Many of us have pets who are or have been Beloved…but my experience is there is usually this one who works his or her way deep into our soul, our memory, and our “inner child”.
I love animals…most all of ’em. I had a favorite dog and a wonderful snake and as a kid, even a pair of rats, one black and one white. I used to smuggle those rats to elementary school inside my shirt! I have even had BUGS…Giant Australian Leaf Bugs that I care deeply about. My very first pet was a DUCK, that at 7 years old, I house-broke, because I didn’t know you couldn’t. (read about Fluffy here)
and those bugs, just go to my blog (and search for Bugs. I post about them more than most anything…https://chosenperspectives.com/
Though I am fairly allergic to them, I’ve almost always had cats…maybe 15 of them over the years.
But there is this one rascal, Zorro, that is my Beloved heart animal, above all the others, my inseparable companion of 17 years now. Named for the “Z” he slashed in the back of my hand the day I got him (at 5 or 6 weeks old). I’d show you a photo of my hand now but the original “Z” has been embellished with countless slashes over these years together…some from anger but mostly from play. It’s more like an abstract pencil drawing these days.
I know everyone has a favorite pet even if we don’t want to admit playing favorites. I have three cats right now and I wouldn’t want Phineas the Terrorist or Lucy, the Wonder Cat to be jealous of my Zorro, the Grey Blade.
His story is unfortunately, not unheard of. He was left in a box with 5 littermates at the back door of a county animal “pound” at the beginning of a three day weekend. By the time the box was discovered, all had died but my Zorro. Tiny “Z” was put in the cages in the lobby of this Animal Shelter where all the “last chance” animals were displayed…last chance before death!!
Apparently, he did not stop yowling for the three days they had him and the folks at the front desk were driven to distraction by his inconceivable volume.
We arrived literally in the nick of time. They were so relieved, they all cheered.
The short version of the back story here is that about 2 years before, I had lost all three of my long-time pets (an 11 year old cat, a wonderful 16 year old purebred German Shepherd, and an amazing, impossible 23 year old cat) all within two months of each other.
Boom, boom, boom…all gone!
Oh and in this same 2 years, my then husband had blown up our marriage as well as my therapy practice, AND there had been 11 deaths in and close to my family…all culminating in the 9/11 tragedy our country suffered. I was a hot, depressed mess!!!
My two very best friends did a Love Intervention with me for which I will be eternally grateful.
They sat me down and said “OK, that’s long enough. We like you better when you have pets.” And then they drove me to the pound for a cat and said “Pick one…NOW.”
I knew immediately it was that screaming gray and white kitten hanging by all fours on the screened in kennel.
I have already confessed many times in previous animal posts that I am the Queen of Anthropomorphism, but that kitten knew me instantly. In our 17 years together, he has never screamed like that again. Oh, we have our regular conversations. He’s very talkative. But only with me. I’m the only one he has ever trusted. If you are not me, you must tread very lightly in his presence. No reaching out your friendly hand for a sniff or a pet. Nope. You’ll be branded, just like me.
Though he will tolerate almost any handling from me, he has never been a lap cat, no snuggling except on my feet at night…oh, and if I say “Zorro, wanna take a nap with me?”, he will come running and assume his position in out napping spoon, his back pushed into my curled-up tummy. And a wonderful, weird addition to our relationship is I have NEVER been even slightly allergic to him. No itching, no asthma, nothing. I tell people he is my first intimate relationship with a cat.
He will look straight into my eyes for long moments and we will “talk”.
He is protective of the other cats we have, both joining our family as tiny kittens. If Zorro thinks you are hurting them, he will lunge at you like a tiger, growling, teeth bared, and claws out. He’ll draw your blood without batting an eye.
And if Phineas, who is our escape artist, finds a way out of our house, Zorro will run to me just like Lassie, (Timmy has fallen down the well!!) proclaiming danger, and will lead me right to the open door or window. (Our cats are always indoor cats as we have packs of coyotes running through our streets!)
Zorro has a much longer story than this, but I want to get this post done. Just think of him as the Sean Connery of cats…a real warrior in his day and still gorgeous to the end.
Zorro has advanced kidney disease and will most likely be moving on soon. We spend a lot of time together these days. I know we are getting close to the end because he wants to be on my lap whenever I sit down. He is awkward at it, having never practiced this kind of connection before now, but I love it.
I love him. My beloved best pal for so many years….
I just can’t write about my mother(s) today. I will sometime. I know I need to.
And since I didn’t get a single card or call or flower and I even had to make my own coffee, I’m feeling pretty forlorn.
So I will write about myself.
