Thursday, 29 September 2011

Aside #6: All our children ...

September 2011

You knew it was coming.  I wouldn't be me if I didn't do it.  Do what? What all writers eventually do.  And they all apologize.  But they do it anyway.  Christie Blatchford does it... occasionally.  Janice Kennedy did it.  Others too.  And I read every word.  Do what?  Write a heart-warming or heart-breaking column about their beloved pets.  

So, yes, it's my turn.  Not that I'm in the league of the 'Blatch and other columnists, but I do share their love of children, pet children that is.  And I've had many and I have photos so it's time for reflection, stories, and photos.  

Ah, yes the memories... 

Schroeder Dog

For my entire life, I've always had a dog and/or cat(s) (... or a rabbit, guinea pigs, turtle, fish).  Pets were an adored part of family growing up.  It was mom, dad, 4 kids AND either dog or cat.  We dragged the poor things on holidays where they hyperventilated or got car sick in the car (or both).  We broke their hearts when we went off to university and left them behind.  But, oh, the greeting on a visit home when I'd walk in the front door.  They made teen years bearable.  

So I can't believe that the only picture I have of Schroeder Dog is the one on the right.  He's with my father and they adored each other.  My father was a real animal lover right up until he died at age 85.  Dogs and cats relaxed him and made him feel safe in his senior years.  

So, no surprise that throughout my Ottawa life, I continued the tradition of animal family.  Husband and I have always had a pet of one kind or another.  Our last decade has been all about the Ragdolls.  Ragdoll Cats that is.  But first let me rewind a bit...

Mortimer the Cat ..... 

Mortimer Cat (left) arrived during my university years courtesy of the Humane Society.  He somehow survived living in a co-op, three or four moves, an attempted cat-napping ... yup, car driver trying to coax cute kitten into car... I yell, grab kitty back into house, and then try to chase the car down the street, yelling like a banshee (me, not the car) to get a licence number.  Neighbours paid no attention.  I failed to get any info.  Jeez.     

We called Mortimer the cat "Mort" or "Morton".  Husband even made up a song he used to sing to him all the time:  "Morton is a bad cat.  He's as bad as he can be. I never knew a little cat could act so terribly.  He always thinks that he's so good; it really is so sad.  He never will be good at all because he is so bad...."  He was kidding of course.  He'd sing this to Mortimer as the cat was cuddled up beside him.   I used to tell Mort not to listen to him.  

Morton found his nirvana went we moved to the country, with a wooded acre.  He became Country Mouser.  He's hunt his territory for hours and bring home his little treasures and lay them out on the doorstep for us to admire in the morning.  Some mornings there'd be 3 or 4 or more dead bodies.  Sometimes it was just half a mouse or just the tail (yuck).  Husband would get the Bucket of Death, scoop, and take the mouse bits across the road to the empty field we called the Mouse-oleum.  Meanwhile, MortCat would be unrepentant.  Once I even caught him torturing the little mice-things in the garage, making them run back and forth between his paws while I played Rescuer.  

Mort stopped mousing when he was hit by a car one rainy evening; $3K later post-surgery, I decided his outdoor days were over.  To keep himself amused, he took up Race-Boxing.  He'd put his front paws in a box (pictured right) and push the box in a circuit from living room, foyer, kitchen, dining room and back to the living room.  It was hysterical to watch.

He really was a remarkable animal child.  I easily trained him to walk on a leash, much to the amusement of the neighbours.  He'd strut along the road (no sidewalks), tail held high, and turn back only when he was ready (not me).  Sometimes, I'd roller blade and he'd walk next to me.  When we got a dog (that's coming) I'd walk both of them on two leashes .... I actually did this.  No pix unfortunately but those were indeed the days.... 

But, alas, one day Mortimer got old.  He refused to walk more than one house and I'd have to carry him back indoors.  Eventually he became an indoor kitty, with health problems, limping, almost diabetic, and with me having to give him saline by intravenous under his skin to rehydrate him.  One morning when I was sitting on the couch, he climbed up, looked me squarely in the eyes, and cried, "Enough"!  I got the message.  I knew it was time..

