Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stray cat

We have not moved in yet. I feel as if I am going bananas, especially considering that although as of tomorrow we will have our house back, we must for the time being share it with tradesmen from varying professions. One mentioned to me that he was looking forward to coming to work on Friday morning and having bacon and eggs with us before starting his tiling of our bathroom. Little does he know about our early morning cooking – or enthusiasm to keep him from his work by catering to him.

Before we moved out there was a stray cat living in the neighborhood that we would feed, once in the morning before going to work, and once at some point in the evening. The cat was a bit scraggly, parts of his ears had been lost somewhere along the line, but despite this the animal had a lot of charm. I cannot put my finger on it exactly but it has something to do with the cat's independence. He had the best of both worlds in some respect – food aplenty from those who would prefer to domesticate him, without having to compromise his freedom one bit. This does not mean that his life was a dance on roses, the elements here are something to be reckoned with and not many places provide much of any shelter.

There have been snowstorms so bad that we believed the poor animal would die of exposure if it did not get in from the cold. As it is wild, it will not under normal circumstances come into our house, but during such times it has been willing to step into the entrance, if we leave the front door open and close the door separating this space from the rest of the house – and us. We have thus numerous times left our house wide open over winter nights in order for this little black cat to be able to curl up on a woolen blanket and get some shelter. The snow on the floor the morning after was a small price to pay for the warm feeling it gave us to know that the cat was safe and warm.

When I was in Santiago I was shocked at the number of stray dogs everywhere. According to my local source Harpa, these dogs are fed by city officials to prevent them becoming ferocious in the hunt for food. Although this made me feel a bit better I still felt sad when I saw these poor animals, most of which had at the beginning of their lives been beloved pets that were thrown out or got lost after the cute puppy stage was over – again according to Harpa, my local source of information.

During a break from one of the meetings I attended I went outdoors to smoke. A scraggly dog came and lay down in the shade from one of the flower pots decorating the office building’s grounds. I cursed myself for not having anything edible on me, but became a bit happier when I saw a coffee shop/restaurant in the adjacent building. I hurried over there and was handed a menu which was all in Spanish. Stressed that the dog would wander off I tried to explain to the waiter that I wanted to order meat - and no I did not want a table or any side dish. Just meat. He thought I was crazy for good reason and it did little to make me appear more sane when I told him I would rather have the meat raw than wait for any cooking to be conducted on it. The only thing that saved me from him calling the police was that his English was not all that good and for this he gave me the benefit of doubt.

I ended up with a lot of precooked bacon in a plastic box and to my great joy the dog was still there when I returned with it. He ate it happily and I felt good for what remained of the meeting. After that I always kept meat with me in my purse and managed to feed a few more dogs during my stay in Santiago. But I could not live there because of this. My heart would break at some point.

So how does this fit in with not opposing whaling or game hunting? I have often thought about it and come to the conclusion that I admire and respect life, not death. By this I mean that it is of more importance to me how an animal lives than how exactly it dies. For most animals death is but a fraction of life, and if I use myself to mirror what I want from my existence, it is to live free and happily - how exactly I die is not of much consequence to me. For this reason I do not like meat from commercial farms, where animals usually live a horrible existance although they may very well die painlessly.  Aside from the dog incident in Chile I have stopped buying pork because of the treatment of pigs here in Iceland after the banks took over the bankrupt pig farms. Opposed to pigs and chicken for example, whales and game at least have a life prior to their killing. This might seem odd but to me it makes perfect sense.

Our stray cat has sensed that we are coming back and tonight he was outside the house when we arrived after work to see what had been accomplished today. Like in Chile I had nothing edible on me, but a quick trip to my parent’s nearby house fixed that and canned tuna seemed to hit the spot when placed in the same place we used to put his food. Yet again that tattered, scruffy animal has managed to evoke within me great happiness and fulfillment.

Tile guy however will not be getting any bacon on Friday.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Every dog we have had has been a rescue. They have been some interesting interesting creatures.

    We had a Samoyed who, although beautiful, was dumb as dirt. We were told that she didn't shed. Lie! But we loved watching the birds in the yard collect her fur. It must have been top of the line building material for the nests. Her partner was a mix of no one knows what. He had been abused and was terrified of bags. He had to be closed in a room before we could bring groceries in.

    Then we had a Doberman who had to be put up for adoption because the people who had him didn't know he was going to be so big (?). He had not been docked or cropped, meaning neither his ears not his tail had been surgically altered. He was dumber than dirt and he thought he was a cat. He would get into my husband's lap so they could watch TV together. His partner was a lab/setter mix. Not dumb but not a genius.

    We got the current pair five years ago. They were adopted through one of the big pet store chains and had to travel from the deep south, Arkansas, to the north where dog owners get the dogs altered. The dog I wanted was a young adult terrier. He was small, just the size I wanted after all these big dogs. The people in Arkansas took the chance that they were dealing with people who had no sense and sent us a picture of a beautiful dog, medium size, adult, that they claimed was so attached to the terrier that he would just curl up and die if they were separated. We fell for it and got both.

    Terrier turned out to be a six month-old puppy. The other dog is part dachshund and the vet doesn't know what else. This dog has serious mental health issues. We have had him for over five years but he still doesn't trust the house. He has to conduct a detailed examination of the kitchen before he will approach the water bowl. Once he begins this approach everything must stop. No talking, no movement from the humans or he will run out of the room. When he feels safe enough to go on to step two, he takes three laps from the bowl and then retreats. On the next approach he takes four and, on the third attempt, he will finally drink all the water he wants.

    We don't know if the middle of the kitchen floor is filled with predators but he won't cross it. He gets around the kitchen by sliding along the walls. He doesn't play. He won't go after a ball and a frisbee would give him a heart attack. As to his deep attachment to the terrier, a lie. Mostly, he treats the terrier as an annoying insect who disturbs the quiet house that he wants.

    On the other hand, the terrier is proof that there are, in fact, smart dogs. If he had functional thumbs, he would be in charge of the house. He is a comedian.

    My son and his roommates have a cat. The cat was a stray that one of the girls was feeding and who gradually made it into the apartment. He is missing most of his front teeth although he has one tooth in the middle of his lower jaw. The roommate kept calling him "my baby" and the name stuck. To make up for his lack of front teeth, he scoops his food into his mouth with his paw. After two years, all four roommates still find this a fascinating process to watch.

    We rarely see any strays in my neighborhood and we couldn't leave food outside. That would encourage raccoons, squirrels, and other creatures I don't want to think about ot move into the yard and claim it as home.

    I have a problem with hunting. Most hunters are not shooting deer for food but for sport so they can mount the head and antlers on the wall. I was traumatized by the Disney movie, "Bambi" because his mother is killed by hunters. Some hunting areas enclose small areas, lure the deer in, and thereby guarantee the "hunter" a guaranteed kill. That's not sport.


  2. What a wonderful post. I share your feeling for the kinds of animals you describe. We also buy our beef and chicken where the animals are allowed "free range."