Filed under: cat paintings, cats and dogs, Confessions, dog paintings, fragments, pet paintings-stories | Tags: florence, oregon, pet sitting stories, susan canavarro, writing
Copyright 2013 – By Susan Canavarro
When you are not writing, you are a writer too. It doesn’t leave you. Walk with an animal walk and take in everything around you as prey. Use your senses as an animal does. Watch a cat when he sees something moving in the room. He is perfectly still, and at the same time, his every sense is alive, watching, listening, smelling. This is how you should be when you are in the streets. The cat’s mind is not thinking about how much money he needs, or whom to write a postcard to when he visits Florence: he is watching the mouse or the marble rolling across the floor or light reflecting in crystal. He is ready with all of him to pounce. Now, you don’t have to get down on all fours and twitch your tail. Only be still – some part of you, at least – and know where you are, no matter how busy you are.
- Be An Animal, From Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, p. 90 ——-© 2005 (Shambhala, Boston and London)
I am reading Writing Down the Bones in a coffee shop called Mon Ami. Mon Ami sells antiques and estate sale items. Cindy, the owner, also serves delectable deli and bakery items, espresso coffees and teas. Her employees cook up fresh wicked apple-cinnamon and/or cherry turnovers daily. Her cappuccinos are deep and rich and soothing for my soul.
It is steamy outside. Sweat is beading up in my every nook and cranny and my bra, chaffing. I can feel my skin glowing red with rash. I have a headache. This is not your average Florence weather. This day I choose to drink iced tea at Mon Ami’s.
When I read the above paragraph by Natalie Goldberg, I sat staring off across the ocean with a grin spreading across my fat cheeks. Cindy waved her hand in front of my face to see if I was okay. Mustn’t stare too hard and too long when in a coffee-house. I smiled, nodded my head, yes. In fact, I was better than usual. Across the ocean across from my table was an antique soft creamy white dining buffet with ornate filigree decorating each cabinet-door edge. One door damaged and detached, leaned against the front of the cabinet. On the buffet top stood a large showcase trophy sailboat, two tall masts in full sail. This day, the ship, gripped in the stall of its display stand, was unable to fulfill its purpose–adventure on the open seas.
At one end of the ship was a small table-clock made to look like a ship’s helm, also an old gimbaled compass in its original box and two kerosene lanterns filled with red liquid. At the other end, a selection of three books leaning up against the base of a lamp: a first edition copy of Victor Canning’s novel The Chasm a story about adventure in the Italian Apennines; a first edition by Oregon writer Elizabeth Lambert Wood writing about the magnificent forests, ocean and lakes in her home state; and a 1931 edition of Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia Vol. IV of people and places, only the “B” list included. A set of very old binoculars with its original leather carrying case lies next to the books. And on the floor a small white, red & blue Route 66 sign, ticking time. A display of adventure signs, sailing the oceans and rivers, crossing a gorge in the Apennines, learning about new worlds and old times. Details observed.
A small table sculpture of two black Scottish Terriers standing on their hind legs holding up two interlocked rings declares an eternal cycle of loyalty, love, life, death and rebirth.
And here I sit in Florence, Oregon, not Italy as in Goldberg’s quote, living a life nearer to its ending than its beginning, yet dreaming of a desire to write, to publish, to create passable if not stunning paintings, to travel the world and sail down the canals of Europe, and to have the love, acceptance and tolerance of good friends.
I smiled at Goldberg’s words because I recognized that I had just experienced one of my Dad’s favorite synchronistic moments. Reading her book for the second time, wondering how to write about my animals while vicariously traveling to Lyon, France thru the email and picture journals from my friends just seemed to come together to bring more meaning to what I was writing. Dad believed that when you experience a coincidence such as this and it relates meaningfully to something happening in your life, it is a moment of Grace; one to which we should give our attention. And what’s happening in my life this moment is writing and armchair traveling and learning to walk like an animal. So it all fits.
