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Truer Grit

We are sorry to be so abrupt, gentle reader, but Buddy has had quite enough of this Weather, and he wants something done about it right now. The incompetent caretaker has been unable to accomplish any of his demands to bring back the sunshine and the “warms” and to banish the rain and the cold wind. He could not help but notice the effect that simply mentioning the name of Lawyer J. Noble Daggett achieved in True Grit, so he is contemplating how to proceed with a lawsuit against the Weather. He originally wanted to sue the caretaker, but he was afraid such an action would stop the daily feedings and ear scratchings, not to mention the litter box cleaning and other menial services that she provides. She is moderately useful, so he will refrain from bringing suit against The Can Opener, as he has taken to calling her behind her back.

But the Weather is another matter entirely, and he has determined that it will and must pay for his pain and suffering. He was already considering legal action when the condition of the porch deteriorated so much that he became unable to pass his time ruling the world from his perch and saving the universe from the devious plots of Mr. Shorty and Tabby Lee. There is no question that justice must be pursued now that the Weather has violated his other sanctuary, the kitchen window, where the caretaker had placed a comfortable chair so that he would have a front-row seat for an off-off-off Broadway show, “The Nut-Gathering Frenzy,” starring Murrell the Squirrel and his trusty sidekicks Burrell, Cheryl, and Spice Girl Squirrel.

All was well until yesterday morning, when something went horribly wrong. As he approached his chair, he found that the lovely upholstered seat was soaked with water, and then he noticed a “drip-drip-drip” sound. While he was processing this horrific information, the caretaker walked up to investigate the noise. Even in her dullheadedness, she could tell that something was wrong. She rushed from the kitchen to gather some towels to mop up the rain, leaving the king undefended.

And then it happened. This impudent Weather monster, which had already invaded his life to an unacceptable degree, was now egregiously assaulting his person. A nasty, wet raindrop plopped on his royal head. That’s right, gentle readers, there was rain inside the Cottage, where rain does not belong. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was right about this situation, this travesty, this attack on the king’s majesty. It was in strict violation of Feline Rule #8: Cats abhor water. And therefore, something must and will be done, and it needed to consist of more than towels. Buddy spent most of the night trying to wake the caretaker to get her to find Lawyer Daggett, but she infuriated him by simply going back to sleep each time he woke her. Now he has dipped into a seriously depressed state that would break your heart.

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

So, gentle reader, if you have any idea how to contact Lawyer Daggett, please pass this information along to King Buddy, and he will award you a suitable boon, perhaps the honor of scratching under his chin. Meanwhile, the foolish caretaker is off on some harebrained notion of getting the roof repaired, as though that would appease the king’s wrath against the Weather. Buddy senses that The Can Opener means well, but he is not entirely sure that she IS well.

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During the epically long, hot days of the summer of 2011, the outdoor cats in the neighborhood were nowhere to be found. Either they have air-conditioned homes where they are welcome, or they figured out that the train down the road would take them on out of this town. Regardless of their heat-dodging measures, they are back now that fall is here, giving Buddy more opportunities to exercise his growling muscles. A few days ago, Tabby Lee was back. Today marked the return of the elusive Mr. Shorty, who is sort of like a cat mullet: formal white legs, with a casual tabby back and tail. If Buddy and Bear had ever had a child, it would have looked a lot like Mr. Shorty. It would have been stark raving mad, of course, as it would have been paranoid and skittish yet too lazy to do anything about it. But it would have been very cute.

Despite these diversions on this lovely afternoon, Buddy can’t decide whether he would rather be patrolling the porch or aggravating the caretaker. Thus far, aggravation is ahead by a nose—a cold, pink nose that he keeps poking into the caretaker’s head, face, and ears.

Pink Nose

Pink Nose

Then, a few moments ago, he was inexplicably gnawing on her hair. It is only a guess, mind you, but she suspects that the new brand of health food is to blame for this behavior. Something must be done to prevent waking up in the morning with most of her hair nibbled off, or perhaps her entire head missing. She halfway expects to hear him call her “Clarice.”

Perhaps it’s time to pull out the snacks for Buddy, and in turn, to give the health food to Mr. Shorty.

Quid pro quo.

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In the beginning, the evening was lovely. The weather was just about as nice as it gets, at a shopping-mall-perfect 72 degrees under mostly sunny skies. The caretaker came home to find Tabby Lee wandering up and down the side yard, after an absence of several weeks. In her pathological need to befriend all creatures great and small, the caretaker spoke to TL, welcoming him back and expressing relief that he was looking so well. He stopped to listen for a moment, but when she took another step closer, he ran under the deck. Those other two cats might enjoy being held captive by a crazy woman, but TL was determined to have none of it. So the caretaker reluctantly left him and went inside to greet her two captives . . . er, cats . . .  and to feed them a lovely dinner. And then she opened the door.

