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Archive for the ‘Cats and Other Animals’ Category

There was a tussle early this morning–another stage in the internecine battle waged by the two cats who share my bed. Jack is a jealous cat and deeply resents Bertie’s privileged position, which is not only at my side but under the covers. Usually when Jack starts his sly campaign to inch up and evict Bertie I make the sharp retort and sometimes even stoop to a thump. But as it happened, I was asleep this morning and awoke too late to foil the attack. So I turfed Jack out, and stolidly continued until the alarm rang without either cat. In my defense let me say that though I am of course committed to a policy of comfort and support for my cats throughout their lives, the purpose–the REASON–for my time in bed is not in fact to keep company with cats but rather to sleep.
In the old days, the cats were forbidden the bedroom during the night. No longer!
Except for poor Sophie that is, who can only visit the bedroom when I am dressed and ready to come downstairs.
These are Jack’s rules, not mine.

Jack is something of a tyrant.

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One after another, the more sensational shows were failing me–Shadow and Bone, fascinating though it was, suddenly featured a magical device FUSED TO THE HEROINE’S COLLAR BONES, which protruded through her skin in a particularly grisly way. UGH. I couldn’t keep watching. And then, The Nevers over on HBO sank into black horror, and even though the costumes and sets are simply lovely, I can’t watch horror. And the ever dependable Mentalist, with its astonishingly beautiful consultant Patrick Jane–

–started dipping into idiotic plot territory (Head of Important Research Facility: “We’re curing evil!”)
So I turned to natural history, as one does. I had read about My Octopus Teacher, and was intrigued.
Friends, I clicked the button!

Craig Foster is a South African naturalist and film maker, who decided that free diving into the chilly kelp forest by his home near Cape Town every day for a year would mend his troubled heart.
And it did.
That he can hold his breath for SIX MINUTES (the norm is something like 30 seconds) made this extraordinary routine possible. And what inspired him to do something so crazy? Well, he met a little octopus, a creature that is basically “a snail without a shell” as he put it. But when he first spots her, the barmy creature is lying about in the mazy kelp–wearing a jaunty assortment of shells and rocks which completely covers her.

He is charmed, and decides to visit her every day–QUITE an undertaking. To even find her in that stretch of ocean is a feat. But he persists, and eventually she comes to trust him. Her life is stressful and dangerous–at some point, Craig looks about and notices that just about every crack in the rocks hides a pajama shark: creatures who enthusiastically feed on octopus (among other delicacies). And in fact, there is a terrible moment when one of the vile predators almost gets her–and tears off one of her arms. Craig is anguished, but knows that he must not help her, much as he wants to. She hides out in her den, pale and almost dead–but she revives, and grows a new arm! And later on we see that covering herself with shells is actually not a sprightly act of vanity but deadly serious protection–she clings desperately to her impromptu suit of armor during a ghastly attack by another pajama shark, who pounds her against the rock in an effort to get at her. But he fails!
Life is short for an octopus–one year is all she gets. After mating, she lays her eggs and dies. And her body is carried away by yet another pajama shark.
Craig manages not to weep as he tells the interviewer about his year with the brave little octopus.
Perhaps octopuses are not lovely to our human eyes, but they are so clever and so valiant. A fine story!

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Last night Bertie the cat jumped off the bed to have a quick vomit, as he does from time to time.

And of course–despite making a mental note to myself about it–I trod on it returning from a midnight visit to the loo. No matter! I cleaned my foot with a kleenex, which I then tossed to the floor, a reminder for the morning.
So, armed with a paper towel (a supply of which I prudently keep in the linen closet) I approached the scene of the crime this morning–to find the peccant deposit oddly black in hue.
CICADAS!
Bertie truly appreciates this delightful manna from heaven, suddenly wriggling on every surface. It’s as if God suddenly rained down an endless supply of candies and cookies! And Bertie is not the only one–just about every dog I meet out walking is being sternly reprimanded by its owner–“NO! Put it down!”–and of course, the birds are completely delighted.
Well well–I look forward to July when our visitors will dive underground for the next 17 years, and their eerie shrilling will be silenced. And Bertie’s contributions to the decor will be more traditionally colored.

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I came across an article in the paper lamenting the lack of genetic diversity in the US cow population. This is not a subject that any of us in the non-dairy world have reflected on, I’ll warrant. Holsteins–fondly called “the Cadillac of milk production”–are very inbred, with most of the current herd descended from two bulls. Be amazed by their magnificent names: Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, and Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief. The first bit is the name of their home farms, and the rest is affection and bragging. Before he was done, RORA Elevation had some 80,000 daughters and at least 2.3 million granddaughters–the miracle of artificial insemination. Very lucrative craft, that. Oddly, the name of the family who bred RORA Elevation is Hope. Possibly a relative of mine!
The next time you nibble on a cheddar cheese or enjoy an ice cream, give a thought to the fine bulls whose dedication and non-stop effort made it possible. All two of them.

