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Kitty Consent

       

    As a volunteer for Country Cat Lady, I’ve been sharing updates about my adventures socializing unfriendly cats. Earlier this summer, I told the tales of my first foster kitty, Laura, who has since been placed in a forever home where she is reportedly doing very well. My second kitty Moana has been with me six weeks. Progress is slow, but rewarding. 

         Having learned my lesson from Laura,  I blocked the hiding place behind the file cabinet. I thought if I could reach Moana we could become friends more easily.  But as soon as I would reach out a hand toward her,  Moana would run away so haphazardly that I feared for her safety as well as mine. I decided to stop trying to pet her. If I have a right to deny someone’s touch,  doesn’t Moana deserve the same right of consent?
          So even though we hadn’t made friends, I decided after three weeks to let Moana out of the office to roam our house. She hid under the bed a lot at first, then at night she would explore the house playing with yarn balls in the living room. Surprisingly, I never found her getting up on any furniture.  She would hide under the sofa and watch me watch TV but never get up on the sofa or my bed.
          After a while, Moana no longer seemed to feel the need to hide. She would spend her days on the bedroom floor in front of my sliding door and watch the birds on the deck. She would curl up on the carpet next to my abandoned shoes and play with the dangling laces.  But occasional attempts to touch her were still shunned. 
          She started following me to the bathroom first thing in the morning, but she would always stay out of reach. She was clearly trying to communicate with me. She would rub against the door frames and furniture but if I responded by reaching out, she would run. 
          The other morning we were chatting in the bathroom. She was just out of reach, rubbing against the wall, but she had a thoughtful look in her eyes. Slowly she stepped closer, rubbed against my leg cautiously, and then ran back to the wall. She repeated the move and I told her how nice it felt for her to rub my leg. The third time she rubbed my leg I responded by scratching her head and she seemed to accept my touch. She didn’t linger but she didn’t run either.   
          This is our dance of detent. Little moves on each side, closer and closer, until trust is built. 
          
           

A yarn about a cat

     

Yesterday Moana marked two weeks living in my office. She’s watched me clean out files and use the printer. She’s turned down every tasty bribe I’ve tried…chicken strips, crisp bacon,  flaked salmon from Lake Michigan. And she bounces around the room like a ping pong ball if I make a move to touch her. 

       I’ve managed a few pets, but strokes are usually met with hisses and growls. It’s the streaking away and bouncing off walls and furniture that’s really concerning. Usually I just talk to her.
      She will only eat plain dry cat food. She’s pretty clear on that. An automatic feeder in the corner and a giant water bowl take care of all her needs. What does she need me for?
      The first positive sign came a few days ago. When I came in for my morning visit I discovered a yarn  ball I left a week before had been politely unraveled, not wrapped around chair legs or strewn from chair to desk but just nicely unrolled in the middle of the room. Yet, this was proof positive. She can play. I rewrapped that one and added two more, which remained untouched on the floor for two days. 
       Since I can’t get her to beg for treats, I decided to go more basic. Yesterday I removed the automatic feeder and left the room without food for a few hours. Then before bed I brought in a small dish of dry food and a new small water dish. Maybe she will start to see me as the good guy.
       An hour or so later I heard sounds coming from the office. Maybe she was batting around a plastic cap. And a bit more noise. Maybe the office chair rolling around. 
        When I went in this morning her food dish was empty. The blue yarn ball was completely undone, wrapped around a chair leg,  through the legs of a stool and wandering under the desk. 
        I think she’s getting the idea.
       
       

Meet Moana

       

       If you are a Disney fan you may already know the animated Moana, a 2016 movie about a Polynesian lass who ventures beyond the reef surrounding her home island to meet legendary characters. This Moana — a shy cat with hair as black as any Polynesian — is also on an adventure beyond her “reef.”

