Saturday, March 8, 2014

It’s sure been a cold, cold winter

Saturday, March 08, 2014

I woke warm this morning for the first time in months.
Of course, I had my cat, Seasick Sam, licking my eyelids because he was hungry and I got up late from staying out too late.
The eye-licking is a new strategy for the elder cat, who has gone through a number of tricks to trick me out of bed when I sleep later than I should. Sometimes, he just falls on my face when he can find it. Whenever I cover my head to avoid him, he finds the air hole and shoves his face through it so I wake up breathing fur. This is more subtle stuff for the aging animal. In the past, he simply found my hear and let loose a blood-curling scream in it. The first time he did this years ago, I leaped out of bed looking for the banshees.
Sam got his seasick name later in life.
He was an outside cat that had laid siege to our front porch chairs until they were his chairs – at cat so dripping with odd sorts of liquid he always seemed on death’s door. But he tended to become the nanny of every new batch of kittens the neighborhood produced and kept them warm through winters such as the one we just bore, until they wandered off into their own lives. When the Jersey City animal control decided they wanted to scatter kittens around the city rather than actually do their jobs and collect them, we wound up with a batch of cats, some so sick they died within days, but not Charlie, who Sam adopted as his step son (and who has since replaced Sam in the front porch furniture, neutered and safe, although not willing to come indoors.)
For two years or so, Charlie was raised by Sam and by another neighborhood cat we called Crazy. Crazy got ill and we took him in, but not in time to save his life. At that point, the always apparently ill Sam took a turn for the worse and we thought he would die as well and we took him in – even though he dripped from every facial cavity so that he looked as if he was spinning webs.
His mouth and eyes were crusted with odd sores the vet was never able to complete cure when he brought him in.
Fixed finally, he refused to leave our kitchen. In fact, he refused to leave our kitchen table, until we brought in one of the padded lawn chairs, and for months, he lived on that in the kitchen – slowly recovering enough that the drooling and dripping ceased, and he looked a bit more civilized.
He was never unfriendly. At his worst, he wanted to stick his face in mind when we sat with him outside, purring like a kitchen, never fully realizing how disgusting this dripping was when encountered nose to nose.
Eventually, he discovered the rest of the house and abandoned the kitchen chair for more comfortable furniture elsewhere, but always arrived in the morning with the 6 a.m. alarm clock to remind me that he needed to be fed.
One day, he couldn’t walk straight. He kept falling down. We thought he’d had a stroke, and assumed he would soon die. The vet said it was some kind of ear infection that screwed up his balance, and we medicated the cat. But recovery was slow. Always seasick, he struggled to eat. But he soon discovered a way of walking without falling over; he leaned against walls as he walked. Eventually, he recovered even from this and because as regular as the alarm clock when it came to breakfast.
But over the last year or so, he has lost some of his vigor and his voice, and so has taken to new and equally effective strategies for rousting me out of bed in the morning. His tongue isn’t rough like many cats, but it is wet – and it gets me up as readily as his previously harsh voice.
And this on a day when I’m warm for the first time and I can sleep in late, and want to, and need to, but Sam being Sam won’t be denied, and so I am up and feeding him, just as I have the whole of the cold winter that that seems to fade around me – and once up, it is impossible to recover the warm mood I had before the wet lick.
Coffee anyone?

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