Saturday, August 05, 2006

RIP Heinlein early 1990s to July 31, 2006

Heinlein surveys her domainMy family and I have had dogs and cats as pets since I was 7 or 8 years old. Over the years I've lost many four-legged family members. Although intellectually I know that they have a shorter life span than my bipedal family members and that they are "just" animals, losing them hurts. Aside from young children, how many people love you unconditionally and look to you as their sole provider. I've cried for every single one (and if you have a problem with that I'll painfully remove you from the gene pool for the good of the species).
When I first moved into my condo the first thing I noticed was how big it was, and I thought that perhaps a cat could make good use of this space since I'm away for many hours during the day. I went to the Champaign Country Humane Society. In the cat room I looked at the kitties where a small coral, grey, and tan cat with pretty green eyes who reached through the bars of her cage, hooked my hand with her paw, and began to berate me. They took her out of her cage and we sat in one of the side rooms to get acquainted. She hissed and growled vehemently at the dogs barking in the background but curled up comfortably in my lap...still sounding like a pissed off bag pipe. She had me at that and I adopted her. I brought her home and told her if she ever stopped using the litter box I'd kick her out.
I named her Heinlein after one of my favorite science fiction author's Robert A. Heinlein. He liked cats a great deal and they play occasional cameos in his books. She quickly proved to be a scintillating conversationalist, greeting me when I came home with a long series of yowls, purrs, and meows. She'd hop up where I was working or eating, or join me on the couch to get her petting time. She loved attention on her terms: petting was great but being picked up was cause for plaintive cries of displeasure. Mostly she liked to lay around near enough to keep an eye on me but in a strategically cozy spot. She used her right to deliver quick jabs and wicked hooks to both prod me to pet or feed her and in her cunning attacks on anything that moved oddly (to cat). She could work herself into a frenzy with the birds in the backyard yowling and stalking them on one floor before sprinting to the other.
On one occasion Heinlein met my folks' nearly 200 pound mastiff. As the gentle giant came forward to inspect the feline, so like the cats she shared a house with she was rudely stopped by Heinlein gently putting her fully extended clawed paw directly on her nose, the needle sharp points delicately dimpling the skin. The mastiff turned and fled in terror at such behavior as Heinlein realizing her bluff had yielded maximum benefit bolted in the other direction.
For the last few years Heinlein shared her domain with my second cat, Tolkien. Although she expressed great displeasure and disdain at this upstart, she seemed to enjoy his company. I would catch them sleeping close together but as soon as I witnessed this alliance they would rapidly separate as to convince me that they thought less of one another. They would often ambush one another either by running up and delivering a "drive-by" swat before bee-lining out of range or by stalking the other (typically asleep) feline and delivering a full tackle.
One of the funniest things I ever saw the two of them do followed a near feline calamity. I was working on my computer and I heard the most plaintive Heinlein cries I'd ever heard. I walked to the bedroom and saw the screen had vanished from the second story window and Heinlein was standing with her head out the window, posterior high in the air as if to jump. Springing into action I rushed to the window ready to snatch her away only to pause as I noticed Tolkien on the patio 15-feet below, slightly shell-shocked looking up trying to figure his way back through the window. They were like two teenage siblings yelling at each other trying to undo totaling dad's sports car. I shut the window and ran down to open the patio door, Tolkien streaked inside, got a once over from Heinlein, as he shot to the litter box to relieve himself.