Saturday, June 30, 2012

Clementine's Revenge

Clementine was completely fed up.  The yarn lady had spent entirely too much time over the last month sitting at her computer writing.  Writing about other cats.  She always read what she wrote out loud, which was entertaining, but this time she wasn’t even in a single one of the chapters she’d written.  So the yarn lady had not only ignored her, she’d snubbed her.  Clem had loved it when the yarn lady had written of her learning about Christmas, because she was writing things that actually happened to the two of them together.  This was something else entirely.  Other cats had adventures, but never her.  

Being both an indoor cat and an only cat limits the opportunity for true adventure, especially when you live somewhere that’s vermin-free.  Clem couldn’t even chase and catch real mice.  It was rare for even a bug to get in the house.  While other cats roamed their yards and nearby properties, Clem roamed five rooms (if you counted the bathroom).  Yeah, the yarn lady would let her hang out in the sunroom and garage when she asked, but that hardly counted as adventure.  And with her human’s allergies, the windows were hardly ever open.  All this was a recipe for boredom and frustration. 

Admittedly, the yarn lady was home most of the time, and did throw yarn balls for her and was generous with snuggles.  And she did leave lovely knitting projects around she could dig her claws into.  It wasn’t adventure, though. No one offered Clem the chance to go to Kansas for a month.  She never got to rescue turkeys from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.  All she had were one human and a lot of yarnballs. 

Clem was at the age when a cat wants to go out and conquer the world.  Things like exploring, adventuring, having kittens or starting her own business.  She wasn’t a kitten anymore – she was all grown up.  Clem raced around the house looking for something to do. 

The yarn lady had gone out and she had the house to herself.  For starters Clem decided to check her email.  That was usually good for a laugh, but today all it contained was an email from Rudy saying how glad she and LT were to be home again.  Clem ground her teeth and hit the key to close her email.  She wanted the opportunity to *go* somewhere so she could come home again – and a trip to Tibet definitely did not count. 

There was a pile of papers in front of the computer monitor.  Clem looked at them to see if they were anything interesting.  It was ‘Journey to Pottawatomie’.  The yarn lady was editing it so she could publish it.  This was the last straw.  Clem dug her claws into the top sheet, anchoring it place with her back paws.  She shredded first one sheet and then another.  It was so satisfying.  There was a pile of shredded paper all around the computer when she was done.  There – that would show the yarn lady what she thought of the other cats’ adventures. 

Clem went into the bedroom to use the iPad.  It was easier for her to use, and there was too much of a mess around the computer anyway.  She checked what tabs were open in the browser.  The yarn lady’s blog – pah!  Weather in Westmoreland, Kansas – grrr!  She closed them all and decided to do her own search for adventure possibilities for cats.

Egypt.  That was a good place to start, since that was the first place cats allowed humans to live with them and also because the ancient Egyptians knew that cats were beloved of Bast.  Sites on modern Egypt didn’t have anything about cats, but some historical ones did.  Clem left that tab open and figured she’d come back to it. 

Hmmm, Japan liked cats.  They make those statues of a cat with his paw held up.   Clem looked up the Lucky Cat and found they were made because an emperor was saved from a horrible accident because a cat waved at him and he stopped to admire the cat (smart man).  Something terrible happened where the emperor would have been standing if he hadn’t been stopped by a waving cat.  She left that tab open too and started another one. 

The yarn lady had told someone how much she’d liked visiting London some years ago so Clem looked that up to see if there were any famous cats there.  She didn’t find any current ones, but there was a doozy from way back when.  Some kid named Dick Whittington had a cat he loved, but he sent the cat to sea because he was so good at catching rats (and one of the men Dick worked with was picking on the cat).  Well, the cat caught so many rats that Dick got rich and became Lord Mayor of London.  Personally Clem thought the cat should have gotten rich, but maybe London had laws against animals owning property. 

Oh, there were marvelous places in the world and adventures to be had, but not if you can’t get out the door.  Clem put her head down, and day dreamed of places she’d go, people she’d meet and fish she’d eat.  The ceiling fan whirred overhead, and her daydreams became real dreams. 

When the yarn lady came home she discovered Clem’s destruction.  The rough draft of ‘Journey’ was strewn over the computer desk and the surrounding floor, much of it in shreds.  She knew Clem had done it, there was no one else here, and a burglar wouldn’t have bothered to shred paper.  She looked for Clem, expecting to find her hiding out somewhere, fearful of reprisal.  She wasn’t in the living room closet or on her favorite shelf in the back of the linen closet.  The yarn lady went into the bedroom and found Clem sound asleep on the iPad.  Funny, she didn’t remember leaving it quite in that spot.  As angry as the yarn lady was, she wasn’t going to disturb her sleeping kitty.  She quietly went into the living room and set about figuring out what pages she’d need to reprint.  A conversation with Miss Clementine would have to wait until later.  


Friday, June 29, 2012

The Cat Club Reconsiders Pottawatomie

LT and Rudy had decided that rather than tell everycat they knew about Pottawatomie individually they would hold a special meeting of the Cat Club rather than wait until Friday.  LT delivered the message to Greymalkin, and Rudy ran over to Bunny’s house to tell the crew there to come tonight at sunset.  Then Rudy and LT sat down to decide exactly what to tell everyone.  There would be some disappointment, they were sure, when it was revealed that Pottawatomie was not the idyllic place they all thought it would be.  They were sure Peep had told the cats some of their adventures, but probably thought the two travelers were holding out about all their discoveries. 

Well before sunset cats began arriving.  Greymalkin was first, explaining that her human had gone out to play bingo, and she’d taken the opportunity to come early.  LT was feigning sleep on top of his summer house and Rudy had decided to stay inside until it was time for the meeting.  Neither wanted to repeat the same information over and over and over.  Bunny, Snoogums, Mr. Snuggles and Ladybug arrived next.  Snoogums tried to get LT’s attention by clearing his throat near the summer house, but LT continued his ruse of sleeping.  So, the five cats tried to get information out of Peep.  Well, Peep had agreed not to say anything about the trip until Rudy and LT could tell it themselves, and in fact they hadn’t told her much more than what she’d read in the emails she’d received.  Anyway, David had been around and Peep liked to spend time with him, so she hadn’t tried very hard to get the scoop from the cats.  David had lots of his own stories to tell, and plenty of them involved LT and Rudy. 

When the sun had dropped below the horizon Rudy regally made her way out of the house.  The Daddy had given her an extra special grooming this afternoon, and she knew she looked marvelous.  She stopped at the top of the stairs on the deck and posed for the assembled cats.  Fuzzy, who had decided to come, whether or not he was still a club member, made a rude noise and Mr. Snuggles cuffed him.  LT walked leisurely toward the group and when seated called the meeting to order. 

He asked Greymalkin to read the minutes of the last meeting, as per procedure, and everycat protested.  This wasn’t a regular meeting, they didn’t want to follow protocol and would they just get on with what they found in Kansas.  LT gave everyone a level look and again asked for the minutes of the last meeting.  Greymalkin rolled her eyes and gave a very condensed version of the minutes, which were instantly approved by the group.  Then LT asked for reports on old business – bee patrol, bear sightings (although there hadn’t been one in more than a year) and several other very old business items.  Finally he recognized Rudy to speak and asked her to make her report about the trip to Pottawatomie. 

Rudy began with the news about the reunion with Ginger and her kittens.  Loaf Cat and Greymalkin had never met Ginger, and weren’t awfully interested in hearing how well the kittens had turned out.  Bunny and Ladybug were delighted to hear that she’d be coming east later in the summer, but the cats wanted to hear about the special stuff – the beauty salons, the special cat houses and the delicious meals. 

Rudy took a deep breath and told them about meeting Maggie, Chauncey and Fiona. That they had their own house that was big enough to hold a human family and that yes, they had special meals cooked just for them.  None of the cats except Peep had heard this information, as Rudy had asked Peep not to tell them much about this.  The eyes of the cats grew bigger as Rudy told of the crystal and porcelain dishes and the incredible food.  When she described the climbing structures and the sumptuous cat beds she heard soft oohs and ahs from the group.  Then she took a deep breath and told them about how the trainer and the other humans treated them.  Snoogums said he didn’t believe her.  Those cats had told her that to keep Rudy from feeling jealous – humans couldn’t be that insensitive to the cats.  Rudy shook her head and said she’d seen part of it herself, and believed every word they’d said.  The disappointment on the faces of the Cat Club was hard for LT and Rudy to bear, but Rudy continued with her story. 

There was a salon in Pottawatomie that was called Kitty’s Beauty Shop they had passed one day, said Rudy.  Faces lit up again until she said that it was just a salon for humans run by a lady named Kitty.  Then she told of her experience with the policeman and her stay at the Wamego Pound.  The cats were furious that this indignity had been done to their friend, and but listened silently as she told the stories of cats that had no humans, were neglected or abandoned. 

LT took over the narrative and recounted the day he and Rudy had traveled with Ginger and Titus to visit some folks in Pottawatomie that did treat cats well.  There were tears in some eyes by the time he’d finished telling of Mandy, Mr. Jenkins and Harvey and no one spoke for a moment.  LT sighed and said that as far as they could tell, Pottawatomie was a place just like any other.  There were good people and not-so-good people and it was the same with the cats they’d met. 

“So, you’re telling us that the Pottawatomie we heard of when we were little doesn’t exist?  Maybe you were just in the wrong one, LT.  Rudy said she’d found others when she was researching it on the internet.  Maybe one of the others is the place our grandmother told us about.”  Bunny didn’t want to believe there wasn’t a special place called Pottawatomie for cats. 

Rudy and LT sighed.  They’d talked long into the night on the way home about this.  Was it a myth, a dream?  LT, being the more diplomatic of the two looked around the group.  “Well folks, I think that our mothers or grandmothers shared stories that had been passed down to them and had maybe been exaggerated over the generations.  Or maybe it’s like the humans telling children about Santa Claus; something to make them believe that there is some magic in the world, a marvelous place that is far away.  I personally think it’s a story cats tell to take their mind off their problems.  You know, ‘If only we lived in Pottawatomie it wouldn’t be like this.’  Perhaps it’s a dream cats could hold that maybe someday they could live there.  But you know, we did find some really special people in Pottawatomie.  They’re the same kind of incredible people we have around here, though.  Ginger said it – the Daddy was one of them when he didn’t make a fuss about her having kittens in his closet.  He’s also pretty incredible about making sure that any cats who come around here have food and water, even though it gets really expensive sometimes.  David was one of them, taking Rudy and I on the trip with him and treating us like travel companions instead of animals.  I bet each of us knows some people like that.  It’s just easier to take them for granted and dream about some faraway place where everything is perfect than to appreciate the ones we have.” 