Goldie the Wonder Dog..

When MortCat was 10 years old, Goldie the Wonder Dog entered his (and our) lives.  Goldie arrived on our doorstep late one evening, a 10-year-old blonde bombshell with the sweetest personality imaginable.  

As she eagerly pranced into the kitchen, she failed to notice MortCat sitting on a kitchen chair staring at this blonde fur thing with a mixture of amazement and horror.  Goldie made the fatal mistake of passing under Mort's chair.  Down came a paw and a "whack" squarely on the behind.  Now it was Goldie's turn to look amazed but, never a quick learner, she walked back under the Cat's chair a second time.  "Whack" "WHACK" went the cat paw on the dog's behind.  

They gave each other a lot of space after Encounter Number 1.  There was never open warfare that we witnessed but MortCat made darn sure Goldie the Wonder Dog knew who ruled the house.  So, Goldie adopted ME and became my shadow.  Her favourite activity was a car ride with me.  She'd sit in the front passenger seat practically in my lap and rest her head on my shoulder as she stared adoringly at me.  It was cuteness beyond belief ... until I was pulled over by an Aylmer Mr. Policeman one day who failed to appreciate the cuteness.  I got a ticket, a lecture and a warning.  Ahem.  Oh well.. I trained her to the back seat.  

Eventually Goldie the Wonder Dog and MortCat became the closest of friends.  We'd come home and find them curled up sleeping together in the foyer.   I started walking both of them on two leashes.  I think the neighbours took pix of the eccentric weird lady at this point.  But I didn't care.  They didn't care.  Our collective pride in ourselves was intact.  We got our Walks.  

But, alas, health problems set in for Goldie too.  Shortly after we moved from the country into a CentreTown rental, she took a turn for the worst rather quickly.  We lost both of them in the space of year and we, tragically, were suddenly without animal children.  

After their deaths, both Scoop and I practically needed a grief counsellor.  We vowed we'd never get another pet.  All the usual reasons -- they tie you down, they are a responsibility, they get too attached to us ... oops I mean we get too attached to THEM, they cost a fortune when they are ill and most importantly, they totally break your heart when they are sick and dying.

We tried a rescue animal or two and passed them along to friends and an aging father.  We moved again ... another rented place .... still no animals. 

The RagDoll Decade 

And, then .... a friend of my husband's daughter told us about Ragdolls -- indoor lap cats, perfect, California special breed, show cats, no aggression, almost like puppies etc....  Internet research was not as easy then as it is now but we soon turned up a breeder outside of Montreal and off we went. Apparently they are called Ragdolls because they are floppy cats ... you can throw them against a wall and they just flop.  We did NOT do such a thing ever but that was the mythology.  

Delft and Spice Girl 

We ended up with two perfect specimens -- Spice Girl and Delft (Dell for short).  Both had pedigreed papers, were retired Queen breeders, 5 and 7 years old and in need of a good home.  The drive home from Montreal was tough.  It rained, we got lost outside Montreal, there was a terrible highway accident and I spied body parts as a policeman grimly directed us around the mangled metal machines in the pouring rain, we had to consult maps (no GPS!), we were both stressed ..... and the cats (Spice in particular) cried absolutely non-stop.... for the three plus hours it took us to get to Ottawa.

Both cats freaked for a week, hid under a sofa, only came out at night when we were in bed to eat and use the litter boxes.  We began to feel we'd made a mistake.  I don't remember how we managed to convince them we were good people but eventually they emerged and two absolutely different, but engaging personalities emerged.  The picture at right is the first time they actually emerged from hiding and stayed with us for a few hours.  I snapped it fast.  

