Category Archives: furry bodhisattvas

2 bd/2 ba apt available – dogs OK

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Tonight, as was I was fumbling with my keys to get into my house, I was besieged by the frantic barking of the dogs in the apartment building next door.

“Jesus, dogs, I live here. Can’t I come and go from my own house without you losing your shit?” I mutter to myself. (And yes, I know it’s not the dogs’ fault, but the humans. Still it gets old. Really old.)

It’s not a new complaint. These dogs are only the latest in a series of frantic dogs who have lived in that particular apartment over the years, which got me musing about the occupancy criteria.

Potential tenants (PT): We love it!  We’ll take it.
Landlord (LL): OK, great, but I need to ask you some questions first. Do you have a dog?
PT: Um, we have two. The ad said dogs were allowed.
LL: No, that’s great. How big are they?
PT: Oh, they’re small. Chihuahuas.
LL: Perfect. Do they bark a lot?
PT: Well, they’re protective. Yes, I guess they can be a bit vocal at times.
LL: But could you characterize them as “yappy”?
PT: Some might call them that. But, they’re only like that when they get bored or lonely.
LL: How often are they left alone?
PT: We both work, so they’re alone pretty much all day, and well, frankly most of the evenings too.
LL:  Are they territorial?
PT: Like we said, they’re protective. If anyone comes close to the house, they’ll probably bark.
LL: How close?
PT: I don’t know, 50 yards?  Yeah about half a football field in any direction sounds right.
LL:  Perfect!  Your dogs sound like they will continue the long distinguished history of bored-psycho-yappy dogs that have occupied this particular apartment. I’ll get you the paperwork and we’ll get you moved in ASAP. Welcome to the neighborhood.

If it’s not one thing . . .

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A few days ago, the last of Binkles’ foot drama was over. The vet removed the pin in his foot that was used to reset the bone that had fractured.  I felt relieved that not only was my Binks as good as new, but I was looking forward to a period of time where it didn’t feel like I was dating my vet, so frequent were my visits.

As I pulled into the driveway with my newly-pinless bunny, I noticed that Pretty, my pet feral cat, was limping pretty badly as she came out to greet me. When I got out of the car, she came up to me, gave me a plaintive meow and held her paw up. Part of me was thinking “oh no, you poor thing” and the other part (the cheap, less compassionate part) was thinking “oh for crying out loud! Seriously?”

I took a look at her paw and could see nothing obvious. It clearly wasn’t broken as she was putting weight on it, and there was no visible or felt object stuck in it. She was moving around (albeit limping a bit) and eating just fine, so I figured this was a watch and wait situation.

The next day, she seemed better. Still slightly limping, but definitely in better spirits. I was relieved. However, the day after (on a Saturday, of course) I could see the paw had definitely taken a turn for the worse. It was swollen to twice its normal size, and her limp had become much more pronounced. No more waiting and watching. She is a feral cat, after all, and if it got worse she may go into hiding and I would never be able to get her.

Fortunately, she does let me touch her, so I petted her a while as she ate.  Then I betrayed her by quickly scruffing her and then stuffing into a carrier. She complained loudly and mournfully as we drove to the emergency vet.

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Mr. Binkles, the overly dramatic rabbit

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I had such high hopes for the month of April. This was to be the month of getting my fitness regime on track. March was all about getting caught up routine medical stuff, and reintroducing myself to my doctor, whom I hadn’t seen in four years. Everything checked out fine and dandy, so the next step was to work with a personal health coach on the exercise stuff, and then in May I was going to start working with a nutritionist. Yup, those were my plans. And you know what they say about plans  . . .

Instead, April became all about Binkles (and I could totally hear him saying “and that problem with that is . . .?”  (and yes, I realize rabbits don’t talk, much less read, much much less read my blog)).  You see, on April 1 (no joke), much rabbit drama ensued.

It was about 6pm on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I noticed the Binks was laying on his stomach stretched out. Warning sign number one of possible GI stasis. When I leaned down to check on him, he dashed into the bathroom and behind the bathtub. Warning sign number two. And finally when he rejected his most favorite treat in the whole world, a banana chip, I knew I had yet another case of stasis on my hands.