None of the cats said anything for a moment, but they all looked thoughtful.  There were special people in their lives.  Loaf Cat thought of the little girl he’d grown up with.  Ladybug remembered a woman near their old home who’d taken in strays and found them homes.  Ginger recalled the receptionist at Tibet who had treats for every animal who came through the door.  And then they thought about the humans they lived with.  They shared their homes and their love with cats, and they didn’t have to do that.  It would be less expensive and certainly easier in many ways to live without cats around.  One by one the cats thanked Rudy and LT for telling them about their trip and headed home to show the humans how much they appreciated being the special people in their lives. 


Photo courtesy of Kettukusu - http://www.flickr.com/photos/samipii/449171570

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Home

The last day of a trip has got to be the longest, Rudy thought.  She and LT had taken turns sitting in the front passenger seat all day, hoping to be the one to be up front when David turned in to their driveway.  He narrated as he went; letting them where they were and how many more miles it was until they reached home.  When they crossed the state line into New Jersey, he’d cheered, and then said that it wasn’t even his home state, but what the heck. 

They’d left Salt Fork State Park at about 8 am.  David had slept in.  He’d been exhausted from the past two days and needed a little extra sleep.  They’d done a little fishing last night; David said he needed something to relax him or he’d toss and turn even though he was so tired.  Fishing obviously did the trick, as he’d been asleep within two minutes of his head hitting the pillow.  As a bonus, there were fresh fish to bring to the Daddy.  LT and Rudy had roamed the campground for a good part of the night.  Too much time in the RV left both of them crabby.  LT had spent an hour or two stalking sleeping frogs (they all woke up and jumped in the water, and LT wasn’t going to repeat the pond slime incident) while Rudy checked out the other campers.  She left a trail of barking dogs in her wake.  Hopefully those campers weren’t as exhausted as David was.  She met a local cat and spent an enjoyable hour hearing her stories of the campers who passed through the park.

Both cats returned to the RV before dawn, just in case David wanted to head out early.  They were sound asleep by the time David was up and ready to go.  At the sound of the motor starting, LT and Rudy were instantly awake and vying for the passenger seat.  David had resolved the matter by telling Rudy that LT had been there first, and she could have a turn later.  Rudy grumbled, but headed back to the bedroom to sleep a little longer. 

Finally, David announced they were on Route 195, and when they got off it would be less than five minutes to home.  He named each landmark as they passed it.  Allentown, Horse Park of New Jersey, Great Adventure…that one got the attention of both cats.  They knew it was close to home.  He took the exit off of 195 and LT jumped up on the seat with Rudy.  She’d just have to share right now.  David smiled at the cats.  “Yep, we’ll be there in just a few minutes.”  He made one turn and drove slowly down the street.  LT saw Snoogum’s house and nudged Rudy, and then David was making the turn into their driveway.  The Daddy’s truck was parked out of the way and his work truck was in the back.  He was here, waiting for them.  David smiled at the cats – they were practically vibrating with excitement.  He got up and opened the door and they were out like a shot.  LT headed for the back yard – his guess was that the Daddy would be in his workshop.  Rudy streaked up onto the deck and in through the cat door.  She wanted to see if everything was the way she had left it. 

Neither had seen Peep in her lookout post on the roof.  What cat looks up when they’re looking for friends?  She made her way down, and ran into the house where she found Rudy looking suspiciously at the office.  “Rudy, it’s sooo good to see you.  I missed you.”  Peep tried to nuzzle Rudy, who pushed her aside.

“What is he doing in here?  All the books are gone.  It smells funny.  Why is there a ladder in here?”  Rudy’s tail lashed.  The house wasn’t right.  It shouldn’t be like this.  Peep explained that the Daddy was painting the office.  He’d put the books away so they didn’t get paint all over them, and so he could move the bookcases. 

Rudy moved into the kitchen, sampled the food and jumped up on her favorite table.  The Daddy came inside, followed by David and the first thing he did was take Rudy’s head in his hands and ruffle her fur.  He had a huge grin on his face.  He kissed Rudy (yuck, thought Rudy) and told her that she looked like a seasoned traveler now. 

LT meanwhile was perched on top of his summer house.  He’d said his hello to the Daddy, who’d picked him up and given him a good snuggle while whispering into his fur how glad he was to see him.  Now it was time to relax in his own place where everything smelled, looked and sounded like home.  


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We'll be there tomorrow

To: TheDaddy@optonline.net
From: DavidVhoop@gmail.com
Subject: We’ll be there tomorrow

It’s been incredible traveling with your cats, I want you to know.  They’ve been the perfect companions; well, other than Rudy getting put into cat jail, and that wasn’t even her fault.  No matter where we went, they didn’t get lost, didn’t fight with other animals and never pooed outside of the litter box.  As a matter of fact, unless we’ve been on the road, they don’t even use the litter box.  I have two bags of litter to return to you.  Remind me to do that.  Did I tell you that I saw them hanging out with a prairie dog on Sunday?  I was fishing and looked over and there they were sitting with a perfectly comfortable looking prairie dog.  I swear they were having a conversation.  I’ve been spending too much time with cats and not enough time with people, I think. 

It was amazing that your cats found your old neighbor, Lettie.  She said her cat had kittens in your closet?  You’ve got to tell me about that one.  Lettie’s an old dear.  She would have fed us every night if I’d let her.  I think she’s lonely.  She said she’d moved out here to be near one of her children, but it doesn’t seem like it’s working out too well.  She didn’t mention it more than the one time, and always seemed to be ready to have us over.  From the looks of her house, she could spend most of her time dusting, though.  She’s got more doo-dads than I think I’ve ever seen in a house.  Do you think we’ll be like that when we get old?  With you, it would be a house filled with books, I’d bet.  For me, if I ever was home all the time and not on the road, my house would be filled with dozens of projects, most of them half-finished.  Oh, speaking of projects, I made you a little something at Governor’s Day.  They had guy doing basketweaving and supplies for folks to make their own.  I wowed the old guy with my basket making prowess (not) but did make you a basket. 

Well, I think I’ll go get some sleep.  Yesterday was too long between the inspection and the drive and the traffic.  Today’s drive went smoothly – all interstate and no trucks full of pigs.  Expect us late afternoon tomorrow. 

David




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heading for Home

Monday morning was a case of ‘hurry up and wait’.  David was up at dawn, packing things away and making sure nothing was loose to fly around as they headed east on Interstate 70.  David muttered to himself that living in this thing for weeks on end made it easy to forget what wasn’t bolted down.  He was sure he’d remembered everything when his eyes chanced on a vase of flowers he’d put on a shelf in front of a window.  That would be the first thing to go, and there would be glass, water and flowers all over, and if his luck was really out it would either hit a cat or one would cut a paw on the glass before he could get it cleaned up.

Finally he was positive everything was away.  He checked the time.  The rental car company should have been here already to pick up the car.  He’d paid extra for this service; he didn’t want to be on the road until late this evening to get back to Illinois.  He found the paperwork in the rental car and gave the emergency number a call.  There was no way there would be anyone in the office this early.  Three calls later he was told that the driver was on the way and should be there momentarily.  David grimaced.  He knew what momentarily meant.  They’d put someone on the road as soon as they found a warm body.  He was tempted to lock the keys in the car and leave, but was afraid he’d be charged for extra mileage or dents that didn’t exist if he wasn’t present to check the car over with a company representative.  Fifteen minutes later he called back, and was told the driver was lost in Westmoreland, and what was that address again?  He snorted and asked for the cell number of the driver.  Ten minutes later a car pulled in – finally.  After a brief inspection of the car and sign-off on the papers, David was on the road – already half an hour behind schedule.  He’d planned for delay and still had plenty of time to get onto post for the final inspection of the sweat lodge.

LT was riding shotgun this morning.  He’d never seen David this frantic in the more than three weeks they’d spent together.  In fact, LT had come to the conclusion that David was unflappable.  Well, apparently not.  As they inched along behind a mammoth piece of farm machinery that took up the entire road, David turned the air blue with some very imaginative descriptions of the driver.  LT made a note of some of the phrases.  He’d like to use them the next time Fuzzy really got on his nerves.  The mega-machine turned off after about a mile, but that mile had taken twenty minutes to drive.  They could have walked faster than that machine moved.  There probably were laws about things like that being on the roads, but this was farm country, and barely a tertiary road.

The RV pulled up to the gate at Fort Riley with a mere ten minutes to the inspection time.  The MP looked at David’s frantic face, listened to his explanation of meeting the bigwigs for the final inspection and waved him through.  He’d seen him for weeks and already had been through the RV once, no need to hold him up.  David pulled up to the sweat lodge and called to the cats to stick close as they should be out of here in minutes.  Well, the minutes ticked by, but no one showed up.   David checked his cell phone for messages, but there weren’t any.  Then he turned on the iPad, wondering if maybe he’d been sent an email.  Yup, there was an email.  The inspection needed to be an hour later; someone was coming in from the Oregon VA to verify something.  David turned the RV back on, as it was beginning to get hot inside.  He beat his fists on the steering wheel and both cats ran for the bedroom.  Realizing that he’d scared them, David took a deep breath and started a meditation technique to slow down his breathing and release the tension he was holding.  In a few minutes he was calm again.  He walked to the back of the RV and apologized to the cats, telling them that he was always tense at the end of a job, but that was no reason to take it out on them.  They agreed, but Rudy rubbed her head on his hand anyway.

Even though the RV had been compacted for driving, David could still stretch out on the sofa, which he did.  He grabbed the book he was reading and lay down to try and distract himself.  After less than fifteen minutes of reading there was a knock on the side door.  David marked his place and answered the door.  His contact stood there, an apologetic smile on his face.  “I’m sorry, but we’re early.  Or late, perhaps, if you didn’t get the email.”

