This is perhaps the most unbelievable pet story I have, second only by meeting Tasha and Duchess’ sister. First I must tell a sad story.
My godmother had known me since I was born. She is elderly, and has loved babies her entire life. When my brother was born, she lived across the street and wished that she could know him. Finally she worked up her nerve and asked my mom if she needed a babysitter. After some discussion, my parents agreed, and the rest is history. We grew up with Jo, her taking on the roles of whatever we needed at the time. First, a caretaker, then a second parent, a grandmother, a listener, an escape, and always a best friend. It struck me hard, four years ago, when she was diagnosed with dementia. It is transforming into Alzheimers, and I don’t know how much longer I have in her memory. Thankfully, she still remembers much of our time together, though I think she still remembers me as much younger than I am. Her sister and my family tried taking care of her as best we could, but she didn’t remember to take her medicine, or she had taken too much, and we couldn’t do it anymore. Her son stepped in and moved her south with him. She now lives fourteen hours away instead of the thirty minutes I have been used to my entire life. Not quite a year after she moved, my mom and I popped down on February vacation to surprise her. We drove the fourteen hours so we would have a car and surprised her. We could only stay for the weekend, but it was enough to see her again. On Sunday we were sitting around and I looked in the paper. Now something you have to know about me. Even before we got Tala, I have always wanted a weimaraner mix. I begged and pleaded for one, but none were available. And then Tala was so perfect, I gave it up. Then my brother started in on wanting a dog of his own. So I started peering in newspapers at the advertised dogs. I always looked for weimaraner mixes, always. So here I was fourteen hours away from home and in the paper, what do I see? Weimaraner mixes. I look up at my mom, a pleading note in my eyes. She gives me permission to call, which I do eagerly. Unfortunately, no one answered, so I left a message and we went on about our day. A little while later I receive a phone call from the dog owners. They give us the address and we make our way there, me hopping up and down in my seat. I was so excited.
They were the most beautiful dogs we had ever seen. But we had to get permission from my dad first. My mom calls him up and does her trick at convincing him while I look on bug eyed and so excited. The dogs were more money than we had on us in cash, so my mom offers a travelers check. The people have to talk about it, there is risk involved in a check, but eventually decide to trust us. I am now the proud owner of a weimaraner mix. We take him back to Jo’s house and play with him and give him a bath. The people had thought they were being helpful, feeding him before sending him home with us. Anyone who has taken a full bellied dog in a car knows what happened next. Puke. All over the brand new crate we had bought, all over the puppy, all over me. We washed him up and tried to think of a suitable name for a strapping young lad such as himself. All I knew was that the name couldn’t be something dumb that ever dog is named, like Rex. I wanted a unique name that wasn’t standard. Something very him. We tentatively decided on Chance, since we couldn’t just call him ‘dog’ for the next two days. On the trip back we started with Chance in his crate. But he yowled and whined and barked until we stopped for gas and we decided to take him out. I held him in my lap in the passenger seat, careful that he wouldn’t fall or jump on my mom, but surprisingly he curled up and fell promptly asleep. We were surprised when, over half of the journey later, he was still sleeping, only having woken up when we stopped and made him go pee. Around five he stirred and my mom said, “Oh, you’re in for it now, he’s bound to be up with a vengeance!” But I just smiled and said, “No, he’s going to sleep again.” And down he went, sleeping again. That dog slept for the entire fourteen hour car ride home. I’m so glad we took him on that ride though, because now he has absolutely no problems riding in cars, for whatever distance.
Almost a month after losing Miri, we get an email with a picture attached. The woman who sent it explains that she feels so badly for our loss, if it was a loss and we didn’t find our cat. She says that she recently had a litter of kittens, three quarter bengal, and if we wanted she would be more than happy to give us a kitten, free, to try to make the loss easier. My mom was hesitant, but struck by the unique looks of these cats. We (read: I) convinced her to go and look at them. I had already picked out which kitten I would want to take home, an adorable grey kitten. She wasn’t sure that we would take any home, but was enchanted by one of the males. He had a very classic bengal look to him, which reminded her of Miri. She didn’t want to take a male home, though, in fear of him marking again. We had just gotten rid of the smell. So I took my friend and we went to see the kittens. immediately I knew that I had to take the grey one home with me. She was a little spit-fire, and just perfect. My mom refused to spend more than a few minutes looking at the male. The temptation was just too much. Then she spotted the runt. Jesse had been the runt, and she had gone absolutely batshit crazy. I tried to convince my mom that the runt was bad news, we shouldn’t get her, why not just get the grey one? But my mom was adamant. I think, though I have never told her this, that that kitten spoke to a part of her that had been so damaged by Miri’s loss. It looked up into her eyes and soothed her.