I have been a mother since I was 5 years old. I knew how to change diapers and handle baby food and bottle basics before I started school. I mothered my little sisters (and I must have done a lousy job because they resent the hell out of me.)
Don’t get me wrong. I love mothering. I live for it. My favorite movie as a child was not some Disney Princess thing. Nope, for me it was “Cheaper by the Dozen”.
All I ever wanted was a huge family, a bunch of kids to mother!
I even mothered my mother, trying so hard to convince her life was worth living…but I failed…well, that’s how it felt to my broken teenage heart when she finally chose the permanent “check-out”.
I mothered, in the following order, myself, my sisters, my mother, my babysitting kids, my pets, my friends, my foster sisters, my boyfriends, my fellow students, my co-workers, my husbands, my neighbors, my BUGS, broken birds, and my hundreds of my clients…this last is a whole separate story of amazing “motherhood”.
I mothered myself when my own mother escaped her pain by shooting herself. How oxymoronic is that?
And I had to make the excruciating decision to NOT mother the child I was carrying at the time my mother died, leaving my sisters in my real charge this time.
Blissfully, I finally got to mother my son Michael, the light of my life, and eventually, a pile of step-children. And now, though I am their grandmother, I even get to mother my grandsons a little bit.
It’s still my favorite thing to do.
So here is my choice for Song Lyric Sunday, today, Mother’s Day, 2017. It’s the song I used to play for my most injured and damaged clients, in the hope that somehow, a little mother’s love really can heal. I know it has healed me.
And I know my “daughter” Pamela has received exactly this from her Mother.
And just so I don’t end on a pitiful note,
I’m off to Mother my CATS!!! They won’t know what hit them!
The FIRST kind is the overwhelming winner in terms of numbers of encounters. I see birds everywhere. I don’t even know I am watching for them but I find them where ever I go.
The SECOND kind of encounter is spotting evidence of birds…nests, feathers, and POOP.
And a Bird Encounter of the THIRD kind is actual contact, in all its forms, including actual “conversations” (out loud or not…).
This week I have had all THREE!
Day One-Bald Eagles
Not really that strange here in the Northwest. We see them often, but usually just on a fly-by, though I have witnessed a Murder of Crows attacking a Bald Eagle and bringing him to all the way to the ground. That’s another post.
This week, on my morning walk, I heard a great commotion among Crows and Eagles. It’s a familiar sound…someone is probably raiding someone else’s nest. But when I looked up I saw FIVE Bald Eagles. There was a pair who seemed to be fighting off the rest. They succeeded in driving off the other three and then landed in a tree a couple of houses away from mine. They chattered and pealed and then were quiet but present long enough for me to walk home and get my camera. But it was an extremely gray day so lousy photos.
Barely a First Encounter.
Day Two-Bird Suicide
Sitting at my computer…all the cats having their morning naps…and a loud crack/crash sound startles us all. We know what it is and we all head to the window where we know a bird has smashed into. Sure enough, the evidence immediately informs us of the bird’s fate.
I had to go outside to confirm that there was nothing I could do.
She was so pretty, probably a little House Finch, and to honor her beauty and tragically ended life, I got the camera.
Lucy watched from inside the whole time…
I put the tiny body in the crook of a tree while deciding what else I could/should do and went into the house. By the time I came back out, a neighbor’s cat was carrying the corpse off. Well, I guess at least her body wasn’t wasted….an encounter of the SECOND KIND.
I LOVE Crows and have a grandiose belief that they love me too. I even fantasize that they follow me. On this morning, I took the boys out to their favorite before school breakfast (Burger King) on the condition that we eat in the car. My secret plan was to have a Close Encounter! I’m always on the lookout for a great teaching moment and sure enough, we were treated to a Crow Show right there in the parking lot.
I call this an Encounter of the SECOND and 1/2 KIND…they did “contact” my car for sure!
Day Four-Sick Bird
While hanging up a fresh Hummingbird feeder, I almost stepped on this little guy, or girl. I was thinking at first a baby female Grosbeak but no bandit mask…and besides way too early for babies.
I put her up on the Hummer feeder to keep her from getting stepped on (or cat-captured).
Definite contact, of the THIRD KIND.
Day Five-Bird Feeder (squirrel intruders)
Well, I have not upgraded to a Premium blog site yet so I cannot show you the hysterical video I took of thwarting the intrusive squirrels who climb the seed feeder pole and knock it to the ground so they can stuff their silly cheeks with sunflower seeds.