Uh oh

Thanks to my friend Judy, the Bunny Bodhisattva, I’ve learned how to treat this life-threatening condition myself at home: take his temperature, then sub-q fluids, heat, medication, and the most fun part, force feeding him this liquified hay goop. Then I confine him to his carrier and wait for his appetite to come back and some poops that tell me his digestive system is once again working. It’s nerve wracking and scary, but I’m getting more confident in my abilities to pull him through these episodes. But, this time something went wrong.

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The nightly ritual

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I did this piece of writing recently for a class I was taking. The writing prompt was “ritual.” Since I want to get some momentum going again with my blog, I hope you don’t mind some recycled material.

She knows the sound of my car coming up the driveway. I always drive in rather slowly, vigilantly, because I never know from where in the yard she will pop out. Occasionally, mostly in the winter months, I actually have to call for her, so during those times, I wait in the car a couple of minutes to give her time to make her appearance. Then I get out to find her pacing excitedly in front of my car. I say my first line:

“Oh, there you are.”

I’ll then open up the back passenger side of the car to scoop about half a cup of Cat Chow into an old buttery spread tub.

“Do you want some dinner?” is my next line.

She doesn’t answer, but rather heads towards the corner of the driveway where I have fed her every day for the last four and a half years. Her tail is erect and she keeps looking back at me as if to say “come on, hurry!”

I pour out the cat crunchies on the pavement. I used to use a bowl, but it kept getting pushed down the embankment by the raccoons.

“Here ya go, Pretty. Here’s your dinner.” I say stating the obvious.

Over five years ago, when Pretty was just a kitten, someone had dumped her and her sister in my neighborhood. Perhaps they knew that there were feral cat feeders in the area. Or perhaps it was just convenient. All I remember were these two kittens suddenly started showing up at the bowl where I was feeding another local stray. To distinguish between the two kittens, I started calling them by their predominant traits. Pretty was named such because, well, she’s pretty – a calico torbie, with the most perfect white markings and the greenest of eyes. Her sister I called Skitty because, well, she was skittish. Skitty disappeared shortly after I captured them both to have them spayed. Pretty has stuck around, but has refused all attempts to move her into the house.

When I first put the food down, she takes a couple of bites and then circles my legs, lightly rubbing against me. When she starts eating again, I pet her soft, shiny fur.

“Who is my pretty girl? That’s a good girl, eat eat.”

She takes a few more bites, and again circles and rubs.

“Come on, sweet pea, eat eat. I’m not going to stand out here all night.”

At night, Pretty will only eat while I am watching over her. She’s a very vigilant girl, if not a wee bit paranoid, and I think she feels safer when I’m there to ward off the imagined armies of raccoons, possums, neighborhood dogs and other cats. And perhaps she is overreacting a bit, but her strategy has worked as she is still here after five years whereas other ferals have come and gone during that period.

This cycle of eating, circling and rubbing continues at least three more times (longer in nicer months). I stare up at the stars and try to imagine my mind like a big open sky. Finally, I’ll call it a night.

“I gotta go, sweetheart, Keep eating. I’ll see you in the morning.” I say as I lean down to get one more hit of her soft soft fur.

It’s been like this night after night year after year and I can think of no happier ritual to welcome myself home.

Binkles in love – part 1

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When Mr. Binkles’ bunny partner, Mrs. Peabody died a couple of months ago, I feared he would never love again. Theirs was a close bond, or so I thought. I would often find them huddled together in the nesting box, and their mealtime rituals and games never failed to make me smile.  Even though I would throw in multiple pieces of carrot or broccoli or banana slices, they would both want the same piece. So they would play the mine/no, it’s mine game and chase each other around the pen stealing the food bit from each other. Eventually, they would settle down a few inches from each other and chow down peacefully and in earnest.

