Saturday, December 31, 2016

Timothy's Garden

Timothy's grave

We named our garden "Timothy's Garden" after a very special cat. This is his story:

Timothy was about four or five months old when he arrived at our garden cat habitat. He didn’t come alone. He brought a dead squirrel and a very live little brother (I guess) who could leap from the roof of our house to the roof of our garage, a distance of about six feet.

After the two kitties ate the squirrel and made a nest inside the shed wood pile, they came to me to see what was for supper. Instead of feeding them, I took Scooter to our vets to give away and kept Timothy in our garden. Both cats went into serious loneliness and did nothing but mope around in deep sorrow. Nobody wanted to adopt either of them and after a month of watching them go into deep despair, Grampy and I brought Scooter back to the yard. Talk about a family reunion! This was a classic. Both cats ran into each other, jumping and playing, chasing each other, climbing trees, and eating the best cat food money could buy. Once word got around the cat kingdom, our cat population reached four with half a dozen day visitors.

A few weeks later, a mamma cat and her four kittens moved in with us. I think Timothy had put up a “Welcome!” sign by our front gate. Regardless we didn’t try to adopt them out; we just enjoyed them. Life was good that summer in spite of the heat and humidity.

Timothy was a Class A plus feral cat but learned little about houses and vehicles. He had no idea what a cat door was and ran from it every time I tried to push him through. Finally, in desperation, I held him one day then grabbed the door with one of my fingers, pulled the flap back and pushed Timothy through. After months of this exercise Timothy finally pulled back the flap with one of his claws and walked through.

Timothy loved his mamma and kitten cats, playing with them and watching over them faithfully. I pitied any poor animal who tried to approach them without Timothy’s permission. But all that changed one hot summer night when a wild dog got into our yard to go after Mamma and her kittens. Timothy fought valiantly but he was too small and the dog too big. We rushed him to animal emergency where he died an hour later.

The cats were in total shock that day as they searched for their big brother. Winston and Little Bit wandered over all the yards in our neighborhood, crying and calling out but Timothy never replied. Scooter hugged the fence not only for that day but for many days to come. Mamma cat and her kittens sat on our window sills and cried. It was several days before they gave up their search except for Scooter who refused to stop.

He walked around the yard as if in a trance, constantly searching for any sign of his big brother. He looked under bushes, climbed trees to search the branches, crawled under our sheds and inside our garage but his efforts were useless. Sometimes he sat in the middle of our yard and howled long sorrowful mawo's as if asking Mother Nature why she hadn't helped Timothy win that fight. Apparently he never heard an answer since he then plodded from yard to yard, mewing in those soft trills cats make when calling to each other. Getting no reply, Scooter returned home, crawled into the porch and stared out the windows, hoping and maybe praying for Timothy to return.

At the end of the second week, when I thought Scooter was at death's door, he wandered aimlessly to the southwest corner of our yard where I had set up a manger scene with life-sized statues of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus sitting in an open space surrounded by small bushes under an oak tree that created the illusion of a shed for animals. I hadn't been able to find any camels or sheep, wise men or shepherds so I had added plastic geese, squirrels and a cement puppy.

The animals had never paid any attention to this spot before but Scooter seemed drawn to it. He sat down near it, taking in every bit of the scene. After what seemed like an eternity, Scooter got up, trotted to the house, ate his food and slept on a table in the yard. His morale improved and every day for the rest of his life he first visited our little tree chapel. He took over Timothy's job of watching over the other animals and protecting them when necessary.

Then, two years later, Scooter died protecting some kittens from an aggressive feral tom cat. I like to think that there is a heaven for animals and that Timothy greeted Scooter at the gates to Cat Heaven and said, "Hey Little Brother, you did good." And Scooter said, "I was just imitating you, Big Brother." And that was how we named Timothy's Garden."

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Little Bit

Merry Christmas from Little Bit and Friends

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Disobedient Cow

In 1911, Grammy and Grampy lived on a farm filled with wheat fields, corn fields, apple orchards, four cows, two pigs, dozens of chickens, one very proud rooster, and Mikey the plow mule.

Grampy's job was to take care of Mikey and the pigs and make the wheat and corn grow. Grammy's job was to take care of the rooster, chickens, and cows. Grammy named all of her animals. I don't remember what she named the rooster or chickens but she named the cows Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Abigale.

The barn and pigpen were next to each other at the edge of our large yard that went up a small hill to a meadow.

Early every morning, Grammy milked the cows, then let them go to the meadow. At night, Grammy stood at the foot of the hill and called "Time to go nighty night, girls."

Eenie, Meenie, and Miney obediently obeyed but Abigale waited until Grammy called to her again. Then she came down, not at a casual trot like her sisters but running with head down toward Grammy. Grammy stood firm, never flinching and Abigale always stopped three inches from Grammy, then went into the barn.

