Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cat Gets an F

“Jackson is looking for a friend,” I said pointing to the cat seated before the French doors.
“Hmm,” Mr. Wonderful said.
“I bet he misses that opossum we had in the house.”
“Then he’s dumber than I thought.”

After Jackson narrowly escaped being sliced open by a wild opossum, he sank into a depression, which he coped with by sleeping a lot.  Instead of his daily rest of 22 hours, he was now sawing wood 24/7, which was 8 hours more than usual.  Give or take.

Through his depressed state I still fed Jackson, still cleaned his litter box, still played with him after work and yet… he barely noticed me.  Despite several months of living with us he remained aloof by refusing to let me pick him up, to cuddle him or to come when I called his name.  All of these facts just confirmed for me that our cat was indeed male.  Clearly some gender behaviors crossed species lines. 

However if he barely tolerated me he completely ignored my husband refusing to even purr for Mr. Wonderful.  Apparently there are some aspects—like my husband’s wonderfulness in handling a saw, drill and Phillip’s screwdriver—that didn’t translate across species lines. 

So Mr. Wonderful and I did the only thing we could—we left.  He took a business trip and I, gentle readers, went to the rodeo.  Yee-Ha!  We left Jackson and The House in the care of our houseguest and crossed our fingers. 

Matt, my cousin’s kid, was staying with us while looking for an L.A. place of his own and Jackson was looking for a friend.  It seemed like destiny that they should spend the weekend together.  Besides after caring for an unfriendly cat, we needed a break.

My sister joined me at the Reno, Nevada rodeo and what a treat!  Where else but Reno can you watch real cowboys rope calves in the shadow of glassy downtown skyscrapers?   Well you can in Denver, Houston, Tucson and just about everywhere else west of the Mississippi River.  But who’s counting?

The Reno rodeo was for "Californios" who are the original cowboys of the region encompassing California, Nevada, Utah and Fornios who actively worked on ranches herding and roping cattle.  Judging from the merchant booths some Californios also herded turquoise jewelry and roped freshly squeezed lemonade. 

The rodeo events included the jobs that cowboys do on the ranch like lassoing, roping and sitting on their horses looking handsome.  If I were judging that last event it would have been a tie among every Californio present.  No one looks more handsome on a horse than a real cowboy.  Although I’d never tell Mr. Wonderful that.

A definite highlight of our trip was seeing the one and only Buck Brannaman in person performing at the rodeo and strolling around the casino.  Buck is the original horse whisperer even working as a consultant on Robert Redford’s movie, "The Horse Whisperer".  He’s forged a career helping scared, emotionally damaged horses unfit to be ridden become calm, confident creatures eager to work with a rider.  They even made a documentary film about Buck and his horsework called "Buck".  In the movie something he said stuck with me: “Why let an animal live in fear?  Why not fix it?”

Watching Buck compete in the ring I noticed how the horse trusted him.  How they worked together as one, which made me think of… our cat.  In the family of emotions, fear and sadness are cousins.  Jackson was sad; sad from losing his original owner who’d found him as a days-old kitten and raised him; sad for having to leave her West Hollywood condo; sad for losing his other two cat pals.  Although Mr. Wonderful and I lived in a suburban house in the Valley where he was an only feline, I still wanted to provide a happy home to this kitty.  I wanted us to be friends

Maybe I could fix Jackson with some cat whispering?

After 48 hours of cowboys I returned to Los Angeles and The House.  Jackson greeted me at the front door.  He meowed—for more kibble.  I replenished his bowl.  He meowed—for attention.  I stroked his coat.  Then he walked around my legs circling them like a lasso before he stopped, setting his paw on top of my foot.  It was a very sweet thing to do—in any species—because it showed that Jackson was happy to see me.

“Finally,” I whispered to him.  “We’re friends!”