Alex the Befriender

-19Written by guest blogger, Susanne Cott

Alex. He was something.  More, actually, than I could have asked for. Adopted in 1996, Alex was a male tabby with magnificent green eyes and an abusive past. We bonded, deeply. No matter where I was in the house, he sought me out and came to sit beside me. He dozed beside me as I slogged through the voluminous work of graduate school. He accompanied me through various ups and downs in my life. His level gaze brought me a sense of balance. His antics made me smile.

When family members came to live with us in 2009, two cats came with the package. One of them was a black cat named Raleigh, a fearful cat whom we sometimes referred to as a “special needs kitty.” Uncharacteristically of male adult cats, when Alex and Raleigh first saw each other, they simply looked at each other without hostility. They moved closer and closer to each other, and Alex accepted Raleigh into his home as his friend.

When it was time for Raleigh to move to his new home, he had a difficult time adjusting and hid in a closet of his new home for nearly a week. The decision was made to give Raleigh to me, and Alex and Raleigh became roommates. They were always around each other and loved to wrestle. In my memory, I can still hear their little playful meows.

Raleigh passed away unexpectedly, and young, in 2012. Alex was the only cat in the house then. He mourned his friend’s loss—I could tell—because he seemed uninterested in everything.

Several months later, we adopted two kittens—sisters—Tessa and Daisy. We were a bit worried about how Alex would feel having two new kittens in his house. True to his open-hearted disposition, he wasn’t unkind to them. One day, Alex was taking a nap on a sunny spot on the screen-in porch. Tessa sidled up to him and lay down up against him. Alex swung around and looked at her, then apparently decided it was okay. He closed his eyes and slept and Tessa did the same. snuggled up against him. Alex had a generous soul.

Alex greeted me at the door everyday, like a dog, when I came home from work. In the last couple of months of his life, he’d lost almost all of his hearing and I had to find him when I returned home. When I did, he invariably would glance up at me and greet me with an adorable little chirp-meow that sounded like hello.

By November of last year, Alex’s health had declined drastically and he was barely eating and drinking. The vet and I made the decision to euthanize him. We did so on November 29, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. He was, in many ways, my best friend.

Alex was buried alongside Raleigh in the backyard under the bird feeder, which they had spent countless hours watching through the screen. Above their graves there are a circle of stones and flowers, and the birds swoop in for their food.

I believe I will see Raleigh and Alex again one day. Alex and Raleigh, you will never be forgotten, and I love you both.

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Letter from a Dog to His Person

face of a labrador ... ID-100186636Dear Dad,

I asked Mrs. P to write this note for me.

I am getting bigger and I’m wanting an elevated food and water bowl. I like to gulp down water but when I am hunched over, my stomach hurts.  I am a bigger boy now, so may I please have a “big boy” food and water station?

Also when Mrs. P walks me, she uses a leash that goes long and short (retractable).  I have so much fun with this kind of walk.  I can walk bouncy bouncy just a little bit ahead of her, and I always look back and know that she’s still there behind me.  This brings joy to my life.  Would it be possible for you to get this kind of leash?

I love my crate.  It’s my safe spot, but I’m confused about the crate pad I lie on.  I chewed on the material that covers the foam because at first I was curious about what was underneath the material, and then later because I prefer the foam by itself.  Mrs. P told me that Home Depot sells foam by itself, which can be easily replaced when it gets dirty.  I am sorry about chewing the crate pad material, again.

Last but not least, can we discuss my bathroom?  I love my bathroom but I don’t know how to clean up after myself and I sometimes step in the mess.  Would it be possible to clean it up more often?  I wish I could use the potty like you, but I prefer to drink out of it.  Mrs. P and I cleaned my bathroom today.  I really enjoyed spending time outside and helping her.  I can tell she really loves me, just like you do.

I want to thank you for all you do for me.  You are the best dad ever.  I can feel when you’re happy, troubled, sad or just plain tired.  I don’t know how I do this…it’s just “inside” me, and I know things.

I missed you and am glad you are back.  I know you would never abandon me, so when Mrs. P and I spend time together, I am comforted that I will see you soon.

Loving you unconditionally,
Charlie

Who is Mrs. P?  See www.friendsofmrsp.org
Labrador Retriever, freedigitalphotos.net, by Photokanok

Part IV … in the middle of winter

Gracie in windowFor part I:   https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part II:
https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part III: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/27/part-iii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

I was not born on an Amish farm in the middle of winter, but I live with the one who was.  I was born in the middle of summer in Peachbottom, PA, near a chain link fence.  By the time I was six months old I’d had a litter of kittens.  At eight months, someone tossed me from a car window by my forearm.  I walked with a limp like Quasimodo for a long time.  I landed in a soft place eventually, but that’s another story for another time.

