Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Family Interaction

"C'mon Ray, let's go check on the kitties," I said to the blind hound.

We trooped upstairs and entered the cat room slowly. Juno and Harvey were curled up together in one of the cat beds that was conveniently occupying a beam of sunlight. At the sight of the dog, both kittens tensed up looking ready to run. I reached out both hands to pet them and they relaxed, keeping a wary eye on Ray who was nosing along the edge of the bed looking for them.

"It's ok," I told the cats, "He won't hurt you."
See guys, I'm just one of the clowder.
Harvey, who had born the brunt of Ray's chasing activities for the past few days, didn't believe me. He slunk out of the cat bed and into Moonie's old tent which was adjacent to the one he had been sleeping in. I was pleased that he wasn't afraid enough to seek shelter under the bedside table which is where Ray had been found 'treeing' the little guy earlier in the day.
Juno looked at Ray inquisitively. I could tell that she knew she could handle the dog if need be.

Although Ray usually launches himself, all four feet at once, onto our bed, Harvey, Juno and I watched as the dog jumped his front feet up on bed in a spot not occupied by any of the other cat beds, found purchase on the edge of the bed with one uncertain back foot, and awkwardly hauled up his lanky frame to stand on the bed.

I just want to share the sunlight is all.
As I continued to pet an unconcerned Juno and talk soothingly to a slightly concerned Harvey, Ray settled in. Once the dog was comfortable, Juno burst into a symphony of purring, throwing her body this way and that at the sheer ecstasy of being petted within inches of a dangerous giant. I reached a hand into Harvey's tent and he also started to purr. Ray tried to appear nonchalant, but his ears and eyebrows showed intense interest at the other occupants of the room.

Ray shifted his weight. Harvey's purr abruptly stopped and, deciding he didn't want to take any chances, the little cat took off for the safety of the cat tree.

Meanwhile, just like sisters everywhere, Juno was poking her new brother to see if she could get a reaction. And just like brothers everywhere, Ray took the bait and reacted.
I'm sorry, but I'm very uncomfortable with this whole scenario.
I think I'll depart.
I don't know, he seems pretty harmless to me.
Hey Harvey! His behind smells just like yours!
I wonder what he feels like...
OMG, that cat is touching me, isn't she?
Where is she. I'm going to touch her back.

FYI, the cats are at the vet's getting spayed and neutered. If all goes well, Harvey will be back today. Juno will be released sometime tomorrow. Also FYI, Juno is not seven months old as was listed on her rap sheet. She is about four months old, like Harvey. 
I can't believe how quiet it is around here. Two little cats sure can make a lot of noise. We can't wait till they're back.

Sunday, November 24, 2013



SCENE: Inside, Kitchen and Living Room, Sunday Morning.

LIVING ROOM FURNISHINGS: two upholstered chairs, an upholstered couch flanked by a floor lamp with a built-in glass table, a coffee table, two end tables with table lamps. Various knick-knacks adorn the tables.

Two people are washing pet dishes and rooting through cupboards pulling out pet food cans and bins of kibble. Two kittens are underfoot, mewing and weaving against legs, wanting food. There is idle chatter between the humans as preparations take place.

ENTER STAGE RIGHT: Ray the Blind Dog. The dog heads to the dog door as the kittens freeze in terror then relax as the end of the dog's tail disappears through the door.

Food is dispensed and carried away to the cat feeding station by Human One. Harvey, the smaller of the kittens follows the person up the stairs then returns moments later for more food. Juno, the larger of the two kittens remains behind to be fed by Human Two. The food is whisked away when she displays no interest in it.

ENTER STAGE LEFT: Ray the Blind Dog. The kittens scatter. The dog gently trots from side to side then to the staircase "looking" for the kittens. His tail is gently wagging.

Harvey disappears up the stairs. Juno hides behind an upholstered chair next to the kitchen in good view of the dog's dishes. Human One places a dish of food on the floor for the dog. Ray gives up the chase and settles in to eat watched closely by the little cat.

Ray finishes eating and resumes his search for Juno. He discovers her hiding place and stands next to the chair with ears deployed in Dumbo mode. Juno ducks back and waits; the dog circles around through the kitchen, the living room, the hall, and back to the spot next to the chair. Each time he circles the cat pokes her head out waiting for him to return. The scenario repeats over and over until Human One sits on the couch and pulls the dog onto her lap. Human Two plops onto a second upholstered chair and sits drinking a cup of tea. The scene is serene.

