Yesterday reminds me of my foster parenting days. In this state, when the Division of Family Services is looking for a permanent placement for a kid, they wisely do not just dump one on the prospective parents. They start with a few arranged visits, followed by a long term placement if everything goes well during the visits.
Ruby arrived here as a a five-week-old puppy. There were already cats in residence.
They were bigger than she was. And they had Attitude about dogs. But after a certain amount of time, both cats came to love her and accept her in their rather distant Cat Way. She both adored and feared Her Cats. All Other Cats were not welcome in her yard, which was quite a blessing when Smokey became too old and decrepit to actually defend his territory while at the same time unwilling to admit this fact and so getting himself into situations that were fraught with danger for him. Ruby became his bodyguard towards the end of his life.
After both our cats had transitioned to the astral realm over the Rainbow Bridge, we discovered just exactly how important they were to Ruby. First she mourned, then she pined, and then she developed separation anxiety. I guess in her tiny canine brain, if we left for an extended period of time then probably we were gone forever too. It is bad enough when one of us leaves, but when we both go off it gets fairly severe and involves fasting as well as moping.
A vet of our acquaintance suggested that we should get Ruby a kitten that she could bond with, so that she would have an object of affection to support her when we went on vacations. ”It should be around 5 weeks old — old enough to leave its mother but young enough that it will seek out warmth and affection from a furry friend in the area. And it will be young enough that it will not have developed a severe aversion to dogs.” This seemed like good advice to us.
Accordingly, Jim and I agreed that this would be a good idea, and awaited Kitten Season with a certain amount of joyous anticipation. We previously agreed that when we got our next cat, it would be a completely indoor cat. Accordingly, we wanted a cat that was NOT feral, whose mother was well socialized, and who was familiar with the concept of the litter box. I started putting the word out to my friends and clients, and a couple of days ago one of my clients showed up with a kitten. “You can’t have this one, Tristan (her daughter) has already bonded with this kitty. But there are more where this came from.”
The kitten was healthy, friendly, and a little too old for our requirements. Ruby was entranced by her. The source farm had another, younger, litter from the older daughter of Queen who had produced the visiting kitten, and we agreed it would be a good idea to go meet them.
Yesterday, we did exactly that. After observing the babies for a while, I decided that possibly they might be ready to go out into the wide world and chose one to bring home. The farm wife was in the throes of taking care of all the hands that were fertilizing and planting the fields as well as all the other things one does in the spring on a farm in the Ozarks, and wasn’t sure exactly when the litter we were looking at was born. All four of us female adults involved in the visit were aware that it was possible that we were being a little too precipitate in our decision, but my goodness! She was so cute, and I really missed having a cat and I convinced myself that it would all work out okay. But we also agreed that if it was NOT okay, I could return the kitten for further mothering and collect it at a future date. Farm wife was totally cool with that possibility.
So, we transported the baby home and introduced it to Ruby.
It was a success as far as Ruby was concerned. She liked the baby kitty. It liked her. It was very confusing to the cat child though, because she was missing her Mommy and sister, and Ruby was Very Big and not as fluffy as Mommy and also didn’t have a milk bar available.
But she could play with her anyway.
As the afternoon progressed and I watched the kitten toddle around, I realized that I had made an error in judgment about just how developed this baby was.
Ruby was trying very hard to be gentle. When the kitten was awake and toddling about, she was very avid and excited, following it about and trying to get it to chase her the way Mike used to.
Later in the day, when the kitten was starting to think that perhaps it ought to be dinner time and afternoon snack had not been a success, she demonstrated her coloratura vocal abilities to the max. That cat has a set of pipes on her! The amount of noise that a hungry and distressed kitten can make is astonishing. Milk replacer does not taste right, the syringe does not deliver the milk the way she was used to, Mommy wasn’t there to lick her belly and help her eliminate, she was lonely, etc. We managed to get enough food in her to satisfy her hunger pangs, but the experience made us realize that it just wasn’t time for her to be away from the bosom (literally) of her family just yet.
She communed with the afghan that used to be Mike’s favorite place to sleep, and after my massage day was over I took her home for a joyous reunion with her mother. On the way there, I thought up a good name for her so that the child of the farm wife could accustom her to a name during the interim, since it was obvious that the little girl was going to play with the kittens.
In retrospect, I think I must have suffered from a temporary bout of Cuteness-induced insanity. In the next two weeks all hell (and I mean that in the most positive way) is set to break loose in this household as the happy bride and groom arrive here to stay, cook, decorate, and wed. There will be large quantities of large people tromping through the house during the celebrations in and around the nuptials, I have a niece who has moved here who requires a certain amount of mentoring, my massage business is picking up, the garden needs to be planted, the lawn is growing like a bad weed (which is not surprising since that is mostly what it consists of, mowed off lush bad weeds), and bottle feeding an infant kitten is an added job that we just don’t need, especially when she has a perfectly good mother she can stay with until she doesn’t need bottle feeding.
Besides, the little kitty was so small that I was afraid Ruby was going to have a nervous breakdown trying not to hurt it when they were playing. And when it started screeching for Mommy it was almost more than the poor dog could bear — she was so concerned and upset and wanted so much to be able to comfort it.
And so Jewel will be back. When she is old enough.
And life returns to a not-that-even keel here at The Havens. Which is not to say that it isn’t just a tad bit crazy, but at least we aren’t in danger of catastrophe and calamity and infant death.