Archive for the ‘Bear’ Category

Old Yeller

The caretaker has discovered many distinct advantages to growing old. No one expects an old lady to wear high heels or uncomfortable clothes. No one expects an old lady to run a marathon or climb Mount Kilimanjaro or help a friend move. In fact, an old lady is considered quite capable if she can keep her cats’ litter boxes clean, their water bowls filled, and their plates covered with gushy food three or four times a day. If she does her own laundry and shopping, dusts occasionally, and mows her lawn once a week, she is the object of amazement. Nobody thinks twice when she sits down to rest more often than she used to do. And if an old lady speaks her mind, even forcefully from time to time, nobody raises an eyebrow, at least not within her failing eyesight. Those who truly know her recognize that she, having passed through fire and death, has earned the right to take no guff and give no quarter.

Thus it is with elderly cats such as our own dear Bear. Her Majesty sleeps when she will, where she will, for as long as she will. She makes no attempt to move any more than is absolutely necessary to take care of business. And since her primary business is to partake of nourishment, food is the subject on which she forcefully speaks her mind at least three or four times a day. The caretaker has little need of an alarm clock in the mornings, for its gentle tones are often drowned out by the high-pitched meow-yelling that continues until the plate touches the floor. The same meow-yell greets the caretaker when she arrives home from work. If by chance she tries to do a pre-emptive strike and serve the bedtime meal early, there is yelling because the food is not the right kind or or the right color or because the air has touched it or because Buddy looked at it first. For the old lady Bear, there is always a reason to yell. Thus she has earned the nickname “Old Yeller.”

But sometimes, sometimes, the caretaker gets it right and the yelling gives way to peace. One such time is pictured below. Bear had strategically stationed herself on the ottoman near the kitchen door and began yelling as soon as the caretaker began cooking her own dinner. But she fell silent when the caretaker plopped a smidgen of salmon in a small bowl and presented it to Her Majesty, the Queen of all Seafood and Sovereign of Barnyard Fowl. Feeling no need to rise from her throne, Bear scarfed down the tasty morsel and then requested removal of the bowl so that she could drift off into sweet slumber on a soft surface. For both Bear and the caretaker, a nap is always in order after a snack. After all, each must keep up her strength if she is to fly with her own wings.




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Though Stratford Palace is a mostly serene dwelling (save for vet visits or those hollerdays involving fireworks), it has its own peculiar struggles from time to time. One dare not label them as “life-or-death” because no cats or caretakers are ever harmed in such contretemps. Rather, these struggles are more along the lines of “comfort-or-serious-lack-thereof.” Last night one of those struggles played out between two unlikely combatants: Bear and the caretaker.

Almost every evening, the caretaker stays up long past the hour that Bear would consider a proper bedtime. Truth be told, Bear is amenable to falling asleep at virtually any hour, but there comes a time shortly after dark has fallen that she leaves the caretaker and Buddy to watch the big light-box, and pads down the hallway to the caretaker’s bedroom. Someone, after all, has to be sensible in this household, and that lot falls to Bear more often than the caretaker would like to admit.

Bear in Bed

Bear in Bed

At this point, it is important for our gentle readers to know that Stratford Palace has three bedrooms, as well as multiple cat beds in the living room and dining room, not to mention a blanket-filled box in the hallway. But when darkness falls, Bear deliberately passes up these congenial spots in order to make a cozy nest in the exact center of the caretaker’s bed. Normally, when the caretaker is ready to retire for the evening, she goes to the kitchen and opens a can of gushy fish or fowl, and before the food hits the plate, Bear is underfoot, meowing impatiently. The caretaker then completes her evening ablutions and goes to bed, while Bear assumes her post in the hallway box and waits for the caretaker to fall asleep before sneaking back up onto the bed for the rest of the night.

But last night, there was no waiting. There was no sneaking. There were only the wily machinations of a gifted strategist: Bear. Last night, Bear wolfed down her food and practically ran all the way back to the bed, plopping down smack-dab in the middle of it. Thinking that this was any normal evening, the caretaker completed her ablutions and headed to her room.  But when she arrived, she found an unwelcome surprise. There lay Bear, leaving no room for the caretaker either to the left or the right. To add to the misery, Buddy took that moment to claim a spot at the foot of the bed.

