Today is January 28, 2020. UNICEF estimates that 353,000 babies will be born around the world before tomorrow dawns. If it’s your birthday you are in good company with a few of the greats. Johann Ernst Bach for one. Johann Sebastian was his twin. Guess you could say they were born Bach to Bach. Sorry about that. And African explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who led the search for Dr. Livingston, and discovered the Nile as a bonus. The illegitimate son of Elizabeth Parry, he went by his father’s name (whom he never met) as Henry Rowlands until he emigrated to America, where he went to work for Henry Stanley, taking his name as a gesture of gratitude. He fought for both sides in the Civil War, ending up in the Union navy where his love of adventure flourished. Expeditions to the Ottoman empire, the Congo and beyond followed. Happy birthday wishes, I presume.
I grew up in a cloud. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, everybody smoked. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors – even the minister, inhaled. I doubt if I ever saw anything clearly – and I’m certain that I always smelled like a Winston. Tobacco ruled. Fancy cigarette boxes, lighters shaped like large chess pieces and oddly molded ash trays were prized possessions. There was no escaping it. Everyone on television smoked. Everyone in the movies smoked. Cowboys in white hats, black hats, jeeps and saloons all lit up the “tobaccy” as they tamed the wild west. Danny Thomas, Donna Reed, Jack Parr – you name it. Smoke was there. Bogey’s Casablanca was awash in it, adding to its intrigue with a magical, swirling haze.
It’s always been a right of passage for young people. I missed that voyage, having never tried it. I’m lucky I guess. Quitting looks really hard. Ask Bogey.
The practice of texting and twittering has quickly replaced what is now considered “old fashioned” emailing. Sadly, a message sent by pen and paper is now relegated to the attic – dusty, remote and antiquated. Time, and type, both march on my friends. Handwritten correspondence has been obsolescing since man first etched a figure on a cave wall. Those clumsy hieroglyphics didn’t last long – who can spell hieroglyphics without a dictionary anyway? But the move from cave wall to tree bark to parchment to the Gutenberg press sped up the ability to transmit our thoughts. And now, in an instant, we can express love with a tiny heart (in any color) and fling an insult with the popular poop emoji (it smiles). Seems hieroglyphics have resurfaced. And now grammar and punctuation is the new clumsy. That’s a topic for another time. Or type. Stay tuned. And write your mother. In cursive.
I see a lot of posts, cards, books and thoughts on The Rainbow Bridge. The place pets cross when they leave the earth. Not being a religious person, I don’t see a heaven or hell as an option, but thinking that pets have a special place is appealing. After all, they are a lot more advanced than we humans. Seriously, their motive in life is survival. Not to cheat, kill, maim or ruin the environment for fun. They don’t start wars, pollute the earth, promote fracking, support the oil and pharmaceutical lobbies or vote against their own best interests. So, a nice place to live, once they leave this earth, is probably more than fair.
There certainly is no shortage of pets. The industry is huge. Designer dogs and cats show up on my Facebook page every day, all decked out in fancy coats with fancy price tags. Ads for pedigree pups and kittens fill up half the page in the larger papers. Cute and expensive, they pose for the camera on pretty pillows, while their owners hope for a sale. No sale? Well, an early run across that bridge I fear. In comparison, the shelter dogs and cats pose in cages, often with their noses pressed through the bars. They hope for a pat on the head, a kind word and a stable owner. They, too, face the possibility of seeing that bridge if they go unselected. I wonder sometimes if it’s a four-lane. It must be a busy place.
And then there are the pets that live with me. Nothing fancy. Just furry. Every single one was either a gift, or a squatter. That is, they showed up, and they stayed. It was a simple as that. I had no choice. Each with their own back story and a unique personality. There was Festus, the lop eared schnauzer (and the only dog) who ran like the wind on three legs after my son. Having failed as a farm dog, he enjoyed being a city pup, but not a a fan of the bath – or the mailman. Ginger, the crabby cat who loved the centers of pumpkin pies and my daughter was a tortie with attitude. She had belonged to a couple whose new apartment building wouldn’t allow pets. So, she allowed us to adopt her. Kevin, the golden haired tom who was long on beauty, but short on brains, moved around with me several times. His previous owner liked to enjoy a bit of reefer, and I think Kevin may have inhaled a bit too much second hand smoke. He stared into space much of the time.
