Cat Lady and the Karmic Kody Doggie Adventure!

Yesterday I was out for a power walk on a busy street in Van Nuys when I noticed a big, gorgeous husky roaming the other side of the street with no human or leash in sight.

I called my boyfriend and asked him what I should do. “Get a hold of his collar and see if he has tags,” he advised. “If so, they might have contact information.”

I was a bit nervous about this. I have never had a dog of my own and until then I had never handled a dog that didn’t belong to a close friend. But thanks to my boyfriend and his family, I knew that huskies were generally sweet dogs, which gave me some confidence. However, just as I hung up, the husky started mixing it up with dogs on the other side of a gate to an auto body shop. I worried that he would be too riled up and might bite me. Carefully gauging the situation, I crossed the street and approached the gaggle of goggies. Someone from the auto body shop came out and corralled the understandably upset dogs.

I summoned my inner Alpha Dog and called out to him: “Hey, baby! Baby! Come here!” I slapped my leg.

To my astonishment, the husky stopped paying attention to the other dogs and approached me. He was so sweet and gentle that he let me cuddle him and kiss his head. I reached under his chin and found his tags. There was a phone number and the name “Kody.”

“Good boy, Kody! Good boy!”

I called the owner and left a message. I told the owner in the message that I would love to take the dog home for safety, but that I have cats. I hoped he could call me back right away. Fortunately, he did within a few minutes. My heart fell in my stomach when he said he was in New Orleans. He then explained that the housesitter must have accidentally let the dog escape. After I told him where we were, the owner called the housesitter.

I didn’t have high hopes that this person was about.

Meanwhile, Kody had other plans. He broke away from me and started running down the sidewalk towards the gas station. As I ran after him, I vaguely remembered something about a friend who had lost her dog and whenever anyone would chase it, it would run away even more. I stopped chasing and instead yelled, “Kody! Come here, bebe. Come here!” I slapped my leg again.

To my immense surprise, Kody returned to me reluctantly. (Wow! Try that with a cat, won’t you? No, because they would LAUGH AT YOU. Maybe not outloud, but secretly in their little kitty head. HAHAHAHAHA stoopid human!)

I had to get a grip on his collar, but how? I dug my fingers into his massive mane et voila! A black collar emerged and I held on for dear life. Kody then trotted down the sidewalk, dragging me along. (I did mention this was a very large husky, didn’t I?)

The owner then called back and said the housesitter was on his way to where we were. Within a few more minutes, a man wielding a blue leash appeared from nowhere. He thanked me profusely for catching Kody. He explained that Kody had escaped when Girl Scouts had come to the door.

“Kody said, ‘Busy! Blowin’ this popsicle stand!’ Huh?” I laughed. “I’m glad he’s going to be okay.”

The man then said, “You have a lot of good karma coming your way.”

As I left, I responded, “I hope so!”

But that really wasn’t what I meant and I felt badly for saying it. What I meant was that I have been through a lot of rough things lately, mostly with my health, and that I hoped something good would happen — not because of my good deed but simply because. I’m not sure that I even believe in karma, at least not the American understanding, which runs contrary to the original Hindu concept. In Hinduism, karma is merely the principle of action and reaction: whatever you do will have repercussions, either this life or the next. You could conceivably do something of great moral virtue that comes back to you negatively. It’s just a system of influence; spiritual physics, if you will.

In America, though, people tend to think of karma as an Eastern version of The Golden Rule: do good and good will come back to you, but if you do bad, bad things will happen to you. Americans want some kind of spiritual justice system and understandably so. Our world is so full of injustice and cruelty, we’d like to think that doing good works will produce more of the same, one way or the other. It’s as good a philosophy to live by as any. Whatever works, right?

When I told a coworker this morning about my doggie adventure, he responded that the owner should have offered me something. Perhaps that is true, but it never occurred to me. All I could think of was the sick feeling in my stomach as I imagined one of my own pets missing and possibly getting hurt. I could not wish that on anyone, animal or human.