As the dog relaxes, Harvey returns and settles down on the back of the couch. Juno climbs the back of the couch next to him looking around alertly. All is quiet.

Juno leaps for the top of the glass-tabled floor lamp. She hits the shade squarely and rides the lamp as it crashes to the floor.

Human Two: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Human One: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

The cats scatter. Ray the Blind Dog looks alert but does not leave Human One's lap.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A New Definition of Fun

(Disclaimer: This blog is about cats. Ray does not appear. Sorry. It won't happen again. Until it does.)

Since the time I was about eight, and my dad found a kitten in the garage, cats have been a constant presence in my life. I still remember the first night with our first cat. Dad had left her closed up alone in the bathroom for her initial overnight stay. Her pathetic mewing had caused him to remove her in the middle of the night and put her in with me in my bedroom. (At the time, I was the only one who had a bedroom to myself; my two sisters and I traded-off every so often so that we each had a chance at having our own room; my three brothers, who weren't so lucky, shared one big room.) The kitten spent the night totally charming me by chewing each and every one of the buttons off of my pajamas. Ever since then, there have been cats in my life. And the one thing in common with each and every one of those cats was their abhorrence for taking pills.
So when I took Harvey and Juno to the vet's earlier in the week, I was more than a bit dismayed to find that BOTH of them needed to be pilled for giardia. I hated the thought of having to pill two stressed-out kittens while trying to forge new bonds with them. But, being a good pet-parent means taking the good with the bad, and I went home with two bottles of pills along with our new kitties.
Since the pills needed to be administered every 12 hours, I gave myself until the evening to start with their treatments. As the evening hour approached, my dread mounted. However, I happened to have on hand a delicious cheese-ball that I had just made with a pre-packaged mixture of herbs and flavorings that made a block of cream cheese look and taste like cheddar flecked with bacon, so I decided to make tiny pill-centered cheese-balls with which to pill the cats. I figured if I was going to shove something down their throats, at least it would taste good.
Harvey, being a VERY food-motivated cat, was first up. In a moment of lunacy, I held out a finger with the sticky, cheesy pill balanced on the end. Harvey walked up and barely sniffed the cheese before  grabbing it from my finger, chewing it a second, then swallowing. I waited for the pill to reappear as it always did with my previous cats. It did not. My mouth dropped open. I looked at Gregg. He looked amazed.
"He ate it," I said, absolutely and completely astonished. In the entire history of cats, I had never seen such a thing.
Harvey was back at my fingers trying to nibble off the ends of the ones that had touched the cheese.
I stood, walked to Juno, and held out the second pill. Harvey ran to my finger, trying to snatch Juno's pill. I fended him off while Juno sniffed the cheese, licked it off my finger, and ate it. Again, I waited for the pill to reappear. It did not. My astonishment only increased. I was ALMOST rendered speechless.
"Y'know," I said to Gregg, "If this is the only time in my life that this happens, I would be perfectly happy. And if it continues to happen, I'm buying stock in this cheese-ball company."
As the next pilling-time approached, I found myself growing trepidatious, wondering if the cats would be on to the pills in the center of their treat. I made the tiny cheese-balls again, giving Harvey's to Gregg while I took Juno's to her.
I watched as Harvey snatched the pill off of Gregg's finger. Harvey ate the cheesy pill while Gregg sat and shook his head, smiling. Juno did the same with her pill. I was laughing as she tried to eat the ends of my fingers like Harvey had done earlier.
As I stood up, I said to Gregg, "I can't wait until the next pilling."
Sometimes it's the little things in life that make it so much fun.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A New (Piano) Routine?

I was dozing with a cat in my armpit.
Kitchen noises were wafting up from downstairs where Gregg was preparing breakfast prior to preparing for work. All of a sudden there was a dog on the bed. Harvey, the armpit dweller, hunkered down a bit and hissed but didn't run. It was the second night of mainstreaming and both nights the cats had decided that this was the place to be.

Ever since we got back from our marvelous vacation to England, Gregg and I have been allowing Ray to sleep on the bed with us. For the first couple of nights, he slept with us all night, then we realized that only the big dog was actually getting sleep. As in the past, Ray was once again relegated to the futon at night but allowed in bed weekend mornings or after Gregg is out of bed during the week. During the week, Ray launches himself onto the bed and snuggles up next to me (weekends he prefers Gregg). Ray's snuggling is such that usually more than half his body weight is on top of the snugglee, and most uncomfortable. But since I am usually up by 6:00, I figured I could suffer for a bit for my dog.