       About a week ago I bid farewell to my first foster cat, Laura, as she moved into her forever home. A couple days later I picked up Moana to be my second foster friend. She and a box of six kittens were abandoned in Grand Rapids. They were taken in by Country Cat Lady, a shelter in Wayland. She is believed to be four or five years old and very afraid of humans. 
          She’s back in my home office where Laura started. I’ve blocked off the hidey hole behind the file cabinet so Moana has to hide in slightly more accessible spaces. But if she can’t hide, she runs. Anytime I get close she streaks across the room. I have managed to pet her head a few times but usually she responds with hisses. It’s only been three days. I’ll let you know how she’s doing in a week or so. 
          Wish me luck.

Lives of Laura (2): Lady of the Manor

    

     Cat people like to joke that “Dogs have owners; Cats have staffs.”

     Once Laura discovered my bedroom, it was all over. She abandoned her temporary domain in my office and moved her headquarters to my bed. I was allowed to visit her on the bed, sort of a more comfortable version of our sitting-on-the-floor sessions.  I would offer a hand to be sniffed and she would allow a few pets. 
     In these early days of our negotiations she often responded with feline friskiness, grabbing my hand with both paws and a playful nibble on a knuckle. I am willing to bow to Lady of the Manor, but I will not tolerate Laura the Impaler. From the first nibble, I responded with “No, no” as I yanked my hand away. For an alternative, I scratched Laura just under her chin and she loved it. Our friendship grew by leaps and bounds. Laura was soon joining me in the recliner to watch television in the evenings.
     Laura The Impaler sometimes sneaks back, trying to sharpen her weapons on my favorite living room chair, but I can chase the evil one away easily with  “No, no.” The more prudent Lady of the Manor takes over and Laura goes to the nearby cardboard cat scratching box to finish grooming her claws.
     I met Laura Tech-Diva when I went out of town overnight and monitored Laura with my Alexa Show. I used my phone to call the Alexa and repeat Laura’s name. Before long Laura came running. I could watch as she sniffed the screen on the floor and tilted her head at the sound of my voice. Tech-Diva also enjoys photo bombing when I am in the middle of a zoom meeting or Skyping with a friend. 

     

Laura Spiderwoman enjoys unraveling balls of yarn and weaving webs around chair legs. Wayne Grets-Kitty plays hockey down the hall with a red milk bottle cap as her puck. When she gets close to the goal (my bedroom), the game is more like football. She picks up the puck in her mouth and jumps up onto the bed. Touchdown! 

          I put a plate of freshly grilled burgers on the counter the other day as I went to eat my dinner in the other room. When I returned to put the extras in the fridge, there was one less than I remembered. I went in search of my little charge. I found her sitting innocently on a rug in my bedroom. 
         “Have you seen my hamburger?” I asked. 
         “Who me?” said Laura the Hamburgler as she looked up at me and licked her chops. Then she smugly got up and walked away, revealing a half-eaten burger where she had been sitting. 
 
         Needless to say I have loved the many Lives of Laura during the past three months. But the foster phase is about to end. A family has applied to adopt Laura. Soon she will move into her forever home and a new life will begin.
          If you’d like to share the fun by adopting or volunteering, check out Country Cat Lady.
       

Lives of Laura (1): Teen Mom

      Laura was homeless when the labor pains started one snowy night last January.
     She was less than a year old, barely more than a kitten herself. We like to believe that instinct taught her all she needed to know about motherhood but nature failed to fill her in on the facts of frostbite. Her little ears bear a permanent ragged edge. 

       The hungry mewing of her three little ones attracted the attention of a couple walking past the bushes outside their apartment building in Coldwater. They hurriedly tucked the cats inside their coats and offered temporary shelter in their home. In March they took the family to Country Cat Lady, a no-kill cat shelter specializing in rescuing mother cats and their litters. Since the non-profit organization opened in 2018, Country Cat Lady has rescued 162 cats and placed 118 in adoptive homes. 
      In one short year, Laura had already lived many lives: homeless, teen mom, rescue It was time for her to embark on her next life — foster cat.  That’s where I come into the story. I volunteered to foster Laura for a few months and try to help her get used to interacting with people.
      
