The Humane Society and the animals

I have felt a connection with the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates HSEducation and HSLegislativeFund for ten years, when I first found them –or they found me. Who cannot care for what they do, crusading against dogfighting, freeing whales from captivity, and now seeing Ringling pledge to end its traveling elephant acts?

Designers Armani and Hugo Boss have ceased using animal fur in their clothing. Fighting to stop the tight caging of hens may not be glamorous, but as a result many stores have stopped buying eggs from caged hens.

HSUS has succeeded in strengthening legal penalties against animal cruelty in the United States. I wish, how I wish, such legal consequences encompassed other lands, especially Southeast Asia. I see these pictures of dogs and cats at markets in conditions that nauseate me.

The little I do is just that, so little. So what have I done? I am about 95% vegetarian now. The remainder is mostly chicken, sometimes bacon in a BLT sandwich (don’t mention how pigs are treated!).  A couple of years ago I pledged to avoid roast duck, the only meat dish that still entices me but then I read of the manner in which ducks are slaughtered to supply Chinese restaurants. Such a hopeless, meaningless gesture affecting no one but myself.

“Bottles and Me,” A Memoir

Those events have stayed vivid in memory and I delivered them to thesmartset.com, which published “Bottles and Me” on their magazine on April 20.

The editor liked my 15-year-old self in which I believed everyone had two livers and hadn’t yet had a date. Instead, I was a “rabbit” and with Bottles peered through holes in a fence at the American military being entertained. And who was Dorothy Parker of The New Yorker fame? According to Bottles, someone I should emulate.

And then, three years later, my family was released into the wild.

Book cover: The little girl is my mom, age five in 1900; her mom at  her right, grandmother at her left. Note the women’s bound feet. My mom’s feet were not yet touched.

A muratore for vegetarians, or not

Muratore means “bricklayer” and according to Renato Italian bricklayers built themselves some hearty sandwiches to take to work. This sandwich Renato called a muratore, and it can be a satisfying mouthful, perhaps best not eaten at a polite dinner table.

Take a half-dozen bell peppers, green yellow or red, cut into pieces, add tomatoes if you like, and fry in olive oil until well done. Add salt. This will make two sourdough sandwiches. Not just any kind of bread will do. Real sourdough makes an authentic muratore. Hollow out the roll slightly and stuff with the peppers.

I once made such a sandwich for my lunch at work at the American School of Rio de Janeiro and took it out with a flourish in the cafeteria. I realized, after I had taken a few bites, that about 10 pairs of eyes were fixed in my direction. “What?” I said. “Don’t you wish you had one of these?” I don’t quite recall what anyone said in reply but there was, for sure, laughter. I will bet they tried it out for themselves at home, though.

That old show “Bonanza”

Remember when “Bonanza” ruled the airwaves as a family-oriented, wholesome one-hour weekly TV show? I would settle down to watch the head of family and his three sons, one of whom didn’t last long in the series and whose career didn’t extend much beyond “Bonanza.” He was the sophisticated brother, given to sardonic facial expressions and never allowed to express himself in a different character mode. His name is on the tip of my brain, a shame really, because I respected him as an actor. He just didn’t get the breaks, and I believe he died young in actual life.

What was not to like in Hoss, the big guy in the white hat, or Little Joe who went on to make his own series “Little House On the Prairie,” or Dad with his constant wisdom, dispensed when the need arose, like “Father Knows Best.”

“Bonanza” is still being reprised on a cable channel, just before “JAG,” and I catch the endings and marvel at the absolute Phoniness of the sets. Were we viewers so naive that we accepted the stage shrubbery, the clean-swept trails without noticing their studio-set fakery? The ladies are the most unreal in this, a western on a relatively remote ranch, every hair in place, makeup almost mask-like in perfection, the acting just very much like that — acting.

We viewers must have been ripe for that and glad to be entertained with such Cleanness. How we have moved on to dark storylines of today, replete with perversions and cruelty. As our society becomes more frank and open about the dark side, so are those qualities selling to the public with a will.

All of this didn’t happen behind our backs. We saw it coming and we met it with gusto. We recognize those faces, which are ourselves.

So you prefer blogs about cats?

