BIG GUY AND THE CARDINAL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #72 – CAT


This is a favorite story of Big Guy, the best cat ever, with pardon asked of every other best cat in the world. Because there are so many best cats!


Several years before the priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but more than acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.

He was working weekends for several decades that decade, so if anything happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old Catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.

Holy_Cross_Cathedral_1881

For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle-class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of a positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.

To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.

But I digress.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors or felt safer.

75-BostonHPCR-3

The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”

“When?”

“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.

Big Guy
Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.

I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly, he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes, sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered around and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now, YOU know. Truth revealed.

ABOUT THOSE PETS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fur Children Questions

Originally extracted from:

https://pressingpatience.com/2018/08/04/questions-about-the-furbabies/


1.  Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?

We currently have three dogs.

All them dogs
More dogs!

Two Scottish Terriers and a mutt of Asian extraction.

2.  How long have you had your current pet(s)?

We’ve had Bonnie since she was 9 weeks old and she is now 11. After that, We’ve had Gibbs for two years and Duke for one year

3.  What’s the longest period of time you’ve lived with a pet? 

As a puppy … 2007

Bonnie wins that one. We got her when she was only 9 weeks old. And suddenly, she’s 11. How did that happen?

4.  What type of animals do you generally gravitate towards when adopting pets?

At this point? Dogs.

Feeding time
Sleeping time

For a long time, we didn’t live anywhere we could keep dogs, so we didn’t have them, but once we could, we got one, then another. And then some more.

5.  What type of animal do you think is the easiest to care for as a pet?

Pets are not “easy” really. When they are healthy and happy and not old and cranky, they are all easy. But time does to dogs what it does to people.

The last months of Bishop.

They develop physical issues, including arthritis and cancer and because their lives are so short, it feels like no time passes between puppyhood and old age.

6.  Do any of your pets have annoying habits that you can’t break them of?

Gibbs barks continuously when Owen is around the house. NO idea why because he doesn’t do that with anyone else. Duke tends to try to bully the Scotties.

BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK

They don’t like it and neither do I, but he has a passionate yearning to be top dog and he’s pushy. The Scotties are not pushy, so he gets away with it.

7.  What, in your opinion, is the most difficult thing about being a pet owner?

Vet bills. And losing your dogs to age.

8.  Do any of your animals have amusing traits that are particular to them?

All of them.

Bonnie is just adorable, stubborn, funny. Duke lived most of his life in a cage, but he has come a long way in a short time.

Gibbs

He’s quite the cuddler these days when The Duke doesn’t try to muscle him out of the way.

Crazy Duke got groomed

The Duke is totally wacko. Seriously nuts.

9.  Which type of pet do you think requires the most care?

Fish, absolutely. Fish tanks always need care.

10.  Was there a furbaby that you bonded with more closely than any other?

Griffin, our big boy PBGV was my favorite. He didn’t live nearly long enough.

Beautiful Griffin

But I love them all. He was just such a big heap of love and he made me laugh.

11.  Do you spoil your pets? In what way?

Basically, they run the joint and let us live here and feed them. We are very good about that.

12.  How do your pets react to strangers in the yard? at the door? in the house?

It depends on the stranger. Mostly, strangers don’t come into the yard. I have signs everywhere warning people away.

Incarcerated!

It’s not to protect them. It’s to protect the dogs from them.

13.  Do you tend to anthropomorphize your animals? If so, how far do you take it? For example: Do you dress them in clothing?

Not so much as I’ve gotten older. I often wish I could get into their heads and understand them better.

14.  Have you ever had what might be considered “unusual” or exotic pets?

We had a pair of ferrets, Bonnie and Clyde. They were adorable, but they weren’t our pets. They were our cat’s pets. He adopted them.

15.  How old were you when you (or your family) adopted your first pet?

I grew up with Doberman Pinschers. I think we got the first one when I was four and they were there until I was a teenager. Then they got a German Shepherd, but by then, I was out of the house and living a separate life.

Garry and I both had cats when we met. He had two, I had one. Getting them to like each other was not easy, but neither of us was willing to give up a cat!

16.  What’s the most trouble you can remember a pet getting into?

Bonnie was stolen, but the cops brought her home. Sirens and all.

