Long ago in a land far away, we had a Siamese cat. Mao — “cat” in Chinese. I don’t know if that’s Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect, but it was a good name.

English: A two-year-old seal point "tradi...

We got Mao as a tiny kitten. From day 1, he was a feisty, chatty cat.  Our first cat, which his name reflected. Mao Ee (Cat 1). There were, of course, many others over the decades in all the places and houses in I’ve called home, but there’s never been another cat anything like Mao.

When we traveled, friends took care of our house. I was a great grower of plants back then. Feeding the cats was one part of the job … but watering the 200 plus plants was — or should have been — the bigger task. Frank — best friend’s husband — was often tasked with house care in our absence. Mao was a thinking cat. A logical cat. He decided we were gone because Frank had driven us away. Thus if Mao could drive Frank away, we would come home.

Thus, when Frank came to the house to feed and water cats and plants, Mao attacked him. I don’t mean a little pounce, a playful swat. It was all out warfare. Mao crouched in shadows and attacked, all 20 claws outstretched, going for gore. Poor Frank loved cats and he and Mao had always gotten along fine. He had no idea why Mao was out to get him.

The moment we came back, Mao was back to normal, friend to the world. He had obviously been right because we were back … ergo, it must have been because he drove The Invader (Frank) away. Logical, yes? After that, Mao attacked everyone who took care of the house in our absence. He was the terror of Our Crowd. It got increasingly difficult to get someone to take care of things while we were gone.

The years moved on and Mao moved with us. There were children, jobs, bigger houses, dogs. Life. We held celebrations … big Thanksgiving dinners. One memorable occasion, we had a full house including a dozen and half people and featuring a huge turkey. When the turkey was roasted, I put it out on the counter to set while I moved food in the dining room and greeted arriving guests.


I wasn’t gone 10 minutes. When I got back to the kitchen, Mao was on the counter, finishing off a drumstick. Its remains were still attached to the turkey — a ragged, conspicuously gnawed hole. Not the presentation I had in mind.

The husband and I consulted. We agreed and served the bird as it was.

“What happened to the turkey,” asked the friends and family.

“Mao got to it,” I said.

“Oh,” they said. “Pass the bird.”

It was a good Thanksgiving. Mao was some cat.

FORTHEPROMPTLESS: AMPHIGORY – Macavity: The Mystery Cat, T.S. Eliot

Dogs and Doom

We have two dogs. We have had as many as five, but time and age have reduced the size of the pack. Our current crew consists of our two terriers — Bonnie our gallant Scottie lass, and Nan, an attractive older Norwich terrier.

Bonnie is just 5 — playful, smart and very funny. I am convinced she has her own Facebook account, thousands of fans, and is on my laptop the moment my back is turned. She is atypically an extremely friendly, outgoing little girl. Although she is the dominant dog in the household, she’s so charming, other dogs don’t mind that she is a bit bossy.


We only got Nan last Autumn. She’s heading towards 11 years old and her owner didn’t want her any more. She thought we’d give her a good home and so we have, though I dread knowing that she doesn’t have a long life ahead of her.

She has attached herself to me as no dog ever has before. I sometimes think she isn’t sure how she wound up here. She clings to me because, after 10 years in one home, she is displaced. I wish I’d had her when she was younger. We’d have made her happy. Now, she is my velcro girl. She follows me everywhere, sleeps at my feet in the office and by my side on the sofa. She follows me into the bathroom, sits politely and waits for me to finish, wash my hands, then trots with me to wherever I’m heading. Except while we sleep, she is never more than inches away from me.

All the dogs follow me to the kitchen. Dogs are such optimists. They’re always sure if we are near food, some is sure to fall their way. I’m a sucker, which means they are often right.

For a very long time, when both of us were working full-time, we had cats, then we had a cat and two ferrets, then we had the same cat and one, then two dogs. Then Big Guy, our cat, passed away. We moved to the country and the number of dogs kept growing … and then time started to reduce their numbers. I miss the pack, but we are so short of money that we can no longer afford to maintain so many dogs and even the two we have puts a serious strain on our so-to-speak finances. Every trip to the vet is terrifying on two levels … lest we discover one of our dogs is ill and whether or not we can afford whatever medical care might be involved.


This sequester that everyone is making fun of and ignoring is going to make our already difficult lives much worse. It’s going to put a lot of people out of work. It’s going to reduce access to medical care for older people living on Medicare. We aren’t going to get through unscathed and just because nothing seems to be happening, don’t believe for a moment it won’t. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs. Not only is our personal security going to suffer, but national security is going down the tubes too. When you have to furlough the army and empty the jails because you can’t afford prisoners, it doesn’t bode well, especially after you lay off the police, teachers, and all the other guardians of our quality of life.

Meanwhile, because I can’t worry about everything, I worry about the dogs. Ourselves too. Our future, such as it may be. Wondering if we really have a future or if we are looking at the end of life as we know it.

In Washington D.C., our elected officials have nothing to worry about. They’ve got medical benefits, guaranteed wages. They have all the things they think we should do without because we aren’t nearly as important as they are. The worst thing that’s going to happen to them is they will lose the use of government jets for junkets! Wow, that’s harsh.

Nan A Norwich Terrier

All this is happening because the people who are supposed to take care of us are more interested in maintaining their political principles than in what happens to us, the folks they are sworn to protect. It’s going to get ugly. We will cling together and hug our dogs against the darkness.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m scared.