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The weekends are filled with much work for the caretaker and many naps for the cats. Generally, the caretaker’s work involves cleaning up after the cats and making sure her own clothes are tidy so that she can go to work to earn money for cat food. (Everyone needs a purpose in life.) But the cats need tidy apparel as well, and that is what spa day is all about. When the caretaker pulls out the basket filled with brushes, dander wipes, sprays, toenail clippers, and cotton swabs, the cats know it will soon be time to hop onto the ottoman and enjoy the luxury of being groomed. Until a couple of years ago, Buddy resisted all efforts to make him look presentable, but he has come to enjoy the sheer bliss of having his coat brushed, especially the fur in his ruff.

Sheer bliss is how this weekend’s spa treatments started. Even before the brushes were brought out, Buddy had hopped onto the ottoman to take the first turn. He closed his eyes, threw back his head, and surrendered to the gentle motion of the brush tracing up and down his neck. Normally, the caretaker is required to steer clear of any fur below Buddy’s shoulders, but this year for the first time, he allowed her to comb through the fur that sheds in such great quantity that it gets matted near his tail. After removing enough fur from Buddy to craft another cat, the caretaker rubbed his head one last time and sent him on his way. He curled up on the back of the couch and sank into a lovely nap that was several levels deeper than usual because he was so very relaxed.

Then it was Bear’s turn. Because of her thick undercoat, she requires extensive grooming, as well as attention to her skin. While Buddy has not yet learned to love being sprayed with non-rinse shampoo, Bear relishes the soothing liquid that manages her dander so very well.

Had the caretaker chosen the bottle of non-rinse shampoo, this weekend’s spa day would not have ended in such an uproar. But she was in a hurry and accidentally picked up the bottle with instructions that begin, “Wet pet thoroughly.”

So right there on the ottoman, the recently brushed Bear was being slathered with a thick, gooey, slightly bubbly liquid that simply would not succumb to the dander wipes. The more the caretaker tried to remedy the situation, the worse it became. There was now only one option: B – A – T – H. (Gentle readers, please do not say the word aloud, on the off chance that Bear might hear you.)

The caretaker scooped up the wretched cat, who was by now wriggling and complaining, and deposited her into the bathtub. With one hand the caretaker turned on the water and adjusted the temperature, and with the other she held onto the soapy feline, who was by this point channeling the spirit of a bucking bronco.

While soapy water might do wonders for the health of a cat’s coat, it has the unfortunate effect of melting the cat’s dignity and increasing her annoyance. Now drenched, the erstwhile queen looked more like an ill-tempered otter. Removing her to a towel did not improve her attitude in the least, and once the caretaker let her go, she slinked off to her bed in the hallway to continue the grooming task, only this time, to do it correctly.

Needless to say, the caretaker has now spent some time rearranging the contents of the basket, to ensure that such horrors will not be repeated. In other news, there is no estimate as to when Bear will forgive the atrocities of the spoiled spa day. The caretaker can only hope there are no repercussions. Bear has a long memory, and if carrying a grudge were an Olympic event, she would have a wall full of gold medals by now. As our gentle readers can see from the photo below, she would not even acknowledge the existence of either the camera or the caretaker.

Post-bath

You are dead to me, hooman

Let this be a lesson to us all: read the label if you’re able, or you can bet you’ll have regret.

 

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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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Spring is a très intéressant time of the year. The world begins to thaw as it awakens from its wintry sleep, and the air is filled with the delicate scent of lilac and hyacinth. Trees stir and yawn, and as they extend their stark brown limbs, tiny green badges of life appear. This particular spring, the famous (and brilliant) detective Furcule Purrot was continually drawn to a warm sunny spot on the back of the sofa near the picture window in his purrfectly furnished flat at Cathaven Mansions. Although he enjoys overseeing the Mansion grounds at any time of day, dusk is his favorite time because that is when the criminal element begins to emerge. As the sun begins to fade, Furcule can often be found peering out across the mansion’s grounds observing every whisker that either twitches or stays still for too long. The eccentric Belgian has an active imagination, and he thrives on any form of study that will keep his little grey cells exercised.

On the evening in question, he was intrigued by the antics of a tiny grey mouse that flitted anxiously from the sidewalk to the flowerbed to the driveway, never completely coming to rest. Purrot, having a particular interest in the order Rodentia, leaned forward to study the specimen further and to formulate questions that might result in an interesting hypothesis. Was this wanderer lost? Was its errand as dodgy as its movements? What were its hopes and dreams, its wants and worries, its political affiliations? Why was Monsieur le Souris  not sur la table? But most important, would this particular souris be a suitable déjeuner for a bachelor detective if it were properly cooked and served with a savory sauce? If so, should it be followed by a cup of tisane?

