Pavlov’s Cat

 

Some twenty years or more ago, my brother came to visit us for a long weekend and he brought with him a few presents and his own agenda. When he presented us with a gift for our first wedding anninversary, I ought to have been suspicious but being the polite soul I am, when I opened it I thanked him as graciously as I could, given that he’d decided a desk bell was the perfect gift for an almost-newly-wed couple. That was where his agenda began.

In some ways it wasn’t so much a present for us as a device to torment our cat, Watson.

   “I’m going to train him,” my brother said confidently.

  “Good luck with that,” I said. Dubious is my middle name some times

“Like Pavlov’s dogs, only with your cat,” he continued. “I reckon cats aren’t much different from dogs…”

He’d also bought a bag of expensive cats treats that one friend described as being like cocaine for cats. His grand idea was to ring the bell and give Watson a treat and that over a short period of time the cat would come when the bell was rung. He hadn’t planned on measuring salivation but the cat appearing at the sound of the bell was his main goal and over the weekend, it worked beautifully. If Watson was in earshot of the bell, he’d be in and waiting for his cocaine  treat.

My brother left on Monday deeply satisfied that he’d trained my cat. I admit I had been surprised that Watson had fallen so readily into his plan but I guessed that was the power of those rather delicious treats. Not so.

Shortly after I had come back from saying goodbye to my brother at the station, the true events of the weekend came to light. I didn’t work on Mondays so I was upstairs sorting out laundry when I heard something downstairs. Now, I was alone in the house and no one had access to the house except me and my husband, himself at work by that point.

The bell was ringing.

A few minutes previously, I had heard the cat flap open and Watson had come in from whatever hunting expedition he’d been on. Now we used to keep Watson inside at night because at the time catskinners roamed the area catching cats to skin for the fur trade, but the cat flap had been one with a lock. The lock had taken Watson ten minutes to figure out and he’d let himself straight out so we had been forced to manually block it at night to stop him getting out. The flap remained open until about ten or eleven at night and opened around 6.30am. Normally, he was off out all day hunting and only came home for meals or if it rained. This was around ten o’clock, so he’d come home for other reasons and when I came downstairs, I saw why.

Watson was perched on the shelf where we’d left the bell and the bag of treats. He’d carefully opened the bag and had one paw resting on the bell and as I watched, he raised the paw carefully and struck the button to make the bell ring, then he put his head into the treats and ate one.

Ding-munch, Ding-munch.

I watched in growing understanding for about thirty seconds before Watson raised his head and still chewing, gave me a look of such unmistakeable contempt that had he been human, he would have made a gesture with either one finger or two depending on nationality. He hit the bell one last time and walked off, still chewing.

That was the last time anyone tried to train that cat.

(For more tales of the ginger fury, please read:https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/watson-and-the-flying-birdcage/ )

Not what I expected to write today

What I wanted to write was a short account of my week away.

I always find when I come back from a trip or a holiday, I have a strong sense of anti-climax, like a sudden surge of depression. Last night I was very relieved to be home, and a few hours later we were watching a tv programme we all enjoy when I noticed blood in my dog’s mouth. Now, she’s got cancer of the tongue and her tongue has been in a mess for a while, but the amount of blood that appeared was alarming. She’s been treated for an infection in it, and what I think happened was the pocket of infection emptied, and bled clean. Needless to say she was unconcerned and after we mopped up the mess, it stopped. By the time we went to bed, she was OK. This morning, she was also fine. Her tongue looked ok;  well, as ok as it’s ever likely to be and we headed out for a long walk. As I may have said before, she’ll be fine until she’s not. Last night I had a real fright that suddenly she was not fine. I slept badly. I couldn’t stop shaking for hours.

To all intents and purposes, there was nothing wrong this morning that wasn’t already wrong, but today has been a tough old day. Dog walkers talk. We stop and talk about our dogs; it’s the one thing we have in common and today I talked to several people. Holly’s cancer came up. I was upbeat and cheerful about it, but the second time, after I headed up the beach, I found myself crying.

By the time I got off the beach and into the woods, I was sobbing. Thankfully no one was about so I didn’t have to worry. I was thinking about all the much loved animals we’ve shared our lives with and what sent me almost into hysterics was the sudden memory that it’s actually been ten years this year since Watson, my legendary ginger tom, died. Ten years. It doesn’t feel like it. I miss him still. I miss William, my big black shaggy cat, who slept on my pillow curled round my head, now gone twelve years.

I sat under an old oak and howled for a few minutes. Holly came over and put her head on my knee and we sat there like that for a while until I couldn’t let myself stay any longer.

I’m not afraid of my own death. In some ways it doesn’t matter to me if death truly is the end for me, that there might be nothing after it. What matters right now is that if there is nothing more after death, for humans or for animals, then I’ll never see my friends and family(whether human or animal) ever again. The void they leave when they go is so immense, today I feel the great weight of that void crushing me; my chest hurts as much as if an elephant had sat on it.

Our lives are so brief, our lives are so brief. All that I strive to do and be in this life, what is it all for? What does any of it mean?

Even when I feel this bad, I usually try to turn it around and find and up side to even the worst of days. Today I can’t. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better tomorrow, but for today, I am right here, hurting quite unexpectedly.

Oh and if anyone mentions anything to do with the Rainbow bridge, I shall probably puke. Sorry.

Worry

Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet will understand quite how worrying it is when something is wrong with that pet.

My beloved mongrel Holly has somehow managed to cut her tongue badly enough to need stitches and the wound cleaned out. She’s 13 and in excellent health but it’s worrying. She goes in tomorrow at 8.30. She’s made no fuss about it; I had a look at her mouth last night because I had noticed she was having difficulty eating. We don’t even know when she did it.

Last night I also ended up in hospital myself after I passed out with pain on the landing. It’s probably either the endometriosis again or a cyst bursting but my blood pressure went through the basement and I was unable to move or talk for some time. I’m ok again now and aiming to be back at work tomorrow but why oh why do these things always come at the same time???