When I’m home, I open up the bunnies’ pen and let them have access to all of the house.  Binkles always comes charging out, eager to check out all of his domain (this is, after all, Binkles’ house, I am merely the live-in help). Peabody wasn’t as in much of a hurry, but she would come out and find some place in the house (usually behind the bathtub) to just hang out for a change of scenery.  While out and about in the house, those two wouldn’t interact too much with each other. Maybe a passing nose bump, but the closeness they displayed in their pen was not evident when they were out.

In the final weeks of Peabody’s life,  it was clear Binkles knew something was up. He became more gentle with her and spent more time grooming her, particularly around her nose where the cancerous tumor was growing. And while he still came charging out of the pen when I opened it, often he would return back to the pen to just hang out quietly with Peabody.

Peabody and Binkles

On the day I had to take Peabody for her final vet visit, I let Binkles remain out of his pen while I left for my sad errand. I wanted to make sure he was distracted when I came back home without his living and breathing partner.

According to house rabbit experts, in order for the surviving partner to be able to accept that his friend is truly gone, they need to be able to see their dead body. Otherwise, they will forever be waiting for their partner to return and would not be able to accept a new bond. Since I want Binkles to be happy, and I know he is a much happier bunny with a buddy, I brought Mrs. Peabody’s lifeless body home.

Binkles was out and about and didn’t notice me tearfully place her limp body in her usual spot in the pen. I took a seat in the living room and waited for Binkles to check back in to his pen. It took a few minutes before he went dashing into his pen (he tends to dash everywhere for no particular reason). When he first saw Peabody’s body, he nudged her playfully. He nudged her again. And then he went up and started grooming her face and her ears. He moved his way down half of her body, all the while grooming her. This lasted maybe ten minutes. And then finally, with a pronounced jump, he turned his back to her and hopped away.

I left her body there for another hour or so, thinking that maybe there was more to his process. But no, he was done. I don’t know what was going through his little bunny brain as he groomed her for those few minutes. Maybe he was making sure she was really and truly dead. Or maybe he realized that quickly, and the grooming was merely his way of saying good-bye.

For the next week, Binkles was a bit needier than usual, so I made sure he got lots of extra attention. I even let him stay out of his pen all night a couple of times.  However, after waking up with a rabbit on my pillow staring me dead in the eye, as if he were plotting something very very naughty, that leniency ended.

At the end of the week, I had to take him to be boarded while I was gone on retreat.  And while I was off in search of nirvana, Binkles would be on a search for a new partner.  More on that in Part 2.

Checking in

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Oh, hi.  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  It’s been about two months since I last checked in with y’all.

Things here at Chez LazyBuddhist have been fine, for the most part.  Though I  did just lose Mrs. Peabody to cancer.  I had to put her to sleep last Friday.  Horrible decision, but I believe the right one.  She had a fast-growing tumor in her face which made it harder and harder for her to eat.  Maybe I erred on the side of too early – she still had a lot of life and spirit in her – but within a couple of days she would not be able to eat at all, then the risk of her going into a very painful condition called stasis would be quite high.  I did not want her to suffer. Everyone has assured I did the right thing at the right time, but still, it pains me.

It’s funny, I never thought I had a close bond with Mrs. P.  I always likened our relationship as a slightly icy mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship. I tolerated her because she made my boy bunny, Mr. Binkles happy.  They were a bonded pair. But, Binkles still has his mommy relationship with me, which I think made Peabody a little jealous.  She never came up to me and ask for petting, or even bothered to check in with me occasionally as she did her evening romps around the house.  I was OK with that. She was a very pretty bunny, as well as a very calm, confident one. Watching them simply be bunnies, either together or separately was always a joy.

I surprised myself a bit with how emotional I’ve been about this loss.  At first I thought I was mostly going to be upset with how it would affect Binkles. But, the copious tears I cried before, during and after her death tell me I was more attached than I thought.  She was a quiet presence, but one that was filled with life and an innate intelligence  I miss you, Mrs. Peabody.

