Sunday, December 23, 2007

I can't remember the last time I went to the bathroom alone. Closing the door means there will soon be six tiny feet with varying degrees of furriness poking under the door, often accented with the percussive sound of a pitbull skull bouncing off the door as the boys try to break in, convinced that, without supervision, this might be the time I accidentally flush myself. I find it much easier to just leave the bathroom door open - because of the layout of my house, it's the only room into which the neighbors can't see, and I hesitate to offer any motivation for the boys to do any remodeling as intense as removing a door when I can avoid it.

So the door stays open, and I am without fail joined by a herd of lifeguards when I'm at my most vulnerable. It's usually Oscar first, because dogs aren't burdened with the feline need to appear irritated and unconcerned. Plus, he's pretty sure he will explode if forced to wait one more second without a hug. So he corners me when I'm sitting, and snuggles up to give his patented mommy-approved kisses. Then Trevor will "happen" along to yell something at the dog, and sometimes swat him. Aslan will then remember an important errand that needs to be managed in the sink, and he'll skulk by, grumbling at the other beasts for whom I have yet to provide satisfactory reasons to their existence. This all happens in a matter of seconds, so the cats' ability to look so perfunctory every time is rather impressive.

This morning, however, I thought I had a shot at a private moment.

I woke up on my own, with it still pitch black outside. As both a morning person and someone in a lifelong battle with insomnia, this in itself isn't too unusual, but I decided not to make attempts to go back to sleep until I had... er... powdered my nose. Because it was slightly earlier than my usual rising, my alarm clock (aka, Trevor jumping up and down on me while yelling in my ear) had not yet gone off, and was in fact no where to be seen. Oscar sleeps in his own room, and since the temperature has dropped below 70 F (21 C), I knew Aslan would be asleep under the space heater, so I had a small window of opportunity for private ablutions.

Without turning on any lights, I tiptoed the twelve feet to the bathroom, moving so silently I was sure no living being could possibly hear. I sat down with the grace of Margot Fonteyn so as not to rattle the seat even the slightest. I didn't even allow myself a sigh of relief when I realized I was alone in the room.

And less then ten seconds later, I heard the telltale rattle of a dog collar as a groggy little man made his way down the hall from his room. Then came Trevor's little chirrup at the dog. And then the thunder of fluffy little feet as Aslan went about his business. Once again, "alone" was vanquished from my vocabulary as Aslan sat up on the sink, Trevor wove in and out of Oscar's legs, and Oscar leaned against my knees, kissing me in his special way (I don't actually like dog kisses, and Oscar has learned this, so he - for lack of a better description - dries off his tongue. He can be as sloppy and slobbery as the next guy, and often is kissing others, but usually when he kisses me, they are dainty, prim, dry little things - it's really rather endearing how he's found a way to kiss me that doesn't make me need to wipe off after).

So there I was surrounded by three furry little gentlemen who love me madly, who don't want to be away from me for a second longer than they have to be, who would no doubt give their lives for me, who make me laugh and cry and laugh again... and suddenly it occurred to me that being alone means being away from that indescribably pure love. And that can't be a good thing at all.

This holiday season, may you be surrounded with more love than you know what to do with, and realize that you are never truly alone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Before you go shopping this holiday season...

...think about this:

...then think about this:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's a good thing cats can't tell time...

Due to some plans changing on me and a generally chaotic life anyway, I'm posting Aslan's annual birthday story a bit late in the day. He's purring on my lap now and promises not to hold a grudge, being mature and refined like that. My own birthday song (which many of you have asked about) I am told will be coming. It was performed live in concert to a full and confused audience last night, breaking many birthday-song rules, but all will be forgiven as soon as an actual sound file has been produced. But for now, let's get back to the serious business!

