Love for sale: Part II

My trip to Georgia this time around was almost exactly as haphazardly executed as the last one, except without the nuisance of a goddamn minivan. Delayed flights, missed connections, stranded overnight in a foreign (in a domestic way) city (Atlanta). I left Las Vegas the night of Feb. 27 and didn’t get home until March 1, late afternoon.

I left Las Vegas solitary. I returned, accompanied by a baby Blue who whiskered her way into my heart the second I laid eyes on her.

I wrote back in January about how the hardest part about my most recent break-up was giving up Shayna ("The Cake") and how conflicted I was over getting another cat. Even now, I feel a little guilty, a little heartbroken over this decision– I don’t want to stop thinking about Shay, I don’t want to stop consciously loving her, and yet if I don’t let go, if I don’t honest-to-god, 100% let go of her, I am never going to be able to fully move on with my life. She’s part of an irretrievable past, now, and the most I can do for her is put an awful lot of blind faith in the belief that she is in wonderful hands and I did the right thing– and leave it at that.

It helps that this little girl, this tangerine jelly bean, is so very easy to love. At eight weeks old, she’s ridiculously precocious and wildly entertaining, and a lap cat? Like you wouldn’t believe. When I’m working on this-and-that at my desk, she sleeps in my lap, or if she’s feeling particularly lazy, she’ll make her way onto my shoulder before losing steam and just drapes herself there and zonks out. When the sleep gods finally take pity on me and I’m able to partake in the luxury of unconscious bed habitation, she joins me and burrows next to the side of my neck or in the crook of my arm, and she stays there the entire time.

And it only took two times for her to grasp that enormous significance of the uttered phrase, "CHEESE!" She’s a cheese cat, without a doubt; she’s a cheese cat, her wiggle-pounce is only enhanced by her frenzied tail twitching, she bounds to the door whenever someone opens it and enters. She turns and turns in circles in focused pursuit of her tail, often to the point where she circles herself right off my desk, her cat tree, my bed, the chair. Like with me, you’d expect her to be all grace and agility, but in reality she’s an absolute klutz, constantly slipping on things and falling down, launching herself spread-eagled off high surfaces only to land with a resounding thunk. And she is absolutely fascinated by any movement on the computer and television screens.

She’s yet to receive a CFA name, but her casual name is Emmeline [emm(a)-LEEN, all French-like] and she has no shortage of nicknames. My sister pushed for me to name her "Part II" (she also suggested "Denimrumba" and "Molotov-kiev"), and I’ve compromised by assigning that to be Emme’s online pseudonym.

Shay was, by CFA judging standards, a little on the dark side and her eyes had an orangey-yellow cast to them (though I’ve read that it can take up to 10 months for a Russian’s eyes to reach their final stage of "green"); Emme is even darker, but her eyes definitely have a stronger element of green in them, as young as she is– not that it matters, as I have no plans of doing show circuits. You’d think that all Russians look alike, but amazingly enough, the only reason she reminds me at all of Shay is because of her personality and intelligence.

She is afloat in an endless ocean of love, and I tell her, every day, that I will never leave her behind, never never, not ever. I’m not letting go of this one.

Great golden comma of a cat
You leap to catch my robe’s one dangling thread
And somehow land, entangled in my heart

-Lija Broadhurst

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(see the full set: Part II, 8 weeks) <- you may think to yourself, why do so many of these photos look alike?, in which case, you probably don’t have kids or pets.

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They will see her waving from such great heights

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As The Cake gets older and bigger, her jumping prowess increases accordingly. Lately, she’s been discovering the joys of level-hopping– particularly in the kitchen, where she likes to perch on top of the cabinets.

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And one morning, while The Guy was getting ready for work, he turned around from the sink to see this:

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I’m still waiting, however, for the time when we come home and find her sitting on top of a door.

And speaking of The Postal Service, when I was in Honolulu, I heard another of their songs being used for a Kaiser Permanente commercial. This makes two (TWO!) commercials, now! (Their first was for the 2006 Honda Civic, maybe the hybrid? I don’t remember.) I’m so happy for them.