Natalie Goldberg said writers should walk like an animal, with your senses alert like an animal’s senses are alert to every nuance of sound, smell and movement. As a pet sitter, I walk a cat walk. My senses are alive to what my special charges are doing and feeling every moment of the day. If they had been my cat or dog living at home with me, I would not have been so focused. Their daily adventures and idiosyncrasies would become uninteresting to me and I would have ignored them. I would have said, Oh you’re hungry again? You eat like a bull, Taurus. What is your problem? It’s not time yet. Bootsie, why the heck are you biting my legs? What is your problem? Leave me alone.
But, as pet sitter, I watch. I become a peeping-tom, a stalker. I follow them around. I walk like an animal. I check to see what they are up to, to see if they are okay. I annoy them to no end, especially Trina and Simon. I look for details. And they follow me. Even the cats follow me like a dog as if they were afraid I, too, would leave them. I remember thinking in the beginning, Why don’t these creatures let me have a moment of peace? But secretly, I love it. I know they are feeling insecure without their people and I become their only source of comfort when they are home alone. They eventually get it. I am it! I have the hand that feeds them, that gives them a rub-down. I glean a small bit of satisfaction that my presence makes them feel better.
I’m learning a lot about pets and about myself. I’ve learned that I like to ascribe human emotions to them. I know when they are happy. I see a cat tail extend straight up when he or she walks into a room and I say Hello Simon or Hello Tai or Hello Bessie! I watch whiskers turn up or down, knowing sadness, irritation, anger or contentment; I know eyes half-opened is an expression of love and contentment and trust; eyes large and round with dark pupils in full-moon is an autonomic response to fear or anger, and preparation for an attack. Often, I’ve experienced that glare. In fact, I have been the feared one too many times, the recipient of those big, dark alert angry eyes. Scary. Suddenly I am their prey and I want to hide under the covers.
I see the young kitten-energy return over and over after they do their daily job in the cat box. They burst into the living room wanting to play, wanting attention and affection, as if they know they’ve done a good job and they want me to know…so I can scoop it out for them. Cat sluggishness goes with cat constipation; and cat energy and happiness comes after a good bowel movement! The emotional and physical behavior of animals is amazingly familiar. Language of the animal world is as it is for us humans, too.
Dog tails swish back and forth and I know they are happy campers. Tails wagging. Jumping up and down barking. Barking in embarrassment, barking to warn, barking in excitement. Running in circles. Dog whimpering. Each whimper and bark a language to be deciphered. Each look a look of desire or love or need. Each rump-wagging, tail-wagging, a sign of love and excitement. The white lab lifts her head and looks at me, a sad questioning look in her eyes. What is it this time, Belle? I know she is asking me something but I don’t know what. Are you sad, hungry, do you need to go out? I prefer to think she is sad, but her owner says she is hungry. Just hungry.
I become a cat watching them like a cat watches a bird, chattering, waiting to see what would happen next, my body quivering with tension and excitement over what I might see, what indiscretion, what new sign I can read and learn, what might become a good story to tell their owners, thus Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter is in the works.
Writing. Watching animals. In Florence, Oregon. Traveling from my computer chair from cat house to cat house while reading emails from Bonnie and Ralph in Lyon and Avignon, France. A synchronistic moment. Just maybe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Filed under: art, dog paintings, Paintings -Inspiration, Paintings-stories, pet paintings-stories | Tags: bridge structures, dog walks, doggy story, dogs of Florence, siuslaw river bridge, susan canavarro
The DogWalk (a.k.a. The Dogs of Florence)
© 2006-2012 Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved.
- Weeeeee, this is more fun than riding in a car, Max!
- No, Monty, it is not fun and you know it.
- It is too. It’s fun, isn’t it Dox?
- You can be sure it’ll be even more fun when the wind comes up, Monty.
- Oh, boy! Can’t wait! His rump and tail wagging like crazy.
- Dog, if you don’t watch out you’re gonna wag yourself right off the edge. Now stop it!
- Geez, every gall dern Tuesday we gotta take this darn dog walk. What’s it all about Max?
- Challenge, Kiddo. It’s about challenge. Like when we try to eat snowflakes or when we try to follow the cat Scrwuffy up a tree.
- But still…every week?
