Sunday, July 26, 2009

Life is so precious

One of my daily treats is watching the ground squirrels run along the rock wall behind my cat enclosure. The squirrels build their homes inside the wall, digging out the dirt and carrying leaves and twigs into the runs.

I’m privileged to watch these playful creatures every year. The other day I was enjoying the youngsters running wildly when one of them fell backwards off the wall. I ran outside and saw the little one on the ground, trying to stand, desperate and terrified. Its head was hanging to the side.

I gathered the squirrel into my cat carrier and raced to my vet’s office. I put the carrier in the front seat next to me, singing the only lullaby I knew – in German. They’re not supposed to take in rodents, but the vets knew the right thing to do was to put this little creature out of its misery, which they did.

It broke my heart, because this baby squirrel was just playing. It wasn’t taken by a cat or a hawk – it was only playing.

Life is so precious.

Special note to my angel dog, Jake - no chasing the squirrel!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Meet SimbaKitty

Marie Mosely Plummer, of Wasilla Alaska, knows all about Forever Cats. For the last 16 years she has shared her life with one…SimbaKitty…who was actually born on the same day she landed in Alaska for the first time.

Talk about something that was meant to be!

Marie told me that SimbaKitty is coming to the end of his journey with her. Anyone who has ever loved a critter understands how heartbreaking this is. Our animal companions can often live for a very long time, but it’s never long enough.

My kitties and I are sending lots of purrs and hugs to Marie and SimbaKitty. My beloved angel dog, Jake, loved cats – it was he who found the litter of kittens under my deck, brought them in, and raised them as his own. It is those four 11-year old cats with whom I share my life.

I like to think that Jake takes a special interest in all the new heavenly kitty arrivals.

So one day, when SimbaKitty finds himself heading up to those starry skies, perhaps Jake will be there to greet him and welcome him home.

I hope so.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

That's one small step for man...and woman

Has it really been 40 years?

I can remember Apollo 11 landing on the moon as if were just yesterday. I was allowed to stay up late to see this historic event, following along on the Moon Map in my Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. I even used a pin to mark the approximate spot where they landed, just in case they forgot and later needed that information.

My obsession with “all things space-related” began when I was a little girl. All the books I’ve written for animal lovers are filled to the brim with brilliant stars.
Walk into my home and there isn’t a room that doesn’t have a star on the wall, or hanging from the ceiling, or attached to a mirror.

I have always felt more comfortable “out there” than “down here.” In my dreams I fly through the stars, sometimes on the back of a beautiful whale, sometimes just floating along on the heavenly currents. Being in the stars is always like being home for me.
Many things have changed in four decades. However, one thing that will never…ever…change is my fascination with the heavens, if for no other reason than all my furry kids are waiting for me up there in those starry skies!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Six cats, one angel dog and a plaid golf bag

According to the dictionary, a family consists of people who are probably, but not necessarily, related.

I think of a family as a cohesive unit of living things that balance each other well and provide a comfortable and safe place to be...even amid the occasional hissy fit.

In my home, my family consists of me and four felines – Dickens and his three sisters Pippen, Molly and Star. I would do anything for these precious kitties. If any of them were missing it would leave a huge hole in my heart. Each brings me their own brand of kitty magic, along with the occasional hairball…and mole.

Then there are the two outside kitties. Sammy showed up six summers ago, a product of that year’s kitten season. He has been coming ever since.

Creamsicle is a fairly new arrival. He actually lives down the road, but shows up regularly for (as the Hobbits would say) “second breakfast,” and some badly needed affection.

One of the things families should do is watch out for each other. I never realized how much that meant to me until I lost my dog, Jake. OK, being part German Shepherd Dog and part Border Collie did give him some very strong protective instincts. The thing is, though, I loved it…and I really miss it.

Over the years Jake and I took thousands of walks through the woods by my home. The trail opens onto a golf course. Jake always took point, ready to tell me if something seemed off.

One day, in his later years, we came onto the golf course and Jake suddenly stopped. All of the fur on his back stood up and a low growl came out of his mouth. He kept his eyes on the object of his concern, and then carefully nudged me back to the path.

For as long as I live I will never forget how bravely my knight in shining armor protected me from that dangerous, plaid golf bag!

I am additionally blessed beyond words by all the wonderful, loving people who are also in my “family.” It’s odd that some of the ones I feel closest to I rarely see…and some I have never actually met. That’s ok – the heart has a way of maintaining a love connection through time and space. Face-to-face meetings, while lovely, are optional.

Some people are surrounded by friends and relatives, yet they feel very alone. As I look around my home on this rainy summer day, and look at my furry friends curled up in their favorite places, I feel very fortunate to be safely tucked in the arms…ah, paws…of my loving family.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Keep it Simple

This morning I was watching my 4 cats playing outside in their kitty enclosure. The weather has been picture-postcard perfect here in Oregon, so two of the felines were sunning themselves on the upper decks while the other two were stalking bugs and bark chips on the ground. They were blissfully content.

I wondered how often I touch the level of joy my kitties seem to live in almost all the time. Lately, it seems that joy has been eluding me. I know these are tough times. Many people are living in fear, dealing with heartbreaking loss, wondering what the future holds for them.

I looked back at those happy kitties of mine, and realized that even though I provide an insulating layer between them and the outside world, if that layer wasn’t there I suspect they could create joy so much more easily than I could.

Why is this?

Certainly the boundaries of their world are much smaller than those of mine, and they have many fewer options than I do. But rather than feeling that something is lacking, I think my cats revel in the simplicity of their lives. They make the most of everything they have, and when they’ve had enough food, or sun, or playtime they simply trot to their favorite spots and curl up for a nap.

In many ways this seems like a prescription for a perfect life. I remember once reading that happiness isn't wanting more things, but rather learning to want the things you already have.

My cats embody this belief. And although I am currently “dog-less in Portland,” I think all the beloved canines who’ve shared my life also understood those three most important words:

Keep it simple.

What wonderful teachers my critters are.

Time for a nap.