Pinky at the vet

Dr. Yang takes her away to run a series of tests. After a while, he returns with her hanging limply from his arm. Pinky is composed, resigned to her fate.

She is in good shape, he says. Shall we give her the shots?

He gives her half the doses, the second to be administered in three weeks. This dismays me. We have to go through this at home again! But I learn three things I have been dying to know. She is about three years old, no more than five, weighs eight pounds, and she has been spayed. Sorrow stabs my heart. No one ever asks a cat, dog, or horse for permission to stunt their lives. Yet – and there is a terrible human necessity in this – I would have asked the vet to perform the procedure. At the same time, I am giddy because she is so young, and I will have her a long time.

For the fun of it, he and I converse in Spanish. Renato and I lived fifteen years in Brazil, with intermittent trips to Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay, and we developed a language when traveling there that everyone else who lives in those countries calls Portuñol, for Portuguese-Español.

He asks why this tortoiseshell cat is named Pinky. I show him her one pink toe.
Lógico, he says, smiling.

She is mostly quiet on our way home. For all she knows, she is going to another place to be murdered. At home, as soon as she is free of the carrier, she walks around the house, the patio, the yard, as though to make sure nothing has changed. She stays close to me the rest of the day.

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Pinky and the vet

I purchase a carrier, make an appointment with the vet, and set myself, not without a deal of anxiety, to get Pinky into the carrier. The two attempts to place her in it are harrowing failures. After the first try I do not know when, if ever, she will return home after her flight. After the second struggle, she runs only as far as the patio where she sits under the railing overlooking the lemon tree. I show her my bleeding finger. Gently, she licks the blood away and rubs her cheek against the wound. I forgive her at once. Again, I call the vet to cancel. The receptionist is understanding. An appointment with a cat guardian is contingent upon availability of cat.

On another day I call the vet’s again. To my bemusement, the different receptionist asks how to spell Pinky. I am pleased, though, that Pinky is being taken seriously.

I manage to get Pinky into the carrier, not without a tussle. Her orange fish I have placed inside the carrier does not calm her fears. In the car, she lets go with despairing yowls. The power and volume of her voice surprise me. She is sure she is going to be killed. One green eye peers at me through a vent hole.

The vet is a Chinese man from Peru. Pinky had been quiet since we left the car. The form I have filled out, except for my own information, is blank except for her name. He looks at me. I explain. I have no idea of her age or if she has had her shots and I don’t intend to inquire around the neighborhood if someone knows. I have a skulking feeling she came from next door. The point is, she wants to be with me and no one else.

Tango, a most amiable cat

Tango is large and rangy, with legs like a jack rabbit’s. Her coat is a deep orange with white belly and socks. Her voice squeezes out like this: EEUH, and sounds sad. I try to speak as she does and am rewarded by a startled look. She is also scared, affectionate, and needful. Despite her avoidance of the mole conclave that day by the lemon tree, she has followed the trail to the pet door.

Her appetite is bottomless. I am now purchasing two sacks of cat chow at a time. Of all the chairs there are in the house, she likes to lie on mine at the dining table. When having my breakfast, I must sit on the edge, often on her feet, which she likes. I reach behind and find a nose, a paw, and always a tongue. Even after weeks, she is uncertain of her welcome. She has been sensing my own uncertainty about having her as a frequent visitor, and I know I send out conflicting signals.

I am afraid Pinky might be feeling crowded. Between Tango and Au Au they clean out the food dish, leaving nothing for Pinky. The private food stash in the bedroom is no longer a secret. At night I awaken to crunching noises, Tango’s always louder than Au Au’s. Loaner, having once caught her tail in the pet door, enters the house only if the big door is open. Pinky does not get between the large cats and their food, and she grows so hungry that she has started waking me up at 5:30 for her breakfast. I pull the covers over my head but she is relentless, marching up and down my body, until I surrender at about 6:00.

After she eats, I have my own breakfast, and blearily read the newspaper, unless Tango is sitting on it and rubbing her face against mine. She likes to sample everything I drink, even my tea. Another time, she dipped a paw into my wine and had herself a drop or two. And she is the only cat who will drink from the dish of water I keep next to the food dish. The others go outside to the bird bath, which I must scrub every day.

Tango wishes she had fingers, I know. Her efforts to pick up objects of interest with her paw are futile, and so I help her. I feed her the pumpkin seeds she wants, one at a time, she chomping industriously. Then I discover a small pile of them on my lap. She had been spitting them out of the side of her mouth.

From “Meow’s Way,” more gifts

Her gifts also are delivered to my bed. At 10:30 p.m. she explodes onto the bed with a mouse. It is wounded, and I go to the kitchen to fetch an oven mitt. Out the door with the mouse. At 2:30 a.m., she flies up with another. I switch on the light in time to see it get away from her. I bolt out of bed and in the next fifteen minutes we chase it around the room. I yell, over here! Under the chair! Behind the cushion! I am not thinking of what the neighbors might be thinking.

The mouse shows its stuff. Every time Pinky closes in it leaps, squeaking, several inches in the air. Then it is gone behind my dressing table.

Resigned, I pull the heavy dresser out. Pinky and my stick get in each other’s way as I sweep. The mouse comes out, and disappears again, either back inside or somewhere else. At any rate, Pinky gallops up the hall in pursuit.

Apparently it is still in the house. She spends hours guarding the dresser. I think she expects me to take up sentry duty when she has to go outside. While I am in the office, no doubt she believes I am guarding the lizard hiding in the bookshelves.

