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Archive for the ‘Life Lesson’ Category

I know I shouldn’t.  Whenever I visit my local Petco, I am compelled to visit the cattery area, where they highlight several highly adoptable cats and kittens from local shelters.  My thought, my justification is that I go to give them love and send good adoption vibes their way.  But, inevitably, one or two catch my eye, and I ponder the possibility of adding to my brood.  Just this past week I met two lovely four-month-old striped tiger tabby ladies, just clawing and mewling for attention.  The first sister was quite the show-woman, out there in front purring and rubbing and wanting nothing but for me to have the cage opened… Her sister was a little more demure but still strongly signaled, through her eyes and friendly disposition, her desire for a forever home… 

And for a serious moment, I considered paying the $90 adoption fee for both girls and taking them home.  But then I came to my senses:  Did I really want to become the kitty caretaker well on her way to becoming a true cat lady?  Would it be fair to place these two fair damsels in a home with five males (albeit, all neutered), for them to claw their way into the cat kingdom hierarchy?  I made myself feel somewhat better with the logical thought that kittens get good homes pretty quickly—especially those highlighted at the Petco stores.   But, still, my heart was somewhat heavy as I left the store with my specialty cat food…

Yes, logically, I know I did the right thing.  A balanced and responsible decision.  Unless there is an extraordinary need (which was NOT the case here), my choosing to adopt two additional cats to be brought into a home with a brood of existing feline inhabitants would have been selfish on my part.  But I do know that both Roger and I love cats and — if you ask in a weak moment — we will say yes if another feline approaches us with a true need.  So there is always that tendency to expand…

This incident begs the larger life question of balance.  How do I truly know if I am making the right decisions in my life?  And…  how important is balance when it comes to living a creative life—a life not only replete with responsibility and obligation, but one that’s also painted with whimsy and magic?  

How do I balance my left-logical brain with my right-brained desires for expression and freedom?

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Meow.  Meow.  Let me out.  Let me out.  We want out! Those hairless, huge monster humans corned me, my two brothers and sister and now we’re imprisoned in this….box. Meooow.  Oh, dangly things.  Fun.  Scratching posts.  Funner.  Ok. These hairless monsters are feeding us this liquefied but very yummy  food…but we miss our mommy.   Meow.  Meow.  Meooooowwww.

Ohhhh….my tummy doesn’t feel well.  Who is this monster turning me upside down and wiping my private area?  Ohhhh….this smaller hairless creature is now rubbing my belly and scratching my head.  Prrrr….I may like this.

Allright.  It took a couple of days, but I do think it was love at first swipe.  The poor little kitty—now our Chewie (Chewbacca, the silly wookie)—had a serious case of the runs from the human baby food we were feeding him and his litter mates as part of the socialization process.  It was disgusting, but it had to be done.  And to my delight, he allowed me to “woman handle” him and get him all cleaned up.  It was the beginning of our love affair…I knew, right then, I had the trust of this wily, still somewhat feral kitten. 

It’s been nearly two years, and Chewie is socialized to Roger and me (he’s not so keen on company).  Chewie is affectionate when he wants love from Mommy or Daddy—or when he wants to be fed (which is often!).  And he’s actually quite bossy when you brush him, rubbing against you and the brush, “demanding” more of your service. 

As a king archetype and dominant, Chewie is a prime example of living life fully, yet with an independent mindset.  He gets affection and food needs met—but on his terms.  He does not need to follow you around or cuddle with you continually or even cry for your attention.  No.  He has figured out that the two large hairless ones will stop what they’re doing to scratch and cuddle the moment he graces them with his presence.  And as the kitty “goodwill ambassador,” Chewie does not need to demand the respect of the other cats by hissing and psyching them out.  Naaa.   He gets along with all the cats because it serves him.  They’re quite willing to play with him, roll around, lick and cuddle.

Chewie just is.  He does not need to prove anything.  In this extremely cute, 10 pound package, he is the personification of the adage—a reminder—of being in this world but not of it.  To express who you really are while fully experiencing ALL the gifts of this life—the joys and the sorrows. All the time remembering that this world is just a highly experiential classroom of the self, the soul.  

How wonderful it would be to be so free.

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I am under the false notion that I actually chose Tigger.  Nope.  I knew he was running this “adopt me, adopt me” scam the moment Roger and I walked into the kitten room at the Denver Dumb Friends League (animal shelter) in November of 2007.  It had been two months since Frisco, Roger’s elderly Himalayan, had passed—and the only time our home was cat-free and relatively clean…  It was time; we were ready for another kitty.  But I wanted to experience a kitten.  Specifically, a striped tiger kitty…oh, they’re so cute!