This is an ongoing problem. I’m not actually bigoted. I hold Squirrels, despite their rodent status, as equal to all the other animals I like to feed. But the squirrels vacuum up the crow food each morning and continuously knock off the bird feeder, often breaking it into pieces, so I feed them in THEIR (yes, segregated) area, under THEIR trees. This does not work. They insist on amalgamating!
I read somewhere that if you spray WD40 on the pole of a feeder, the squirrels can’t climb it. But I worried about it making them sick, so I sprayed PAM (the non-stick cooking spray). IT WORKED!! That’s the video I wanted to show you. The squirrels leaping at the pole, expecting to be able to climb to the top to pig out, and repeatedly sliding helplessly back down! It only lasts about 6 days (maybe because of our rain) so the pole needs to be re-treated, but hey, I went to Costco and got enough to last until maybe they learn and give up? (right…like they will give up…) But I feel a responsibility to continuing my years-long practice of feeding all my local birds, so I continue the battle with the squirrels, Encounters of the IRRITATING KIND!
SOME of my Yard Birds
Day Six–Really Sick Bird
I have a favorite chair in my living room. It sits in the sunny nook of a corner window and rotates so I can see outside in comfort. It’s not just where I sit to warm up, or to watch the birds in my yard, but it is a special chair filled with connections and memories. It belonged to my “adopted” sister’s Mom, Ruth (don’t even try to figure that out) and was given to me when Ruth passed away. And it’s BLUE! On this day, sitting in my chair, I spotted a small bird out in the yard, another small Sparrow.
I watched and saw it hop and flutter and flap some but no real flight. Uh oh. Too early for a fledgling so I went out to see her. She looked a lot like the bird who had flown smack into the window but on this one, up close I could see why. She was full grown but completely blind. Ah geez. I am already the lost and stray animal magnet of the area. I’d never hear the end of it if I adopted a sick bird…especially a blind one. (I was married to a man who was blind and though it didn’t end well, we had some really great years together.)
When I got closer, I put out my hand and she walked right into it…again and again.
I lifted her up to put her on the seed feeder and then could see it was an eye infection. Another video I couldn’t post showed her attempts at flying when I tossed her up in the air. She’d flutter back to the ground, I’m realizing now because she couldn’t see where else to go.
I put her in one of my small bug containers for the ride.
It was quite a drive to get there and most of the way she was quiet but I cringed when I could hear her flapping around in that confined space.
At PAWS, they were so helpful and even sensitive, I guess knowing that a person who would capture and transport a sick wild animal might also actually have bonded a bit in the process. They ask you if you’d like to be informed by email of the outcome for your patient and then they reassure you the animal will be returned to as close as they can to the location where it was captured. A huge relief to me, the Queen of Anthropomorphism! (What abut her family? What if she had already mated?? etc.)
They also coached me in how to contribute to the prevention and spread of bird conjunctivitis. Apparently it’s quite common amongst the Finch population and it takes some work to stop the spread. (It may be why the first bird crashed into my window and why the 2nd was sick also.) We need to clean (like seriously, with bleach) the bird feeder at least once a week and rake up all the droppings (seed shells, etc.) It’s also a good idea to take down the feeder now and then to let the current population “disperse “. That one will be harder for me as watching the feeder is a treasured part of my daily routine.
This so specifically an Encounter of the THIRD KIND, I came back home wanting to go and get a pet bird. I can still FEEL her little feet on my finger!
Day Seven-Bald Eagles “They’re Baaack!”
Word is out in our neighborhood that we have had several visits from this pair of Bald Eagles. A few days ago, literally, as I was sending out an email to some dear friends about the Decorah Eagle Cam website, (http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles) I heard that unmistakable scream right outside my window!!
I sent a quick email follow up about what happened next:
“As I was sitting here sending you all the link about my beloved Decorah Eagles, I heard eagle-screaming right outside my window!
I ran outside without my camera but witnessed the most amazing thing. There were FIVE BALD EAGLES circling my deck!! It looked like two were fending off or chasing the other three. Or maybe it was some kind of mating ritual.
The twosome flew very close together in large and then smaller circles. Then they landed on the top of the biggest tree in front of my house. The other three flew off into the distance.
This might be the same pair I watched the other day, cruising our neighborhood for prey or a nesting site (although it seems late in the year for that latter). Not sure why they are hanging out here.
I ran in for my camera but just like the other day, it is so gray out it was hard to get much more than a silhouette. Wish they would have stopped by yesterday when that sun was so bright.
In all these years living in my house, as many times as I have been gifted with a low fly-by, no eagle has ever landed right in front of me before! Maybe I was just tapped into Eagle Energy today or something. I do consider them somewhat of a Totem. Better get out the Animal Speak book and read again why I might be needing their input in my life right now….”
