Sunday, November 12, 2006

I Declare Today Holmes Day

I have received more e mail about Holmes than anything I have written so far. I am posting the only pictures I have used on the Internet so far so you can see her for yourself. I know that everyone that has a cat falls in love with it. We were even more fortunate in that Holmes came with a sister named Watson. Watson passed away in January 2003 from stomach cancer. For just under four years, Holmes has had to shoulder the burden of being the only cat in a house full of crazed cat worshipers. It's been tough on her, but she eventually adapted.

Holmes and her sister were born in West Virginia April 24, 1989. They were born outside at a house where the ended up under foot, and were shooed out by the woman who lived there. To this day, Holmes is afraid of a broom. By the time she was six weeks old Holmes and her sister were 'rescued and brought to the SPCA near where I live. The same Friday that they hit the State of Maryland, my wife's hematologist gave her clearance, after years of arguing I might add, to get a pet for the first time.

The following morning, we ended up at the local SPCA to look at cats. The lady there steered us to a 2 year old that seemed to shy away from us. I wasn't wild with enthusiasm for a cat that didn't want to be with us, not that I knew what I was doing. The woman seemed to think that since we hadn't had any cats before, that we weren't the best candidates for kittens. That also didn't make any sense to me. I have this thing about logic making sense to me. When logic doesn't make sense to me, I start digging to find out why. In the case of this woman, I went to where they kept the kittens. And, I fell in love. I put my arm in, and two kittens latched on to my arm. I pulled them out, and I was holding these two fantastic calico cats. I handed one to Judy, and held the other in my hands. I was hooked.

When you know, you really know. I looked at my wife. She was beaming. We had been picked by the cats. I simply told the woman, we'll take these two. She went into her explanation of all the reasons why we shouldn't take the two kittens. I went into my iterative loop saying, "We'll take these two." I may have varied the accent, but I used this trick. I looked her dead in the eye with that look that says, I am going to get what I want here and there's no chance of you keeping these two cats from me. I bite the insides of my cheeks if I have to making sure I do not smile. This is my deadliest college professor look, aimed at freezing the hearts of 135 undergraduate students. It works on one elderly volunteer worker when I concentrate, and in this case I was heavily motivated holding a tiny ball of love.

The lady at the SPCA put the girls into a cardboard carrier and we drove the girl's home. Earlier, my wife had purchased a liter box and a bag of liter along with a bag of kitten chow. On the advice of the SPCA, we called a vet and made an appointment to have the girls checked out. We now were responsible for two (2) full color calico female cats approximately six weeks old. Training was about to begin.

We put the liter box out on the second floor, and then took the kittens out and put them in the liter box. That ended their formal training. We put food and water out for them and stood back as they disappeared and started exploring the house. Once they found the food and water, it was two days before we saw them on a regular basis again. We'd see one or the other scurrying from room to room, smelling everything.

That's when their personalities began to emerge. Holmes needed to investigate everything. Nothing escaped her attention, not a paper clip, nor a rubber band, a pen was cause for deep investigation. There was some real science produced when it came to walking across the coffee table which has a glass top. Watson was content to watch Holmes and let her figure everything out. Hence, they earned their names, Holmes investigated and figured out everything, like how to open a door, Watson was the one who rammed the door with her head until Holmes got it open.

Holmes was the star athlete. She once saw a moth flying in the house, and she sprang straight up and snatched it from the air about 7 feet off the ground. She spit it on the ground, and Watson promptly walked on it. The dog from across the street wandered over and came to the door. Holmes vanished. The dog was a chocolate lab and weighed perhaps 125 pounds. Watson, weighing in at 5 pounds and a little less than an appetizer for Old Duke, stood there and hissed at him through the door. Instead of scaring him, since Duke also lived with a cat, he walked back home feeling rejected.

And now, our training program was about to begin. We did not know that Watson came with an entire dynamic set of rules that changes according to her needs. Naturally, as with governments, ignorance of the rules was no excuse. Watson was not to be picked up, unless it suited her purposes. Her food was to be warmed to just the right temperature. That took a while to find, but with persistence, we discovered it. Various brands of cat food were eliminated, never to be brought into the house again. Fortunately, I had a piece of 1/2 inch plywood and a few 8 foot 2x4s left over, and we built a couple of platforms in front of windows for the girls to lie on in the sun. They were a big hit.

Then the issue of sex arose. If you close a door and stay on the same side as a cat, it will be OK. We kept the girls out of the basement and things went fine. But if you closed the door to the bedroom and they were outside and you were inside, the crying started and if you looked, there were paws under the door trying to pull the door open. Mass hysteria ensued. The girls just knew that wild and wonder cat things were going on in that room and they were being deprived. They were only partly right. We finally decided that we were just going to leave the door open.

