weekly photo challenge: surprise

This particular photo never ceases to amaze me. And although I’ve used it before in various and sundry other posts, I am compelled to bring it to the forefront yet again…in response to this week’s Word Press photo challenge…surprise!!!

IMG_0796That’s Sitka, named after a charming Alaskan village. I was there once, as a voyager on a Holland America Alaskan cruise. 

A year later, 9/11 happened. The following day I adopted Sitka from the local Humane Society, along with his brother Juneau, also a namesake for a town in Alaska.

These two are daily reminders of both…the best and worst experiences I’ve known…cruising the glacial fjords of Alaska with 25 family members…and suffering through one of the saddest days for our country and, indeed, the world at large.

…life is…full of surprises…both good and…not so good…

………hugmamma.

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adoption, our responsibility

I know not everyone can commiserate with how worrisome a pet’s health can be to an owner. While I consider our cats and dog family, I don’t think of them as human beings. However I do relish their place in our home as silent nurturers of our spirits. They give unconditionally, expecting little in return, a dish of food, a bowl of water, a pat now and then, and playtime when it can be worked into our schedules. But pets are living creatures, whose lives are as precious to them as ours are to us. I’m sure like us they assume they’ll  wake up alive and well at the beginning of each new day. In some ways, that assumption is dependent upon the society in which they find themselves.

Caring for a pet is comparable to caring for a human being. Once that creature is on my radar, I can’t escape the niggling feeling that I am responsible for its well-being, whether in part or in full. Perhaps it’s my Catholic school education. I am “my brother’s keeper.” So the fact that Juneau is grossly overweight makes me feel guilty that it occurred on my watch. But as I explained to the vet, Dr. Hill, that’s “water under the bridge.” My concern now is to get Juneau on track to being healthier, so that he can realize his full life expectancy which is probably another 8 years or so. I’d like them to be great years! I’m sure he would as well.

In order to kick-start his weight loss, my husband and I decided to spend the money up front and board Juneau at the vet’s for the week. There he will be weaned from his current food to the weight-reducing one. Once that’s done a schedule and a new eating pattern can be established. Since Juneau is extremely shy and skittish, we’re enlisting professional help in making the necessary changes. Being novices, my husband and I were proceeding in a “hit or miss” fashion. At 16 pounds, I didn’t think Juneau had a lot of time for trial and error. As Dr. Hill said, our cat might have gotten diabetes tomorrow, next week or in 3 years. And as I said in my previous post, I don’t want Juneau to suffer needlessly, nor do I welcome the stress of dealing with the disease and its corresponding treatment, or the exorbitant cost that is part of the package.

Just as I’ve been trying to keep my husband and I free from diabetes, so too I think it only fair to keep Juneau free from it as well. We adopted him, and when we did we made a promise to take care of him to the best of our ability.

we plan to honor that promise…hugmamma.   

pets, can’t live with them…

What do you do with pets who want you to morph into their playmates, 24/7? Read a funny post where the writer felt her cat was a terrorist, stalking her all the time. Meanwhile I kept thinking of Sitka, and Juneau his brother, part-Maine Coones, who want at me all the time.

Whether seated, standing, or walking around, Sitka wants up. He’s like my daughter who when she was 2 or 3 used to come to me with outstretched arms, saying “uppy, uppy, uppy.” Sitka doesn’t say anything, he just stares at me with soulful eyes. But I can tell he wants “uppy, uppy, uppy.” Sometimes I think I should get one of those things new moms use to carry around their newborns. Then I might at least have 2 hands free to do something, other than hold Sitka. It’s impossible to multi-task with him in my arms.

At least when I sit to eat a meal, Sitka’s learned that’s my sacred time. But as soon as the plate is put away, he’s back at my side, demanding to be “uppied.” I have to look him straight in the eye, and say “Not now,” and mean it. He’ll try to outstare me, until I give up and walk away, feeling guilty. That cat can do that to me. 

Even when I sit-a-spell with Sitka in my lap, he’s always inching his way up into my face, trying to wrap himself around my head. Barely able to breathe, I have to remove his grip from around my throat, gently, or roughly, pushing him back down onto my lap. Only if I continue petting him, does he remain in place. If not, the struggle to regain higher ground starts up again. I’ve never had a cat like Sitka before, and I’ve had a lot of cats as pets in my lifetime. Ask my husband.