David laughed, and said he’d received the email after he’d arrived at the work site this morning.  He stepped outside and they began the inspection.  Rudy and LT sat on the dashboard so they could watch what the humans did.  Two wandered around holding huge sheets of paper and tape measures.  They looked stuff up, measured the sweat lodge, the fire pit, examined the coverings that had been stowed in a metal cabinet and measured some more things.  David seemed confident and comfortable with the discussion, and after about forty-five minutes everybody signed some papers, shook hands and got in their vehicles.  David sighed with relief as he climbed in the driver’s seat.  “Done.  We’re done.  Finally finished.  They didn’t find one wrong thing, not one problem.  It’s built to specification and they’re happy with it.  I am so done with Kansas.  Let’s go home.”  He turned on the RV and they headed out.

Since they had a relatively late start, lunch was late and short.  The only thing David didn’t stint was his run, although he was drenched when he climbed back into the RV.  It was well over 90° outside.  No matter, he thought.  He’d cool off soon enough as they drove.  The cats had slept through the first half of the drive, and weren’t in the habit of long naps at this point.  Their routines had been so different in Pottawatomie than at home.  More to do, less to do, depending on the day of the week, the weather, David’s whims – unpredictable.  Home was predictable.  Well, except for the weather, but even that had its patterns.

Rudy sat in the front seat with her paws on the side door, watching the vehicles that were traveling in the same direction.  She observed that there were a lot of large trucks on this road, and some drove way too fast in her opinion.  Almost as dangerous was the occasional very slow vehicle, because then everyone wanted to get around it, get past it.  They passed a slow-moving truck that seemed to be carrying pigs of all things.  But when she thought about it, it made sense.  If you needed to get your pigs from one place to the other, you didn’t walk them there; you put them in a truck.  And that truck wouldn’t drive as fast as the rest of these maniacs.  If it did, the pigs would all throw up on each other, and your pigs would arrive smelly and messy.  So, if you were driving your pigs to visit some other pigs, they wouldn’t make a very good impression, right?

Rudy went into the back to share her observations with LT.  He snorted at her, rather pig-like in her estimation and told her that the pigs were probably going to be slaughtered, and it wouldn’t matter if they were messy and smelly, because they probably were anyways.  Rudy hmmphed at him and went back to her front seat.

After a long afternoon and early evening drive they arrived in Effingham and after checking in pulled into the same spot they had occupied on the way out to Pottawatomie.  As David expanded the sides, LT and Rudy explored, each thinking how different it was to be heading home from an adventure rather than leaving on one.  Each had been so convinced of what they’d find, even though their expectations had been different.  But there had been the chance, even the hope that what they’d find would be even better, more marvelous.  On the way home, though, they looked forward to the familiar, the things that would be exactly the way they’d been left.  Rudy smiled as she thought of her favorite quilt on the little table in the kitchen.  It would be good to be home again with her favorite things and people.


 Photo courtesy of elbragon - http://www.flickr.com/photos/elbragon/3062001494

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Last Day in Pottawatomie

Sunday was going to be a hot one, forecast to be around 100° and it was their last free day before heading home.  David wanted to get in one more day of fishing so he could stock up his freezer and bring Lettie a whole mess of fish.  She’d been so nice to him while they were here and he wanted some way to show his appreciation.  He hadn’t really made any friends at Fort Riley.  The construction guys were young kids who liked to party and that wasn’t what David liked.  The military folks were too…military.  All business and no fun.  Maybe that was because he was a contractor, or because he was an Easterner and an Indian to boot.  For whatever reason, it had pretty much been him, the cats, Lettie and Lettie’s cats. 

As soon as the sun was up, David was packing up the car for his fishing excursion.  Lettie had told him about a local pond he could get to that had nice fishing and was well shaded.  Shade was a consideration today, even this early in the morning.  It was already 75° and the temperature was supposed to rise quickly.

The cats jumped in the car and David headed west out of town.  Rudy watched out the window and was surprised to see David turn onto the dirt track she had used to get to the pond where she had met the prairie dogs.  If she was lucky, maybe they’d see them again.  David parked the car in the shade and hauled his tackle, a good sized bucket and a lawn chair to a tree shading the pond.  He wasn’t sure what he’d catch here, but he was hoping for bluegill.  The area looked pretty tame around here, so he figured they wouldn’t be bothered by coyotes.  They were pretty close to town. 

Rudy and LT headed out around the end of the pond to where she’d met the prairie dogs.  “Swee!  Whiss!  Phwip!  Any of you guys around here?  It’s me, Rudy.  I came with LT and our human for some fishing.  This is the last time we’ll be here before we leave for New Jersey.”  She sat down and waited.  Hopefully one of the prairie dogs was in the area and would pass along the message.  Meanwhile, LT was investigating the edge of the pond.  If they had to wait, maybe he could have some fun while doing it. 

The edge of the pond right here was overgrown with sedge.  LT slowly moved through the blades toward the water.  He’d spotted a frog, intent on catching bugs.  Hopefully it was so focused he wouldn’t notice a huge (relatively) cat sneaking up on him.  He got within range and lunged, and ended up smack in the water as the frog hopped away making froggy laughing sounds.  LT dragged himself out of the water, covered in pond slime.  This would never do.  He couldn’t possibly groom this gunk off his fur.  He’d end up with a stomach ache. 

First he tried rolling in the grass and then dragged himself through it to try to scrape off the algae.  It didn’t work.  Next he found a bare area and rolled in the dirt, figuring that if enough dirt stuck to it, he could let it dry and flake off.  The dirt stuck, but now he was coated in slime and dirt, and they mixed to make a brownish, greenish mud that smelled terrible.  He heard a creature give a whistling laugh from under a nearby bush and turned to ask if he was really that funny looking.  Rudy bounded over and greeted the creature under the bush. 

“Oh, I’m so glad you came, Whiss!  This is my friend, LT, who is covered in well, smelly stuff.  LT, this is Whiss, a black-tailed prairie dog.”  Whiss edged out from under the bush and looked LT over. 

“You’re going to have to wash it off in the pond.  If you go in away from the grasses you can get in and out where there’s no pond slime.  I’ve done the same thing – get slimed and smelly and it’s the only way to get it off.  You have to get really wet and thrash around to get it all off.  I hope you like to swim.”  The prairie dog sounded sympathetic, as though he knew most cats abhorred water. 

LT shook himself experimentally to see if maybe the dirt and slime would come off, but it was stuck.  He hated swimming, water, baths, and even rain.  No self-respecting cat liked water, but it looked like he didn’t have any choice.  As Rudy and Whiss chatted, LT made his way up the edge of the pond, looking for a slime-free entry point.  He was concentrating so much on the pond itself he was surprised when he heard David say, “LT, what in the world happened to you?  Assuming of course, you are LT and not a cat-shaped pond slime monster.”  David laughed and put down his fishing rod.  “Can I help you, old man?”  LT meowed miserably and looked at the pond.  The edge was clear here.  He’d have to go in.  Maybe David would help him get the dirt and slime off.  He really didn’t want to have to swim around in the pond to soak it off. 

Putting one paw in the pond, LT looked back at David, who seemed to understand what LT wanted.  “Get yourself all wet and I’ll scrub it off.  Just don’t scratch or bite me, hear?  I’m going to try and help you.”  LT closed his eyes and just did it.  He walked into the pond until he was wet up to the neck and turned around so that he could keep his back under water and his head dry.  His head wasn’t slimed, and if he could keep it dry it would be nice.  David knelt in the edge of the water and scooped handfuls of water onto LT over and over.  That washed away the dirt and at least some of the slime.  He grabbed handfuls of the sand from the bottom of the pond and scrubbed LT’s sides and legs, leaving them a bit raw but slime-free.  It took forever in LT’s mind, although Rudy said it was only about five minutes.  Finally David pronounced him to be clean as a daisy and got up.  LT ran out of the water and found a grassy spot in the shade to groom himself.  His fur tasted quite clean – the water was lovely in the spots that weren’t full of algae. 

David went back to his fishing and within an hour he’d pulled in a respectable number of bluegills along with a few bass.  There would be plenty for the freezer and Lettie.  He looked for the cats and was surprised to see both of them apparently conversing with a prairie dog.  Admittedly, the prairie dog was pretty big, but he still would have expected the cats to chase it.  He shook his head.  These were not your average cats. 

Deciding not to break into their conversation, he sat and admired the little pond.  It was completely silent of human noise here.  They were far enough back from the road that he couldn’t hear cars, and there was nothing else around to make noise.  No farm machinery, no planes flying over head, nothing.  He couldn’t recall the last time he’d been somewhere that there was no sounds but those made by nature.  The East Coast, at least the parts he lived in or visited had become so populated that even if he went hiking on the shore or in a forest there would be the sound of distant trucks or airplanes overhead.  Even on the Vineyard there was human noise, lots of it in the summer, but winters weren’t silent unless the weather was bad enough to keep all the boats in and even then there was the sound of the fog signal.  It refreshed his spirit to have this quiet time.  There was the whistle of the prairie dog, the sound of frogs plopping in the pond, and assorted birdsong.  These were the noises that belonged here.

David didn’t move until the cats returned to him.  He smiled at them and asked if they were ready to head back.  He wanted to clean the fish and do some chores before they went to Lettie’s.  He didn’t have to stock as many groceries for this week, but he still needed to wash his clothing. 

They loaded the car and drove back into town.  Rudy thought to herself as they approached the RV Park that she’d miss this place.  It was nice here, and very different from New Jersey.  David was a very nice human to be around.  He talked to them the same way the Daddy did, discussing things that were on his mind, or just making observations about what was going on around him.  She wished she’d been able to see Maggie again, but it had been too hot to make any more long treks.  She sighed.  It would be nice to see the Mommy and Daddy again, but she’d miss her new friends.  LT was having similar thoughts.  If he didn’t love the Daddy so much he’d run away and stay with Ginger, but he’d known the Daddy almost his whole life.  He sighed.  After today or tomorrow he’d probably never see Ginger or the kittens again.

Back at the Oregon Trail RV Park, David unloaded the car.  The cats got out reluctantly, each thinking deep thoughts.  They climbed into the RV and each sought out a soft spot to think and perhaps sleep.  David bagged his laundry and said he’d be back soon. 