There he was, lounging in his cage, just daring you to look at him.  And of course we did.  It was Kismet: In the small private room where humans and animals evaluate each other for compatibility, Tigger (who, at the time, was named Sabrina.  Yep.  Too funny), a three month old male, brown striped tabby kitty, immediately climbed me like a tree—baby claws digging into my back and head for balance.  And then I knew.  I just knew I had to have this small bundle of energy.

So, from November 2007 through August 2009, Tigger—also known as Tiggy, Tiggersaurus Rex, the Tiggster, Tigger Goose and sometimes even The Godzilla of Tiggers—was our first and only kitty.  The entire house was his territory.  He must have had a basketball player as a baby daddy, because he grew from this small, three-pounder to this rather large-ish cat with this long body, long legs, a soft saggy belly (extra fur, primarily) and this nearly freakishly long tail.

September 2009.  Who are these mewing, crying baby lumps of fur in the middle of my territory?  Why are they trespassing?!!  Hrmmmph!  Sluggo had had yet another litter, and Roger and I decided we were going to socialize the brood.  We researched the web, and Roger built a socialization cage in the middle of our front sunroom.  After catching these four small, wily missiles (a two-day event!), I spent the next two weeks feeding them human baby food and making them adoptable ready…more on their story in future  posts.

After two weeks of self-imposed confinement to the back of the house (mainly my office, bathroom and master bedroom), Tigger hesitantly slinked back to the sunroom to check these interlopers.  After a few moments of hissing to let then know who was boss (ha ha), Tigger decided all was well. For the moment.  They just looked back at him, curiously.  Then they returned to playing…

(We kept two out of the four kittens [the remaining two have a good home with a friend].  And in the nearly two years since, we’ve also taken in two of their older half brothers from prior litters.)

Poor Tiggy… the advent of the kittens marked a significant change in lifestyle—beginning a pattern of self-imposed isolation and retreat.  Roger and I realized early on that he would probably have never lasted as a wild kitty on the savannah—he just doesn’t have the cajones.  In terms of dominance, Tigger is on the lower end.  He is extremely lovable and quirky—quite the “Mommy’s cat, actually—but his temperament is more suited to that of a solo kitty. We quickly discovered that he would rather retreat than “fight” for his meals.  Since we didn’t want our “woosy pussy” (an apt description; thank you, Sondra!) to starve, we now feed Tigger separately, in Mommy’s office.  Oh, he just loves this special attention—especially when he plays coy and Mommy has to chase him down to eat… Hide and seek and skiing across Mommy’s desk, papers a-flyin, is so much fun!

Tigger is a prime example of adapting to life’s changing, ever-evolving circumstances.  While it may look like a retreat, perhaps it’s just a quiet time of growth and reflection until a new and better step evolves… So, for nearly two years, Roger and I have taken great pains to make our Tigger as comfortable as possible.  In addition to the special feedings, Roger built a wire mesh folding door to protect the Tiggster from the two older bullies—hissing matches, mostly. When needed, we can latch that door to close off the back section of the house.  Tigger can now poop and eat in relative peace.  And to give Tigger alone time with us (mainly me) overnight, we gently evict the other furbies …to the remaining sections of the house.

He adapted, so we adapted.

But with change, growth is emerging: Starting in the spring of 2011, Roger and I have begun to witness Tigger slowly taking back his home—with sightings in the kitchen, greeting me at the front door, lounging in the sunroom.  And if he’s feeling especially brave, he will check out the den and even spend some quality time on the dryer—as long as Mommy is there.  Ohh, that open window can provide a fabulous vantage point to check out those yapping birdies.  Meow.

I think Tigger will always be a woosy pussy, but I am glad to witness this evolution in demeanor.  In a small way, his story gives me hope that change is possible—no matter how small and incremental the steps.  As long as they are forward moving,

Progress.

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I sat in it.  I did not check, and I sat—yet, again—on a urine-soaked rubberized sheet that now covers our urine stained couch.  And because of my bad attitude toward my now urine soaked pants, Roger and I got into a bit of a fight.  Yes, it was dumb of me; I should have known better—I am the being with the larger brain, yes?