However, this morning, when Ray heard the hiss, he curled in the spot vacated by Gregg. Harvey relaxed once again against my arm. He wasn't curled up, he was stretched out his full length from my armpit to just past my elbow. I was lying half spread-eagled on the bed; almost as uncomfortable as having half of a 70 pound dog 'snuggled' up to one's side.

Juno had gotten up with Gregg. The night before she had made a nest in my hair and slept on top of my head. When she awoke in the morning and had started eating her nest, I objected. Offended, the roly-poly girl had headed over to her dad's side of the bed and left when he did.

I heard her come back into the room and start climbing up the side of the bed behind my head. Harvey, looking for some sport, sat up to see if he could attack her as she breached the top. Ray's ears deployed, but he didn't stir.

Juno's position as she accessed the top, was behind my pillow and totally defensible, Harvey lost interest and went in search of breakfast. The little girl cat traversed the width of the bed and curled up at the end of Gregg's pillow, an open expanse of bed was exposed where Gregg had thrown back the covers, Ray was sleeping on top of the comforter just beyond this.

As Harvey left, Ray stretched full out across the bed. Juno looked alarmed at the movement but didn't duck and run. I reached a hand across the bed to stroke her calmly. As usual, Juno erupted into an ecstasy of purring, throwing her big-boned body onto the mattress, then standing and throwing her body down in a different direction, then circling and throwing, then rolling and throwing. Petting Juno is not so much a calming occupation; it is more a hilarious one.

Through all of tossing and purring, Ray hadn't moved a muscle. Juno finding a nice bulkhead to throw herself against, threw her body against Ray's back. Still no movement from the big dog. Not finished with her ecstasy, Juno continued standing and plopping, standing and rolling, standing and tossing, always ending up against Ray. I reached out a hand and thumped Ray on the side, telling him what a good boy he was.

Juno, seeing the hand for the toy it was, attacked. I yelped at the paw full of claws in my fingers. Ray raised his head in alarm. Juno, realizing for the first time that the thing that had been chasing her the whole day before was in bed with her, drew back. I thumped Ray again and told him it was okay. Ray yawned and relaxed. Short-attention-span Juno, once again drawn to the hand-toy, attacked. This time I pulled my hand away and let her sink her claws into the dogs big side. Ray never flinched. Juno enjoying the feel of the rock-solid, fur-covered body was moving her paws back and forth across Ray's side like she was playing a giant, spotted piano. Ray took it as long as he could then raised his head and looked over his shoulder at the little cat.

Juno fled.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Cabinet Full of FUN

 When are you ever going to let them out?

I was listening to galumphing of tiny little elephant feet coming from the two residents upstairs. Free from the confines of their safe-room, the kittens were racing up and down the hallway. Louder thumps went unexplained. Ray, curled on his favorite chair, was following their movements with his eyebrows.

I had let them out the previous evening to explore but it was day-one of our new family members being mainstreamed into the family. Although the safe-room was still available for use when I needed to go out, it was my plan to get the cats out and about as soon as possible.

I sense a presence.
You let them out, didn't you?
Here kitty, kitty, kitty

I'm sensing that there's something not quite right with this dog
The main sticking point had been where we were going to feed the cats where Mr. Nosy couldn't have access to the cat food. Being kittens, it was important that they could eat whenever they wanted.
Then, I woke up with an IDEA fully formed in my head. The IDEA, which involved a kitchen cabinet, was most probably inspired by a cat from my childhood that we fed inside a cabinet on a shelf. Wellington, an orange tiger cat, knew how to open cabinet doors and would jump up on a shelf above the cat food boxes, put a paw in, and drag his kibble up and out of the boxes piece by piece until somebody got a clue and fed him. Eventually, we moved his food dish to the shelf. Whenever Wellington was hungry, he would flick open the cabinet door and jump up on his shelf to eat. It was convenient and there was never a visible mess.

