A new cat shelf and sundry thoughts about cats and dogs

Our old cat shelf was store bought and would only hold one cat comfortably, so we built this one (which looks like it’s leaning but it’s not). Despite our efforts to keep blind cords away from Scully, she shredded the one in the living room so badly that, the blind being old anyway, we just bought a new one. So it is with cats—one must expect a certain amount of damage.

I’ve been missing dogs this week. It started when I was lying in bed and looking down the hall at two of our cats and remembering the twenty years that I looked down that same hall at dogs. For some reason, this created in me a longing, and even a sense of betrayal, which seems ironic in that this is the worst time of year to have a dog in Western Oregon due to the almost daily rain, mud, and chilly weather. How often have we taken dogs walking in the rain when neither they nor we wanted to go, and how many hours have I spent standing on the porch at midnight waiting for dogs to go potty while they stood motionless in the rain surveying their surroundings. And then there were News Years and Independence Day when they would be too afraid to go potty because of the fireworks, a situation that lasted for weeks as one idiot after another fired off an occasional incendiary. We turned to cats for good reasons, and I’m not sorry we did, but a cat does not substitute for a dog.

I had dogs all my life until our last one died in 2012, but I never read entire books about dogs like I’ve been doing for months now with cats. Perhaps this is because I felt an affinity with dogs that made it unnecessary to study them, whereas cats are ever a mystery. They’re caring creatures of deep emotion, but I can never escape the feeling that they regard their intimacy with Peggy and me as important but optional. Their closeness to one another is quite another matter. They spend hours a day sleeping together and bathing one another, and Brewsky and Ollie are so protective of Scully that anytime she cries, they rush to her side. They’re actually so devoted to Scully that I’ve wondered if they would threaten me if I pretended to attack her, which is exactly how our heeler used to behave when I playfully attacked Peggy or the neighbors kid. Unfortunately, I have no way to test the extent of Brewsky and Ollie’s devotion without the risk of convincing all three cats that I’m dangerously insane, and maybe getting myself hurt in the process. Cats simply can’t take a joke the way dogs can. I’m not prepared to say that dogs have a sense of humor, but they’re at least easy to calm down, whereas a seriously pissed-off feline is, as they say, “a cat of a different color,” and that color is brimstone. I’ve read of strong men fleeing before the wrath of an angry housecat, by which I mean a cat that, sometimes for no apparent reason, turned on one or more people with murderous intent. 

Peggy and I have often discussed getting a dog, but with three cats, it’s hard to imagine it being a good idea because we would be even more tied down, and because it’s doubtful that the cats would like having a dog (our only hope would be to get a puppy because adult animals are more tolerant of babies than of other adults). Then too, there would be the vet bills, which have become way more expensive than they once were, it being commonplace to walk into a vet with a trivial problem and leave $200 poorer.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row...

Upon the occasion of Canada's Remembrance Day and America's Veteran's Day, I offer this tribute to two great nations and two great Canadians. John McCrae, the physician who wrote "In Flanders Fields," was among the thousands who died there. Leonard Cohen, the musician who read the poem, died yesterday. 

"In Flanders Fields" is one of the dozens of poems that it has been my privilege to memorize and to ponder when I am unable to sleep.

In consolation

Republicans now have the presidency and both houses of Congress, so they can do whatever the hell they please, and the rest of us will just have to live with it. I find this is a hard row to hoe, but it would be a lot harder if I had been among those who trusted Clinton. Some thoughts…

I voted for Jill Stein, so I’m one of those people who are being blamed for Trump’s victory, the argument being that a vote for anyone but Clinton was a vote for Trump. Yet, this persistent demand that everyone vote for the lesser of two evils can only result in the country never having more than two major candidates, both of them on the side of Big Business. Besides, I mistrusted Clinton so much that I couldn’t even be sure but what she would be a worse president than Trump. For one thing a vote for her would have carried with it the certainty of war, war, and more war, it being well-known that she was much more militaristic than Obama.

As much as I deplore Trump and nearly all of his policies, I liked some of his stances. For example, I consider his idea of a “wall” on the Mexican border to be absurd, but I agree that illegal immigration is a serious problem, and I had every expectation that Clinton would encourage it rather than control it due to her emphasis on helping illegals rather than deporting them for being the criminals that they are.

I hate “political correctness,” and Trump represents a hard and well-deserved slap in its smug and mean-spirited totalitarian face. I’ll give an example based upon my last point. Thanks to PC, America went from using the term “illegal aliens,” to “illegal immigrants” to “non-documented workers,” and finally to “immigrants,” thus denying any distinction between someone who wades the Rio Grande in the middle of the night and someone who spends years working through America’s painstaking immigration process. Another example is that PC won’t engage in dialogue with those who don’t knuckle under to its values. It instead fires them from their jobs, hounds them from their schools, demands their public censure, and labels them, among other things, as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and that catch-all word hater. Even a devoutly PC person can get in trouble with PCers if he or she is found guilty of some “subconscious microaggression” with no defense being possible. PC’s worst nightmare will soon be its president, and, despite my own abhorrence of Trump, I can’t help but smile.