Loaner once announced a gift of hers by calling from the outside, though the patio door was open. Her small voice probably traveled no more than five feet, yet I heard her and went to see. Lying on the mat was a full-sized rat, its bared incisors frightening in their length. I admired Loaner’s delicacy in bringing it no farther into the house and duly made a fuss over her. Satisfied she had pleased me, she came inside, leaving the rat, and watched TV with me.

Gifts from Pinky

For a small cat, Pinky’s tread is not subtle. I hear her drumming down the hall and know something is up. She bursts into my office, carrying something in her mouth. She drops it by my chair and meows several times in case I have not noticed that she has brought me a mouse, which is not yet dead.

Renato, help! Thank you, Pinky. Can you take it away now? Instead, she treats me to a display of toss-and-catch and hockey moves. Her rear end sticks up as she swats the mouse. I am hoping the mouse will soon die or that she will take her operations outside. I stare at my computer screen, type a word: “and,” and have no idea what I was meaning to say.

Finally Pinky is done and strolls off. I fetch several paper towels and go to dispose of the mouse. I have received anonymous gifts on my front doormat, as well, in various stages of dismemberment.

Each day after the first mouse, I receive a bird, a second mouse, another bird, no end of gifts of esteem, topped by a little snake. The snake is dark gray, with a bead-like band around its neck, and has a pattern of red dots under its pointed tail. It is still alive, too. Luckily, it is parked on the inside doormat. All I need do is lift the mat and dump the snake into the brush in front.

By now I am hardened, until she brings a bird that is alive. My course of action is clear. I must wring its neck and put it out of its misery. Instead, I lock myself in the bathroom, where I stay for ten minutes. When I emerge, Pinky and the bird have disappeared.

Pinky and the gang

In bed, Pinky either camps at my feet or comes to my side for a session of scratching and paw holding or head cupping. While we sleep I sometimes hold her foot, just to stay in contact. She works her legs like a forklift operator, levering right and left or away. I obey, because it amuses me to do so. I have not smiled in the dark recently that I can recall.

I went out back one day and spied Loaner lying near my lemon tree. I was happy to see her and called her name. She replied with a perfunctory meow, her gaze fixed on something under the lemon tree. The object of her attention was round, with pink, star-shaped toes and a long pink fleshy nose. Upside down and helpless to right itself, it waved its feet and uttered “bleahhhh.” A mole! Loaner patted it, gently, then returned to watching. Soon Pinky appeared and also settled down to view this new thing. Then Au Au came. Down the path a vividly orange cat made as if to join us then, seeing me, veered off into the brush.

We crouched there for some minutes, with me wondering what I should do about the mole. I pitied it, yet was reluctant to break up the cats’ fun. This is what cats do, I reasoned. They hunt, they learn, they play. Who was I to spoil things for them? With this excuse to do nothing, I did not move. Pinky dabbed at the mole, and so did Au Au. The mole owned a velvety gray fur coat. In books I read trappers wrapped their rifles, knives, and Bibles in moleskin. Was that the real thing, or some kind of fabric? Those were my pseudo-scientific speculations; I can’t say what the cats were thinking.

Suddenly, Pinky and Au Au rolled the mole into the open and began playing soccer with it. Loaner got up as I hesitated, about ready to rescue the mole. She headed for the steps up to the house. I followed. We were to be alone together! After she had her milk treat, we spent a sweet five minutes with her on my lap. I must sit on the floor for this now, as she will not go near any chairs or couches tainted by Pinky or Au Au. I try carrying her to a place to sit but she wails in protest and struggles to get free. But my lap, isn’t it tainted as well?

When she left, I went outside to check on the soccer game. Pinky and Au Au were gone. I hunted, and found the mole intact, upside down again, and wedged under a rock. I lifted it by its rat-like tail and dropped it into the thick brush not too far, I hoped, from home.

Excerpt from Meow’s Way cont’d

Pinky could look after herself, I reasoned, if I left her a dish of food and water outside the door. But what about raccoons eating the food? Other cats? No matter. I would figure something out. At least she wouldn’t need a litter box. In the beginning of our friendship, there was a problem with our nights together. I had to get up several times to see if she had come to be let in. When she did come in, at whatever time of night it happened to be, she would jump onto the bed and sleep by my side. Sweet comfort for my spirit, this little furry body purring next to me! After my husband, Renato, died I endured the same painful emptiness everyone does after loss. I did not want another human being next to me. The pet door I installed suited us both. Now she came and went as she liked.

Her belly is a serious comfort zone. When she wants me to stop scratching when ready for sleep, her legs push my hand away. The first time I slipped a hand under her head, she purred wildly. Irresistible – and I did it whenever I could. Sometimes she’d slip a paw into my hand to hold. While I cupped her head, a small cramp would come alive in my forearm, move up to my shoulder and neck, snake down my back, until a monstrous torque took hold of the arch of my foot. My hand stayed put, while my foot proceeded to dig a hole in the mattress. It is a measure of my gratitude for her companionship that I was willing to stand on hot coals for her.

I have since recovered my senses and seek my own comfort first. In the very beginning, she crept up and draped herself around my neck like a fur boa. Her purring filled my throat. Another time, I woke up to a stealthy movement along my legs. She was inching up along them, and when she reached my hip, began to inch back down. She did this several times. Was it a private game? Was she tracking a bug? I went back to sleep