Harvey, demonstrating the cat walk to the proposed feeding-station 
All we needed for our new kittens was a kitchen cabinet. Gregg and I headed out to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and found something cheap and suitable. The IDEA rode on the assumption that the front of the cabinet would be inaccessible to the dog because of the cabinet doors, and the back would be open to the kitties but not to the dog. It would be on the second floor, up against the iron stair railing, next to Ray's futon. The kitties could walk the edge of the floor outside of the railing and squeeze through the railing to get into the cabinet to eat. But since it was on the second floor and the back of the cabinet faced the stairwell, Ray couldn't get to it.

See? I'm just another cat. Only bigger.
Although Ray had spent some time earlier in the day trying to get in the cats' good graces, the kittens were snoozing on their tree and Ray was snoozing on his chair when I decided it was time to deploy the cat-feeding station. I spent a considerable amount of time figuring out how to anchor it to the railings so that if Ray tried to stand on it, or if rambunctious kitties were playing in it, it wouldn't tip over. But, at last, it was ready.
OMG there's a DOG in my room.
Oh come on, you guys! Please play with me.
Dog, you are treading on dangerous ground here.
The proof-of-concept having been already established by Wellington, Ray and I went to get the kitties for the beta test.

Me and my peeps are just going to hang out here.
Juno was on the dresser in her chosen spot in front of the mirror. She is at her most relaxed in this spot and when she is there will not run away when approached. (I think it's because she has backup in the form of that other cat that looks just like her.) Harvey was lounging on the tree and stood up to greet me when I came in.

I picked up Harvey first. Juno, seeing the dog behind me, crouched a little lower in her spot so as to be cat-invisible but didn't dart away; she just watched as I pulled Harvey to my chest and bent over a bit so that Ray could sniff the little guy. Harvey hissed as the big dog-nose touched his but didn't struggle, didn't tense up, and more importantly, didn't try to shred me or bop Ray.

Ray pulled his head away at the hiss, and obviously misinterpreting the noise, wagged his tail.
I crooned sweet nothings at my good little cat and turned to get Juno who was interestedly observing me trying to feed her brother to the dog. I scooped up the little pudge and headed to the feeding station.

Ok, I'm done. 
Now, how do I get out of here?
Once again followed by the ever-curious Ray, I deposited each cat on a separate shelf and closed the cabinet door. Ray, smelling the cat food and wanting a taste, bonked his head into the new piece of furniture then, when he heard me start down the stairs, followed me to the landing where I was going to take some photos of my invention in action. I also wanted to see if the kitties were going to freak out with the big dog nearby and to see if they could figure out the access issues. Ray stood nearby, fascinated with the smells of cat and cat food wafting down to him.

Um, Harvey, I don't know if it's a good idea
to leave right now. That big dog is out there.
Harvey finished eating first. Disdaining the hole I had made in the top shelf for ease of ingress/egress, Harvey put his head through the stair rails and tried to reach the sliver of floor below. Not being quite long enough, Harvey hooked his back feet around the rails and dangled. The inevitable happened. The little cat dropped to the floor right under Ray's nose, then panicked, and shot down the stairs followed at a high rate of speed by the delighted dog.

Oh, what the heck, nothing ventured, 
nothing gained!
Juno, still eating, watched the shenanigans peripherally.

Uh oh.
I followed the duo only to see Ray heading out of the dining room, his tail wagging. Harvey was nowhere to be seen but I had a gut feeling that he had raced for the laundry room, a place he had been exploring the night before. Ray was tossing back and forth looking for his new playmate then, when he couldn't find him, went back to the landing to see if any more cats would drop from the heavens.

I called to Harvey and after a minute or two, the little guy nervously appeared from behind the furnace. I picked him up gently and carried him back up the stairs. Ray, ears deployed in Dumbo mode was standing on the landing alertly. I sat on the step with Harvey against my chest. Ray reached his nose out to sniff and Harvey gave as menacing a growl as a four pound cat can. Ray pulled back his head contritely, and without me saying a word, instantly sat.

I laughed. Obviously, Ray knew he had screwed up.
Impressed that Harvey was not struggling to get away from the big dog and did not even feel particularly tensed, I carried him up to his safe room where I turned him loose.

Juno, who had been watching the dog from under the futon, saw her brother back safe and sound and ran for the safety of the room where she once again dove under the bed. Ray laid down on the landing looking nonchalant.

I went to my invention and lowered the top shelf so that the little cats could reach the floor easier, then, fairly well convinced that the cats could hide form the dog if need be, I went off to take a shower after all my exertions.