I finally gave up any thought of voting for Clinton when I heard her vilify a cop who had shot a black man the day before. Clinton couldn’t have known that the shooting was unjustified, yet she chose to pronounce that cop guilty without a trial and by so doing, she supported others in insuring that the cop couldn’t get a fair trial, the PC assumption being that when a cop shoots a black person, the shooting constitutes proof that the cop is a racist who probably joined the force so he or she could have a license to murder minorities. I hold people like Clinton partially responsible for the rising hatred of police and for cops being shot dead while sitting their cars.

Although I’m more liberal than conservative, I hate liberal smugness, and Clinton was the poster child for it. When I picture of Trump, I picture anger and intimidation. When I picture of Clinton, I picture insincerity and smugness.

I don’t want Moslem immigrants coming here because Islam inspires oppression and violence. Where Islam exists, the rights of women, gays, and non-Moslems are scorned. I don’t even care how wonderful a given Moslem is, he or she belongs to a religion that opposes human rights, and the more children that person parents in America, the greater America’s risk of Islamic violence and oppression.

If, through our membership in NATO, America is going to risk nuclear war with Russia while protecting some little Eastern European country that most Americans can’t find on a map—assuming the’ve even heard of it—then the very least that our NATO partners can do is to pay the share they pledged to pay for NATO membership. Millions of Europeans detest America for its militarism, yet American militarism is the only thing standing between them and Russia, and what do we gain for protecting these parasites? I agree with George’s Washington statement in his Final Address (the speech he gave upon retiring from public life): “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…”

I agree with Trump that this country should come first, and I believe this means, for one thing, cutting off all foreign aid. If a person borrowed money to the point that he had no hope of ever repaying it, and he gave that money to poor people on the other side of the world while his own children were wearing rags, going without medical care, and sleeping under a leaking roof, I would consider that person an idiot, yet this is exactly what America does. I know we don’t do it simply because we care about the poor, but rather in order to buy the friendship of the leaders of the poor, but I say screw those leaders because if we minded our own business instead of trying to run the entire world to our satisfaction, we wouldn’t need their friendship.

I’m scared shitless to have Republicans running my country, but I would have felt unsafe if Clinton had won. When Peggy put the cats to bed last night at 1:00 a.m., she turned on the TV for a moment and saw that Trump had won. She went to bed but was too upset to sleep, so she got up at 3:00 and turned it on again in the hope that she had misunderstood. When she realized that Trump really had triumphed, she stayed up until 5:00 watching the election results and becoming ever more scared. Because what I would fear most—in the short-term—is nuclear war with Russia, I actually feel a little safer with Trump, at least in that regard. Why is that a country that is forever praising peace, forever saying that it is working for peace, and forever chastising others nations for going to war, is itself constantly at war? The ONLY president I would feel optimistic about would be one that got us out of these goddamned endless wars, each of which leaves us poorer and less safe than when we got into it. I’ve heard insanity defined as doing the same stupid thing with the magic expectation that it will yield a different result, and that pretty much defines America. A vote for either major candidate would have been a vote for war, and I can at least feel good that I didn’t vote for even more young Americans coming home lame or in body bags, their lives sacrificed for nothing.

Why Cats?

Because they have a mystique, won’t let humans define them, and each is world unto itself that is fascinating to observe.

Six weeks after getting our third cat, I am ready for a fourth if Peggy were agreeable, but she isn’t even happy about my fifty-seven volume library of cat books. I said to her, “Look here. You used to complain that I never spent money on myself. ‘Why don’t you ever treat yourself,’ you would say, so after 43-years of hearing this, I started collecting cats. Well, you put an end to that, so I started collecting books about cats, and now you say you don’t like that either!?”

In all fairness to Peggy, no matter what kind of a pet it is, one more than you already have seems like more trouble than “one more than you already have,” although I should think the opposite would be true. For example, getting a second dog years ago seemed like more than twice the work of having one dog, and getting a third cat seemed like more work than one half again the bother of two cats. As for my books about cats, Peggy wouldn’t complain if I hadn’t just filled twelve feet of shelf space with books by Margaret Deland and other Victorian era authors, leaving me with no space for my fifty-seven cat books. On the other hand, Peggy has been looking at puppies, and I figure one dog equals at least four cats. I also worry that the cats will be tre upset if Peggy brings home a dog. “Why don’t you get a parakeet?” I say, “The cats and I would love to have a parakeet.”

