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There are times when the caretaker has a positively brilliant idea, such as setting up a monthly subscription for cat food delivery. And then there are other times. The Disco Tent falls into the category of “other times.” It seemed like such a good idea at the outset. The caretaker had been brainstorming ideas to keep the floor in the cats’ room from looking like the bottom of a snow globe (that is if the snow globe were filled with litter instead of dainty pieces of faux snow). She had seem some expensive pieces of furniture called “hidden litter boxes” with holes into which cats are supposed to saunter, take care of their unsightly business, and then saunter out again, fresh as a daisy. But given the size, age, and temperament of both Buddy and Bear, the caretaker figured that such a plan would result in having to ring up the fire department to use the jaws of life to rescue one or more furry victims from the throes of claustrophobia.

No, there was no point in paying hundreds of dollars for a glorified cat trap, but a suitable alternative seemed to present itself in the form of a small plastic tent intended for children ages 1-6. The caretaker thought she could shove each litter box into a separate tent, so that as litter was kicked about, the sides of the tent would hold it in. To be safe, however, she decide to order only one tent to make sure the plan would work.

Limiting the order was the only good decision the caretaker made in this fiasco. When the tent arrived and was unfolded, it presented three major problems:

  1. The opening in the tent is not large enough for the litter box to gain easy entrance into and egress from the tent.
  2. Even if the litter box could be squeezed into and out of the tent door, the sides of the tent are made of a lovely, breathable mesh material that would provide smaller pieces of litter easy entrance into and egress from the tent.
  3. Although designed for children ages 1-6, the tent is roughly the size of Connecticut. Two of them would fit into the cats’ bedroom only if all other furniture were removed.

In other words, the tent put the caretaker back to square one with regard to litter spillage, while subtracting more than a square yard from her already limited floor space. Even in the kindest terms, this solution would be labeled a colossal failure.

But the caretaker, having spent twelve dollars and ninety-nine cents for this disaster and having no desire to ship it back, was determined to find a way for it to brighten up the household. So she wedged it into the spare bedroom, lined it with a blanket, and tossed in all of the cat toys she had found when she swept under the sofa, et voila, a playhouse. Two of the toys she retrieved are spheres made of pointed strips of multicolored mylar that catch the light and sparkle like a disco ball.

Thus the naissance of Disco Tent.

Although Disco Tent was righteously snubbed by both cats during the first eight hours of its existence at Stratford Palace, it finally became the subject of Buddy’s undauntable curiosity. He would run through its door, sniff the tent interior from east to west and north to south, and then fly out the door as though he had been ejected.  His curiosity, you see, was tempered with a keen distrust that the tent might suddenly transform into a cat carrier and whisk him away to the vet’s office. (Please note that the caretaker has not entirely discarded this option, given the difficulty of getting Buddy to the vet.)

Bear, however, remained oblivious to the tent’s charms for two more days. But Tuesday morning, the caretaker passed by the guest room door and caught a glimpse of Buddy standing beside the tent looking quite forlorn—utterly discontent, one might say. His head hung down, and his face wore an expression that made the caretaker want to weep and giggle at the same time.

“Whatever is the matter, my darling boy?” the caretaker crooned. Buddy lifted only his eyes, simultaneously raising the level of tragedy that emanated from his countenance.

As the caretaker glanced around to find the source of his chagrin, she looked inside the tent and saw the distinctly ringed tail of a saucy tabby. The previously indifferent Bear had taken up residence in the Disco Tent, and her relaxed demeanor indicated that she would not vacate it any time soon.

Buddy’s once sacred space had been violated. He was afraid to enter the tent while Bear occupied it, so he had resigned himself to wait in mournful silence for her to leave.

The caretaker smiled and reassured Buddy that he would again be able to frolic in the Disco Tent after Bear finished her nap and moved on to partake of a post-nap snack.

The caretaker tactfully omitted that this was clearly a first-world problem and therefore did not merit as much sympathy as Buddy thought it deserved. Yet do not chide, gentle reader, for if you had only seen those eyes of woe, you would have wept with Buddy over a loss of even one second in the Disco Tent.

But never think that Buddy is down forever. The caretaker could have sworn she heard him humming “I will survive” a few minutes ago.

Like Buddy’s curiosity, Disco never dies.

 

 

 

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The past two weeks at Stratford Palace have been most stressful indeed. It began shortly after the Great Ice Storm of 2014, which was so bad the caretaker could not go to work for two days. During that weekend, Bear became sniffly, snuffly, and sneezy, with slightly watery eyes. Her appetite did not suffer, but she was a bit more lethargic than usual (though truth be told, it was difficult to tell). It seemed she either had an allergy of some sort or a very mild upper respiratory infection. By all advice, it was best not to take her to the vet’s office, as there is no treatment for a viral infection and she would have only been exposed to other illnesses there. Within a few days, she had recovered, and it seemed the palace could return to happily-ever-after mode.

But the whole time Bear was sick, Buddy had been a faithful companion, spending much of his time comforting her, and much like Romeo and Juliet there simply was no way to keep them apart. His noble behavior was reminiscent of the scene from The Return of the King in which Aragorn heals Eowyn. Despite the behavior you may have seen in earthly rulers, a king’s true purpose is to nurture, heal, protect, and provide for his people, not to oppress them. So like Him who is the King of all kings, Buddy’s watchcare was provided at his own expense.

