Blog: Our Reality Show

Choose a Category

Currently showing posts tagged Animals

  • The Passing of the Last 'Child'

    Our last "child" left the nest today. Like any parents, our eyes welled with tears while knowing this was different. With this departure, there will be no reunions, no holiday dinners, no weddings, no grandchildren.

    That's what occurs when the child is your family pet, in this case our 17-year-old cat, Victoria (aka Vicky, Miss Vic, or Mob Boss, a nickname coined by Kate.)

    Vicky and her sister — the appropriately named Tempest — were shelter kitttens who came into our lives shortly after we moved to Virginia. The kids were 9, 4, 3 and 3. Jill and I always had pets, and it made sense given how much running around we do for us to have cats rather than dogs.

    Tempest was the alpha, well, something. Headstrong and stubborn, it was no surprise when she left one day and never came back. Victoria, on the other hand, was docile and sweet; originally named Tootsie, we changed it, because she was never one to demand much attention.

    Every day around the same time, Vicky would come through, run figure 8s through our legs, purr loudly, allow us to pet her (holding her was at her option) and then be done until around the same time the next day. That was enough.

    She never ate wet food and enjoyed the occasional kitty treats, but her favorite food for some reason was sliced processed ham. (Passive-aggressive approach to the food chain, perhaps?)

    Vicky largely tolerated other pets — dogs and cats — who stayed with us for short periods. She mostly ignored them, but occasionally tensions would flare, and Vicky's response — usually quiet but always pointed — left you with the feeling that she was the family member in charge.

    When Cairo came into the picture is when Kate gave Victoria the official Mob Boss designation. Cairo, sweet, loud and needy, was more than happy to be Miss Vick's lackey as the consigliere perched on top of the living room chair and reaped the benefits.

    What I came to appreciate most about Vicky was her resilience and her presence. She was always there, never demanding to be the center of attention. She simply endured. When Cairo passed away in February, I called the kids to let them know and each was shocked it wasn't Victoria. I wasn't; until the past month or so, I would have bet she'd outlive us all.

    After our move to Alexandria from Lorton earlier this year, Victoria adapted to our new home, finding her spots, always purring. But age — she was over 100 in human terms — was taking its toll.

    Self-grooming was an after-thought; the litter box was as well. She developed an abscess that the vet said was likely cancerous, and it became obvious the end was near.

    Last night, Jill and I made the decision. We let the kids know, and Emma and Ben called via FaceTime to say goodbye; Kate came to the vet's office to do so in person. We talked to Nicholas as well.

    Victoria's passing is as huge a shift for them as it is for us. Like any family pet who survives to see kids leave home, she represented a link to the day-to-day of childhood.

    For us, it's a reminder that our nest is truly empty. Any steps we make going forward are part of the next generation, one that I'm looking forward to while mourning the past in the present.

  • Animals & The Natural Order

    We have a 13-year-old cat, Victoria, whose personality matches her name. She is quiet much of the time, enjoys being petted on occasion, and likes her routine of nap on chair/get up/eat/nap on bed/get up/bathroom/sun by doorway/sit on the window sill and trill like birds/nap on chair/wash-rinse-repeat.

    Victoria enjoys her routine so much that she is not afraid to use a little psychological warfare when necessary. A neighbor’s dog discovered this the hard way when he used our house as a timeshare while his primary caregivers were out of town. The dog ate Victoria’s food, so she proceeded to soil his. The dog tried to bump Vicky from the bed, so she proceeded to lie down in his bed and exfoliate fur all over it.

    After a couple of trips to our house, the dog’s short-term memory issues finally ended, and they reached a pleasant impasse. But it is obvious who is the true boss of our house, and it’s not the dog, no matter where his species may stand in the food chain.

    Earlier this year, Kate brought home a tomcat (Cairo) who was evicted peacefully from the 700-square-foot apartment where he lived with a couple, their newborn child, and another member of the feline species. Kate has long stated that she wanted another animal, and did the kid-typical, “I’ll take care of it, and do everything necessary to make sure that he is loved, etc.”

    That lasted about three days.

    What we discovered quickly is that Cairo is a high-maintenance, somewhat domineering animal with defined needs that he insists must be met. He has different meows to match those needs, which consist of rubbing on the head, rubbing on the back, making sure the food and water bowls are full at all times, and opening the door so he can go in or out at his whimsy.

    Victoria was not thrilled about Cairo’s presence and disruption of her routine, but she prefers to be non-confrontational. As long as Cairo stays away from her, Victoria is content to do the same. She has learned to deal with it, just as she has learned over time to deal with the dogs in her life.

    Cairo may be consistent in his persistence, but his cognitive skills leave a little to be desired. For some reason, even though he outweighs the neighbor’s new dog by a 2-to-1 margin, Cairo is terrified of him. He hides from the dog whenever possible. Strangely enough, when the dog comes over to check the kitchen floor for crumbs, the natural order of the house is restored, at least in Victoria’s eyes.

    And even though she hasn’t told me personally, I know it’s true. But I’m still not adding a dog permanently, no matter how much a child wants me to do so…