Early Morning Open Thread: True Companions

From commentor Muddy:

All of our many dogs and cats have been rescued from some bad circumstance or other. It’s their ticket in. I will just tell you about Fionn and Druid. Fionn was a terrific mouser (3 vole a day man), but seemed to think himself a dog. He had no interest in our other cats and followed the dogs everywhere, crunching mightily at the large chunks of dog kibble in the bowl, climbing up into the toilet bowl to drink with them. The two dogs didn’t want him in the pack. The people that lived behind us had a cow, and it was herdless and sad. And complaining. Fionn started to go down to where the cow waited at the fence, and he’d sit for hours on a branch over the fence, and the cow stopped bellowing. Fionn had a pack and the cow had a herd. It wasn’t long though, before the cow went the way of all good things.

During this period I was doing some guerrilla dog rescue with my friend Wendy, illicitly liberating them from very abusive situations, fostering and re-homing them. My friend is a real hero in this regard, and works hard in the field in an official capacity now. We lived in NC then, and there were only kill shelters at the time and animal abuse was pretty much accepted (“how else they gonna larn?”). My house was the 1st stop on the underground railway because I had a fenced yard and dog crates, also I worked at home and was available for the animals all the time.
__
So my friend was up on the mountain, and got a small black puppy, just a skeleton with a breadbox for a head. She brought him to me. He was in bad shape, he had scabies as well as being a complete skellington. The grooves between his ribs were so deep that when I put my fingers in them the ribs stood up higher than my fingers. I work with my hands and do not have slim fingers! On that first day when we settled down I looked into his eyes and I just recognized him, as though I had known him before and had just been waiting for him to come back. I had no idea what sort or size of dog he would turn out to be, since he was in such a bad condition. As he filled out the vet said she thought he was likely a cross between a black Lab and a pit bull.

Druid’s big interest in life was eating. No wonder, after starving like that. He ate an antbait and then happily lapped up the hydrogen peroxide I gave him to make him puke it up. mmm He ate limes and jalapenos. But his true love was Fionn. The other dogs were not enthused about this sad new dog specimen, but Fionn was excited to find a dog his own size (for a while), and welcomed him with open paws. They were together constantly from then on. Played in the yard together, slept together, ate together, shared the sunbeams. Druid, despite his eternal hunger, did not mind sharing his food with Fionn. Fionn would return the favor by pushing food off the counter so they could both eat it. Fionn never ate it on the counter. Fionn began to sport a spiky hairdo from dogspit, straight from the 80’s. I’d come across them with Fionn’s head entirely inside Druid’s mouth, like a gob-stopper. Purrs are echoing down the dog’s throat. Druid eventually grew to 125 pounds, whereas Fionn stayed 12 pounds, but they seemed to think they were a matched set. Seeing my photo album, people have asked if I ever got any pictures where they were NOT together. Rarely.


Although Fionn thought that he was a dog, he sometimes did cat things. He climbed over the fence, which good dogs don’t do. He drank antifreeze in the street and developed kidney failure. By the time he was diagnosed and the blood tests confirmed, it was too late. Fionn spent his last night as he had spent all the others, as a pillow for Druid’s giant head. Druid was heartbroken. He hung with the dogs but without much enthusiasm. More cats have arrived since then, but Druid wanted no part of them either. His friend Fionn was not just a cat, and there was no kind of familiarity or consolation to be found there. He was not unkind to them, but just averted his head when they tried to smear on him.

It had been a few years since we lost Fionn and finally Druid was the only dog left as well. He had cancer and severe arthritis and was going out the way he came in, too damn thin. His new mania near the end was eating snow, and he would stand outside in his giant sheepskin coat eating snow when it was 25 below in VT, until I yelled at him and insisted he come in. He had no fever, but really liked that snow. So I stepped up his quota of frozen marrow bone slices that he received. This was last winter. This year it’s the horrible wretched winter of no snow, I feel as though he liked it so well he took it with him.
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I am not a believer in spiritual things, I don’t believe in reincarnation, I don’t believe in an afterlife. I make an exception for Fionn and Druid. They were so devoted in life, I like to think they are together now. It helped me as I watched Druid fade. We have had many dogs and cats in our family, but I have never seen a bond like theirs even within species. Any of us would be lucky to have such a devoted partner. I am lucky to have had them, and all the others, in my life.
__
A year ago, Druid for the first time refused food. When I usually took him to the vet he would get on the scale and then try to turn around and head back out the door, because the back room is where vampires and evil manicurists live. This last time we went in, and after sampling the vet’s snow he walked straight past the scale to the back room, and laid down on the blanket they had waiting. He giggled a bit, which he had not done in a while. I guess he just was pleased that they had a blanket at the vet when they never had before, but somehow it felt like he knew, and he was happy. If dogs have white light moments, he saw his boy Fionn.

It was the first time in decades that I had been without a dog. The earth was off its orbit. I felt I had become invisible. The cats didn’t mind my business all day, I had no entourage. It was also the first time I had gone looking for a dog. They had always presented themselves before. When people asked what kind of dog I wanted, I said I wanted one who would mind my business. I did find my new partner, he’s a real good boy. I was thinking about Fionn and Druid because the new guy has started a play relationship with one of the cats. It was hysterical to see him learn how to do the ultra-high-speed-triple-thwack-high-paw action from the cat. It might be the beginning of a whole new love affair.