Granted, it is an old ugly couch, but now it’s an ugly old couch that smells—even with the now daily cleaning of that rubberized sheet.  The two culprits who make these contributions are either Junior or Blackie, the two most recent additions to our household.  I personally think that Blackie is a poor influence on Junior. But maybe I’m biased because at least I can cuddle with Junior…

I fully believe that once you take in an animal to be a part of your household, you are making a lifelong commitment to that sentient, feeling being—even if you don’t really like the creature.  Ok, I admit it.  I don’t care all that much for Blackie, but I do feel for him. He was the last cat brought into our home—after the death of his sister, Minnie Me, and the disappearance of his brother, Tawny. Roger felt he had not done enough for this litter and made it his mission—in the spring of 2010—to entice this partially socialized creature into the house and make Blackie an indoor cat.

Well, Roger was successful in luring this big, bulky black cat into the house, and Blackie is now an indoor cat—who at times still yearns for the freedom of the great outdoors…of our back yard.  So I think he urinates outside the litter box and terrorizes my poor but not-so-little Tigger to show his displeasure. 

With five cats, I realize my home will never be truly clean and fresh smelling.  But this constant urination and cleaning really wears on me. Can’t I go one day without cleaning urine?!!  Is Blackie my personal test for equanimity and accepting the things I cannot change?  Will I just have to live with a cat who does not care for me except during meal times?  Roger insists I am not doing enough to make Blackie comfortable with me.  But except for rare occasions when Blackie allows me to play with him, he runs away.

I am even sometimes tempted to accidently leave the front door ajar… But Blackie is a prime example of kitty Stockholm syndrome: he has, indeed, escaped twice in the year in a half he’s been in the house (both times Roger’s fault!), and both times he’s returned after several hours.  During his last attempt, he spent the entire night getting his butt kicked (mostly howling and hissing) by Orange Kitty… The next morning, he was waiting by the door to be let in.

Blackie Peering Curiously

I’m just frustrated. 

At this moment, the big black oaf is relaxing comfortably, catching a few rays in the sunroom… Of course I will do all that I can to ensure Blackie is safely ensconced in the home.  And continue my quest for balance and equanimity…

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How does one let go of things one cannot control?  How can we (I) overcome the need for wanting life to turn out in a certain way?

Cats have this way of letting go and living in the moment.  I don’t think they anticipate much of the future except for when they want their needs met—in terms of food, shelter and affection.  And for the most part, I don’t think they hold grudges (ok, except for Chewie…more on him later in this blog) or recall “traumatizing” events from their past.  With one exception:  I absolutely do believe that they have this sense memory and once they see the cat carrier, they know.  They just know they will be shoved (probably not so gently because of the struggle!) into this confining plastic box, taken in this larger uncomfortably vibrating box to this terrible terrible place we know of as the vet’s office.  Oh my, oh my … ok, I am anticipating because this morning is Chewie’s turn, but I am planning a sneak “attack” and a quick shove into the carrier.  We’ll see how well this goes over…

And there are the outside kitties, the ferals.  How do we stop worrying over their safety and wellbeing? The remaining ferals—Sluggo, Orange Kitty and Sylvester—sometimes do not show up for mealtimes.  Sometimes they get hurt; right now Orange Kitty has this very bad gash over his right eye.  It’s taken a chunk of fur, and his whole eye area is swollen.  And there is nothing we can do for him or any of them other than to continue to feed them and to care.  Letting go.  So hard at times…

When I do live in the moment, rare as that might be, I hear the birds chirping, the motor of the aquarium whirring, the clock ticking and all the other ambient sounds of life—rather than just the incessant ramblings of my thoughts. A sense of calm and wellbeing in a world that is ever changing.

And then I hear the sounds of a cat fight and it zaps be back to all my present concerns.  All five of the indoor cats are male.  And although they are all neutered, it hasn’t stopped the need for dominance.  I was interrupted writing this post because I had to break up yet another fight between Junior and Tigger. Junior has this way of just looking at Tigger, psyching him out.  Then there is the chasing and the hissing.  More “bark” than anything else (lol).  But once the fight is done, it’s done.  I just checked, and both Tigger and Junior are chilling, just being cats. 

I wish I could chill like that.  Letting go of the things that are upsetting and not trying to anticipate the future. Living in the forever that is the now.  I guess this is a life lesson that continues to endure and to evolve.

POSTSCRIPT: Just came back from the vet visit.  How can one small, long-haired 10-pound hunk of grudge put up such a fight?!!  He struggled, managed to get out of a locked cage (door failure; shopping list: one new soft cat carrier!), struggled some more, peed, scratched and howled his way to the vet.  A load of laundry and an application of antiseptic later, I now getting on with the rest of my day.  Yes, he’s quite the healthy two year old.

