Saturday, July 6, 2019


I won't say that Cooper and Maynard have become instant friends.  Our shop cats come home with us for "hurricanes and holidays" as I jokingly tell anybody who asks at the store.  In other words, the only times they come home with us is when the store is closed for a holiday or if there's a significant enough weather event that I'm not comfortable leaving them to their own devices at the store.  

So the shop cats haven't really had a lot of time to bond with our cats at home.  Cooper wants to be friends with everybody, so he runs right up to Maynard and tries to make friends with him, and sometimes that's successful, and sometimes it's not.  There have been a few times when we've witnessed Maynard running around after Cooper, chasing him around the house.  That's when we know that things are cool between them, at least until the next visit home and a whole new adjustment period starts.  

So on July 4th, when Sean was making dinner and I was on the computer placing an online order, my blood ran cold (again) when Sean gravely spoke those seven scary words:  "We need to do a head count."  

Our back door had been sticking ever since we had the house power-washed earlier in the week, and apparently one of us hadn't closed the door all the way when we came into the house.  It was open just a crack, but at that point we didn't know if anyone had noticed.  

I immediately ran through the house looking for places that I knew Cooper hangs out, counting off cats as I went.  Zelda: check. Lionel: check.  Stella: check. Coco: check.  Still no sign of Cooper or Maynard.  

Then, I looked out of our bedroom window and saw a brown lump (which is what he looked like without my glasses) sitting on our grass behind our outside chairs.  It seemed to be eating something.  I told Sean Cooper was in our back yard.  Sean (who is always the cat whisperer in these situations), went out the back door to collect him...

...where he ran smack into Maynard, who was outside the door wanting to be let back in.  (Maynard, at least, knows where his kibble is buttered...)  

All I saw from this was Maynard running through the kitchen door back into the house, eyes wide and startled:  "It wasn't my idea!  Coopie made me do it!"

Sean came in a few minutes later with Cooper in tow.  He had been outside munching on some grass and surveying our house from the back yard.  I think he must have assumed that Sean was coming out to enjoy this glorious day with him, but he didn't protest when Sean picked him up and carried him back into the house.  

For most of the rest of the evening, Cooper spent a bunch of time sniffing the back door and flopping on his back, trying to gain the leverage to open the (now locked) door again.  The poor cat had so much fun out there that he was ready to do it again.  Maynard, not so much.  

While we're glad Cooper has a new "partner in crime," we really hope they choose to do only inside jobs from now on...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the Zone

There are a few souls on earth who you can literally witness being "in the zone."  Michael Jordan going up for a dunk, tongue hanging out of one side of his mouth in concentration.  Melissa McCarthy nailing her impersonation of Sean Spicer on SNL.  An energetic Australian Shepherd happily being put through the paces of an agility course.  

I got to witness that with one of our cats yesterday.  A bit of background first:  Maynard was a rescue from a local shelter.  According to his paperwork, he was relinquished at the shelter because a couple had a kid and they said he was "stalking the baby."  First of all, don't even get me started on giving up a pet because you birthed a child.  But second of all, "stalking the baby?!"  How do you even DO that?  Babies don't exactly move around a lot.  But I digress.  

Maynard, ever since we brought him to live with us at the store, obviously adores kids.  He has a little perch at the front of the store and many an afternoon will be spent watching the people go by.  When a child comes by, he sits up a little straighter and mews a little more plaintively.  One day, a lady who works in one of the businesses in our shopping center brought her two small children to our door after hours.  I was counting the till when I heard the high-pitched squealing from the kids and the unmistakable sound of Maynard trying to make a new friend through the door.  He just keeps asking questions over and over:  "wanna come in and play?  I have a great koosh we could play with!"  I walked over to see what was going on and motioned to the mom that I could let them in if the kids wanted to pet him.  She smiled and shook her head.  I didn't know if she thought she was bothering me or if she really couldn't let her kids pet him, so I offered again, in mime:  "are you sure?"  She declined again.  