- Yup. You gotta challenge yourself, Monty, fill up your dog years with learning and insight and adventure. Besides, every Tuesday is Dog Show Day across the river. We may live in a small town, Kiddo, but we still gotta keep up with other dogs, how they’re grooming, what commands they’re paying attention to, what they’re eating, how well they’re running, you know, that kind of stuff.
- Gosh, Max, lighten up, will ya? This is simply an adventure. All it is. Nothing more. Sky is blue. Gorgeous day. Stop trying to turn it into something educational, for cat’s sake. It’s a heck of a lot easier today in the sunshine than it was last week in the wind and rain. So lighten up!
- Who said that? Pipsqueak?
- Yeah. What of it? Don’t be such a sour-puss, Max.
- Hey, Did you just call me a puss? I aint no puss. And I sure as heck aint no sour-puss. I’m pure hound. Pure bloody hound dog is what I am. Everybody stop! Shut up!
- Why? What is it?
- What’s wrong Max?
- What happened?
- I think I see a bird, Monty.
- A bird?
- Oh for goodness sakes. Not again with the blue bird thing, Max?
- Yeah, a blue bird.
- A blue bird?
- Geez, Monty, would you stop repeating everything I say.
- Yeah, REPEATING!
- Be careful Max. Remember what happened the last time you thought you saw a bird?
- Shut up! Will ya?
- But Max, the last time you thought you saw a bird it turned out to be a porcupine with long sharp quills. You got your nose all stuck up, remember? And your tail bit off.
- Yeah, Monty?
- Does this bridge structure remind you of anything?
- Hunger. It reminds me that I’m hungry.
- Hey, Max?
- Yeah, Dox?
- Do you think they’ll be serving dinosaur bones and fish hors d’oeuvres at the dog show?
- Most likely, Dox, and escargot.
- Yea! Let’s car go!
- No, Monty, we’re on a dog walk, remember? You’re such a silly cat!
- I am not.
- You are too, just a plain silly cat.
- I’m not a cat. I’m a dog! And I’m not silly. Hey look, Max, I can turn around up here! Uh oh. Oops! Maaaaaaax! Dog overboard! Dog overboooaaaaard! Maaaaaaax?
- Oh MONTY! A belly flop?
- Paddle, Monty, paddle. You’re really close to the other side. You can make it. Just move your paws like crazy and keep your head above water. We’ll meet you over there.
- The dogs of Florence ran over the bridge beam and skidded down to the water’s edge on the other side.
- Come on, Monty. You can make it!
- Yea! Monty!
- Monty climbed up the bank, sloppy with water-soaked fur. He shook himself in a ripple dance from head to tail. Water flew everywhere.
- Hey, cut that out. You’re getting me all wet.
- Boy, Max, that was sooooo much fun!
- For cat’s sake, you are incorrigible.
- What’s corrigible, Max?
- The word is incorrigible, Monty. And you are.
- Come on Dox, let’s go for another dive.
- No way, Monty. Not me. Let’s get outta here, Max. I’m starved.
Filed under: cat paintings, Confessions, Paintings -Inspiration, pet paintings-stories | Tags: brillo the black, cats, fuzzies, pet sitting stories, sloth-like, sphinx, Sphinx pose, susan canavarro, tai the terrible
A people cat, Tai the Terrible loves the companionship and affection from his people, and he sits with me when I’m watching television. He climbs on my lap, testing the jello slowly, unsure if its Jello-like substance will hold him. He wobbles a bit on my jello, then settles down in his sphinx pose, kneading his front claws deep into my skin. But if you touch him in his sensitive places or try to brush his fur in certain areas, he becomes this quarrelsome creature with a sphinxian split personality. I let him do what he wants to do. He is heavy and hot on my lap like a heating pad in cold weather.
Most of the time, he curls up all by himself on the fuzzy on the big chair next to mine for which he has taken temporary ownership while his mom is away.
Tai is a seal-point doll-face fluffy Himalayan cat with pale blue crossed-eyes. Whenever he is wary of his sibling or an enemy of another kind he skirts around them like a sticky sloth in slow motion. He is so fluffy I can’t tell where the bones and muscles of his body stop to become just a fluff of cat hair dragging on the floor. His fluffy tail is wide and dark like a beaver tail. His legs are wide and shorter than most cats’ legs and his paws are huge like the paws of a puppy when you can tell that little pup is going to be one hell of a big dog because the size of his feet tell you so. Tai’s paws are dark seal-brown fur, shiny, soft and so smooth, I want to hold them in my hands but he will not allow me to touch his feet.
