For the Birds

In mid-December we visited out-of-town relatives.  Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane have a spectacular view off their deck of the wooded area surrounding their house.  Uncle Jim delighted in pointing out the various species of birds that flocked to his deluxe bird feeder.  With the aid of a colorful bird guidebook, he pointed out an exotic looking woodpecker dining on the deck.   On the drive back home that evening, we talked about the feasibility of installing a bird feeder.

Cardinal - Full Size
Cardinal – Full Size (Photo credit: Orbital Joe)

Later in December we were enchanted with my sister-in-law’s new bird feeder.  Mornings we imbibed tea while we observed cardinals gathered around the large square feeder.  One male cardinal in particular appeared to rule the feeder roost.  Like a sultan overseeing his harem, “Big Red” deemed which females were bird feeder-worthy.  Only a squirrel hopping on board could oust “Big Red” from his feeder throne.

Blue Jay in Snow
Blue Jay in Snow (Photo credit: JacquiTnature)

We decided to purchase a two-tiered bird feeder and large bag of bird food that purported to attract a host of feathered friends.  We hung the green and clear feeder on a sturdy branch of an ornamental tree outside our breakfast nook and waited for the birds to dine at their new chez.  Within hours, cardinals began to flock.  We deduced the Twilight Chirp had spread the news about our bird bistro.  The Twilight Chirp alerted birds that the only cats in sight were secured behind a breakfast window. The two felines could do no more than meow, swish their tails, and gaze at the birds.  The bird feeder population thrived as more feathered diners appeared.

squirrel eating from bird feeder
squirrel eating from bird feeder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One afternoon I glanced out the window only and saw a portly creature clinging to the lower tier of the feeder.  Rocket J. Squirrel had hoisted himself up so that his derriere faced north whilst he frantically plucked food south.  I slammed the back door.  The scurrilous fellow beat a hasty retreat only after he gorged had himself on the contents of the feeder.  Subsequently, it has been an ongoing battle of squirrel sneak versus human defender of the bird feeder.  Often I observe a crowd of birds on both tiers chirping and dining.  Hours later I notice with alarming frequency squirrel tracks in the snow, leaving evidence of who done our feeder wrong.  I do not begrudge the squirrel food, but our neighbor has a feeder full of dried corn cobs for squirrels.  Yet I go forth armed with more birdseed, in the hopes the oversized rodent will not shoo the cardinal band away.

Ciao for now.

Remembering Sparkle, Part III

Few things upset Sparkle.  She had no quarrel whenever the mailman placed the mail in the box.   Sparkle remained staunchly in place whenever the doorbell rang; retreat was not part of her vernacular.  Calico Cat down the block would stroll up the steps to our front porch and wait for a reaction. The minute Sparkle caught a whiff of Calico Cat, Sparkle would hurl herself headfirst through the mini-blinds.   Snarling, hissing, back arched, nose hot pink with fury, Sparkle vented her wrath toward Calico Cat for daring to venture into Sparkle Territory.  Never mind that Sparkle lived the life of Club Med Cat as an indoor cat; her territory extended to the porch and yard as well.  Sparkle was adamant that we not interfere in feline territorial disputes.  Frankly, we were too terrified of her to intervene.  The irony was that Sparkle was the sweetest, gentlest cat imaginable ninety-nine percent of the time.

Sparkle presiding over her domicile –

A bona fide homebody, Sparkle despised her annual trip to the veterinarian.  Even though our veterinarian took only feline patients, Sparkle wanted no part of her. Anjelica always took care to place a clean fluffy towel in the bottom of Sparkle’s cat carrier.  They rode together in the back seat of our car to soothe Sparkle’s anxiety.

“Mama, please play classical music on the radio.  Sparkle likes Chopin.”

No matter how gently Anjelica attempted to placate her, it was to no avail. Once we arrived at the veterinarian’s, the situation deteriorated rapidly.  Once Sparkle nipped the doctor.  While lashing out at the vet another time, Sparkle bit her own tongue and bled profusely.  Another vet visit resulted in Sparkle urinating all over an assistant who was trying to weigh her.

After a particularly ill-fated visit the previous spring, the veterinarian placed a note in Sparkle’s file:  Henceforth Sparkle would be sedated.  Whenever I called to schedule an appointment, I felt certain the office staff drew lots to see whose fate it was to handle Sparkle.   Gingerly an assistant carried a spitting, snarling Sparkle back to the examination room.  By this time, we had grown accustomed to hearing cat screeching on the car ride to and from the vet’s and throughout the exam.  However, this time Sparkle was positively operatic in her high-pitched yowling.  Finally, the bedraggled assistant appeared:  Sparkle was wrapped in a bath towels [not ours] from which ominous growling was emanating.   Handing me a wild-eyed Sparkle, the exhausted woman said:

“Sparkle is very angry.  She broke loose from my grasp and jumped from the examination table on to the sink table.  Unfortunately, the sink was half-full of water.  You might want to keep the bath towel around her.  Just bring it back when you get a chance.”

And with that, the vet assistant turned on her heel and fled behind closed doors.

We peered down at Sparkle.  The pupils of her eyes were black. Rage caused her to breathe heavily and rapidly.  Her wet fur looked like mousse had been applied.

Somehow we managed to get Sparkle home.  She would have nothing to do with me until bedtime, but she happily snuggled up with Anjelica for bedtime stories.  Clearly she held me responsible for the entire disastrous experience.  She did sleep hard that night.

Sparkle on the bathroom vanity waiting for a drink from the faucet

Sparkle was the most vocal cat I had ever had, yet her vocal timbre was less than sonorous; it was downright shrill.  Each morning as soon as I set foot in the bathroom, Sparkle would charge down the stairs and leap up on the vanity.  As I was taking care of my personal needs, Sparkle would look me squarely in the eye in my compromised state and utter,

“Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!  Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!” at an ear shattering pitch.  Translation:  Get my Fancy Feast breakfast on the double!

To divert her attention momentarily, I would turn on the cold water at a slow stream.  Sparkle’s penchant for water from this tap only was then indulged.  She had us all well-trained.

Ciao for now.