Bunnies, however, kiss each other by bumping bottoms

I love how The Cake minces up to me for a quick kiss (her nose, my lips) before jauntily prancing away to engage in some contraband activity or other, such as jumping from the table into the plant pots (which are on three-foot stands), or jumping onto the counters and licking the dirty dishes in the sink, or knocking a pencil/screwdriver/hairband/Something Important onto the floor and batting it around until it skitters under the stove.

That kiss is like a reassurance, her way of making sure that I’m still here– or maybe her way of making sure that I know that she’s still there (like I could ever forget, with that bell on her collar forever jingling)– and it’s a totally different kind of kiss from the ones she gives when she’s being affectionate. This one feels more like business, an item of duty, something that needs to be ticked off her list from time to time. “Check to make sure human is still there, as the food dish needs to be refilled and a treat is way overdue.”

Still, I’ve got to take advantage of this now; sooner or later, she’s going to grow up and start resenting me and finally tell me, rolling her eyes in exasperation, that I “just don’t get it.”

The day she whips out a flag is the day I’ll start worrying

The Cake, in typical cake fashion, has a penchant for heights; she’ll climb anything she can sink her claws into, and even sometimes things she can’t. Her jumping skills get only better by the day, and one afternoon, I just know I’m going to come home and find her sitting on top of a door or, better yet, the ceiling fan.

But her favorite perch of all time is still a human shoulder. She can and will (and usually does) climb from the ground up when possible, hooking her claws into one’s pants and grappling her way up to the shoulder in a spiral fashion. If you’re sitting at the time, then she just jumps into your lap and makes her way up from there.

The best part about watching this is her attitude. Whether it’s a six-inch or a four-foot trek north, the determination in her eyes is unmistakeable, unwavering, undeterred– and she flattens her ears back as though to say, "I’m gonna do this, one paw at a time." And she looks for all the world like a scrawny little man trying to scale a huge mountain with a tiny axe.

Once victorious, she scans her surroundings in one sweeping glance, blinks to signal to the troops that one-a.m.-and-all-is-well, then without so much as a "So long, sucker!"– she’s leapt back down to continue exploring her floor-level terrain and to keep those renegade household items (pens, lamps, chairs, walls, other pets) in line by ruling with an iron paw.

She would make Machiavelli proud, this spitfire would; she don’t take no shit from nobody, not her reflection, not the dishwasher, not dogs 30 times her weight into whose mouths she could fit with room to spare. She just stands her ground and growls her warning to back off, and if that has no effect, she springs into action with claws and teeth bared. At two-and-a-half pounds, she knows full well how to run her world.

It makes me want to get a bumper sticker: "My cat can beat up your kid who can beat up their honor roll student."

Cat code

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been addicted to Sudoku, and some weeks ago I found a website that has, according to them, "billions" of free puzzles online in various difficulty levels. Since having discovered the site, I’ve kept a window open to whichever puzzle I’m working on at the time, all the time.

For the most part, my laptop has found a new home on The Guy’s dining table, as I spend a lot of time downstairs either in or nearby the kitchen. The Cake began paying attention to my computer when she started sitting on my shoulder while I was writing, etc., and as is a cat’s curious nature, she jumped up onto the table (which I’m doing my best to discourage her from doing) to see what this contraption was all about, and subsequently discovered that, aside from occupying much of my attention (when I could be doing other productive things, like, for example, playing with her), my computer is a source of heat.

Thus, I’ve come back to The Guy’s house on more than one occasion to find The Cake sleeping on the keyboard of my laptop. If I leave the computer with a writing document open, she’ll have added a page-and-a-half of "9’s" and "Z’s" to whatever I was working on, and usually she’s also stepped on the "CD eject" key as well.

One night, I was filling out another Sudoku puzzle right before I left the house. Came home, found The Cake sleeping on the computer, and this was on the screen:

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Apparently, The Cake does Sudoku by her own rules.

Ways in which my cat is secretly a dog in disguise

1. She follows me (and The Guy when he’s around) from room to room.
2. She comes when called (and I’m teaching her to sit on command).
3. She begs for food at the table.
4. She likes to chew on shoes (thankfully not mine).
5. She tries to dig holes in the living room floor.
6. She chases her own tail.
7. She likes to lick people.

BONUS! "Ways in which my cat is secretly a parrot in disguise:"

1. She delights in sitting on my shoulder, regardless of what I’m doing at the time.

“The Cat Who Came For Yom Kippur (But Didn’t Quite Make It Until The Following Day)”

This is the story of a girl, some allergies (not hers), five airports, a Dodge Caravan… and a kitten.