I was just stepping out of the shower when I thought I heard a plaintive little meow. I quickly wrapped a towel around myself and ran for the cat room.

Juno was on the top tier of the cat tree, Harvey was in the hole in the bottom of the tree, and Ray was laying full length as a sphinx in front of the hole. Obviously thinking that Harvey had shown how amenable he was to play, Ray was trying to engage the little guy again. The hound extended his head toward the little cat relaxing inside; Harvey hissed. Ray drew his head back and theatrically tossed it from side to side, snapping the air. Again Ray extended his head, again Harvey hissed, again Ray showed his theatrical side.

After watching the show repeat itself, I intervened. I put my hand on Harvey who started to purr. I put my other hand on Ray who stopped his theatrics and put his head on his paws, ears fully deployed in Dumbo mode. I petted both for a second, then getting kinda cold, led my dog from the room, closed the door, and once again left the cats to recover.

Still life with Cat and Iron

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


"It looks like a parrot exploded in here," I said.
I was in the cat room, on the phone with my BFF, Joanne, and Swiffering under the bed. Moonie's prized "birdie", the stick with the abundance of red, blue, and green feathers, had been deplumeiated (if it's not a word, it should be). Only a few worried-looking little feathers remained.
"I had a Chinese enamel vase on the dresser. It's in the trash. And, you know those Russian dolls, the ones that are nested? We have a cat version. It's under the bed in pieces and one of the ears is broken off the biggest one."
Joanne was laughing.
"That Harvey is going to be a handful," she said.
"It's not him," I replied, "It's her. Every time I come into the room, she's on the dresser or on the bedside table. The minute I come in she runs under the bed but she is playing with all the toys. She carries them in her mouth to the back of the bed so Harvey can't have them. I guess she's been pushing stuff off of the dresser too. And someone must have run through the bowl of food. There's kibble EVERYWHERE."
I was using the Swiffer to force the mess into a clump so that I could pick it up. Feathers and crunchies, mixed with some scattered cat litter to make a small mountain on the hardwood floor.
I hung up the phone and finished cleaning, watched interestedly by Harvey. Juno, as usual,  was under the bed waiting for me to finish so that she could get back to the important business of batting around a mousie.
I heard a noise and turned to see Ray at the door. I hadn't bothered closing it because, as yet, neither cat had seemed that interested in leaving their safe-room. I put aside the bag of trash and went to put my arms around Ray's neck. He leaned his head into me but I noticed his ears were deployed and his eyebrows were going. Harvey slowly approached, curious but cautious. Ray, obviously knowing something was there, dropped his head to his knees. Harvey backed up, never taking his eyes off the big dog, then slowly approached again. When he got within about a foot of Ray's head, Harvey's tail puffed out and he backed away. Ray's head went up alertly. I watched his tail for imminent signs of yelling (yelling is always accompanied by tail-curling) but Ray's tail stayed relaxed.
I backed Ray out of the room, picked up my bag of trash, closed the door behind me, and headed down the stairs to the trash bin, leaving the big dog with his nose pressed up against the crack at the base of the cat-room door. I saw little cat feet on the other side of the crack and thought that, as initial introductions go, this was probably the best way to do it.
I had just opened the bin to dump the little bag of litter when I heard the first yell. I dropped my trash and ran.
By the time I got back upstairs Ray had yelled three or four times and was digging at the base of the door with one paw. His tail was wagging happily.
"Hey! No yelling at the cats!" I (ironically) yelled at my dog.
Ray stopped and turned to look at me, surprised, I'm sure, that the enthusiastic greeting of his new siblings had been misinterpreted.
I put a hand on Ray's collar and opened the cat room door. Oddly, no cats were to be seen.
I closed the door softly, led my dog away, and left them to recover.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Name Calling

