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Remembering rain stories…

Muriel Susan

Susan, who still loves all creatures, and me

After the oh-so-hot, humid, smoky summer, the first rainfall

Baby Rafi and sue

Susan playing with Rafi, she also loved him

was a blessing. It watered the parched earth, delighted growing things, cleaned the air, and brought joy to our residents. I purposely walked without a hat to experience those precious drops running down my face. The years fell away. I felt like a naughty child.

While relishing the much-needed rain, I thought of other walks taken years ago in Los Angeles where droughts could last for years. It didn’t make sense to buy boots for the children. They were rarely needed. I’d just wrap plastic bags over their shoes and out we’d go to either walk or splash about in the water, and sometimes sail hand-made paper boats.

On one such walk with 4-year old Susan, who loves every creature that flies, walks, crawls or slithers, she was worried. Dozens of worms were out because of the rain.

Pink worm

Little pink worms

“The sidewalk must hurt their little pink bellies,” she fretted, as she gently picked each worm off the cement and placed it onto the soft grass of the parkway. I like thinking of that rainy day.

Which reminds me of the morning 3-year-old Susan woke up and

green bug

I can’t find my green buggie

was crying. Concerned, I ran to her room. It seems the night before, she’d carefully placed a green bug to sleep in her bedside table drawer. Of course, the bug was nowhere to be found. She was distraught. Tears flowed. Seeing her so upset tugged at my heart. I knew it was useless, but what to do? I found myself crawling on the floor with her ‘looking’ for her ‘green buggy’. Well, what would you have done? Finally, the child had to settle for a hug.

There was also the time her kindergarten teacher had a container full of crickets to feed to a lizard. Susan decided the crickets must be unhappy cooped up in a

Jiminy Cricket

A

little carton. She turned them loose. This resulted in absolute chaos. Children, terrified of the little creatures, screamed, ran around and jumped up and down on chairs and desks — that is — all except Susan, who delighted in having given the crickets freedom and loved seeing them going off in all directions. Then, those crickets had to be gathered when/if possible. Oh, dear. (I learned about this adventure through a complaint from Susan’s suffering teacher.)

Another day Susan came home from school, again in tears, because she

Cockroach

A family of roaches?

had found a ‘cute family’ of cockroaches to bring to her beloved mother. A ‘mean’ boy slapped them out of her hand and stomped on them.

‘It’s okay Susie,’ I said hearing her tale of woe, ‘Perhaps they’re alright and he just took them to HIS mother.’ I doubt I ever told Susan how relieved I was those little critters hadn’t made it to our home.

Talking about bugs, once on the way to school ((Kindergarten again) Susan

Snail

Snails all over her coat

picked up every snail she saw. They, too, come out when it rains. She arrived at school with her pockets full of snails, and snails crawling all over her coat. Her poor teacher gave her an empty shoe box, and all the snails were saved and brought home to lucky me. I wasn’t that thrilled with this gift, we had a garden, but what can you say to a child who treasures every creature.

Enough rain stories. Stay well and enjoy each day.

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The Most Beautiful Cat in the World

Naturally I was looking for something else this week and what did I find?  A picture of the real SHATZI, ‘the most beautiful cat in the world’. I could not resist showing him to you here. If you didn’t get to read about him in 2013, I know you will fall in love with Shatzi now, as my friend Hans did some years ago.

It’s holiday time and visitors are coming and I’m busy but still I want to wish everyone a fabulous Christmas and Hanukah — may 2017 be kind to us all.

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SHATZI, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CAT IN THE WORLD

 

Had lunch with my friend Judy yesterday. She’s a cat person. She offers me snippets about the mischief her growing kittens get into.

Judy's mischief-makers playing innocent.

Judy’s mischief-makers playing innocent.

I get a kick out of it, especially since I have none of the responsibility. When her two felines were very little, Judy says they were called “Blur” and “Smudge” because they moved so quickly, that was all you could see of them. Now, they enjoy getting into the recycling and shopping bags, but as cat lovers will, Judy smiles while relating their latest antics.

ReadTheList

“Are you SURE it says CAT FOOD?”

My friend Hans was a cat person too. According to him, his last cat was no ordinary cat, but “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. Hans wrote and called me regularly, so I got to follow the adventures and misadventures of Hans and his cat, Schatzi, which means “darling” in Vienna.

The pretty puss, for some reason, was homeless and showed up at Hans’s son’s house. His son already had a cat, “Kiwi”, a wife, and two little children, so Hans, who resisted for a week or so, finally told me he had to give in because “Schatzi the Beautiful” was just too lovely to be turned away. He decided that having a cat again so late in life was not absolutely and totally insane.