I was a little sad about that.  I knew Maynard really wanted to play with those kids.  Next to his koosh, his people, his treats and his food, kids are his favorite thing in the world.

So yesterday, when a very large family with at least five kids (I lost count) approached the door to the store with Maynard front and center on the door mat, I held my breath for a second.  Would he be frightened?  Would he try to run out?  It was uncharted territory, and I didn't know what to expect.  

The kids came rolling in with their parents like a human tsunami and surrounded Maynard, who flopped on the floor.  For a second, the wave engulfed him, and I couldn't see him anymore, so I moved to get a better look, and/or maybe to rescue him.  At least seven hands had reached in from all sides to pet his small body, and Maynard floated among them on Cloud Nine.  I could feel a shiver going up my spine as I watched.  I've seen friendly dogs overwhelmed by less than that.  Never have I seen a cat being subjected to that kind of attention and not just tolerating it, but reveling in it--loving every second of it. 

Clearly, Maynard was in his zone, and it was a beautiful sight to behold.  

The petting continued for several minutes, then someone noticed Stella and off they went to pet her as well.  Stella was friendly, but a bit more cautious in the face of so many small admirers.  She reacted more like I would have expected a cat to react.  

After the store was empty of kids again, I pet Maynard generously, thanking him for being such a good kitty and friend to those kids.  Maynard seemed wistful, but seemed to pragmatically accept that his happiness with those kids would be fleeting.  I've never regretted Sean and my decision to be child-free until that moment.  Yes, it's a silly reason to wish you had kids, and it literally only lasted a few seconds, but if you'd seen how happy those moments made Maynard, I'm sure you'd understand.  

It made me really sad to think that Maynard could have been part of a family with kids, if only the parents hadn't been so short-sighted and fearful.  Maynard could have been the best friend and loyal companion of a little girl or boy, joining in with them in all their playtime and snacks, always looking forward to the next great adventure with his small human.  

But then I remembered that if Maynard had stayed with that family, he wouldn't have been able to be a part of our lives, and I realized that I secretly and selfishly preferred that it worked out the way it did.  At least this way, he gets to see kids sometimes, and he gets a lot of love and attention from all the adults who work at our store, and come by the store to visit--sometimes just to see them.  Sometimes Ashley, who works at the store, even brings her kids after her shift.  

Memo to self: figure out a plan to get more kids through the door...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Love Bites and Cuddle-Pouches

Six kitties again.  It feels weird to say that, but it's true.  It doesn't feel that way all the time because we have four at home and two at the store, but we definitely have six kitties again.  And every one of them have different ways of showing their love.  

I started this blog post on the 3-year anniversary of the day we had to let Wanda go.  I say this only because Otto and Wanda were kind of the gold standard of demonstrating love.  Wanda was known to stare lovingly into our eyes for minutes at a time (unusual for a cat), and she would do what we called the "pucker," where she would seem to mimic an air kiss.  You never had to wonder if Wanda loved you or not.  Otto showed his love by wanting to be right by your side every minute (and by "your," I mean "Sean's").  Otto loved Sean so intensely and exclusively that he would go into a deep depression if Sean had to go out of town for a few days and Otto got stuck at the house with just me.  Otto loved me, of course, but he ADORED Sean, and it was obvious where his primary affection was directed.

So the week I started this post demonstrated a wide variety of examples of our buddies' feelings for us, both wonderful and misguided.  

For example, Lionel decided to fight back against Coco for once.  Just that one time, he decided to stand his ground and hiss at Coco from the top of the bed, while Coco dejectedly slunk off to pout in the living room.  Lionel had had enough of being muscled off the bed and he was going to snuggle with me, by golly!  