And isn’t that enough? To believe in the power of preventing pain? To have compassion? The word compassion in Latin means “to suffer with.” Wouldn’t it be an infinitely better world if we simply learned how to suffer with one another and thereby be inspired to heal whenever we can? This is how, although Pisces and Virgo are opposites, they work together. Pisces breaks down the barriers of Virgo so that we can sense one another’s joys and sorrows, and then Virgo builds them back up so that we can develop habits that heal.

I just hope that for every metaphorical doggie who gets lost, there’s a metaphorical cat lady willing to be adventurous. The world would be a much better place.

The Cat in the Fireplace

Open Fire

On November 29, 1995, I brought home a wee gray kitten to the Neo-Georgian house I was renting with my then-husband in downtown San Jose.

The first sound she heard as I set down her carrier was the crack of gunfire.

I had noticed on the way in that the street behind mine was blocked off by the police, and was grateful that my own street wasn’t closed so that I could bring home my precious cargo. I didn’t realize that there was a hostage situation (San Jose! Love!) taking place in the house behind ours. I had just set down Ophelia’s cardboard carrier box in the bathroom when shots rang out. I hit the ground, my face level with her little nose as it poked out one of the holes.

“It’s not always like this,” I told her. “Honest!”

We had asked the insane landlords if we could have a cat and at first they told as we did not “deserve” to have a cat unless we took the feral stray that they had recently found. We consoled The Crazy by reassuring them that we only had their house in mind. It would be easier to train a kitten not to scratch their vintage wallpaper than a fully grown cat that had already developed habits.

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Nom!

Love at First Sight

Eventually they relented and the landlord’s wife directed me to a friend of hers who was a foster mother for the Humane Society. I went to her house to see the three kittens she currently had locked in the master bedroom, isolating them from another sick cat in the house. I entered the bedroom and two kittens — one black, one calico — launched themselves from the big bed as they ran for their food dishes. The third kitten, perhaps only two thirds the size of her siblings, turned up her tiny gray face to me and walked straight toward me, mewling until I picked her up. She was so tiny that she fit easily in my palm. “The runt of the litter,” said the foster mother.

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Ophelia and one of her siblings nursing on a male cat named Jack. Don’t judge.

I went home and told my then-husband about the kittens but I said nothing about which one I liked. He went with me the next evening to see them with the understanding that I would stand back and let him interact with the kittens so that he could see which one he liked best. He didn’t seem to have a favorite. But later that night, as we watched The X-Files, he said, “The little gray one, huh?”

It felt like someone had turned on the sun inside of me. I nodded.

I named her Ophelia because her melodious meow reminded me of Aunt Ophelia’s singing in the Addams Family. I had loved her the moment I saw her. She was to keep me company as I was writing at home. That enormous old house built in 1906 could be drafty and lonely, not to mention more than a little bit haunted. She delighted me in every way — except perhaps the way my then-husband had taught her to climb up his thick Levi jeans. (Ahem.) But she had no faults. Affectionate and charming, she was the perfect companion.

A Fateful Night

And then one night in late March 1996, Something Very Extraordinary happened that changed my life forever. I was home when it happened and could reach no one on the phone. I was terrified and alone. But I wasn’t really alone. Ophelia was there. And what I thought was terrifying instead then quickly turned into something powerful and profound…

Who shall comprehend such things and who shall tell of it? What is it that shineth through me and striketh my heart without injury, so that I both shudder and burn? I shudder because I am unlike it; I burn because I am like it.

St. Agustine’s Confessions, 11:9:11

The experience bonded us in a dramatic and mystical way. From that moment on, Ophelia was an enormous part of my spiritual life. As more Extraordinary Thinges happened, and my life exploded with mystery and wonder, Ophelia never left my side. Not that she had a choice, but she tended more often than not to stand by me rather than flee under the bed.

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(Oooooh, no! There goes Tokyo!)

Major Changes

The marriage fell apart for various reasons soon thereafter. She moved with me to San Francisco, where I sometimes caught her playing Witchfinder General with her fuzzy mice as she dunked them in the toilet. When I was about to leave San Francisco to move to Los Angeles, the vet found a lump in her stomach that he couldn’t explain. “She’s not an outdoor cat, is she?” he asked. That’s when I remembered the evening over a month prior when two mice had broken into my in-law apartment. She had killed one before I got home, while the other ran loose in the parlor as she indulged in a nonchalant bath. I threw away the dead mouse and locked her out of the bedroom, shrieking, “You had better kill that thing! That’s your job!” The next morning, the mouse had vanished — into her belly, apparently.

