Episode 19: In Which a Cat Takes a Licking

Fri 07, Sep, 2018
Episode 19: In Which a Cat Tak

Sometimes I think I’m a magnet for misadventure. I mind my own business, and I find that so often events are thrust upon me like the sky on the shoulders of Atlas. Take the other day, for example. I was sitting in my window ledge bed, enjoying the summer sunshine and drifting in and out of meditation, when suddenly a great ruckus outside my window ripped me from my state of reverie. I opened my eyes and found my view of the yard almost entirely obstructed by a large mass of fluff. This creature stared back at me and smiled, tongue lolling and open mouth showing of rows of large, white teeth. I could hear its muffled excitement through the glass. “Hello! Hello! Hey, you cat! I see you!” it barked at me. Dogs are so rude.

Often, my colleagues will bring their canine companions to stay for the day while they work. Dogs can’t be trusted to stay at home alone all day; they make too much mischief. Sometimes my human friends set up the big kennels in my room, lining them with big, fluffy blankets and leaving enormous bowls of water. Yesterday, one of my friends took her dog out in the middle of the day, and I found the empty kennel in their absence. The fluffiest blankets. The clearest, biggest bowl of water. Just sitting there, unused. How could I resist? I made myself at home; after all, these dogs are guests in my house. They should be happy to share. So comfortable was I that I didn’t realize how quickly time was passing, and before I knew it, my friend and her dog had returned. She asked me to vacate the commandeered space, and I refused, hissing at the dog. She became insistent, and still I resisted. Why should I have to move? Finders, keepers.

Unfortunately, I tried her patience beyond its limits, and she reached into the kennel and pulled me out by my scruff, in spite of my vocal protestations. As she was pulling me out, I noticed that I was simultaneously moving closer to the dog, a great, black thing with bright eyes and shining teeth. My friend, wrangling both myself and her dog, did not realize how near we were getting to one another. Its eyes held an eager gleam as I moved closer to it. I was unable to escape my friend’s firm grasp, and my limbs would not respond properly under the spell of scruffing. All I could do was watch in horror as the dog’s huge head loomed over me in our ever-shrinking proximity. Wagging tail and quickened breath revealed its anticipation. And then I was within reach. It stretched its neck and opened its jaws wide. I gave one last hiss and squeezed my eyes shut, preparing for agony. I felt the pointed teeth housed in those massive jaws touching my left arm, and waited for them to tighten and close. But there was no tightening, no crunching of bone and tearing of fur and flesh; instead, there was only a long, wet tongue. It licked me from elbow to paw in one drawn-out motion, leaving my fur thick with drool. Disgusting.

My friend released me and deposited the dog in the kennel, where it happily lapped up mouthfuls of water and then nestled into the fluffy blankets, having the loveliest day of its life. I scowled at it and stalked by, and I could swear I saw the subtlest tail wag, and its eye held a curiously friendly invitation. Dogs aren’t evil. Just rude.

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 10, Aug, 2018
Episode 18: In Which a Cat Tel

Can you keep a secret? I am about to divulge to you some of the history of my people.

Long ago, long before humans remember, the first cats emerged on this earth. They stretched out into the sunlight and tested their claws on the trees and knew that this domain was theirs to master. They quickly became versed in the ways of the world, and more than that, they found that their powers ranged beyond the traditional scope of three-dimensional time and space. Ancient cats were large and wise and beautiful, and many had special attributes. Of the original tribes, the Mau was one renowned for its particularly gifted people. In those times, when the earth was new, the sun and the moon could commune with the creatures of the earth. One night, the moon was especially bright and mischievous and invited Khensu, sky traveler of the Mau, to dance. Unable to resist that shining crescent smile, Khensu danced with the moon. They danced and danced in the light of one thousand thousand stars, until the moon faded into the sunrise and Khensu felt that he might have danced his paws off altogether. The next night, the moon returned to Khensu, but he declined the invitation to dance because his paws were so sore. The moon is kind, and bent very close to the earth where Khensu lay and held his paws, and the moonlight bath instantly relieved the ache in each and every toe. Khensu felt he could dance forever, and when he looked down at his paws, he discovered that they had turned white with moon beams. “Walk with me,” said the moon, and Khensu followed. They walked across the night sky with all the stars for companions, and the moon gave Khensu the gift of cosmic secrets that would make cats the most powerful beings ever to roam the planet. Cats were chosen, the moon said, because no other creature would be capable of withstanding the responsibility of super-terrestrial knowledge. Khensu shared his newfound wisdom with the Mau, and thus began the study of interdimensional travel. Many cats have learned the art well enough to disappear when their human companions search for them, although no one has yet been able to travel to another tangible plane. The gift of the moon shows in the white paws of direct descendants of Khensu, sky traveler of the Mau.