Just as his mind had begun to slip further into gastronomical musings, his attention was drawn to the sight of a predator stalking the preoccupied mouse. Purrot moved so close to the window that the ends of his impressive mustache tickled the glass. At that very moment, the predator pounced and with one deft stroke severed the mouse’s body from its head. The stunned detective recoiled in horror. As many times as he had been called to examine a murder scene, he had never been witness to a victim’s demise, and the sheer gruesomeness of it all proved entirely too much for his little grey cells to process. He bounded off the couch, scampered through the living room, lurched through the door to the hallway, and then bowled his entire body weight against the door, closing it to put another layer betwixt himself and chaos. As much as he hated closed doors, he hated danger even more.

Upon hearing this disturbance, Miss Lemon (who looks suspiciously like the caretaker) rushed into the hallway. The level of noise led her to expect a gang of roving thieves to mow her down. Instead, she found a wide-eyed Purrot, panting and pacing. Speaking in her best matter-of-fact voice, she attempted to calm him down as she opened the hallway door and moved slowly into the living room. Seeing no danger, she called the trembling detective back into the room, and he followed her cautiously.

But just as he crossed the threshold, he spied a grey felt mouse that he had used for previous experiments, and he returned to high alert. The resemblance of this creature to the one he had so recently seen murdered unhinged the poor Belgian a second time. He began poking and batting the felt mouse as though assuring himself that it would not be able to add to the evening’s contretemps.

Miss Lemon allowed him to conclude his experiment with the felt mouse while she repaired to the kitchen to assemble a light meal. Having convinced himself that his home was safe again, he heartily consumed his repas and settled down to rest. His only regret was that he would never know whether the mouse was tasty or not. As an honorable detective, he could not disturb the scene of a crime, nor could he allow Miss Lemon to do so. Quel dommage!

Furcule Purrot

Furcule Purrot au repos

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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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Veterinarian’s Day

The denizens of Stratford Palace wish a Happy Veterans Day to all who have served in the armed forces of the USA. The cats are not particularly thankful for anything, but the caretaker is grateful for the sacrifices that our veterans and their families have made in the cause of freedom.

That said, the caretaker took the opportunity of having a holiday from work to take the cats to the vet. She decided it would be nice to go a weekday for a change rather than spoil a perfectly good Caturday. Bear went first, and we are sorry to report there are some concerns about her health again. While the blood work is being done, we wait in hope, but it appears at the very least that her diabetes has returned. This type of relapse happens in 25–30% of cases, and while it is disappointing, it will not shake the solid foundations of Stratford Palace. We have survived much worse.

But on a much happier note, Buddy is as fit as a fiddle, if the fiddle is slightly overweight (ahem) and has a clogged tear duct that requires eye drops twice daily. Also if the fiddle is more than a little miffed at having been confined to a crate, transported for several miles, and then poked and prodded by women who were deceptively pretty and soft-spoken.

As maddening as all that may be, Buddy’s actual beef is with the caretaker, who was eminently tricksy for this vet visit. The caretaker has been through fire and death, and as a result, she has very few fears these days, but she still dreads having to put Buddy in the cat carrier, probably because of the history of injuries she has sustained during said process.

This morning after she returned from Bear’s visit, she cleared the bedding out of the carrier and inserted fresh bedding, leaving the carrier open in the dining room floor. While planning how to wrangle Buddy into submission, she did the only sensible thing, which was to make a cup of tea. If she had learned nothing else from binge-watching Downton Abbey, she knew that a nice hot cuppa will solve any problem. Were all of your heirs lost at sea? Let me fix you a strong pot of Earl Grey. Were all of your potential suitors sent to fight the Germans? Then you must, simply must, drink this cup of Oolong. Did you lose the family fortune by investing in a dodgy railroad? Here, have a cup of Darjeeling. Have all your daughters abandoned traditional values? This calls for English Breakfast tea. And scones.

And just like magic, the power of tea saved the day. While the caretaker sipped her Royal English Breakfast tea and contemplated the ways that she might insert one flailing cat into a crate that has an unpredictable door, she heard a slight rattle. She leaned around the corner just in time to see that Buddy had been unable to resist the urge to explore an open box. He had walked all the way in and was busy exploring the nether portions of the crate. All she had to do was reach over and shut the door.

Mischief managed.

The caretaker then carted a very confused, very irritated cat to the vet while he cried and cursed and clattered against the side of the crate. He told everyone in the waiting room what a terrible trick had been played on him, but as he expected, they were merely hoomans who were unable to understand his superior language and therefore could not properly commiserate with him. One lady spoke gently to him and said he had beautiful eyes, so he determined that in the apocalypse he was planning she would be allowed to live and probably to be his new caretaker, depending upon whether she was waiting for a dog to be brought out from the back.

But before he could get the nice lady’s contact information he was whisked to an examining room, humiliated, and then carted back home, where he skulked and sulked for at least an hour. Then his better nature prevailed, and he graciously approached the caretaker and allowed her to stroke his regal head. Since he had found himself back in the place where he had heretofore been treated like the king he is, he decided that the apocalypse would simply have to wait.

At least until after dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meowy Christmas!

We at Stratford Palace wish you and yours a blessed and joyful Christmas season. Or as Buddy and Bear would say, “Meowy Christmas!”

All your Christmas are ours

All your Christmas are belong to us

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