Life With “Pye”

When we arrived in Los Angeles, my life was quickly plunged into immeasurable chaos and pain. I soon lost my hands to injuries and couldn’t work.

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Strutting around the new apartment — I’m sorry, HER new apartment.

As I stumbled in the darkness of disability, she saved me in more ways than I can ever tell other human being. Our pets are beacons to our souls — Ophelia so much more so than any other pet I’d ever had because she was there when the Very Extraordinary Thinge happened. She was my witness. My Pyewacket (although I would not see that movie for a couple more years). I could never deny the tender, simple wisdom in her meow or ignore the loving scrape of her tongue on my hand or cheek.

Pigeons Are Friends?

One day, I heard a pigeon cooing at the big window somewhere behind the papasan chair. When I went to investigate, I discovered it was Ophelia talking to the pigeons outside on the ledge. She had learned to mimic the pigeon coo perfectly. That’s when I declared that she needed another of her species and adopted Cairo Egypt the next day. They loved each other very much, although the prim and proper Miss Ophelia did not always appreciate Cairo’s bouncy, trouncy, in-your-face, how-many-dishes-can-I-break-tonight lifestyle.

Cairo Egypt thinks you have fucked up taste in movie stars.

Cairo Egypt thinks you have fucked up taste in movie stars.

Cato and Clouseau

Ophelia bitched out my bad lovers, put up with me smooching her silky head and ears, and was generally the easiest cat to live with I have ever known. She had this plaintive meow that seemed to say, “Is this the Complaint Department? I want to register a complaint. Complaint #1…” I was never exactly sure when the list of complaints had been fully registered, but I listened all the same. We played “Cato and Clouseau,” as she would wait for me to come in after work and then pounce on me from behind a piece of furniture.

More Extraordinary Thinges happened, although not as extraordinary as the one the year before. She comforted me when my tears soaked the carpet with grief. I did not want Extraordinary Thinges. I wanted a normal life. Ophelia reminded me with her patient, golden-green eyes that I needed to learn grace.

Painful Separation

Then the time came in mid 2006 when I was to go to France for a year with The Frenchman. I made plans to take Ophelia and Cairo with me, but the vet said no. They were too old to travel to the south of France, she said. They would never make the journey. Broken-hearted at the idea of being without my two fur babies, I talked to my parents, who agreed to take them for the year.

Every day, I missed my kittens, but most of all Ophelia. Even in my happiest moments in Aix-en-Provence and Paris, I missed her so keenly that I couldn’t stand it. I had given my family some disposable cameras so that they could take pictures and send them to me, which they did only once.

The Cat in the Fireplace

Then, like The Doctor in that episode of Doctor Who, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” even though I had promised her I would return for her at a certain time, I didn’t. When I came back to the United States, my parents refused to give back my cats. I was completely devastated. But it was difficult to argue because my mentally disabled sister loved Ophelia so much that I felt Ophelia was doing great good by being there.

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Mine!

The Frenchman and I moved in together and adopted another kitten — Robespierre, Le Terreur — before I discovered that my family was not taking the best care of Ophelia and Cairo. (Ophelia seemed okay, but Cairo was a total mess.) When I told The Frenchman that I wanted to force the issue and take back my cats, he told me that he did not want three cats. He refused to take them back. He would give away Robespierre if I did that. I thought I would die. I couldn’t get out of the expensive house lease that I had signed where I lived with him and wasn’t ready to give up the relationship. Maybe I could convince him over time. I waited to no avail.

His selfishness destroyed the entire relationship by the time the lease expired. But at least I was free.

