The Occasional No

A close-up view of the head of a female northern flicker with her mouth open, taken in our backyard in Portland, Oregon

Last fall I experimented with taking pictures out of my office window of the birds that visit the backyard, such as this female flicker at the suet feeder. At first I tried shooting through the glass but the pictures were far too soft, so I opened the window just enough for the big telephoto to fit through.

The smells and sounds of the outdoors brought the cats over to investigate, one by one, but I shooed them away so I wouldn’t have to worry about them jumping through the opening to freedom, sweet freedom. Scout grunted when I pushed her back, looking puzzled. We were so rarely at cross purposes that she had to be sure I hadn’t mistaken her for one of the other cats. She tried for the window again and I gently pushed her back, then again, and again, before she finally wheeled about and walked out of the room with her tail raised high.

She asked for so little, but what she wanted, she wanted. Usually what she wanted I was happy to give her, but even I sometimes had to tell my beloved Scout, “no”.

As soon as I closed the window and returned to the couch, having forgiven my insolence, she jumped onto my chest and purred.

She was the best.

That Last Step is a Doozy

Our cat Boo sitting on the steps of the landing between the basement and the main floor

After we adopted Boo in early in July, we kept him in isolation for a while in my wife’s office in the basement. After a couple of weeks we allowed him limited time upstairs with the rest of the pets. He was eager to meet the others and explore the rest of the house but after a while the shy little fellow would get overwhelmed and retreat to the comfort of the basement. At times you could see the conflict writ across his face as he hung out in the landing between the basement and main floor, screwing up the courage to climb that last step and venture forth.

Scout & Boo

Our kitten Boo stands on the utility sink and looks up towards the ceiling and the hole we blocked with wooden boards

While Boo’s black-and-white coat resembles Scout’s in some ways, it was his early attempts to get up into the ceiling and ducts that reminded me most of her. Up above you can see a board above the circuit breakers, placed there when we moved in over a decade ago to keep Scout out. It was a constant battle in those early days, we’d block off access to one spot and she’d find another. She was crafty so it usually took multiple attempts to block her out for good.

Our cat Boo in the utility sink in the basement of our house in Portland, Oregon

Scout was already full grown when we moved in so skinny little Boo was able to find one spot into the ducts that we hadn’t blocked off but that was soon rectified. He got dirty during his foray but we had learned from past experience to let him clean himself. I didn’t use to believe in superheroes, ordinary people one moment who in a flash could transform into something greater. But one day after sneaking into the ducts Scout came out looking like a furry little coal miner, so I gave her a bath in the same utility sink Boo is standing in above. The moment the water hit her fur, my sweet little girl grew ten legs, each ending in a paw with a hundred claws. Some sought for purchase as she tried to wiggle from my grasp, leaving the others free to flail wildly and attack whatever they could. She dug into my hands, my arms, my chest, and rather painfully into my nose.

That’s me below holding Scout after her bath, drying her off with a towel. Fortunately Scout couldn’t hold a grudge, not even for a moment, so she quickly forgave me and we never spoke of it again.

I hold our cat Scout as she grooms herself after getting a bath


Our kitten Boo hiding behind the washer and dryer

After living in isolation in my wife’s office during his first two weeks with us, we slowly let Boo expand both his contact with the other pets and his exposure to the rest of the house. He was more than ready to start exploring but still rather nervous about it and sought out safety zones where he could retreat when he got overwhelmed. He soon discovered the gap behind the washer and dryer could fit a Boo but not a Boolie.

The Healing Game

Our cat Boo looks down from the bed

This year has been a painful lesson in how long it can take a broken heart to heal. And yet how quickly, when the time is right, it can fall in love again. I didn’t want to fall for Boo in his first few weeks with us, he was shy and stressed from his time in the shelter and we didn’t know well he’d integrate with the dog and two cats, one of whom wasn’t at all happy with his arrival.

We always introduce new pets slowly but took extra time with Boo and while not always easy, it paid off in the long run. Boo grabbed hold of his second chance at life and has grown so much, both physically and emotionally, in his three months with us.

Which is fortunate, as I fell for him immediately.

This picture is from his fourth day with us.