This part of my story is about Mr. Bean, who blasted into my life after we lost our dog, Beez.  Beez and I were best of friends, and now he’s gone.  Beezel & Gracie 2009My people adopted this wiry, wild-eyed kitten who lacks manners.  Though our pasts have similarities—each of us was neglected and suffered from hunger—I’m more philosophic than Bean is.  I see things as they are, and I soften into them.  Despite Mr. Bean’s behavior toward me, I conduct myself exactly as I chose to be.  I never bite.  I am kind, always.  I live peacefully.  It’s my hope that by walking my path, I will teach this young one.  In the meantime, I’m chased, pounced upon, and chewed on.  If I could sigh, I would.  But things are exactly as they are, and I move through my world in relative serenity, sometimes better than others.

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Part III – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

DSC_0225For part I:   https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/
Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

I do not understand why Gracie doesn’t want to play.  She runs from me, and when I tackle and bite her, she doesn’t reciprocate.  She just hisses and yells.  I suspect she needs training on how to play, so I do it again and again.  I keep waiting for her to clobber me, but she never does.  Mostly she skulks around trying to avoid me, looking left and right before exiting a room.  My surprise attack is one of my favorites, but she doesn’tDSC_0219 seem to like it.  Her lack of playfulness makes no sense to me.  I overheard my people say that I have no skill in alternate perspective taking.

DSC_0348Eventually, I get bored with Gracie—there’s only so much enjoyment one can derive from being hissed at.  I turn my attention to my people, swatting them as they go by my perch and occasionally chewing on them if I’m more rambunctious than usual.  I mean it in the nicest possible way, of course, and I keep my claws sheathed, but they don’t seem to like this.  What’s wrong with them?  Over time they’ve started referring to me as Bothersome Bean instead of Mr. Bean.

There is one game my people and I have enjoyed: fetch.  It originally went like this: they threw a toy for me, I chased it, I dropped it, they walked over, sighed, picked it up, and threw it for me again.  This game had minimal appeal to me because it was always on their terms (strict) and their timetables (limited) and, sadly, they became bored with it quickly.  I changed up the game, and they seem to have caught on: I bring them a toy—pop-off milk carton rings are best (and they smell of fragrant milk and remind me of my early youth)—they throw it, I chase it and bring it back to them, and they throw it again.  They’re able to do this even when they’re busy doing other things—and they are always busy doing, doing, doing—so this suits me perfectly.DSC_0096 - Version 3

I can happily play fetch for 20 minutes at a stretch, panting all the while.  I’ve heard my people complain that this does not seem to tire me out, and they also complain about “my behavior” in general.  They think there might be something wrong with me—as if biting Gracie were an issue.  They know nothing.  Still, they’ve tried many, many things with me: admonishing me, ignoring me, distracting me, and implementing ideas various people have suggested.  Nothing works because there is nothing wrong with me; it’s they who are the issue.  They just don’t understand.  Even the Jackson Galaxy (My Cat from Hell, on Animal Planet) website jingle tries to tell them.  It goes like this:  “You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat.  You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat.  You’re a bad cat.  I’m not a bad cat. . . I’m just misunderstood.”

I know this: although I am Bothersome Bean to them and to sweet Gracie, I know I am essentially good, and I trust that I have found my forever home with them.  They said so.

to be continued…
Part IV: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/10/04/part-iv-in-the-middle-of-winter/

Do you have ideas on how to gently stop kittens and cats from biting?  Please share them with us—via our contact page or untoldanimalstories@gmail.com  Thank you!

Part II – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

DSC_0131For part 1:   https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/13/i-was-born-in-the-middle-of-winter/

The man and woman said thank you to the people, talked to me kindly, and we left.  As we moved along, I saw a flash of gray fur streak across the field and into the barn.  My brother.

They took me to a family who adopted me.  There were new smells and places to investigate, and two kids who cooed, named me Mr. Bean, and almost never put me down.  Best of all, there was another cat, Gracie.  She looked like a paler version of my mother.  I walked over to her, excited to have her company.  She pulled herself up to her full height, narrowed her eyes at me, and took a few aimless swipes.  The people scolded her, scooped me up, and held me.  They commented on how sweet and docile I was.mr. bean 1-27-13

I divided my time between being held, trying to make friends with DSC_0174Gracie, eating, and sleeping.  I slept a lot because even though I was happy and warm, I didn’t feel all that well.

