There are three of them. Three tails and twelve paws to our none and four. When I’m rushing to respond to other humans by phone, written comment, physical interaction, the three of them are a blur and minor rumble–tails around my legs, faces meowing for food. But when I’m alone with them, I descend to their level. I’m lying on the hardwood floor under the dining room table, a position I’ve taken many times with Julia, Tilly, Maggie.
Right now, Julia, the black and white Kitler, has wrapped herself around a chair leg and it beating the shit out of it with her back claws. Where did she learn this? None of the others, raised in hot-house environments, act like this. But Julia was a single mom at a young age. Out in the wild, she must have caught birds, even squirrels, and clawed them to death. Her pupils dilate. She is incredibly fast. If I don’t wiggle and dangle the prey-string, she comes after it with her claws..
Lying on the floor like this, I’ve often studied the underside of the table with its frame and brackets. There’s a secret passage in the middle, like a drawer with neither front nor back. When Tilly was little and mischievous, I’d draw a string from one end to the other and tantalize her. She batted at it. Better yet, when the back of the small baby grand piano was up, she leapt to its top, and from there to the curtain rods, miles above her tiny body. We watched her peek down at us. Tilly: the kitten whose foster mother kept her and her brothers in the basement where they lived on the furnace pipes, safe from grabbing children, Tilly can’t leap like that anymore, but she is still and always NOT a lap cat.
My daughter has gotten another dog to go with her huge, fluffy, hundred-pound Pyrennes. The new dog, Fritzer, is a tiny Pomeranian, all thirteen pounds, but like his enormous brother Winston, Fritzie is also very fluffy, front and back, like a dame with a cinched waist and a deck, fore and aft. Now my daughter’s ménage includes two dogs and two cats, one so aged that it sleeps on a heating pad and rarely greets company. This is a lot of critter action. She thrives on it, single mom that she is.
As does my neighbor, also single, who fosters puppies, along with her usual two terriers. All are high strung. Recently this neighbor, about the same age as my daughter, took a “rescue” trip to Kentucky or was it Missouri? The goal: to bring back a van-load of neglected dogs. I’ve heard other Minnesotans say most of the rescue dogs in our neck of the woods come from the south. Pets are not part of the family there. They are kept to prevent nuisance mice or to use for hunting or dog fighting. No pet “owner” bothers to spay or neuter them. When the inevitable occurs the babies are drowned in a rock-weighted sack or simply go wild.
How different it is from making intimates of our pets, indulging them, talking to them, giving in to them, and sometimes treating them like equals.