For 16 years, my family had a lovely cat named Cleo. He was some sort of Maine Coon mix, and was therefore huge and fluffy, and used to fetch sticks like a dog. And yes, we named him Cleo before finding out he was a boy. This happened with our cat Rosie, too. Look, we’re not very good at sexing kittens.
On Saturday, my parents took poor Cleo to the vet to have him put to sleep. He had been suffering for about two months with kidney failure, and had lost about five pounds, which is a lot for a cat. My parents had been giving him subcutaneous fluids and feeding him pureed food by syringe for all that time, and he just wasn’t able to rally given his advanced age. I wish I had been in Ohio to say goodbye, but it was not to be.
Though I knew the end was near, losing a pet is always tough. I really miss him already. My parents felt the same way, and ended up stopping at our local no-kill shelter on the way home from the vet’s. I think the initial idea was “just to look,” but who ever goes to a shelter only to come away empty-handed? And so we now have two new kittens, Sasha (grey) and Simba (tabby). They are currently living in my childhood bathroom until they settle down and are fully litter-trained.
Yes, my bathroom was/is pastel pink. It was not my choice. And that’s my mom there, posing with them.
My dad has always had issues with the deer that live in our backyard.
Every year, his carefully tended beds sprout, look nice for about one day, then are mercilessly mowed down by a horde of ravenous deer. They clip each tulip and plant neatly with their teeth; it looks as if a scythe has reaped the entire lot. The deer come right up to the house and munch on our flowers while watching us eat breakfast through the windows.
In an effort to save at least a few of his precious plants, my dad has tried just about everything. He hung Irish Spring soap from each branch, which did nothing whatsoever. He began peeing on all the bushes, heading outside several times a day to “water the plants.” The idea is that your are marking your territory with your urine, but the deer didn’t seem to care.
He applied cheesecloth and bird netting to our raspberry bush, which didn’t work for deer OR birds. They actually seemed to work together, with the birds carrying off enough of the netting that the deer could feed more easily. He applied dried blood all over the place, which was supposed to scare off the deer. You can buy this blood meal at any hardware store, but what IS IT? Cow? The blood of virgins? The label does not say.
Obviously, this didn’t work either.
He strung up fishing line attached to poles, which were supposed to keep the deers’ long legs from marching around willy-nilly. But he didn’t build this fence tall enough, and the deer simply grazed over the top of the boundary.
The deer would walk over our frozen swimming pool in winter, and their sharp hooves would tear holes in the cover, which meant we had to buy a new one every year. My dad got worried that a deer would eventually break through the ice and drown in our pool, so he installed a super-tough cover at great expense.
Our dog Lily, a 75-pound golden retriever, was terrified of the deer, and so was no help. My dad would sometimes let her out anyway when the deer were around, in the hopes the deer would bolt, but Lily would just stay at the door, whining and pawing to be let back in. He then went out himself, armed with rocks, but the deer were completely unimpressed. I imagine they were actually laughing in their tiny deery heads.
My dad has since given up, and simply refuses to plant anything anymore. Annual bulbs still sprout, and are cut down before they can even bloom. Most of our landscaping near the house has been removed so that the deer at least keep their distance. This is a battle we realized we simply couldn’t win.
However, he is still fighting the good fight against the moles in our yard. Back when I was living at home, he would proudly show me the corpse whenever he caught one in a trap. The mole’s pinched face was barely visible behind it’s comically oversized paws, and its midsection was, of course, squished into a bloody pulp by the trap. Lovely.
So there was this anti-drug PSA in the ’80s that tried to scare kids by saying that, “No one ever says, ‘I wanna be a junkie when I grow up.'” Here, you can see it below if you want to relive your “Just Say No” days.
When I was little, I usually said that I wanted to be an alien when I grew up. However, after seeing this PSA, my new default response was, indeed, “I wanna be a junkie!” I was around seven years old and cute as a button, and I loved the reaction I’d get from saying this. Most people would be horrified, and glare at my parents with undisguised hostility.
My family had always been suspicious amongst the other parents at school, mostly because of my mom’s refusal to wear bras in public, her overall hippie ways, and our conspicuous absence at church. Strangers would accuse my mom of putting false eyelashes on me as a toddler, but my natural lashes were simply absurdly long. When she’d tug at my eyes to show them that my lashes were real, they’d still continue to shake their heads in disgust. (Side note: Long eyelashes are not all they’re cracked up to be. Bugs often land on mine and get stuck like they’re in a venus fly trap, and I have to wear my glasses halfway down my nose so that they don’t touch my lashes. Just saying.)
But I was completely oblivious to my parents’ embarrassment, and would gleefully tell anyone in earshot that all I wanted in life was to become a junkie. Except that I didn’t really know what a junkie was, but I figured it involved a lot of screaming, sweating, and running. I also thought it meant living in a cardboard box on the street, which perhaps wasn’t too far from the truth. I begged my parents to let me live outside in a large appliance box, but my pleas were ignored. Considering that a family of six deer lived in our backyard at the time, perhaps they were worried I’d be hooved to death? I assume it would be traumatic to go outside and find your daughter impaled on a set of antlers.
Eventually, I got them to agree to let me live in the box, but only indoors. I set up my box like a fort with blankets, magazines, and a flashlight. I also shook a little empty soup can full of pennies at my sister, asking her for change. She was not amused. I would randomly start tugging at my clothes like the girl from the commercial, rolling around on my blankets and screaming like a banshee. I thought the whole thing was pretty fun, but my parents were beginning to worry that there was something wrong with me. This was around the time they decided to take my college fund and use it for a cruise to Alaska, since I was obviously committed to being a homeless drug addict. (Note: This is a complete lie. I wasn’t really that committed. And my parents funded my completely useless degree.)
As I remember, I lived and slept in my box for about two days before the novelty finally wore off. My brother, who was in college at the time, found it completely hilarious, but I think he was the only one. And I wonder why I didn’t have that many friends as a child.