I can’t explain the biochemistry behind what makes me love something that pees on my favorite blanket, or knocks my plants over, or decides it’s playtime at 3:31 AM and starts chasing her brother around the house, singing and chirping loudly and happily, that is until I throw a blanket at it (which it proceeds to pee on). Nor can I can explain the biochemistry that makes me love something that lies down prone in front me, allowing me to rub it’s belly while it coos, or does a little pat pat pat pat with it’s paws on my chest while it is picking just the right spot to put it’s head down, or makes me laugh when I take its favorite ball on a string and start twirling it around, creating the worlds only living bobble head cat.
No, I can’t explain what creates the bond, during good times or bad times, but I know it exists. Sometimes it takes something very stressful to realize just how strong that bond of love really is. Sometimes the thought of losing something or someone with whom you’ve formed a bond is exactly what it takes to make you appreciate that bond, which in turn helps the bond to grow even stronger.
Although I am never one to be satisfied with the status quo, there are certain patterns of events in my life which I have come to appreciate, and almost depend upon. One of those would be the ritual of coming home from work. Generally, I have the dog already with me because I have picked her up from dog daycare where she has spent the day playing, or lately because of her advancing age, playing and then resting. I’m so fortunate that I can afford to be able to offer that for her. I know she is a happier dog, and has lived a more fulfilling and satisfying life, and probably a longer one too.
When I open the door, I release the leash, and the dog climbs the stairs to the first landing and then turns around and waits. She knows she is not supposed to continue up the stairs until I have removed her leash, and she has received a rub on her head, a pat on her side, along with an enthusiastic, “Good girl!” Then, as I’m leaning down to scratch behind her ears, she licks my nose, and once the lick has been completed, she continues up the stairs. She didn’t just naturally start to behave in this manner. I trained her to do this. She is a smart dog, so it didn’t take long, but just like I get used to certain patterns in my life, so does she, so it has now become her standard behavior, and will remain so as long as I’m consistent about reinforcing it.
As I’m removing the dog’s leash, another ritual commences. I look up and there are two little heads peaking around the corner on opposite sides of the top of the stairs. Seri is usually on the left, and Bene is on the right, but this varies for some unknown, and unimportant reason. The important thing is that they are both always there. When the dog and I climb the stairs, the meowing commences. Seri will generally go over to her bowl and start eating her food, which is actually non-existent at this point because I haven’t put any food in her bowl yet. Again, I have no idea why she does this. Is it to give me a hint that she is hungry, or is she associating the fact that I have arrived at home in the evening with the fact that soon there will be food in her bowl? Her reasons are unimportant. What’s important is that she does this, and I hear her doing it because the tag on her collar is clanging against the metal bowl.
If I don’t get to feeding the kids immediately, more rituals ensue. Seri will “Meh!” That’s the only way I can describe it. The sound she makes is “Meh!” That’s the sound of “Daddy feed me!” That, and along with the occasional “Lerreh!” If you have read a previous posting of mine then you know that this is Seri saying my name, and yes, she really is saying my name and I don’t care how crazy you think I am.
Her little brother Bene will simply meow, like a normal cat. Rather I should say, a normal whiney cat. It’s more like, “Meeeeooooowwwooowwwooowwwoowwww!” If it takes too long for me to feed him he will stand directly under my legs, and try to trip me. He teams up with Jamaica, who stands in front of me and pants and dances, tounge hanging out, and when I try to avoid stepping on Bene I invariably crash into her. Yes, a couple of times I’ve gone down. Too many creatures in the kitchen at the same time.
Since Bene is a little piggy who will eat everyone else’s food before he eat’s his own, even if it’s the same damn food, I have trained him (yes you heard me correctly), to go into the lower cabinet across from the sink as soon as I open it. Bene knows to go in there because that is where his food will appear after I put it in his bowl. He will usually wait patiently for about 2 minutes until he starts banging on the inside of the cabinet door, eventually crashing his way out and jumping up to steal his sister’s food if I have already put it in her bowl. Generally I haven’t, so I scoop him up and put him back in the cabinet. Once I do fill his bowl, I give it to him in the cabinet and close the door, and give his sister her food. Then I get Jamaica’s food ready while Bene is distracted. Sometimes Bene decides that he is bored with his food and will come crashing out of the cabinet and jump up to steal his sister’s food, and his sister doesn’t even fight back. Stick up for yourself woman! I will grab him by the scruff, and put him back in the cabinet with a firm “No!”, this time remembering to put a heavy object, like a chair in front of the door so he can’t get out.
