Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Intro to Eve and the Cat Pack

This is my first real blog, and I suppose I will learn more about the art of blogging as I go along. I decided to call this blog "Eve and the Cat Pack" because my animals are, for me, an endless source of companionship, entertainment and a reminder of the respect we owe to the creatures with whom we share this world.

So here we go with an introduction to the animals in my household.

Eve: On New Year's Eve, 2003, we stopped at a gas station on our way from the house we were moving out of to the place we were staying until our double-wide arrived. The temperature was 24 degrees Fahrenheit, there was snow on the ground and the ugliest animal I had ever seen was hanging around the gas pumps. I got out of the car to stretch my legs and the dog crawled up to me on her belly, flipped over onto her back and gave me a pleading grin. She was emaciated. When I was in school, I had seen pictures of the victims of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Eve looked like she could have been in one of those pictures. She was literally a skeleton in dog's clothing. My adopted sister Nicky saw her and decided that Eve was sent to us -- or that we were sent to her. We brought her home, too weak to walk, and nursed her back to health. She was probably 2-3 years old at the time; now, 5 years later, we can only guestimate that she is between 7 and 8 years old at least. If you have ever seen a Plott Hound, you know what she looks like. She is a large-size (55-60 pounds) coonhound with a brindle coat, grey ticking on her feet and muzzle and white on her chest and on the very tip of her whip-like tail. She has what I think is a beautiful voice: a contralto or mezzo soprano howl that bounces off the mountains and echoes through the valleys. I will have much more to say about her later, but there are 5 cats clamoring for their time in the bloglight!

Mu Mu (aka Meriweather, Moody, Da Moo, Mr. Da Moo, Darth Mu and other variants): Eleven years ago, Nicky and I were in the process of saying goodbye to our group of five geriatric cats -- as, one at a time over a two year period, they crossed the Rainbow Bridge due to causes ranging from neurological complications to cancer to sheer old age. After our first elderly cat Seamus (Shay' mus) crossed the bridge, we found out that our alpha cat, our beloved tuxedo cat Ira, had terminal cancer in his hip. Since he was too old for the trauma of amputation surgery, we had decided to make his time with us as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, but we were sick at heart at the prospect of losing him so soon after Seamus.

We stopped at our vets one afternoon to see if Seamus's ashes had come back from the animal crematorium and the receptionist told us that they had not yet come back but that she had been trying to get in touch with us. She said that a man had brought in an entire litter consisting of five solid black male kittens whose mother had been killed and that the vets had immediately thought about us. She said, "we knew you girls were going through a really sad time and we thought you might enjoy seeing something to make you smile because they are so cute."

Like the suckers we were, we followed the receptionist to a small room in the back where there was a cage filled with five tiny balls of kitten-fur. We walked toward the cage to look at them when we heard the door click closed behind us. We were locked in!

One of the kittens, a long-haired little guy with a #1 marked on his ear in white-out, immediately stuck his paw through the cage bars and mewed plaintively at me, catching his tiny claw in my sleeve. Eleven years later, Mu Mu is still doing that only he has firmly attached his claws in my heart. Nicky and I played with the kittens for two hours, during which time, several of the veterinary staff and even the wife and daughter of one of the vets came in to see us and the kittens. "So, which ones are you going to pick?" they all said. All of them. Nicky and I began to feel that we had been blindsided.

Two hours later, we came out -- me clutching #1 and Nicky holding a short-haired black kitten with a #4 written in ballpoint on the inside of his ear. "We'll take #1 and #4," we said, and haven't looked back.

Originally we named the kittens Meriweather (for Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition) and Peregrine, intending to call them Merry and Perry. "Merry" would not answer to his name, but when we played with the name Merrimoo, he perked up at the "moo" sound. So he soon became Mu Mu. (His brother became Per Per for the same reason.)

Mu Mu is my soulmate, my emotional sponge. He is bossy, too smart for his own good, a biter, an attention getter, and the alpha animal in the house, a position he has held since he was less than a year old and has had to rule with an iron paw! Physically, he looks like a solid black Maine Coon and exhibits many of the personality traits of the breed. He is a velcro cat who has to be by my side whenever he can possibly take root there. (As I write this, Mu Mu is sitting on the other chair in the computer room next to me...)

Per Per (aka Peregrine, Mr. Slick, Bagheera, Peaches, etc.): While I was choosing the alpha kitten, Nicky was drawn to the shyest of the litter, a short-haired kitten that hung in the back of the cage. When she took him out to cuddle, he promptly fell asleep in her arms. We should have recognized a con when we saw it, because that's the quietest he has ever been in 11 years. Where Mu Mu looks like a Maine Coon or a black lion, Per Per looks like a black Siamese or a miniature Panther. He has a voice like Fran Drescher (of The Nanny tv series). I call him Mu Mu's "yes cat." He is Mu Mu's right paw, his enforcer, spy and confidante. He is beautiful and sneaky, where Mu Mu is beautiful and boorish!

Just as Mu Mu is my cat, Per Per is Nicky's special "boy." He is also the favorite cat of many of our friends. When my nephew Barry, who is now 20 years old, was about 9, he met the kittens for the first time. We told him their names and he got great enjoyment out of playing with both of them. The next time he saw us, though, he wanted to know how Mu Mu and "Peaches" were...(Peaches, Pear-Pears, whatever!). Per Per and Mu Mu have a great time double-teaming Eve, who has been taught never to retaliate against the cats and they take full advantage of that!