My neighbor Mimi knows about my bird obsession (similar to her fruit tree obsession…you rarely see Mimi on the ground, instead of in a tree top, pruning away.) But she also goes for walks most days. She takes her blind, deaf dog Murphy for a walk, well, Murphy AND her two cats, Moses and Purrcy. They make quite a sight sauntering down the street, in a line; the dog, the woman and these two cats who have trained themselves to traipse after her just about anywhere.
She called me from her walk yesterday and said “Kathie, your Eagles are back” and told me where. I grabbed the camera and walked up the street.
Beautiful sunny day. Some minor trespassing, but finally, even with my little point and shoot Canon, I got these pictures!
Not sure how to number this Encounter but as strange as it might sound to some, I believe this was of the FOURTH KIND, through some connection bigger than I can explain.
PS By the way, the little bug container I used to transport the sick House Finch in, was knocked off my back porch last night and trashed. I wondered if I had slept through another wind storm or something. But then I saw them. Those dang SQUIRRELS! Foraging around in the broken box for the last of the seeds I had put in there for the little bird.
Would it be wrong for me to invite those Eagles back for some Squirrel Gumbo???
OK, OK, I know. That’s just my impatience talking….
AHH, gotta go. I hear screaming and cawing outside!
By the way, if you have read this far, Thank You. It was a long week.
I’d really appreciate comments and also that you pass this on to any bird people you know!
Some of today’s ideas were borrowed from one of my favorite movies Close Encounters.
“The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.” *
“Tell us about a piece of music that stayed with you.”
I love that Word Press gives us all these challenges! Not because I can’t think of anything to write about, but because it helps me narrow topics down!
The first time I heard the song A Life Uncommon by Jewel, I was moved to tears.
(small disclaimer…the last few seconds of wording on this particular youtube are about Christianity and though I consider myself part Christian, I am also part Hindu, part Buddhist, part Jewish, part Unitarian Universalist and part “still working it all out”.)
I loved the song and could not stop thinking about it!
Such inspirational lyrics!
Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright
And don’t worry sister, say your prayers and sleep tight
It’ll be fine lover of mine
It’ll be just fine
Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon
I’ve heard your anguish
I’ve heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren’t worn out
Set down your chains, until only faith remains
Set down your chains
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent your strength to that
Which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon
There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough it would have come to be Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear our voices ring out clear
With sounds of freedom
Sounds of freedom
Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
There is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give
And lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead…
Lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon
“No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.” WOW!
Then I heard the song at the Unity church by this wonderful duo, Garnett and Beverly. Oh man, can these two SING!!! http://www.garnettandbeverly.com/
After hearing them sing it, I decided I wanted to EARN having this very song be performed at the party I want folks to have when I die!!
But there is another chapter.
Many years ago now, I had the miraculous experience of reuniting with my daughter, Pamela, having given her up to be raised by the most wonderful parents. As I was getting to know her, I did what many of us do when we first fall in love, and boy, did I ever fall. I made her a playlist of all my favorite songs…songs that I hoped would tell her about me. (Pam is truly amazing, and a talented singer herself, so I thought music would be a great connection!!)
The song, Life Uncommon, was the first and most important song on that playlist, with the disclaimer that I was still learning to live this way.
Three generations…my mother, my daughter, Pamela, and me, all around the same age. I couldn’t see any resemblance between my daughter and me but could see it between Pam and my mother.
Me and my birth daughter!
Cousins, their first visit…Pamela’s daughter and Michael’s son. How cute are they? watching something on TV that has Julius feeling protective…
Me with my son and his sister together, a dream come true!
This is Ola. She is one of the world’s sweetest dogs. The Angel she wears on her chest is perfect for her. My sister and her husband rescued Ola to keep Lily, their aging, 3 legged dog company toward the end of her life.
We bonded with Ola when she was very small. We dog-sat so her “parents” (my sis and her husband) could go on a long trip.
Everyone thought Ola would grow up to be a smallish black lab mix, smaller than Lily……
Ola is still an Angel of a dog but there is nothing “smallish” about her!
And Lily, Ola revived her and kept her busy and happy for a good while.