Truth be told, Hans never met a cat he didn’t like. On his visits to Vancouver, we would walk most mornings. Each time, every kitten we met received special attention — it was a given. I grew accustomed to standing patiently by as Hans pulled out his pocket-chain to dangle before little whiskered feline faces. They found that chain irresistible, which was probably why Hans carried it.

Hans fell head-over-heels in love with Schatzi, “the most beautiful cat in the world”, and I can attest to Schatzi’s beauty. Hans sent me a photograph to keep on my desk. He had a sleek white body accented by varied shades of brown on his ears and face; a distinctive off-centered white triangle sat on his aristocratic nose; myriad tones of brown covered his tail and legs, while he sported definite white booties of different lengths.

Not Schatzi, but  a Himalayan too

Not Schatzi, but a Himalayan too

So it happened that after some years of being cat-less, Hans became cat-more. His life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. His calls and letters were a record of the ups-and-downs of what was obviously a tumultuous love affair. One early morning phone call from a distraught Hans advised me he was sure someone had kidnapped his beautiful cat.

“Why else,” he asked, “Would Schatzi not have come home last night?”

This was followed by a second frantic call the next morning. Hans was convinced someone had taken Schatzi. For the three days the felonious feline was on the loose, Hans was beside himself with concern. Finally, after Schatzi had apparently tired of meandering through the Hollywood Hills, the cat came back.

That was not the end of it. Schatzi was disciplined. He was placed under “house-arrest” for three whole days, which Hans felt was fitting in order to teach him a lesson. Schatzi must have learned which side his tuna was buttered on, because this daring escapade did not reoccur.

Letters reported more royal imprisonments, multiple visits to the hospital emergency ward, plus many pleasant hours with Schatzi happily ensconced on Hans’ lap as they watched soccer games together. The first emergency occurred when Hans, who had suffered several strokes and no longer had the manual dexterity he used to, opened his hand while opening a can of cat food. That bloody episode necessitated the first visit to the hospital. The hand was sewn up. This event was later repeated, but was reported to me somewhat sheepishly with an addendum of “Never-mind, it’s worth it!”

These mishaps didn’t make Hans regret his decision to adopt “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. On the contrary, he seemed even more smitten than ever. He letters became glowing reports of adjustments made on both sides, of growing affection, intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.

Now that both Hans and Schatzi are gone, they both remain tucked away in a corner of my heart and I remember them with pleasure — oh, and yes, I agree that Schatzi was indeed “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”.

The Smartest Dog in the Whole Wide World

Mom, thinking 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

I didn’t have a dog as a kid. I settled for an aquarium of fish, and some feral kittens which were not allowed in the house. Now that I’ve been a mother, I understand my mom’s reluctance — she raised five of us. I had no idea how to take care of or train a dog, so I didn’t add one to my own busy household.

However, daughter Susan never met a creature she didn’t adore.

tropical-fish-tank-aquarium-27234173

I settled for tropical fish

After rain, she’d pick up worms from the sidewalk and gently place them on the parkway,  concerned the cement would hurt their little pink bellies.

I have Susan to thank for many pleasures, but especially for having had the privilege of living with Buttons, the smartest dog in the whole wide world. I suspect Susan went to school each day with some cheese squirreled away in her pocket. The dog Buttons wandered freely about our neighborhood.

The love affair between Susan and Buttons blossomed quickly. I began finding Buttons at home when I got in from work. Sometimes, I’d meet her at our front door. She’d give me a polite little hello, the door would open, and in she’d march as if she owned the place. Still, she wasn’t our dog.

buttons-suzie

Old photo of Susan showing Buttons another little friend

One morning I found Buttons happily asleep with Susan. It was time for a family conference. We discussed the situation and decided we were willing to buy the dog for no more than $100 — if her owners would sell. A leash turned up from I know not where, we attached it to Buttons’ collar and off we went. Susan knew where Buttons lived, but we had to drag the poor thing up the walkway.

The mother of two boys invited us in. She said she was going through a divorce and was aware her sons were not being kind to Buttons. When she opened her front door, she knew exactly where Buttons ran to. She didn’t want any money. She was relieved Buttons would be well loved and cared for. We were a happy troupe going home, including Buttons.

Buttons, realizing I needed to be trained to take care of her, embarked on educating

feral-kittens

I’d had feral kittens, but I knew nothing about dogs

me. She was meticulous, taught me where she wanted to conduct her toilette (never on our property), what and when (always) she wanted to eat and how much she enjoyed a little peanut butter.