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I left LAS at 11:30 p.m. PST, arrived at ORD around 5 a.m. Chicago-time. Caught a flight to Atlanta, arrived a little after 9:30 EST. Took a shuttle to a car rental place nearby– I had a reservation for an economy car, but it turned out all they had available was– get this– a goddamn Dodge Caravan. A white one.

Now, I have nothing against minivans in general, but I have never driven one and never had any intentions to ever drive one. For one thing, they get shitty gas mileage, and for another, what the hell did I need all that seat capacity for? It was just me one way, and then me and a cat the way back. What a waste.
(I have to admit, part of my resentfulness came from the fact that I had to refill the gas tank before returning the car.)

The drive to Auburn was nothing short of eventful. Thank god there wasn’t any traffic, but on top of trying to keep track of directions and onramps and offramps and exits-on-the-left (look here East Coast, out here in Vegas? We keep our exits consistently ON THE RIGHT), I had to deal with NAVIGATING A GODDAMN MINIVAN. I cursed with vehement proliferation using this as my excuse: "Don’t tailgate me! Can’t you see I am trying to DRIVE a MINIVAN here?"

During my trip planning, I’d tried to locate Auburn on several Georgia maps, and to my consternation, the city never showed up. Yet I’d gotten driving directions to Auburn from ATL, and the breeder couldn’t possibly *not* know which city he’d lived in– so why wasn’t it on the map?

Why wasn’t it on the map? I’ll tell you why it wasn’t on the map. It wasn’t on the map because it’s a town of approximately two gas stations, one barber shop, one small-animals veterinarian office, a church, a grocery store, and population: 50. If even that. I passed the "Auburn City Limit" sign, went through two major intersections at 10 MPH, desperately scanning for the street I was supposed to turn on, and suddenly I was passing another sign: "Carl City Limit." I had to turn around and stop off at the barber shop and ask for directions, and even then I had trouble getting to the breeder’s house.

When I got there, I was greeted first by a barrage of some Spitz-like dogs (Akitas? Alaskan Malamutes?), all barking their heads off. The breeder, who had been expecting me, came to the door and motioned for me to come into the house through the garage. He took me upstairs where the kittens’ room was so I could see them and play with them before choosing which one I wanted to take.

I’d known ahead of time that the litter consisted of just four kittens, two boys and two girls. I’ve only been around female cats and my mother has a prejudice against male cats, so I was operating on warning of death on arrival should I return home with a little boy kitten, which meant I had two kittens to choose from. While I had good feelings about this trip being a success, only having two options made me a little nervous. What if both the girls turned out to be antisocial, or worse, aggressive?

Naturally, the two boys were absolute dolls. I’d known ahead of time that they would be– I always end up wanting most what I just can’t have. Of the girls, one was an absolute spitfire, hiding and peeking out and getting just within reach before sprinting away to skulk somewhere underneath the bed. The other girl was mostly shy– curious, but shy, and a little daunted by her brothers’ outgoing personalities.

The breeder had commented offhandedly how "absolutely beautiful" the spitfire was, and truth be told, I was a little swayed in opinion by that comment as part of me was hoping the cat would turn out to be showable. After playing with them all, I rationalized that a cat with spirit might be a good thing– the typical girl in me wanting to win over the bad boy and transform him into a gentle, loving, adoring prince, only in this case, the leather-clad biker was a tiny grey kitten.

After a half-hour of playing with the kittens, I told the breeder I’d take the spitfire. We got out my carrier, then spent another 15 minutes trying to get hold of her. When at last he managed to grab her, she flattened her ears and started kicking and hissing and howling in protest, and continued to do so once he put her in the carrier and zippered up the opening.

I regarded this for a few minutes, my heart sinking. If the cat was freaking out this much already, I had a feeling she would only get worse when subjected to a car ride, an airport, a plane ride, another airport, and another plane ride. Eventually, I just said to the breeder, it’s okay, um, I’ll just take the other girl, really, it’s okay, I don’t think this one is ready to leave yet, I don’t want her to be even more stressed out than she already is.

He was fine and in no time I had the wallflower in the carrier, and the breeder and I were going over her papers. Soon, I was headed back to Atlanta.