Virginia Inez, who arrived from New York searching for a new home to take over found Kevin an easy target and was clearly the reincarnation of a woman I cared for (and loved dearly) as a nurse. She was intrusive, nosey, noisy and limped – just like her name sake. A great cat. I still miss her. Chloe, the gorgeous long haired tortie who came with Larry would stare me down if I dared to sit next to him on the sofa. She also tried her best to bite my toes whenever I went to bed. She was by far the most beautiful cat I ever had. But she would not let me pick her up and petting her was risky. Terrible waste of feline fur. Then came our two-some. Handsome, a loveable orange long hair and Pretty Boy, who got me to blogging today. Most recently, Taco Tommy a/k/a Norman arrived here with a chubby kitten’s body and plenty of purrs, acting as though he owned the place. And, he did. Looking at his orange hair and watching him play, we can’t help but think that Handsome may have sent him to us. Maybe this bridge has two lanes…
Now, more about that two-some. Handsome was left behind when the neighbors moved out – around twenty years ago. He was a big, fluffy guy whose grooming abilities were lacking. I suspect he was separated too early from his mother and never got the washing of the fur lesson. He would mat up quickly and the groomers would have to shave various parts of him on a regular basis. It embarrassed him, I know. But dreadlocks on a cat are not a good thing. He was a lover and would purr at the first stroke. Pretty Boy, or PB, came to us at about a year after Handsome moved in. At the time, PB was sporting a pink flea collar and a number of cuts and bumps – most likely due to the neighborhood bully cats making fun of his effeminate attire. He as not yet full grown – still a teen by cat adolescent standards. That was nineteen years ago. He was a talker, much like his predecessor, Virginia. Both were sleek dark haired beauties. Neither had any use for dogs or catnip. I think they may have been connected somehow.
Larry, the official cat whisperer, was the first to feed them, which, of course to cats, is paramount to a binding rental agreement, with all manner of amenities such as veterinarian care, primo nutrition, a heated cat condo in the garage and plenty of pets and fuzzy toys. They took to their new home quite nicely, staking out their own leaf pile nests next to the house, as well as the sunny spots on the deck. Each had their own food dish, but preferred to move between the two, taking turns at each bowl, lest one of them contain more than the other. They tolerated each other, but roamed the yard separately most of the time.
On occasion they would team up and bring us “gifts.” We would find the remains of what appeared to be a rabbit near the back door, with Pretty Boy looking proud, and Handsome appearing confused (a not uncommon look for him). Other times, we’d find some squirrel parts and a mouse carcass or two on the deck. And fleas. But those we could handle, thanks to Dr. Stevens, their personal and always attentive veterinarian. We made many a trip there, with each cat wrapped in a towel. Cat carriers were not an option. Pretty Boy, the usual “tough guy” would object loudly and frequently during the entire trip and throughout the visit, while Handsome would utter a few weak “meows” while enroute. There, they received the necessary “surgery” that male cats should have, various antibiotics for infections, medications for worms and the usual shots and such to keep them safe. Which brings me back to this bridge idea.
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. No medicine will work. An aging feline body just doesn’t last. So, you make the decision. Having to put an animal down is not an easy task. Especially when they snuggle close to you when you pick them up for that last ride. Or, maybe they know and are grateful. Maybe. I hope so. Because today was one of those days that pet owners dread. But it’s something we must do. I remember each one. I remember their quirks and what made them special. I remember the ones I was able to pet and talk to until they were gone. I wonder if they ever looked back once they started across that bridge. If so, I hope they were happy.