So we left with two kittens in tow, my friend almost taking home a third (if only her parents wouldn’t have killed her) and set about to trying to name them. The grey one was quickly determined to be Natasha, Tasha for short. The white one took more deciding on. We threw names around in the backseat, my friend and I, for a long time before we finally pieced together the perfect name. “The Grand Cream Duchess of Cuddlemop.” And she has lived up to that name. She is so cuddly (only with my mom) and creamy white in color with the most interesting spots on her person. She and my mom are truly inseparable. Duchess hides all day until my mom comes home, when she miraculously appears and will not leave my mom’s side until work the next morning. When my mom sneezes, Duchess will meow in the most concerned manner. When my mom is upset, Duchess will be right there, even if she was in the other room and my mom had not raised her voice in any manner. They truly have a spiritual bond if I have ever seen one. I am so glad that they found each other. Duchess was truly what my mom needed to get over Miri.
Now, these kittens are very special. Fast forward to the present. My boyfriend and I have an addiction to pet stores. We go often, and I usually bring my third dog (whom I haven’t introduced yet.) One particular day, however, I decided not to bring Chance when we went to Petsmart. Every time we go they have the cutest cats, and, being an animal fanatic, I always want to play with them. I never can, though, because of my dog. So this time I was determined to play with a cat. No was not an option. Something drew me to the last cage in the row. It might have been the crowd near the front, it might have been that none of the other cats looked that interesting, but I’m convinced that it was fate. In the last cage was a white cat. She couldn’t have been very old, she was teeny tiny. I talked to the lady in charge of the cats for a bit, learned that she was, in fact, four years old, and from an area very nearby. Her family just couldn’t keep her anymore, and she was the sweetest cat. I asked if I could play with her a bit. I had no intention of taking this cat home, but every shelter cat deserves some love now and again. So I get into the room with her and Boyfriend, and I am struck with how much this cat looks like Duchess. They could be twins. But no, this cat was four years old and Duchess was a kitten. Still, it was so odd, seeing a cat that had such odd markings as ours did… I just had to call my mom and tell her about it. I described how similar they were, but that there was such an age difference. There was silence on the line for a moment then “… Michelle, Duchess is four.” I was stunned. I immediately turned back around and looked closer at this cat. She was practically Duchess’s twin. A mite bigger, maybe Tasha’s size, but Duchess was the runt. “Mom,” I said, “There were only two females in that litter though.”
"No, there were three. Someone had already adopted the other one. She wasn’t there when we went to look."
"Mom… Mom…" It seemed all I could say, "I think I found their sister… You have to come see." After much begging, my mom and dad were finally convinced to come see this miracle cat. After taking her out to play again, looking her over, my mom agreed, this was the long lost sister to our kittens. The back story lined up, the looks, the temperament, the size. There was no way around it, this cat was practically family. I tried to convince them to let me adopt the cat, but the shelter would never let us have her. We already had three dogs and three cats, there was just no room for another animal. And she deserved to be in a home that could give her all the love she needed. So we left her there. Part of this miracle family of cats.
After knowing how devastating a loss Whiskers was to our family, you will understand a bit better why it took us a few years to even think about getting another cat. Jesse was slowly losing her mind, and I think it occurred to us that maybe another companion would bring her back down to earth. We started idly browsing the web, looking for cats. My mom found a really interesting pair of cats. They were Bengals.
The Bengal cat has a desirable “wild” appearance with large spots, rosettes, and a light/white belly, and a body structure reminiscent of the ALC.
