Friday, September 18, 2009

New Residents at Pinwheel Farm

I think I forgot to mention that once again, Pinwheel has a feline resident...or actually, two. Maybe it takes two cats to replace the unique cat-for-all-seasons, Ambrosius. One that's a hunter, and one that's a cuddler.

Mike (large, round, mostly white with gray tabby markings) and Stanley (smaller, lithe, mostly gray tabby with white markings) came in early August from a long-time friend, to board during her travels and longer. "The boys" and I have known one another for years, and are great friends, which helps ease the overwhelming change in their life. But their transition to life with a DOG has been a bit grudging.

Mike quickly claimed the prime spots: my favorite swivel chair (whose arm he's mistaken for a scratching post), the computer desk (where he rolls on my hand while I type, or lies between me and the keyboard), and the foot of the bed. He can circumnavigate my room without setting foot on the floor, where there be dragons, or at least a dog.

Stanley hides, either in the kitchen cabinet or the far shelves of the garage. It's hard to tell how much is hunting mice, and how much is avoiding the dog, and how much is simply visualizing himself somewhere else. But in the past few days, he's started coming out more, morning and evening. And for the first time ever, he is being demonstrably affectionate with me, purring louder and louder and head-butting my hand more firmly. He had always been very stand-offish with me at my friend's house. I'm liking the new Stan more and more.

Toss is a perfect lady about the whole thing. She is very circumspect, giving them lots of room and yielding instantly to any confrontation. Not like another Border Collie whose rescue I declined, on account of a habit of treeing cats on the nearest tall piece of furniture and keeping them there.

Early in their sojourn here, when Mike was still quite emphatically vocal in his disgust with there being a dog in the room, I witnessed a comical interspecies miscommunication. Toss entered the room at the far end, and Mike, sitting next to me, began his very expressive singsong growling and snarling. Despite being very deaf now, evidently Toss could distinguish the musical tonality of Mike's curses and threats. And she responded with her own song--she "rooed" at him! "Rooing" is a vocalization some Border Collies make, that isn't a growl or howl or bark, but something else entirely. Toss loves listening to music, and she enjoys making her own. From the context of her rooing, I've come to translate the emotional content of it as something along the lines of "I love you!" or "You're so wonderful" or "I'm so excited!". So the dialogue of happy rooing and angry growling, with several repetitions back and forth, was very funny.

Toss, as I mentioned, has become quite deaf. It is a real loss to both of us. She can't hear the commands for herding the sheep, so I have to leave her in the house when moving sheep, or she guesses wrong about where I want them to go, and I can't explain otherwise to her. We often startle her by "sneaking" up on her when she's resting, which she does a lot more than she used to. Other than fading hearing and fogging eyes, she is in good health for a 14-year-old Border Collie.

Toss has always loved music, and her passion continues. Apparently she can hear the piano, Gilbert, that lives in the garage. Whenever I start to play, she'll appear after a minute or two, no matter where she's been napping. She has a favorite position to lay, just beside and behind me a little, on either side. One night there were obstacles in the favored places, and she paced and puzzled over them for several minutes until I got up and moved one for her. Sometimes I play the piano just for her, because it's one common pleasure we can still share. The narrowing of options makes each shared moment dearer and deeper. I know that we are together somewhere on a long slow walk which at some point will be mine alone. I don't know if we're just starting or nearly there. I want to savor each step as best the demands of daily life allow.

One thing I really miss in her deafness is something that the cats somewhat make up for. She and I would carry on intermittant non-verbal "conversations" consisting of little acknowledgements of one another's movements and sounds. She would sigh in her sleep, and I would sigh in return. I would shift in my chair, and she would groan and flop over to rest on the other side for awhile. In this way, we exchanged constant little affirmations of our attention to and love for one another. She doesn't answer my noises now, and seems to make fewer herself. Before the cats came, the house seemed emptier and emptier.

Now I hum back at Mike's snoring.

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