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I had discovered a little bag of plastic rings in a desk drawer: perfect for making a needed curtain tie back. Which I am planning to make at some point.
Soon.
Possibly within a month or so.
HOWEVER.
Sophie the cat discovered one of the rings lying about and has been deliriously happy playing with it ever since.
While the large box of expensive cat toys lies tragically disregarded on the floor.

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Feeling a little fragile what with a snow storm coming and months of continuing pandemic cheerfully foretold by the paper, I decided to watch an old show from the roaring 80’s–Romancing the Stone. Remember that one? VERY dated, starring two not particularly attractive people, but watchable enough.
Once it finished, I ALMOST clicked on the sequel, Jewel of the Nile, but happily, good sense intervened.
What grabbed my attention were the crocodiles–MY, this movie is swarming with the beasts, and they play an important role in the plot. One of the villains (there are a bunch) is constantly commenting, ‘Look at those snappers!’, and the camera obliges. OFTEN.

However, it is not HIS hand that is bitten off by a crocodile, but that of another even more heinous villain–and though I hate to sound mean, he deserves it.
And anyway, at the end of the movie Michael Douglas flaunts his crocodile skin boots–VERY elegant indeed–made, we are given to believe, of the very beast that bit the hand. So the wicked villain is avenged in a way.

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I congratulate myself on making it through last week–a horrid week, both out in the world and here in my own little corner of it. Which corner was subjected to wrenching change: the floor in my home office replaced and the room painted. This elegant embellishment required hours of toil in preparation–removing all the books and trinkets, unplugging and moving out all the electronics, dragging out the chairs and other portable furniture. The office stood bleak and bare while the rest of the house looked like an old junk room, complete with Christmas tree brightly beaming in the corner.

First came the floor men, and then the painters. During the week I threaded my way between the piles, and worked on the dining room table.

Which was bad enough, but then my darling elder cat lost all his vigor, wouldn’t eat, and seemed intent on dying. And the other two stopped eating in sympathy.
So I took him to the vet–a dire procedure in these days of plague, in which you (masked) hand the terrified animal over to the vet’s assistant (also masked), in the parking lot. And then you sit in the car, reading whatever work of sensational literature you might have on hand until the vet calls with her report. Which was that nothing was really wrong, old age issues, but nothing fatal. So I brought him back home with two wee medications, one for arthritis pain and one for appetite enhancing.
AND, instead of recommending some expensive food which Bertie would naturally refuse to eat, she cheerfully suggested Fancy Feast. So having dropped the invalid home, I rushed to the grocery store to stock up. And he DID nibble a bit that night, and a bit more the next day, joined by his colleagues who also agreed to start eating again.
Possibly the reestablishment of peace and propriety in the house also helped, everything back in its place, the Christmas tree turfed out onto the curb.
And this morning, Bertie caught a mouse! He may be aged and infirm–but he caught a mouse!
And so, Happy New Year dear friends!

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New Kittens!

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While idly looking through some webpage or other, I spied an ad touting healthful cat food. Now, I worry about my dear companions, especially that ANGEL CAT Bertie, who has lived for 17 years upon this goodly earth.
So, I watched it. The man–A DOCTOR, dear friends!–slowly and forcefully made his points– I was mesmerized, the minutes sped by. Cats must eat this, cats must NOT eat that, cats need X, but cats do NOT need Y. I have forgotten the details, but the main thing is, loving cat owners should eschew that dreadful–nay, POISONOUS!–swill produced by the huge American pet food companies and instead feed their darlings freeze-dried raw food (namely, his brand of freeze-dried raw food). YES, I thought–I shall instantly go to the pet food store and get this virtuous comestible for my cats! Which I did, and came home all smiles, ready to give my cats health and happiness beyond their wildest dreams.
HOWEVER.

It turned out that my cats SPURN this healthful and expensive food.
They would not touch it. Sophie gave it the insult of the litter scraping gesture: “Someone has inadvertently dropped a TURD in the food bowl.”
Sigh.
Shamefacedly, I beat a quick retreat–drove to the grocery store, picked up a 24-can box of Friskies Tasty Treasures Prime Filets.
Friends, I fed them the vile swill made by huge American pet food companies.
And they LOVED it–they licked their bowls clean!
Well, well, it is what they are used to, I suppose.

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