At this point, it is important for our gentle readers to know that all of the beds in Stratford Palace are twin beds or smaller. Despite the presence of royalty in the palace, there is neither queen bed nor king bed. So when a twin bed is already populated by one 12-pound cat and one 14-pound cat, both lying parallel to the sides of the bed, there is not enough square footage left for a small child, much less a large caretaker. Attempts to relocate Bear slightly to the west were met with stubborn resistance. Subsequent attempts to settle down on the east side of Bear without hanging precariously off the side of the bed were also met with failure. With a sigh, the caretaker realized that she had been outfoxed.

If there is, indeed, no rest for the wicked, the only logical conclusion is that Bear is a veritable saint. The caretaker, on the other hand, should probably seek out a confessor as soon as possible.


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Kale No

We will begin by asking our gentle readers’ forgiveness for the caretaker’s extended absence as an amanuensis. But anyone who has been at all irritated by the lack of communication will have to get in line behind the cats, who have had quite enough of the caretaker’s recent shenanigans, which include inviting extra visitors, including a little boy whose presence requires constant monitoring by the king, and trips to the hopsital (as it is pronounced by the little boy), at one point for days on end.

Then, just as  life at Stratford Palace had finally returned to its normal routine, the caretaker decided that she should pursue something called “gud health.” The cats dared not hope that this goal would include unlimited duck paté or tuna for them, but they were not prepared for the disappointments connected with the caretaker’s quest.

For one, the caretaker spends much less time making a lap for Buddy or Bear and much more time up “doing things,” as though constant activity were a virtue. (The cats shuddered at the very idea, and then they rolled over and went back to sleep.) A few weeks ago, she assembled a large metal contraption and immediately began to spend time almost every day exercising on it. That first night when she was building the machine was pleasant enough for Buddy because boxes were strewn all over the living room floor. But then she committed an unforgivable sin: she discarded all the boxes. As punishment, Buddy will now walk dangerously close to the front of the exercise machine, knowing that she will take pity and stop until he has moved on. This situation is a win-win for him because it will either keep her from taking part in her new pastime or if he should get bumped by the steady motion of the gliders, she will give him sympathy tuna for days.

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment: the box

But that has not been the only change around the palace. The caretaker now spends much more time outside, walking up and down the yard pushing an annoyingly loud machine, digging in the dirt, cutting hedges, and generally embarrassing the socks off the cats by letting herself be seen outside in such a state. The glory of being outside is completely wasted unless one is lounging in the sunlight, alternately snoozing and watching the scenery.

The last straw in this journey toward health has been the changes in the caretaker’s diet. The cats have been forced to endure the stench that is raised by cooking such vile foods as cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and most recently, kale. Buddy used to stand watch over the caretaker’s plate while she ate so that he could scarf up the meat crumbs when she was finished, but he has abandoned that task as being no longer worth his while. Tonight as she was bringing her plate out of the kitchen, a morsel fell to the floor, and before Buddy could catch himself, he had instinctively rushed to pounce on it. Upon finding that it was only a bit of kale, his disappointment was almost palpable. He spat out the offensive greenery and slunk away to brood. That’s when he remembered that all the boxes were gone, and thus there was no available location for a proper brood-fest. And yet, there was no shortage of kale.

And then it seemed to him that there is no justice in the world.

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It was bound to happen sooner or later, but this morning at around 10:03, Stratford Palace entered an alternate universe. Until this very day, our Saturdays have included grooming rituals that go something like this:

  1. The caretaker locates the basket of cat grooming equipment and extracts the super duper fur comb-ma-bob-thingy.
  2. The caretaker locates Bear and shows her the fur comb.
  3. Bear, who loves grooming time, proceeds immediately to the ottoman and jumps up on it.
  4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and begins combing through Bear’s lovely coat.
  5. Buddy wanders in and finds a strategic spot from which to watch Bear being groomed.
  6. If the caretaker gets anywhere near Buddy with the fur comb, his fight or flight instincts take over and he either bats wildly at the comb or runs away.

But on this memorable morning, exactly nothing past Step 2 happened in the usual fashion. We pick up with the alternate Step 3.

3. Bear, who usually loves grooming time, ignores the caretaker.

4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and beckons again, to no avail.

5. Buddy wanders in and hops on the ottoman.

6. The caretaker combs through Buddy’s fur without incident.

We offer this explanation as a sort of public service announcement to our gentle readers who may have felt a slight tremor, or some other disturbance in the force, at the time of our entry into the alternate universe. It is our goal to return to you as soon as possible, but one does not always have control over such things. Our only hope is that this does not signal the end of the world as we know it. Heaven knows, Buddy heralds that event often enough.