Of course, they soon adopted us.  I ended up spending a lot of time at home the first year we had them and the Animal Family was very cozy.  Delft Blue was an off-white princess and stand-offish most of the time until play or cuddle time.  Like the picture left, I found she always had a slightly sad personality.  She did not seem that happy.  But she liked us.  She could jump higher for string than any cat I've had before or since.  She died a few years ago of major kidney problems.  

Spice Girl

Spice, on the other hand, was like a puppy.  She'd walk with us, talk to us, sleep with us.  She looks at you and her soul speaks back.  Spice and Husband are incredibly close.  She follows him downstairs every single morning and they 'chat'.  He'll say "Hi Spice Girl, you beautiful thing" and I hear her reply "Hi.  Hi.  Hi."  They dialogue like this for awhile.  

Not to sound like a raving mad doting mother, but the personality of Spice Girl cat is unlike any cat I or we have ever had.  Some cats live in a fugue state (Dell did), while others are present in every way, understand you, know what you are doing and why.  Every time we say her name, she wags her tail.  Every single time.  That's Spice.  

She's had her share of medical troubles and we've shelled out many thousands for her.  She almost died once at an animal hospital but luckily we got her out of there and nursed her back to health ourselves.  Spice is now old and creaky, with terrible asthma, breathing problems, runny nose, a puffer and steroids but she is still Spice Girl.  Her personality remains firmly intact.  She walks sedately out onto the back deck, will walk with you down the driveway and escort you back to the house.  She chats nonstop.  She is never angry or bad-tempered even when the vet is drawing blood or some other procedure.  

Everyone who meets Spice adores her.  And it's mutual.  She loves everyone.  When we walk into the vets with her, the front desk staff say "Spice is here.  Can we hold her?".  Spice then holds paws with everyone.  She purrs so loudly that the vet can't get a heart rate.  She is pampered unrestrainedly.  We buy special food so she can lick the gravy (teeth are bad and can't do dental).  When she has trouble putting her head down to eat or drink, we hold it up the bowls so she can do both.  We spoil her completely.  But whatever we give to her, she gives back even more to us.  She adores us, trusts us, is happy with us.... I dread the inevitable day of reckoning.  

Will and Grace  

Rewinding a bit ... after Dell died, Spice became very lonely.  She wandered the house looking for her.  After a few months, we decided to replace her with another off-white coloured ragdoll, older etc. 

One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves driving to Navan, Ontario, to see a new litter of Ragdolls 'Kittens' ... not cats yet but we were willing to 'just have a look'.  Sure, just a look.... right.

We fell madly in love.  One kitten was off-white like Dell; the other brown coloured one like Spice.  We couldn't get just one kitten... the white one came with a brother.  The breeder knew a sale as soon as she saw us, and turned the screw by saying the brown was likely destined to be shipped to Germany unless of course we would take him.  She charged us $100 less if we took two.  To my credit, we at least debated kitten number 2 for a few days but in the end you guessed it, Easter in our house a few years ago saw the addition of TWO kittens.  But are they not adorable!!! 

I of course forgot the realities of having kitten kids in our lives.  They take a lot of vigilance and work.  We have to keep the frightened little things in the kitchen with the door shut for a few weeks because they were so tiny.  I plugged many little holes that small to us but LARGE to them as hiding places.  We had to watch them on the couch or they'd tumble off.  

First order of business was choosing a name so over came all the various friends and relatives for a Naming Session.  As the wine flowed, so too did the suggestions:  Tooth and Nail; Fang and Claw; Fred and Fredericka; Hansel and Grettel; ...... and then it happened 'Will and Grace'... our favourite show.  We asked the kitten kids what they thought and they yawned and said:  "Whatever.  We'll respond if we feel like it anyway."  Got it.  So it stuck.  Everyone always smiles when they hear their names.  