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My spiritual practice has been going great guns.  According to this cool iPhone app, Insight Timer, for the last two months, I’ve been averaging 52 minutes a day meditating.  And next week at this time, I’ll be out at Spirit Rock again at a nine-day concentration retreat.

I’ve found a sitting group where I’m comfortable.  It’s a large group so it’s fairly easy to just blend into the crowd.  I still aspire to find a group where I can make some connections, yet not get consumed by the group.  It may be possible with this one, I just need to feel comfortable enough to show up at their monthly pre-sitting burrito party. For now, I’m happy just breezing in, having a lovely meditation, listening to the dharma talk, throwing a few bucks in the dana basket, and then breezing out.

The rest of my life has been fine. I’ve been working with some old traumatic/emotional shit in therapy.  Not always fun, but I think it’s worth it. Will the result be a new, improved Not-So-LazyBuddhist?  I doubt it. I’m actually pretty OK as I am. It will just be nice to clear out some of the obstacles that obscure my light.

Hope all has been well with you. I’m hoping this writing dry spell will end soon.

The mystery of the disappearing Yogi

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About a week ago, on a beautiful sunny winter’s day, I was rushing to leave the house to go meet a friend.  Yogi, the little cat who I had taken in  a month previous, was vacillating, as cats do, about whether or not she wanted to go outside.  She parked herself, half in and half out, in the middle of the doorway.  I didn’t have time for her nonsense, so I gently nudged with my foot to go outside.  She was already down the walkway by the time I turned around from locking the door.  And that was the last I saw of her.

Yogi was to be my great experiment in having an indoor/outdoor cat.  She had been outside for several weeks before she finally walked in to my house and made herself at home.  She knew a good thing when she saw it.  When I let her out on previous occasions, she would hang for a while outside, but was always eager to come back into the house.  I never had to bribe her or even ask twice.

She was an odd little cat.  It was in November that she started making guest appearances at the spot where I feed Pretty, my longtime feral cat.  This little black and white stranger was not at all skittish, and would immediately start purring and making air biscuits when you picked her up.  I figured with a cat this tame, that she must belong to a neighbor and  was just another annoying moocher who came around and ate Pretty’s food.  I’m very protective of Pretty, and any creature who disturbs our routine is subject to my annoyance.

One of my neighbors, Bonnie Jo, who feeds a feral colony at the end of my street, decided to take on Yogi (whom she called Pogo) as one of her clan, and started feeding her and set up a little cat house for her on my property, away from Pretty.  I had no problem with that.  With a regular feeding schedule (Bonnie Jo is like clockwork) and a warm place to sleep, Yogi became a regular.  Even Pretty even learned to tolerate her. And giving Yogi a nice petting in the morning became part of my routine.

One sunny day in January, it was so warm I had my front door open as I went about my household chores.  Yogi parked herself outside the screen door in the morning and started looking inside longingly.  “Oh don’t try to make me feel guilty, young lady”, I told her every time I caught her looking in.  She just sat there.  And sat there.  And sat there some more.  All day.  Finally, around 4:30 pm I broke down and called her bluff.  “Fine. You want in?  I dare you to come in.”  I opened the door and in she walked.  And after some initial inspection of the premises, she curled up on my favorite blankie and went to sleep.

Yogi makes herself at home

For the first couple of days, I would put her back outside when I wasn’t home. She needed to get checked out by a vet before it was safe to to have her interact with my other cats, Sasquatch and Tangerine. One morning, however, she decided that this arrangement was not suitable and wanted to be in the house NOW.  As I was getting ready for work, that damn cat started leaping up on my window sills and climbing my screen doors.  She would not take no for an answer.  After I made some minor configurations of the house in order to keep the newcomer away from the old timers, Yogi moved in.

Yogi and I had a strange relationship.  Maybe it was the bold way she foisted herself on me, or maybe it was learning within a week after she joined the household that she was soon going to cost me $600 to get a possibly cancerous lump on her side biopsied (plus the promise of further  medical costs and/or the pain and sadness of watching her decline).  She had her moments of being very affectionate and sweet, but most of the time she was indifferent to to everyone in the household.  She was an odd little presence, but I accepted her and was willing to take care of her, though she wasn’t necessarily in my heart.  But, I certainly didn’t want her to leave.

