Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Others

I'd like to introduce you to the other non-human, non-equine members of our family. All are rescues and/or foundlings. Mike and I made a pact years ago that we wouldn't actively seek new pets since they do a pretty good job of finding their way to us on their own.

Cindi aka Ratweasel is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix that came to us through a coworker. Her mother had rescued her but the JR side of Cindi was way too active for an elderly person with limited mobility. Another way of putting it is Cindi doesn't know enough to stay out from underfoot. Cindi had been taken from a family (asshats!) that allowed small children to maul her as a puppy. When she gets excited, she gasps and wheezes from damage to her throat. We think it's from kids either dragging her on a leash or picking her up with their hands around her neck. Her tiny little paws (we call them mousy paws) are so delicate and she doesn't like anyone touching them. She has to be sedated to have her nails cut. You have to be very careful how you pick her up; her chest and ribcage are also very tender. She must have had multiple broken bones as a pup because she's so delicate. It's only been in the last couple of years that she'll allow children near her, and they still make her nervous. She thinks she's a big bad ranch dog. She's sassy, mouthy, loves to chase toads and grasshoppers. She's rotten inside and out and her breath could stop a train. She's super cute when her ears are up and you can see the JR in her, otherwise, she's just a little rat dog. She's about 10.5 years old; we've had her for 8.5 years. She's not as active as she used to be, but it has more to do with self-preservation than anything -- if she runs, Chula thinks she wants to play and will mow her down if she's not careful. After being knocked down like a bowling pin a few times, she knows not to run when she's around Sister.


Fugly sez: Don't Breed Ugly. Chula aka Boots is the poste
r child for backyard dog breeders aka puppy mills. Although purebred, she is not well bred. One look will tell you exactly how they butchered her ears: they turned the tiny pup on her back and did one diagonal slice with God knows what implement. You can't tell from these pix, but she looks like a cross between Gizmo the gremlin and a bat, poor thing. In profile, she's a beautiful dog.

A friend of ours asked if we would take her from a guy who was moving and didn't want to be bothered with taking her. We've always had Dobies and had recently lost one to cancer, so we agreed. Her previous owner was a salesman who traveled almost constantly. From a pup, Chula (nee Chewy) was kept in a typical Texas suburban yard with an 8 ft. privacy fence. Her only human contact came from people who stopped by to feed her, but spent no time with her.

Chula was alone all the ti
me. Her asshat owner never socialized her. She had zero manners and no idea how to interact with people, much less other animals. When Mike and I are home, our dogs are in the house with us. Chula did not know what "inside" was. Mike had to sleep on the floor with her for the first week she was with us. She was afraid of everything, including the tile floor, any household noises like the doorbell, refrigerator and ice maker, the AC kicking on -- you name it, she was or is still afraid of it. I finally figured out part of her problem is she is horribly nearsighted. She'll bark at me when I come in the door if I don't say something to her. If I am dressed in black or carrying a large purse, she'll hightail it for under our bed. She's terrified of plastic grocery bags and psychotic during electrical storms which we have aplenty here in Texas. Even sedation doesn't help. She's afraid of the camera so you really have to be sneaky to get her picture. We think it's because she thinks the flash is lightning. If you even put your hands up to your face like you're holding a camera, she's GONE. Chula is about 10 years old and we've had her for 7 years. She's come a long way, mostly because of Mike, whom she absolutely adores. She is a happy, healthy girl, whose greatest joy is when Mike lets her run the entire 5 acres. She's still just a mess, but she has a huge heart and tries so hard to be a good dog. It's hard when you're dumber than a bucket of rocks. Seriously, this dog gives dumb dogs a bad name.

In the earliest days of owning Poco, my experience with Chula helped me
deal with him.

I had just lost Joe, my Himalyan, when one day in 2003 I was outside shaking rugs and heard a tiny, plaintive meow coming from under our storage shed. It took awhile, but I finally coaxed out the prettiest little tuxedo kitty you ever saw. She was
so tiny and finely built, I called her Minnie Mouse. She was a wild child when we got her and remained so for several years, but she's downright serene when compared to Leeloo (below). She was the bane of poor old BooBoo's (also below) existence. She may have been young and fast, but Boo's old age, treachery and sheer size got the better of her every time. She's one of those cats that, whenever you call her name or talk to her, you are answered with that little "Brrrt?" sound cats make. She is such a CAT - hedonistic, aloof (read that: stone deaf) when she wants to be, and smart enough not to get caught doing whatever she pleases. She pets herself. Minnie has many nicknames, among them Min-Min, Monkey and Princess Minniemonkey. Of all the house pets, she is the most impartial, dividing her time and affections equally between Mike and me.