Will Kitten:  I am Lion King.  Here me roar:  "meeowp".  Actually, he almost died before 6 months of age.  He had a umm delicate male medical condition and I won't elaborate other than to say infection set in a day after snip-snip surgery and the other unmentionable operation.  He collapsed with a heart rate of 30 at one point.  The Animal Hospital wrote him off (same one that almost did Spice in), saying he likely had a heart murmur, needed a cardiologist, grave situation ... $3K minimum.  My friend who went with me to take him there told me bluntly:  "The cat is toast".  I couldn't do it.  I hung in, took him out of there soon and bathed and nursed the infection and him back to health.  He is now MY Boy... My Big Boy as I call him or Sir BB.  Total suck.  Throws himself at me for scritches, knocks on doors to say let him in for a belly rub and is generally thriving.  

Hubby thinks Will dumb as a post but I emphatically deny it. I say he's got his priorities right-sized.  Sleepy 'ole boy with bedroom come-hither eyes, manana is fine by him.  Just make sure to top the food dish on your way out and, oh yeah, keep the tap dripping.  He doesn't pay the bills.  I'm betting he's going to be a 25 lb-er by time he is eight or nine.  And I'm betting he keeps using the same scratching post he used as a kitten.  It's a riot to see him get on it (backwards) and do his nails.  He's wayyyy too big for it but, hey, it''s not the couch.  


Anyone who tries to tell you cats are all the same and don't have a personality, I say 'get with it.'  This one has personality in spades.  Where Will is laid back, Grace is ADD.  Attention Deficit Disorder.  She never sleeps.  One eye is always open to do more, more, more.  She wants out... incessantly.  She tells you so too.... meowing and meowing till you put her out of the kitchen and shut the door.  When she does get out into the KittyWalk Gazebo with extra condo attachment it is hell to get her out of it.  She wants to play, romp, fight, whatever.... anything but relax and be a kitty.   

The only time she approaches normal kitty is when she wants a little affection and then, watch out... she throws herself at husband and curls up at his hip aggressively and for long periods of time.  We call her 'Hip Girl".  She wouldn't admit it but she is incredibly attached to Husband and sleeps daily in his letter try while he is working on the computer.  See top photo.  

Husband walks her in the KittyStroller.  I kid you not.  It's a double decker build to accommodate either Will or Spice but they aren't as keen on walks near busy streets as Grace.  She fights for the opportunity to get it in and will try and hide rather than get out of it. 

Anyway, they're thriving as you can see from the picture.  3 and half years old.  

Will and Grace and Spice

And, of course, there was Beloved Spice Cat to deal with.  Our stated goal was to find a companion for Spice Girl but we didn't directly ask HER for her views.  She wasn't impressed.  It took her a week to go through her stages of denial, anger, ignore them, and finally acceptance.  She .MOANED the entire week... she'd sit halfway up the stairs and moan through the railing, a cry that kindof sounded like "oooohhhh, what are you doing to me? ooohhhh, why are they here? ooooohhhh I'm not happy."  

Then, suddenly, one day .... she decided.  She marched over to the couch, got up to where the two kittens were playing, firmly put her paw around the neck of Will and gave him a bath for more than 15 minutes. His fur was sopping wet.  She then did the same with Grace, who was more leery.  I captured the moment with Grace above.   

Will became a slave to Spice ... followed her around, became her shadow, flopped down in front of her for a bath and even slept with her as you can see from this rather rude photograph on the right.  They sleep together in front of the fireplace in the winter time every single morning.  

The presence of the two kittens helped with Spice.  She got more life back into her and even though she is sometimes wary of them (especially if Grace tries to chase her), I think it has helped with longevity. 

Spice even supervised their play activity when they were kittens and sometimes she deigned to participate.   

Nowadays she tends to let them be.

So the household is thriving... 

Surely, I have this out of my system for a bit............. will update as they grow.  


  1. Great was a nice walk down memory lane. I enjoyed remembering and also seeing the photos of your various living rooms! Certainly miss Goldie. But what about Abbott?

  2. Yes. Abbott. Cut him out for length. More Goldie stories forthcoming. We used to go for a 5 km run every night around Champlain Park. Ppl who didn't leash their dogs. Anyway more stories forthcoming.