When Brewsky, our tabby man, was a kitten, the more I didn’t want him to do something, the more he wanted to do it. Having been a dog person and therefore been accustomed to my pet giving a rip about what I wanted, I concluded he was criminally insane. I also found his nightly yowling rampages unnerving, but his willfulness was my main problem, and it often inspired me to chase him through the house while waving my arms and cursing. Each such occasion would end with him looking out at me from under Peggy’s green leather recliner that she inherited from her Granny (and never uses) while I threatened him with dire consequences should he ever dare to do X again. A few minutes later, he would do X again, and I would reflect that it could be a long twenty years because I mistakenly imagined that his whole life would be the same way because I didn’t realize how dramatically kittens change when they become adults. Now, Brewsky tries hard to make himself agreeable, yet he’s so comfortable around me that he rolls over on his back and stretches his legs out when he wants to be petted. He’s also good with strangers, okay with having his toenails clipped, and loves his nightly brushings.

Scully is our shimmeringly gray muscle boy with GQ good looks. He’s also our most sensitive cat, which makes him prone to vomiting when he’s upset. Unlike Brewsky, he was a delightful kitten, but, at fifteen months, became shy. I thought to build his confidence by never petting him unless he clearly wanted it, but the more I did this, the more fragile he became, so two weeks ago, I took the opposite tact and started petting him even when he tried to get away. He has since become so self-confident that he
’s pushy at times. My growing comfort with cats has made me willing to experiment even if it means going against the advice of every book I own, which was the case with Ollie. I’ve also learned that cats are forgiving, so if they trust your love, you can be bolder than most people imagine, including people who love cats.

The worst thing about Ollie is that he is still nursing on Brewsky, so I finally bought some bitter spray and started putting it on Brewsky’s nipples yesterday. I had hoped it would discourage Ollie from nursing, but it has instead caused Brewsky to rabbit-kick Ollie whenever he tries to nurse. I would not mind him nursing nearly so much if he didn
’t slurp, and if Scully was not also starting to nurse. Such behavior usually occurs in cats who were taken away from their mothers too soon (Ollie and his siblings were found dumped on the side of a highway when they were still tiny). As for Scully, she had a secure childhood, so I think she’s just following Ollie’s lead.

Scully is just shy of six months of age, and I think of her as a saucy little wench who loves her two “uncles,” but wouldn
’t take any gruff from them even when she was a baby. What with her tuxedo markings, her autumn-leaf brown eyes, her white whiskers and feet, and her bold and intelligent expression, I’ll never have a more beautiful cat. Yesterday, I told Peggy that I have the good fortune to live with the two most beautiful females on earth. I look at Scully and marvel that she’s mine because it was only after we had had her for three months that Peggy confessed to not really meaning it when she agreed to let me get Scully. She was instead, she said, “calling my bluff” based upon her belief that I was just kidding about getting a third cat. Imagine her surprise when I took off like a shot when she agreed.

It’s true that when I turned around to blow her a kiss, I thought it odd that she was holding her head in her hands, but when I went back, she said she was fine, so once again I took off like a shot, only this time I didn’t look back. It turned out that I was but three minutes ahead of another person who wanted Scully (someone actually applied for Ollie before we did, but their application was rejected.) Thankfully, Peggy is now delighted to have Scully because Scully is a perpetual ray of sunshine. My only regret is that I can’t stop her from turning into a grown cat. I would even like to get a new kitten every year because kittens are a like a shot of joy both to grown people and to grown cats.

I don’t know how many people know this, but girl cats aren’t supposed to be as loving as boys. One of our first experiences with Brewsky was taking him to the vet for a check-up, and hearing the vet’s assistant say that she was glad we got a boy because boys are more mellow and affectionate. I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed by other people, but I can’t tell thus far. I just know that I wouldn’t trade Scully for all the boy cats on earth. Besides, Peggy wouldn’t want three-thousand-million boy cats—give or take a few.

Who Would You Vote For?

Here are the first 23 words for each that I just now associated as fast as I could with our two leading candidates. Only Clinton inspired any positives, but I won’t be voting for her. So who will I vote for? Jill Stein, the Green candidate, who, if she’s lucky, will get 3% of the vote. 

Oregon’s numerous Democrats assure me that a vote for anyone but Clinton is a vote for Trump, but a person can only hold his nose so long, and I’m going to let go. Why is it that we have no candidate who both has a chance of winning and is wise, strong, rational, and seems like a real flesh-and-blood person instead of these masked nightmares who think that violence is the answer? When I look into the hearts of Trump and Clinton, all I see looking back at me are demons with blood on their hands. We, the American people, limit our presidential choices to candidates who are going to drive us over a cliff because a cliff is where our values are taking us.

Words that I associate with Trump:

Pander, Cheat, Arrogant, Violent, Cruel, Tax Evader, Bully, Vengeful, Bankruptcy, Sexual Assault, Torture, Liar, Fool, Scornful, Ignorant, Greed, Intolerant, Thin Skin, Vicious, Narcissist, Mocker, Unintelligent, Embarrassing.

Now for Clinton:

Smug, Two-Faced, Shouter, Liar, Greed, Cover-Up, Unkind, Unimaginative, Lacks Unifying Vision, Reckless, War Monger, Experienced, Strong, Persistent, Arrogant, Manipulative, Contemptuous, Bill’s Bulldog, Spiritually Hideous, Hidden, Empty, Frightening, Murderer.