I probably should have gone after her and comforted her, because Coco retaliated the next day by pooping on the bed, right where I sleep.  I wish I were lying.  We didn't find it until it was almost bedtime, so it put off sleeping for another few hours while we washed sheets and the mattress pad.  I think it's not going too far to quote Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction when I say that Coco "will not be ignored."  Lesson learned.

Zelda shows her affection by sitting on the patio table with us while we eat, purring happily and blinking slowly at us.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but you'd have to know her to get it.  She's been showing her love for Sean lately by supervising all of his work in his office.  She's become a daily presence there, doing nothing but enjoying his company while he works and providing welcome stress relief.

Cooper, for his part, suddenly decided one day last month that he needed to be a cuddle-pants for ten minutes or so right as I was heading off to work.  He head-bunted and rubbed his cheek against mine, jumped on my shoulder and chewed on my hair.  Cooper is usually a bit of a quicksilver in the love department.  He'll jump on my computer keyboard for a brief hit of cuddle, then off he goes to play again for a while.  On that day, it was like he couldn't get enough.  Purring loudly, grinning widely, he just kept up the contact until I was covered in his fur and had to go wash my face.  I might have been a little frantic getting the store open that day since I got there a little later than usual, but it was totally worth it.  

Stella was able to demonstrate her love recently when we took her to the vet a few weeks ago.  I had been dreading the eventuality of having to do that, because Stella is a Tortoiseshell/Calico (or "Tortico," as I like to call her), and sometimes she can get a tiny bit "attitudinal."  Not so for this vet visit.  She was the very model of a perfectly behaved, perfectly sane, adorable fuzz-bug.  She acted completely relaxed the whole time, even when they had to take her to the back to do a procedure that probably wasn't comfortable.  When she wasn't in the back, she sat listening to the vet with a look that said, "oh, I understand.  Oh, that completely makes sense.  NOW I get why that happened..."  It was an adorable and beautiful sight to behold, and everyone fell in love with her.  On the way home, we encountered some traffic and I had to (not so gently) use my brakes a few times, but she just gazed at me through the holes in the carrier with a look of utter confidence.  

I tell you this story because Stella and I reached a new level of understanding that day.  It was like she was telling me she completely trusted me.  Maybe going for a 20-minute-one-way car-ride wasn't her idea of a perfect Saturday morning, but she trusted that I had a good reason for it and that I wouldn't let her come to any harm.  That spoke volumes to me and made my heart swell with love and affection for her.  She's a smart girl, and a beautiful girl, but she's also a brave, trusting and loving girl as well.  We kind of hit the jackpot with her.

And Maynard.  What can I say about him?  All you'd have to do is hear his sweet, trilling, question-asking voice to know that he tells us all the time he loves us.  I think the part where he runs to the door every time we come back from being gone somewhere, even for five minutes, and flops on the ground trilling repeatedly at our feet ("you've been gone so long!  I thought you would never get back!"), might be a giveaway as well.  He plays incessantly with his little koosh ball (more about that later) and brings it to us and drops it in our hands to throw it again.  "More please!"  He just completely trusts that we will keep doing this for him as long as he wants to.  He's also gotten a little over-excited lately and taken to biting me on the feet if he smells something that sets him off.  Our vet calls it "territorial biting," so I guess that's the misguided part of his affection.  It hasn't happened very often, and it's a trifle disconcerting when it does, but it's balanced out by way more positive forms of affection.

Right now, he's cuddled in the pouch we bought for him so I wouldn't have to scootch him off my lap every time he wants to snuggle and a customer comes in the door.  I called Sean tonight and whispered to him I was being "held hostage."  He knows me well enough to know that what I meant was I had tried hours ago to leave, but Maynard needed some cuddle time and I couldn't bring myself to deny him.  So here we sit, two hours after our store has closed, Maynard in a cute, sleepy little ball in my dinosaur pouch, me just trying hard not to disturb him too much.

Yep, I think this demonstration of love goes both ways.