I convinced my mom that we would never have another chance like this. We had never even HEARD of these cats, nevermind meet/adopt two of them. So we moseyed on down to this little townhouse. The story was the woman had just divorced and had to move herself and her young son in with her mother. Her mom already had a cat or two and there was no room for the bengals. They were only about a year old, very friendly, and GORGEOUS. We saw them, talked a bit, hmmed and hawed, and decided that we would take them. I knew it was the right move, the same way my mom knew Tala was the right dog. The male was named Miri, the female Sakari. In some native american language they were supposed to mean corn and sweetness respectively. Sakari was just a little too hard to pronounce, so we shortened it to Kari. We took them home and they settled in fairly well with the other animals. We kept them separated in my brother’s room until the other animals were fully used to them, then set them free. Unfortunately, Jesse was past saving, and having big strange dominant cats in the house drove her further into insanity. She now lived under our kitchen table, hating everyone except my godmother whom she saw only rarely (and I’m still convinced that was the only reason she didn’t scratch her too.) Miri and my mom bonded very much how Tala and I bonded. He would follow her around the house, meow constantly at her, come when she called, the works. They were like two peas in a pod.
Then the other shoe fell. Miri started marking in the house. One thin got know about bengals, 9 times out of 10, males will mark regularly, even if they are neutered. And let me tell you, if you have never smelled a cat marking, you don’t want to. It is worse than regular urine. The house smelled terrible. We tried everything we could, ammonia, bleach, pheremones. Nothing worked. Meanwhile both cats were desperately trying to escape outside. Not to get away from us, but to simply be outside. My mom was hesitant to let them out on their own - both cats had immortality complexes and didn’t understand that they weren’t the biggest things out there. Coyotes had been pushed closer and closer to the woods behind our house, and while we had a slight hope that Miri would be smart enough to climb up a tree to escape them, we had no faith that Kari would be smart enough to even try to fight them off, nevermind escape. So we ended up taking them out in harnesses and leashes. We would take Miri out multiple times a day, for him to mark trees and such outside. It reduced the amount of marking inside, but it was still a hassle. But we did it, because he was such a good handsome cat and we didn’t want to have to give him up.
My mom and I went out to a pet festival in the area with Tala, and we won a free chat with an animal psychic! Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that psychics of all sorts are full of it, but hey, it was free, why not? So my mom called on the phone (even more crock, how can you get a read from an animal you can’t see?) But the woman was pretty spot on with Tala. At least as spot on as you can be while guessing. Then my mom asked about Miri. She had been fighting with the question of whether or not to let him loose outside, like he really wanted to be. The psychic told her that Miri was a wild spirit and he would rather ‘die free than be forced to live in a cage.’ It was a blow for my mom, she was still worried about letting him out (we had agreed that Kari should stay inside) but she didn’t want him miserable. So we let him out. He disappeared fairly regularly, but came back after a few hours. Two weeks after the psychic’s phone call, he didn’t come back.
We spent hours searching for him, calling and calling. But it was getting dark, we had work and school in the morning, and had to stop. I don’t think my mom got any sleep that night. We made missing posters, put notices on websites, called the neighbors. Nothing. For a few days we didn’t hear a thing. Then a neighbor further down the road than we thought to call approached my dad. He had seen the posters and told my dad of an animal he had moved off the street after having been hit by a car.
My dad buried him before my mom could get home and ask to see him. He didn’t want her to remember him as a ruined shell. He wanted her to always think of him as the beautiful vibrant cat he had been in life. My mom cried for days.
But this story is far from over. Tomorrow, the continuation and the entrance of the kittens into our lives.
The first two are Miri, the third Kari
Next up in the line of animal stories are the Bengals. But to tell you the story of the Bengals, first I must tell you of Jesse and Whiskers.
Jesse and Whiskers were our first cats. We got them when we were very small. I only vaguely remember getting them, just that I demanded that the striped one be mine. It was a bratty thing for me to do, my brother had picked out and called the striped one his, but, being a good big brother, he said I could have the striped one and picked out a black kitten of his own. Of course, being as young as we were, neither cat really took to one of us more than the other, as we couldn’t take care of them quite yet. So we grew up with these cats. Jesse was my cat, Whiskers was my brother’s. Jesse kept getting more and more temperamental, and Whiskers more and more laid back. He was honestly the best cat ever. If you were laying on the couch he would always join you. No matter who you were. Family or not. I remember trying to do my homework on the couch he would ALWAYS always climb up and sleep on whatever it was I had in my lap. All I had to do was move him to the side, or further up my chest, and he would curl right back up and go to sleep. If you were laying on your side and needed to roll over, you could just flip him with you and he wouldn’t even budge. I loved that cat so much.
