When I first moved into my place here a little over a year ago, a two room apartment above a two car attached garage, I moved into madness. A glorious madness. Seven dogs and a myriad of cats to navigate all surely taking the temp of the new guy. Would he be cool I thought they all said, would he pet us, should we eat him (the big German Shepherd sisters, Eve & Senta), should I just continue to bark at him until he goes away (Pea), will he call us all by name, will he maybe even eventually feed us?
Well, the petting helped…then the feeding of course and, yes, I learned everyone’s name…a lot of names. I liked that there were a lot of names.
When you park your car here you do so outside of the garage just below my windows and you walk in through this garage into a mud room, the place here for the gang of fur. An old, wonderfully dog worn leather love seat and a metal crate, big enough for the big girls that decided not to eat me, a crate that’s not really a crate, more of just a comfy sleep spot with some blankets, stuffed toys and the occasional (dog) found empty pet food can. It’s also that innate human, first place in the door, shit to be piled on spot. I’m sure in earlier times this is where soon to be pelts, rocks, crudely fashioned though effective tools were layed in caves maybe while getting crap from the better half for just this. For stuff not being properly put away in their proper of places. Nothing ever really changes. This, plus the strewn extra large pet beds and it’s a really good room, a really warm room. It’s also, when it comes to the beds, a “who got here first” kinda thing, sometimes shared, cats and dogs alike, a little community that understands each other and something that has fascinated me because of such since day one. This coexistense. The mud room then leads into the kitchen, the heart of this place. I was a little reticent to go beyond this room when I first moved in as this was the main part of someone else’s house, someone’s else’s home. I wasn’t family, I was just the guy who should hang a hard left at the mud room and head up the stairs.
But there was a kitten. A little tortoise calico kitten who found himself in the midst of the chaos of established dogs and cats, a little trooper of a tortoise calico kitten who would not be denied his spot among this established. I found myself, one night, cradling him in my arms, rubbing a belly, lightly scratching an ear, but I also found myself to be doing it while sitting on the floor leaning against the kitchen counter just as my landlady, Celie, walked in from her day.
“He’s a cutie isn’t he?”
“He certainly is”
Not even a blink as to me being in the kitchen. I was Ok.
I thought about taking him upstairs with me at the time, a new friend maybe, for my Bella and Grayson, and I even named him that calico coat, “Turtle”, but he suffered some awful seizures, debilitating ones that were doing damage, some of which I tried to tame as best I could at the time with more cradles and soft words and quite a few tears, but there had to come a goodbye. He was though, I think, a sign to Celie that maybe this new guy upstairs was alright. He liked this kind.
The first time I got to feeding the kit gang there was almost, I thought, a suprised look on the faces of these numerous cats as they realized that there was a new human providing dinner. Not that they minded of course, dinner is dinner after all. I did it that first time as a way to say thank you to Celie for this new best of all little spots (there was another best of all little spots years ago but this one was different, more furry, more…ummm…better). Since then I’ve done what I can to help out, at least when it comes to the feeding and the minding, cat and dog alike, the kitchen heart no longer being a fear of overstepping. There’s a comfort in it.
There’s a sun room in the house. It’s in the back, through the kitchen and then the living room. It is a good place for cats replete with it’s own cat door for comings and goings inside/outside, especially for the front porch gang who know to come in for cat towers and plush beds and good naps. This is where I first met Cricket the Blind who is also mostly deaf. In my feedings of the gang all that Cricket was concerned with was trying to climb my leg to eventually get her head behind my ear. Food? It was secondary. When an abandoned, former seeming pet racoon was left on the doorstep of another shelter (ps…don’t do that, they do grow up and you won’t be prepared for it) Celie came to take him in and house him in the sun room. When I say “another” shelter by the way it’s because Celie owns and runs one just down the hill, HVARS, and all kinds of fur and some feather come her way. I worried for Cricket the Blind and her unseen, still wild enough friend. I didn’t want her to possibly get hurt. Though her blindness offers some unique challenges, some maddening to tell you the truth, she’s been upstairs with me ever since, a year plus now. She’s got her human now and, challenges or no, I’m good with that. Try to balance challenges with a blind cat’s Spring’s breeze…I dare ya.
I know I’ve written of some of this before but Jill said “Oh, you’re fucked now”. That was the response to my latest Pet of the Week segment on Mix 97 eight years ago. The “Oh, you’re fucked now”? That was Jill knowing that I was unexpectedly and suddenly sold on this little fur thing sitting on my chest as I did my radio bit. She knew I was taking her home without first consulting my Maria, my better half then. Her name was Ella. Jagger, Maria’s son, all of eleven or so, knew that if there were ever another cat to come after my recently passed Benny his or her name would just have to start with a “B”, my only condition. My initial thought was to name her Blink, as to her huge unblinking stare, but Jagger, instead, came up with the perfect name. He just tacked that “B” onto the beginning of her already existing name. So there was a Bella. Smart kid.
I got a text from Celie in the middle of one of my late Friday night lights football games in Albany for Spectrum Sports this past November.
“You have a new girl”
“Mimi. She snuck up the stairs behind me when I went up to feed your cats. She seems to be enjoying the quiet of Uncle Steve’s apartment”
I had been adopted. Again. This time by a quirky, old, fragile Siamese who “tap taps” you ever so slightly on your chest to get your attention.
When it comes to being adopted, remind me to tell you the story of Shoes.