Sometime in the first week of March 2008, an older kitten turned up within the dog’s yard, of all places, in the middle of a hellacious rainstorm. Mike put it in the
garage, then promptly opened the door to leave for work, and that was the last we saw of the cat -- or so we thought. This was a Monday. There is a certain balance around here, so there always ends up being two dogs and two cats, which is about all I care to have in the house anyway. We took the arrival of this cat to signal old BooBoo’s imminent departure, but then the little cat disappeared, so we thought it was just God amusing Himself. The following Sunday, 6 days after the original appearance of the cat, Mike called me into the garage. He had been moving and cleaning stuff, and there, behind the fridge was this cat. It had been in the garage with no food or water for that whole time. I tried to coax it out, and finally was able to barely touch it on the back when it literally leaped out at me. Needless to say, I was freaked out, but rather than attacking me, she wrapped her paws around my neck and started purring like crazy. “Oh! You’re nice. Thank goodness! Let me tell you what it’s been like out here!” She was dubbed Leeloo Dallas, after a character in a bizarre, awful Bruce Willis movie called “The Fifth Element,” that for some reason amuses the heck out of Mike and me. She is very affectionate and loves people. She has had to learn to interact with the other critters. At first, she hissed and growled at them, especially poor Minnie, whom she attacked regularly. Why Minnie, who still has claws, didn't and still doesn’t just kick her ass is beyond us. Things are better now, but there are still times in the middle of the night when we’ll be awakened by their “negotiating.” Periodically we find clumps of kitty hair from their tussling.
Monkey One and Monkey Two, monkey see and monkey do.

I have not tried to write about BooBoo before now and I can already feel myself tearing up. BooBoo was my heart. I love all my animals but there will never be another like him. We were soulmates and we both knew it. Sometimes he would come to me, stretching himself to be picked up, talking a blue streak. In his younger days, he was a LOT of cat to be carrying - between 15-20 lbs! He'd wrap his paws around my neck and lay his head on my shoulder or against my cheek. He was always purring, so when he meowed, it sounded like he was saying, "Mom." Mike and I used to say that BooBoo was so filled up with love and sweetness that he had to let some out every now and again.

My son (5 years old at the time) and I came across him in 1991 at the Dewey Animal Shelter in Las Vegas, NV. I was looking for a Siamese, and they had several, but none of them showed the slightest bit of interest in us. We were standing at the end of the line, deciding whether to make one final walk through the facility when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and saw this cat lying on his side, stretching with all his might, tapping my leg. When I knelt down, he started carrying on as if he'd known me his whole life. "Where have you been?? I thought you'd never find me!" I named him Gedde Lee, but for reasons I can't remember, he became and remained BooBoo or just Boo.

Not long after I got him, Boo started exhibiting neurotic behavior which I attributed to loneliness and anxiety. That's when I got Joe, the Himalayan for him. (Unfortunately, I can't find any pix of Joe, who was beautiful.) Boo became mother to Joey, who was only 2 weeks old when he was orphaned. They were inseparable until Joe's death in 2002. By this time, Boo was older, and didn't seem to mind being the only cat. He loved his people, especially me. He loved it when I'd sing to him and was especially fond of the Randy Newman theme song from the TV show "Monk." If I couldn't find him, all I'd have to do is start singing, "It's a jungle out there, disorder and confusion everywhere..." and he came running, purring and meowing at the same time.

Boo developed a thyroid condition when he was 13-14 years old. He was on medication, but we knew he was on borrowed time. The doc told us that at some point, the medicine would no longer help, we would be unable to keep weight on him, and his liver and kidneys would begin to fail. I kept hoping he'd just go to sleep, but that didn’t happen.
When Leeloo appeared in March of this year, Boo's health took an immediate nosedive. Within the week, the vet came to the house and my dear old friend of 17 years passed peacefully in my lap. Boo was a role model for how to age gracefully and cheerfully. As he was his whole life, he was a happy, happy boy to the very end. As my son used to say, "BooBoo is the best cat EV-VER." I know he's waiting for me.

There you have it -- the whole fam-damily.


RoSe said...

This one touched a place in my heart and made me cry.
Just beautiful Leah, I'm so glad you are sharing, your writing is just extraordinary.
Thank you.

sidetracked said...

What a beautiful family you have. They all looked loved and happy. Love to see your pictures too.

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