Every night he would want to go outside. And we would let him. He had never gotten into trouble, he was too smart to get run over, and coyotes weren’t in our backyard at that point. So we would let him out, always with a good natured ‘make sure you come home!’ after him as he disappeared into the darkness. That was the best damned cat. One night my brother’s girlfriend was over. I was in middle school, he was in high school. I didn’t like his girlfriend. I wasn’t sure what it was about her, but I never liked her. It took me a long time to be able to realize that if not for her I may not have seen my cat alive again. She let Dante outside and came back saying she heard loud noise outside. My parents went to look. I’m not sure what happened, but my mom came into the living room where I was watching TV and sulking because my brother’s girlfriend was over and told me that Whiskers was hurt outside. I rushed to the kitchen to my dad on the phone with the vet, onto the deck, and down the stairs to my cat on our driveway. His back legs were stuck out straight behind him, and he was making this terrible meowing noise. It fell to me to pick him up and bring him inside so we could put him in a crate to get to the vet. I was so afraid of hurting him, I held him so awkwardly. My mom tried to comfort me, telling me that my holding him probably wasn’t hurting him anymore than he was already hurt. I held him in my lap while the kennel was prepared, picking leaves and grass off of his useless back legs. I don’t know how far he must have dragged himself to get home after his legs gave out. I don’t know what that poor cat went through to come back home to us.
We got him to the vet, where they explained that because of the heart murmur he had his whole life a clot formed and cut off the circulation to his back end. There was a surgery they could try. He would be in the hospital for a week, at least, and he might not survive. It would be very painful, and there was a very high chance of it happening again, even if he lived through it. After giving us the grave news, we were left to discuss what our options were and what we could do. I don’t remember much. I know I was sobbing, just petting my cat and wishing we could go back to a time when he was healthy again. My parents discussed what would be the best for Whiskers. We wanted him to be happy. It was determined that surgery would be too painful. The risk was too great. We didn’t want his last moments to be in a cold cage without his family. We said our last goodbyes in a small hospital room, with my poor, wonderful, brave cat to wonder why we were all leaving, and why a stranger was now coming at him with a needle.
Rest in peace, Whiskers. I will see you again, my friend.
I’m sure you’ve all been anxiously awaiting the next installment of how I got my many animals. Well, wait no longer, here it is!
It had been years since we got Dante, I was in high school, sophomore year, and our beagle had passed away. We had been toying with the idea of getting another dog, as now Dante was getting older and not as fun to play with. I started wanting to go on walks everyday and I would take Dante with me. Around this time my parents became ultra aware of crimes against young girls. They told me if I wanted to go for a walk I needed someone else with me, Dante wouldn’t cut it anymore. Being a ‘grown-up’ as I was, I didn’t want to feel like I needed a chaperone. So I was determined to get what my mom had termed ‘a real dog.’ Qualifications for a ‘Real Dog’ included being big enough to be able to fight off someone. That was about it. But we wanted a loving dog that wasn’t mean and could be part of a family. We browsed around, I occasionally convinced my parents to take me to kennels, but no luck. Couldn’t find anything. Then one day my mom took her lunch break to visit the humane society down the street from her work and looked at the dogs. She saw one that just spoke to her. She inquired about the dog, then returned to work and sent me her picture. I was a little bit iffy, I had seen the post online and overlooked it, but agreed to go see the dog on a Saturday. My mom, being all knowing as she is, returned the next day and put a deposit down. That evening my mom and I were talking. The shelter had named the dog Starla. I was determined not to have a dog named that. Starla is a stripper name. No dog of mine would be a stripper dog. So after poking around on the internet, I stumbled upon the name Tala. It meant wolf. And, as anyone who knows me knows, I love wolves. The name seemed perfect. Starla sounds kind of like Tala, it would be an easy enough transition, and my mom seemed sure that this dog would be The One. So Saturday pours around and we eagerly make our way down to the shelter. I meander outside while my mom goes in and talks to the people about bringing Starla/Tala out for us to meet. When she came out, I knew. I just knew. There is no way to explain it, unless you have experienced something like that. It was like seeing a missing piece of my soul in the most beautiful body anyone could imagine. Needless to say, she came home with us. While my mom was in filling out the final paperwork making the newly dubbed Tala ours, a man approached me. He was short, with a big beard and a sort of rough biker like look about him. Now, bikers don’t scare me. My dad is as big and intimidating looking as they come, and I’ve been around his big scary biker friends, they don’t scare me, give me the willies, make me wonder what sort of heinous crimes they commit in their free time. This guy didn’t give me any of those feelings, either, but there was something about him that said he wasn’t quite as loving as he might have wished he was. He came up to me and said, “That’s my dog you’re taking home.” And I know he didn’t mean it as it came out, he meant that he had gone there that day for the sole purpose of getting that dog, but I couldn’t stop the feeling of elation and relief that went through me. I knew this man would have left my baby girl, my missing piece, outside tied to a post and not loved her as I planned to, as I have these past five years.