The Story of Aslan

In 2002, I lived near Buffalo NY and worked at a radio station doing the morning show. I lived on the top floor of a crochety old house, with neighbors in the bottom floor. My birthday happened to fall on Thanksgiving weekend, so my parents flew me down to Baltimore for the weekend. I flew back up on Sunday, December 1st, and ended up driving home from the Buffalo airport in one of the many blizzards of the year. The drive took about three hours longer than I expected, and by the time I was close, there was two feet of snow on the ground. Trusty Norman was quite cranky, and I was no chipper Princess myself. A car ahead of me kicked a rock back, and it cracked my windsheild all the way across.

Exausted, but pushing forward, I called my friend who was babysitting for my two cats Misha and Trevor while I was away to tell him I was close. He was a cat lover as well, and both my two liked him a lot, so I knew he'd want to know if he needed to go back out into the blizzard to check on them again that night.

"Great! Glad to hear you're safe," said Al. "oh, by the way, your neighbors cat was asking to come in, but they weren't answering the door. I let her into your hallway, and put out some of your guys food and water for her."

"Okay, great. Um. Al? My neighbors don't have a cat."

"Yeah, the sweet little white one."


"Oh. Well, then there's a strange cat in your house. Um. Sorry?"


I got home, trudged through the snow, which was nearing three feet in depth by now, and stumbled up the stairs. As I rounded the bend, dark eyes glowed back at me, and a tiny, shivering cat peered out, clearly asking if I could be trusted... and quickly deciding I could. A timid squeak was uttered, and almost immediately the hall echoed with the sound of purrs... It was bittter cold, even inside the hallway (which was probably around 40 degrees F, compared to the 10 degrees outside), but I couldn't let this strange creature into my house when s/he might have deadly parasites. I refilled his food and water, and brought out a blanket and cat bed.

I woke the next morning, checked the food in the bowl in the hall, and went into work, announcing that I'd found a cat, and please call the radio station if you're missing one. No one called.

I called the pound, and told them that I didn't want to give the cat to them if he was going to end up being killed - adult cats are adopted out quite rarely - but if anyone called looking for him, they could contact me. I continued the announcements on the air. One woman did call the station and say she was missing her cat Rosie -the little sweet white girl that Al had found was actually an orange male, but an orange so pale he was almost pink.

Hoping against hope, I picked up the little cat, and nearly dropped him again in shock. This cat hadn't just wandered off before the storm. He should have been between eight and ten pounds, and was closer to three, ribs sticking out painfully through his scraggly hair. His feet, which had been declawed, were bloody and raw. He drooled massively, but offered no resistance when I checked his mouth for wounds and found none. I took him to the woman's face, and watched her face drop when she opened her door. This wasn't her Rosie.

But something had to be done.

I went to the pound and said "whoever lost him either doesn't want him back, or doesn't deserve him. What can I do to make this cat officially mine so they can't come and let this happen to him again?" They knew me from my radio show (celebrity is a good thing) and were able to bend a few rules for me. He still had to be taken into "solitary confinement" where he would be given a vet check and watched for parasites. But I could come visit him as often as I wanted - and I did. It broke my heart to take him to the pound and leave him there - it goes against every fiber of my being. But I was back every day, and he grew to know my footsteps on the stairs at the pound. I had resisted giving him a name until I knew he would be mine, but had been toying around with two, one of which was "Dickens" in honor of the season and the book A Christmas Carroll. But one of the women at the pound said "We just love that little cat of yours, he looks just like a lion," and I knew the other name would be his, the one that I thought would give this sweet, timid little thing some strength and courage, the name of the great and terrible lion from The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.

My life of late has been more difficult than I thought possible. Many, many times I've come close to giving up - giving up and going back to an office job where at least the pay was consistant, giving up on my marriage and home, just giving up. Every time - really, each and every time - I've hit that wall and said "that's it," Aslan has come to me. Within seconds of my saying "I can't do this anymore," he's been in my lap, nose in my face, chirping away at me, giving me love and, somehow, giving me strength. And I've been able to go on. The other boys usually pile on pretty soon after, but Aslan is always first, the calm little soldier whose cotton-ball looks are beyond deceiving.

He was lost, and found me on December 1, 2002. I was lost, and he found me again and again since then. Happy, happy "re-birthday" Aslan.


Marriage is love.