At the end of May a colleague at the college emailed me with “An unusual request” in the subject line. Since we usually met across the table while assessing English placement tests by perspective students, I couldn’t fathom what the request would be. Then I read it. She and her husband were heading to Greece to visit their son, and they were in need of a second cat sitter who was able to stop in and visit during the week. Since I live about half an hour away, I can see why she felt it was unusual. Since I already drive that way every Sunday night for a family dinner with my adopted family, it wasn’t that much of a stretch. The beau and I also try to head to our favorite winery just five minutes from there. An excuse to be in the sunny valley and escape the coastal fog, I didn’t hesitate to agree.
I have a soft spot for calicos. I spent 19 years and 4 months under the ownership of one. They are most often chatty and bossy, as well as inquisitive and smart. They know what they want and what they don’t want. And they will tell you in no uncertain terms which is which.
Nutmeg is no exception.
When I went for a pre-vacation visit, Anita said she was unsure if Nutmeg would come to say ‘hello.’ But Nutmeg did the exact opposite. She rushed out, purring, and let me pet and gush over her. Perhaps she felt that I am a “cat person.” Perhaps she felt that I was missing my departed Zoe. Or perhaps, in true calico form, she just wanted to prove her mother wrong. In any case, she knew she had another human under her spell.
This continued with our progressive visits. When I arrived, I would see her silhouette behind the sheer curtain. But when she spotted me nearing the doorstep, she would leap up to meet me at the door.
Her minion had arrived, and she had plans for me.
Nutmeg trained me quickly, and soon my duties were quickly outlined. The start of the visit was ten minutes of sitting on the rug executing long body-length pets along the back (absolutely no tail if I didn’t want a swat). This was followed by another fifteen minutes of bird on a string. No stopping the string movement, even if the chaser is simply watching from under the chair. These instructions were given via a loud “talking to” followed by a forceful nudging. I was then allowed a short break to complete housekeeping duties regarding the water dish, food bowl, and litter box–but no dawdling. Slowness of tasks would be reprimanded verbally and a catch of my pants with a paw would pull me back to the rug. Five more minutes of petting. A few tosses of the mousie or fishy. And then I was to watch her take a short nap. No leaving the room during naptime. And don’t think of going onto the deck once those eyes are closed. Step outside, and she was up and at the door telling me to come back in and start the petting and playing cycle over again.
Thankfully things changed when I discovered how to subdue her in order to put on the harness (after some physical and emotional scarring). Yes, harness. In the land of coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats, leashes assure that kitty does not become a meal.
Now, after petting and playing and housekeeping, Nutmeg joined me outside. There I followed her as she patrolled the patio and walkway seeking lizards and birdies. This tired her out enough that she didn’t mind my staying out when she went back in for a nap. During those moments, when she finally closed her eyes, I felt like a teenager on a Saturday night finally getting the baby to sleep. A little taste of freedom as I sat in the sunshine.
I’ll do it all again in a heartbeat.