The next morning, when I woke, I went straight to the cat room. I passed Ray sleeping on his futon. Although he was curled in his usual little ball, his eyebrows followed my movement as I went by. I entered the cat room catiously and closed the door behind me expecting a big dog to appear behind me at any moment.
Harvey was sitting alertly upright on the second tier of the cat tree. His eyes were bright and whip-smart reminding me of my bright-boy, Hugo. The little calico darted from her spot inside the tree to dive under the bed. Neither Gregg nor I had been able to get a good look at her since bringing her home.
At the panicked departure of his sister, Harvey looked at me uncertainly and made a move as if to jump and run. I talked to him calmly but moved swiftly to pick him up and give him a pet. Harvey relaxed and started purring. I stroked him a bit, put him back on the tree platform, then got down on my hands and knees to look under the bed. Our little unnamed kitty was back in her inaccessible spot.
Only slightly discouraged, I played with Harvey instead, knowing that I was being closely watched.
There was a whine at the door.
I left Harvey to his toys, and just like the previous evening, opened the door, crouched down, blocked the entrance with my knees and put my arms around Ray's neck. And just like the previous evening, Ray stayed still, ears deployed in ultra Dumbo mode, nose twitching furiously, breathing in the new smells.
I let Ray get a lungful before closing him out of the room again, then picked up the empty cat dishes to take them downstairs for a wash. Harvey was one hungry little guy. The previous evening, we had watched him clean his plate before tucking into his adopted sister's dish of food.
Gregg was already downstairs when I carried the dishes down.
"We need to name the girl-cat," were the first words out of my mouth.
"Good morning," said Gregg with a smile, "There's no hurry."
"Yes there is," I replied, "I need something to call her."
Throughout the day, Gregg and I threw out name suggestions. Our old way of choosing cat-names, flipping through the white pages of the telephone book and randomly stabbing a finger on a name until we found one that fit the cat and that we could agree on, had gone the way of dinosaur. There were no white pages to stab. Also, we were having a bit of difficulty naming a cat we couldn't see except as a blur as it dove under the bed. We knew we wanted a name that had a different vowel ending than Ray or Harvey because that is what animals hear when their names are called, so we had somewhat limited our choices. We also had distinctly different likes. Gregg liked early 20th century names suitable for an older cat. That had worked well when we had adopted an ancient cat (previous to Moonie and Hugo) that we had named Maevis, but it was difficult for me to picture a youngster with Gregg's choices of Muriel or Drusila. Gregg was having equal difficulty picturing a cat with the "unconventional" Jean choices of Zula or Luna.
As the day progressed, Gregg and I popped into and out of the cat room, checking on our fluffy new children. More specifically, we checked on Harvey. Girl-cat remained aloof but interested. By mid morning she wasn't at the far end of under-the-bed, she was in the middle watching my interactions with Harvey, and at noon when I cautiously opened the door to see if I could snap a quick photo of the little guy, I found the two of them cosily curled in the tree together. Thrilled I ran to tell Gregg that our kitties seemed to be getting along famously.
By 5:00, I'd had enough. I found a website of random girl/pet names and chose ten. I told Gregg to do the same. We compared notes. Not only did nothing match, nothing was even close. 
"Well," said Gregg, "There is one name on your list that I had considered putting on mine."
"What was it?" I asked, hoping it was Zula.
"Juno," he replied
"That's it then," I said only very slightly disappointed, "She's Juno. Juno, Harvey, and Ray. I think it works."
Satisfied, I went to the cat room to tell our new girl. Surprisingly the fluffy blur didn't seem to care.