Tai and his sibling, Brillo the Black, kiss noses and sniff each other’s butt in moments of trust and calm, but their powerful sibling rivalry keeps them wary of each other. They may sleep on the same big bed, each in his own corner, and they may sit on one lap or on one chair together, but when they do so, they do it carefully, with one eye open the whole time.
When they are about to fight they move past each other in the kitchen or by the door, their movements are slinky and sloth-like. I admonish them to be good cats—Now, be good kitties, you guys, good cats, that’s right—and they will come out of their slothy trance, avoiding a fight. When I leave the room, they get into rolling rumbles with tufts of black and taupe fur flying hither and thither.
One evening while I was watching TV, Brillo lay curled up on the rust colored fuzzy in the second TV chair. When Tai came into the room, Brillo’s presence on his chair startled him. He jumped up on the table next to the chair and sat for a while, looking at the chair and Brillo with consternation. What? How did you…?
Slowly, one foot at a time, he lowers himself on to the flat wooden arm of the easy-chair. He sits for a few minutes, eyeing Brillo on his chair, wondering how much he’d be able to get away with. Could he? Should he tempt fate or shouldn’t he? How will Brillo react?
Tai tempts fate. With sloth-like motion, he puts one foot down on the fuzzy; he waits, he hesitates; then slowly places the other front paw down. His two front paws on the seat cushion, his rump in the air, his hind feet come down next, slow and easy, one slothy paw at a time. He stands on the seat of the chair very still, like a clay sculpture or art object, while waiting for Brillo to show some reaction.
Brillo, curled up on the fuzzy, doesn’t move a muscle except to crack one eye open a sliver. He watches Tai, but pretends he is sleeping.
Tai now sits on the fuzzy near Brillo, once again debating whether he should continue. He looks at Brillo, wiggles a bit in nervous tension and hunkers down in the typical Sphinx pose with his head up. I can see he cannot stand not being able to curl up on his special chair. He lays like this for a while and then stretches his neck and lowers his head in an attempt to relax.
Brillo, cracks one eye open again, watches Tai, doesn’t move a muscle, doesn’t blink an eye. He just watches and waits.
Tai slowly flops over on his side, his back to Brillo, and because his fur is so fluffy it looks like he is crowding the one-eyed Brillo into the corner of the big chair. But Brillo, partially covered by Tai’s fluff, isn’t moving. His one eye, still open and watching. Waiting.
Stretching out even more on his side, taking up even more room on the seat of the chair, legs splayed out, head relaxed hanging over the front edge of the seat, Tai closes his eyes for some long overdue well-earned sleep. At long last, he is in his favorite chair that had been rudely usurped by Brillo, and it’s as if Brillo isn’t even there.
The little adversarial dance between the two cats took longer to execute than the actual time they laid together on the chair. I had never seen them sleeping this close to each other, but their folks tell me they will both get up on the mom’s lap at the same time and lay there peacefully while she plies their cat hair free from tangled knots.
About two weeks later, when I was sitting for them again, Brillo was on the chair when Tai came into the room. It was obvious Tai wanted his spot again. This time he took it. With no hesitation, he jumped up to the arm, then on to the fuzzy itself, stretched out quickly on his side, partially covering Brillo, and both cats slept like babies together for over two hours! I don’t know who’s more surprised, me or Tai or Brillo, at this temporary cat détente.
This last summer a coyote or pack of coyotes killed beautiful Tai the Terrible. There are packs of coyotes wandering through his neighborhood and other neighborhoods around Florence. Many cats have disappeared in the last year.
We all miss Tai.
Now I am caring for his sibling brother, Brillo the Black, who now has the favored position in the household without contention, but wanders from door to door in a morass of sadness, meowing to go out, to eat, to find Tai. Fierce hunter that Brillo is, he is not allowed outside any more. Too many coyotes. Too many bear. Too many cougars. Chased out of their forested habitats by our need for building more homes, all are hungry. Hungrily preying upon domesticated cats and dogs.