For it happened that just as Bear’s condition improved, Buddy’s began to deteriorate quickly. He had contracted her infection, and soon developed a secondary bacterial infection. His sneezing was more violent, his eyes more watery, and his manner more depressed than Bear’s had been. He gave up his nightly safety patrol around the palace perimeter, and he resorted to hiding. In many cats, lethargy is difficult to detect, but not with Buddy. So when his eye turned a violent red and his breathing became raspy, the caretaker knew it was time to seek help for the ailing king. There was no choice but to transport him to the vet. The very fact that she was able to wrangle him into the pet carrier was evidence that he was quite ill indeed. He fought her as best he could, but his strength was limited.

She thought her heart might break.

Entire reams could be squandered in describing the harrowing morning spent driving from vet to vet to vet, only to find out that the first one didn’t keep his advertised office hours, the second one didn’t have all the required medicine, and the third one was out on a house call. Eventually Buddy received proper care, but only after several hours of singing the song of his angriest people. It was not a pleasant tune, so the caretaker comforted herself that it was at least proof of life.

But all’s well that ends well, and very soon the medicine proved itself stronger than the disease. Two days after receiving treatment, Buddy’s breathing had returned to normal, his angry-red eye was its lovely golden-green self again, and he was back to watching birds out the back window. By the next day, he was jumping into the chair to assist the caretaker with her computer work. Now, four days later he is at 95% of his normal health. He has resumed his nightly patrol, and this afternoon he climbed into his throne for the first time in over a week. The caretaker will consider him 100% cured as soon as he jumps on her again in the middle of the night.

And she will be grateful. Groggy, to be sure, but very, very grateful.

Fortunately this story was not a tragedy, but neither was it much of a comedy, so we will leave you with a photo of the recovering king grooming himself after days of being too sick to care about his appearance. Breathe with us a sigh of relief, gentle readers, for the return of the king, and gain with us a greater appreciation for loved ones and an urgent sense of the fragility of life.

Buddy Takes a Bath

Buddy Takes a Bath

 

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It should be clear by now to our gentle readers that Buddy and Bear are thespians of the first order, but a few key moments over the past few days have ensured that no other man or beast can top their theatrical prowess. They have proven that each can become so absorbed in a part that the cat actually becomes the character, at least for a brief, glorious while.

Consider first, our resident opossum, starring in the first ever marsupial version of Hamlet:

Playing 'Possum

Playing ‘Possum

A skillful turn of the head, a careful curling of the ear, an awkward angle of the whiskers, et voilà! There is no more Buddy. There is only Polonius ‘Possum, master of all things thanatotic, or at least soporific. Polonius the not completely unratlike creature, at least when his head is resting just so. Polonius the theatrically dead, over whom might be uttered these semi-immortal words:

To sleep, perchance to dream of chicken gravy,
Yea, that very thought must give us paws.
And if we knew what fardels were, we trow
They would be borne with great aplomb and flair,
But enterprises of great pith and moment
Now lose the name of action, for we nap.
ZZZZZZ ZZZZZ ZZZZZZ ZZZZ ZZZZZZ
(How difficult is life to navigate
In perfect iambic pentameter!)

And so we leave our friend his nap to take. (Oh great, it’s contagious).

Now in non-iambic non-pentameter, let us gently turn to our fading Southern belle, Blanche DuBear, who does not want truth but magic, preferably the kind of magic that produces salmon simmered in sauce. Blanche does not tell truths. She tells what ought to be truth, and today the truth that ought to be is this: Blanche is not an aging, obese cat. She is a lithe, lovely lady, reclining on her very expensive sofa, ready to receive gentlemen callers and sip lemonade.

Blanche DuBear

Blanche DuBear

She stares intently to the audience’s left, symbolizing her inability to escape her tortured past.  Or perhaps that is where the snack bowl has been placed (to the left, not in the past. Do try to keep up.) Regardless, she depends heavily on the kindness of anyone with opposable thumbs and the desire to feed her. And she has never been deliberately cruel, apart from her tendency to dismember crickets.

As with all fine performances, the curtain eventually falls. Shout “Encore!” if you must, but the cats are both now fast asleep. But even in their dreams they conjure new and better characters for our amusement and delight, thinking all the while, “What fools these hoomans be!”

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Act I

When beeps the frantic clock, the day begins,
And it is time to choose from cat food tins
The perfect breakfast for the pair of cats
Who laze about expecting gentle pats.
They do not mind the loud alarm,
For it means food, in which there is no harm.

Act II

The cats will mew, and they will have the day,
A stretch of time, to stretch and sleep and play.
But first, the feeding dish must needs be filled
With choicest meat, as Buddy brave has willed.
His taste in food is famous from of old,
No healthy fare will touch his lips so bold.

Act III

The caretaker begins her daily grind
Of coffee, then oblutions of all kind.
But every task is lengthened by the need
To walk around rude cats who don’t pay heed,
Their bodies strewn across the bathroom floor,
Or splayed about the kitchen even more.

Act IV

The caretaker, though fat and scant of breath,
Must stay alert to keep from causing death.
At any time, two cats—eight legs—create
Amazing hurdles she must obviate.
She might as well get dressed, think you,
In Hamlet’s tragic play, Act V, Scene ii.

Exeunt, treading carefully.

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