I’m not ready to have a cat. However, people have come out of the woodwork to point out exactly that. During the holidays, a friend asked me how long it had been since I lost my cat unit. If I had not ignored the conversation, I would soon have suggested that I go around the Internet to fill an empty nest. A friend made an unsolicited suggestion that I start feeding a stray cat and see what happens. When a soccer ball went around my leg in another friend’s backyard, she said I should take him home with me.
At the start of the pandemic, it was a rage to visit a mobile puppy trailer parked in a mall near the movie theater. On my way home from Trader Joe’s, I drove by and saw three of my friends with small dogs on short leashes. I avoided peer pressure afterwards and have been able to keep my house fur-free ever since.
Sure, there are days when I miss owning a cat, but mostly I miss having a kitty. My beloved cat unit disappeared when I was traveling in Costa Rica and it was such a big ordeal at the time. I swipe through two color ink cartridges applying labels. I’ve written about my losses in many columns and included mugshots. Several people thought they spotted her in nearby neighborhoods, so a nice family cornered the wrong cat, and Lee locked her up in their garage. But none of those calicos were my cat. I spent a good part of that late summer wandering aimlessly through the alleys hoping to find her eating the litter of the garbage.
I convinced neighbors to let me search their basements, fetch posters for vets, and hired a missing cat psychic…and at one point distracted myself from work.
At first I thought she ran away because I was in Costa Rica. Sometimes I wonder if she’s hanging around because I’m not home much.
When I get busy, I neglect a lot of things, including the vacuum cleaner and my garden.
Our family had a “Second Christmas” with a group gathering for those who weren’t together for the first Christmas. My younger sister arrived a few hours later than we expected. I explained to her that it took a while for Gabby Kitty to feel comfortable at that time alone. My sister likes to put a few bits of food in different places around the house so her cat doesn’t eat all the food at once. The house temperature just needed to be set, and I imagine it was a long farewell.
Owning a pet is of course fun. My stepmother has a new puppy, and there were so many moments of fun. She also has two small dogs, which they sometimes let us pet them when they weren’t guarding her lap. We love watching Hallmark Christmas movies and laugh about how many winter coats the main characters pack for a weekend away in a winter booth. Every time an animal appears on screen, the pups rush to the TV and act as if they were on a Broadway show barking.
However, your dog, cat, bird and plant can be a burden when you are trying to leave your home for a few days.
You can just ask your friends to watch your plants a few times before they realize I have too many plants. Summer is tough for a road trip, and I recently learned that sleet is a sneaky thief.
When I taught third grade at the local Waldorf School, one of our morning recitations was the poem “The Thief” by Ernst Pause. My children liked to take turns composing the poem, with one child playing with the wind and another on the tree choosing.
Autumn wind came rustling / Through the forest one day / And crawled around the tree, He stole / All their beauty.
He tore their khmer clothes, / combed their golden hair, / blew up the torn parts, / leaving them brown and bare.
I’m sure there must be poems about wind and frost, especially the wind that blows so hard, the towels that cover your plants fly to your rooftops.
We cover our plants, of course, to protect them from frost.
During the day, the soil beneath the plant absorbs heat from the sun. On a cold day, most of this heat seeps into the air during the first half hour after dusk. If you cover the plants with cloth (not plastic, keep in mind) the heat can trap and save the plant’s life.
For several days in a row, I asked Bosman if I could come home early on those days, knowing it would be very cold at night. I found old sheets and dirty towels and spread them so that my yard looked like a Bedouin village. In the morning, I moved the wet curtains to the picnic table.
Then I planned to go away on the long, cold weekend. All I can do is hope for the best.
Some tips to give plants the best chance of survival:
- Ensure that potted plants are well watered. Frost and a little drought can pose a double threat of death.
- If you can find them, plug heat-producing holiday lights into the delicate plants. This means looking for energy-absorbing lights, not LEDs.
- If you cover plants and hope for the best, make sure the covers are secure and won’t blow up in the neighbor’s yard.
- Move your most precious plants to the garage or the middle of your living room.
- For birthdays and holidays, request gift cards to your local nursery to purchase replacement plants.
- Purchase plants that go dormant in the winter.