Juno and Harvey

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ray's Surprise

"I just want to tell you that it will probably be bad before it gets good," I said to my lovely husband.
"I know," he replied, resigned to the probable mayhem that would result from our decision.
We were driving home from the shelter where we had spent three hours adopting Ray's new family members; Tiny Tim and Josette, two young cats, a male and female, both under a year old. I had spent weeks discussing with whomever would listen, whether young cats or old would be better for the exuberantly-cat-loving blind hound, but in the end Gregg and I went with our gut feeling that a couple of youngsters would be more adaptable. They were in the back seat, the mesh parts of their cages touching so that they could see and smell each other.
As we drove home, we discussed names for Ray's new siblings. Harvey was quickly decided on for the boy, a four-month old, feisty little black and white fellow whose rap sheet had said he "liked to play with the dog." We had no idea if the played-with dog was a three pound Yorkie or a hundred pound Lab but we were agreed that some exposure to dogs was better than none at all.
The girl-cat's name didn't come as easily, and although lots of names were tossed around, nothing seemed right for the teeny-tiny seven-month-old calico we had both fallen for. Despite the description on her cage as "timid but warms up fast," we had both been charmed by her purr-upon-touch reaction to us. We had no idea how either of them would react to Ray but we were determined to find out.
"Let's leave them in the car while we get set up," I said as we pulled into the driveway.
Although I had wanted to mainstream the cats into the family, they were both skittish enough that a safe-room for a week or so seemed a better idea.
"Do we have everything we need?" asked Gregg as he got out of the car.
"Well, we have litter and beds," I replied, "And the shelter gave us a bag of food. I think we have enough of everything to get us through the night."
Ray met us at the door, glad to see us after such a long absence, and anxious for his dinner. As he sniffed the interesting scents on my pants, Gregg went upstairs to drag the cat-tree into the freshly painted and redecorated guest room. Trailed by my loyal, hungry hound, I headed to the garage to retrieve the litter boxes from the attic. By the time I made it upstairs, Gregg was wrestling the cat tree into place. Not knowing if our new family members were totally litter trained, I rolled up the area rug and dragged it out of the room.
Feeling that something momentous was happening, but not entirely sure what, Ray anxiously followed me from room to room. By the time Gregg had filled the litter boxes with sand, dug out Moonie and Hugo's old food dishes and filled them with the gifted food, Ray was on high alert. I draped a sheet across the top of the bed, strategically placed cat beds around the room, dropped Ray's dog bed on the floor to get the cats used to his smell, and threw in a couple of our smelly sweatshirts to get them used to our aroma as well. Lastly, I tucked a fleecy throw into the hole at the bottom of the cat tree thinking it would make a comfy bed and a nice hiding place for skittish kitties.
I looked around. We were ready. The guest room had reverted to a cat room in no time flat.
"Why don't you bring in the cats," I said to Gregg, "I'll feed Ray to distract him."
Ray followed me into the kitchen. While I made as much noise as possible putting food into Ray's metal dish, Gregg snuck the cat carriers upstairs.
I watched Ray as he looked over his shoulder at the minor noise that Gregg made as he crept up the stairs with the cats, but the dog made no move to follow. I waited until Ray finished eating then ran up the stairs followed, of course, by the hound.
I entered the room and closed the door in front of the inquisitive dog's nose.
Both of the cat carriers were open. Harvey was crouched under the bed, the little calico was cringing at the back of her cage. I reached a hand in; the little girl cat put her head on my hand and started purring, then rolled over and still purring, grabbed my hand with her paws and held it on her head.
There was a vigorous scratch at the door. I left the purring bundle of joy, opened the door, and using my knee as a blockade, crouched down with my arm around Ray's neck.
Ears deployed in ultra Dumbo mode, but not struggling to get by as I expected, Ray breathed in the new-cat smell of the room.
Ignoring the dog totally, Harvey started exploring, found the food dish, and tucked in with gusto.
I pulled Ray back, then Gregg, Ray, and I left the cats to get used to the room and to each other.
As we checked in throughout the evening, we found that the little calico had moved from her cage to the farthest reaches of under-the-bed. Trying to entice her out of seclusion, I found the stash of cat toys left behind by our dear departed friends and scattered them around the room. Harvey immediately started playing batting things hither and thither. The other little cat remained where she was. And there she stayed.
When we went to bed, despite all of the soft cosy places to sleep in the room, our furry new little girl stayed inaccessibly under the bed on the hardwood floor.

…to be continued

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Twice in Two Days

That is how many times Ray has slurped up the half 'n half that was sitting on the kitchen counter for my coffee. He has gotten so stealthy at it, tiptoeing into the kitchen, gently putting his front paws on the counter without his tags jingling, and lapping the cream out of the little porcelain pitcher without making a sound, that I don't even know he's done it until I go to pour myself another cup of joe and the pitcher is licked clean.
I'm on to him though. If I'm paying attention, I can watch him sneak-walk into the kitchen, after I've exited with my mug of cafe au lait, and catch him in the act.
I yell at him to GO. But secretly, I'm proud of my blind ninja hound.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

After Effects

I was pouring myself a cup of joe when Ray appeared at my side.
"What do you want?" I asked the hound as if I didn't know.
I went to the refrigerator, got out the can of whipped cream, and pfffted a jaunty little dollop in his dog dish. The one-time gubernatorial candidate of Virginia was a little depressed over his loss. Despite the fact that I had done my best to cheer him up the previous day by taking him for a long, leisurely walk in the fall leaves, Ray was being a bit mopey. I figured, whipped cream makes everything better.
Ray slurped up his treat, meandered over to his chair, climbed laboriously up into it as if he were 100 years old in human years and curled into a tight little miserable ball.
Obviously, my dog doesn't take rejection well.

