out of toilets.  Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure I didn't get a full night's sleep for about the last 10 years of my life - Taz would inevitably wake me up at about 2am every other night because he was lonely or hungry or...something...and Tigger loved to sleep on top of my head on the pillow - thus pushing me further and further down the bed.  Moofasa, on the other hand, has always been the "low maintenance" guy of the group.  He's huge; that's probably his distinguishing mark on our household.  And by huge, I don't mean big.  I mean HUGE.  But he lets me sleep, he doesn't hack up hairballs, doesn't drink my coffee and is overall a pretty easy going gato. 

Tigger and Taz both passed away last year, each at the age of 18.  You tell yourself that you know the day will come eventually - but until it actually gets there, you can never prepare for it.  And although I'm not woken up in the middle of the night and have the pillow to myself - there is still an empty place in my heart and home where they're missed each day. 

Recently we decided it was time to bring home a new addition to our family.  Moofasa seemed used to the idea of being the only cat, but even he seemed a little lonely and needy when we came home from work.  So we have ventured into new and uncharted territory - Puppy Land.  And I have to say - the little guy has already made life exciting, challenging and made himself quite at home.  Puppies are quite different from kittens:  much more dependent and in serious need of day-to-day instruction, I'm having to learn a whole new level of patience and training I never really had to deal with before.  But I haven't lost anything truly valuable yet to puppy-teething, so we must be on the right track.  And I have to say, I enjoy taking Domino out for walks; it forces me to get some fresh air from time to time.  By the way, I don't know what the gardeners use on the grass, but there's some kind of puppy-crack in it that makes him go absolutely insane.  Is that a common thing with dogs, or is this the first of many of his own little quirks?

It's funny how something so small can become such a huge part of your life. I could never really see myself having children - but my pets...somehow my life would be incomplete without them. Some would say "but they're just animals." Maybe. But when you consider how they're waiting for you when you get home, they don't judge you, they don't care if you just want Pop Tarts and beer for dinner (they're getting whatever comes out of a can anyway), they never say anything mean or make you feel badly, you get back the feeling of love you give to them, and despite their small size they somehow manage to make your home seem full, isn't that really all we're looking for in our lives anyway? A little love, acceptance and companionship? OK - so maybe you have to scoop a litter box or pick up after the pup when you're out on a walk - but it's a small price to pay, right?

I once had a guy tell me he felt lucky he saved me from becoming "the crazy lady on the corner with cats...."

Funny...the cat is still around.