Pooka: About a year after acquiring Mu Mu and Per Per, Nicky & I drove out to a cloth wholesaler to meet with our friend Carla. When we arrived, Carla was standing in the parking lot, waiting to point out to us the pair of tiny white kittens that had been living in the woods next to the business and who had been subsisting on dry dog food and biscuits thrown to them by the ladies who worked in the building, as well as whatever they could scrounge for themselves from the woods. An hour later, I had managed to capture one of the white kittens, the male, who literally went from feral to love slut in 30 seconds! Try as we might, we could not catch his sister, who, when she wasn't running from us, would sit on a large rock in the sunlight, looking at us with a waifish expression that broke our hearts.

Reluctantly, we took only Pooka home with us and I promptly got out a glass of water, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide and a flea comb. An hour later, he was soaking wet, thoroughly miserable and sparkline white -- and there was a waterglass full of dead fleas! Because he had lived on his own from the time he was about four or five weeks old and was at least eight weeks old when we got him, Pooka has never become completely domesticated. He loves being petted, but panics when anyone tries to pick him up. He spooks at any sudden sound and has become the master of the "double-take" and the "back-peddle." He is the closest we have to a slapstick comic among our cat pack. And he is definitely low cat on the totem pole. His pale gold eyes resemble wolves' eyes and give him an eerie look that belies his often bumbling behavior. Strangely enough, he is so intimidated by Mu Mu and Per Per that Eve, the dog, bothers him not at all! Lately, he has grown more and more adventurous -- almost reckless as he matures. He still loves being petted and demands it with a pleading intensity that is impossible to refuse. He takes voice lessons from Per Per...

Sprite (aka Deedee, Deedle, Deedy-bee): After we brought Pooka home, all we could think of was his sister, left entirely on her own. We had tried our best to catch her but she eluded all our attempts. After speaking with a college student friend of a friend and telling her of the little kitten we had already named "Sprite," Wolf offered to take some of her friends and try to catch her. For four nights, she and her friends, including her fiance who she insisted was a "Dr. Doolittle" when it came to animals, tried unsuccessfully to trap the kitten. Finally, on the fifth night, there was a knock on our door around 10 p.m. Standing at the door were Wolf, her fiance Ben and a friend of theirs named Cat. All of them had huge grins on their faces and in Ben's arms, wrapped in a towel and looking exceedingly annoyed, was Sprite. She would be alone no more!

Because she missed the all important 8-week window during which a feral kitten can become fully socialized and domesticated, Sprite is still a semi-feral cat. As white in color as her brother, she has the soft fur of an Angora cat or a rabbit, a perpetually worried expression on her face, big green eyes outlined in what looks like kohl and a broken, tiny meow that pulls at your heart. Like her brother, she loves being petted, but hates being picked up. She panics easily and has shredded my skin several times when I've tried to put her into a cat carrier or give her medication in any form. She lives "under" things -- under my bed, under the couch and under my bathroom sink, where I've put a fleecy cat bed just for her. She gets along with none of the other cats except she tolerates Pooka, her brother, and is helpless against the charms of our newest cat (see Yin Yang, below). She is a little faerie spirit that lives in our house, coming out when she thinks it's safe and flitting back to shelter at the slightest provocation.

Yin Yang: With two black cats, two white cats and a brindle dog, we thought our household was complete -- that is, until the night Eve had her stitches removed from her spaying surgery. We returned home late that night from a meeting of our gaming club and as we were leaving the car to go into the house, we heard a loud, almost mechanical sound that we thought was a really loud mockingbird or else the yowl of a baby with extraordinary lungs. With the help of my nephew and a flashlight, we managed to track the noise to a fallen tree that occupied the empty lot next to our property. There, huddled in the space beneath the tree, was a tiny kitten -- black and white and obviously in great distress. When Barry, my nephew (see "Peaches" above) saw him, he said, "Oh jeez, he's only got one eye!" From what I could see with the flashlight, Barry was right. The kitten's left eye was a mass of encrusted material and looked non-existent. It was hard to get to him, but we were finally able to reach out to him and bring him inside. With the help of a q-tip and some warm water, we discovered that the kitten we were about to call Odin did, in fact, have both eyes!

Obviously, we added him to our household -- and since he was black AND white, and since Barry's current favorite musical artists were the Yin Yang Twins, we named the kitten Yin Yang, which has since become corrupted to YinnyPin, Ping Pang, Yinny and other fanciful permutations.

Eve was inordinately interested in this yowling little creature we brought in, so we carefully introduced hound and kitten, making certain that Eve couldn't inadvertently harm the tiny beastie with her big paws. One sniff of the kitten and her expressive hound's face went all goopy and her tongue came out and she tried to clean him. Her face became a neon marquee with the words "my PUPPY!" scrolling across her brow! Ever since then, they have been inseparable. Yin Yang is the mediator, winning the hearts of all our animals. Mu Mu took one look at him (as we held our breath) and declared "I shall call him "mini-mu" and he shall be my minion!" Per Per claimed him as his sidekick. Pooka saw him as a little brother and Yin Yang even started drawing Sprite out of her self-imposed isolation. With his innate serenity and his calm, assertive behavior, Yin Yang does the Dog Whisperer proud. And just like his "mom," he wags his tail wherever he goes.

Now that the main characters that will be appearing in this blog have been delineated, I'll go rest my tired fingers and decide what my next posting will be. The topics that I want to share with any readers include stories about Eve and the Cat Pack, my feelings on living with animals, why I love the Dog Whisperer, and lots of other stuff, including hillbilly life in the mountains of western North Carolina.

That's it for now, y'all!

Jackie (4 March 2009)