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Cats and dogs at the antique show.

Love the little Warhol vibe going on in this appliqued and embroidered cat pillow. I’m thinking early 20th century, but there’s something incredibly modern about them.

Had to get two pictures of this little guy. He was wonderfully lifelike, and had such a great expression on his face. I’m not, as I’ve said before, much of a collector, but if I’d had any money in my pockets, he would most definitely have come home with me.

You know that kids’ book, Everyone Poops? Well, I’m not so sure Nemo got the message. Either that or the book’s author never met our cat.

Here’s a strange little thing we’ve just noticed. Spinner the cat died a bit over a week ago. Nemo and Spinner always shared a litter box.  Second Child recently mentioned (before Spinner died) that she had never seen Nemo use the box, even though we’ve had her (Nemo, not Second Child) for six years.  Our cats are strictly indoor critters, as we live on a busy secondary highway (don’t worry–the dogs, who have invisible fencing, have the run of the big back yard).

And yet . . . the litter box has apparently not been visited since Spinner died 10 days ago.

Now, if indeed we have the world’s first zero-output cat, I’m fine with that.  This seems somewhat unlikely, though, and there’s no sign of any displaced litter. You’d think we might have noticed six years of accumulated deposits if she were, say, sneaking off to the back of a closet or a cozy space under the eaves. So we’re faced with the interesting question . . . where is she putting it?

As for Nemo?  She’s not saying.

[cross-posted to my other blog, floatingink]

Both of my dogs are hams. They were born ready for their closeups, they live for the spotlight, and they crave attention. Nemo the cat, too, loves to be where the people are, and has been in more than her share of photos.

Not so Spinner, who shuffled off her (9th) mortal coil late this morning. Spins was a cat of great dignity, poise, and composure. Up until a few days ago, she enjoyed the company of 2-legged creatures, but she seldom actively courted attention,. Even so, we often found that she had crept quietly onto the lap of a family member distracted by what they were reading or watching on television, and long after arthritis had begun to compromise her mobility, she would periodically surprise us by jumping up onto a bed or the couch so she could sleep near her people.

A rusty cinnamon-colored young cat when we adopted her through extremely formal channels (i.e., pulling up to the home of someone displaying a “FREE KITTENS” sign and knocking on the door), Spinner displayed her true colors, a rich deep black (with a tiny patch of white hairs over her breastbone) soon after she came home with us and began eating cat food–it seems that her previous (vegetarian–not that there’s anything wrong with that) owners had been feeding her a meatless diet. Mostly oatmeal.

Spinner came home with us to help us celebrate First Child’s 2nd birthday, and though she has been loving with all of us, she was His Cat, and she (and he) knew it. She earned her name within moments of arriving at our house, by hopping onto the treadle of my spinning wheel and riding up and down for a few turns. Though she never did that again, she was instantly christened Spinner, and the name stuck.

I hadn’t realized until today that Spinner was far too civilized and self-contained to court or even tolerate the paparazzi. In my thousands of photos, there is not one good photo of Spinner. Perhaps it will do to post here three images of this lovely but disappearing cat that I painted last spring as an art assignment.

Spinner died this morning at the ripe old kitty age of 18, having lived her years fully and happily, being completely herself at every moment. In the words of the gatha, let me respectfully remind you that life and death are of supreme importance . . . do not squander your life.

Blog surfing the other day took me to a wonderful site, Les Petits Bonhers de Miss T, having mostly to do with beautiful sewing and embroidery projects. For many of these she provides instructions and charts. And, it’s not like I’m looking for stuff to do, but I may have to dig out the old embroidery needles and some black and tan floss for these babies:

Being partial to airedales, I think one more stitch under the noses and a few black stitches along the back would turn them into wonderful ‘dales. Searching Miss T’s site, though, will turn up all kinds of wonderful things–scotty dogs, reindeer, teapots, even a few rather decorative toilets.

Besides, Miss T fits perfectly into the cat person/dog person theme–my French is a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure the note she has written over the cross stitch chart says that she’s 100 times more cat person than dog person. As I know all too well, those can easily become the proverbial famous last words . . . look out, Miss T (and thanks for the kind permission to link to your blog).

We’ve passed through the 10 days that count as spring in New England–those 10 mild and balmy days between weather that still periodically dips into the lower 30s and weather that is suddenly close to 100 degrees. Though it’s hot and we’re all scrambling to get the window units into the few rooms that positively demand air conditioning, it’s also dramatically, lushly beautiful, verdant and alive with trees in full leaf and vines and magnificent flowers–azaleas and iris and that pinky-orange-flowering umbrella-like tree with the peeling bark that we don’t know what it is but we love.

And there are birds. Many, many birds. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of acres of yard that include a stream, a pond, vegetation of all heights and densities, making it a little paradise for the birds. We have water birds–ducks and Canada geese (who somehow DO seem to have gotten the memo requiring them to stay in our neighbor’s yard where we can see them and appreciate their handsome plumage and their impossibly cute and fuzzy goslings, but where we don’t have to deal with their soil enrichments), herons and red-winged blackbirds, hawks and osprey, barn swallows, and all manner of song-birds.

