oh kitty where art thou?

Dog and cat angel figures on leaves
Image by kathy doucette via Flickr

This isn’t technically Ask Caroline Wednesday since I haven’t gone to bed yet so technically it’s Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog again tomorrow for ACW, but work is kicking my lily white ass and the only reason I still know which way is up is because a friend taught me this trick where you spit and then see where it lands. That’s down.

Since the beginning of Half Truth time, I’ve struggled with a few things. The biggest is obviously my inability to come up with enough things to say. The second biggest is the the battle being waged in my soul about whether to write unflattering but altogether hilarious things about my family on the blog. If you knew the things I wasn’t sharing it’s possible you’d hunt me down. I actually can’t even believe it myself. The most surprising thing is that in general I’m not known as someone with thick moral fiber, so I’m surprised at myself for not wanting to more readily hurt people for personal gain. Even more surprising is that I’m financially independent. Plus I’m not dependent on the emotional support of my family, because, well, there is none. (Quick, what’s my husband’s middle name?)

Right.

Why I’m not using our collective pain and humiliation of my family to further the Half Truth world domination is beyond me. I guess I do believe in Karma.

But even I have my limits. You can only walk by a place of cookies so many times…

My mother should be jailed.

Put in, locked up, and fed Pez without the benefit of a dispenser.

Last week I received a text message on my fancy new Droid phone. It was a picture message from my mother. In the photo was a precious little orange kitty sitting on her bed. It was curled up against the decorative pillows. What I saw in that little kitty’s eyes was trust. That innocent kitty believed in my mother.

What that little kitty should have done was wait until my mother was sleeping, and then mounted a simultaneous attacked on the main artery in her wrist and her eyeballs. Then left her to bleed out.

But the kitty didn’t. The kitty sat there and had it’s photo taken and sent to Boston.

What’s the big deal, right? Mom got a new kitty. That’s so wonderful for her. Wrong. My mother is the angel of fuzzy baby animal death. Moreover, my mother likes her animals the way she likes her children: only when they are small. Once an animal (or child) grows up, it is useless to her. It’s no longer cute and needy and therefore does not deserve to live. Let’s review:

1. Winston: Sometime in my youth (young enough for gymnastics, too old to sleep at my boy neighbors house) we got a terrier named Winston. I’ve never much cared for adult terriers, but there is no denying that they are super cute puppies. Winston was aptly named for his charisma and regal behaviors. By the time Winston was six months or so we were collectively tired of him. He had an annoying habit of standing outside the French doors and shivering for sympathy, even in the dead of summer. And his wiry coat always made him look a touch dirty. Ten or so years later, when I was at UGA, I got a sobbing phone call from my mother. Winston had to be put down. It was terrible. Inoperable cancer. She held him the whole time. He even whispered muffled thank yous to her as he passed into the next life. She was despondent. Turns out her hysterics were more than likely the choking guilt of having our family dog put down because it was cheaper than removing a small, likely benign tumor from his abdomen.

2. Dexter: This was my beloved Maine Coone cat. Dexter was beautiful, fluffy, and orange. He had a magnificent coat with brilliant coloring and a charming disposition. When we lived in our original area code, Dexter was a part of the family. As soon as we moved to the fancy side of town my mother found his ginger coat distracting from the aesthetic of our home. She paid me $200 cash to get rid of him and a $100 bonus if I did it by the end of the week.

3. Pedro: My class pet. I volunteered to take Pedro the Gerbil home for the summer. Pedro, like all gerbils, was a brainless, mean rodent, but it was none-the-less my responsibility to care for him and return him safely to Mrs. Matetich’s class in the fall. What I could not have foreseen was Pedro escaping, running under my trundle bed, and being crushed beneath it when my dad tried to find him. Even as I second grader I knew what had to be done. We’d call Mrs. Matetich and tell her what had happened. I would get a new class Gerbil and tell everyone that it was Pedro’s cousin. Nonsense, according to my mother. This was an opportunity from God. We would spend the summer pretending that Pedro was visiting my grandmother, not tell anyone, and right before I went back to school we would buy another gerbil that looked exactly like Pedro and never tell anyone. How great that we would get credit for all that hard work over the summer without having to deal with the gerbil? My mother told me to lie to a classroom of 10 year olds and my teacher. So I did.