Once Jamaica (That’s right, Bene at 7.5 lbs will steal Jamaica’s food also and she, at 45 lbs will just back away. Stick up for yourself woman!) is finished, and Seri is finished, I let Bene out, and then for the rest of the evening the two cats chase each other around the house, knocking things over, and generally making a nuasance of themselves. The dog, at her advanced age, generally lies down after a long, exhausting day of playing and goes to sleep.
So this is a normal evening in my home, and I’m used to it. The other day though, something happened to change the normal pattern. I knew almost immediately that something was wrong. We got in the front door, Jamaica climbed to the first landing, I did the usual rub and pat and “Good girl!”, and she licked my nose. Then I looked up and only saw one little head instead of two. Bene was there, but no Seri. I didn’t panic immediately, but I did panic. After I entered the kitchen, and there was still no Seri, and put food in her bowl, but there was still no Seri, that is when I started to panic.
On this day, the cleaning service that used to clean my house came back for the first time in months. I had another lady coming for a while, but she was far too expensive for what she was offering. I originally let the first service go because I had new cats, and I already had a communication problem with them sometimes just trying to get them to be consistent with what I wanted and did not want done. I had seen how they had moved the furniture around in a hurried manner, and left doors open, including the front door leading outside, and I was worried that one of the cats would get squashed, or locked in a room or closet, or get out. They were just kittens at the time, and I didn’t trust anyone, including myself, to be alone in the house with them.
Now that the cats are older, and one of them is no longer a kitten, I decided to try the old service again. I went over the rules about the cats with them. Be careful when moving the furniture. Leave all doors open inside the house. Keep all closet doors and drawers and cabinets closed (no need for them to go in there anyway, so I thought). Be very careful when opening and closing the front door because by the time you see them, they are gone. The cats are always lurking by the front door when I’m leaving or even just taking the dog for a walk. In fact, they are so smart that they even wait now when they see I am taking the dog for a walk, and they have tried a few times to get past me as soon as I open the front door, bringing the dog back in. In fact, the day of this incident, a few hours after it happened, Seri did get out, and she started playing the game of human and cat with me. So I played the same trick I do with the dog. I closed the door instead of chasing her, and sure enough, 3 minutes later I heard her meowing (or making her “Meh!” noise I should say) and I opened the door and she ran in and up the stairs like she was on fire. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was about 6 degrees outside.
Anyway, no Seri. What do I do? I call the cleaning service, like they are going to be able to tell me where the cat is. They don’t answer. I call their other number. No answer. I send them a text, “Where is my cat?” I go outside and start looking around in the bushes. I open every door to every room. I look under every piece of furniture. I move furniture and look under it again. Finally, after about 45 minutes of searching, I open the door to the linen closet in the bathroom, and there she is, sleeping.
I sent another text to the cleaning service telling them I found her. I ask them to please not open any closets, cabinets, or drawers, and to please leave every door in the house open. We’ve been through this before. I tell them that if they need something from a drawer or a closet or a cabinet, to let me know ahead of time and I’ll leave it out. There response was, “Can’t you put the cats in a cage while we clean? It would be easier.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, be furious, or to just let it go. I chose the latter and told them that this is not an option. What I definitely didn’t do was fire them.
I’ll tell you what though. During the time I was looking for the cat, I went through several phases. First was panic, then anger, then “They are going to pay for this!”, then “The stupid morons!”, then sadness, then tearfulness, then acceptance of a loss, and then finally, “The cat has got to be somewhere, and if she got out, she’ll be Ok and she’ll come back if she likes being here.” She does like being here. Loves it in fact. As I said. She spent about 3 minutes outside the other day and said, “This is not for me.”, and came charging back into her home like her life depended upon it.
We develop bonds with people, with creatures, and with patterns in our lives, and when those bonds are broken or disrupted, even for a short period of time, we feel fear. The fear manifests as panic, anger, disorientation, and stress. The fact that I had fear though says something. As much as the things in my life irritate the shit out of me sometimes, I am blessed to have them, and I should be grateful that I do. Sometimes it takes just a couple of seconds of disorientation to reorient our lives, and make us appreciate the simplist things, like help with cleaning my home, like a dog who doesn’t climb the stairs until she’s kissed my nose, and like two little heads peaking around the corner, staring at me when I come home from work in the evening.