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Finicky Squared

The food wars at Stratford Palace have reached epic proportions. One might think that with Bear’s being pleasantly plump (some might say “rotund”) and Buddy’s being stocky (some might say “chunky”), that no food would remain eschewed and that all would instead be chewed. If one did think thus, one would be wrong. Terribly wrong.

The caretaker has for years devoted her shopping life to finding the Perfect Cat Food, only to realize that with Buddy and Bear, no such food exists (nor do perfect cats, but that’s another post entirely). That morsel which is scarfed up one day is on another day rejected with disgust. For a while, Bear ate turkey pate with gusto. Then one day the caretaker set a plate of the usual brand of turkey pate in front of her, and she turned up her nose and refused to eat it. Two subsequent tries were similarly rebuffed. So the caretaker stopped buying turkey and decided to try beef (which had on previous occasions nauseated the cats). But after years of beeflessness, the cats chowed down on it as though they had been lost in the Andes for several days. And then one day, the caretaker re-introduced turkey, and for one brief moment it became ambrosia, only to fall out of favor yet again.

Last weekend, the caretaker splurged on several grain-free dainties such as duck pate, beef and herring, and tuna with salmon. The first can of duck was received as though the heavens had parted and a duck-filled cat bowl had descended from on high. By the third can, Bear was bored and began calling it “Duck and cover” before walking away to pout. The other delicacies have also received mixed reviews. So in response to all of those cutesy names for cat food, the caretaker has developed a few choice names of her own, based on the cats’ reactions:

  • “Chick-indigestion”
  • “Tu-Not”
  • “Duck, Duck, Goose”
  • “Salmon-ella”
  • “Red Herring”
  • “Straw in the Turkey”
  • “Beef Unwellington”

Lest our gentle readers be worried that the cats will waste away to nothing, we haste to add that every third meal is eaten in its entirety, to the point that the plate appears to have been Hoovered. The fine silhouettes pictured below have not yet turned to skin and bone, nor are they likely to.

Bon appetit! Or not.




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On the Road Again

Today was the day the caretaker has been dreading for months: the annual vet visit x 2. Even though the cats seem quite healthy, the law requires that they be vaccinated against rabies, in the event that the house is overrun by rats, bats, or gnats that are foaming at the mouth. And so to be in compliance with the law, the caretaker called the vet’s office way back in July to make two appointments. When she asked that they be two hours apart, the chirpy clerk asked, “Don’t you want to bring them both in at the same time and save yourself a trip?”

The caretaker chuckled and replied, “I’ve done many crazy things in my lifetime and will do so in the future, but I can honestly say that what you are suggesting will never be one of them.” Little did the chirpy clerk know of the harrowing time when Buddy escaped from his carrier outside another vet’s office and had to be coaxed out from under the car. Or the two times when he bolted out of the examining room door and had to be hunted down in the vet’s office in a scene straight out of Jumanji.

But this morning at the appointed hour, the caretaker readied the carrier and resigned herself to the monumental task of securing Buddy for the trip. He did not acquiesce easily. Indeed, he did not acquiesce at all. The initial attempt resulted in a one-inch gash on the caretaker’s wrist, followed quickly by the frantic loping of a black and white blur through the house. The second attempt was accidentally successful. Instead of trying to put him into the carrier head-first, the caretaker stood the box on end and tried to lower him into it tail first, as he wriggled and protested vehemently. After a few tense minutes (or possibly years), the caretaker lost her hold on him, and he jumped…..straight into the box, upon which the caretaker quickly slammed and locked the door. Mission accomplished, the caretaker began to tend her additional wounds and heaved a sigh of relief. No arteries seemed to be damaged, and whatever else might happen in the next 45 minutes, she would not have to manage the Tasmanian Devil again by herself. She would have the help of a whole staff of vet techs.

The car ride was filled with the sounds of tires on a rainy street, cheery tunes on the radio, and the fierce yowling of a caged beast. He continued his caterwauling in the waiting room, while a polite little girl looked on with interest. She asked the caretaker what his name was, and she inched forward as though to comfort him. The caretaker pronounced his given name, and quickly told the child that she could look at him but she shouldn’t put her hands near him because he might hurt her. Thankfully, the child was obedient, but just at that time a vet tech came in an whisked the caretaker and the boxed cat into an examination room, for the safety of all concerned.