There are, of course, theories as to where Yogi has gone. I try not to dwell on the bad scenarios. I’m hoping maybe her previous people found her and there was a joyous reunion.  Or perhaps she just walked into someone else’s house  to try them on for a while.  Or maybe she was merely an emanation who came into my life as to test how open my heart was. If that was the test,  I fear I failed it.

Good intentions

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Friday morning, Nov 26

Today is the day I’m finally going to bring Pretty, the feral cat that I’ve been taking care of for the last five years, into the house and try to tame her down. I’ve prepared my home office with a litter box, a safe hidey-hole and have spritzed the entire room with At Ease, a pheromone-based herbal calming spray.  I have no illusions that this will be particularly easy, but I’m going to give it a go. It has taken a long time for this little cat to trust me enough to let me pet her, to be able to pick her up.  I hope I don’t blow all that collateral in this attempt to bring her in so she is safe and warm.

Friday afternoon, Nov 26

Pretty was no where to be found when I went downstairs to feed her this morning.  I am not entirely surprised as this has been happening more and more. Other cats in the neighborhood have apparently caught wind to the fact that there is food and a shy cat who refuses to fight for her territory over here.

What does surprise me, however, is that someone picked up her food dishes from outside my back door and placed them on my porch while I was out of the house for a mere hour.  I find this extremely disturbing.  And while I’m not proud of this leap in logic, I took it as a sign that Pretty was dead.  Yes, in my dark fantasies, people kill cats and then leave their empty dishes on your porch as way of letting you know.  (Note to self: skip the annual Godfather marathon on AMC next year.)

Friday evening, Nov 26

Pretty isn’t dead. When I head out to my car to go to the grocery story, she comes dashing up the stairs in search of food.  I’m ecstatic to see her, but the nerves kick in as I know this is my big chance.

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Gratitude

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Even though I really like the idea of Thanksgiving Day – people taking the time to be grateful amongst friends and family while engorging themselves on traditional foods – I have chosen to opt out of celebrating it for most of my life. However, this year it looks like I’m opting in.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was never a big holiday in our family.  Sure, we had turkey, but that really was the extent of it.  Dinner was the same as any other day with  mom eating in the kitchen by herself and  dad in his chair in front of the TV. My brother and I would sit at the table with our necks craned so we could see the TV ourselves.  No big extended family, no special china, no grace, no Kennedyesque touch football games in the front yard.  Just turkey, mashed potatoes and canned cranberry sauce.

After my folks died and with no Thanksgiving invitations forthcoming from my brother, I tried to opt out of the holiday, but instead I became the designated orphan for my work colleagues and friends.  I know they were trying to be thoughtful and generous by including me, but mostly they were painful affairs which left me feeling sad about my own lack of family or happy Thanksgiving memories.

Then there were a few years when I was happily left to my own devices. I enjoyed taking long walks through the deserted  streets of  downtown Oakland and San Francisco.  I loved the lonely spaciousness of those streets and buildings that normal vibrate with the rushing of people and cars. And after my solo walk, I  would take the opportunity to make food for which I was truly grateful,- things like lasagna and tacos.  I never liked turkey all that much so the only nod to traditional Thanksgiving was to give the cats a can of turkey cat food.

For the last decade or so, the Boyfriend and I do a simple Thanksgiving here at my house.  We  do it mostly because he loves turkey and all the resulting leftovers.  Being a vegetarian, this is non-issue for me. But, I do enjoy stuffing and sweet potatoes.  And if it makes him happy, that is fine with me.

Tomorrow, however, the Boyfriend and I will be having dinner at Frank’s house with a bunch of Frank’s other orphan friends.  And I’m actually looking forward to it despite my usual nervousness about social situations. Frank has a wide variety of interesting friends with tales of wild rivers and world travels, so hopefully if  smile, listen attentively, and ask a lot of questions no one will necessarily notice that I’m rather dull.