On one of her trips to Florida to work on her house there Celie entrusted me with minding the gang as she often does. Let the dogs out in the morning, feed the cats when I come home and wash a few pet bowls along the way. On this particular trip though, there were two kittens included in the minding, Tank and his new as yet unamed pal. Tank had issues from the get go, had been handed a short deck but he persevered as best he could till the end. His pal? She was fast, so fast, and, thinking I’d go with a vehicle motif, I came to call her Go-Cart. I also came to bring them upstairs with me while Celie was away. It was one less thing to worry about. That brought my temporary cat total to 5. If there is a line by the way, five might just be it. All I was missing now was a mumu, crocs and a tub of ice cream while I binge watched “Hoarders”. Funny thing happened though, Bella seemed to like Go-Cart.
Ever since Grayson passed away so suddenly and heartbreakingly back in August I’d wanted Bella to have a new pal. She doesn’t like Cricket and she only tolerates Mimi but she’d already lost Shoes and then Gray, so I thought she could use another friend. I had tried that once already with one of the cats from the shelter, the incredibly vocal Gibson, and that went spectacularly unwell as Bella was scared of him, intimidated. Gibson has since gone to a good friend from work and has truly found his human in Eric. Things work out like that sometimes. This bringing the kittens upstairs though, in a sense, was accidentally perfect. Bella liked having a new friend, and a new friend with Celie’s Ok that I decided to keep. I also re-named her that original Bella name, Blink.
Now, I’m sure you know I’ve had a few cats over the years, all, until recently as I’ve mentioned, starting from the kitten stage. Bob back in Grad School, my first cat on my own who sadly didn’t make it out of my apartment fire back in ’89. I obviously did, just barely…thank you again Bill Pearis for what surely, then, was just a mundane phone call. Then Benny and Merlin, a Christmas gift to myself and my then new wife, Danielle, in a marriage that didn’t last very long. I kept the cats and a couple of pieces of furniture. Still have the nightstand 24 years later as a matter of fact, awkward though solid well made thing that has never fit quite right in any room but has suited me well, nonetheless, all these years. Merlin lost a fight with a car back when I left Dayton, Ohio and then Pittsburgh to move in with Mom in New York for a little while, post divorce, before I then moved to Florida to clear my head, get some sunshine and hang with my favorite cousin while working with her at a Disney resort where I would occasionally don tights and a big-ass plastic head for the kids and Saturday breakfasts. The other half of that pair, Benny? He was with me for 16 years and 15 different physical addresses. A true companion and constant when I needed one most. The very definition of friend. Then there was my boy and constant sidekick Shoes who’s pregnant mom adopted my brother and sister and I when we shared a house after I moved back to New York from my Disney adventure. Eventually there was the above mentioned Bella, then Grayson, my greatest save and worst heartbreak and the now, Cricket the Blind, Mimi the Quirky and, well, Blink. Bella and the Unintentionals.
If only Bella played guitar.
Of all the kittens on this list, there was none quite like the addition of Blink. The energy, the humor, the excitement at my come homes and her bounding down the stairs to greet me was something I had really never experienced with the rest other than Shoes who always knew the time. My coming home was kitty Christmas every day with Blink. I also know being a little bit nutty is part of the kitten job description. But Blink? She took to that job requirement with utter abandon, with a fervor I hadn’t seen in all my years of being a cat dude. Nothing on any counter or table top or nightstand stood a chance. I’d also never had a cat that was not only NOT scared of water but who thought walking into the back of the shower while I was in it was just par for the course. It absolutely fascinated her. I looked down one morning, after just rinsing my hair, and there Blink was, at the back of the shower with a look that just said “what?” A Matthew Modine at the end of “Birdy” kinda thing (one of the greatest films ever by the way…or at least for me).
Well the wonder that was Blink is gone now god dammit, her name being so sadly appropriate as it was seemingly just a Blink that she was with me here in this perfect of little spots. Not even 6 months. Not even quite a year old yet. Feline leukemia. Fucking fast working bastard too. Just this past Monday she was on top of the fridge, just like Grayson, slapping at my head and being so proud to have figured how to be eye to eye with me. Funny, like a little kid who wants to constantly check their height on a door frame to see if they’d gotten bigger, Blink was always sizing up a new high spot, the towel cabinet in the bathroom, the counter at the kitchen sink, the living room cat tower, that afformentioned fridge. I gave her a bit of assistance with empty litter bins for her to hop on and then up, but she seemed so happy to have thought she figured it out herself, to have figured out how to be “big”. Then Tuesday morning she ignored her breakfast, then that evening her dinner and eventually it was all she could do just to grab her favorite cat bed. Monday, fridge head slaps, Sunday goodbye. And I was so looking forward to the weather breaking, like this weekend, so she could grab a window’s breeze for the first time. Well, at least she did, for a moment.
After her going down to the shelter on Wednesday for a blood test and to be looked at by the doc she came back to our best of little spots last night. Thank you Celie for that. She needed a last couple of nights in HER place, in her cat tower. Yes, one of those spots she was so proud to conquer in her quest to be big.
Blink, we were supposed to have so much more time, a so much more YOUR time and I will so miss you, miss sharing bits of my dinner, miss yelling at you to to stop treating the things on my awkward though solid nightstand like enemy combatants, miss you laying on my arm under the covers at night while you kneaded my shirtsleeve. Blink, one of my unintentionals, who brought me so much laughter, joy…peace. Hopefully you recieved the same in your short time. I’d like to think that you did.
I don’t go out much, ever actually, which I’m perfectly fine with and you want to know why? Try topping a Friday night like this, in a perfect of little spots, while computer scribbling a few words or playing with some sound.
At least yesterday was laundry day. She SO loved laundry day.