“Maternity is a matter of fact; paternity always a matter of opinion.” Unknown Author
When I was two, my Mom found my Dad. They got married and had my sister Eileen when I was three. They had my sister Barbara when I was six. When I was nine, I found out that Dad was not my first Dad. I don’t remember that fact being particularly bothersome. But when I was twelve and my folks divorced, well, that was definitely bothersome. When I was fifteen, being fairly exhausted by the role of Junior Mother to my sisters while my own Mom drank herself into oblivion, I left home in search of the rest of my childhood. When I was nineteen, my mother made her first (at least discernible) suicide attempt. (She took pills.) She survived, but only after being in a coma for as many days as I had had years on the planet. She woke up saying, “I don’t want to sleep anymore.” I thought she meant it and was really relieved and hopeful. Her narrow escape from death seemed to inspire her. She turned her life around dramatically…but only for a couple of years. When I was 20, my mother was more determined…no reprieve this time. It is much harder to survive suicide by gun.
When I was 24, and had a toddler of my own, the difference between a biological parent and a step-parent smack in my face, I wrote my Dad a note. It said, “Now that Mom is not alive, you and I are not REALLY connected by anything, so do you want to stop being my Dad?”
As of this writing, I don’t remember how he answered that question. I think it was something sweet and positive.
I do know that after he died in 2001, when we were going through his belongings, I found that 30 year old note from me, crusty with age, in a small box full of obvious treasures; like a very beautiful picture of my mother (his one and only love), correspondence from his father, and a very impressive letter of endorsement from his commanding officer in the U.S. Cavalry recommending him to West Point. My barely camouflaged plea for reassurance was in very admirable company indeed.
When I was 40, I received the following letter from my Dad:
When your mother and I got married, we didn’t have much money and you were very young so we didn’t think you would mind if we skipped the legal proceedings for me to officially adopt you. Then, as it does, time passed and we just never got around to it.
Would you think it silly now, at this late date, for me to make it all legal? Would you let me adopt you?
I think you know that you have never been any different in my eyes from your two sisters, except that you were my oldest. Your other father left before you were ever born, marrying your mother in name only, at the “insistence” of your grandfather, so I knew I would be your only Daddy.
Have I ever told you when I knew you were mine?
When your mother and I were dating, we always brought you along. I knew from the start it was a package deal with her and that was just fine by me. One afternoon when we were out, I picked you up to carry you on my shoulders, as had become our routine. Well, while you were up there, you had a little accident and leaked all over my neck. That wasn’t too bad really. But when I went to change my shirt and tie later, I found that you had marked me. My white shirt and neck were stained a bright crimson, the color of my tie. I didn’t think of myself as a “red neck” but I proudly wore that red mark around my neck for several days until it finally wore off. I told the guys at work that my new little girl had branded me. That’s when I knew I was your Daddy.
Now, I would like to make it official if that’s OK with you. Let me know what you think.
My response to him was a no-brainer.
So, the Christmas after my 40th birthday, my Dad flew to Seattle from San Diego. My sister Barbara was there. My sister Eileen, who had rarely seen any of us since our mother died all those years before, flew over from Hawaii, and my 3 long time best friends attended as witnesses. It was definitely official, taking place in a courtroom in front of a judge who asked both my father and I a peculiar series of questions. “Do you have any ulterior motives for taking this step?” “Does doing this help you to avoid legal action in any way?” “Are either of you doing this for financial gain?” etc.
Then the judge pronounced us legally “father and daughter” and leaned over his bench to shake my Dad’s hand. He said, “Congratulations on your new baby girl.” And to my sisters he said “She is your real sister now.” Then he thanked us all profusely saying, “Usually during this week between Christmas and New Years, we have nothing in Family Court except Child Protective Service cases or maybe the relinquishing or termination of parental rights. How refreshing it is for me to have participated in this long awaited and obviously joyous occasion.”
Judging from the things my Dad did during the time immediately before he died, my legal adoption was not the first time he had considered my sisters and I being re-united.
Although he had never uttered a single word of criticism or advice concerning our long-time estranged sibling ties, clearly he had thought about it. He simply carried on three separate father/daughter relationships. He developed his own connection with his 3 grandchildren and before his death he fixed it so that at least once more, we had no choice but to all three be together. I mean really together. We had to join up and cooperate in the dispersal of his estate. All papers had to be signed by all three of us, in person, and at the same time.
There was plenty of money designated specifically for travel expenses, eliminating that excuse. Clever, clever man. Either that or a real brat. If Dad was nearby, and we believe he was, we know he got a real kick out of it as his lawyer innocently said, “Yes, I thought this was an unusual request that there be 3 executors and that all be present in the same place. This is not how it is commonly done. Your Father must have known that you three get along really well to put you in this position as equal trustees.”
I wonder what that attorney thought of the look of shock, dismay and wonderment that passed among my sisters and me in that moment.
Dad, I’m sure, was chuckling. I guess he really believed that it is never too late.
ADOPTION DAY–one of only two times my Dad had all three of his grown daughters together