Since I’ll actually be partaking in the holiday tomorrow, I thought I might do a traditional Thanksgiving blog post and list, in no particular order, many of the things for which I am grateful.

  • I am grateful for all the furry creatures, past, present and future in my life. No matter how I am feeling about myself or my day, they never fail to make me smile.  I can’t imagine a life that isn’t shared without at least one four-legged creature.
  • I am grateful for my job. Not only do I work for a company that I do believe is dedicated to helping people, but I am surrounded by people who are (relatively) drama-free and make me laugh every day.
  • I am grateful I have a dentist who is free and easy with both the bad puns and the nitrous.
  • I am grateful for my cozy home and the kind people who rent it to me whom I consider friends.
  • I am grateful for the Buddha, Dharma and the rag-tag circle of ex-Kadampas that are my Sangha.
  • I am grateful for Trader Joe’s new non-fat chocolate yogurt. Acidophilus never tasted so good.
  • I am grateful for the Boyfriend. Even though he misses the mark sometimes on being emotionally nurturing, I know he loves me and would never allow the oil in my car to get too low, or fail to take the cans down to the curb.
  • I am grateful to my parents. I’ve grown up to be a half way decent human being with some integrity and compassion which proves they did something right.
  • I am grateful to the internet and WordPress that make it possible for me to freely share my words and thoughts with some truly wonderful people across the world.  For those of you who read and respond to my nonsense, thank you.  It means a lot to me.

Second-hand grief

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I am no stranger to spells of sadness. Most of the time I can’t really point to the cause, my mood just drops and I’m in that familiar place.  But, unlike in my younger years when I would flail and woe-is-me and curse my life, I’ve learned to just ride it out, remembering that this too shall pass.

This weekend, however, rather than just amorphous sadness, what I was feeling could only be described as grief.  But it wasn’t grief over any loss of my own, but rather for the losses two very dear friends had just experienced.  For lack of a better term, I’ll call it second-hand grief.

On Thursday night, my bestest childhood friend, Carol lost her dog, Manon, to a stroke.  Manon was a gorgeous golden retriever, and she as sweet as she was beautiful.   A brave girl, she had recently battled – and won – cancer. But she couldn’t beat old age.  She was 14 years old.

There is a special poignancy to losing a pet. It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. But, pet people know too well that heart-ache. Unlike a human for whom our memories may be mixed, most of the memories we have of our animal friends is of the unwavering love they have given us.   They don’t care if we’re a success or failure in life, or if we’re cranky or we smell bad.  A pet’s love is like no other.  There is something so pure about that relationship.  Their love is so unabashed and unconditional. And to lose that hurts so damn much.

Carol and I chatted briefly online. It was clear she was in no mood to talk. She’s been through this before too many times.  Like me, she is a major animal lover and  has opened her heart again and again and again to animals in need and given them a good and loving home.  She knows the drill.   At first the grief  is searing. Eventually, it gets better, though you will never forget your furry friend. And then one day, another creature walks into your life and your heart.  And the cycle of life and death begins again.

*  *  *  *

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from dear friend John, “Dan just died”.   Even though I had only met Dan once, those words still landed heavily.  I quickly texted him back, “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to help you?” I didn’t have to ask what happened.  I had been hearing the gory details of Dan’s demise for the last three months.

About three months ago, Dan was in training for the AIDS bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, when he developed a bothersome pain in his side. And as he was about to embark on a  545 mile bike ride, he  decided to go see the doctor to get it checked out.  Worse news possible: Stage IV metastatic cancer.  Within days he had surgery where they removed a 10 pound tumor the size of a pot roast enveloping one of his kidneys.

While there may have been glimmers of hope during those three months, John recognized how grim the prognosis and seeing his friend in such horrible pain affected him deeply. Our weekly chats, normally cheerful and a bit snarky, became more philosophical. What’s it all about? Why are we here?  What have I done with my life?  And at times we talked about the more practical aspects of planning for our own demise: wills; advanced directives; and medical power of attorney.  Would you be willing to  pull the plug  if that was indeed the compassionate thing to do?