My Parisian in-laws insisted Buttons understood French. On visits, while I was at work, they delighted in her. They’d ask her (in French — they spoke no English) if she wanted a walk. She’d respond by going to the door, tail wagging. They’d ask her, again in French, to speak, which she did, just as she would in English. We made tapes to send them in Paris, so they could listen as often as they liked. Of course, Buttons always said hello. They’d play the tapes for their neighbors — Buttons was the star of the show.

rafi-and-aj

AJ the beautiful and Rafi

I’d hold Buttons close, tell her she wasn’t gorgeous but I loved her and she’d happily lick my face in return for the non-compliment. Although when she was groomed and had pretty ribbons in her hair, she pranced around and was, indeed, a beauty. She was the cleverest dog I ever had. Yes, there were others. AJ was prettier, but Buttons at half his size, was the boss. She’d jump up and nip him on the nose if he was out of line.

Buttons WAS definitely brilliant. She CHOSE her family. She DECIDED to move in. She TRAINED us. She also gave us loads of love which we returned with pleasure.

The Little Cat Who Thought He Was A Dog — A BIG Dog

Muriel from BlogDaughter Susan never met an animal she didn’t love. Her pets have included snakes, lizards, birds, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, horses, a donkey, plus…. I’ve probably missed a few. I learned to live with some of these when she was a child even though her beloved creatures were at times pretty weird.
After Susan grew up and was sharing a house, she had a large Alaskan Malamute named Kodi. Kodi intimidated me. He was BIG! However, he didn’t seem to intimidate the little white kitten Susan brought home from the SPCA one day. Maybe the 10-week old little thing didn’t know he was supposed to be afraid of dogs. But then, he was an innocent. Susan named him Myshkin, after the character in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot”. She must have immediately recognized that part of his nature.

Little Myshkin with a toy

Little Myshkin with a toy

Kodi, big as he was, spent his nights sleeping on the sofa. Myshkin, perhaps missing his family, climbed up onto Kodi’s back and slept there too. Was it the warmth of Kodi’s big body? Was it the sound of Kodi’s heartbeat? I have no idea, but it was amusing to see that little bundle of white fur climb up onto the large dog, dig around to make his bed more comfortable, and then curl up, purring contentedly, for the night.

Myshkin and Kodi, pals

Myshkin and Kodi, pals

Myshkin was pretty and a charmer. He was as white as can be, with one blue and one green eye, a beautiful little pink nose, pink ears and small pink paws — and a penchant for getting into mischief. Each time this happened, perhaps by knocking over a flower pot on a window sill or exploring a space too narrow for any creature to fit into, Kodi would announce it loudly.

Myshkin in warpaint. He always managed to get into mischief

Myshkin in warpaint. He always managed to get into mischief

“It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!” he seemed to be telling us. Kodi also tried to teach Myshkin manners by gently taking the kitten’s head into his mouth when the little one misbehaved, which was often enough. However, Kodi was unusually patient with his little friend….
Where you found one, you would find the other. If at first it looked strange to the neighbours to see little Myshkin trotting behind Susan and Kodi on their regular neighbourhood jaunts, folks soon became accustomed to seeing the trio walking by. On the way, Kodi had some stops to make at favorite shops where he received treats. Myshkin would just sit quietly beside him until Kodi got his due. Don’t we do that for friends?

In return, Kodi was protective of little Myshkin. Any dog that threatened his small companion was in for a surprise standoff.

“No one messes with my pal,” his growl seemed to say in no uncertain terms. The bond grew stronger.

Myshkin's first snow experience

Myshkin’s first snow experience

As parents age, relationships with offspring often reverse. So it happened with Kodi and Myshkin. When Kodi was stricken with cancer at the end of his life, Myshkin seemed to instinctively know.
Since Kodi was too weak to walk, Susan, with help from her roommate, would carry him out to the lawn, where he could sit on a pad. At least he could be outdoors and Myshkin was never far from Kodi’s side. That seemed natural enough, after all they were pals.
But one day Susan witnessed something extraordinary. A large black dog approached to sniff at Kodi — no owner in sight. In the past, Myshkin would count on Kodi to protect him from strange dogs. This time, however, the little cat gathered his courage, hair raised, growling as ferociously as he could. He stood up to block the strange dog with his own little body every which way that dog tried to bypass him.

He risked his own life to protect his helpless friend! The interloper gave up and left. Is there anything else to say?