Re-creation of Maynard's current cuddle-position

One of the first days he crawled into the pouch

Here's what it looks like in action

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Hurricane Florence Update

So, if you've been watching the path of Hurricane Florence, you probably already know that we are out of harm's way.  (I haven't had the heart to tell Cooper that, though.  He's going to be so disappointed.)  The storm made landfall significantly north of us and we haven't had so much as a hearty gust of wind so far.  The human portions of this family are concerned and fearful for the safety of all the humans and animals in the path of this monstrous storm, and aware of how lucky we are to have dodged it, while the feline members seem pretty oblivious.  

The big question on my mind right now is whether to bring our shop cats home with us for the evening tonight or not.  On the one hand, I don't want them there by themselves if the weather should take a nasty turn.  On the other hand, I don't want to confuse them by bringing them here and then taking them back to the store once it's passed, which, of course, would have to happen.  I don't think Stella would mind so much, but I'm afraid Maynard might wonder why he couldn't just stay with all the other fun kitties.  Oh, the conundrums you put yourself in when you're making decisions for little beings who can't weigh in with their thoughts, at least not all the time.  Perhaps this will turn out to be another cot-night slumber party at the store?  We'll see...

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Another Farewell, Another Introduction, Another Hurricane and Some Turf Wars...

...because we don't want you to get bored.  

So here goes:  we lost Ferris in June.  He'd been right as rain for ten months, then we found a little nodule on the side of his throat.  We biopsied it and discovered it was an extremely rare form of cancer.  We made plans for surgery to remove it, but Ferris didn't make it that long.  He stopped eating a few days after we made the appointment and when we rushed him to the emergency vet, it turned out he had so many life-threatening things going on at once that I don't even have the energy to go into all of it here, even two months later.  Suffice it to say it was a devastating blow to all of us, including the dozens of customers who looked forward to visiting the store for the express purpose of loving on that sweet boy.  

Rest in peace, dear Ferris.  You'll never fully know how much you were loved in just ten short months, but I hope you were able to feel it the whole time.  I think you did.  And that's all I can really say about that.  

I wrote a long eulogy for him that I had to send out as an email to all our customers letting them know what happened, and it took everything I had to write it.  It's also available on our Facebook page for our store if you're interested.  I just don't have it in me right now to go into that much detail again here.

We resisted getting another shop cat, but had constant requests from customers to please start looking.  We knew we could never "replace" Ferris, because life just doesn't work that way.  Ferris was one of a kind, and there was no chance of replacing him.  We did hope to find a couple of beautiful beings who could bring life and a special spark to the store in their own right.  As it turned out, these two cuties pretty much picked us:

Maynard (named for Maynard Krebs from Dobie Gillis)

Maynard picked me by jumping in my lap while I was interacting with another cat, and Stella picked Sean by following him around the cat room insisting on attention while he tried to meet all the cats.  And that, pretty much, was that.

They're truly awesome cats.  It turns out that Maynard is something called a Japanese Bobtail, which we'd never heard of before we adopted him.  A friend visiting the store was nice enough to let us know that's what he is, and when we looked it up, he fit the description perfectly.  (I may not have mentioned that Maynard has no tail.)  Stella, for her part, has that remarkable dual-sided facial marking that is not only striking, it's just beautiful on her.  Both cats are outgoing, friendly, laid-back, and seem perfectly suited for store-living.  Stella has discovered an addiction to watching birds on our television, and Maynard thinks chasing bouncy balls down our "bowling-alley-shaped" store is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Stella favors holding court on a big stack of safflower seed while Maynard likes to give me a heart attack by doing zoomies towards the front of the store just as a customer is walking in.  We're all keeping a sharp eye on him right now because The Outside is an enticing place to be, and we'd rather him not pull a Cooper on us.

Because I've never hesitated to let my crazy flag fly before on this blog, I may as well mention that I bought a security/cat-cam system for the store.  And a cot.  I just figured that I might want to keep tabs on how they're doing when I can't be there, since this pair sleeps at the store at night.  And one night, so did I.  