Life can be pretty fucking gruesome.  And it can also be pretty damn sweet, and everything in between.    I guess it’s just a matter of being able to remember that it is all of those things and to not hold onto to any of it.

My neighbor thinks I’m an asshole

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I’ll admit it.    I’m a bit of a people pleaser.  Not pathologically so, but it does matter to me if most people like me.  So, that’s why it bugs me that my neighbor thinks I’m an asshole.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when Pretty reappeared after a month’s absence.  I was outside watching her eat.  She tends to feel safer when I am standing nearby, and since she already seemed pretty fragile, I was taking my job as protector fairly seriously.  Next thing I know, a neighbor’s Chihuahua comes barreling towards her, which causes her to dash for cover.  I said, to no one in particular, “god damn it!”  and when I looked up, my new neighbor was a few feet away from me.  He looked a bit taken aback by my reaction.

“She wasn’t going to hurt the cat. She just likes to chase them” he said.

“No, I didn’t think she was going to hurt her. It’s just that this little cat is really fragile right now . . . ” I started to explain. 

He called for the dog, then picked her up and walked back to his house without saying much else. 

For the rest of the day I felt bad that I had come off so rude to this new neighbor who had seemed so nice when I met him the first time. I thought about writing a letter apologizing for my rudeness and to ask him if he could kindly keep his dogs on a leash when walking through my (OK, my landlord’s) property, or carry them in his arms so that they don’t harass my Pretty.  After all, he does pass through my yard while walking his dogs. 

But time passed and I never left that note.  I watched a few times from my window as one or the other of his Chihuahuas made a beeline for the area where I feed Pretty.  If  it wasn’t him and his two Chihuahuas, it was another new neighbor and their Chihuahua.  In the last two months, there has been a Chihuahua explosion in my immediate vicinity: five freakin’ Chihuahuas within a 50 yard radius.   Look, I have nothing against Chihuahuas – they’re dogs and they are going to do dog stuff like chase cats and eat their food.  I get it.   What I don’t appreciate is how people let them go unleashed, figuring they’re tiny and harmless and don’t need to contained.   But, for the sake of being neighborly, I refrain from yelling out my window “keep your goddamn Chihuahuas out of my yard!”

In the meantime, my landlord started working on my house.  After a few days, noticing how people were constantly using his property as a through way to get to an alley that serves as a shortcut, he decides to fortify a fence to make it more difficult for people to pass through, and then slapped  No Trespassing/Private Property sign on both sides of the property.  While I have sometimes been annoyed by people cutting through, I thought his approach was a bit heavy-handed and less than neighborly. 

Apparently the neighbors got the message, though.  I didn’t see the Chihuahua Man crossing by anymore.  That is, until this morning.

As I was guarding Pretty I saw one of Chihuahua Man’s dogs a few yards away. She was barking in my general direction, but she didn’t get too close.  Knowing that her owner couldn’t be too far behind, I waited until I saw him so I could talk to him.  I still felt bad about our previous interaction, and I’m sure all the No Trespassing signs that went up shortly thereafter didn’t help the situation.

“Hi!” I waved and smiled.

“Hey” he nodded sans a smile.

“Listen, I wanted to apologize for our interaction a few weeks back. I didn’t mean to be rude.  I was just upset because the cat is really skittish and she had just come back from being missing for a month.” I explained.

“It’s not like she was going to hurt her. She just wanted to eat her food.” he said sounding somewhat defensive.

“No, I didn’t think she was going to hurt her.”  I started, but opted to change the topic since he clearly didn’t grok the whole feral cat thing.  “Also, despite the new signage my landlord put up, you’re free to pass through.  I haven’t had any problem with it.”

He continued to look at me impassively. 

I nervously continued. “Considering our last interaction and the timing of the signs, I just wanted to let you know that I have no problem with you or your partner passing by.  Those signs were not directed at you.”