No politics, you readers are telling me. Keep your thoughts about the presidential candidates to yourself. No serious business, even if delivered with wry humor. Bring on the cats or anything four footed. Even winged.

Sigh, okay. Yesterday Bijou didn’t drop up at all and I began to worry. He worries me all the time, because where pussycats are concerned — little ones especially — their permanence can be wiped out in an eye blink. I should know. So, at 11 a.m. I dropped what I was doing and went out to find the little imp. I called and called, then walked down to the corner of the fence, where I found him. He flopped down and wiggled, and I understood: he was asking not to make him come inside, the weather was too fine and he was having such a good time doing — what? tracking gophers? spying on the neighbors?

I told him sternly, No dice, come inside this minute, and he got up and came with me — sort of, making the trip as prolonged and indirect as he could, zigzagging, swinging around the lemon tree — until he came to the steps to the deck. There, he disappeared from view. I waited, torn between laughter and exasperation. He reappeared under a shrub and faced the steps and finally ran up them into the house.

There wasn’t anything I needed him for at 11 a.m. He knew it, as did I. But I felt compelled to find and keep him for a few minutes for my own peace of mind.

The peace of mind was again compromised at 6 p.m. while I watched the evening news and listened for his explosive entrance through the cat door. At 6:30 I planned to go outside to call. But he did come in before then and immediately I latched the door after him. Bijou jumped up to the dining table for his supper — his favorite whitefish and sardine combination — I have to keep Loaner’s and Bijou’s meals separate and don’t care if cats aren’t supposed to eat their meals on my dining table. I gave up the conventions long, long ago.

Having eaten, Bijou went to go out and found his exit locked and came back to me with a squeaky complaint. Too bad, I told him. I would know where he was, at least for the night. Ah, the night, when he parks on my feet and I cannot stretch my legs at all. Often Loaner occupies my left side, her leg slung over my wrist as we both purr.

It astonishes me that so many humans have no experience with pussycats at all.

If you want to read “Meow’s Way” or “Meow’s Way Redux” you will find these stories at all the usual online retail places.

Pussycat Bijou at eight months

When my friend Jenni found him in her backyard, he was six inches long and weighed well under a pound. A week later I took him home, not sure if Mojo, who had gone missing two weeks before, would come back and find someone else in his place. I brought the new kitty to the vet, who glanced at him and said, “You found him just in time.”

Bijou had a bruised foreleg, ulcerated gums, terrible conjunctivitis, and ringworm. Not to mention an army of fleas. And so we began a series of treatments that lasted more than six weeks. I worried my 13-year-old girl Loaner would catch his ringworm and a rash sprang up all over my arms which didn’t take the ring cluster shape but itched horribly. The Internet assured me it was merely an allergic reaction to an “allergen.” I looked at my little allergen and helplessly fed him more treats. We were going either down together or triumph together. I learned to cut up his pill and chase each fragment down with a squirt of water, forcing him to swallow. Eyes, mouth, ointment, baths, we were an industry of a clinic.

Today I admire his shiny sleek black coat and panther-like body. This kitty had to be a recognizable breed and I found it on the Internet. He is a Bombay, a blend of Burmese and American black shorthair. He has the copper eyes mentioned in the article. He is unaware of it all, being more intent on turning over my cup of pens and chewing on my notes. He drops up here four or five times of a morning to cuddle and purr and stomp on the keyboard. His licking of my hands become epic while I kiss his little face. He likes the TV show NatGeo Wild (see photo).

The two kitties are a sight to see together. They are my troops and they know precisely what time I do anything in our daily routines. Hoping to keep Bijou longer than Mojo, I microchipped him and lock him down before dark. He knows what time he has to come in and if he is late, my call “Where is this CAT!” will bring him out of the shrubbery. I know he is ranging farther and farther each day but can’t do anything about it. Keeping him indoors all day and night seems to be a cruelty, against the nature of a cat. I will simply have to take my chances.

One evening he didn’t come at my call, and Loaner went to look for him. Together, we went down to the fence while I called and called. By 9 p.m. I was desolate, expecting a repeat of Mojo. Loaner did not go to her bed but settled on the hall rug and kept watch on the pet door. At 9:30 as I was trying to go to sleep, a body flew over my head and up to the window sill behind my headboard. I sighed. This was to be how it would be.