18.  What does your relationship with your furbaby mean to you?

They keep us sane. I swear I’d never survive life without them.

19.  How do your pets react when you sing and/or dance?

We don’t dance and our singing seems to be mostly ignored.

20. Have you ever adopted a pet and found out you didn’t get along with them? What did you do?

Yes. We rehomed them to people who loved them.

21.  Where do your pets sleep in relation to you? Do they have their own bed, or do you allow them to share yours?

Our pets own the living room and sleep on the sofas. My back is too twisted to share it with three dogs and in any case, the Scotties are too short-legged to get up on a bed without being in danger of getting hurt falling off.

22.  How do you come up with names for your pets?

Bonnie Annie Laurie

Garry picked Bonnie whose full name is Bonnie Annie Laurie if you please.

I picked Gibbs.

Garry picked The Duke.

23.  Putting aside money and sanitary issues — If you could fill your house and property with animals, what type would they be?

Dogs. And maybe a donkey.

24.  What was the most expensive pet you’ve ever adopted?

A Norwich terrier who turned out to be a horrible mistake. We rehomed her and she lived a GREAT life, but she was not a dog who got along with other animals. And she was dumb as a rock.

25.  What, in your opinion, is the best thing about adopting animals into your home?

It looks like murder, but it’s actually playing. No pain, no gore, no blood. Not even any pulled out fur.

They remind you to keep living! Because you need them — and they need YOU.

THE TINY WORMS IN THE FRIDGE – Marilyn Armstrong

My house was neat enough if you didn’t look too closely. You could walk into it without falling over a pile of dirty clothing (that was all in the basement — another story entirely) and the dogs and cats were  (usually) housebroken.

I couldn’t say the same for my toddler or my friends. Overall, the toddler was less of a threat to house and home than the friends, but when they got to messing around, anything could happen.

As my son grew, he developed (what a surprise) a passion for all kinds of creatures. Rabbits. Hamsters. Birds. We already had cats (many) and dogs.

We never properly owned more than two dogs but often had three or four. Two of them were ours. One was on loan from a friend who was in the army or on the road playing gigs. The fourth had belonged to a houseguest who had left but somehow forgotten to take their dog. Sometimes, it took us years to get the owner to come back and take the furkid too.

I love animals that aren’t insects, so while I frequently pointed out that it was NOT my dog and would they please come and get him or her, I would never throw them out. The owner I might toss out the door, but never the dog.

The year Owen turned eight, he decided he wanted geckos. They were the “in” things for 8-year-old boys that year. I pointed out that I didn’t think they would last long with the cats in the house.

He wanted the geckos. I was not much of a disciplinarian. If you argue with me, I’ll say no at least twice. After that? I usually give up.

As soon as we got the terrarium and the plants and finally settled the geckos into their home, Owen promptly lost interest in them and rediscovered his bicycle. That left me to care for the geckos, who would only eat mealworms.

I am not a big fan of worms. Any worms. I can tolerate earthworms because they are good for the soil, but overall, if it creeps or crawls, it’s not my thing. Did I mention that the geckos would only eat LIVE mealworms? I had to buy them in little cups at the pet store.

So mom dropped over and the cup of mealworms for the geckos had tipped over in the fridge. Which was now full of tiny worms. I assured her that my fridge does not usually contain worms and the worms were what the geckos ate. I don’t think she believed me. It was years before she would eat anything at my house. She always quietly inspected everything, in case there were a few worms there.

As for the geckos, a few days later, the cats figured out how to open the terrarium and there were no more geckos. And thankfully, no more mealworms.

POPULARITY: UPS AND DOWNS by Marilyn Armstrong

Recently, I got “set up” with Instagram. Assured that I could be very popular on it, I set up a password and was left still baffled by how come I can’t use one of my laptops. I don’t have an iPhone and I’m not really comfortable on my mini iPad. But no matter. I could work it out.

All I need to do, is want to make it work. Which I haven’t done.

Assured that I could be very popular, I realized I wasn’t sure I wanted to be more popular. I think maybe I’m entirely popular enough. I feel obliged to respond to commenters. As it is, I barely have time to do anything but work on the computer.

