Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Flashback, October. 2005: Autumn Comes
The frosty nights deliver warm bodies into my bed.
I sleep on my side, feet buried in Ben’s silky undercoat.
Helen claims the spot by my head—the others don’t dare to challenge her. Wild cat—barely able to tolerate human contact, but so eager to be near me. Radiating heat, she settles inches from my ear.
Gussie finds the lull between my ribs and hip. She kneads the comforter, rumbling. Still a kitten, her tiny blades lance the down and pierce my flesh. When I can’t stand any more, I pluck her off, setting her next to my belly. She folds into a ball and sleeps, nose tucked under paws.
On an occasional night, Ben will wile his way into my daughter’s bed. His amorous attention wakes her. He tries to nurse on her hair. She calls “Mama, get Ben out of my room!”
She is seven. I tell her. “He thinks you are his mommy. You can’t imagine how much he loves you.”
She casts my words aside, “I know Mom. But he’s bothering me.”
He returns to my bed and flops at my feet. Second choice, but none the less, I am blessed. Such a cat! Divinely handsome. Soft as a bunny. Enjoys small children. Tolerates all manner of nonsense.
Some nights, when he is deeply asleep, I reach for him, pulling him into my arms. Some nights, he will stay there. Then he sleeps under my chin, but only on my right side. Because Helen is on my left.
Helen* does everything with her claws out. She is a sheet shredder. Cross-eyed, obese, and very nervous. I rescued her from a gutter in downtown Los Angeles when she was just weeks old and filthy. I washed her seven times before the water ran clear. She loves me beyond measure, then she bites me.
There are nights when I sleep away from home. On those nights, my body longs for even the anticipation of little feet. Midnight’s amorous visitors. The tentative pressure of paw on quilt. Cat weight. Cat warmth. My heart swells at the thought of it.
When Dorothy was alive, she spurned me in the summers, “Oh for goodness sake, it is just too hot!” Green eyes regarded me with glassy exasperation as she wriggled from my reach. Then pink tongue would extend for a thorough grooming, purging any trace of my sweat.
On those sweltering nights, she preferred to stretch out against the cool expanse of hardwood floors. I was jealous, but I knew the change of season would bring her back to me—and it did without fail. Then she could easily be persuaded to nuzzle on my pillow. Burying my face in her gray bristle, I breathed in her dry sweet-grass scent and drifted into happy dreams.
For thirteen years, she claimed the spot by my head. Arriving with a purr like a kiss. A gracious acknowledgement of her affections for me, its cadence gradually eased by encroaching slumber.
Even when it was too hot for her on my pillow, none of the other cats dared to trespass.
Then one night, after weeks of hopeful attempts to repair Dorothy’s failing kidneys, she woke me one last time. She was struggling to rise off of her spot. I lifted her and took her to the cat litter, but when I gently set her there, she fell over. I picked her up and held her tattered frame in my arms.
It was three in the morning and I had already taken her to the emergency vet in the preceding hours. They wanted her to stay in their incubator. But her howling cries told me that she needed to return to my bed. They told me to set her on several towels on top of a heating pad. I did this, and then lay next to her. Even through the illness, she still smelled like the first rainfall landing on an arid desert.
I cradled her the dark kitchen, crying, not knowing what to do. Then suddenly, she was gone.
Nasturtiums and a small granite cat mark her grave. At the burial, my three-year-old daughter assured me, “Dorothy has reincarnated, Mama. I know. She is a lioness in Africa now. She is very happy.”
That night, I slept alone on a wet pillow and dreamed of Africa.
The next night, Ben came. He curled the small of his back into my neck, just as Dorothy had. He smelled like her too—scent of the heat soaked savannah. His fur absorbed my tears without complaint. Each night, for two weeks, he returned. A surrogate for Dorothy.
Then he returned to my feet. And Helen ascended to her current domain.