Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cat Naps

The writer known as James Herriot once said that cats are connoisseurs of comfort. I'm grateful for that today. It's been a stressful time and I needed a day to just be at home. It's Sunday, so I slept, ate, watched bad TV, did laundry, paid bills and just generally did what I felt like doing. It's almost 11 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas, watching Tom Selleck play Jesse Stone on the Hallmark Channel. This doesn't fall into the bad TV category. I love Tom Selleck. Snowcone is camped out next to me on an afghan my mother made for me years ago. My pets have always enjoyed my mom's knitting. My dog Jimmy used to drag a small afghan she made for him from room to room, like Linus in Peanuts. Snow has been good company, sleeping next to me either in bed, on my bills or on the laundry. He didn't have an easy time of it for the first seven years of his life, so it gives me a lot of pleasure to see him be comfortable and safe. There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently in my life, but giving him a port in the storm is not one of them. We're sharing the same port in the storm, sitting on the couch, watching Tom Selleck, waiting for the white wash to dry.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Are You a Dog or a Cat Person?
I was part of a conversation recently in which a woman was talking about issues involving the care of her dog. Another woman in the group prefaced her reply with, "I'm a cat person but I think....." Earlier, a friend gave the opposite answer in a conversation about pets: "I'm not a cat person." It's odd that people define themselves this way, kind of like identifying with one member of The Odd Couple ("I'm a Felix", "I'm an Oscar") My opinion is that if you don't like cats, you don't know cats. Same thing with dogs. I've had one dog, two cats and one dog in a cat suit. (That would be Floyd, who had many of the qualities normally attributed to dogs, including being loyal and unabashedly devoted to me, but somewhat less so to personal hygiene.) I was reading an article in Psychology Today about the difference between dog and cat lovers, and there was one sentence that brought me up short: Single women are more likely to be cat lovers. Nothing like being a stereotype. But I take solace in the fact that some of my favorite writers were cat lovers and, notably, not single women. One of them was Raymond Chandler (shown above looking writerly), who once said, "A cat never behaves as if you were the only bright spot in an otherwise clouded existence. This is another way of saying that a cat is not a sentimentalist, which does not mean that it has no affection." Another favorite writer, Mark Twain, was famously a cat lover but clearly had a soft spot for dogs, judging by this quote from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: "Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Company and comfort 

I'd like to devote this entry to Banjo, who has made me think recently about the unique kind of empathy shown by our companion animals. Banjo lives with my friends Bucky and Billy. She is a ball of energy. When you walk into their home, she wags her tail so hard that she literally forms a "u" with her body. Life is a full-contact sport for this dog, whether she's encountering friends, passers-by, squirrels or birds. But when Billy was in the hospital, she showed that other side. When Bucky would come home from the hospital at night, Banjo didn't throw herself at him or climb all over him, as is her custom. She curled up with him in a quiet kind of solidarity. Likewise, when Billy came home, she stayed by his side. I've seen this with my cats too. When my father was ill some years back, I would be away from home for days at a time. ZsaSu's standard behavior when I returned from an absence would be to position herself about four feet in front of me and then turn her back. She would follow me from room to room, for several days, to repeat this snub. Floyd would commence the Floyd Lovefest, which involved draping his 20-pound self around my neck or shoulders. This was endearing, if somewhat uncomfortable. But when my Dad was sick, they were different when I came home. They would position themselves at each side of me, nuzzling my arm or offering gentle head butts. I felt comforted and I believe that real comfort was being offered. When Floyd died, Snowcone became a lap cat, something he hadn't done before or has since. A lot has been written about the relationship between people and their pets, and about how much we humanize the behavior of these animals. But I believe that when you make a dog or cat part of your life, while they can never understand the realities of your world, they do know the essence of you. And when you're hurt, they feel that pain and offer their own kind of solace. My friend Linda used this quote, from an unknown source, as part of her e-mail signature. Linda was a great dog lover, but I believe this holds true for cats as well: It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.