Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter

Meal Time Dance

Meal Time Dance

Tai the Terrible, the Himalayan, stole bits of food from Brillo’s dish even before Brillo the Black walked away from it. As soon as Brillo took a bite and turned his head away from his dish to chew, Tai extended his front leg with cupped paw over into Brillo’s bowl and scooped out a piece. I admonished him to wait for Brillo to finish eating: Tai, don’t even think about it! Wait until Brillo finishes. Understanding my command he walked away in slow misery, sulking, licking his paw. Oh how he wanted that piece of food! He always wanted more and seemed to have no qualms about taking more.

I often wondered if Brillo turned away to chew just to give his brother cat the opportunity to steal his food. Between two cats that often got into fur-flying scuffles, it felt like it was a cordial entente, a symbiosis, of a sort, providing each other an environment for survival by helping each other out. Tai got to satisfy his hunger, and Brillo got peace… maybe.

On another level, Brillo was the hunter, and Tai got to eat his catch. And I got to clean up the mess when he vomited all the indigestible parts! Ugh!

No Way

No Way that fix-it guy is going to get my mouse!

Blondie has been going crazy with the tiny toy mice that I send her. She exhausts herself playing with them. Before taking her nap, she hides them in various places. After her nap she digs them out from under pillows and furniture and begins playing again. She carries them around in her mouth. She wakes her mom up by sitting on her chest, staring at her, Wake up! Wake Up! Wake up! Four in the morning is a startling moment to wake up with anyone sitting and staring at you, nonetheless with a cat sitting on your chest inches away from your face, staring at you with a mouth full of mouse! Willing you to wake up, wake up wake up!

I woke up in the hospital bed one night after my surgery and as I rolled over I became aware my night nurse was standing about four feet back from my bed, quietly staring at me, listening to my breathing she said. Willing me to wake up first probably, because the last time she woke me up I was combative and socked her in the face! It was a strange feeling to know someone was staring at me while I blissfully and fitfully slept. Did I snore? Did I talk in my sleep and give away ungodly secrets?

​Regarding Blondie, I am just delighted that she is enjoying my gifts so much!

This cartoon developed one day when her mom had a repairman out to fix her clothes dryer. She said Blondie sat in the living room with the mouse stuffed in her mouth the whole time he was there working.​ The image stuck with me, couldn’t get it out of my mind. I just had to give it a try. Hand-drawn first, I then scanned and computer manipulated it.  I had in mind this image of Blondie sitting upright, tall, still, prim and proper like a princess, with her tiny cheeks bulging with a black mouse, and anxiety in her eyes wide-open; how long, how long, how long was she going to have to suck on this soggy mouse? When could she breathe? When could she get a sip of water?

There was no way she was going to let this fix-it guy steal her mouse. But, she may also have been hiding the mouse, and feeling remorse, thinking it would give away her secret…that she had quietly secreted away another mouse behind the dryer and it was the cause of the strange noise her mom had heard.

I tried to get the character of Blondie’s stubbornness and the strain of having to hold something in her mouth for so long – she couldn’t swallow, the mouse was undoubtedly soaking up her saliva, drying out her tongue, making it feel fuzzy, and her eyes would get wide and buggy with the stress of it all.

Poor kitty, all she had to do was spit it out, but maybe she didn’t have any spit left.

Bully Tai
March 15, 2015, 10:58 AM
Filed under: art, cat paintings, cats and dogs | Tags: , ,

Tai_surveyor_BlogTai the Terrible
Pencil Drawing by Susan Canavarro

Tai the Terrible steals food from Brillo’s dish even before Brillo has walked away from it. As soon as Brillo takes a bite and turns his head away from his dish to chew, Tai extends his front leg with cupped paw over into Brillo’s bowl and scoops out a piece. If I admonish him to wait for Brillo to finish eating, he walks away in slow misery, sulking, licking his paw. I often wonder if Brillo turned away to chew just to give his brother the opportunity, perhaps like a symbiotic relationship of odd species where one helps the other survive.

They have one small pot of chewing-grass growing by the back patio door that they both like to munch on first thing in the morning. It is cool and damp with morning dew and tastes mighty good after a long dry night. Tai, in his typical Tai manner, bullies his way up to the grass where Brillo is chewing. He wants the grass from that very same spot. He pushes Brillo away. Noses his way in to the pot of grass, and begins gnawing away it it thirstily. Brillo paces looking for an opening to reach the other side of the plant but other potted plants block his access. He sits patiently waiting for Tai to finish quenching his thirst on the green dew-covered grass. I can’t stand to see Brillo bullied and dying of thirst. I slide the other plants away from the backside to make room for him. He scoots in. With gluttonous delight Brillo finally quenches his morning-dry-mouth.

Brillo gets a lot of attention and Tai wants more. When they are inside, they get into rousing cat fights. In slow motion they stalk each other, watching each others every movement, and suddenly with lightening-speed one will pounce. Tufts of fur fly, and the off-white carpet is littered with clumps of black and cream-colored cat fur. I pull out the vacuum again.

Most of the time it is Tai that is the aggressor because he is jealous, but recently I’ve watched Brillo initiate fights like he has had enough already. I’ve also seen him steal food from his brother’s bowl. There is a theory that animals learn behaviors by watching others in their clan. That is happening here with Brillo; he is learning from Tai, albeit very slowly, how to be the aggressor. They have become tit for tat cats now—you bully me and I’ll steal your food!

Sadly, Tai the Terrible was not able to defend himself against the real aggressor outside—a coyote grabbed him and  dragged  him off into the woods. He didn’t have a chance.

Brillo wandered around the house looking for him, but he eventually relaxed and settled in as the only child. He is soaking up all the attention he ever wanted. No guilts. No worries.

Unfortunately, soon after Tai’s death, he also passed away. Like a few long-time married couples, when one spouse dies, the other will fade off soon afterwards. It is sad. These two cats had been a family with their owners for many years.

© 2015 Susan Canavarro

The Evil Green Ball

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.

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