Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jack the Raccoon

I have been adopted by a raccoon. I tried not to name him, but somehow I found myself calling him Jack. Jack the Raccoon. Jaccoon.

I live in a wooded area, so raccoons have visited me from time to time over the years. Somehow this one seems different. Jack knows I leave food on the deck for an outside kitty I’ve been feeding for 5 years. We named him Sammy…I know, I know….

Jack sits at the door, waiting for me to come out with food. If I step outside he stands up on his hind legs and gives me a hopeful look. I expect him to start chatting with me - “So, Chris, how are you today? Got any yummy treats for me?”

Sometimes he sprawls out on the mat, his head resting on his paws, looking up at the window. I've seen this look on each of the dogs who've shared my life, but never on a raccoon.

Jack comes throughout the day, and if there is no cat food he scoops up some bird seed and has a quick snack. When he is done, he washes his paws in one of the bird baths. Who knew raccoons were so clean – maybe I should leave him some herbal soap and a fluffy towel.

I have been worried about Sammy. I think of him as my fifth cat - knowing he is safe and well-fed is very important to me. So I was heartened to come downstairs the other morning and find both Sammy AND Jack waiting for me on the deck, eager for breakfast.

If only we all got along this well.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best wishes to Senator Kennedy - a dog lover!

Like so many others, I have been following the story of Senator Ted Kennedy’s health problems. I was stunned to learn his seizure was caused by a malignant brain tumor – he just seems like a man who would laugh off any illness that dared to enter his body!

My dear friend, Judy Ditfurth, was a flight attendant back when the Senator first went to Washington. She often worked the DC/NY/Boston run, which was frequented by many politicians, including Senator Kennedy. Judy said she always liked him – he was very friendly, never demanding…a nice person.

But here is what touched me about the Senator’s story -he was walking his dogs, Sunny & Splash, when the seizure occurred. The family members who visited him at the hospital included his four-legged buddies. And when he left the hospital this morning, his dogs were there to accompany the Senator home.

I didn’t realize Senator Kennedy had written a book about life in Washington DC from a dog’s perspective. It’s called My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington D.C.

Senator Kennedy, I know that between your family and your medical team you are in the best of hands. But I think you may also be in the best of PAWS! I hope you, Sunny & Splash will be walking together for many years to come


Friday, May 16, 2008

The Incredible Lightness of Cats

So if dogs keep me grounded, what do cats bring to my world?

They keep me feeling light…very light.

In the first printing of my book For Every Cat An Angel I included these words:

If it weren’t for gravity cats would simply float away.

I don’t know why I perceive kitties this way. Perhaps some of it comes from the way cats are so often up off the ground. I’ll open the linen closet to put away the clean towels and there’s my kitty, Star, asleep in the sheets on the top shelf. Or in the middle of eating dinner the pantry door will open and out will come one of the cats who was napping with the canned soup.

Viewing kitties this way helps me understand my deep connection with them, for I often feel the same way myself. If it weren’t for gravity I would simply…OK, so I wouldn’t actually FLOAT AWAY, but I would definitely go on a lot more day trips through the universe.

So here’s to cats..and dogs…who come together in perfect harmony and keep me in balance.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Grounding Nature of Dogs

I was sitting in a restaurant last night, chatting with several animal lovers about the joy of sharing our lives with cats. I lost my dog, Jake, almost two years ago, and still have not been able to bring a new pup into my life. There are several excellent reasons for this, but perhaps the most important one is that I can now give my four 10-year old kitties all the attention they deserve. Trust me – they are LOVING this!

The feline lovers at the table spoke of the joy cats bring, how affectionate they are, and how few demands they make on their people. I talked about how magical cats are. They live in many dimensions, keep me on my toes, and are constantly surprising me.

“But,” I said, “dogs keep me grounded. They provide a stability to my life that I don’t seem to experience with my cats.”

And there it was – the piece I had been missing that explained the feeling of “floating” I had been living with since Jake left me. It’s not that Jake wasn’t magical – he was. He was also the rock I leaned on, something steady I could hold onto when the waters got rough. On those days when everything seemed awfully topsy- turvy, Jake would patiently stand there and just look at me. I could feel the joy that radiated from this wondrous creature - his pure pleasure at being alive. The love he felt for me flowed out of his heart and into mine…and I would feel safe, still and at peace.

I am wondering if this sense of feeling untethered will soften with time. It’s not that I mind being a balloon, but sometimes you need to tie up at a safe harbor and let your feet sink into the ground. I mean really feel your roots shooting out of the bottom of your feet and going deep into the earth.

I decided to ask my cats for their thoughts on this subject, but they were all asleep in their various resting spots, invisible “Do Not Disturb” signs posted nearby.

Perhaps we can have that talk another day.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Squirrel Proof - I Think Not!

I don’t mind feeding the squirrels. In fact, I LIKE to feed them! But they just don’t seem to understand that some of the bird seed I put in the feeders is actually intended for the birds!

As you can see in these pictures, many of the “squirrel-proof” feeders I’ve bought over the years have fallen short of their claims. This little guy just hangs upside down and feasts to his heart’s content, reaching over whenever he needs more seeds. Now THAT’S impressive.

It’s taken some time, but I think we’ve finally come to a peaceful arrangement where all the creatures who visit the yard get some food and water. A few of the feeders are “birds-only,” but several are equal opportunity stations. All are welcome. I like that.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Cat Birthdays and Toilet Paper

So there I was at my computer, blissfully writing this heartfelt blog about my kitties. Dickens and his three sisters – Molly, Pippen & Star - turn 10 years old today. My dog, Jake, found them in the last week of May, and the vet thought they were about 3 -4 weeks old, so May 1st became their official birthday.

As my fingers flew over the keyboard, my mind replayed all the adventures the cats and I have shared over the last 10 years. They are dearer to me than I can put into words. It is impossible to have a bad day in the presence of these furballs. Each has their own magical way of touching my heart. They have unique purrs, different ideas of “fun,” and their own proven method of telling me the food bowl is empty and needs immediate attention.

A few of the kitties are a bit on the chunky side, so I’ve been cutting back on their food…ever so slightly. No more refilling…and refilling…of the bowls. I’ve tried to explain about the Zen of an empty food bowl. The empty food bowl is full of possibility. The girls are pretty philosophical about this forced food reduction, but Dickens is not happy. As a kitten, Dickens attacked his bottle with gusto...and that enthusiasm for food has never diminished.

Which brings me back to my first sentence. As I was writing this blog, I heard a strange sound coming from the bathroom where the empty food bowl was sitting. I peeked around the corner and there was Dickens, shredding the roll of toilet paper with a level of dedication and commitment I had to admire. Then he ate the toilet paper. He was ticked off, and somehow he was going to let me know it.

I admire clear communication skills. I have a hard time letting someone know when I’m upset about something. Dickens has become my teacher. The next time I feel hurt or angry, I’m heading straight for the toilet paper.

In the front of my book, For Every Cat An Angel, I have written some notes to my readers which include these words:

“I am in awe of these cat creatures. They have cast a spell over me that I don’t expect will ever be broken.”

How true.

Happy birthday, furballs!