The kitten meowed the whole drive back, but before we’d left the breeder’s, I’d played with her while she was in the carrier and had gotten her purring and rubbing against my hand, so I had some confidence that she’d be okay. Returned the goddamn minivan back to the car rental, jumped on the shuttle, went back to the airport and stood by for the flight to Chicago.

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When I’d listed, the loads had looked plenty open and I shouldn’t have had any trouble getting home; however, a bunch of people for the 5 p.m. flight had shown up early to catch the 2 p.m. flight, and in the end, no non-revs got on the flight. I called my mother after to let her know (she was paranoid that the breeder would turn out to be a psycho and he would kill me, so she demanded that I call her all the time to keep her informed as to what was going on), and after some discussion we decided I would connect through Denver back to Vegas.

Got on the Denver flight. Exhausted from all the time-zone switching and adrenaline-drained from the day’s activities, I fell asleep right after the plane took off.

The next thing I knew, the plane was landing. My first thought was, oh good, I slept through the flight (the easiest way to pass inflight time). And then I heard the flight attendant’s announcement: "Welcome to Nashville. The current weather condition is…"

Nashville? NASHVILLE??

I turned to the man sitting next to me and tried not to lose my shit as I asked him, I thought we were going to Denver? He smiled in amusement and said I must’ve slept through the captain’s announcement: there was a mechanical malfunction with the plane’s wing flaps (or lights or something, I don’t really remember), so we had to make an emergency landing in Nashville.

So, okay, at least I was on the right flight after all. The plane pulled into a gate, we deplaned, and as we walked into the terminal, we were each handed meal vouchers to redeem at one of the airport fooderies. I got a sandwich, a muffin and an iced tea, and as I watched the minutes tick away, I started to panic.

Now, in my 21 years of traveling by plane, I’ve been stranded in airports and forced to come up with completely new iteneraries *plenty* of times, so the circumstances didn’t faze me. I was panicking about the kitten, who while calm and nonplussed and seemingly happy whenever I took her out of her carrier and held her against my chest, would quite probably be needing a litter box, and SOON. And wouldn’t you know it, both I and the airport were fresh out of litter boxes. So my desperation to get home ASAP was fueled solely by the functionality of my cat’s digestive system.

A new plane was brought in within a half-hour of our arrival at the gate. New seat assignments were doled out and we all filed out to board our new plane, when suddenly a gate agent had run outside and was calling two names– one of them mine. I held back and turned to her– it turned out that this plane was smaller than our original one and only held 50 passengers, and there were 52 of us. And because two of said 52 passengers were non-revs, we were the ones being pulled.

That was the bad news. The good news was, because we weren’t supposed to be in Nashville to begin with and because United had to *downgrade* the equipment so as to get the passengers to Denver, the gate agent was able to justify putting us up in a hotel for the night (and we got another meal voucher). So the other non-rev and I headed down to catch a shuttle to the Sheraton Music City Hotel, which was amazingly luxurious.

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(It was just as well that I wasn’t on that flight to Denver, as by the time the plane arrived, I would’ve missed my connection to Las Vegas and would have been stranded in Denver overnight, and I’d have to pay for that hotel room.)

The litter box problem had continuously been plaguing me, so once in my room, I looked around to see what I could possibly use as a makeshift one, and I have to admit, I was pretty darn impressed with what I came up with: I took the nightstand drawer off its tracks (which required maneuvering and figuring out it was locked), then filled it with shreds of toilet paper, then put it in the bathroom. Because, you know, cats should be able to go to the bathroom, *in* the bathroom, too.

The bathroom, by the way, conveniently had a telephone right next to the commode. Because sometimes, you just need to go, but you also just really need to call the office for that conference call meeting, too.

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My mother had made me promise to put the kitten in her carrier before I went to bed, so as to avoid the risk of having to search for her for an hour in the morning and thereby miss my flight out. I knew I couldn’t keep the promise even as I made it, though, and I later explained it to my mother, who didn’t mind: when we first got Maddie, her first night, she fell asleep in bed with me, purring away and curled up under my chin. For whatever reason, it was *direly* important to me to see if this kitten would do the same.