When I have a busy day that requires I do outside stuff — like shopping or cooking or spending the day on telephone hold — I look at my “inbox” and there are hundreds of new emails. I know I won’t be able to even open them, much less answer them. As bedtime rolls around, I delete almost everything, saving a few things that I really want to read and hope I’ll find time for.

Tomorrow is another day. Another few hundred emails will show up. If I leave today’s stuff until tomorrow, I’ll be buried. I may never dig out.

So is that the only reason I don’t want to be “more popular?”

Not entirely. To me, at least, popularity is responsibility. People in my world — online and off — expect me to respond to them, to answer their comments, to pay attention to what’s going on in their world — and rightfully so.

Except — I’m out of time. I can’t do it.

I can not do one thing more than I’m already doing. I’m stretched thin. Of those hundreds of daily emails, I’m able to read fewer than half. I barely have time to entirely read even the few I open, much less thoroughly read anything. Of the (too many) blogs I follow, I read maybe a third of them on a good day. On a less good day during which I’ve got other obligations than computing, I may not get to anything. I find myself at midnight looking at a mass of unopened emails and knowing I can’t do it. I’m tired. All I want is to read for a few minutes and fall asleep.

I’ve run out of conscious hours.

Too much of something is very similar to nothing at all. Having mountains of material to read and being unable to spend any time digging into it is very much like not reading. The result is nagging guilt. This is not what I had in mind.

I don’t want to give up on the people I follow, but I’m in over my head and that’s without adding anything more. So no Instagram for me. No more anything. Garry’s surgery is two weeks away and I’ve got to find time to deal with him and me and our lives. Everything else will have to wait.

Being more popular is not what I need.  What I really need is more time!

RDP #9 – HE WAS A RAGABASH, BUT WE LOVED HIM ANYWAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #9 – The Ragabash Puppy

He had been raised in a truck. His owners drove a truck and that’s where he lived. At some point, they got The Duke. Who knows from where?

“What is he?” people ask and all I can say is “I have no idea.” He looks like a Border Collie crossed with some kind of Asian flat-faced dog — or maybe a Boston Terrier. Every day, I thank heaven for the availability of Prozac because, without it, he is just a wee bit difficult to control.

I’m sure his original owners were sure he was going to be a much smaller dog and he was smaller, even when we got him almost a year ago. When he got to be really difficult to handle — that Border Collie in there makes him a handful — they passed him to another owner who couldn’t manage him and put him in a crate where he was living when we took him in.

This is a dog about whom it is frequently said: “He needs a job.”

He does. He could rewire the house. Pave the driveway. Do some masonry on the roof.

He can seem to be quite the tough little scoundrel. A blatant ragamuffin, although no more idle or worthless than any other “what is he?” mutt of a dog. I suppose one could consider him disrespectful.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

He does as he pleases which can be maddening, but I think he has shaped us up pretty well and we behave much better than we did in the beginning. We tell him he’s a good boy, but really, he’s terrible and hilarious.

We are his third home and although we know we could easily rehome him, I think that would be cruel. He has had enough homes. I don’t think he would benefit from a different future. We’ve got him and he’s got us. We promised him he could stay here.

Here he will stay.

OUR CANINE FAMILY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I haven’t written about our dogs in a while. That’s unusual for me because they are such a big part of our lives.

Our two rescue dogs are my constant companions, or nearly constant. More often than not, wherever I am, they are too. But, they each have favorite spots around the house that they like to go to hang out on their own. So sometimes Tom and I will realize that we humans are the only living beings in the room. When that happens, we usually get up and go looking for our furry pals. I’m embarrassed to admit that we often try to cajole them to come back and hang out with us again.

Lexi

Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I like that independent streak in our pets. Especially with Lexi, our eight year old. She is generally too attached and dependent on me and has separation issues. She is usually my shadow so I’m thrilled when she goes into another room on her own. It has taken years to get her to this point.

Remy

Our two-year old, Remy, is much more independent. But she is such a lover and a cuddler! She is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known. She greets us each morning with sheer joy! She is so thrilled to see us again after a long night. It almost feels like she is excited and grateful to see that we’re still here and so is she. I believe that most rescue dogs have a deep sense of gratitude for being rescued. And also a great appreciation for being part of a family. I see that clearly in Remy, who was eight months old when we got her.

