Animals I Have Known and Loved
by Rima Magee
Boots is sitting on the arm of my recliner regarding me with watchful eyes. Because she wants to be by my side? Not exactly. I am nibbling on some cheese crackers and she wants her share. She is an American Shorthair cat with silky black and white fur. Technically, she belongs to my daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Bob, but she let me know immediately that she is in charge and we would schedule our days according to her dictates.
I have been dictated to by a number of creatures throughout my life. A few of the special ones deserve recounting.
When my daughter was a little girl, she fell in love with a dollar-sized turtle with a rose painted on his back. We were at the beach in Galveston. Texas. On the way home, she held the box on her lap and wondered what this new pet should be named. All I could think of was, “give it the name you see on the next sign.” Looking eagerly out the window, she pointed to the next sign. At a gas station. It read, “Clean Rest Rooms.” And that was its name.
Unfortunately, Clean Rest Rooms wasn’t. Cleanly, that is. We didn’t know all that much about raising turtles, and his abode quickly became rank, however much we tried to keep it clean. One day, Carol discovered he had gone to turtle heaven, having developed “soft shell.” We had a suitable funeral under the gardenia bush, and that was that.
Then there was Georgy Girl, a purebred Beagle with a pedigree a mile long. Among her illustrious ancestors were Field Champions, Best of Breed, and other such honors. We were living in an apartment in Hollywood when she found her voice. We supposed she heard someone walking close to the windows (it was on the first floor facing the street) when true to her protective instincts, she let out a pure hound “Wow-wow-wow.” Then she looked around, a wild light in her eyes, and dove under the bed where she stayed for 24 hours. After recovering from her scare, she became the “Great Protector” and ruled the roost accordingly.
Himself being a sucker for a stray, let the apartment manager saddle us with an abandoned Silver Tabby female. Princess moved in and there began an endless battle for “top dog” in our apartment. Georgy Girl thought she had the problem solved one evening. She came prancing up to the door, her tail wagging, and led us down the hallway where there were several strange lumps scattered along the way. She was smiling, as only a hound can smile, as though she were saying, “See? You don’t want someone here who goes to the bathroom on the carpet!” The lumps, however, were obviously covered with litter from Princess’ litter box. I picked them up (with a Kleenex) and put them back.
“Georgy Girl, what have you done? Bad dog!” The tail went between the legs and she slunk away, her eyes sad, and lay down in a corner. She sighed and closed her eyes. Princess was unperturbed.
A couple of years later, we bought a three-bedroom home in Simi Valley – a few miles northwest of Hollywood – with a large, fenced back yard, a canopied patio and a swimming pool The animal population had increased by now. Georgy Girl and Princess had learned to ignore each other. The third bedroom was “cat-proofed” with several cats as our guests. We finally decided to spend money on neutering rather than cat food. A neighbor, Rita, was a cat fancier and went to shows almost every weekend. Carol and I got intrigued and involved and joined the craziness of preparing them for show.
Ever bathe a cat? We learned fast – without getting scratched! And then Rita gave us a male Chocolate Burmese, Sam, on condition that we would use him as a stud. (She raised British Blues – not a good mix with a Burmese.) We mated him with a beautiful Calico Shorthair (white with red markings.) She had four kittens – including a dark Red Tabby whom we named Red Barbour (for the sports writer.) Selectively bred, he would be the perfect stud for prize-winning American Shorthairs; after form, color was the important feature.
Meanwhile, people kept dropping off animals in our yard. Woodstock was a tiny kitten who appeared one Sunday on top of our eight-foot wall. Himself got him down while we looked around outside to see where he came from. No one in sight! Sigh! Another drop-off. What can you do with a tiny white kitten with black markings whose mew was a soft pleading? Love him, of course. By now I had developed a training method.