At 4:15 David had finished everything.  He’d cleaned the fish, the RV and his clothes, and packed away a lot of things he knew he wouldn’t need again before they left Kansas.  He called to LT and Rudy and they ran to the car, as eager to go to Lettie’s as he was.  Sometimes David wanted a human to talk to.  The cats were good listeners, but they didn’t talk back, at least so that he could understand them.

Ginger and Titus were outside waiting when David, LT and Rudy arrived.  Titus ran to LT, tackled him and said, “Monster Daddy, I’m going to miss you.  I wish you could stay with us.  Momma told me not to say that, but I want you to know how much I’ve loved seeing you again.” 

LT turned his head away so that Titus couldn’t see how much this meant to him.  “Well, little monster, I wish I could stay too, but I have my family and responsibilities back in New Jersey.  You’re my family too, but…”  LT couldn’t finish. 

Ginger came over and nuzzled LT.  “Come on inside, you two.  There’s time to be maudlin later.  Let’s keep the humans company and stay cool at the same time.”  She led them indoors to the living room where David and Lettie were sitting. 

“We’re having a cold buffet tonight.  It’s too hot to cook anything, even with the air conditioning on.  Oh my, I never considered this heat when we moved out here.  But, the good news is, we’re coming back east for a nice long trip this summer – all of us.  My sister lives in Belmar and she’s invited us to stay for the month of August.  I long for the ocean, and I’ll be near its breezes and surf for a whole month!  And LT, Rudy, believe me, I’ll be calling your folks and we’ll get together.  My sister loves having company, and I hope you’ll all come out for barbeques.”  Lettie took a sip of her cold tea and fanned herself with a sales circular.  Even with the air conditioning on, it was warm inside. 

Ginger smiled at LT.  She’d known about Lettie’s plans, and hoped that she’d talk about them, and look, it was the first thing she’d said.  That would hopefully lighten the mood for all of them this evening.  It would be just a brief good-bye this time. 

Lettie and David discussed their favorite fish recipes.  David had a few Lettie didn’t know, and he promised to send them to her when he got home, and she gave him a copy of a few of hers he thought he’d like to try.  When it was time to eat, Lettie put out dishes for each cat before she even set up anything for herself and David.  In Rudy’s mind that was just good sense.  The cats wouldn’t bother the humans if they had their own food to eat. 

The humans finished their meal with fresh berries and heavy cream.  The cats just had some of the cream, whipped and slightly sweetened.  Rudy had never had fresh whipped cream before, and thought it was the best thing ever.  Ginger had to send sharp looks to several of the grown kittens who looked like they were going to steal Titus’ out from under his nose.  Finally everyone had eaten as much as they could hold and they all sat companionably together, talking when there was something to be said, silent when there wasn’t. 

Finally David decided that it was time to get going.  He thanked Lettie for her hospitality during his visit to Kansas, and said that tomorrow was his last day at Fort Riley.  All that remained was a final inspection, and they’d take to the road from there.  He’d settled the bill with the RV Park, and all that remained was to gas up and go.  Lettie gave him a big hug and told him to drive safely.  She turned to LT and Rudy and told them how nice it had been to see them again, and she’d see them in about a month. 

Ginger had sat nestled with LT for most of the evening, with Titus close by.  While the other grown kittens liked LT, they didn’t remember him as much and were more interested in their own lives.  As David and LT said their good-byes, Titus pounced on LT one more time, pinning him and licked LT’s ears.  “I love you Daddy.  We’ll see you soon.”  Ginger nuzzled him and said something low that no one else could hear.  LT nuzzled her back wordlessly.  Rudy had said her good-byes a few minutes earlier to give them a bit more privacy and waited at the car.  David climbed in and LT ran out from the porch and climbed in the car.  “Ready?”  David asked, and then he pulled away from the house.  LT stood in the window, looking back until Ginger’s house was out of sight.  Good-byes were hard.  


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Governor's Day at Fort Riley

 On Saturday morning David announced that they were going to Fort Riley for Territorial Governor’s Day.  When LT gave him an inquiring look David responded, “Yeah, I know Kansas hasn’t been a territory for a long time, but they make a big celebration for it.  It was the capital of Kansas for four days in 1855 and they put it there because folks who were against slavery wanted to be as far away as possible from Missouri, who wanted to continue slavery.  But when the legislature met there, they kicked out the anti-slavery legislators and moved the capitol over near Missouri.  Folks in Kansas think that this was one of the things that led to the Civil War.  Oh, more information than you wanted, LT?  You probably just wanted to know if there’d be food there.  Well, yes there will, and lots of other things.”  David laughed at himself for explaining history to a cat and went off to get dressed.

Rudy, who had listened to the brief lecture remarked, “Hummph.  If cats had been the legislators, there would have been no question of slavery.  Cats don’t believe in subjugating other cats.  Although…if the question had been whether to enslave dogs, perhaps there might have been some debate.”

LT gave Rudy the ‘look’ and shook his head.  Sometimes she could be so silly.  He went off to make his own preparations – a drink of water, a bite of food and a visit to the poo field.  When he finished, LT walked outside and waited patiently by the car.  Privately, LT hoped they didn’t spend all day there, as he wanted to go see Ginger and the grown kittens.  He knew they were leaving within a few days and wanted to spend as much time as he could with them.  It was going to be very hard to part with Ginger and the kittens for a second time.  He’d resigned himself to never seeing them again four years ago, and to find them out in here in the wilds of Kansas had been a bit of a miracle.  LT sighed and looked off into the distance, deciding to think about the Governor’s Day events instead.

A newly groomed Rudy walked out of the RV with David, and they all got in the rental car.  “The celebration isn’t on the part of Fort Riley where I’ve been working.  It’s a bit to the east, so we’ll go in a different gate today.  Fort Riley is a pretty big place, you know.  There’s a big event going on near there, a country music stampede.  It’s early enough in the day that we hopefully won’t hit too much traffic.  Getting back from work last night was a bit of a challenge.  Lots of folks were trying to get in to see Travis Tritt last night, and the roads were packed.  Tonight is Toby Keith as the headliner, but that’s way late, so hopefully we won’t have trouble getting home.  I’m not much of a country music fan, so it’s been no hardship to come back to you guys rather than to head to a concert.  And, believe me; I’d never take a cat to a concert.  Too loud, too many people.”

Traffic wasn’t bad as they drove through Manhattan.  When they stopped at the gate into Fort Riley, David fished out his identification and was waved right in.  It was a lot easier to get on post when driving a car instead of a huge RV.  The cats stood on their hind legs in the back seat, each looking out a window.  There wasn’t much to see.  Buildings on the left, open fields on the right and then buildings on the right and open fields to the left.  David slowed down as they neared a building that didn’t match the other modern military facilities.  It was made of stone and looked very old.  He parked the car on the edge of a parking area in the shade of a tree, in case the cats wanted to come back to the car.  “Now, remember where we parked, in case you want to come back here.”  David pointed out landmarks to the cats as they walked back to the stone building.  LT shook his head.  It was nice to have a human who knew they understood what he was talking about but was it too much to expect for him to not treat them like somewhat dim kids?

There were all sorts of exhibits set up, and since it was early the place wasn’t crowded.  Some of the folks here were dressed quite oddly.  The woman wore long skirts, even though the weather was pretty hot, and the men wore old-fashioned shirts and pants.  When Rudy saw one pick up a long gun and sight down its barrel she ran behind David’s legs.  “Don’t worry Rudy Toots, they’re historical re-enactors.  There’s cavalry, mountain men, civil war soldiers and folks showing how people lived their everyday lives.  I think you can even learn how to weave a basket today.  I’m hoping to wow them with my basket weaving skills.”  David laughed, but Rudy stuck close to him.  If they were re-enactors, they might want to re-enact shooting game, and she didn’t want to be someone’s lunch. 

David saw someone dressed in Indian garb tanning a hide, and headed in that direction.  Rudy followed, but LT was fascinated by the clothing of the civil war folks.  He stopped to admire a man in a blue uniform with very shiny brass buttons.  The man reached down and distractedly scratched LT’s head as he talked to a visitor about Kansas’ role in the war. 

Moving on, LT found a covered wagon and thought he’d try it out.  He always thought he would have made a great pioneer.  He was a rough and tumble cat, or had been when he was younger.  He sat in the wagon bed, imagining himself on the frontier, traveling from New Jersey in this wagon.  It wouldn’t be easy, but LT would be there to help his humans on the trip.  He’d keep the mice out of the grain and patrol for snakes that might bite the children.  He was envisioning himself the hero as he saved the baby from a rattlesnake when someone jumped up into the wagon and screeched, “Oh, take my picture in the wagon with this cute cat.”  A woman posed with a wide smile, so LT sat there and sighed.  Right.  He wasn’t the hero in this tale; he was the sidekick to some woman in turquoise crocs who wanted a picture taken with him.  Whatever.  After the photo opportunity LT went to find David and Rudy.

He caught up with them at the basket weaving area.  An older man dressed in period garb sat finishing off a lovely little basket.  He was coaching a young girl in making a simple basket using a wooden base.  She had put canes up through the bottom holes and was struggling to weave the rush in and out around them.  The older man put down his basket and showed her that it was a lot easier to weave them around the tops of the canes and then push them down.  She smiled and got to work.  David was making his basket from scratch.  He had what looked like a spider web with the canes poking out from a center point.  He’d woven a small circle, and as LT and Rudy watched he started tightening his rush weaving so that the sides started to form.  The older man grunted and said, “You’re no novice at this.  Where did you learn to make baskets?”

David laughed and said that his mother had woven baskets for fairs when he was young.  She’d made them to order too, and he’d been enlisted to help when orders got backed up.  He said he hadn’t woven a basket in probably twenty years, but it was like riding a bicycle.  You didn’t forget how to do it, although you might wobble a bit at first.  The man laughed and said that the basket didn’t look too wobbly.  David chatted with him about basket making techniques as his basket grew.  When he’d gotten it to the height he wanted he wove the upright canes into the top row of weaving and cut them off, leaving a small beautifully woven basket.  He looked at Rudy and asked, “So, do you think your folks would like this as a souvenir of our trip?”  She nodded and he thanked the man weaving baskets and they moved on.

Rudy was very impressed.  David could do all sorts of interesting things.  He fished, wove baskets, built sweat lodges and cooked really well.  He was quite an accomplished guy.  They were standing in front of the stone building when she heard a man yell something behind him and then there was a terrific ‘BOOM’.  She turned and saw smoke rising from the area where the civil war soldiers had been standing.  She tensed and prepared to run for safety when David crouched down and put a hand on each of the cats.  “It’s okay, guys.  They’re demonstrating the cannon.  Nothing bad is happening.”  It was a good thing he’d said that, as both of them were about to head into the trees, and it might have been a while before David found them.  The smoke slowly cleared, and there was no repetition of the horrible noise.  David reassured them that they’d be gone before the cannon was fired again.

Since there was a sign on the stone building that said “No Pets Allowed” they passed it by and headed to where the Territorial Troubadours were playing.  They had instruments the cats had never seen before and were singing old folk songs, assumedly from the 1850s.  David and the cats settled under a shady tree and enjoyed the music for a while.  Rudy was surprised that David didn’t jump up and grab one of their instruments to play.  He could do most everything else; he probably played the, well, whatever those things were.  When the Troubadours had finished their set, David applauded and asked Rudy and LT if they were ready to head back.  They got up and followed him back to the car.

The ride back to the RV took a little longer, as there was a good bit of traffic on the roads by now.  At stop lights there were cars blaring country music from different artists, all competing to see which was the loudest.  David rolled up the windows and turned on the air conditioner.  “Too loud, too much.  I think Car Talk might still be on.  Let’s listen to the radio.”   He turned it on, and they were accompanied on the rest of the ride by Click and Clack joking about cars as they gave their advice to the callers.  Much better than loud competing country music songs.  David laughed at their jokes and said that it was good to hear folks talking properly again.  LT and Rudy looked at each other and then understood as one of the guys on the radio said something about living in Massachusetts.  David was a bit homesick for New England accents, and probably his fiancĂ© too.  Well, they’d be home in less than a week and then David could head back up to his home in New England.  Rudy agreed, it would be nice to hear people talking without accents again. 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

The special people of Pottawatomie

It was just before 10:30 am when Rudy and LT arrived at Ginger’s house.  Rudy was a bit embarrassed about their middle of the night visit.  It seemed so urgent at the time, but in the bright light of morning it had seemed, well, intrusive.  Ginger obviously wasn’t holding it against them because she was waiting for them on her front lawn.  Titus was sitting quietly next to her, enjoying the day. 

In LT’s opinion, Titus was the most content and well-adjusted cat he’d ever met.  He’d spent a lot of time with him over the past week or so, and had never seen Titus become angry or frustrated.  He saw something good in every situation, even when it was a sibling stealing a treat meant for him.  The others weren’t like that; they were your everyday cats – happy, sad, angry, jealous, the whole gamut of cat emotions.  It didn’t seem quite right to ask a cat like that what made him that way.  It might imply that the others weren’t as good, or maybe even that Titus was lacking because he didn’t show strong emotions.  No, some things were better left unknown, thought LT. 

Ginger greeted the two cats and asked if they’d gotten any sleep.  Rudy laughed and said that both of them had dropped off to sleep immediately on arriving at the RV and had slept long after David had left for work.  LT agreed and said they were ready for their excursion, no matter how far they had to travel.  He looked sideways at Ginger as he said this, as if to ask if they would be covering a lot of ground today. 

Laughing, Ginger said that all of the folks they might see today lived less than a quarter mile from the house, so she didn’t think this day would wear the two cats out.  She asked Titus if he needed to ‘go’ before they left and Titus looked embarrassed and said, “Mom!”  Ginger sighed and said that no matter how old her kittens grew to be, they’d still be kittens to her. 

The four cats took off at a leisurely pace, heading north.  After several turns, Ginger announced they were at their first destination and that they were here to meet Mr. Jenkins.  The sign in front of the large old house said, ‘Shady Oaks Rest Home’ and Rudy was confused.  A rest home was where humans put their old people who couldn’t take care of themselves anymore.  Was this Mr. Jenkins one of the employees?  Before Rudy could ask, Ginger headed around the side of the building and approached a very old man in a wheelchair.  He was next to a very long and narrow raised planter, and appeared to be weeding from the evidence of a pile of weeds in his lap.  His face lit up when he saw the cats and he called out, “Miss Ginger, where have you been keeping yourself?  I haven’t seen you in nearly a week.  I thought maybe you’d forgotten your old friend, Mr. Jenkins.  And look, you’ve brought Titus and some more friends with you.” 

Ginger walked over and stood in front of him, and placed her front legs on his shins as though she wanted to get in his lap.  Mr. Jenkins hastily threw the weeds out into the yard and brushed the dirt off his lap.  “Come right on up, missy, and we’ll find some catnip for you and your friends.”  As she made herself comfortable, the old man slowly wheeled the chair back several feet.  When he’d found the right spot, he reached out and nipped sprigs of catnip off of several plants.  “It wouldn’t do to take a whole plant, now, would it?  Then there wouldn’t be catnip next time you dropped by.”  He crushed a few of the leaves between arthritic fingers and put them on his lap in front of Ginger’s nose and then crushed more that he tossed to the other cats.  For the next few minutes, all four cats indulged in catnip play while Mr. Jenkins watched and laughed.  “I do love to watch folks having a good time, whether they be humans or animals.  You cats love your catnip, and I love growing it for you.  I’m already drying some up for the winter months, so I won’t run out this winter.  It was a close thing this past year.” 

When the cats didn’t seem inclined to run off, Mr. Jenkins looked down at the three on the ground.  “Thank you, Miss Ginger for bringing your friends to meet an old man.  I’d like to introduce myself properly and tell you a little bit about myself if I may.”  Rudy arranged herself in a decorative manner and gave a little bow of her head and Mr. Jenkins continued.  “Cyrus Jenkins is my name.  I worked the farms around this town all my life.  Was married, had three lovely children and a nice little house out on the Pottawatomie side of town.  Before the farms all got so big, I did a little bit of everything on the Porter farm.  I ran the machines and fixed ‘em too.  I could cultivate, irrigate, harvest, and fix every one of those machines.  It was hard work, but it was good work.  But when the little farms got bought up by bigger ones, I ended up working on one of those, but there I just fixed the machines. They had really big ones, and they needed a lot of maintenance.  I had my own little truck garden at my house – my wife and I grew all our own vegetables and plenty of pretty flowers for her.  We’d try to grow enough so we could give them to folks who needed them and didn’t have enough money.  Sometimes we didn’t have much ourselves, but we always had vegetables. 

“Well, when my kids were grown and my wife passed on, the farm let me go because my hands and knees were all swollen up with old Arthur.  Arthritis, you know.  I had my Social Security and my vegetables, but after a while it was too hard for me to do it all on my own.  That’s when I came to live here.  My kids have their own lives, their own kids to take care of and they didn’t need an old man like me in their houses.  My Social Security takes care of the bills here, and my son, he built me these planters.  I grow catnip for my friends here, and herbs that I dry for the cook and also for the food pantry.  Food pantries can give you plenty of the staples you need, but life and food is more than staples.  You need a few herbs and spices to brighten up your life.  Just like Miss Ginger here brightens up mine.”  He stopped talking and gently scratched Ginger’s ears.  Rudy and LT could hear her purring from where they sat several feet away. 

After a few minutes, a voice called from the doorway.  “Mr. Jenkins, I think it’s getting a little hot for you out there.  Are you done with your gardening?” 

Mr. Jenkins laughed and gave Ginger a farewell ear scratch.  “Well, Miss Lola is looking out for me again.  She makes sure I don’t get heatstroke.  You take care now, Miss Ginger, and come see me soon, okay?”  Ginger jumped down and Mr. Jenkins slowly wheeled himself to the bottom of a long ramp.  The cats watched as Miss Lola came out and carefully maneuvered him up the ramp and inside. 

“I’ve known Mr. Jenkins since we moved here.  I found him out here one day weeding and he lit up when he saw me.  He said I looked just like his old cat, Daisy.  I come to see him every few days.  He grows that catnip for me and herbs for anyone who wants or needs them.  His room smells heavenly – there are bunches of drying herbs hanging from the ceiling all over the room.  He breaks them up when they’re dry and bags them and puts lovely little labels on them.  He could make money with those herbs, but he says that bought herbs don’t taste as good as ones given with love.”  Ginger smiled as she talked about the old man.  He was certainly one of the special people. 

She turned to Titus and asked, “Well, Titus, shall we see if Mandy is home?” 

Titus brightened and replied, “Yes, Momma.  Let’s see how Mandy is.”  He took off at a run heading back towards his house.  The other cats ran to catch up, so Ginger had no opportunity to explain who Mandy was and why she was one of the special people. 

Titus turned and ran up a driveway about a block from his house.  He charged up a few steps to the side door of the house, right off the driveway and began scratching on a metal storm door, meowing loudly.  After a few seconds, the door opened and a youngish woman came out and sat on the steps, hugging Titus to her.  “Oh, Titus, I’m so glad you’re here.”  She burst into tears, and Titus snuggled into her lap, licking the tears from her face.  She petted him, shook her head and laughed a little through the tears.  “You always make me feel better.  And you know you always made Jonathan feel better, even when, well, you know.”  The woman sat there holding Titus, rocking and talking nonsense to him.  Titus seemed perfectly content with this, as he was with most everything that happened. 

Ginger, LT and Rudy had stopped on the lawn in front of the house.  Ginger said softly to the other two, “Titus made friends with Mandy’s son, Jonathan about six months after we moved here.  He was about five years old and had always wanted a cat.  They rent this house, and the owner doesn’t allow pets, so Titus would come over and play with Jonathan every few days.  After a few months, Jonathan stopped coming out to play.  Titus kept coming anyway, and finally one day he saw Jonathan and Mandy getting out of a car.  Jonathan had no hair and was very skinny.  He was so happy when he saw Titus that he refused to go in the house and insisted that he would stay outside with Titus as long as he wanted.  It was late spring, and not too hot or cold, so his mother brought a big lawn chair out for them to sit in.  The boy had cancer, of course. 

“When Mandy saw how happy Titus made Jonathan she made sure there was time every day he wasn’t in the hospital to play outside with Titus.  And when winter came, she’d run her car and the two would sit in her car to keep warm.  Well, Lettie found this out from a neighbor, and that was the end of the two sitting in the car.  Mandy brought Jonathan over all that winter, and the next and the one after that and the two would sit or lie on the sofa and snuggle and play.  It about broke all our hearts to see that Jonathan wasn’t getting any better.  He’d go through treatment and be miserable, but get better for a bit, but I guess the cancer never went away. 

“This past fall, it was clear that Jonathan wouldn’t be able to come to Lettie’s house when it got too cold.  She went to the owner and gave him a piece of her mind about his not letting pets in the house.  That child was dying and about the only thing that took his and his mother’s mind off of it was Titus.  The owner said that as long as the cat didn’t live there, it would be okay, providing Mandy paid an extra security deposit for cleaning.  Lettie was furious, and paid the man herself, telling him never to tell Mandy.  She could barely afford the rent, with all of the medical bills for Jonathan. 

“Titus visited Jonathan and Mandy every day, right up until the end.  The hospice people were marvelous.  They made sure that there was always a spot for Titus on the bed with Jonathan.  We barely saw him this winter.  He’d leave our house in the morning, and not come back until Jonathan was asleep at night.  And always smiling, no matter what.  He said that if Jonathan could put up with being so sick and still be so nice, how could he do any less.  One morning Titus went over and found the yard full of cars.  When he scratched at the door, a man came and shooed him away.  Titus kept scratching until he heard the man call out to the others inside asking how to get rid of the cat at the door.  Mandy came to the door, let Titus in and collapsed to the floor, hugging him.  She cried and cried, telling Titus that Jonathan had died during the night.  Titus did just what he’s doing now.  He sat with her, licking off her tears and telling her that he loved her and that Jonathan was probably with the Great Cat right now playing with dozens of kittens. 

“Well, within a few weeks, Mandy was doing volunteer work with the hospice organization.  She takes cats and dogs who are being fostered by the Humane Society to visit people with cancer, mostly children.  She’s decided to go back to school and get a degree in Social Work so she can get a job with them.  She says that between those folks and Titus, Jonathan’s last years were full of love and caring.  She still misses her son a lot, but she’s doing something instead of sitting around and moaning.  Now that is a special person.” 

LT and Rudy looked over at Mandy and Titus.  There was certainly a lot of love between those two, as well as the shared pain of losing a son and a friend.  Mandy had stopped crying and now was petting Titus and telling her about the animals and children she worked with.  Her face was glowing as she talked about how the children loved seeing the cats and dogs she brought.  She said that although she preferred bringing cats, some children liked dogs better, so for those she brought the dogs.  Only dogs who were very well behaved, though.  It wouldn’t do to have a rowdy dog with a very sick child.  She sighed and said that although it could be hard, the faces of both the animals and the children made it worthwhile.  She gave Titus a little hug and said that she had an appointment with a calico and a little girl, and had to be on her way.  She thanked Titus for visiting and asked him to come by again soon. 

Titus rejoined the three cats, and sighed.  He missed Jonathan so much, but he truly believed what he’d told Mandy, even if she didn’t understand him.  Jonathan was with the Great Cat, surrounded by kittens.  He hoped that when his time came to leave the earth that they could be together again.  Ginger nuzzled Titus, telling him what an incredible cat he was.  Then she asked if he thought they should go see Harvey.  Titus brightened and said he’d love to see him, and thought he’d be home about now. 

They headed to Harvey’s house, at a much more leisurely pace.  Ginger explained that Harvey was one of the folks who worked with the Pottawatomie County Caring Hearts Humane Society as a foster parent for strays.  He had a big old house and a nice yard, and usually had at least one family of cats. 

Harvey’s yard was a bit rundown.  The bushes were overgrown and the lawn needing mowing.  The house could also use a good coat of paint, in Rudy’s estimation.  Sitting on the front porch were a mother cat and a litter of young kittens.  Ginger put on the afterburners and ran up onto the porch.  “Celia, it’s so good to see you!  The kittens are getting so big.  How are they doing?” 

The mother cat responded with praises of her wonderful, marvelous kittens.  Titus said to Rudy and LT in an aside, “New mother, first litter.  Wait until they’re a few weeks older and steal all her food.”  Rudy stifled a laugh as they climbed the stairs to the covered porch.  Ginger introduced everyone and asked if Harvey was home.  Celia responded that he was inside getting a glass of tea and would be out in a minute.  LT and Rudy sat down and waited, admiring the kittens.  Titus was mobbed by them.  It appeared that he was the kittens’ favorite plaything, at least for the moment.  They climbed on him, pounced on him and one chewed the end of his tail.  Titus sat there with a huge grin on his face.  Kittens were fun. 

The front door of the house opened, and a voice said, “Well, I never expected to see you again.  Did you get reunited with your people?”  Out of the darkness of the house emerged the man Rudy had seen at the Wamego Pound.  She crouched and hissed in surprise and fear. 

“Don’t be worried, kitty mine.  I’m not going to catch you or hurt you.  It wasn’t me that put you in that cage.  Remember, I’m the one who got you sent to the vet so they could find your folks.”  He sat down in a wicker armchair, placing his glass of cold tea on a nearby table.  Rudy sat up, remembering that he had been quite decent.  He’d told the policeman that she couldn’t stay there, and had made sure she had food and water while she waited for him to come pick her up again. 

“Have you met Celia and the kittens?  I foster cats for Caring Hearts.  Since I work at the pound, I get the pick of the litter as it were.  Whenever a pregnant cat or momma cat comes in, I try to bring them home so the kittens don’t have to grow up in cages.  No kitten should be raised in a cage.  Right now I have Celia and her litter, and I just sent Bumblebee and her kittens on to permanent homes last week.  It was a little crowded around here with two litters, but we got by, didn’t we Celia?”  He reached down and ruffled the fur on Celia’s head. 

“There’s a lot of folks who don’t mind fostering a cat or two, but not as many who want to take on whole litters.  Some folks pay too much mind to their furnishings, and kittens can be hard on fancy china doo-dads.  So, me and a couple other old bachelors try to take the little families.  It keeps us out of trouble.”  He laughed at himself and shook his head.  Titus was losing the battle with the kittens, so he walked over and pried two of them off of Titus’ back.  “You can’t all jump on him at once, kitties.  Let the others play for a bit and then we’ll give you a turn.”  Titus gave Harvey a grateful look and turned his attention back to the remaining kittens. 

Celia sighed.  “They are so energetic.  I don’t know that I ever had that much energy.  Now that they’re four weeks old they don’t sleep as much, and they keep me busy.  Rosebud over there likes to climb curtains.  Zinnia is an ankle tagger.  She hides under things and whenever someone walks by, human or cat, she reaches out a paw and tags them.  Since her legs are short, usually that means she has to charge out to do it, so it’s not that much of a surprise.  Guests sure get a shock though, at least the first time.”  Celia had an indulgent motherly smile on her face as she said this. 

“It was my lucky day when I was brought to the Pound.  I was living out behind the South Forty CafĂ©, out on Route 99 and a lady enticed me into a carrier with fresh fish.  I thought I was a goner when she closed the carrier door, but she’d decided that a pregnant cat needed a better place to raise kittens than outside a restaurant.  So, she brought me to the Pound.  I got looked over by the vet and had my shots, and then Harvey came in to work and the rest was history.  He took one look at swelled-up me and I came home with him.  We’ll stay with him until the kittens are old enough to go to permanent homes and then I’m going to live with a friend of his, a lady named Delia.”  She giggled.  “We’ll be Celia and Delia.  I do have to have an operation so I don’t have any more kittens, but I guess that’s an okay deal if I get a good home out of it.  One good litter is really all a cat needs.  It’s not like they’re going to go out and make their fortunes and support me in my old age.  Caring Hearts does good work around this area.  Animals know that if they’re sent there they’ll get homes and medical attention if they need it.”

Rudy had been watching Harvey as Celia talked.  He carefully played with the kittens, and after a few minutes had traded the two on Titus for the two he’d had in his lap.  Now the two with him were chewing on his suspenders.  He seemed like a very nice man, after all.  She walked up to him and said, “I’m sorry I hissed at you.  I was just surprised.  I think it’s a very good thing that you take care of cat families, even if you don’t get to keep them.  She rubbed up against his leg, and Zinnia’s paw zoomed down to tag Rudy’s ear.  She looked up and Zinnia pounced on her. 

Rudy wasn’t used to playing with kittens, but she figured she’d give it a try.  Rudy shook the kitten off and turned to face her.  Zinnia launched herself at Rudy, but all she got were two pawfuls of fur, since Rudy’s coat was so long.  She slid down the fur to the porch floor and Rudy gently pinned the kitten and chewed on her tail.  Zinnia squeaked and squirmed out from under the restraining paw.  Rudy’s tail was spread out on the porch and the kitten pounced, burying herself in Rudy’s thick tail fur.  The adults, cat and human alike burst out laughing.  Zinnia’s head appeared from the obscuring fur and she squeaked, “What’s so funny?”  Rudy turned without moving her tail (not an easy maneuver) and again pinned the kitten. 

“You’re so funny, pipsqueak.  You just disappeared in the fur of my tail.  You’re small and my tail is so fluffy that ‘poof’ you were gone.”  Zinnia squirmed out again and pounced on Rudy.

“Oh, you’re so soft and fluffy.  Can I take a nap on you?  You’re as soft as Harvey’s favorite pillow.”  The kitten settled down on Rudy’s side and purred.  Rudy lay still as the kitten’s purrs turned into snores.  The others were also getting tired from their enthusiastic play.  Rosebud yawned and snuggled into Titus’ stomach and the other two wandered over to their mother and plopped down next to her.  Within minutes they were all asleep. 

Harvey smiled and shook his head.  “That’s why I like kittens.  All energy until they wear themselves out and collapse.  They live in the moment, the eternal now.  They don’t worry about taxes going up, the roof needing to be replaced or if they can afford the repairs needed on the car.”  He sighed.  “When I’m with them, I don’t worry so much about those things either.  Well, let me get you all a little snack you can eat, even if you’ve got a kitten using you as a pillow.”  He got up and went into the house.

Ginger said softly, “Harvey struggles to pay his bills, but he opens his house to family after family of kittens.  Yes, Caring Hearts gives him the food and pays the vet bills, but it’s still a lot of work for him.  And I know they don’t pay for the cat treats he gives any cat who stops by.” 

The front door opened and Harvey came out with a small bowl.  He carefully distributed the treats, stopping to scratch each cat between the ears as he did so.  The treats were soft and meaty, but squishy so that a sleeping kitten wasn’t even disturbed by a cat chewing on them.  They all sat quietly while the kittens napped, enjoying the sounds of life around them in the town.  Someone down the street was mowing their lawn, birds sang in the trees around the house and an airplane flew far overhead.  The occasional car drove past slowly, obeying the 25 mile per hour speed limit for this small residential street.  It was an idyllic place and time for all of them, and Rudy and LT truly knew that for at least some cats, Pottawatomie was a very special place.  


Photo courtesy of Nuevo Anden - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlos/152833469

Friday, June 22, 2012

Late Night Discussions


LT and Rudy sat up late into the night talking about their experiences here in Pottawatomie, Kansas.  They’d come here looking for cats who were treated like royalty, like honored statesmen, but what they’d found was anything but that.  Rudy’s experiences at the Pound today showed her that many of the cats here were worse off than cats they knew in New Jersey.  The pure-breed cats at the fancy house were housed and fed well, but were only treated even decently if they won at their cat shows.  The places they’d seen that they thought were special for cats turned out to be places for humans, and not cats at all.  The town cats, well some were small minded and treated LT and Rudy badly, and the others were just regular everyday cats.  The humans, well Lettie was a marvel, but she wasn’t from here.  She just ended up here.  That policeman today should be taken out back and shot.  No one here seemed to think their cats had any special knowledge or qualities that would have them standing in line to spend time with them. 

As they talked, they realized that although they had discussed their mission with most cats they’d met, they had never talked to Ginger about it.  Rudy assumed LT had done it, and LT had just been having too much fun with Ginger and her grown kittens to think of bringing it up.  She’d been living here for four years, and with all those active kittens she was bound to know the full scoop about what was going on around here.  The two cats decided that there was no time like the present, and took off for Ginger’s house.

It was after midnight, and the streets were deserted.  They made it to Ginger’s in a matter of minutes, and found Titus lounging on the lawn.  He yodeled, “Monster Daddy!” and pounced on LT.  LT just grinned, ruffled the fur on Titus’ head and told him to go get his mom.  He ran inside to get her.

“Doesn’t that ever get old, LT?”  Rudy was curious.  Titus did that every time he saw LT, and they’d been there a number of times in the past ten days or so. 

“Nope. It never gets old to be a beloved Daddy.”  LT wore a very satisfied smile. 

Ginger came bustling out of the house.  “There’s no emergency, is there, LT?  Everyone at home is okay?”  LT reassured her and asked if they could talk to her about something important – the reason they had actually come to Kansas.  When she agreed, LT and Rudy took turns talking about the stories they knew about Pottawatomie, and the stories the other cats had told.  They said they’d come here hoping to find truth in those stories, but so far they hadn’t.

Ginger smiled sadly. “I came here with those same dreams and stories, LT.  When my human told me we were moving here, I thought I was coming to paradise.  Next to moving back down south, this was the best place I could ever be, or so I thought.”  She shook her head.  “I found the cats here to be just like the cats in New Jersey, or the cats down south where I was born.  The people are the same, too.  They talk a bit different, and a lot more of them like country music, but they are still the same kind of people.”  Ginger moved over and started grooming LT’s ears. 

Rudy looked sad and asked if she hadn’t found any special people or cats here in Pottawatomie.  Ginger stopped grooming and said that of course she had, the same way she’d found a special person in New Jersey who hadn’t minded when she had her kittens in his closet.  Those special people were just about everywhere in the world if you looked hard enough.  Rudy smiled as Ginger said that, as it was her Daddy who had been that special person.  He’d been quite accommodating when Ginger had decided to pop out her kittens in the closet while a storm raged outside. 

LT looked up at Ginger, who was sitting upright looking off into the night sky.  “Ginger, could you introduce us to some of those special people here?  It would make our trip seem, well, less useless.  More like we accomplished our purpose, even though it wasn’t the purpose we started out with.” 

Ginger brought herself back into the present and gave LT and Rudy a big smile.  “Of course, sugars.  We’ll do that tomorrow.  You two, me and Titus.  Titus is a special friend of one of those people.  You go home now and sleep, and don’t come back here until at least 10 am, you hear?”  She gave them a look and made a shooing motion with her paws.  “Get along home, you two.” 

The roads were still silent as they made their way back to the Oregon Trail RV Park.  They let themselves into the RV and settled themselves in for the night.  Rudy checked on David before she went to sleep, finally deciding to sleep on the bed with him.  He’d gone above and beyond the role of cat-friend today.  Rudy wanted him to know how much she appreciated that.  As she walked across the covers, a sleepy David reached out an arm and rubbed Rudy’s ears.  “I’m glad you’re here Rudy.  You’ve made this trip really special for me.  G’nite.”  Rudy settled down next to him and thought that, yes, there were special people right here in Pottawatomie. 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Wasn't My Fault

To: TheDaddy@optonline.net; TheMommy@optonline.net
From: DavidVhoop@gmail.com
Subject: It wasn’t my fault

It was not my fault that your cat ended up in cat jail, or perhaps dog jail today, considering she was briefly at the Wamego Dog Pound.  It turns out she was sitting outside singing at the top of her lungs, and some lady called the police because she thought the cat was being tortured.  So, since I wasn’t home and Rudy doesn’t wear a collar, a cop took her in.  Now, Westmoreland has several patrolmen who are perfectly reasonable animal lovers, who would have petted the cat and left, but instead she was picked up by some guy who supposedly told the Wamego Pound that they could put her to sleep for all he cared.

So, maybe this email isn’t calming you down.  Well, the rest should.  By the time I found Miss Rudy Toots, she was snuggling with the staff at a local vet’s office, where she had been pronounced perfectly healthy and quite delightful.

I’ve given the police station photos of both cats, my contact information and your home phone number just in case.  After I got back with Rudy one of Westmoreland’s Finest stopped by and we shared an iced tea and a laugh about the cop.  He’s nearing retirement, and his wife has several cats.  They guy hates the cats, supposedly, and takes it out on the cats he sees in the course of his job.  I’d report him to the Humane Society, but since that was who he told to put Rudy down, I think they already know.

Well, I thought instead of a photo of cats and a newspaper today I’d send you a photo of Rudy that I took some liberties with.  Thanks again for sharing the cats and I do promise to bring them back to you.

David

Rudy's in the Dog Pound


“On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.

It rolled in the garden,
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.”

Rudy was sure there was more to the song, but she couldn’t remember it.  Oh well, it just figured.  She was alone here, again, and she couldn’t even remember the lyrics to stupid songs.  LT was with Ginger, David was at work, and here was Rudy, alone again, naturally.  Come to think of it that was a song too, and fit her current mood.  She didn’t remember the words, but this one was close –

“Nobody loves me
Everybody hates me
I’m gonna eat some worms
Fat ones, skinny ones
Little itty bitty ones
I’m gonna eat some worms.

First you bite the head off
Then you suck the guts out
Then you throw the rest away
Fat ones, skinny ones
Little itty bitty ones
I’m gonna eat some worms.”

Rudy was just finishing up the second verse, singing with all her soul, eyes closed to better enjoy her misery when she was rudely grabbed around the middle and shoved in a cage. Sheesh, she thought.  My singing isn’t that bad.

She clawed at the door of the cage, but it was firmly latched.  Was she being catnapped?  She looked at the guy who’d grabbed her.  He was wearing a police uniform and very heavy gloves.  What an odd combination.  He turned to the woman next to him and said, “This is the cat you heard wailing, correct?”  Rudy was offended.  She hadn’t been wailing, she had been singing.  Couldn’t these people tell the difference?

“Yes officer.  My children and I were over at the hand-dug well and heard a crying cat.  We weren’t sure if it was being tortured or perhaps was injured, so we called the police.  Thank you for showing up so quickly.  She’s quiet now, and doesn’t seem to be hurt.”  The children came closer and one tried to put his fingers through the cage bars.

“Keep your distance, sonny.  We don’t know if this cat is rabid or what.  It doesn’t have a collar and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around.  I’m sure someone owns this big RV, but they sure aren’t here now.  We’ll take the cat down to the pound and quarantine it just to be sure.”  The police officer picked up the cage and stowed it in the back of a van.  Rudy protested loudly that she was right where she belonged, had all her shots, and would they just please let her out.  The humans ignored her. 

She heard the van start and then felt it move as it drove away.  This was worse than being all alone in Kansas.  At least at the RV Park she’d be there when David and LT came back.  Now they’d come back and she wouldn’t be there.  She’d be at some dog pound.  She was a cat, for goodness sakes.  Cats don’t go to the pound.  They are taken to someone’s home and given fluffy pillows and fresh salmon!  David would never find her, she never see the Mommy and Daddy and Peep again.  She’d have to spend the rest of her life at the pound and be the slave to a bunch of Kansas coon hounds who chewed tobacco and played country music at full volume. 

The van drove for over half an hour with Rudy becoming more and more frantic as the minutes ticked away.  Finally it stopped and the policeman opened the back and lifted the cage out.  He walked into a cinderblock building labeled, ‘Wamego Pound’.  This was it, she was sent to the pound.  The end of the line for Rudy.  The policeman had a brief argument with someone at the desk.  “I don’t care if you’re full with cats.  You take any strays we find and take care of them.  I don’t give a darn what you do with it, that’s your job.  You can put it to sleep for all I care.  Just get it off my hands!”  With that, the policeman left, slamming the door behind him. 

Rudy just sat huddled on the floor of the cage, shaking.  Put to sleep?  Just for singing?  That was cruel and unusual punishment, wasn’t it?  The man behind the desk came out, grumbling.  “I told that dang man we don’t have any more room for cats.  I told him he needed to take you to the vet in Westmoreland, and they’d board you until they could figure it out.  But did he listen?  No!  And anyways, we don’t put no animals to sleep any more.  We are a no-kill organization, unless they’s sick.  You don’t look sick, kitty.  You look lost.  I’m gonna put your cage in the back with the other kitties we got for now, but I’ll get that man to come get you and take you to that vet.  Gonna have to call his boss and let him give that policeman what for.  Hmmph.”  With that, Rudy was placed on the floor in a cinderblock room with a wall filled with large cages, each with one or more cats in them.  Well, at least she wasn’t in with the dogs, and they didn’t kill the cats.  The man came back in a few minutes with a water bowl and a food dish, and he placed them in the cage with her.  Since it was a rather small cage, there was just room for her, the food and the water.  Rudy took a good long drink, figuring she’d probably knock over the water dish the first time she moved.  She wasn’t hungry, so she ignored the food. 

“So, what are you in for?” A voice asked this question from a cage way up high.  Rudy couldn’t see the questioner. 

“Um.  Singing.  I was singing and the policeman grabbed me, put me in the cage and brought me here.  Is singing illegal in Kansas?”  Rudy spoke quietly and politely.  She’d heard about prisons and this was like an animal prisons.  She’d need to behave nicely, or she’d get beaten up. 

“Nah, but folks think we’re yowling, not singing.  And if you don’t have a collar, that’s illegal, unless your human’s around to explain that you’re just an indoor cat that got out.  You got people?”  The voice wasn’t unkind, maybe she’d be okay.

“Well, yes, but my people are in New Jersey.  I’m traveling with a human who’s not mine, but we’re keeping him company.  There’s another cat, but he wasn’t around when the policeman came.  My name is Rudy.  Is this place really the dog pound?”

“Yeah, it is, but it’s also an animal shelter now.  Used to be, all the animals were killed after ten days if they weren’t claimed, but they started the Pottawatomie County Caring Hearts Humane Society a few years ago.  Now they find us foster homes or forever homes to stay in.  They don’t keep many cats here.  Just this one wall of cages, and they swap us in and out of foster homes so we don’t stay cooped up.  We’re full now, so they shouldn’t have brought you here at all.” 

Rudy thought this was like talking over the phone.  She had no idea who the cat was who was talking to her.  She could see some cats, but they just looked at her silently.  “The man at the desk said he was going to call someone and the policeman would come pick me up.  If they put me in a foster home how will the human I’m traveling with ever find me?”  Rudy started to cry softly.  She didn’t want to be stuck in Kansas, even it was a no-kill shelter with lots of foster homes.  She wanted her Daddy, who’d brush her and give her cat treats and never ever put her in a cage. 

One of the silent cats spoke up, “Don’t cry.  They’ll try to figure out who your people are and let them know.  They have ways to do this.  My name is Cherie, Rudy.  My humans moved away, but they didn’t take me.  When the shelter found them, they said they didn’t want me, so now the shelter people are trying to find me a new home.”  Her face looked sad as she said this.

Another said, “I was taken from my humans because they didn’t take good care of us.  There was never enough food, and the litter never got changed.  I like it better here, even if I do have to stay in a cage sometimes.  I like it better at the foster homes, though….”  This was a skinny male cat, right across from where Rudy’s cage had been placed.

A third cat spoke up.  “I never had a home.  I ate scraps from the restaurant on Rt. 99 in Westmoreland.  The owners put out scraps at night after they close, even though they’re not supposed to.  Then one of them caught me and brought me here, saying I needed a home, and not be to running the streets.  It’s not bad here, and I get fed more than once a day.”  This cat looked like he’d been in a lot of fights.  In fact he looked like Fuzzy, kind of raggedy. 

Rudy stopped crying.  Her life had been a lot better than these cats.  Maybe life in Pottawatomie wasn’t so good for cats, after all.  Hesitantly, she told them the stories she and the other cats had heard about Pottawatomie, and that she and LT had come here to find those lucky cats.  By the time she was done every cat was staring at her in disbelief.

The voice from the top row said, “Fairy tales, Rudy. Fairy tales.  A lot of folks around here are having a hard time, and can barely afford to house and feed themselves.  They sure aren’t building houses for their cats and cooking them filet mignon.  And beauty salons for cats?  Right.  When pigs fly.”

Rudy shook her head.  She’d seen those things, and she’d met those ritzy pure-breeds.  She told the pound cats about those things.  Now the cats weren’t staring in disbelief, they were laughing.  That voice from above said, “Kitty is the name of a lady who has a beauty shop.  For humans.  Not for cats.  And from what I heard, she’s nearly out of business, since no one can afford her hairdos anymore.  That little house was a kids’ playhouse.  I know that property.  And those fancy-pants cats?  Well, those folks have more money than they know what to do with.  One of those cats ran away once and ended up here for a few hours.  She told us about her pure-breed cat commune.  Not one of us would trade places with a cat who is treated like that.  Our foster families treat us right – like cats.  The folks here at the shelter treat us right.  Yeah, we don’t have fancy climbing trees here yet, but Caring Hearts is saving up to build us a cat room where any cats who aren’t out being fostered can run around and play and just be ourselves, not what some rich human wants us to be.  Stop dreaming those little kitten dreams, Rudy. Grow up.”  The cats in the cages turned their backs on her and Rudy huddled on the floor of her cage, miserable. 

Before the silence could become deafening, the door to the cat room opened and the policeman stomped in muttering.  “Take the cat here.  Take the cat there.  Make up your minds.”  He picked up the cage and headed through the door.  Rudy heard a voice from near the ceiling say, “Good luck” as they left. 

The cage was reloaded into the van and Rudy had another long miserable ride.  When they stopped again the policeman grabbed the cage and carried it up to a door, which opened into what looked like a waiting room at Tibet.    He placed the cage on the floor and spoke to the woman at the desk.  “This is the cat I mentioned.  They told me to bring it here, as the pound is full, at least for cats.  What should I do with it?  I’m not sure it isn’t sick.  It was caterwauling something fierce when I picked it up.” 

The woman sighed and said that someone would be out in a minute to take the cat, unless he could just leave the cage and pick it up later.  The policeman smiled thinly, and said he needed to take it with him.  Rudy, meanwhile was explaining to anyone who’d listen that she was a SHE and not an IT.  A bull mastiff sitting with his owner snorted and told her that the policeman wasn’t an animal person, but Tibet was really nice.  Rudy sighed.  Small towns.  Everyone knew everyone’s business.  Well, at least the policeman didn’t hate animals.  He hadn’t stunned her or shot her, if she had to find a bright side to this situation.

A tech came out a few moments later and knelt down in front of the cage.  “So, who are you, little cat and how did you come to be wandering Westmoreland on your own without a collar.  Well, let’s just hope you’re chipped.”  She opened the cage and lifted Rudy out, ignoring the protests from the policeman that she might be rabid.  She looked him up and down and said, “I’ve had my shots. This kitty just looks scared to me.”  Thank the Great Cat, thought Rudy.  Someone who understands me! 

The tech brought Rudy into the back and placed her on a carpeted table.  Holding her lightly with one hand she grabbed what looked like a fancy calculator and waved it around Rudy’s body.  It beeped, and the tech said, “Oh, thank goodness.  You have a microchip.  We’ll figure out who your owner is and give him a call.  We’ll have you reunited in…well, this can’t be right.  It’s an address in New Jersey.  Hmmm, let me find out where you were caught.”  She left Rudy on the table and walked back towards the front of the building. 

She returned in a few minutes, still looking a bit worried.  “Well Rudy, since I know that’s your name now, the receptionist is calling your owners.  Are they staying at the RV Park?”  She ruffled Rudy’s fur.   “Don’t worry, we’ll work it out.”  She left the room, promising to be back.  When the door opened next, it was someone different.  A woman in a blue lab coat explained to Rudy that she needed to examine her and make sure there was nothing wrong.  She poked, prodded and even took her temperature.  She pronounced Rudy to be in excellent condition.  The tech returned laughing.  “You’re not going to believe this.  Rudy here is traveling with a gentleman who is staying at the RV Park.  He’s been leaving the cats there while working at Fort Riley.  There’s a cat door in the RV and he leaves the AC on for them.  He figures this one got lonely or something.  Oh, and Rudy, your owner says you better not cause any more trouble.  The guy will be here in an hour or so to pick the cat up, Doc.  I said we’d just leave her here and not cage her up again.  She isn’t crated much, and we’re about done for the day with patients.” 

Rudy sighed gratefully.  They’d figured it out.  The Daddy must have called David.  She wasn’t going to have to live at the pound, or in foster homes, or even stay in Kansas for the rest of her life.  The tech and the vet left her and Rudy groomed herself so that she’d look beautiful when David arrived.  That way he might not be so mad at her.  When she finished she jumped down to explore a bit.  The door wasn’t latched, so she nudged it open and went into the hallway.  She made her way into the now empty reception area and watched while the receptionist finished her paperwork.  She’d arranged herself on a comfy chair when the tech burst in say, “Rudy’s missing!  Have you seen…oh.”  She spotted Rudy on the chair. 

The receptionist laughed and said, “She came in a few minutes ago.  I figured, why keep her cooped up.  I figured you’d find her eventually.”  They two laughed.  Rudy liked these folks.  They didn’t seem like the kind who’d abandon cats or starve them. 

Rudy was graciously accepting love and adoration when David burst through the door.  “Where’s Rudy?  Is she okay?”  He stopped and gave a sigh of relief.  “You had me worried, Miss Rudy.”  She jumped down and walked over to him.  She was ready to leave now.  David settled the bill for the exam and the two got into David’s rental car. 

“I stopped and talked to the policeman who picked you since it was on my way here.  I was thinking that I’d have to take you to Fort Riley for the few days until I’m done, but the guy said you were just sitting right outside the RV caterwauling.  I told him you were singing, and that you had an excellent voice.  That man doesn’t know cats, obviously.  Well, he’s going to tell the other folks in the police department that as long as you two are around the RV that you’re fine.  I sent him photos of you and LT from my phone and left my cell phone number in case there are any more problems.  Are you okay, Miss Rudy?”  He reached over and ruffled her fur. 

Rudy replied that she was fine, and could they please go back to the RV now.  She promised she wouldn’t sing anymore while they were on the trip, and that she’d avoid any and all policemen. 

LT was pacing back and forth in front of the RV when Rudy and David returned.  David opened the door and pulled food from the fridge for the cats while Rudy explained her horrible adventure to LT, who was properly horrified.  LT immediately began grooming Rudy, washing off the taint of the pound and Tibet and stopped only when the warm food was placed in front of them.  Both cats looked up at David and said, “Thank you” and began to eat, happy to be with someone who cared so much about them.