Well, Grampy was getting pretty annoyed at Abigale and insisted that Grammy should teach her some good manners. Grammy replied that Abigale refused to be polite. Grampy said he would have to teach Abigale how to be polite.

The next evening, as Grammy stood aside. Grampy took her place at the bottom of the hill and yelled, "Get down here, cows."

Eenie, Meenie, and Miney obediently trotted down the hill and into the barn

"Get down here," Grampy yelled but Abigale did not move.

"Don't yell at her," Grammy told Grampy.

"Who's doing this, woman?" Grampy said and turned back to Abigale. "Cow, get down here this minute!"

"She doesn't like to be yelled at," Grammy said.

Grampy puffed out his cheeks and yelled as loud as he could, "Now listen here, you walking hamburger, I said get down here. Right now!"

Well, Abigale lowered her head, snorted and scratched her hooves in the ground, raised her shoulders, and came flying down the hill. Grampy - like Grammy always did - stood his ground with his hands on his hips while he stared at Abigale. But Abigale didn't stop for him like she did for Grammy. She ran straight into Grampy, flipped him up with her horns into the air where he flopped like an acrobat and then landed in the pig pen. The pigs snorted in surprise at their visitor and Abigale trotted over to Grammy.

"Abigale, you were not nice," Grammy scolded the cow.

Abigale rubbed her head against Grammy as if saying she was sorry.

Grammy sighed and petted the cow, then said, "All right. It's time for you to go nighty night now."

While Abigale trotted into the barn, Grampy crawled out of the pig pen and grumbled all the way into the house. Grampy never again tried to tell Grammy how to take care of the cows and Abigale continued running down the hill every night to meet Grammy.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cat Attacks Dog!

Most of our neighbors around here have dogs and cats. For some strange reason, there are few times when the dogs attack the cats. It does happen but that is part of nature. What is not part of nature is when cats attack dogs.

The cats in our yards are mostly ferals who fear almost no one. Even pit bulls have been known to bow before the regal feral cat looking for a helpless canine to brutalize. Take, for example, George - a 25 pound gray tabby - who hated dogs with a ferocity only other cats could understand.

There was this one day when a snoopy puppy, probably a golden retriever, saw George sleeping on our front door step. Running to George and barking little yips that said, "You'd better be scared of me," the puppy stood his ground at about a half foot from George's face.

George opened one eye, stared at the offending pup, then drew his left paw back and sent it flying across the puppy's nose. Puppy ran off crying more in humiliation than pain while George yawned, dropped his paw, and shut his eye to return to his peaceful sleep. The puppy went home and I am sure he told his owner that he'd been attacked by a vicious monster.

Then, for entertainment, George would go to our neighbor's yard where they had a pit bull chained up. The dog was a full size barrel- chested behemoth who kept everyone away from his owner's house.

The chain keeping him tethered to his dog house was twenty feet long. Whenever George entered their yard, he sat twenty feet, one inch from the dog house. The dog's food and water bowl sat nineteen feet from the dog house. Whenever the dog fell asleep, George crept to the bowls and very quietly pulled them back to one inch beyond the end of the chain where he ate and drank to his content while the poor dog went spastic trying to get to George. The dog's owner thought this was funny and had many good laughs at his poor pet's problem.

When George got tired of the pit bull, he went to another neighbor's yard, entered their shed and climbed up in the rafters to sleep. This neighbor had two dogs, a pit bull and a collie. Seeing George on the rafters stirred up their indignation and they barked furiously. George slept peacefully until time to leave. I never saw him climb up to the rafters and never saw how he left the yard after he climbed down.

George seemed to save some of his attitude of contempt for us humans. These were the years when women still hung their washing outside on clothes lines to dry, then carried the large basket full of dry neatly folded clothes, etc. into the house. After I set the basket down in our living room, George climbed into it and dug himself a hole until he disappeared among wind swept towels, sheets, pillow cases, and various forms of clothing.

Not until I reached into the basket would George reveal himself by popping his head up, growling and yawning at the same time. This first experience was startling and gave me many smiles when my grandchildren would reach into the basket to be suddenly greeted by George.

There is a saying among us Florida gardeners: "Never put your hands where you can't see them." Originally a warning to keep an eye out for hidden recluse spiders and coral snakes, among the list of "don't touchables" it soon became a neighborhood warning to include "Pop-up George" in the basket.

George lived to be seven years old which is ancient among feral cats. We've had more gray and white cats but none or them torment dogs and the clothes lines have been replaced by dryers so George's only inheritance given to his descendants is one great appetite.

Let me put in a disclaimer here. Don't try to teach your cats how to attack dogs, especially pit bulls. George was the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of cats follow the teachings of Mother Nature when confronted with any canine - "Dog! Run! Every cat for himself!" Excellent advice even for us humans.

Posted by Diana for Margaret