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Reunion

Still, it wasn’t until my mother died two years later that I was able to recover Ophelia. While visiting my father I noticed that Ophelia, who was then 15 years old, was a little under the weather. Her litter box contents looked abnormal. When I informed my father, he gruffly stated that he didn’t want to have to deal with it. “Just take her,” he growled. I felt terrible for my little sister, but Ophelia was clearly ill. I scooped her up, took her to the vet for a quick check-up and blood test, and immediately drove her for six hours to Los Angeles. I cried all the way home for joy. My sweetest love, the Sweetest of Peas was with me once more. Never a day passed that I did not miss her. I loved her more than any person or animal. Four years had passed altogether. In that time, I had since retrieved Cairo, but he had died despite surgeries and thousands of dollars of the best vet care.

3 Cats on a Couch

After a slow introduction, she got along famously with my two other cats. I had since rescued Saphron, a golden Bengal, who was completely bonded to Robespierre, but who quickly adopted Ophelia, as well. The three cats so loved each other so much that I started a Tumblr account documenting the redonk called, “3 Cats On a Couch.” People could scarcely believe that three cats in one small condo got along so well. I had the world’s cutest clowder. I would show people the Tumblr account and say, “This is how we roll at my house. All is full of love.” My new boy friend — a big, tenderhearted animal lover — was completely smitten with her. She captured the heart of everyone who met her.

Sickness and Love

As her health declined near her 16th birthday, she needed so much care that I was afraid to leave her. I found an excellent pet care service that could take her whenever my new boyfriend couldn’t. The house became unruly with her messes: numerous urinary tract infections had made her permanently leery of the litter box. And she required a special diet that the other two cats loved too well. They often pushed her out of her dish so that they could gobble her food. I had to start feeding her separate from the other cats, which she hated. She was too social to eat alone and her appetite suffered. I wound up having to sit with her as she ate. It was ridiculously time-consuming.

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Yet I never cared that her needs were so great. I never minded cleaning up a single mess or giving her numerous medications. It mattered little to me that she was so high maintenance during meal times. I loved her more than anything. She was The Cat Who Had Witnessed Very Extraordinary Thinges. The Cat Who Had Saved My Life. My Pyewacket. Ophie-Wan Kenophie. She Whom I Loved Best. I wrote silly cat songs for her like the Calypso tune, “I Love Me a Little Gray Cat” and the Shonen Knife-inspired, “Kitties in the Kitchen (and They’re Bitchin’ Bitchin’ Bitchin’)”.

Death

After riding a roller coaster of health problems these last six months leading up to her 17th birthday, Ophelia slowed down dramatically this last weekend. On Saturday, December 1, I wrote on my Facebook timeline:

With a raspy yowl and a quivering paw, my little Ophelia is fading before my eyes. She prowls the house incessantly, confused, disoriented. She no longer knows where the litter box room is. All places are alike to her, as Kipling says, but not because she is wild. Rather, because she is frail, frightened, sinking into the mists…

By late Sunday afternoon, I knew she was going to die. She could no longer walk and her pupils were wide with death blindness. The vet offices were closed. So, I wrapped her in her favorite fuzzy blanket, placed her in an old kitten bed and lay down on the floor with her, soft music playing and candles blazing atop the piano.

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Remember what I taught you about grace.

I wrote on Twitter:

Oh, Grief! Death pads in softly on cat paws, yet you bite savagely while He still stands on the doorstep.

The raspy yowl diminished to a feeble cry that escaped her small wet mouth every once in a while when she soiled herself. I did my best to keep her clean and dry, all the while talking to her, reminiscing with her, telling her how much I loved her. I texted with friends. My boyfriend was working and didn’t have access to his cell phone, but I left him messages anyway. Grief savagely bit my heart, over and over. The pain wracked my body. Tears scalded my eyes and cheeks. My neighbor came downstairs and stayed with me. I continued to stroke Ophelia’s ears and head, cuddling her, kissing her as she trembled, my tears dampening her fur. Whispering in her ear sweet nothings and words of appreciation for her life, love and devotion.

Distracted by conversation, I didn’t recognize the moment that she passed until Robespierre solemnly approached the kitten bed, sniffed her and looked up at me. A hush fell over the room and for a moment everything seemed brighter. But then a cataract of darkness tore through my soul…

Some say that animals have souls and that our familiars become our spirit guides. I don’t know if that is true. I would like to think so. But one thing is for certain:

My world is much grayer without my little gray cat. And the color will never fully return.