    

She hid behind a file cabinet in my home office for almost a month, refusing to even nibble her food if I was in the room. After about three weeks she decided to venture out to her food dish even when I lingered in the corner. When I held my hand out she gave it a sniff. Then she allowed a pet or two. And eventually I heard a purr. 

       I started leaving the door to the office open during the day, but Laura was too shy to venture out into the area where I was bustling about. Finally I left the door open at night and Laura went exploring. I awakened when I felt her walking on my bed but as soon as I stirred she disappeared. The next morning she was meowing in the bedroom doorway asking to be fed. It was the first time she had ever initiated communication. It was the beginning of her next life…Lady of the Manor. 
        Check back tomorrow for more Lives of Laura. I think this cat may have more than nine.

 

Faith over fear

 Open letter to Alexis Kuijken, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Dear Mrs. Kuijken, 

Sioux Falls lifted its a mask mandate recently, after you and your daughter complained at a council meeting that you were being harassed for not following the city’s mission to enforce CDC guidelines. Like many who refuse to wear masks you said the mandate is based on fear and you believe in faith over fear. You said going without a mask was not tempting fate like standing in the middle of a busy highway because Covid has a 99 percent survival rate (your figure).

We’ve all heard these arguments before but somehow you are missing the point. Let’s start with the busy highway. It’s a good analogy. But we are not standing on the highway watching cars buzz by. We are the cars, zooming along, rushing about our business in a miraculously orderly fashion. Most of the cars follow the rules. They observe the speed limit, stay in their lane, use safety precautions. Now you may say the rules of the road are too stringent because the survival rate on the highway is much better than the 99 percent you cite for Covid. But it is exactly because most people follow the rules that all those cars can go so fast without running into each other. We can zip across the country, merging and exiting, pausing only rarely to eat, sleep and refuel. As long as everyone follows the rules we all get to our destinations safely. 

But every highway has to have a few who ignore the rules. They think the speed limit is too slow. They think they are better drivers than the rest of us.Their time is more valuable. They weave in and out of lanes, ignoring a safe distance between cars.  Sometimes they get by just fine, impairing the smooth order only a little. But eventually the rule breakers will cause a collision. Just like those who refuse to wear masks  spread the disease that has killed more than half a million Americans this past year. 

It’s true some of the cars follow the rules of the road out of fear–the drivers are afraid they will get a ticket if they go too fast. But mostly people follow the rules of the road out of faith–.they have faith in the rules and faith in their fellow drivers. They know if everyone follows good, safe-driving mandates, everyone benefits. 

So you are right; it is about faith. I have faith in you, Mrs. Kuijken. I know you would not intentionally put others’ lives at risk. I know you wouldn’t want to be responsible for even one death per 100 because you failed to put on a simple mask.

Bragging rights

 Remember back in college when we used to brag about “doing shots?”

You know. A shot of tequila with a lick of salt and a squeeze of lime. Or if you were a real drinker you might have a boilermaker (shot in a beer) while the tamer crowd would try sweet and colorful “jello” shots.

It’s been many years since I’ve had much more than a glass of wine with dinner. But now us senior citizens are once again doing shots, even if our choice of poison has changed. 

 Covid shots are all the rage among the over-65 set. We call our friends to report “got my shot today,” or post it on Facebook. Not to be outdone, friends respond that they’ve already had their “second shot.” 

 We share every detail of the scheduling ordeal, all the computer crashes and then that miracle moment when we finally got through or received a surprise phone call. An appointment. A line. Everything in order. Maybe a slight prick. 

Instead of a hangover from too much whiskey, the effects of Covid shots are more likely a little swelling or soreness. Maybe a headache or if you hit the jackpot a day or two of illness. 

