Sunday, April 30, 2017

An Employee for the Pile

It's late and Blitz is bored. The poor kitten has about sixteen toys in various places around the house. He collects his favorites by the heater where he liked to sleep in my sewing room.

He's a thief.

The other day, I caught him with my favorite pen by the toilet in the bathroom. No one steals my favorite pen. I sanitized it, put it away, and caught him an hour later, gracefully choosing my favorite from among the other pens and carrying it away like a prize at the carnival.

Only he doesn't have hands, so he carried it in his mouth.

Still, the pride on his face was huge. Huge.

So, I was trying to finish up when I didn't really get a damned thing done today, just a little bit of productivity, a half an hour without being distracted by Instagram, Facebook, or Netflix. It's Saturday. There is Netflix.

As soon as I got settled in behind the wheel of the computer, Blitz went on the hunt. I could see it. Someone, probably me, will be missing something by morning. Mike abandoned camping gear in various piles around the house. He's camping with the Boy Scouts this weekend. Nick, our personal Boy Scout, stayed at home and only recently disconnected from the video game he was playing for six hours before I sent him to bed. No wholesome camping in the great outdoors (rain) for him. To his credit, he did some homework earlier. A pile of books, mechanical pencils, notebooks, and a calculator still sits in a pile on the floor. I have my favorite pens, a couple of binders heavier than Blitz, and my thumb drive. Damn. Not the thumb drive.

There is lots of potential for loss here. I wonder if Blitz works for the pile.

Do you know about the pile?

Somewhere in the Universe, there's a pile of all the lost items, the nail clippers, the scissors, the homework, the phone numbers, the keys. Everything, even the car that disappeared momentarily from the parking lot where you were sure you parked it. This pile is constantly in flux, removing and returning items, usually after you've gone out and bought a new whatever-it-was to replace the old whatever-it-was.

The pile is magnificent. It is complete at all times, containing everything that was ever needed, holding onto the most necessary items just past most levels of frustration. Remember fax and copy machines that never worked when you were in a hurry?

That was because of the pile.

Remember finding your keys in the freezer?

Also the pile.

People, this is not my own invention. Somebody else theorized the existence of the pile and I'm just promoting it. I'm going to go look that up. I can look anything up. Except for weird stuff. I don't want weird advertisements coming up on my computer. So, give me a minute, won't you?

Wow! George Carlin! I can't compete with George Carlin. That man was funny. Remember the list of words you couldn't say on TV? I miss George Carlin.

I should just quit and turn off the lights now. George Carlin. Holey moley.

But I can't, not just yet. Blitz is playing with a pink eraser in the kitchen. It must belong to Nick because it has six graphite holes on each side that probably go all the way through. Years ago, I told him I would not buy him a new eraser just because he had destroyed his old one by punching holes through it and drawing all over it so that whenever he tried to erase anything, a graphite smear spread over the page. So, he still uses this slightly damaged one from at least a year and a half ago. I know it's that old. I'm sure.

Last fall I went around the house and collected motley folders, only slightly dinged binders, loose lined paper that wasn't too crumpled, and notebooks that only had writing on five or six pages. I found an assortment of chewed pencils and a handful of pens from hotels we'd visited. I even found a couple of Master locks and coerced Nick to remember combinations until he hit on a correct one. I didn't buy any school supplies at all last fall. I was an absolute curmudgeon, now that I think about it, but that's what happens when a kid whines that he needs six different folders and you can pull out a basket that contains at least eighteen gently used folders, most of which are pink or purple but are still somehow unacceptable.

So, I know that eraser could be from middle school and is still in daily use.

Now, I have to stay up and watch the kitten to see if I can tell just exactly when that eraser, probably the only decent eraser in the entire house, goes onto the pile. It's like trying to stay awake to see the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. He's still having a good old time, tossing it into the air with his mouth, adding cat drool and tooth holes to what Nick will need to erase his homework next week. It's under the left leg of the piano now, next to Mike's computer bag with the ID tag that has new cat teeth imprints on it. It's not on the pile. Not yet. But Blitz isn't done pawing at that pink eraser and I'm pretty sure he works covertly for the pile.