The very nice vet whisked in and said, “So this is Merlin Blacktail.” Yes, indeed, it is he in all his glory. A quick exam revealed that Buddy’s health is excellent. He was pronounced “chunky,” which he instantly took as a compliment. When the vet and the vet tech tried to return him to the box, he rebelled, so the caretaker wisely suggested that they back him in. With the cage door secured behind him, the caretaker drove him home in the rain, thankful that all had gone well with a minimum of bloodshed.

And now to the tale of the second patient. Bear had sensed all morning that she would be the next victim, so when the caretaker returned with Buddy, she found Bear pouting in her bed by the bathroom door. Normally Bear loves her weekly grooming, but today she refused to break her pout, so the caretaker was forced to sit in the hallway floor to groom the diva before her journey.

Mercifully, Bear was much easier to secure in the carrier than Buddy was. The extent of her protest was a slight balk upon being pushed through its door, followed by a subtle hiss when the door was closed. But then the car ride began, and true to form, Bear sang the song of her very oppressed people:

“Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww.”

The incessant, insistent, irritating sound dripped into the caretaker’s ears and began to eat through her brain, so she turned up the radio a bit, in hopes of distracting Bear. “Listen, Bear. It’s a happy Jesus song. You like happy Jesus songs. Listen to the happy Jesus song!”

But Bear was unimpressed by Jesus songs, happy or otherwise. Her mournful aria continued until the caretaker entered the waiting room again. For some reason, the polite little girl was still there, two hours later, and her face brightened when she saw the caretaker. She waved happily and asked, “Is that another cat?”

The caretaker smiled, waved, and answered, “Yes.”

“Is it a girl?”


“What’s the matter with her?”

“Oh, nothing. She isn’t sick. This is her annual checkup. These are the happy visits to the vet.”

The little girl smiled, and the caretaker congratulated herself on having a keen sense of irony.

But when all was said and done, this was a happy visit. A blood test revealed that Bear’s blood sugar is still under control and she therefore does not need to return to the regimen of daily insulin shots. Such news made the 10-minute drive home, with Bear’s song drowning out the happy Jesus songs, a little more pleasant than it might have been.

Upon returning home, the caretaker was haunted by one thought, and not just because today happens to be Halloween:

Only 365 days until we do this all over again.

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Gentle readers, Stratford Palace has been a most stressful place over the past few months, and none of its denizens has been more affected than its beloved monarch, His Royal Highness Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail, Emperor of the Front Lawn and Protector of the Storm Door. He feels responsible for the safety and well-being of his remaining subjects, especially after Unca Dan wandered off last year, and he appears to have let everyone down. His failures are recounted thusly:

  • He has lost all control over the caretaker. For the past few months, she has had many extra projects and often comes home late from work. Recently she packed a suitcase and was absent without leave for several days. In fact, if she were not so careful to ensure that the cats were always fed regularly, she would have been fired long ago and replaced with a much more amenable hooman. In fact, it is hard for him to imagine that there could be a less amenable one.
  • He has lost all control over Bear. She has recently been hauled away so often that he’s quite sure she is looking for another home. These adventures involve the caretaker shoving Bear unceremoniously into the little box and then taking her away in the big rolling metal box, whilst Buddy is left all alone in the palace. Then when his feline subject returns, she smells as though she has been in a place that houses dogs, and she’s frightfully grumpy and uncooperative.

(At this point, the caretaker must interject the observation that it is difficult to tell whether Buddy is more upset that Bear has been taken away or that she has been brought back. Nevertheless, an upset of some sort has occurred, so Buddy requests that you pity him for it.)

  • Besides all of these changes he has witnessed in his subjects, he has been forced to deal with excessive intrusion from the outside world. Some of these events the caretaker labels as “thunderstorms,” and some she calls “firewerks.” Buddy just prefers to lump them all into the category “The End of the World” and then to behave accordingly.

And so, gentle readers, the photo below indicates the state of Buddy’s current mental health. He is very often to be found under the cot in his throne room, usually out of sight, but sometimes venturing one eye out from under the bedspread to see if conditions in his world have improved yet.

Not taking appointments

His Royal High-Strung Majesty

Perhaps that one-eyed look of hope means Buddy believes all shall soon be well now that Bear’s daily shots have ceased and her trips to the vet will be less frequent. What he does not know is that the caretaker made an appointment this week for his annual checkup and vaccinations. Please, gentle readers, do not break this news to him just yet, as he may never recover his composure. And let’s face it, he never had much of that in the first place.

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