Underneath my yellow skin

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Shadow, my little cat ambassador

all the love.
My favorite pic of brotherly love. (S, left; R, right.)

Shadow and I are a duo and have been for almost three years since we lost his brother, Raven, suddenly one cold and grim Saturday night. I’ll never forget it, and I think about him every day. Sometimes, only for a flash, and sometimes, for longer, but he’s still in my heart.

Shadow took it badly. For six months, he clung to me in a way that he had never done before. He was more my aloof cat, wanting to be near me on his own terms. He would disappear for hours, only showing up when he wanted to. Raven was more a ‘I need to be on you’ cat, and it was hard to adjust to once he was gone. Shadow would cry out for him, and any time I was outside to smoke, he would put his front paws up on the sliding glass door that separated us and howl.

He’s changed in other ways. He never used to meow at all, but once Raven was gone, he became more vocal. I slowly realized it was when he wanted food and that he had let Raven do it before. Once Raven was gone, Shadow took it upon himself to let me know it was breakfast or treat time. It didn’t matter how many times I told him he would get both regardless–he still meowed. He still does. He’s also more assertive and confident, though that started when he first met Ian, and he’s more affectionate as well.

Anyway, my father, who has never shown any interest in my cats while Raven was alive, has taken quite the shine to Shadow. It started either last year or the year before. Year before because it was when they were in their apartment. We went to visit my niece and her then-boyfriend, now husband, and their adorable Shibu Inu. He was a puppy then, which meant he was highly exuberant. He was all over us because puppy energy, and my father was not happy about it at all. I could tell by the set look on his face, and on the way home, he commented about how nice it was that ‘we’ had a pet who was quiet.

First of all, it’s MY cat, not ours. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with a puppy being a puppy.

This summer, my father has really become enamored by Shadow. I mean, Shadow’s adorable as fuck, but I don’t get why my father is so fascinated by him or why now. My mother said it’s because it’s in contrast to Raven. Her words (paraphrased): Raven got on everything and was noisy. You didn’t have to worry about Shadow taking your food (watch your meats, though), and he was quiet except when he wanted food.

Yeah? I guess? Raven was his own cat, but he wasn’t doing anything extremely untoward (including, unfortunately, stress-peeing outside the box). One thing I loved about him was that he was bull-headed, and he didn’t follow the (cat) rules. When he was a young cat, he loved sitting on top of the refrigerator. It gave me a heart attack every time I saw it, so I read up on what to do to deter him. There was a suggestion to put down a piece of cardboard with loops of masking tape on it because cats don’t like tape on their fur. I followed the suggestion, and the next morning, there was Raven sitting on the tape loops with a, “What now, bitch?” look on his face. I also couldn’t do the squirt gun thing because he liked the feel of water on his face (he drank from the tap). He once started gnawing on a Prozac pill I dropped before I could wrestle it from his mouth (and I did get it out), and he loved to chomp on dental floss.

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Running with the dogs

eternal side-eye.
M’s proxy is judging you.

I am not a dog person. At all. I didn’t grow up with them except that the neighbor always had a dog, a golden lab or retriever, that they never really wanted, but thought they were supposed to have. They kept it outside almost all the time, and it barked constantly. It broke free from its tethers and bit my brother when we were in our twenties. He had to get many stitches, and that’s been my impression of dogs that has lasted ever since. I’ve known several great dogs, but I haven’t had to interact with them for more than a few hours. I’m visiting Ian and his fiancee now, and they have two dogs.

F is a mixture of black lab and hound dog, and she’s roughly eighty pounds. M is a Boston Terrier who is little, but fierce. She holds her own with F; in fact, she’s alpha as far as the dogs go. It’s funny to see F cavort around M, bothering her until M puts her paw down. Then, F immediately backs down and looks at her sister with large, beseeching eyes.

I was nervous meeting them because I don’t know what to do with dogs. Cats, I know. You chill out and let them meet you on their own terms, and it’s fine. Dogs? I had no idea. Did you try to befriend them? Did you do the same thing as cats? I simply did not know.

In reality, it was fairly simple–I followed their cues. With F, she immediately barked happily and jumped at me (not on me, but close), and I gave her plenty of pets. She snuffled happily and pranced around me like a dressage horse. She would follow me around like she was my personal guard dog, and it was kinda funny. M, on the other hand, hung back and just watched. I respected her and did not try to force the issue. I held out my hand, but when she ignored it, I backed off. In a fairly short amount of time, she came up to me and allowed me to pet her. She’s also licked my thigh (over my leggings) and followed me around a bit, too. In fact, Ian’s fiancee, T, commented she was impressed how bold M was being with me. I laughed and said it’s because I was treating her like a cat and respecting her boundaries.

It’s been good to exist with dogs for several days. They’ve taken away a lot of my fears about dogs even as I recognize that they are exceptionally sweet dogs. F is a big galoot at times, but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. When she looks at me with her big, trusting eyes, I just want to cradle her from all the harms of the world. M, on the other hand, has a habit of rolling her eyes at her sister or give her a massive side-eye, which I think is hilarious. It’s also just the way her face is structured as Boston Terriers always look like their exasperated/worried. She also trembles, which makes me anthropomorphize her into thinking she’s anxious. She’s a mama’s girl and sticks mostly with T when T is home, but she’ll hang out with me and Ian when T is at work.

Another cute habit of M’s is that she enthusiastically licks my fingers, but from a distance. She’ll also demands pets from just outside my reach, and I’ll have to lean in order to skritch behind her ears. She sits like a proper lady when she’s in repose, and then she’ll do an epic side-eye, which is so at odds with her prim posture. She looks so tiny next to F, but she’s a solid twenty-five pounds. She’s dense (in terms of body build), and I love the way she clickety-clacks quickly across the floor when she walks. F kind of clambers as she walks, and she’s bodied me as I try to walk by her. She thinks she’s the size of Matilda when she is triple the size, and it’s funny to watch.

M is a wise old soul who is always observing everything around her. She is above the fray until she takes it into her head to troll her sister. She’ll give the eye, then go fetch the tug rope and taunt F with it. Then, they’ll play tug-of-war until M puts her paw down. She’ll put down the rope and just stand over it. F will look at it, but not dare to touch it. When she musters her courage enough to make a move for the rope, M body-blocks her and F runs off. It’s hilarious to watch because F could trounce all over M if she wanted, but she is convinced that M is her superior.

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