To Bengal or Not to Bengal?

While Robie is doing fabulously well these days, we’re continuing to have behavioral problems (ahem) with biting. Dr. Doolittle gave us some excellent suggestions: rattle a can full of pennies or whack him on the nose with a roll of magazine paper. Well, he thinks both are a game and doesn’t get it that he’s being disciplined no matter how harsh we are with him. And when we try to discipline him by being “alpha cats” — holding him aloft by the scruff, hissing in his face or thumping him on the nose — he gets seriously pissed off and retaliates by running away, then dashing back to smack us on the leg or runs off to destroy something he KNOWS is forbidden.

He is, in short, diabolically smart.

The doctor’s last bit of advice was to use the spray bottle on “stream” instead of “spray” because even our toilet-loving jungle cat will find that annoying. We just started this last night and it seems to work.

Finally, I was chatting with a coworker yesterday who has three Bengals (five in her lifetime). She was looking at a picture of his face and exclaimed, “He’s a Bengal! Look at the marks on his face!” I had decided long ago that he was merely a mutt, but it helped me start to reframe Robie’s aggressive behavior. He’s insanely energetic (way beyond any of my other cats at this age), far more companionable (when he isn’t biting) and if he didn’t have Softpaws, our house would be one big shaggy, shredded hovel. My coworker told me that bizarre health issues are a lot more likely with pure breeds.

I tried this theory on Dr. Doolittle and he agreed. Apparently, if a Bengal has “flaws,” breeders typically put them down. If a rescued Bengal doesn’t have paperwork, the shelter has to give it the label “Bengal Mix,” which is what they did. I felt ambivalent about that label because of the white patches on his toes and under his chin. But now that I think about it, who knows? Maybe a female got loose and mated before she could be fixed? Lord knows they’re crazy smart and capable of pretty much any kind of mischief. That brood would be worthless to both a breeder and an owner. My coworker said his ears are exactly like a Savannah, which is true, too. Obviously something kooky happened on the DNA front to make a cat — a herkin’ cat! — allergic to meat.

So, we’re dealing with this in a whole new way. We’ve decided to play with him a lot more, to use only toys and not our hands to play, and to use the streaming gun when he’s seriously misbehaving. Someday, we’d love to get a pedigreed Bengal. Hell, now we know what we’re in for.

And, just so you know, he’s been sleeping in my lap the entire time I’ve been typing this. Sweet little weirdo.

Three-Alarm Kitten

Yesterday around a quarter to noon, I got a call from ADT on my cell phone at work. They told me all three buttons on my control panel had been pushed: the fire department, police and “panic.”

Two things went through my mind. 1) This is a helluva glitch and 2) The Frenchman was in trouble, tore open the alarm panel, and hit the keypad with an open hand (which is exactly what I’d do if I were in trouble).

ADT tried to send the fire department, but I told them not to. The police were already there, as the “panic” button signal essential goes straight to them without a follow up to me. I kept ADT on the phone as I tried multiple times to reach The Frenchman on my work phone to no avail. I fled work, jumped in the car, and screamed down the highway to our house. As I reached home, ADT said that “someone” entered the correct code to turn off the alarm, which was super weird. Officer #1 was waiting for me and for a backup officer. When the backup arrived, they took my keys and went into the house. “Do you have anything in there we should know about?” Officer #1 asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “An extremely friendly kitten. Please don’t let him out!”

“We’ll see what we can do.”

The cops went inside and set off the alarm again. Robie was right there at the doorway, wanting outside, but they reached down and held him in until they finished bellowing into the house. “Police officers! Identify yourself if you’re inside!”

Nothing but the deafeningly shrill trill of the alarm. They shut the door behind them.

After some nervous minutes, they emerged and said to my relief that they couldn’t find anything. They let me in and I shut off the alarm. They both then looked puzzled but slightly amused.

Officer #2 grinned. “Your kitten really IS friendly! He followed us to every single room!”

I picked up Robie and held him up to the officer. He grinned more widely and wiggled his finger at Robie. “You’re really cute. And I’m really allergic.”