Here’s where it gets interesting, because it isn’t just the human residents here who appreciate the presence of the birds. Nemo, for instance, whom you haven’t met yet, spends hours sitting in the windowsill over our bed, keeping careful track of the comings and goings of a pair of purple finches who inhabit a tangle of leafy vines that crawl up the chimney on that side of the house. She chirps softly at them in a gentle way that means, “If it weren’t for this damned screen between us, you two would be toast.”

When we disturb her voyeuristic activities gentle birdwatching, she rewards us with a fond look that clearly says, “Do you not have anything better to do than bother me?”

We do, of course. Right now we are very busy protecting these:

Protecting them from Dinah and Crispin, who have discovered this wren’s nest just at their eye-level, tucked into the frame of the office window that looks out onto the porch. We were tickled when the wrens began to build their nest their, anticipating the joy of being able to see up-close the building of the charming nest, the tiny nestled eggs, and the hungry young babies as they hatched.

Okay, first we gave them an “F” in nest-building–I’m telling you, they just flung sticks at the windowsill and however they happened to fall was okay with them. Then, at about the same time that we discovered (through quick peeks every few days when the parent wrens were away) these 5 amazing little eggs (about dime-sized), the dogs also discovered them, and it fell to us to keep them from eating the eggs. Fortunately, the pack leader cleverly hit upon an arrangement of boards (left over from a building project)–that, propped at just the right angle, blocks both the dogs’ view of the nest and their access to it, but leaves plenty of room for mama wren (who figured it out quickly) to fly in and out.

Of course, the neighbors may call the planning and zoning commission–our remodeling isn’t exactly something you might see in House Beautiful–but we think it’s a small price to pay for the safety of our new tenants.

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite books was “A Cat Called Room 8,” the story of a cat adopted by an elementary school in Los Angeles (it might be more accurate to say “the story of a cat who adopted an elementary school in Los Angeles”). Room 8 hung out at the school for 15 years, and was given quite a splendid burial when he died in (I’m dating myself here) 1968. I’m pleased to say that Room 8 not only had his own book,

but that today, owing to his enduring fame, he has his own web site.

I bring this up here not because of the charming story the Room 8 children wrote about the cat, his care, his schedule, and his life, but because of something I remember being in the book (though, given the vagaries of time and my little gray cells, I may well have made this up).

I have a vivid memory of the book containing a glossary of Room 8’s vocabulary. The children realized that he signaled his mood and needs through his body language. If his tail was high, he was happy. If his tail swished, he was irritated. And so on.

I was enchanted. A cat lover even then, I was thrilled to have this guide, a veritable Rosetta stone to help the felinophiles among us to communicate with the objects of our adoration. Why, once I’d read this miraculous lexicon, Dr. Doolittle himself had nothing on me. The language of cats had been revealed to my 9 year old self, and I’ve been comfortable with them (and, mostly, they with me) ever since. My cat Nemo, for instance, flings herself to the ground and rolls on her back when I enter the room–she purrs and cavorts and, when I bend to pet her, rubs her face against my hand. Who could fail to understand that, in her language, she’s telling me she’s comfortable, she’s glad to see me, she trusts me–and, oh yeah–she has marked me as her own.

Then there are the dogs. When I pet them and rub their noses, they scrinch up their upper lips and show their teeth. Dinah makes the most amazing sound–but is she singing? Protesting? Begging for more? Or is she about to snap my hand off?

After six years with her, I know the answer (and I’ll post a video soon of the whole performance so you can see where I might have been confused), but, honestly–cats and dogs clearly speak different languages. Neither is better than the other, but to those of us conditioned and tutored in the language of cats, it can really be confusing.

So now the cats are miffed that the dogs got their picture on the banner up above, and have demanded equal time, so I’ll introduce Spinner, the senior critter around here (Nemo’s younger–she can wait for her 15 minutes of fame). We got Spinner as a kitten, a birthday gift for our son’s second birthday. Darling little fluff ball she was.

Darling little fluff balls, though, especially long-haired darling little fluff balls, have a disconcerting way of turning into large, lumpy, geriatric cats. The 2 year old boy is now nearly 20 (and not a bit lumpy), but poor old Spins is deaf, blind, arthritic, and so averse to either grooming herself or letting us groom her that she’s become sort of a walking dreadlock. The mainstay of her diet is food formulated for elderly felines–my husband refers to it as “Friskies’ Decrepicat.” And yet, she is still much loved, and for all her creaking about, she’s still very much tuned in to us. In the daytime, she snoozes in the warm space behind the upstairs bathroom door. Late at night, though, she wants to be where the action is (which is to say, sitting with us on the couch watching TV).

Did I say she was the senior critter? Turns out she’s much older than even the oldest 2-legs in the house. Even though it was only 18 of our years ago that she came into our lives, she’s gotten a little bit ahead of us. A few days ago I was Googling for information about the care of geriatric cats, when I came across a link to the Real Age test for cats.

So I gamely filled out the questionnaire. What kind of food did she eat?

There was no box to check for “Decrepicat,” but I think I got the point across.

Did she ever go outdoors?

Are you kidding me?! There are COYOTES out there!

Did she have companionship?

Lots and lots.

Toys?

Yes, but she’s too old to play with them, though in her earlier days she was especially fond of paper grocery bags, taped end to end (with the bottoms removed) to make tunnels and mazes.

And so on. And at the end, the clever test spit back the result: Spinner is 100 years old. No, let’s be accurate–she’s 100.6 years old.

I wonder whether Medicare would pay her vet bills.