When the world was flat and square, the ancient people enjoyed pushing trees and boulders to the edge and knocking them off. They tired of this, however, when objects failed to break, simply falling into the void of space, and so turned their attention to the world itself. They pulled at its edges until it became round enough to kick with their hind feet, and the crumpled surface made mountains and their claws dug valleys and furrows for rivers to flow. In a far corner of the world, before it was round, lived Satori, the enlightened seer. She was a valued member of the Neko tribe, who were known as the cleverest and most mysterious of all cats. She could feel the presence of life in all things, and she was the first to recognize that trees would be wise, as they spent their lives in meditation and personal growth. Satori walked among the trees and would spend hours listening to the laughter rippling through the leaves as the breeze tickled the branches. She knew that the trees absorbed the power of the sun, and so she would lay in clearings, basking in the warm glow of its rays in hopes of becoming as wise as the grove around her. One day, the sun asked Satori why she spent so much time among the trees, and she explained that she wished to share in their erudition so that she might impart more knowledge upon her people, making them truly the wisest creatures on the earth. “The wisest creatures,” the sun told Satori, “are those who recognize the wisdom of others.” The sun is generous, and decided to give Satori the gift of universal perception. The sun’s rays began to glow very bright and warm on Satori, and she could feel the golden light settling into her fur. The sun told her that by practicing a heightened level of concentration that she would be able to not only sense the presence of life, but perceive thought and collect wisdom from other beings. Eager to learn, Satori practiced her new gift on the trees, and learned from them. She fixed her gaze upon flowers and grass and squirrels and gleaned knowledge from each. She made her way to the edge of a lake to test her ability on the fish, and when she saw herself reflected in the water’s surface, she saw that her fur was now a beautiful flame orange, gilded from the sun. She taught her people the art of perception so that they could better understand all living things, and that is how cats came to be talented telepaths. Many humans have not yet figured out that the unblinking gaze of a cat signifies a connection of the mind. The gift of the sun shows in the vibrant orange fur of direct descendants of Satori, enlightened seer of the Neko tribe.

Our people’s history is rich and full of secrets; I have told you enough for now. Next time you catch the intense look of your feline companion, mind your thoughts, and when you wonder how they got to where you were searching for them moments before, remember that our people have aptitudes beyond the scope of human knowledge. I, myself, am highly gifted; my white paws and orange coat can attest to my distinctive heritage. And now, I think it’s time to close my eyes for some meditation in the sun while I wait for an invitation from the moon…

Dr. CJC

Fri 29, Jun, 2018
Episode 17: In Which a Cat Mee

It is good to be settling in to the best time of year. In my window-ledge bed, the sun is strong, warming the glass. It glows in the leaves, turning them to emeralds, and a breeze pushes its way through the tree branches, making them dance. A bluer sky never existed, the perfect backdrop for the white cotton clouds skipping by in the stratosphere. Sometimes, in the afternoon, those clouds bundle together and block out the light, filling with water and turning grey by the weight of their own shadows. The breeze builds itself to a gale and pitches rain against the window, the steady rapping keeping time for the lightning. It is a pleasant chaos that temporarily interrupts the routine sunshine.

This morning, I was enjoying some of that routine sunshine in meditation; I was very close to deriving a formula for traveling through wormholes (cats have been after that tidbit for centuries) when I heard a miniscule mewling. One of my friends was seated at the big table, holding what appeared to be a towel, while her canine companion looked on in earnest. A reiteration of the tiny cry impelled me to vacate my window seat and investigate. I hopped up onto the table for a better view, and made my way carefully to the edge where I could see into my human colleague’s lap. There, peering out from the folds of the towel, was the tiniest specimen of my people I have ever encountered. Its mouth opened wide and emitted another utterance, and I replied in our native tongue. This garnered its full attention, and it gazed up at me unblinkingly, my own summer storm.

Two large, shining eyes stared at me out of a face framed by wild tufts of soft, fluffy kitten fur. Whiskers too long for the size of the head and body poked out in all directions; she would grow into them eventually, and her ears as well. That face stirred something in me; those eyes, wide as the world they had not yet seen, were filled with wonder at everything in sight, and at the same time gleamed with the fierce spirit of our people. I marveled at the nature of life; such a tiny thing, thrust into being to join the rest of us in this cosmic enigma. Two tiny white mittens rested on the arm of her caretaker, and she raised one and stretched it toward me. I reciprocated the gesture and reached gently out to touch her head with my paw. Our mutual ally brought us close enough to sniff, and when her tiny pink nose met mine, I felt the spark of familiarity and the scent of our kind filled my nostrils.