Brillo is developing a dependency on his people for safety, sustenance and cherishing. He has developed a gorgeous shiny black coat, loves to sit on my lap, have his coat brushed, his hind-end rubbed which dissolves him into a frenetic orgasm of love biting.
He will be fine.
Feb.9, 2012 Now I learn that Brillo the Black has passed on. A beauitful cat, a good hunter, loving. We all miss him.
© 2011 Copyright – Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved for Images & Text.
Filed under: art, cats and dogs, Confessions, dog paintings, pet paintings-stories | Tags: Belle, blue belle of southview, embrace, florence, oregon, susan canavarro, top dog, Trina
One day, in the quiet stillness of the morning, I crept to the edge of the living room to discover why Trina was so quiet. I wanted to catch her off guard. I enjoyed the covert observation of the cats and dogs in my charge. With wonderment, I recognized myself in some of their behavior.
My life had come down to this: I had become a stalking, peeping, sighing, humphing pet sitter.
I found Trina sitting trance-like, staring at Belle. Usually, she spent her time vying for my attention or begging for food, not off somewhere in quiet meditation. A King Charles Cocker Spaniel, she is black, white, and rust with big floppy ears and wide-open bulging brown eyes. She hungers to hear “You’re a pretty dog, Trina, yes, a very pretty dog. Yes you are.” When she hears those words in that sugar daddy tone, she rolls over to a sexy pose on her back expecting a tummy rub. Her eyeballs roll up disappearing under her eyelids. And she is in heaven. But she is also a very clever, stubborn, demanding, narcissistic little creature. The world revolves around her and her only.
Standing off to the side of the entrance, trying to be invisible, I watched Trina as she sat staring at Belle’s glimmering white back. She looked like she was pondering the question: Should I or shouldn’t I?
Belle, a large white Yellow Lab, reclined on the living room carpet, holding her head up so she could watch the road through the front windows. She waited patiently everyday for her folks to come home. It had been a long wait. I liked to call her BlueBelle because no matter what, she wore a sad countenance. Her folks told me it was her look of hunger, but I think it was her look of depression; she missed her people. She is a good loving, patient, non-demanding dog who is fiercely loyal to her masters and she puts up with Trina’s annoying activities without a nip or a growl of irritation.
This day, Belle paid no attention to Trina at all. When Trina could no longer stand it, when she could no longer resist the urge, the temptation of Belle’s beautiful back, she rose, walked over to Belle’s head and used her own head as a tool to force Belle’s down to the floor. She raised one foot ready to climb on Belle’s back when she sensed someone else in the room. She turned and saw me standing there, watching. She sat back with a humphy sigh, with a how-dare-you indignation, claimed a bit of embarrassment, and barked only once at me. I had foiled her plans.
On another day, with full knowledge that I was watching, Trina climbed on Belle’s back to ride her. She moved her hips rhythmically back and forth, over and over again. When she got off, she stared at me with quiet defiance. So determined to ride Belle, she didn’t care if I watched. After a few seconds, she circled around Belle and climbed on her back again, riding her like she was riding a bucking horse. Trina, bucking power and domination. I’ll show you, I can do anything I want. This is my house, my sister-dog, and if I want to hump her, I will! Hump! Hump! Hump!
Several weeks went by until I saw Trina on Belle’s back again. This time she looked like she had fallen asleep. Too exhausted from her humping to climb off Belle, she lay there for a short time, quiet, restful, then began to ride again, licking Belle’s ears and brow while rocking back and forth. She stopped, rested her head softly against Belle’s cheeks. Relaxed into a trance-like state, her body like putty in blissful orgasmic nirvana, she was not aware I was spying on her.
Suddenly she bucked and rocked a few more times only to relax into a big embrace with her front paws encircling Belle’s fluffy neck. While like this, she lolled her head back and forth in slow movement across the back of Belle’s head. It was a moment of Grace, a moment of one dog showing love for another, an instance of warm fuzzy human-like cuddling. As she turned her head in my direction, she opened her eyes a sexy sleepy crack and in that instant, saw me watching. In utter shock, she jumped high off Belle’s back, straight up like a tarantula, landing on all four feet with her body convulsing in spasmodic barking. She was so angry to have been caught again, but it also seemed like this time she was even more embarrassed by her behavior.
