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Day ten

November 10, 2016

It’s Day 10 of the diary and Day 2 of what, sadly turns out not to be just a really bad dream, the election of Donald Trump.

Let’s not dwell on that.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not go to the gym yesterday. “Oh, no!” you cry, dear reader. “Defeated on day three!” No, not defeated. More deflated. I could not do anything yesterday before writing my stay-at-home voter rant, which took a while. Then I had to write a brief Black Dog entry.

By the time those things were finished, I didn’t have enough time to go to the gym before it was time for my Wednesday afternoon appointment to go to the pub and play pool with my 94-year-old neighbour Pat. We have been playing pool every Wednesday afternoon for several years now and it’s an appointment I will not cancel. (Plus, it took my mind off Trump, which the treadmill – even with an mp3 player – could not have done.)

I told myself I would go to the gym four or five days a week to start and I’m still on target for four days (or even five if I go on Saturday). This afternoon I have my second orientation, this time on the “equipment”, those weighted machines that really do bore me to tears. Apparently, or so I was informed at my first orientation last Friday, one is not supposed to use the treadmill or bike or elliptical five days in a row. One is supposed to alternate with some upper body work one the equipment. Really? Aren’t experts always saying you just need to go for a walk for half an hour every day to keep your body from falling apart? It seems not. Okay, I’m in. Sigh.

After the entry I wrote a few days ago about being and nothingness, a friend, who’s following the Black Dog Diary, wrote to tell me that, ironically, the one thing above all others that helps her keep the blues at bay is her little black dog. Not only does Clara force her to go for a walk every day, rain or shine or snow, but Clara also gives her the sort of unquestioning love and devotion only a dog can. “Don’t get me wrong,” my friend said, “I love my cats to pieces, but there’s just something about having a dog in your life that cheers you up in a way cats never can.”

I’ve always been a cat person. Growing up in a flat, the only child of a single mum, made having a dog impossible when I was small. Cats were okay and cats I’ve (almost) always had in my life.

At one point Mike and I had four cats. There was Lady Jenny (Jenny really was a lady), the fluffy grey cat who started out as my mum’s and then became mine, and Crazy Clancy. Clancy really was crazy, it cannot be denied. (Zac, the crazy black cat in Rum Do was based entirely on Clancy.) He absolutely loved me and absolutely hated everyone else. To this mix were added Tri and Angie, brother and sister kittens, who were originally adopted for Heather, Mike’s teenage daughter, who was then living with us. Angie quickly realised that Tri was Heather’s favourite promptly decided that she was going to adopt Mike. He took little persuasion.

Jenny lived to be sixteen. She is buried in the garden under a California lilac. I was in the UK when Clancy died, aged eighteen.  He’s in the garden, too, under a rose bush.

When I came back from the UK in 2008, Tri immediately made me his person, as clearly Mike belonged to Angie alone. I was happy to oblige.

After Mike died it took Angie a while, but eventually she decided she’d have me, too. The three of us would spend evenings on the sofa: Tri curled up in my lap and little Angie up on my shoulder.

Old age caught up with Tri in 2012. Another rose bush in the garden. Angie lasted another year. Another rose bush.

That was in the late summer. I thought I should leave it a while before I considered welcoming another animal into my home.

I did think that perhaps the next animal in my home should be a dog. That year, 2013, was the last year I’d ended up on meds (the year of my 18/20 score) and the usefulness of exercise had been mentioned. A dog would force me to go for a walk every day, whether or not I felt like it. A dog would give me slavish, unconditional love, which at the time seemed like a pretty good thing. I like dogs (well, most dogs – nearly being savaged by a Doberman in my teens put me off that breed forever), but I’ve never had a dog in my life. I know they’re a lot more work (not just all that walking, but the training involved). But the unconditional love… Man, that was tempting. I really did think about it for a while, but eventually said to myself, “Who am I kidding? I’m a cat person, not a dog person.”

The first cold night in late September, I said to myself, “Who am I kidding? I’ll never get through the winter without a cat curled up on my lap.” I got in touch with a friend of mine who is involved in an island cat charity to see if there were any cats in need of a good home. Indeed there was, which is how Stella became part of my life.

Stella is a lovely grey and white tuxedo cat. She is very, very sweet. She sometimes looks at me with what does appear to be love in her eyes. What Stella isn’t is a lap cat. She also hates being picked up. Don’t get me wrong. She will curl up beside me on the sofa when I’m reading or watching telly, but she will not get on me. Nor would she sleep on the bed with me and I like waking up with a cat on the bed.

Which is pretty much how I ended up with a second cat. My friend was fostering Roxie, a thirteen-year-old tabby who’d been found abandoned and half-starved in the wood. The vet had fixed her up and my friend (who already had cats of her own) was fostering her until a home could be found, which was proving surprisingly difficult. I saw Roxie a few times at my friend’s house. She was sweet and affectionate and, truth be told, bore a striking resemblance to Angie.

I knew Stella did not like being in a home with other cats, but Roxie had rather wormed her way into my heart, so eventually I told my friend that, if the next potential adoption didn’t work out, I’d take her. It didn’t work out and take her I did. The night before she was coming here to live, I had a dream about Stella and Roxie on the bed together, grooming one another the way Tri and Angie used to do. It’ll be fine, I told myself. They’ll become chums.

They haven’t. (It didn’t help that within a couple of days Roxie decided she was going to be Top Cat.) Mostly they avoid each other, occasionally there is a hissy fit. Stella (quite properly) maintains her right to curl up beside me on the sofa. This, of course, precludes Roxie becoming a lap cat. (Too close for comfort for both of them.) The sofa is Stella’s territory. (Roxie never even gets on it.) The bed, on the other hand, is Roxie’s territory. As soon as I get under the covers to start reading, Roxie is on the bed and she is still there when I wake up in the morning.

Still no lap cat, but that’s okay. None of the “Oh, my god, I am the luckiest animal in the world to have you in my life” devotion that is part of a dog’s DNA. And that’s okay, too, I guess.

I will confess, dear reader, that I do occasionally wonder if perhaps it might have been a good idea to do more than consider a dog in 2013, but that ship has sailed. I have two sweet, loving-in-their-own-kind-of-way creatures in my life. The only thing that could possibly piss these cats off more than having to share me with one another would be introducing a canine into the equation. No little black dog for me.

And that’s okay. (Although I wasn’t kidding in my birthday entry when I said it would be nice if one of them could figure out how to tickle my back. I do miss my back tickles.)

From → Black dog diary

One Comment
  1. janeshead permalink

    Dogs and cats mostly get along fine, you know! I would know, I’ve pretty much always had both. You could – haha, on with the unsolicited advice! – get a shelter dog, someone middle-aged, who’s lived with cats. Someone who needs your love as much as you need theirs. Get a black one… 😀

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