Buddy ran in and out for a while, puffing his tail and threatening TL with annihilation, but once he recognized that he was both limited and protected by the screen boundary, he finally settled into a silent, seething crouch on the porch ledge from whence he could enjoy all the sights and sounds and smells of fall. Besides Tabby Lee, this evening’s episode of Cat Reality TV included squirrels, birds, bicyclists, joggers, and cars. As with less entertaining forms of television, there was little opportunity to enjoy the accompanying smells. Until . . .

As dusk painted darkness over Buddy’s domain, the caretaker began to hear the faint noise of water sloshing just outside the door. It sounded almost like rain, but not quite. Curious, she walked to the door and looked out. And at that moment, smell-ivision became a cruel reality. The source of the sloshing noise was the house next door, and the noise itself was the sound of raw sewage bubbling up from a PVC pipe that is probably a vent of some sort. The caretaker is no plumbing expert, but she is pretty sure that the pipe is not supposed to be depositing the former contents of the neighbor’s toilet onto the side yard.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but sewage by any name at all smells pretty foul.  You know a smell is pure evil if it drives cats away.

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The past few days of mild weather have been almost heaven for Buddy. For large patches of time, he has had free run of the “screamed-in” porch, and his enjoyment has even lured Bear out into the last refuge between the safe boredom of the house and the intoxicating call of the wild. Napping has given way to patroling the perimeter, and the view from the porch has given Buddy and Bear something to despise besides each other. The first day it was a ring-tailed tabby, much like Bear, only thinner. It pranced about, proudly demonstrating the magnificence of freedom. As Buddy and Bear watched intently, Tabby Lee scooped up a mouse and trotted off to the back yard to dispatch it. Nevertheless, Buddy and Bear were glad enough at dinner time to eat their own civilized food from a clean plate. One cannot overrate the importance of creature-comforts, such as food that does not try to escape and that does not require skinning.

The next day there was yet another wild kitty to envy, at least until dinnertime. This one was a bicolor American shorthair—white with tabby markings—who seemed mildly interested in making friends with Buddy and Bear, but not interested enough to give up his freedom. Mr. Shorty wandered up so close to the back screen that the caretaker was concerned he would try to claw his way onto the porch. That was when she stuck her big nose where it shouldn’t be, at least in Buddy’s opinion. He could tell at once that she had arrived to break up their little tête-à-tête, so he whirled around and yelled at her sternly while popping her ankle with his open paw (no claws). But alas, it was too little, too late. Mr. Shorty moved on to greener pastures, leaving Buddy to brood under a cloud of overprotection.

So for several glorious days, with varying amounts of porch time, Buddy and Bear have kept watch over robins, cardinals, blue jays, squirrels, outdoor cats, and the occasional dog on a leash. And the caretaker has kept watch over it all. As much as she wants the cats to have the diversion of the outdoors, she still remembers the brave but fallen felines from her past who did not fare well in their conflict with the forces of nature. Her diligence paid off this evening. Just at dusk, when there still enough light to distinguish colors and shapes, she looked out for the umpteenth time to see Buddy focused on something in the back yard near the house. It was another ring-tail, but this one had a bandit’s mask, the sight of which struck fear into the heart of the caretaker. A raccoon had killed another kitty on that same porch about six years ago. As large, strong, and brave as Buddy is, he is no match for the wild rage of a raccoon, so the caretaker scooped up a kicking, screaming Buddy and rushed him into the house. As the door closed behind them she dropped him and listened as he indignantly gave her a piece of his mind and then lunged at her feet several times, like a prize fighter afraid to deliver a blow.

He finally turned away to salvage what he could of his safari, so he ran to the kitchen window to look for Bandit, who by this time was gone with the wind. The caretaker followed Buddy, compassionately trying to move the plants away from the window so that he could see better, but he returned her kindness with a slap to the back of the hand. It took a little while for him to calm down, but he finally remembered who opens the cans of food and empties them into clean plates so that he doesn’t have to eat mice, and who keeps his water bowl filled so that he doesn’t have to drink from dirty puddles. Bridges must be mended so that menus will be protected. So with his characteristic expectation of happily ever after, he found the caretaker on the couch and sidled up to her, purring gently and rubbing his nose on her face. Besides, he had found on his way from the kitchen table to the couch that the caretaker had filled a bowl with his favorite green treats. For all of her serious faults, the caretaker is a decent woman, and he should, he would, he must forgive her again. This time, at least. Besides, he was secretly glad he had not needed to prove his prowess against the beast. Overprotective caretakers are invaluable, if not in saving face, at least in saving lives.

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