It was a holiday eve (Labor Day) and I couldn't stand the fact that they'd be by themselves so much on Monday, so Sunday night I slept with them on the cot I bought.  Maynard was a champion under-the-covers snuggler.  He jumped right up on the cot and was under the covers before I'd even changed into my jammies.  And he made contact with me under the covers with his paw or head all night long.  Stella joined in around 3:45am, but she snuggled near my head.  

Best. Slumber party.  EVER.

The good news (?!?) is that we may get a lot more chances to snuggle.  (Okay, that was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell.  This is the Hurricane part.)  

So...Florence.  Yay.  We're looking at landfall (and potentially another direct hit, this time from a strong Cat 4 instead of a Cat 1) inside of a week. I've already made reservations inland.  Two rooms, which we'll really need to have with four home cats and two shop cats.  Cooper is already looking forward to his vacation and I think I've caught him trying to pack our bags with some toys.  You have to appreciate his verve.  Zelda didn't love our forced Hurricane Matthew vacation last time, but she didn't flip out either.

Coco and Lionel might be another story.  The two of them have been having "turf wars" lately, and I seem to be the turf.  Coco has claimed me in the name of the Queen (also Coco), and by default has also claimed our bed and most of the bedroom.  Lionel, who sleeps on a tall standing jewelry box in the corner, has been attacked now on countless occasions when he has had the audacity to try to get on the bed to get some attention.  Coco even guards him from the floor when he's on top of the jewelry box, silently daring him to jump down and meet her challenge.  It's a bit intimidating actually.  And it will be interesting to see how the dynamics change when the entire venue of the "turf" gets turned upside down.

So, there you have it.  Not much going on around here...nope.  Just another crazy day in paradise.  
Rest in Peace, Sweet Ferris.  We'll always love you.

Friday, February 23, 2018


You know those "staycations" people are always taking?  The ones where they stay home and either get a bunch of stuff done that they don't have time to do during their regular lives or else they have fun--reading and watching TV and playing tourist in their own town?  I've been having one of those the last week and a half, but not because I have time to take a vacation.  I'm having one because I just had a fairly major surgery, and I'm not allowed to go back to work for two weeks.  I'm re-Cooper-ating.

Consequently, I've been doing some reading.  Okay, a LOT of reading, and watching a smattering of TV.  

But mostly, I've been protecting my belly area from cat high jinks.  I've discovered that a decorative pillow works nicely, and Sean was kind enough to buy me one of those trays people use for breakfast in bed.  I tried it one night, and Cooper just saw it as a challenge.  "How can I get under this thing...I know!  I'll dig through her pajamas!"

One of the many things I've learned from my first surgery is that Murphy's Law says if a lizard can somehow make it in to the house from the screened-in porch--in February--it will.  And both Cooper and Lionel will decide to trap it behind the television console.  And I--not two days out from being sawed upon and rooted-around-in to remove an organ--will have to crawl on my hands and knees to rescue said lizard from said pursuers.  I will even have to transport a cat off the porch once one of them (no names) (okay, Cooper) grabs the lizard in his mouth and runs back out to the porch to play with it there.  (I'm pretty sure Cooper weighs less than a milk jug, right?)

The good news is that the lizard probably lived to fight another day.  I got him outside at least.  And Cooper didn't end up having the allergic reaction that he normally does after such an endeavor.  So, along with not having ripped out my stitches in the effort, all was well that ended well.

The rest of the belly-protecting has just involved making sure that when Lionel jumps on me to ask for some loving, he's doing it with a significant layer between me and his very pointy feet.  So far, that's been manageable.  And when he has a pillow between him and me, it's even been enjoyable.  Boy, can that cat ever give kisses:
And even Cooper, who's not really a cuddler on a regular basis, has offered his nursing services:
I'm so lucky to have such doting attention while I re-Cooper-ate.