She has been the best dog ever, and I am so glad my mom put that deposit down. If not one of the other three families who were there for her would have taken her home that day and I would still have an empty spot in my life.
Shnooks and I mid-wrestle
Nothing of interest to say. As I sit here typing this, my cat is sleeping on my leg. I moved and she jumped about a foot in the air. It’s always interesting to watch her do that. She has settled down though, and is curled up against my laptop, where the heat comes out. What a cute warm kitty…
Oh, maybe I should tell you all a story instead of rambling on about my cat. I’ll tell you all about how I got my animals! All of them!
Let’s start with the pet we have had for the longest amount of time: Dante. Dante is an Italian greyhound, although you wouldn’t know it looking at him. He is whippet sized, and frankly overweight. Not that ‘oh god that greyhound is so fat and disgusting (because when greyhounds are fat they are so nasty looking)’ overweight, but he’s got a good layer of blubber on him. When I was little, probably 10, maybe younger, I don’t remember so well, my brother and I wanted to have another dog. (We had a beagle at that time, but he was getting on in the years and wasn’t so much fun to play with.) We went and looked around at different types of dogs before deciding what we wanted. One day we were wandering through the mall and there was a pet store, thankfully gone now, that kept dogs in deplorable conditions. But puppies are adorable and I always made my parents go in so I could fantasize about taking them all home and loving them to pieces and letting them live in my closet. (If there was something that my parents didn’t want living/me having/I shouldn’t have, I would just say it could live in my closet and that would be the end of that.) Well, on this particular day it was myself, my mother, and my brother. We were peering in at these poor puppies when we saw the most pitiful one of all. It was itty bitty, small enough to fit in your hands, and trying to curl itself up on this stuffed toy to get away from the cold bars that were the floor of its cage. The toy was too small for even this tiny body, and it kept falling off. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that this was an italian greyhound. My brother and I were so moved by this poor creature’s plight that we felt we had to take it out of its misery and bring it home so we could keep it warm and loved and adorable. My parents, being smarter than we were at the time, told us no, we couldn’t get that puppy, it was from a puppy mill and probably had all sorts of problems we didn’t have the resources to deal with. But we begged and pleaded and cajoled until my parents agreed that we could get an Italian greyhound. After some searching we found Dante. His previous owner didn’t take very good care of him, she was working a lot, and so he wasn’t house trained, or trained period. I remember for the first week we had him, he would not do his business. We would take him on long walks around the yard, down the street, everywhere. He just would not go. I remember standing in the rain for half an hour trying to convince him to go pee, but he wouldn’t. Then, I don’t know, it hit him that we were his new family and his new home, and he started acting like a normal dog again.
The End of Dante’s story… Tomorrow: Tala!
Myself and Dante, many years ago
So I just got back from the greatest weekend ever. Let me tell you a little about it, since I’m pretending that you all care.
So Boyfriend and I have been dating for three years (It becomes official on Tuesday) and we decided that we needed a vacation. Unfortunately, both of us being students, a REAL vacation is too expensive. So we crashed at his currently uninhabited apartment (he will be moving in once school starts ((work is closer to his parent’s house for now))) for the weekend. Well, let me tell you. He is my soul mate. We watched The Last Samurai (I know, Tom Cruise, but swords! Action! Ken Wantanabe!!) The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition, of course) half of The Two Towers, and the Matrix. What a weekend. I got to lounge around watching awesome movies and hanging around with someone equally as awesome. I am on cloud nine.
Thank you, Boyfriend. You make my life. <3