The vet came to the house and sat on the floor with me, prodding and poking me, which I did not appreciate.  She told my people I had worms and gave me foul-tasting pills.

One morning I woke up and felt different.  The sun came blazing in the window and my body felt alive, so I tore around the house like a maniac.  Gracie took to high ground.  I paused, mid-stride.  It occurred to me that she was a wonderful, large target….DSCN2609

to be continued
For Part III: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/27/part-iii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

Part I – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

Mr. BeanI was born on an Amish farm in the middle of winter.  I divided my time during my first six weeks between playing with my siblings and nursing when I could.

Sometimes my mother wasn’t around, and the six of us youngsters pushed each other aside to drink the trickle of cow’s milk that dripped down from the metal pipes carrying it away from the cows, away from us.  There wasn’t much milk, but it at least sometimes it quenched our thirst.

One day an older cat wanted the milk I was lapping from the pipes.  He rushed toward me and I lost my footing and fell.  I—with all of my 3 pounds—jumped on his back, expecting him to tussle playfully like my brothers and sisters.  He had other ideas, though, and bit off a chunk of my ear.  I learned to be wary.

Over time my stomach became swollen and filled with worms.  I was always hungry, and I became sickly and quiet.  The barn was icy cold, and the wind crept through the cracks.

One winter day a man and woman came to the farm.  They looked different from the people I had known—no long skirt, no hat.  They spoke with the farmer.  The farmer’s little boys found me and delivered me to them.  The woman told the boys that the kitten was going live in a house.  The boys, wide-eyed, said, “Nooo!”  “Yes,” she said laughing, “and the kitten is going sleep on a bed.”  “Noooo,” they said, and squinted at her as if she might be crazy.

To be continued
For Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/

He Wasn’t Much of a Hunter

He closes the door of the red pick-up truck, repositions his gun over his shoulder, and sets off into the woods.  Despite trying to ease his weight onto the twigs and leaves, toe first then heel, his footfalls snap and crackle and echo through the pre-dawn forest.

A doe lifts her head from foraging, her button-black nose twitching with scent-taking.  With noiseless ease, she lopes off, her white tail high.  A groundhog stands on the crest of his mound-home squinting into the distance, his forepaws tucked up to his heart, his teddy-bear ears angled forward.  He squeaks and retreats inside his burrow.  A flock of quibbling sparrows wheels off into the sky.  Only the cat remains.   She is motionless except for the white tip of her tail.

The hunter walks on, pausing from time to time, looking around, then moving on.  The cat follows, unnoticed, at a distance.

When the sun has climbed well above the horizon, the hunter sits down on a large, sunny rock.  He opens a thermos of steaming coffee, crinkles flat the wax paper covering his sandwich, and munches thoughtfully, his head angled to the side.  Sun-warmed and drowsy, his shoulders relax and he closes his eyes.

The cats comes closer, soundlessly.  She sits a few feet in front of him and looks up.  The hunter opens his eyes and startles, then feels foolish.  He mutters something about cats—he’s never liked cats.  He glares at the cat and looks into her gold eyes.  She holds his gaze evenly.  He sighs, then he breaks off a small piece of cheese from his sandwich and tosses it on the ground.  The cat eats it and looks up expectantly.  The man breaks off a larger piece and holds it out to her.  She gracefully leaps onto the rock, and with one paw on the hunter’s leg, she gingerly takes the cheese from his hand.  The hunter slides his broad palm down her back, then offers her the rest of his sandwich.

After a while, he gathers his things, slings the gun over his shoulder, and sets off.  The cat jumps down and follows.  Twice he looks back over his shoulder.  He opens the truck door and sweeps his arm wide in a welcoming gesture. The cat jumps in, settles herself on the passenger seat, and washes her face.

Two seasons have passed since I found my hunter.  He wasn’t much of a hunter, really—I could read that much in the way he moved.  It was plain to me that he wasn’t really interested in hunting as much as he was playing a role.  It was also plain to me that he thought he didn’t like cats.  Most people who give cats a chance find they like them after all.

These days I wait by the window for my hunter.  He comes in with a blast of cold air.  I jump down and wind my way around his legs.  He stoops to pet me and says a word or two.  Then we pass a companionable evening in silence.  His gun is in the attic, tucked away forever.

 

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