For a moment, I wanted to keep her. I saw myself with this kitten next to me, teaching her our traditions and our culture. From me, she would learn how to think properly about the world and the way of things; I could impart my wisdom on the importance of progressing universal discovery. It only lasted that moment before I came to back to my senses, and the visions dispersed as vapor on the air. What would I do with a kitten? They are too much work; more storm than sunshine. No, it is far better that she find a home with Dr. B., to be taken care of as I am taken care of here; without fear, needs met, and love.

She was carried away, and I returned to my window and stretched out in the sunshine. A distant mew drifted down the hallway behind me, and I did my best to ignore it, but I felt a small twinge. Instinct, I suppose, of any species to provide for its young. I watched the dancing emeralds for a while, and then squeezed my eyes shut. What a very different course my life could have taken. But then, such is true of everyone who ever lived, and all we have is to walk the path before us and make our choices based on the information available to us. If life is good, as mine is, then regret has no place in it.

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 08, Jun, 2018
Episode 16: In Which a Cat Has

The world is a funny place. Even a well-traveled and worldly fellow such as myself can unexpectedly run into something new. Just the other day such an occurrence transpired right here in my home. I was making my usual morning rounds, and I decided to take a well-deserved respite for second breakfast. When I approached the hall leading to my room, I heard a most peculiar sound. A soft, breathy vocalization was emanating from one of the kennels. It was obviously not one of my people, and it didn’t sound like any dog I’ve ever heard. My whiskers were all on end, and I felt my tail thrash in anticipation as I slowly approached the kennel. A wet, earthy smell drifted into my nostrils, and my ears picked up the distinct rustle that revealed this outsider to be feathered. Lowering my body toward the ground, I slunk closer to the barred door. Instinctive apprehension that accompanies confronting the unknown flowed through my body like electricity. How large would it be? How much of a threat? I knew that it was locked in, but that could not override millennia of the evolutionary drive for survival.

I peeked over the edge of the kennel floor to see once and for all what I was contending with in my space. She let out a slightly louder quack (I could hear at once that the voice sounded female), no doubt startled by the sight of such a handsome face appearing so suddenly to greet her. No bigger than me, feathers all in white, a long flat beak and flat, rubbery looking feet to match; a duck! I sat and looked at her, and she cocked her head to conduct an appraisal of her own. She chattered softly and seemed curious. I asked her where she came from. It was difficult at first to understand her accent, but I got used to it without too much trouble.

She relayed to me a harrowing tale of wandering into the wrong section of her yard, where she was chased by a small dog. He had wanted to taste fresh duck wing (typically inconsiderate dog behavior) and had nearly succeeded before her keeper rushed to her aid. It came as no surprise that her keeper is one of my friends here, the one with a penchant for unusual breeds. She was just here to make sure that no real damage was done in the chase, and she admitted to me that her pride was sorer than the bruise on her wing. How embarrassing to lose oneself in one’s own home, and then to have to be rescued by a human companion, not to mention the indecorous comportment of running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I empathized with her sentiment, and told her that I could relate to the indignity of relying on human assistance from time to time. She appreciated the words of solidarity.

We shared several more exchanges throughout the course of the day, and she proved to be a gracious and intriguing house guest. My perception of ducks, and possibly waterfowl in general, was considerably improved following this encounter with an incidental ambassador. Not having met many of her kind, I must assume that she is a paragon of her people. Intelligent and quick witted, our conversations were punctuated by her laughter. She was self-conscious of the quacky timbre of her mirth, which only made her peals of amusement all the more charming. She made for an exquisite companion, and it would have given me great pleasure to spend many more days with her. Given the nature of my work-life balance, however, I knew that this was highly improbable. She left at the end of the day, and when I passed by her kennel, its emptiness resonated in my chest, and I did not like to linger and look into the space that had so recently offered joy. It wasn’t just the kind of emptiness that comes from the lack of presence; it was the hollowness of a space that was occupied by the irreplaceable and which now harbors only resounding silence.