“Yeah, well, that’s how we took it.” he said with no sign of softening.

“So, feel free to use walkway, but if I could just ask you to either have your dogs in your arms or on a leash when you pass through so as to not bother the cat.” I said in a manner that was probably more pleading than firm. 

“Yeah, fine. Thanks.” he said with no emotion. 

Never once did he break a smile.  I mean, this was all a silly misunderstanding. I’m a good person, really, I am.  Like me, won’t you? 

So, we’ll see where this goes.  Hopefully, all will be well in the neighborhood. But, if he continues to let his dogs harass my Pretty, well . . . you think I’m an asshole now? 

Comings and goings

Standard

It’s hard to love a wild thing.

I tell myself it’s a good for my Buddhist practice.  I tell myself I won’t get attached.  I tell myself I can love it unconditionally, wishing only for their happiness and well being.  I tell myself a lot of things.

The truth of the matter is I do get attached. Really attached. And these wild creatures, these feral cats, break my heart on a regular basis.

A couple of weeks ago, Boots, one of the neighborhood strays,  got hit by a car.  Boots wasn’t even a cat I took care of, but he was a frequent visitor to my yard. He was such a  handsome boy. And while he was a bully to the other neighborhood cats, he was a total sweetie to me.  The evening after my neighbor told me that Boots had been killed, I ended up wailing like some old Sicilian woman grieving the loss of her child.

RIP Boots

Yet those  tears weren’t merely for Boots.  I was also grieving for the feral cat I’ve taken care of for over four years, Pretty.  Pretty had disappeared about a month previous and I was certain  that she was gone for good.  So I sobbed for Boots and I sobbed some more for Pretty, and while I was at it, I sobbed for Alaska and Nomie, who have been gone one and a half years and three years, respectively.  It’s was sob-a-pa-looza at Chez LB.

The very next day I went out to leave food for Pretty, as I always do, even when she has disappeared (she’s done this before).  I was wandering around my front yard forlornly calling for her knowing that if she was around she would call back – she is a very talkative little cat and always calls to me whenever she hears me come outside or hears my car drive up.   I probably sounded pretty pathetic – mournfully calling for a cat that I was certain was dead.

Pretty scarfs down

Then I heard it.  It wasn’t coming from any of her usual places, but from behind my house, on the hillside.  I followed her plaintive mews until I saw her on the hill.   My sadness quickly gave way to excitement.  My Pretty was alive! And she was here!  She looked skinny and a bit stressed, but she was alive and had a lot to say.

Soon Pretty and I were back at our old routines.  She seems happy and much more confident.  The only thing that is different is her voracious appetite. But, with her focused so intently on the food, it has allowed me to attempt to pet her. And as long as she is distracted by the food, I can touch her to my heart’s content.  If I wanted to I could simply scruff her and bring her in the house.

So, that’s where my mind is at right now.  What is the kindest and wisest thing to do for this little cat?  The neighborhood has changed over the last few months – many more dogs and far fewer cats. This used to be a very safe area for these feral cats. There are four or five feral cat feeders within a three block area.  They had all been  neutered  and were being fed on a regular basis (the cats, that is, not the humans).  But, the cats are disappearing.  At least we know what happened to Boots.  The others, well, it’s a mystery. It could just be cats being cats and maybe finding greener pastures. It could be someone who doesn’t like cats. It could just be the dangers of being a wild creature.

I accept that part of my reasons for wanting to bring her in is that I can’t take having my heart broken again – at least not just yet.  I want her to be safe.  But will she be happy?   After being born feral and living feral for over four years, can I tame her down enough to only be mildly neurotic like her daughter, Tangerine, who now lives with me?

I don’t have the answer yet.  Each day since she has returned she seems happier, healthier.  And I worry that she would feel betrayed by being nabbed and placed in a house. She’s never lived in a house. She wouldn’t understand that it’s safer than the outside world.  Could she even appreciate it? I don’t know.  I guess I’ll just try my best to do the best for her.  It’s all I can do.