And, um, she did. We played a short game of pounce-on-the-toes-moving-under-the-comforter, then she fell asleep on my chest, nuzzling her body under my chin. When I woke up four hours later, she was gone, but when I stirred, I heard the little bell on her collar tinkling under the covers– she’d burrowed underneath and had snuggled up against my waist.

Caught the first flight out to Chicago, where I was supposed to connect back to Vegas. Unfortunately, it was no longer Thursday, meaning now it was Friday, and Friday marks the beginning of the weekend, and people in Chicago apparently like to– who would’ve ever thunk it?– go to Vegas for the weekend! Hey! Wow! Yeah! Party party!

And in short, about six hours later, I was still in Chicago, sans litter box. The kitten, however, was still happy and loving and darling and plenty well-rested.

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After many calls to my mother, I ended up on a plane headed for LAX. For whatever reason, after I’d boarded the plane, a flight attendant came up to me and told me there was an open seat in 9D, would I feel like taking it? After I got over my intial confusion, I said okay just to be agreeable, and then as I was gathering my things it hit me: 9D. That’s business class. Hey!

So, yeah. I got a free upgrade to business class and the kitten and I flew to L.A. in style and comfort. I took her out of her carrier and fed her some food by hand, then let her sleep on my lap for a while. And four blissful hours later, we landed at LAX and I got ready to wait another four hours before finally getting on a Vegas-bound plane.

I’d purchased "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" at ORD, so I read that for part of those four hours, but mostly just played with the kitten. And then, king of kings, the plane came in, my name was called, my ticket was handed over to me (and then back to the gate agent), and I was heading home.

A few minutes after midnight, we landed at LAS, and shortly after, The Guy picked me up. And before I even got a kiss hello, he was reaching for the cat carrier, trying to get a look at the kitten.

In a nutshell, it was love at first sight.

As to why I went through all this trouble just to get a kitten anyway, aren’t there animal shelters or kittens in the local classifieds or something?– it’s because she’s a Russian Blue, and there aren’t a lot of breeders in the U.S. and all of them have litters available at different times, and of those few breeders in the U.S., some of them are a bit shady and the number of registered breeders with documented pedigrees and papers whittles down the national total by a lot.

And I’m not one of those snooty, uppity animal-pureblood-snobs, but it was absolutely crucial that the kitten be a Russian Blue, and a Russian Blue with nothing but Russian Blue blood in its history. Why? Because Russian Blues have been proven to do well with people who otherwise are allergic to cats, and The Guy is one of those allergic people who just happens to adore cats.

I got the kitten in the hopes of making living in his house a little easier for him. He’s struggling with a lot of things right now, and the countless number of studies done showing that pets help reduce stress and depression aside, a kitten in the house would, by my theory, vastly change the dynamic of his house in that it would make the house feel more *alive.* And, you know– the kitten has done just that.

The Guy was a little hesitant about her at first, one of his concerns being that her claws would snag on or tear up his newly-installed Berber carpeting. But he was so won over by her (because she is THAT cute), that not only did he agree to let her live at his house, but he let her sleep IN THE BED from the get-go. And ever since, they’ve been inseparable.

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We took her over to poker on Sunday night because I want to get her well-socialized, and she’s proving to be highly adaptable to new environments and she has no problems whatsoever with being handled by strangers or with sharing the love:

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She does, however, have issues with other cats. For the record, the cats she got all pissy about were docile the entire night and rarely ever came near her. All the same, she freaked out.

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Hopefully, this will change in time.

Meanwhile, The Guy and I are falling in love with her more and more every day, and she is just an absolute joy. As far as names go, we’ve settled on "Shayna" as her everyday name, and I’m still trying to settle on something suitable for her CFA registration name. The Guy first wanted to call her "Amelia," to acknowledge all the flying she had to do in order to get home (From ATL to BNA to ORD to LAX to LAS), but after talking with his dad, he changed his mind and suggested "Shayna," which is Yiddish for "pretty" (a common phrase is "shayna punim," or "pretty face"). And we’ve pretty much agreed, that name will do.

I’ve been taking pictures of her as often as possible, but my camera’s battery is dead, so I’ve been using The Guy’s, a Konika Minolta DiMage X50. I opened a Flickr account, but it started to irritate me so I just made a photo album through my Typepad account, and for now, that’s sufficient.

Photos can be found here.