13 Roosters

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” – Matthew 18:12 (NIV)

Last night, as the evening sky grew dim, I went out to the chicken coop to make sure all the chickens were safe, and to close up the hen house. We keep the Roosters separate from the hens, and we count them before leaving to make sure everyone has come in for the night. Last night, I counted 12 Roosters. We currently have 13. That is more than the average chicken owner has, or should have, but it’s what we’ve got, and we are making the best of it right now.  Anytime we’re missing one of them, I think of the above verse from Matthew, and decide to do my best to search for the rouge animal.

I recounted, and got the same number: 12. A thought hit me. I rescanned, and realized I was correct. We have a white rooster that, on occasion, decides he wants to sleep in the trees instead of in the safe haven of the coop. Normally, we can understand his decision. It’s a nice night, he wants to be out of the stuffy coop…etc. But last night it was a befuddlement of reasoning. It was pouring down rain, a cold wind was blowing, and the leaves of the tree had blown off, offering no protection from any elements.

I went to the tree that he normally roosts in, and there he was. Standing tall in the torrent of rain. It didn’t even make sense.  I admonished him, “You silly Rooster, get down and go inside where it’s dry!” because don’t we all talk to our animals? He remained, stoic. He was drenched, but if a Rooster could, he radiated pride. “We’re both wet! You can’t be happy! Get down!” He would not. I checked the base of the tree and found a stick.

Gently (because I’m not a monster) I poked at him. The bottom of his feet, the back of his legs. Irritating him just enough that it made him uncomfortable to sit in the same position. He fussed back at me, re-adjusting and trying to stay on his branch. “I’m doing this for your benefit, you silly thing! I’m trying to move you to where it’s safe!” More fussing, more re-adjusting, more pride. “Okay, fine! I’ll irritate you all night if I have to!”

Eventually, he jumped down from his perch. But did he run into the safety of the coop? Nope. He ran past it. “Seriously?? What is wrong with you? Why don’t you trust me??? I’m trying to keep you safe!!”  I finally herded him into the coop.

As I made the trek back to the house, soaked but proud I had managed to protect this silly little creature, I was gobsmacked by irony.

The Lord- (Clears throat) “Ahem.”

Me- “Ohhhhhh. I see what you did there.”

The lesson I took away from this 15 minute ordeal was a strong one. Maybe decisions that we think are a good one at the time, are really nothing more than us standing out in the rain, with chests puffed out, defying anyone to change us or our environment. And maybe we should trust that when Life’s little irritations come our way, they might actually be being used as a gentle guide to change our current circumstance, or a way to keep us safe.

The Best Time of Day

The best time of day
is not day at all.
It is when the house settles
with a sigh and final creak.
The lamp has been switched off,
and I burrow into the flannel sheets
and a pillow the size of my head.
It is then,
in the darkness,
that the cat slowly crawls over the pillow.
I lift the blanket
and extend my right arm.
He arranges himself in the nook,
draping his paws over my arm,
and resting his head.
He may or may not purr-
But it is in that moment
that I feel pure happiness
and what it must be like
to be loved…
unconditionally.

Simon Says Goodbye

Three and a half years ago, my beloved black cat Sammy passed away from kidney failure. He was only three years old himself. The day after his traumatic death, I walked into the Humane Society and said simply, “I need to hold a black cat.”

The women there were very kind and accommodating to this grief-stricken girl and her strange request. Soon after,  I began a years long friendship with them, and the rest of the furry residents of the Kitty Kottage.

A couple months after I began coming by regularly, an adult male black cat was dropped on their porch. The women arrived at work in the morning only to find him in a pet carrier with a note.

“Friendly neighborhood cat. Keep the carrier.”

Whether he was truly just a “neighborhood cat” or not, we’ll never know, but he was christened “Cruiser” by the staff, since he was allegedly found “cruising” around the neighborhood.

Shortly after his arrival, as I sat in their floor playing with some of the kittens, he sauntered in. He sized me up, climbed into my lap, flipped over on his back like a baby, and began to purr.

“It looks like you’ve been picked!” one of the staff members exclaimed. Indeed, it did.

Every visit would see the same behavior. The staff informed me that as an adult male black cat his chances of being adopted were slim to none. I slowly began to realize  that I needed to take this enchanting creature home. That while he could never replace Sammy, he might be able to help heal the hurt, and the gaping hole left by Sammy’s death.

I brought him home in July of 2013, along with a few other cats, whose story I will tell another day. I renamed him Simon, for the character Simon Birch in the movie of the same name. He was small, but mighty.