I'm getting sleepy. It's about to happen. I just know it. I just can't stay awake, not one minute longer.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Two-Turd Solution

I've been sick. Did you miss me? The good news is that I'm not dying, at least not today. The bad news is that I still feel like crap.

The nice thing about my critters is that they know when I don't feel well. Last night, I'd been sleeping on my back with my arms and legs splayed out. I woke up wondering what wet thing was in my hand.

It was Blitz's nose. He had buried his face in my palm. It almost made up for what has been going on in the litter box.

Did I tell you about the litter box?

I think I told you that he'd peed in my work bag, then in the hamper on my new favorite pink shirt. I don't know if I admitted that it must have been him and not a mouse that had peed in Nick's duffle bag. The whole thing was so gross that I visualized bringing him back to the clinic to get a refund.

Right, a refund. He was free, completely free. How could I bring him back?

That's the hard part. You can't easily bring a horrible adoption back when you have gotten to know the people who adopted him to you. Oh, who am I kidding? Most places emphasize the forever home. Forever. Until death do us part. It's harder than a bad marriage. Pet divorce is a travesty, shameful, always the fault of the human. Didn't try hard enough. I've thought that myself, more than once.

I knew I could never face them if I failed. I just couldn't, not even if the pisser peed in every corner of my house and pooped in my purse. Right, he peed in my purse.

So, I sat down with him, stared him into his hazel eyes and talked it out.

"You can't keep peeing on our stuff. You just have to use the litter box, Blitz. It's too hard to replace all the karate stuff that you ruin and to wash the pink out of my new favorite shirt. It's already faded and I only wore it once. You have to stop."

He stared back at me for a minute, flipped onto his back, and batted my hands with his paws. No claws, just soft gray paws.

"I mean it," I said. But I knew he'd won the argument.

Later in the afternoon, I was walking Teddy with a friend of mine and admitted that I'd considered sending Blitz back. She stopped walking and stared at me for a minute. I almost started crying as I looked back at her.

"It's just too disgusting, all this pee everywhere."

"What have you tried?" she asked. No judgement. Wow. I need to keep this friend.

"We're keeping every bag in the house zipped up tight and I bought new hampers, colors and whites, with lids on them so he can't jump in."

"And has he peed on them?"

"Not yet," I went on. "And I'm going to get a third litter box to make sure that's not the problem."

I kept babbling.

"I even had a talk with him, you know, visualizing the problem and then visualizing the solution. I've heard somewhere that if you visualize things as you talk that the animals can understand you more easily."

She tilted her head. That might have been a little woo-woo for her.

"Maybe you should have a talk with your other cat. Does he keep the kitten from going in?"

Puzzle pieces clicked into place.

"Oh ..." I said. "That's good."

It wasn't Seth's fault either, I thought. It was my fault. The litter boxes were getting dirty too quickly. As soon as I got home, I cleaned them and set an alarm on my phone for five minutes after Mike and Nick left the house in the morning. I could sleep in on the weekends, but I was always home, wondering what to do next when Nick and Mike left in the mornings.

So far so good. A few weeks have gone by and Blitz has only peed in the litter boxes. Everywhere else is good. I have been a litter box queen. The little guy even comes around while I'm cleaning and looks at me almost with a grin on his face.

Now I have a new problem: Blitz rolls in a clean litter box every morning when I'm done. It's disgusting and Mike caught him at it last weekend.

"I can barely make myself pet him any more," he said as I tied up the smelly plastic bag of turds and clumped piss. I didn't say anything. I agreed with him, but how do you stop yourself from thinking about when your pets lick their own butts then try to lick your hand? How do you stop thinking about how they sit, bare-assed, on your favorite book or pillow? What about everything else? There were so many spooged diapers and constant puke on your shirt the first couple years you carried your boy around? What about the little gobs of snot you found stuck to the wall by his bed when he was eight and you had to make him clean it up before he stopped doing it? What about when you stepped in poop at the dog park and had to run your shoes back and forth over the gravel in the parking lot before you got into your car? What about the things you manage to culture in the back of your refrigerator? What about dust mites and face mites and probiotics? It's all so very disgusting when you think closely about it.