We brag about the adventure, just like we survived a boilermaker. We call friends we haven’t talked to in years to recommend they join the parade. We’re so excited to be doing shots because we can see this year-long nightmare is starting to wind down. It’s not over yet, but we are on the road home.

 At last.

Be Best

          

Have I told you recently how lucky I am? Not only do I spend my winters right on the beach but I’m on the best beach in America. 

           Perhaps you read recently that Trip Advisor named St. Pete Beach the best beach in the country. Technically St. Pete Beach is six or seven miles south of me. When I open the gate of my condominium complex I step onto the pristine sand of Madeira Beach, which comes in number nine in Trip Advisor’s list. That’s right, two beaches within sight of each other (You can see a long way as the shore winds around) are in the top 10. And that’s where I wake up every morning. 

         Now I know that any Top Ten list is very subjective. Next year neither St. Pete or Madeira may get a mention. But considering four of the beaches on this year’s Top Ten  list are in Hawaii I consider the competition stiff indeed.

          In my years working for newspapers we were always wary of superlatives. How can you prove something is the first or the last or the best? In sports they solve the dilemma with a score. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the 2021 Superbowl Champions, but we stop short of saying they are the “best” football team. 

         When hyperbole hits home, however, it feels fantastic.

Hear me roar

 

Women have lost a lot lately. 

   First it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. Long before she was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993,  she championed gender equity. Thanks to her work, and 1974’s  Equal Credit Opportunity Act, women can get credit cards and mortgages without a male co-signer. She made it possible for me to buy a home in my own name after my husband left me with a son to raise.  

    She fought for equal wages, protection for pregnant workers, and for widowers to receive the same benefits available to widows. Life was a little easier for single moms like me because we knew Ruth was fighting for us.

     Then this week we also lost Helen Reddy, the Australian singer who championed women’s rights not  in a court of law but on the stage of public opinion. She taught us to raise our voices with pride:

        “I am woman, hear me roar/ in numbers too big to ignore/ And I know too much to go back an’ pretend 

Cause I’ve heard it all before /And I’ve been down there on the floor/No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.”

    But the final blow came from India. A 19-year-old girl died after she was gang raped and mutilated as a political statement by one caste against another. Although Indian law doesn’t allow the young woman to be identified, she represents so many women in the world who face discrimination and abuse. She reminds us that we are not invincible as long as any woman anywhere can be tossed aside like a piece of garbage.

        We are Ruthless and Reddy. Hear us Roar.

Dang those miserable masks

 

    I woke up coughing and I couldn’t stop. Oh no, I thought. What have I done? 

    I have to admit I’m not fond of wearing my mask. Nor am I much for quarantine. I’ve fudged the guidelines more than once. I’m not a anti-masker by any means. I try to behave. But I try to have a normal life too. 

     I visit my 92-year-old mother, who would be insulted if I didn’t give her a hug. The church ladies have organized a weekly meeting in the park. We try to wear masks and stay six feet apart, but it is so hard to understand what someone is saying at 6 feet with a mask on. I try to do my part for the community. I worked the polls in August even though I was scared to death I would get infected. Somebody needed to do it. 

    So when I woke up coughing I figured I had fudged once too often. I was overcome with regret. What had I been thinking? If only I could have a do-over. 

    A racking cough shook me out of the bed. I hunted through the bathroom drawer. Where was the thermometer? I unwrapped a cough drop. What should I do? Call my doctor? Look up the nearest testing site? Oh, shoot. What about my weekend plans? Well that would need to be canceled. I wouldn’t dream of taking a chance on giving it to someone else.

     A sip of water, another cough drop. Maybe the cough was settling down.I finally found the thermometer. No fever, 97.4, not even 98.6. 

    Within an hour the cough was gone. I figured pollen must have set off post nasal drip. Not Covid. Maybe this was my do-over, my second chance to be careful.