The dreaded fear of all pet owners – is she hiding, or did she escape? I saw her a minute ago, but I left the door open. WHERE IS ROSALIND?
Rosalind is a shelter cat from Manhattan who knew nothing about the finer points of survival in bucolic Broward County, Florida, when we first moved down from what is known as “The City” to everyone who lives there, or “New York” more broadly among the Great Unwashed. “No Rosalind, that furry thing is not a cat. It’s a raccoon.” “No Rosalind, that big bird is not from Sesame Street” – she loves Sesame Street, and Animal Planet, and I’m trying teach her “A” is for “Albacore” without any results worth publishing I’m sad to say – “It’s a hawk.” “Yes Rosalind, you can catch a lizard and bring it in the house to play with. But I really wish you wouldn’t.”
It wasn’t easy for me to adapt from a lifetime of apartment dwelling to my first single-family home – there were things to learn how to do such as prune a bush, and novelties to learn about, such was what do you mean I have to pay for water, isn’t it included in my mortgage? It was surreal when I would hang pictures and worry whether banging nails in the wall would disturb my neighbors – who live 50 feet away. The worst was one time after a night of partying and I couldn’t find the trash chute.
Adaptation was even harder for poor Rosalind because before we moved down she didn’t even know there was an outside; the closest she ever got was a whiff of smog through a 21st story window in Hell’s Kitchen. Her first few steps outdoors were taken with trepidation: if cats could express surprise, her reaction could be best described as WTF is this?
She started with baby steps, sniffing here, sniffing there, calculating what plant was best to fall asleep under till the ants started biting her and she started biting them back.
Then one day she saw her first other cat, a stray that had climbed over the fence into my – I mean Rosalind’s – backyard, and it was no more pussyfooting around for my Rosalind: though she weighs in at a mere 7½ pounds after a full can of Fancy Feast, she puffed her long hair up to make her look the size of a panther, growled, hissed, readied her Edward Scissorhands front claws for a fight, then made a mad dash like an angry bull toward her mortal enemy, the neighborhood tabby, determined he would never trespass again.
And he didn’t – poor Simba, as I call him, ran full-speed toward my wood fence, leapt and dug his own Edward Scissorhands nails into the planks and climbed over it into my neighbor’s yard, never to be seen again. But Rosalind stopped at the base of the fence and looked up, befuddled: being a shelter cat from Manhattan she never learned that she could climb a fence, and I wasn’t going to teach her.
(Science will discover soon enough, I’m sure, that we humans learned “Get off my lawn” from cats when they see other cats on their lawn: they instantly shift into “Get off my lawn mode” and run the other cat off their property faster than an outlaw run out of Dodge.)
Once we were settled in my – I mean Rosalind’s – house, she adapted to life here in Green Acres, aka Broward County. Adapted to most everything, that is, but the rain. I’d never bathed her because she does enough of that herself and then throws up hairballs to let me know she’s clean, so she had never had direct contact with water on her body. That is until one lazy Wednesday afternoon when she was lounging on the chaise longue (often misspelt “chase lounge,” which is wrong, FYI) and one of those It’s-raining-on-the-other-side-of-the-street-but-nice-and-sunny-over-here-on-this-side Florida thunderstorms came rolling in, and Rosalind was caught without an umbrella.
She was drenched, and displeased – inclement weather is not a cat’s friend.
Her second major adaptation was also related to water – sprinklers. Cats do not like sprinklers; they experience them as an affront to their dignity. My sprinklers run on well water, a pump, and a timer; as soon as Rosalind hears the pump start, and long before any water comes out of the nozzles, she’s run back inside to make sure not a drop touches her sacred fur.
Now four years into single-family homeownership, Rosalind (the de-factor homeowner) has adapted and DEMANDS to be let outside – whenever it’s not raining – and I am forced to comply lest I be licked to death at 5 a.m. as she successfully tries to let me know what’s on her mind: the newly discovered great out-of-doors.
She loves it outside especially when it’s below 50 degrees – she’s an LHD, I was informed by the vet, a Long-Haired Domestic, and therefore built for the cold, unlike most of us Floridians, who don cardigans and mittens at any outdoor temperature below 80 though indoors we sweat above 68, which I’m pretty sure is psychological.
Usually Rosalind spends the day doing what she does best – nothing – and she comes back in by herself. But one dreaded day the unthinkable happened: I couldn’t find Rosalind anywhere! Panicked, I searched outside – in the ferns, behind the generator, behind the propane tanks, amongst the hibiscuses. I called my neighbor over to help me with the search: we climbed the trees even though Rosalind can’t even climb the fence, we checked the sky for circling hawks that might be carrying a 7½-pound gray furry ball in their talons, we looked for holes under the fence to see if she had made a run for it and eloped with Simba.
Nope, nothing. No Rosalind anywhere. So I resorted to the nuclear option: I turned on the sprinklers, hoping the water would flush her – so to speak – out of wherever she might be hiding.
But no Rosalind.
The search went on inside the house: under the sofa, under the table, under the ottoman, under the blankets, in the closets, on the upper shelves. I even started opening the drawers to see if somehow she had managed to climb in and close a drawer behind her. This is ridiculous but I’m going to check anyway, I remember thinking. There’s no way she could close the drawer if she was inside of it.
But that’s what frantic pet owners do!
I went into the kitchen, started shaking the treats box. This will get her out, I thought.
I opened a can of solid white albacore – her only word for the day for the last 5 years that she was having trouble learning how to read – because she usually came prancing out of wherever she might be hiding since she loved to guzzle the brine.
Then my friend called me from the guest bedroom. “Steve, I found her!”
“Oh thank God!”
“But all that’s left of her is her tail.”
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