Tucked into my own kennel for the night, I reflected on the day, and the nature of my existence. Friends come in and out of my life on a regular basis, and what a gift it is to make a lifetime of connections that are meaningful, if short. The happiness and affection that we share is unequivocally genuine, and I am grateful to experience such amicable regard on frequent occasions. This time, though, my gratitude was dampened by a hint of sorrow tugging at my heart strings and filling my mental atmosphere with its gloom. Only the intangible components of this world carry such weight. To my surprise, I was able to identify and acknowledge the definite source of my melancholy; I missed her. I know that this is my lot in life, and I would not choose another path. I wanted only to see her one more time, and I couldn’t bring myself to silence the quiet voice whispering comfort that maybe someday she would come back. But I know the reality of seeing friends repeatedly here, and I know better than to cling too tightly to false hope. I will endeavor to persevere, and take solace in the quotidian love of my human companions. That is the life of a hospital cat.

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 18, May, 2018
Episode 15: In Which a Cat Loo

 

Episode 15: In Which a Cat Looks Inside HimselfI like treats. I can’t help it. Food in general is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The taste of it, the mouth feel; it’s instinctual to crave it, I can’t help it if my ancestors programmed the need for food into my brain. The other day, one of my friends retrieved a snack from her locker in my room, and the minute I heard the rattle of a bag, I had to know what it was and persuade her to share. I stalked her and wove around her ankles and chattered at her until she could ignore me no longer. She told me I wouldn’t want it, that it was cheddar goldfish crackers and that it wasn’t made for my people. CRACKERS MADE OF FISH AND CHEESE? Of course I wanted in on that! I was unapologetically relentless. I wanted them, needed them, I demanded to have them immediately. She resisted my pleas. Said it wouldn’t be good for me. What does she know?? I waited and watched while she had a few and then returned the bag to its hiding place. She swung the door closed and left, but it did not shut all the way. I knew that this was an opportunity, a stroke of luck that had befallen me. With my paw, I pulled the door open. I had to control the salivation gathering at the corner of my mouth. Finding the bag wasn’t difficult, I have a nose for these things. I pulled it out and tore it open with my claws. Those tiny crackers may be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Crunchy, crispy, salty, cheesy; I tasted no fish, but who cared when my dreams were all coming true. I ate my way through half the bag before I could eat no more, and then I ate two more. I hauled my substantially tighter belly to my chair and was barely able to leap up in it and instantly fell into a food coma.

I awoke later with memories of what I had done. No regrets. My stomach was feeling very full still, so I decided to go for a stroll through the building. It was remarkably quiet in the treatment area, and I poked my head into a side door to see if I could locate any of my companions; I was certain they would already be gossiping about the cracker incident. The room was empty, except for the big, white table in the middle. I hopped up to inspect its glossy surface. They must have vacated the room recently because all the lights were on, including a bright one directly over the table. Its glow was very warm, and combined with the lingering contentment of the fish crackers, staying on my feet was more than I could stand. I stretched out on the table under the warm light, and in doing so struck something with my back foot. They shouldn’t have left it so near the edge; it tumbled right off toward the floor. I heard it collide with something below the table, some sort of foot pedal I had seen before jumping up. There was a subtle click, and the computer screen in the corner of the room lit up. It was showing a strange image; there were no colors, just bright outlines accompanied by shadows in varying degrees of inkiness. Just as I was on the cusp of deciphering the meaning of the mysterious picture, they returned to the room. There were exclamations followed immediately by laughter, and the others were called in to look at the image. There was more laughter, and I felt like I had either done something very clever or something foolish; either way I had the distinct impression that all this jollity was somehow at my expense. I meowed indignantly, demanding an explanation. First, they told me I was very clever, and while it came as no surprise, it is always nice to hear. It turned out that the image on the screen was some sort of photo, and that I had taken it, and that furthermore, it was of me. They called it a Radio-graph. Apparently, there was a special type of picture taking mechanism that could take pictures of my insides without showing my glorious hide. Seems like a waste of a photograph to not capture my handsome exterior, but evidently this is something they use for medical purposes. This was a decidedly inopportune moment for them to glimpse my insides, as it revealed my surreptitious snack consumption. The fish crackers, now mid-digestion, were on display for all to see. “He really is full of it!” they said, and laughed some more, and I felt a hint of shame creeping in, knowing that this was all the result of something I should not have done in the first place. I could feel my whiskers and ears droop slightly, and my face must have betrayed my mood, because one of them picked me up and held me close and told me that I shouldn’t eat things other than my food. They were glad that I hadn’t eaten anything dangerous, and they were laughing out of relief and surprise rather than malice. Still, with my pride as deflated as my stomach was full, I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the solitude of my window ledge bed, contemplating whether those little bits of cracker heaven were worth the humiliation of discovery. Eventually, I concluded that they were totally worth it, and I would do it all again if the opportunity presented itself.

Dr. CJC

 

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