Of course, I had little restraint and broke into a loud belly laugh which turned her bark even more indignant. How dare you laugh at me!
I’m a firm believer that dogs and cats experience emotions and some of those emotions—like love, anger, frustration, longing, and embarrassment—seem to require a bit of thought process. Otherwise Trina wouldn’t give a hoot if I saw her antics with Belle. She wouldn’t jump off of Belle, she wouldn’t react with such vigorous indignation when caught, and she wouldn’t bark at me. Did she know she was not supposed to hump Belle? Was it instinct that told her it was wrong, or had her folks told her No?
My fascination with cat and dog behavior grows. And in this family of creatures, I realized soon enough who the alpha dog was…and it wasn’t me! Recently, a dog expert confirmed my suspicions that their attempts to hump another dog, whether female or male, and/or to hump a human’s leg or foot, is, in fact, their desire to maintain dominance over the pack and a dog’s human family is a part of its pack.
For eight long weeks of pet sitting Trina disobeyed me. She walked me, rather than me walking her. She would not let me pet the three cats or Belle wihtout horning in on the action, reminding me it was she who was to be petted, not the others. We struggled every day. She both surprised and disappointed me because I had seen that she was so good with her owner. Just tell her No when she’s bad, her owner said. She’ll understand.
Well, not so. Trina liked to sit in front of the kitchen stove when I cooked. I worried about tripping over her, about spilling hot oil or hot water on her. I worried that if I dropped a veggie or a piece of chicken, she was on it, charging from her sitting place like the slashing whip of a lizard’s tongue catching flies and ants. Give her a treat and send her to her bed when she gets underfoot in the kitchen—as she was wont to do every single meal no matter how many times I sent her to bed. Tell her and she’ll go to her dog bed. Humph! Not a chance! Never never never happened!
Trina’s behavior with Belle was a blatant symptom of “top dog” syndrome, as was her stubborn disregard for my stewardship. Belle took it all in stride, good-natured lab that she is. As for me, I didn’t want to be handled by a dog or anyone else, so I found it frustrating and wandered the house with much humphy sighing.
© 2011 Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved.
Filed under: art, cat paintings, cats and dogs, Confessions, pet paintings-stories | Tags: cat paintings and stories, simon, susan canavarro
I threw the green tennis ball so it would bounce once lightly and then roll on across the living room with Simon in fast pursuit but it bounced up and came straight down on Simon’s his tiny head. He looked stunned, wobbled a bit, and shook his head, much like my St. Bernard did when the postman hit him on the forehead with his baseball bat. Taurus’ head dropped so low to the ground, I’m sure he saw strange stars floating in the blackness. Stunned, forever changed by that incident, Taurus hated all postmen, but he hated that particular guy with a vengeance even when he saw him from a distance. Even when Taurus was inside my VW bug, that man’s presence on the sidewalk sent Taurus into a tizzy of barking and growling and throwing himself at the windows of my bug turning it into a rockin’ car. How he could tell it was the same guy, I don’t know.
The stunned Simon was not rockin’, but running. He ran as far away from that green ball as possible. Can’t say I blame him. Nobody likes a ball landing on his head. Before that incident, he had enjoyed the game for about five minutes, and then he would tire of it and plop down on the floor in his regal lion pose as if to say: Okay, I’ve done my work and my exercise for the day. Leave me in peace, now.
After that incident, if he saw the green ball anywhere on the floor, he gave it a wide berth. He avoided the green ball at all costs. It even superseded the evils of the dreaded vacuum cleaner. He sidled up next to the baseboard, skirting the perimeter of all rooms rather than walking close to it. When I picked it up to show him it was harmless, he ran from me. He never wanted to play with it again. The green ball was pure green evil in his eyes. So I put it on a high shelf where he would never have to see it again.