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The Cosmic Catnip plastic jug—the reminder of the incident—now resides all clean and tidy on a high ledge of nick nacks that the indoor cats have yet to discover. The jug that almost did in Orange Kitty four years ago this week.

I asked Roger the other day, and he believes that Orange Kitty hesitantly meandered into our lives the winter of 2006. At that time, we only had one cat , Frisco, an elderly male Himalayan who ruled the roost. Then on one cold winter evening, Roger discovers this young, longhaired, male orange cat. It seemed that this feral orange tabby—which we immediately named Orange Kitty (I know, quite imaginative, ehhh?)—took advantage of the hole in our crawl space cover and had made the warm and moist area underneath our home his shelter from the elements.

Having had no experience with feral cats up until that point, we really did not grasp the emotional and life-changing ride we were about to take, kitty-wise, with the welcoming of this one skittish but seemingly harmless little cat who obviously needed shelter.  Being saps for soft furry things that meow and purr, that winter we decided it would be fun to try to become friends with this outdoor cat.

So Orange Kitty, with his questioning eyes, would come around for meals once or twice a day. Sometimes we would not see him for several days or even a week, but that was just his way; we didn’t make much of those times.  We figured he would return eventually for his free meal. 

Fast forward to early July 2007:  Orange Kitty had been away for over a week.  It was very warm, way into the 90s, and it had not rained for a while.  Roger and I were becoming concerned.  When we did spot him, Orange Kitty’s head was stuck in a plastic jug!  Oh, my…we tried our darndest to get close enough to pull it off, but the cat just ran away. This went on for nearly a week.  Something in his little apricot-sized cat brain compelled the creature to return to us, yet he was too feral to let us get close. In our desperation, we even called Denver animal control. But even a trained animal control officer couldn’t cat him.

Time was running out: Orange Kitty was getting thinner, and we feared he would keel over from dehydration, the heat, the lack of food. And I don’t know where this comes from, really, but Roger took all this oh so personally.  Starting with this incident, it had become apparent to me that Roger was becoming a “cat guy”:  someone who felt personally responsible for all the cats in our midst, no matter the actual circumstances… Only afterwards did we discover that it was jughead’s curiosity and love of catnip that probably precipitated the course of events…we did the best we could humanly do.  But that is no comfort to a man who was enmeshed in the middle of a crisis that had the potential of ending very badly…

We were both feeling quite exhausted over this lack of progress on the jughead fiasco.

Then around day nine (!!), success: Roger was able to corral Orange Kitty underneath the house—he was going to remove that jug, no matter the cost!  With the ambient temperature in the mid 90s, Roger donned heavy jeans, a leather jacket and gloves in preparation to do battle with this wily, feral creature.  After cornering Orange Kitty— who by that point was so weakened, he did not even put up a fight—Roger easily slipped the plastic jug off the cat’s head.  I immediately set up a food (tuna!!) and hydration station for Orange Kitty, who voraciously took advantage of the relief and the food.

Of course, this experience demonstrated how much we both love these creatures and the power of persistence and doing the right thing.  And it was the first time we applied the feline “measuring tool” as a life lesson on responsibility—a lesson that has continued to manifest in a variety of ways…

It’s been four years, and Orange Kitty still meanders off for days and then comes around, running this scam with his questioning expression. And of course we feed him because we must. He is a bit more scrappy these days, getting into (loud!) fights over territory with other ferals. But at dinnertime there is a good chance we will see him lounging on the fence on the north side of our property—no matter how beat up he is—waiting for his hand out.

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So, as I was preparing a post about one of our outdoor ferals, Orange Kitty, Puffy decides to mosey lovingly into the den.  Perhaps, I thought, he wants a session with the brush.  Oh, no! He proceeds to puke up his lunch.  Right at my feet.  No qualms about it; just lets it all go.  Only fitting, ehh, since Orange Kitty is Puffy’s baby daddy (more on Puffy, specifically, later in this blog). Oh, it’s so disgusting to clean up half digested food…uggg, the color.  The texture.  Gross.  And hairballs are no better to clean up, all slimy and stringy…

How can these adorable, loving, goofy playful creatures expend such disgusting detritus from their innards?

Of course, as the loving human kitty mother, I did clean it up right away. Not, though, without verbal complaint on my part… And having a good quantity of carpet and enzyme cleaners at the ready is just prudent.  We have an unwritten rule in our home that whoever discovers the detritus first gets to clean it up.  Ahum…Roger has accused me of purposely not seeing these feline contributions to our household chores.  Who, me?!!