sigh. Who cares about fall leaves.
I thought we were going to live in a mansion.
If I were governor, I'd make giant scary birds illegal.  
Why, oh why, doesn't anyone like me!?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Election Day

"C'mon, Ray, let's go. It's crunch time," I said to my snoozing dog.
Ray, curled in his favorite chair, lifted his head from his tail and looked at me, head atilt.
"Let's go, Ray," I urged my dog to get up.
Thinking that there was the possibility of a walk, Ray crawled off the chair, stretched, and yawned.
I picked up his sweater vest and tie, grabbed a campaign button and pinned it to my sweatshirt, then hustled the candidate into the back seat of his limo and drove him to the polling place. As his campaign manager, I knew the importance of face time with local voters just before they entered the booth. As I buttoned Ray into his vest, he gave a deep sigh.
Demonstrating the Bellyrub Platform to the opposition
"Last time, Ray," I said, "It ends tonight."
I slipped Ray's tie over his head. He gave a mighty yawn, bored at the prospect of more campaign stops.
We strolled to the school entrance where campaign crews were handing out sample ballots. A woman approached us offering us the piece of paper for her party.
"No, thank you," I said, "Ray the Blind Dog is my candidate. He's running for governor."
"I've seen his signs," replied the woman as she retreated, "I see you walking all the time. Good luck."
Ray meandered over to couple of young men similarly handing out flyers, and while I explained Ray's bellyrub platform, he demonstrated.
Pressing the flesh
As I chatted with another of the campaign workers promoting his candidate for Sheriff, Ray was greeting voters. A woman with a purse dangling from one hand and a small child on the other slowed to admire the nattily dressed candidate. Sensing a child, Ray eagerly approached the duo then surprised me by ignoring the youngster and jamming his head into the woman's purse and rooting around in it.
"Sorry," I said apologizing for this egregious display of greed, "But he's like any other politician, always trying to get something from you."
Photo opportunity with a happy voter
After fifteen or twenty minutes of meeting and greeting the few voters that were trickling by, Ray and I decided that perhaps we should return at the end of the day when people were getting off of work. I chauffeured the candidate back to his cozy chair then went back to the polling place to vote. I was greeted by the same campaign worker with whom I had been chatting.
"Ray the Blind Dog emailed me," he said, "He wants you to vote for my candidate for Sheriff."
I laughed as I took the proffered sample ballot.
When I exited the polling place, the same man approached me.
"Did you come with your husband?" he asked me.
"Huh? What? No," I replied somewhat confused at the question.
"Well, I thought maybe it was your husband because he came right after you, and when I tried to give him a flyer he said he didn't want one because he was voting for Ray the Blind Dog," said the laughing man.
Thinking that perhaps Gregg had gotten off work early to vote, I asked the campaigner what the guy had looked like.
"Did he have dark hair?" I asked, helpfully describing at least a third of the world's population.
Basking in the attention of a fan.
"Well, he was a bit younger than you and about your height," explained the man.
Even though Gregg is taller I was still, not entirely sure that it wasn't him, so I called.
"Nope, wasn't me," said my lovely husband when queried.
A warm glow spread through me. Ray's campaigning had really paid off. He had secured a single vote.

Charged up at the thought, I asked Gregg to stop by and get us before he went to vote so that Ray could have one final chance to meet the voters. Gregg agreed.
We returned to the polls at dusk. It turned out to be a fortuitous time. Streams of people were coming in. As Gregg went in to vote, Ray and I stayed outside to work the crowd.
"Vote for Ray the Blind Dog!" I urged voters, "He's running for Governor, a good alternative candidate!"
Happily, some of Ray's friends and neighbors were there. Ray enthusiastically greeted everyone in a last ditch effort to secure his place in the governor's mansion.
This morning the results were in. The democratic candidate won by a slim margin.
More importantly, Ray the Blind Dog secured at least three votes.

Supportive friends...
... favorite neighbors
Worn out after a long day of campaigning
Campaign signs outside of the polling place

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Support from Over the Pond

With Virginia's gubernatorial elections just two days away, support for Ray continues to pour in. Unfortunately, most of his supporters are not actually allowed to vote in elections in Virginia, like these two from England. Even though England used to own Virginia, it's been awhile since that was the case.