4. Gracie: I purchased Grace for my mother for her 43rd birthday. I asked her if she needed anything from the store and she replied that she needed milk and something small and fury. I grabbed the classifieds on my way out the door and came home four hours later with milk and Gracie. She cost me $5. Grace actually ended up being a somewhat enduring family pet. She was an indoor cat and showed rare affection to a house full of love-starved children on the verge of coming from a broken home. After my parents divorce, mom took over custody of Grace. When she remarried the farmer, Gracie began her new life as a country Kitty. That lasted approximately six months before she was eaten. We think. There was just a paw.

The Gracie incident heralded a new era in my mother’s life. Things definitely took a turn for the worse. I thought perhaps she’d learned a lesson. I was wrong. Over the course of the last three years, I have received calls about 5. cats being carried away by hawks, 6. getting caught in tractors, 7. being found in… pieces.

My naive (stupid) little brother bought a beautiful English Mastiff puppy and decided to let it spend most of it’s time outdoors at the ranch. Six months in the 8. dog vanishes. Poof. Mom is devastated. Obviously.

A few months back I get a call that my mother had taken a kitten from a “campsite” (read: trailer park) because it loved her. Convinced (without proof) that the cat had no owner and wasn’t enjoying its free and easy life living by the lake, chasing butterflies, and eating scrap pieces of grilled trout, she drove it home to the ranch where she could love on it until it showed signs of aging. That particular 9. cat made it about three days before it was caught up in a fan belt. Gato Muerto.

The stories run together for me so it’s hard to say which came first, but there was a 10. rat dog in their somewhere. Obviously she needed a ratter to keep the copperheads from eating her while she gardened. A small puppy was purchased. A week later it was dead. Grief and hysterics ensued. It was very hard for me to remain sympathetic.

It should be mentioned that I actually had to stop telling the husband when I got word that my mom had a new animal. His good humor turned dark and sticky around soft and fluffy #6. At first it was a joke, then it was a philosophical matter to be discussed, then it was an issue for the church. The woman is going to hell.

So what do you think happened to that precious orange kitty with the trusting eyes and hopeful heart? I can’t say exactly but I can relay the text I got:

Tuesday: 11:07 PM: Emily: Another one down. Sad.

11.

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stuart. our precious little fuck face.

slumpystuart

Earlier this year, the hubs and I lost our prized kitty Milo to some sort of mysterious medical phenomenon. We’re not exactly sure if it was an actual phenomenon or if they just told us it was so that they could spend 10K trying to figure it out. Apparently the hubs and I have “I’m with stupid” tattooed on our foreheads, because they milked us like a wetnurse. For money we didn’t even have. I didn’t blog about the experience at the time because I was so mortified at how emotional I was about the whole thing. I was like one of those dry wombed women. I would well up with tears every time I saw a Jewish BU girl in sunglasses walking down Newbury St. You know, because they all look like owls, and owls love mice, and Milo loved those little, furry, catnip-filled mice from Target. Everything in the world was an emotional trigger.

After I watched my 10K dead cat get carted off by the vet, I had an unexpected moment. I hadn’t made my way through the (however many) steps of grief, but I can say that in addition to being overwhelmed with sadness (he was, afterall, only three, and it was totally unexpected), I was overcome with the urge to have him taxidermied.

Now, you may be thinking “what the fuck is wrong with you, Caroline?” But truthfully I was in a very fragile emotional state and the only thing pulling me through my cloud of grief was imagining all the ways that I could use his marble-eyed, sawdust-stuffed body to scare the piss out of people. Ala Scrubs, I would probably have him done with his little arms hooked up in front of him so I could hang him over the back of a chair, or over a door– peeking over to see everyone. Then when people saw him, I could say really fucked up stuff like, “Silly Milo, he just LOVES being a part of the conversation” or “Oh! Be sure to scratch behind Milo’s ears; he goes CRAZY for that sort of thing.” Not unlike those women who have life-like baby dolls made to look like their departed children. (You think I’m fucking with you, Google it.)

Alas, my willingness to spiral out of control is always cut short by the hubs’ refusal to go down with me, so Milo was donated to a class of sniveling Ruskies at the Tufts vet school. C’est la vie.

In the weeks that followed, I made dramatic statements about how we just weren’t ready to bring another cat into our lives, or how we just weren’t sure that any other animal was going to be able to fill the void. Ultimately it was just that we had a few pre-planned vacays coming up and we were pretty sure we couldnt find anyone to care for the new addition. Just for fun, though, I made inquiries to all the shelters, letting them know that my husband and I were “just starting our search” and if they had anything to please let us know. (Let me tell you, Madonna thinks she had it hard? Try adopting an animal in Massachusetts. Children can go home to their crack whore mothers and eat moldy Wonderbread three meals a day, but if a productive member of society wants an animal, they better call in Chavez or whatever the fuck his name is, because unless your home is a nest of love and 12-hours-a-day free time to love and cherish your animal, you are going home empty handed.)

We were put on a list of “potentials” and occasionally I would get a call that Garfield or some such stereotypical nonsense was ready to start interviewing potential parents. The system–quite literally– involves a two-hour animal interviewing process wherein an animal psychologist assesses the compatibility of pet and owner. If you fail, you’re name is going down to the bottom of that list, right above Michael Vick. Eventually, my liberal and earth-loving facade started to crack and I was dialing up kitten mills up and down the eastern seaboard. There was not a one of those ten-children, twenty-cat households that was going to deny me a cat because I had a day job. A familys gotta eat.

We were looking for a 6-9 month old orange cat. We didn’t want a kitten because the brutality of having a small being in our midst made the hubs think about children and then his nuts would shrivel, and quite frankly anything that needs “love” in order to make it through the day isn’t going to last long around here.

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To that point my loving mother called me one afternoon with a wonderful surprise (ironically, I was standing in a cat house about to do a good deed and adopt an antisocial curmudgeon cat when she called). She found us a cat. Better yet, he looked like Milo and had a bunch of extra toes like Milo.

Oh.

It wasn’t that we were ungrateful, but like a couple who has waited years for a little Asian baby, only to find out that they’re getting an accident from Kansas, we felt like we weren’t in control anymore. This new cat was coming into our home with no pre-interview. There was no pet psychologist to sign off on the acquisition. What happened if we couldn’t love him.

Well, we were about to find out.

Stuart Wayne George Beaulieu was brought to Boston in September. Not only was he not orange, he was not 6-9 months. He was so young that is age was mentioned in weekly increments, which meant that in addition to food and water, he needed the one thing the hubs and I couldn’t give him. Love.

Unlike his noble predecessor, he was not a couch-loving, prim-time-TV watching kitty. He didn’t have any catastrophic health problems that were unknowingly responsible for limiting his motor skills, thus making him the greatest animal ever. Stuart was young, vibrant, and totally vocal. The cat has a voicebox that wakes the dead.

In addition to his twelve meals a day, he likes to sustain himself during the long, lonely hours by snacking on paper products. While he particularly enjoys the subtle flavors in a roll of Viva papertowels, he’ll gladly take down an $8 birthday card, or even a semster-long drafting project. Super.

Sometimes the hubs and I will stand in the kitchen, staring blankly between his full food bowl, overflowing water dish, scattered neon plastic toys, and his small meowing body.

“What does he need?” we’ll silently ask each other.

And so the hubs will pick him up, sling him over his shoulder, and continue cooking dinner. As Stuart watches silently. Loving every minute of it.