Sex is not an unusual event among married couples no matter what people tell you. Wives demand it. Call it group maintenance, or mental health, or a mandatory requirement for the organism to survive, or tension reduction, or yabadabado, it's right up there with food and 64 oz (not 65) of water a day. And it had been a while due to scheduling mishaps for us. Now, we had an opportunity to really become human again, feel really good. We were both motivated, eager, ready, and well positioned. And then Watson jumped up onto the bed and walked over to where our heads were and looked right into Judy's face as if to say, "where do I go?" Simultaneously, Holmes walked up my left leg onto my left butt cheek onto my back all the way to my left shoulder and peered down into Judy's face, and then into mine. The two of us were laughing so hard that there was no chance for sex the rest of the night. On the other hand, we never had to close the doors again.

We had fourteen years of adventure with the two of them. We were never attacked by a vicious rubber band or an errant paper clip. Watson would periodically slip into the shower stall upstairs at 3:00 am and announce at the top of her lungs that she had killed a mastadon and that she would appreciate some help in carving it up so we could all eat for the rest of the year. We would levitate out of bed the first couple of times, then you get used to it. Then one day, she contracted stomach cancer, and she died after three months of chemotherapy after surgery.

Holmes also changed. She now patrolled the house, but she started talking to the animals at each window. Where she used to chase the squirrels and birds, now they seemed to meet up and talk. There is an entire family of cardinals that seem to come by and they know her, and she knows all of them. We're talking perhaps five birds. But the most unusual is the woodpecker.

If you live with a dog or a cat, you know that they can and will communicate with you. They will come and put a paw on your leg to get your attention, or in Holmes' case, Chatty Cathy will come around the corner at the top of her lungs and tell you that she wants you and to follow her, and she will chatter at you the whole way down the hall until she can show you what she wants you to see. This I have been dealing with for a long time now. But, there is a woodpecker who will fly to the window where I am sitting and typing right now, and if he wants Holmes, he will raise a racket until i go get her, or at least call for her. And when she comes, I swear, the two of them sit and chatter through the glass door. They are probably just antagonizing each other for all I know, telling each other that this is their territory. It's just that it has happened more than once.

Therefore, I am declaring today, November 12, 2006, Holmes' Day. All things being equal, I have been unbelievably lucky, the wife, the two cats. Holmes is really the exception and I know it. I know she won't last forever, but I am savoring what i have while I have her. And this is my attempt to share a tiny fraction of what I have had, with you.


Alison said...


cmhl said...

excellent-- and she is beautiful.

see, you went into last thursday thinking that Holmes was done-- that was it. She was so much better, you brought her back home.

So, in my opinion, everything else is gravy. From Thursday on, the remaining days with Holmes are a gift-- don't spend your time worrying about WHEN the time will come, just realize that every single day after last Thursday is a giff--- gravy days--- and celebrate..

mist1 said...

Daily shallow comment on beautiful post:

My dad had the almost the same kitchen floor. Only it was in shades of blue.

Kinda weirded me out to see it.

MJ said...

What a great story !! Just furry humans is what I say !! I like my animals more than I like most people !!

Odat said...

Awww...what a nice tribute! I always was cat person, but 5 years ago a lil pug dog came into my life...and now he owns me!


rebecca said...

i grew up with cats. siamese. they always seemed like a different version of human, is all. since then, i've been owned by several and currently have 3. i also have the 2 boston terriers, as you know...and am wrestling with my mind because of that, daily. i love them. but, there's nothing like cats. it's so much easier and more entertaining, if you ask me. although, i did love my pug of 4 yrs ago that i lost in the divorce. anyway...thank you for the snapshot of holmes. i hope she's improving and eating more.

The CEO said...

She just pranced by, and breeped at me like nothing had happened. She's off talking to a squirrel at the moment. Something about acorns.

WanderingGirl said...

My first cat only lived 3 years. I still miss him. I will die when Pooh King dies (I tell him so every day) and I hope that he and the Great and Powerful Oz live forever. And Holmes too. Isn't it crazy how much we can love our furry friends?

desiree said...

I lost my two kitties at the same time about a year ago, one to lung cancer (little devil-I never suspected she was sneaking smokes in the garage) and the other to an intestinal birth defect that never straightened itself out. I miss them both very much, it is still a quite sharp pain, but I am grateful I got to have them.

cinders said...

Two calicos from one litter? Quite exceptional. And that they didn't kill each other-- also quite exceptional. My vet explained that callies & torties are very sassy and will always be the "lead" cat if you have more than one and it's almost impossible to have two.

Trust me, I tried. There was blood involved.

The CEO said...

I still sit and cry over Watson, and Holmes looks at me. Watson was the dominant one, but Holmes could take her at a moment's notice, so we figured it was something genetic or a birthright issue.

Watson's ashes are three feet from where I am sitting, and I still have trouble talking about it three years later. I cannot conceive of living without cats. Easier to live without food and air.

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