Lucy J -- memoir/ UPSTAIRS CAT & DOWNSTAIRS DOG rev'd|
I'm sitting in the animal oncologist's office waiting for our turn with Dr. Post. Sweet little Mindy, my tortoise shell Siamese, sits quietly in her carrier, valiantly ignoring all the other 4 legged patients who are tugging or whining or shivering with fear. Unfortunately, she's a veteran by now. Dr. Post has been taking care of her since our move back east. At the tender age of 16, she is going through yet another round of chemo. She is clearly on her 10th life, as this is the third bout with cancer , along with thyroid and kidney malfunctions. Considering the daily shots and pills I have been administering to her for the past 6 years, I could easily qualify as a visiting vet nurse service. It's expensive and a lot of responsibility, but she doesn't act like she's ailing. She's as playful and affectionate as the first day I adopted her back in 1995. When I went to the weekend adoption fair in LA and lifted Mindy (then Jenny) out of her little cage -- she put her arms around my neck and purred. I was sold and she's been my soul mate ever since.
How can I not do everything possible to keep her stable.? A few times someone will say "oh, let her go, she's old." She's not only my dear friend , but totally dependent on me, and, for the time being, happy. Especially when she's settled in a favorite spot with the morning sun streaming in, or burrowed deep within the folds of the guestroom quilt..
While we're on our monthly visit for her chemo treatment and check up, Bill is with our Rhodesian ridgeback, Betsy, in Cos Cob, waiting for her acupuncture procedure . She's 13 and has become quite creaky with an arthritic hip. Maybe it will help.
The two animals do not get along --- or should I say Betsy has never accepted Mindy, no matter how many times Mindy has tried to cozy up to her. Since we moved to Westport, they live on separate floors. Actually , the 2 bedroom and 2 bath space on the second floor has not been such a bad life for the cat. Whenever she ever so carefully has wandered down the steps, looked through the balustrades to see what Bill or I might be up to, Betsy would jump up from her half sleep, rush around the corner of the kitchen and chase Mindy back up the stairs with a lot of skidding and yelping, making sure there was no infringing on her territory. Betsy, a bit of a coward at heart, has never gone up those stairs herself. There is the invisible territorial line.
Hence, the Upstairs Cat and the Downstairs Dog.
What would bring Mindy downstairs at all? , you might ask. It wasn't necessarily the sound of my voice or footstep, or curiousity about life on the main floor. It was the smell of chicken ! I'm not two steps into the house and she knows if I've brought in some already cooked chicken from the market. She's partial to the bar b qued birds from Fresh.
Now that Betsy is a bit more infirm and can't lift herself out of her big cushy dogbed as quickly, which is strategically placed so she can view all activity, Mindy has become bold in her wanderings and has taken on the dominant role. No more the dainty , compliant, scaredy-cat. She struts around the kitchen, sits on the family room couch, and has even, after 4 years, gone up to Bill's office to look around. Betsy just can't get upright fast enough to lunge and force her back up to the 2nd floor.
-2- Lucy J Pets
From the day they met about 10 years ago, there's been a 'domain' war. Each of them had reigned supreme in their separate homes. When Betsy , then only 3, visited my home for the first time and encountered the cat, she mistook her for her favorite prey -- a squirrel -- and chased her into hiding. From that point on, whenever Mindy heard the slam of Bill's car door followed by the jingle of Betsy's collar coming up the walk, she'd dive behind the tv set. If Mindy got lucky and was able to work her way back to the bedroom, tiptoe-ing past a sleeping Betsy under cover of darkness, she'd bury herself beneath the blankets until the house was hers once again.
Our daydreams of finding the two them peacefully curled up together were forever dashed.
Mindy never took the trip over to Bill's house in the beginning because I might never know where to find her if she were to run and hide -- which was inevitable. Why put all of us through that worry and discomfort? Also, she's never been permitted to go outside. It's my worst nightmare. I was, and still am, diligent about exterior doors being closed behind me, and anyone else who regularly comes and goes knows the rules. But Bill wasn't in that habit back then and the door might be left ajar when he fetched the mail or the morning paper. Too big a temptation for the cat to venture out and be lost forever. So I left her alone for many a night safely in her familiar surroundings , hired a cat sitter to feed and play with her a couple of times a day on a weekend, and was riddled with 'cat guilt'. But, as I quietly explained to her when we'd nestle together on an evening at home, If I'm happy, you're happy. Get used to it!
Once Bill and I decided to move east together the big mystery of their future relationship was the open question and on-going concern. But they have figured it out, because the size of the house provided the solution. And somehow they communicate.... Who's going to be in the bedroom and wh
It used to be that Betsy was our very own rooster. Rising with the sun, stretching and giving herself a shake, which I could hear in my sleep, she'd wend her way into the bedroom making the 'click click click' with her elegant toe nails over the wooden floors and area rugs, to put her nose in Bill's face to say "time to let me out". (We have no doggie door in Westport.) But those days are over now. She's too frightened of slipping and sliding, and sometimes even collapsing from her weakened hip if she walks too quickly , and waits for one of us to open the door for her morning outdoor adventure and new smells. It took all of these 10 years for her to even respond to any command I might give her -- a 'daddy's girl' through and through. Meanwhile, Mindy manages to find her way into the bedroom in the middle of the night, position herself on my head or chest and loudly purr, making sleep for me a challenge.
So now we're a quieter family, surrounded by lotions and potions and pills and throw rugs and cleaning up after the growing number of accidents as they enter these last chapters of their precious lives.. All we can do is provide love and comfort and home cooked meals.
As our vet, Dr. Noonan said to me recently, Mindy will let you know when the burden of all her combined illnesses becomes greater than her joy at seeing you fill up her food dish. She keeps bouncing back.
We have been blessed .