I was hopeful I hadn’t done irreparable damage to him and that he hadn’t come to the conclusion that all balls where evil, even our big round ball called earth. So, I bought a different ball at Freddie’s, a white light-weight plastic baseball with holes in it for kids to play with when indoors. It was so light Simon could’ve caught it with one claw. If it landed on his head, it would not have hurt. I threw it once. He ran after it. On the second try he got tired and plopped down on the floor: This is not a good game anymore.
While he reclined on the floor one sunny day holding his head in that famous lion pose, looking content, I placed the white ball between his front legs under his chin, hoping he would take more interest in it and begin to playfully bat it around as cats are wont to do with balls. Or, perhaps he would let it remain there long enough for me to photograph him. Loving to pose for the camera, he didn’t get up to run from the ball nor did he play with it; he laid there with his head slightly cocked, his once smiling half-closed eyes now in a wide-open stare. With broken contentment, annoyed with me and the ball, he looked as if he wanted to say: I just don’t want to play ball anymore, Okay?
I had to accept that.
I felt badly about the ball bouncing off his head, about destroying his love for balls and the chase. When the green ball landed on his head, it frightened him. It scarred his psyche for life. I had scarred his psyche for life. I robbed him of this fun activity and again, had destroyed his trust in me. What a bad cat sitter I was.
The other time I destroyed his trust, was when I was hauling groceries, laptop and other things into the house from the garage and tripped over him as he was herding me around the corner. Due to my long skirt and my arms full of stuff, I didn’t see him. I tripped, stumbled and unable to catch myself fell first on the massive knob of the high-backed Spanish-style dining room chair, and then fell on to the edge of the heavy wooden table, and finally, landed on the floor, curled into a ball rolling back and forth, writhing in pain, not sure if I was even able to get up to call for help.
I saw Simon cowering near the end of the sofa about 6 feet away from me hunkered down with his ears flat. He didn’t run away. He was watching me. I felt his concern. I sensed he wanted to come over to comfort me, but was frightened. I thought he may have been injured by my feet, but as soon as I managed to get on my knees, he wandered over. He had been scared timid, but was physically okay.
Everything I carried in my arms went flying. The floor, littered with stuff—papers, books I was carrying, my laptop and brief case, and groceries—looked like a tornado had torn through the room. My laptop crash landed on the other side of the room damaging its monitor, but I was able to salvage it for two more years of use until the lid finally became unhinged and separated from the base of the computer. I thought maybe I had unhinged my shoulder too or broken my collar-bone, but I managed to survive the fall with only an ugly baseball-sized pink-to-deep-purple bruise on my upper arm. Ugly bruise, changing kaleidoscopic colors on a daily basis. I suffered no broken bones.
After this bad fall Simon’s behavior changed. He became more aware of my feet when I walked. I noticed Simon stopping now and then to look under my long skirt. Rather than charging along in his attempts to herd me as usual and trusting that I would go where he wanted me to go, he stopped periodically to look under my skirt to check on the location of my feet. It was like he had drawn the logical conclusion that he’d have to change behavior in order to avoid being stepped on. Okay, time to check on pet sitter Sue’s feet again.
I changed, too. I became more aware of where he was when I moved around the house, especially when I wore long skirts and when I was carrying things. It was interesting to see him become as aware of his movement in relation to my feet, as I was aware of my feet in relation to him as we moved about the house together. We both became more careful as a result of that accident.
He used to come into the kitchen when I was cooking and sit very close to my feet, never uttering a sound, or at least one that I could hear. Often, I didn’t even know he was there. I understood this behavior pattern to be normal for him; this is what he did with his people. A couple of times I stepped on his little paw as I moved from stove to sink. After the major tripping accident, when he came into the kitchen to sit by my feet, it seemed like all I had to do was think about moving and Simon would give me a faint meow to let me know he was there—an act of self-preservation!
How he sensed that I was getting ready to move was a mystery. Perhaps cats have an uncanny intuitive feline sensor, much like a sensitometer for the measurement of sensitivity of photographic film to light, only for Simon, the sensitometer sensed the intention of movement, measuring silent, unseen, but felt energy. It was a watershed moment for me – one that I will always treasure as the purest kind of communication between creatures.
© 2011 Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved.