Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guest Quarters.

I have to do rewrites on the book. I have to try to educate my daughter or, as we all call it around here, “Prove my idiocy daily”. I still sell a Hiphugger or two. I really should get to the gym. So, of course, I decided to take in a house-guest with indifferent personal habits and a hearty appetite.

Two weeks ago, I was at the cat-rescue place where I volunteer. The head of the group, Kate, was there, administering worming medication to all sorts of adorable tiny kittens before handing them back to their mothers. We chatted as she squirted. With her chin, she motioned to the cage we reserve for new cats whose health is unknown to us.

“Look what I found this morning. Someone left her outside in a box.”

I looked in the cage. Something stared back at me. I thought and said, “She’s…”

Now, a side note. I once read an article about some photographer who has made, it seemed, a good living for his entire career of almost three decades photographing cats. The reporter asked him whether in all that time, he had ever seen an ugly kitten. In the article, he was quoted as pausing meaningfully and then saying in weighted tones “Just once.”

I looked at this kitten. She was orange, where there was fur. Mostly, she was pinkish skin. She had a large nose with a scab on it, small beady eyes, a long hairless tail and a body which shape suggested less being born than being extruded from the sausage attachment on a Mixmaster. I started again, “She’s…are you sure she isn’t a rat?”

“No, it’s a kitten. She’s just pretty undernourished. I’m amazed she made it through the night in that box. I’m going to try to find someone to take her home, feed her on demand and pay some attention to her.”

I know this woman well; nowhere in there had she said, or even intimated, “Quinn, I now hand the baton of responsibility to you. And the baton of responsibility resembles a rat wearing an orange wig.”

I stared at her some more. I noted her eyes were slightly crossed: nice touch. I asked fearfully, “Not bottle-fed, right?”. Because after last spring, I’m not wiping butts and waiting for Death’s scythe, but Kate said, “No, she’s eating on her own. Not nearly enough, but she’s eating.” As if on cue, the cat-rat opened her mouth and delivered a silent mew; she had three teeth, all of which were crooked. I heard myself say, “I’ll keep her until she’s…”

I thought, what? Attractive? Hairy? Strong enough to star in a remake of Willard?

“…ready for adoption.” I finished. Because somewhere out there, someone is saying to their friends “What I really want is a house-pet who makes people flinch.” Kate gave her worming medication and a small amount of IV fluid to strengthen her enough to, as it turned out, scream for the entire trip home. Gazing at her face at stop lights, I decided that the vigor she was showing her temper tantrum boded well for her living through to an adoptable age. She needed a pretty name, I decided, for incentive if nothing else. I free-associated; what hair she had was orange….oranges…Navel? No. Oranges remind me of Spain…Madrid? Navarre? Valencia? Why do I know all this? Oh, right; crossword puzzles. Why doesn’t Daughter’s education want my crossword puzzle facts? Would it kill them to ask her what you call an eagle’s nest or a sewing kit?

I made a left turn, causing the cat-carrier to jostle, increasing her irritation, which helped me focus.

Galicia…Asturia…The Canary Islands…wait, back up. Galicia. That’s not bad.

I stuck my fingers in the cage and waggled them at her. I crooned “Galicia, pretty girl. You like that? You like the name Galicia?”

Her screaming stopped; I felt her little head rubbing against my fingers, which seemed like an auspicious omen. I peeked in. At some point in the previous few minutes, she had rid herself of what appeared to be three of four days’ worth of bowel movements. Purring in delight at being petted, she curled up in her filth and took a brief nap for the rest of the trip home. I now understood why Kate had sent me home with kitten shampoo.

The next few days were a blur of feeding and screaming and surprisingly copious excretions; this is the kitten we should clone and hand to every teenage girl who romanticizes having a baby. The fact that she threw fits when she couldn’t see me only added to the general noise level. She liked Consort, she enjoyed Daughter, but all six of her brain cells had decided I was Mommy, which when you look like a rat in a cheap orange wig is faint praise indeed. I carried Galicia around nearly constantly, when I wasn’t putting her in the litter box and encouraging her to give it a go, which annoyed her and made her holler. She had a free-spirited notion that if she could see the litter box from where she was standing, no matter how far away, she was in the litter box. When I wasn’t holding her, I was holding a bottle of bleach. Daughter alternated between “Awww…” and “Ew.”

And where were the pets during all of this? Well, if she was the new infant in the house, they were the older siblings. Lulabelle, the cat, has taken the attitude of “That thing which is very ratlike and is shouting is not in my house. Because if it were in my house, I would have to deal with it, which would probably mean eating it, and I think you would get irrationally emotional about it. So, I’m going to ignore on a world-class level. If I have the misfortune to see her, I will indicate my displeasure by gurgling in rage for a few minutes and then vomiting. You might want to just put the bottle of bleach on some kind of tool-belt around your waist.” The dog, on the other hand, was ecstatic from the first moment he saw her in the cat carrier while I set up her first de-fouling bath. Some combination of a cat that, unlike his regular one, didn’t seem to want to slap him and the way she smelled like partially-digested cat food was the culmination of a dream for him. Every time I would take her someplace contained for her daily “Stagger around and shout” time, the dog would insist on joining us and then proceed to play tag with her. He’s not a large dog, but he was large enough so that she got knocked over every single time they played, and he would somehow end up sitting on her, grinning in joy. I would separate them, banishing him from the room but they would shout and cry for each other from the other sides of the door. Lulabelle is her contemptuous older sister, and the dog is her affectionately abusive older brother. And I’m the mother shouting “Oh, would you three just go watch television or something!”

Somehow, along the way, her hair grew in. The scab fell off her nose, which stayed the same size, while her face and her eyes grew. She became cute. Consort, who would take her out of the cage in the evening for a friendly game of “AUGH! BITE YOUR FINGER!”, said things like “She’s really sweet. She can stay, if you want.” This was an incredibly kind statement, considering that I was dosing him with Benadryl twice a day just so he didn’t fall down in an anaphylactic seizure. I assured him that no, I was enjoying her very much but that didn’t mean I needed to add another litter box permanently to the household. Daughter enjoyed her thoroughly, but also had enough experience with foster-kittens that she wasn’t putting too much of her emotional life into this one fuzzy little body.

This weekend, we’ll take her into the rescue, where she will stay until Sunday night, so that people looking for a kitten can meet her. Then, we’ll bring her home during the week. I imagine someone will put in an application for my loud little friend and the home-check will be done within days. We’ll have another week with her, but probably not another two weeks. She’ll go to be someone’s cat, and she’ll have another name, and with any luck another cat-worshipping dog. We’ll have memories of a kitten I would vote the Most Improved Player.


Blogger Michaéle said...

Stories like this make me long to not be so deathly allergic to cats (I also an anaphylactic kind of person.) However, I am NOT allergic to short-haired varieties of dogs...hence, the four that currently live in this house. Rescue organizations rock...that is where we get all of our pets. My 12-year-old daughter just won a civil service award for her work raising money for animal shelters so I am going to pass along your blog to her. She will love it!

4:57 PM  
Blogger Emily Barton said...

Sounds like our little orange, completely malnourished friend who my husband described as "cute" when he and some friends found him, leading me to think, "If he's using the word 'cute' to describe both me and that thing, something is terribly wrong.'" However, he's now as adorable as the picture of your little friend and rules the household (not having an older sister or abusive older brother to keep him from doing otherwise).

6:48 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

I know! I know! "Aerie" & "Etui"

I have an tabby from a rescue group. He's orange, I drink a lot of tea; his name is Pekoe.

Rescue cats are great. After seven years he's still thinks that my feeding him every day means that I deserve to have the bejeebers loved out of me. And I love him back.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

That sounds so similar to Michael, my first cat. When my big sister decided to rescue him from the pet store (waaaay back in her toddler years) Michael was this sickly, ugly, skinny little mutant kitten. My mom snatched him up, brought him home, and eventually he turned into a gorgeous, lithe, golden-hearted orange tabby. I still miss him like crazy and he's been dead about twelve years now.

7:38 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

I've had two cats, both of them rescues. Galacia is so adorable that I'm tempted to take her, but she's 3000 miles away. Another friend has an all black kitten in OC that is looking for a home too. I'm such a sucker for kittens. You know what's weird? There aren't any kittens around here. Spaying and neutering is so successful in MA that we just don't ever see kittens. And I'm looking for a little girl to keep our big Tom company.

10:26 PM  
Blogger CDP said...

It's hard to believe that she was ever anything but adorable. Nice story, I hope you find a good home for her.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I am allergic to kitties as well. . .though I TRIED to have one when hubby and I were first married. It bought me a stint in the hospital with an oxygen mask, an IV tube, and a male nurse who gave a great foot massage. Her name was Duffy and she had the most horrid gas ever. We are moving to the country this fall, and then we will rescue one of my sister's kittens (she always has a boat load as she lives in the country too and people think that is where you dump unwanted felines and canines), have her/him fixed and then have a happy OUTSIDE cat who can rub on my legs--but not my face.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Oh good god, this post made me laugh!

I so admire Lulabelle. I wish I could indicate my displeasure by gurgling in rage for a few minutes and then vomiting. That must be so cleansing for her.

Far too many people have been inspiring exactly that response in me, lately. And just once, I'd love to express, rather than repress, the full intensity of my true displeasure.

And the "daily stagger around and shout time"--that pretty much sums it up.

Just too funny!

11:43 PM  
Blogger Darrin said...

Wow! Hard to believe this lil' gal was once an ugly duckling! Nice work nursing her back to health!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Paige said...

Love this. You are an awesome friend to animals, even the (ugly) ones, which sets you above a lot of us. I wish Galicia could come join Fiammo the wonder cat, for whom we thank you nearly daily...

7:49 AM  
Blogger OHN said...

I would love to see a "before" photo.

Rescues are wonderful friends for life. I know she will find a forever home :)

8:09 AM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

You are the coolest person ever. (-:

Congrats on helping the kitty. You have such an entertaining and great style of writing.

I enjoy your journal so much that I had to revisit "The Good-bye Girl" via Netflix. You were just too adorable. I met Richard several times in NYC being a regular extra on "The Education of Max Bickford" (they needed lots of female college students, and I was a female college student at the time). So interesting to watch the movie again as a grown-up. Great movie and great performance...

I'm enjoying your journal as much as ever! Can't wait for the book.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you need to be getting more credit for how wonderful your writing is! I loved this post; it's one of your finest, and you have many. Thank you!

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just joined Blogger and wanted to tell you I enjoy reading your posts especially this one. I'm looking forward to reading your book someday, too. Take care!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

The ones who think you're Mom, they never really stop screaming, do they? I had a pair called Victor and Hugo, rescued during Hurricane Hugo, and they were completely miserable, too; their sibs didn't quite make it; But I washed them and pulled the maggots out, and fed them and piddled them, and ALWAYS, for the rest of their lives, they would scream when they saw me, climb up me, burrow into my hair, stick their noses in my ears and PURR LIKE MOUNT TOBA GOING OFF.

Danielle: It never gets any easier. Gone; never forgotten.

3:07 PM  

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