Juneau, Sitka’s litter mate, is another force with which to be reckoned. That cat could be a footstool, he’s so big and solid. In fact, he often wiggles his way under my feet as I’m blogging. As I rub them back and forth over his body, Juneau seems content to let me. Unlike Sitka who wants me to wear him like a crown or a bike helmet, Juneau prefers I use him to warm my feet. When I do pick him up, it’s like lifting a large bag of groceries. I have to remember to bend at the waist, or I’ll injure myself. With a grunt I hoist Juneau up onto my chest where he pulls back, squinting at me as if to say “Don’t hurt me.” I hold him tight, stroking his back assuring him that it’s okay to be on Sitka territory. Once Juneau settles in, he starts with the body-slamming.

Just as Sitka has his own unique mannerisms, so too does Juneau. He’s the only cat I’ve ever owned who literally throws himself against me, my legs if I’m standing, my chest if I’m sitting. He body slams, as my daughter has often remarked. It’s as if he wants inside my body, as if he can’t get close enough, and just wants to find a way in and stay there. Creepy, right? 

Juneau will even go so far as to nip me to get my attention. While I’m blogging, he’ll stretch up towards me, mewing pitifully. If I don’t stroke him immediately, he nips my elbow. It’s like a bee sting, which gets my attention quick! I reprimand him, after which I coo and pet him. Like his brother, Juneau can easily send me on a guilt trip. He’ll even nip me when I’m holding and stroking him. It’s either to reassure himself that I’m his, or that I’m not giving him my undivided attention. He doesn’t even want my eyes wandering toward the TV. Nope! My hands AND eyes have to be on him. Of course, I’ve had to scold him about his manners, otherwise I’d have nicks all over my body.

While Sitka and Juneau were rescued from an animal shelter, Sunkist is my purebred grand-dame. At $100, she was actually cheaper to purchase from a private owner than my 2 boys who cost $125 apiece to adopt. A 16-year-old Persian, Sunkist sits like a sphinx before me, as if willing me to get down and pay homage. (Here comes Juneau, mewing alongside me. Gotta give him a few strokes.) While Sunkist does allow me to pick her up once-in-awhile, to hold and pet her, and coo sweet nothings in her little ears, she much prefers I crouch on all fours and massage her endlessly. And I mean…endlessly.

Unlike the others, Sunkist has the patience of a sphinx. She will sit for what feels like hours to me, awaiting her turn for my undivided attention. Whether it’s right at my feet, or at a small distance, her head dropping from time to time as if in a doze, Sunkist never wavers in her efforts to get one-on-one time. When I do get down beside her, inevitably one or 2 of the others will try to steal me away. I have to nudge them out-of-the-way, saying it’s their sister’s turn to have at me. Either they get the message, or Sunkist walks off in a huff. It’s her way, or no way.

Where does my dog Mocha, a mixed terrier-beagle, fit into all this? She just takes over the whole show if that’s what she decides. But most of the time, she’s more than happy, or not, I can’t tell sometimes, to let me pay attention to the felines in the family. Being the biggest, and most companionable of all our pets, it’s hard not to give Mocha more than her fair share of my time. Besides walks during the day, we romp around the house in the evenings. Me chasing her around the coffee table, or the other way around. She looks at me in confusion when we play this game as if to ask “Are you Alpha, or are you my pack mate?” Why the confusion? Because I often get down on all fours when we’re carousing. She never bites me, but sometimes she has this gleam in her eyes as if she wants to grab me by the scruff of my neck, as she does her toy, and shake me violently from side to side. Or as with Juneau who allows Mocha to nibble at his neck, seemingly in an effort to clean him.

One thing I can’t bring myself to allow, is letting Mocha lap my face with her tongue. I know others allow this all the time, her vet, Dr. Rice for one. Having seen where Mocha’s tongue has been, i.e. licking her poop hole, I just cannot stomach her licking my face afterwards. Sorry, just can’t. Funny, I’ve no problem when Gretchen, Sylvia’s dachsund gives my face a few quick licks with her tongue. The difference, however, is that Gretchen surprises me before I can turn away, Mocha looks me directly in the eye as if asking “Are we doing this, or not?” I mean when I’ve got the option, I’m always going to say “Duh… I don’t think so.” She settles for my mashing instead. I’m all over her, like Sitka and Juneau are all over me. Mocha just lies there and takes it. I can only imagine what she’s thinking. I hope it’s not “God, she drives me nuts with her mashing!” But as long as she says nothing, I guess I’ll keep mashing and smooshing her.

gotta love those animals…i do!…hugmamma.