My good neighbors love Mardi Gras more than any other holiday. Extended family members rent a house in New Orleans for the last week of Carnival season, and they all pile in go to as many parades as possible together, to make meals together, to spend time together. It is the highlight of their year.
And each year, I petsit while they are out of town. My good neighbors are so much more than kind to me, and I am grateful to be able to perform this small service. I have always felt honored to be entrusted with their beloved animals, their garden, their home.
This is Carnival week, and my good neighbors departed yesterday for the city. Again, I am petsitting. But this time it's different. I thought about that very much this morning as I sat on the bench on their back porch keeping company with their cat.
Cat. One cat. Last year during Carnival week (Cats on a Lundi Gras Morning), there were three cats. Patch was ill at that time, and he disappeared just days later, never to be found again. A few weeks after that, Spike passed away from a rapid onset of diabetes. That's what the vet said. But I know a broken heart when I see one--those cats were together for a dozen years, and they depended completely upon one another as brothers and as buddies.
One cat. Last year, I just called her Little Girl. Now I know her name is Smokey. She's tiny (perhaps four pounds in weight), absolutely feisty, fiercely independent, and yet desperate for attention. I like her. And I like spending time sitting on the porch while she approaches and then runs.
One cat. My good neighbors also had a deeply beloved dog. A Pomeranian called Tippi. Tippi always went with the family everywhere. She was well-known at places like Home Depot, and she went to church more often than most of the people I know.
I loved Tippi but she bore me a grudge and never forgot it. Once when my good neighbors had to be away and could not take Tippi, she came to my house for the night. Tippi knew precisely where she was, and she knew how close to home she was. She could not excuse me from the duty of taking her home, and she could not understand why I wouldn't.
Tippi barked and mourned all that night. She refused to be put on her lead to be taken for walks, and I became terribly worried because I knew she must be in desperate need to relieve herself. But Tippi was NOT having it. She would not comply with anything. She would not eat. She would not drink. She was very, very angry. In abject defeat, I called my good neighbors on their cell phone and told them that Tippi was inconsolable. They said that if I could get her on the lead, I could take her home and leave her alone until they came back that evening. When I said the word "home," Tippi went to the back door in a flash. She was more than ready.
After that experience, Tippi regarded me with disdain. I was not allowed to pat or even approach. I petsat for her only one other time.....just for an afternoon, thank goodness, and was again met with complete defeat. Humiliating. I love animals. Usually, they like me, too. Tippi barely tolerated my presence.
Two days ago, my good neighbor's son sent me a text: "Just to let you know we lost Tippi this morning." I cried. I couldn't help it. Never has there been a dog who has been more beloved and well-cared-for--just what you'd expect from my good neighbors who are so trustworthy and who pay such close attention to detail.
One cat. Last year at Mardi Gras, there were three cats and a little dog. We cannot foresee the changes that time will bring. I am heartily sorry for my good neighbor's losses. It has been hard year.
Hug those you love today, especially those feisty little animals. Enjoy their presence.
Life is good.