“Oh, then I likes you deh mostest!” I said in Robie’s voice. I turned to Officer #1. “Thank you! We’re sorry this was weird!”

He gave Robie a quick scritch and they left. We didn’t get fined (at least, not on the spot). ADT said they would pay for it because, as it turns out, The Frenchman hadn’t been home for two hours when it happened. And this is the second time something like this has occurred.

The adrenaline really threw my appetite and everything out of whack for the rest of the day. But I’m sure relieved that nothing was wrong!

Stride. Hit it!

I’ve hit my stride here at Uncle Walt’s. My brain is flying from the pixie dust, yo.

The Frenchman left this morning before 5:00am to go to the East Coast. After he kissed me goodbye, I fell back asleep sometime after I heard the garage door close. I slept well, yes.

Now it’s just me and the Kitten kickin’ it at home. I bet as soon as I pick up my project again, my agent will have feedback. The irksome inevitability!

Meanwhile, I wrote to Carolyn See and told her how wonderful THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU was. I also just received in the mail her daughter’s book, PEONY IN LOVE, which I can’t wait to read. However, I’m going to finish the Rita Williams memoir first.

I want to tell you all rumors I’ve heard here at Uncle Walt’s, but that’s enough for now.

The Case of the Missing Kitten

We lost Robie last night. Again. We searched high and low, flushed toilets, opened food, called, meowed, purred, turned on his favorite obnoxious toy (a motion detection-enabled “crate” with a person inside screaming “Excuse me! Excuse me! WILL YOU LET ME OUT OF HERE!” as it rocks and shakes).

Nothing. Not a peep.

So, I broke down and cast a horary chart. I asked, “Where is Robie?”

The answer was very straightforward: The planet that ruled Robie was Jupiter, which was in Sagittarius in the 6th House. Sagittarius rules universities and law. The 6th House in horary, according to Anthony Louis, indicates the lost thing is “inside something” and “in a cupboard, closet, drawer or file cabinet” where one “works or does chores.” And as the 6th House is what they call “cadent,” it indicates that the missing item has “slipped behind” something.

I told The Frenchman that Robie had to be in his desk, or at the very least extremely close to it. The Frenchman looked at me dubiously, trudged back to his desk downstairs, and started reopening all of the drawers, checking the window sill behind the blinds by his chair, etc.

Nothing.

Depressed, we sat together on the floor by his desk, wondering what on earth could have happened to our now six-pound kitten, when The Frenchman leaned over and removed a plastic, lockable file container from the cubby under his desk drawers…

Guess who walked out from behind it?

(Incidentally, this is the second thing I’ve found for The Frenchman in as many weeks using horary.)

No Poseurs Allowed

A bit more cuteness can be found on my Flickr account: “I Did Not Pose This Cat.”

Of course, I can’t begin to rival Lisa Morton’s bookstore cat photo she just posted. That’s a classic!

Tonight, Belgian chocolate with lavender. Plus, two movies: Clerks II and The Man Who Cried (In Johnny Depp’s Pants*).

*Don’t forget, boys and girls, to add “In Johnny Depp’s Pants” to the end of the title of any movie he’s in!

Progress Report in the Time of Cholera

I have a move date.

I have a phone line.

I even have a phone! (Found in Mr. Box at the storage unit.)

Have had untold insanity with the phone/DSL people, the power and water people, and, well, everything. I’ve done every single thing you’re not supposed to do under Mercury Retrograde and, so far, the results do not disappoint. Although I’m sure much of this is just part of the natural chaos of moving.

Tomorrow, I sign paperwork in Burbank for a contract with Uncle Walt. I’m not counting this against the Mercury Rx because I’m literally “re-turning.”

Meanwhile, this is my new love, Miru.

He belongs to the people I’m staying with. It turns out T is no longer allergic to kitties, so they’ve taken in Miru from outside, where he was dumped by his asshole former owners who had him declawed. Miru has adopted me as his second mommy. We spend much time snorgling and cuddling. The Frenchman approves of the affair. I’ve even sent him pictures. Meanwhile, workers are using jackhammers to tear up E/T’s patio. I might be on a morphine drip by Thursday.