Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cat Complications

Out new kitten has feline herpes. A friend commented, "Don't they have kitty condoms for that?" It's surprising that they don't. It turns out that 95 percent of cats have the disease, but many of them never become symptomatic. Stress triggers herpes, so if you come to my house, please be nice to my cat.

This was the first time I have ever taken a cat to the vet. Growing up, only the most expensive animals received medical attention. Since cats were free, they never made it. Once, we adopted a white kitten that had a hernia. We just duct taped the hernia up.

When we were first married, Willie and I had a cat named Ike. I have never seen a cat so full of hate before. That cat despised Willie. Anything that smelled like him was peed on. Ike also befriended a raccoon, which he went through our garbage and shared his meals with. The final straw was when the cat used Willie's custom made guitar case as a litter box. We gifted the cat to Willie's parents, who accidentally flattened the cat with their car within a month.

But my favorite cat memories are from our almost life-long friends, the Durfees. The Durfee kittens never seemed about to stay out of the driveway. On more than one occasion, Laurie (Mrs. Durfee) would hit a kitten on our way somewhere, lean over to my brother and me and whisper, "Distract the girls while I bury the kitten". One such kitten was not killed but merely disfigured. She was thereafter called, "Mrs. Wobbles". Mrs. Wobbles was caught wobbling out into the road and lying down several times. She finally succeeded in her suicide attempts.

We have also had many wonderful cats and some have died of old age. We'll see how Rex does. Again, please don't stress him out. (Or me, for that matter.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why We Went Into the Woods... and Why We Went Out of the Woods

Thoreau wrote an essay called, "Why I Went Into the Woods", which I read (not voluntarily, but read nonetheless). I never bothered to read his sequel, "Why I Went Out of the Woods" because that always seemed obvious. But the great thing about going out of the woods is that it feels like a vacation when you get home.

Feel like you need a new mattress? Go sleep on the cold, hard ground. Your bed will feel like heavenly clouds. Feel like your bathroom is too far away? Hike to one in the freezing cold outdoors. If you're lucky, there will be one-ply toilet paper. Feel like you can never get your house clean? Go live in dirt. It's all about perspective.

Of course, when you trade your life of relative ease with relative misery, conflict is inevitable. As my friend Yunjong put it, "I went camping once. I have many stories of being mad at my husband." I have many stories, too, most of them stemming around differing definitions. I grew up camping, so when we were dating, I told him confidently that I love to camp. Then, I went camping with him. The first evening, I was in shock. Where was the volleyball net? The poker game? The snipe hunts, feasts, bonfires... none of those existed in Willie's definition of camping. His definition: camping - sleeping near a river and/or lake and fishing from dawn until dusk. This trip, I brought a book. I'm learning.

You always learn something about each other when you're camping. This trip, we learned that Halle walks in her sleep. In the middle of a frigid night, I heard something moan and smack the side of the tent. "That sounds like Halle," I thought. I checked her sleeping bag and found it empty. I woke up Willie. We coached Halle back into the tent. "I'm freezing!" she said. Willie tucked her back into the sleeping bag. "How long were you out there?" he asked. "Three hours!" she replied.

Of course, she wasn't out there for three hours. But it probably felt like three hours, the same way that were were technically camping for three days, but it felt (and smelled) like three weeks. This is another great thing about camping: it lasts longer than a regular vacation. Vacations always fly by too fast and never come soon enough. I think I'll be satisfied if I don't camp for another year or even longer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Santa Squirrel

Unfortunately, I recognize the scratching inside my chimney. These little visitors have overstayed their welcome before. As a matter of fact, this is our third squirrel infestation. The first was in our attic in Georgia (one feisty little feller chewed through the brake lines on a guy's car in the parking lot). The second was a couple of years ago, after a rare red cockated woodpecker pecked an enormous hole on the side of our wooden chimney. This prompts several questions: 1.) Why would anyone ever build a wooden chimney?, 2.) Why are these woodpeckers protected?, 3.) What will happen to us if we shoot the woodpeckers or squirrels within city limits? The third question has unfortunately been answered by my neighbor, a very nice lady who used to work for the police department. She kindly informed me that she would call the cops if she saw any suspicious business. She is actually very nice.

The second infestation also raised the question of how to get the boogers out of the chimney. We can't smoke them out since we can't actually use our fireplace. It was at one time a gas-burning fireplace, but the lines have since been removed. Now, a set of candles inhabits the inside. They lend a nice ambiance for the rodents. So, Willie built a squirrel pole. This is a survival technique where you take a pole, attach snares and shiny things and set it in the path of squirrels. The squirrel pole was set up in front of our bird feeder. Fortunately, we weren't depending on it for food. It was unsuccessful for three months. After a slight alteration (Oh! This must be the right squirrel path!), a squirrel was caught. I carried our 18 month old daughter up the porch steps and watched in horror as a squirrel hanged itself right in front of us. But this story does have a happy ending: Willie was able to use the tail to tie some fishing flies.

I don't know what will become of these squirrels. If they contributed, that would be one thing. Maybe I can train them to bring nuts and seeds or something. At least it isn't mice.