So now I'm the litter box queen implementing the two-turd solution. When I leave two turds on top of the clean litter box, Blitz doesn't roll in it.

Most of the time.

Thank you for listening, jb

Update: I just realized that I wrote this story already. Sorry. I really have been feeling like crap. It's time to go sit down and put on my cat blanket, two cats on my lap and knees. They fight over who gets my lap. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rolling in Cat Litter

"The kitten is rolling in the litter box," Mike said this morning. "Look at him."

"Ew, gross," I said. The little guy was born under a mobile home in a trailer park. Did it feel like home for him to roll around in the dirt?

"Shouldn't we squirt him?" he said.

"And make him feel like he's not allowed in the litter box at all? I don't want to go back to him peeing in everything."

See, I should have told you the story about 'the little fucker.' Remember the mouse in the duffel bag?  I was wrong. That was cat piss, not mouse piss. I should have known it was too much volume to represent a mouse. I should have, but I didn't. A few days after the duffel bag debacle, I picked up my big work bag that had turned into a purse. What the hell? Stuff inside was wet, and sour. Everything, my phone charger, my favorite scarf, and even the Ziploc of food I keep in there. The Ziploc had been unzipped. I threw away unopened containers of tuna salad, applesauce, and peanut butter. Oh man. I had seen the kitten in there, but I thought it was funny.

Not funny.

Then two days later, he peed in the hamper, on my new favorite shirt from LL Bean, a soft pink T-shirt. I had never even worn it. Oh, I was pissed at Blitz, totally pissed. Can you give a kitten back after keeping him four months?

I thought about it.

Blitz could tell I was mad at him. Without any provocation besides me fuming and calling him 'little fucker' as I stood at the washing machine with the pre-wash stuff and my new pissy shirt. I wasn't sure this smell was going to come out. He started running away any time anyone walked toward him. He seemed more feral than he'd been a month after we brought him home. A gentle friend of mine said I needed to make sure Seth wasn't keeping him out of the litter box. We have more than one litter box, but did the little guy think to go to his own box downstairs when Seth was crabby about his litter box upstairs? My friend is brilliant. I went out, bought a hamper with a lid, and implemented my new plan.

I decided to keep the litter boxes seriously clean. I would clean them every day instead of every second or third day. If they were clean, I thought, would anybody care who was peeing where? I set an alarm on my phone to go off at the same time every day to get into the habit.

And it worked like a charm. Seth was so happy. I could tell by the way he hovered whenever I sat down on the footstool to do my dirty work and went in to mess it up after I was done. After I had washed the hell out of my new favorite shirt two more times, we were in a groove. No more  accidents. Feral cat settling down. I had been able to see how Seth hounded Blitz over food and lap time and I managed to let Blitz know he wasn't supposed to hide in the house like a feral kitty. I promised him we'd get through all of the bumps together. He wasn't going back.

And he was so happy. He went back to playing on his back on the kitchen floor despite the potential for inattentive feet bumping him. He rolled around under the rug and played more in the open. He even rubbed his face on Teddy's face whenever we came home from a walk. Jackson Galaxy from My Cat from Hell would have been proud of us.

Life was good.

Until the little cretin started rolling in the cat litter.

Maybe the litter box is a bit too clean. I could leave a couple of nuggets in there to persuade him. Maybe I need to bring in a big pot of grass and soil for the little dirtbag to roll in when he's happy. I could picture him, rolling in his little square foot of grass in the corner of the kitchen. It would look ratty and pathetic after a month of chewing and rolling but it might make him happy.

You can take the kitten out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the kitten.

Thank you for listening, jb