Remy playing cards with one of our friends

Remy exudes doggie charisma. Everyone loves her instantly. People sense her sweetness and take to her like bees to honey. She sits next to our friends and cuddles with them. She paws them gently to get them to pet her. She rests her head on their arm or thigh. She sniffs and occasionally licks their faces and hands. She just charms the pants off of everyone she meets.

Sometimes I feel bad for Lexi. She is a shyer and more obviously neurotic dog. So people don’t realize right away how special she is. But once she warms up to you, she is truly awesome. She is very interactive with people. And she is the most verbally communicative dog I’ve ever had. She ‘talks’ – not just barks. She has a wide vocabulary of distinctive sounds and she responds verbally when you talk to her. It’s delightful to have ‘conversations’ with her.

Lexi, like Remy, as also very affectionate. She elicits attention from people with her paws and her voice. She drapes herself over people she’s comfortable with. Sometimes Remy is sitting next to me so there’s no room for Lexi at my side. But that doesn’t stop Lexi! If she wants to cuddle with me, she’ll just climb over Remy and onto my lap. Or she will climb onto the sofa cushion BEHIND me and wrap herself around my neck. Very creative cuddling!

Remy’s favored modes of verbalization are whining as well as barking. I’ve never had a whiner before. Apparently it’s a breed trait of the Red Boned Coon Hound, which seems to be part of Remy’s DNA. (She also looks similar to dogs of that breed and shares their unique and beautiful color).

Her whining can get really high-pitched and shrill, not her best feature. We’re much happier when she just barks at us. But to get Tom to play with her, she whines. She starts softly and then escalates into shrieks if Tom dares to ignore her. This tactic usually works to motivate Tom to get up and take the dogs into the backyard. Or to run around the house with both dogs frantically chasing him and barking with glee.

Both dogs are still skittish, as are many rescue dogs. They startle at sudden noises or movements. They bark frantically when people come into the house and it takes them a while to calm down. Even when we come home after being out for a while, they greet us with frenzied squealing and barking and crazed jumping and running around. They’re a bit over the top, but we enjoy our enthusiastic greetings whenever we walk into the house. It’s a family ritual.

Our dogs sleep in bed with us. All our dogs have. Like most dogs, Lexi and Remy have nighttime rituals they follow religiously. When we first go to bed, Remy lies between Tom and me and cuddles with both of us, in turn. Lexi curls up against my legs or feet. Then at some point towards morning, the dogs switch places. Lexi ends up cuddling with me and Remy takes up her place at my feet or up against Tom.

Sometimes when we get up to go to the bathroom during the night, we get back to find little or no room for us on the bed. We have to push and prod the dogs to get them to move over and create a viable, albeit small, space for us.

Remy sleeping with Tom

In the morning, when the dogs sense we’re getting ready to get up, they pounce on us. Lots of licks and nuzzles. They climb all over Tom and lick him until he finally gets out of bed. What a great wake up call. We start the day with a big dose of love and enthusiasm! Lots of joyful wiggles and wags!

We get out of bed smiling and laughing – which says a lot. We DO NOT like getting out of bed in the mornings!

Dogs playing

We don’t have grandchildren, so maybe that’s a factor in our obsession with our dogs. But, whatever the reason, we love our human/canine family. They fill our days with laughter and love. They provide entertainment and affection. They make us happy. And we can’t imagine living any other way!

SPEEDY ALKA SELTZER – Marilyn Armstrong

RAPID. JUST ONE LETTER CHANGE AND IT’S RABID. 


When I think of speedy, I do not think of me. Or Garry. Or anyone I know these days. As the years have advanced, we have slowed. Whereas we used to walk fast and even sometimes (gasp) run, now we stroll. Or if you are me, stagger and weave.

But Alka Seltzer was speedy. Drink it and ignore those laughing bubbles and voilà, your stomach troubles were gone for good and all.

In my world, speedy is mostly Duke, the dog who leaps fences. He’s gaining weight, so I’m wondering how big he’ll need to be to make him stop jumping. He’s something to ponder, isn’t he?

Remember: RAPID is one short letter away from RABID. Get those rabies shots on time! Especially if your dog likes to hang out in the woods with the wild things.