Of course I love all the kitties, unconditionally, no matter how disgusting they might be in the moment.  Perhaps the life lesson is to do right thing no matter the circumstances: just hold your nose and get ‘er done!  And the acceptance, too, that my home will never be truly clean again…sigh.

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He left our lives in the same manner he joined: quietly, without fanfare.  Fuzzy was an elderly grey and white male kitty (never neutered!) with these Halloween orange eyes.  Initially, Roger and I saw him lingering around Sluggo—the now spayed feral female that allows us to provide for her; more on her story later in this blog—thinking he was just another feral male wanting to get lucky… Then one day, perhaps a year and a half ago, I attempted to pet him.  And to my surprise, he allowed it.

Not only did he allow us to pet him, he seemed to crave the affection.  Who knew?!  In his quiet, tentative ways he wanted us to pet him, stoke him, gingerly crawling onto our laps so that we could do more.  Which made us feel both very sad and very happy: here was this obviously gracious kitty who was once someone’s pet, perhaps, who had been living so long in the streets.  Abandoned, fending for himself.  And all he wanted was love and affection.

So, we gave him that love.  And it was last summer when we realized that he was ill—there were scabs all over his body and some open wounds.  Roger took him to several vets with a similar diagnosis: he was dying. Some feline disease, and since he was so old—we figured he was over 12 or 13 years—there was nothing much we could do for him.  One vet wanted to put him down last summer, but we said no; there was still a lot of life left in the old geezer kitty.  Fuzzy still walked and was curious; sniffing and investigating.  It was so funny to observe him walking about in his “old man” cat walk… He still ate, drank a lot, pooped.  Obviously craved the human touch.  We figured that when the time came that he could no longer do these things, we would do the right thing and be with him in the end. 

But we never had that chance. 

So, throughout last fall, winter, and this spring, we fed him, and Roger provided a warm, comfortable place in the garage for him to sleep and a litter box, too—so he wouldn’t have to go outside when it snowed.  I would check on Fuzzy several times a day to make sure he was ok. When it was sunny, I would find him catching a few rays in the backyard, just enjoying this life…  He seemed to enjoy the human-made comfort during the bad weather, but when the weather turned nice, he beckoned to the call of his animal instincts to roam and to investigate.  Fuzzy no longer stayed overnight in the garage, but did come in the evenings for us to feed him.  He still seemed fine, in good spirits. 

Friday, June 10, 2011, was the last time we saw Fuzzy. In the evening, he meandered back, as was his habit.  At different times throughout the evening, he would climb into our laps, and we petted and stroked the elderly kitty who allowed us to share our lives with him.  When we went to bed, here was still on the patio, just hanging about as he had done numerous times before.  The next morning he was gone, but that was not unusual for him; we figured he would return that evening.  But he did not return that night nor any night since. 

It’s been 20 days.  We did look for him in our neighbors’ yards and in the nooks and crannies around the house… For nearly two weeks, I kept checking the garage and the yard, hoping to see his somewhat sad, Halloween-like eyes looking up at me…Fuzzy is gone.  Maybe a fox got him; I remember seeing one in the neighborhood.  Maybe he knew his time was growing near and found a quiet and comfortable place to make his transition.  Maybe the evening of June 10 was his way of saying goodbye.  We don’t know.  We never will.

 I feel very fortunate to have known Fuzzy.  Yes, we regret not discovering his affection sooner… We regret not taking him to the vet sooner.  But we did what we could for him, once we figured out a little more who he was.  And we provided a warm place for his final year.  Warm not only in physical comfort, but also in love and affection.  We loved Fuzzy as we had any kitty that has shared our lives.

Perhaps the life lesson with Fuzzy is to appreciate more the moments in time, for they sure are fleeting and not guaranteed.  And to let go when it is time to do so.

Fuzzy, my friend.  Farewell. We miss you. May your eternity be filled with warmth and love.

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Hello world!

Thank you for visiting, and welcome to Life Lessons from Lumps of Love—hereinafter referred to as LLFLOV. I love cats—my husband and I both do!!  They are amazing (ok, sometimes gross) furry, purry creatures who have impacted, influenced and changed our lives in ways we still have yet to realize. With this blog, I will share what I’ve learned about life and living from being the human companion and caretaker of these wonderful creatures.

This is my very first foray into blogging, and this blog will serve as a motivation and inspiration to write regularly. My ultimate goal is to publish a book—that these musings will coalesce into something coherent.

 Well, let’s begin!

 Upcoming posts: meeting the cast of kitty characters (yes, I have a thing for alliteration…lol).

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