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From that day forward, our only separation was when I left the house for work. If I exercised, he walked with me. One of our favorite spots was a grove of trees out front of the house, where he would show off by sprinting up one of the trees and then posing dramatically before jumping down again. If he got tired of walking, I picked him up and carried him.

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When I worked from home, he slept on top of a brown pillow I had out for him. When I showered, he stayed in the bathroom to make sure no boogeymen were there to attack me. He slept next to me, sat in my lap when I watched tv, kept me company when I was sick (which lately, had been often), posed for numerous Instagram photos, always came running when I called him, and when he heard the garage door open, I would walk in to find him waiting for me outside the door.   And if, by some odd chance, he hadn’t heard the garage, I’d find him on my side of the bed, curled up next to my pillow.


His antics were so adorable to me (as any cat lover would say of their own furry child) that I created a hashtag called #SimonSays to more easily access all of his photos and the memories we had created.

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He never judged, never said I looked fat, never called me stupid, never minded my moods, and most important; loved me fiercely and exclusively. Despite his semi-permanent frown, he allowed me to cradle him like a baby, and would purr contentedly.

He was also one of the smartest cats I’ve ever known. His words may have been silent, but we talked all the time, and understood each other perfectly. He healed my heart in ways I couldn’t imagine, and the only thing he deprived me of was more time.

I wanted years and years with him. I wanted more cuddle time, more adventures, more companionship. More of everything. More of him.

I didn’t get it.

Simon was in my life for approximately three years and six months. This morning, Christmas Eve morning, I found him where he loved to be most in the world, just outside our grove of trees. There were no marks on him, no signs of struggle, no blood. Just my sweet, sweet friend lying in the grass.

I still have no idea what happened, but I think I know when it did. I getting ready for the day in my bathroom when I heard a noise of distress that sounded exactly like Simon’s “voice.” It sounded like he was right under my window. I was so alarmed, that I ran and looked outside to make sure he was okay. I didn’t see him.  He was hidden by the hill of grass. I found him about 20 minutes later.

Today was the day Simon says Goodbye. And my heart, while twisted with pain and inconsolable with grief, is so, so grateful that I knew him. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be days filled with family, happiness, love, and joy. Why did I lose my best friend on Christmas Eve? Why him? Why now?

It’s not fair.

But. That’s the one thing Life always promised. Never to be fair. 

And so.

Goodbye, my sweet, feisty, adventurous companion. Thank you for coming into my life at the perfect time, and bringing me such love and joy.  You knew me and chose to love me, and every day you let me know how much.

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I miss you more than I can possibly express.




35 Days to 35: Cheating on Simon

I have a confession.

Once a week, every week, I sneak off and visit Mike. I meet up with him and kiss his face and tell him how handsome he is and how much I love him. And then I go into another room and find Wiley and tell him the same thing.

Then I try to make time to give Gigi, Dolly, Bob, Sabrina and many, many others a brief hug or kiss. I tell each of them how special they are, and how good they are, and how loved they are.
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Allergic to Love: A Simon Story

If you’ve ever wondered about the power of positive words, allow me to reintroduce Simon. For those of you who haven’t yet met him, look no further than the article entitled, “Simon Sees A Murder.” It’s two below this one. I’ll wait while you catch up.

………..

Great. Now that you know how he feels about bath time, let me tell you a little bit more about his origin story. When I would visit him at the Humane Society before adopting him, he would run to me, leap into my lap, flip over on his back and purr. I was assured that he had ‘chosen’ me for his owner, and it seemed that was true.

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Love means exposing your belly and hanging upside down.

However, when I took him home, something strange happened. He got tiny bumps all over his little body, and whenever I would try to pet him, he would purr furiously and LOUDLY, but immediately begin to choke and run away. I took him to the vet, got some medicine, and his bumps cleared up, but not the purr/choke issue.

I finally figured out that when I tried to pet him, he became so overwhelmed with happiness, that his purr motor was ‘overheating’ and choking him, thus causing him to run away.

He was literally becoming allergic to love.
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Simon Sees a Murder

The Theory:

My cat was the only witness to a murder in a bathroom. Henceforth, he feels it is his loving animal duty to prevent that same kind of murder from happening to me. I don’t mean to be macabre, but that is really the only explanation that makes sense.

His background:

Simon is one of my beautiful adult black cats adopted from the Humane Society last year. He had been left on their front porch in a carrier with a note that read: “Friendly neighborhood cat. Keep carrier.”

Simon is many things, and he is friendly, to a degree, but there is no way he was just some ‘friendly’ neighborhood cat. He’s very skittish, and frightens at the least little noise. I don’t think this is the kind of cat that would just wander up to strangers. Actually, this is the kind of cat that hides until he’s certain it’s me that’s calling for him.

Our relationship:
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