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54 replies
  1. 1
    AnnaN says:

    Aww geez, it’s too damn early in the morning to be sporting tears.

  2. 2
    sharl says:

    What a sweet story. And, what AnnaN said.

  3. 3
    danielx says:

    Many stories of dog friends and of cat buds, but few of mixed couples. Those pictures are the best…

    Since I’ve had a more or less sleepless night, I browsed the NY Times this morning. What did my wondering eyes behold but a Ross Douthat column titled “Not-So-Crazy Republicans”, in which the last paragraph was this jewel:

    So the primary electorate was left to choose from a roster of retreads, mediocrities and cable-news candidates. And given their options, Republican voters have acquitted themselves about as sensibly, responsibly and even patriotically as anyone could reasonably expect.

    Really want to see some front page commentary on this particular piece of overripe bullshit, since from what I can tell the Republican primary electorate got exactly what they wanted in the way of choices. Brother Douthat’s whole point, from what I can make out, is that Republicans haven’t really gone crazy, and they were just kidding when they were going through frontrunners like Herman Cain the way a baby goes through diapers. I know it’s Douthat’s job to make a valiant effort at putting lipstick on the pig, but referring to Republican primary voters as sensible and responsible is sort of like praising Ted Bundy for his efforts in the field of population control.

    Why, Lord, must thy servant put up with this shit?

  4. 4
    WereBear says:

    That was so adorable. Some unlikely friendships are just chemistry.

    I am so pleased Muddy “felt the lack” and found another animal companion. I do run across people who declare “never again” and hope to never feel that way myself.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    Muddy, Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story about true love. Now off to find my tissue.

  6. 6

    Beautiful story. [sniff]

    And Muddy, you’ve had an interesting life. Guerrilla dog rescue? Wow. May you be written in the book of life.

  7. 7
    Insomniac says:

    What a wonderful story of love and affection! You and they were truly fortunate to find each other. Also, gorgeous pictures. Thank you for sharing the story and the pictures.

  8. 8
    Mino says:

    Beautiful elegy, even if that is stretching a point.

    You are a very clean writer with nice turns of phrase. I’d imagagine you have a lot of stories. Please think about putting some of them down. I think a lot of folks would be very interested in reading them.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    WereBear says:

    Here is a recent photo of our own rescued foundling, Sir Tristan:

    Tristan exhausted from helping with taxes.

    He helped by opening envelopes. He loves “acting human.” Because his technique is rather sloppy, he got a box lid full of junk mail to practice on.

    Ample evidence of why I call these kinds of cats a Monkey Cat.

  11. 11
    Wonkie says:

    Wonderful story. And you are a wonderful writer, too.

    I love thepart about guerrilla rescue and really admire your friend who did it frequently. I have only a few of those kinds of rescues in my background and I was scared shitless the whole time.

  12. 12
    Steve says:

    We had to put our cat Claude down yesterday. He had been fighting a losing battle with something, and the vet never did figure out what it was. He passed all his blood tests and his diabetes was well-controlled up until the end. He had lost a lot of weight, though, and he was clearly in pain and losing control of his body. Maybe the biggest sign that it was time to go was that he started becoming a loner; his entire life, he’d wanted nothing more than to be wherever the people were. For a few weeks now he had switched to hiding crouched in corners and under chairs – he was a totally different cat in many ways.

    We talked to our vet this morning, and she confirmed that Claude was hurting and wasn’t going to get better; our little friend was never coming back. We decided that the best thing that we could do for him would be to make him comfortable and make sure that he couldn’t hurt anymore.

    It was an incredibly hard decision, but we know it was the right one. Claude had a good long life, and he made it seven years longer than the vet who diagnosed him with diabetes predicted he would. He had more personality and more character than any cat I’ve ever met. I guess he had to, because (before the last couple of months) he was enormous, 25 solid-looking pounds at his peak. Even today in the vet’s office, when he weighed seven pounds and could barely move, people were still commenting on what a huge cat he was.

    I only knew Claude for 5 years, but he was my friend, and I will miss him like crazy. He was with my wife for almost half of her life. We are trying to focus on our one-year-old daughter and ignore all of the stuff in the house that reminds us of him. Every noise sounds like his meow, and every time I turn a corner I’m surprised when he’s not there. Eventually this will stop, I know, but for now it doesn’t seem like it.

  13. 13
    JPL says:

    @Michael Demmons: Gail Collins will love that cover. She has written about the dog on the car roof numerous times because it is so disgusting to treat animals that way.

  14. 14
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Sweet post. Have two dogs from the humane society myself, and I love cats although I have none now.

  15. 15
    Persia says:

    Awww, those sweet buddies.

  16. 16
    AA+ Bonds says:

    REPUBLICAN EXTRAORDINAIRE AA+ BONDS HERE

    What a fine Republican morning it is! There’s a reason they use the elephant to measure corn in Oklahoma!

    Just look at this staggering display of diversity in our very own Grand Old Party this morning on FoxNews.com! It’s a big tent!

    Catch y’all ’round the FoxNation, and MAKE MINE MURDOCH!

  17. 17
    AA+ Bonds says:

    And have a blessed day.

  18. 18
    Hewer of Wood, Drawer of Water says:

    @Steve: My condolences.

  19. 19
    SmoovP says:

    I have a similar story about Bailey, our rescue Chesapeake Bay Retreiver and Eureka (we found him), our rescue tomcat, but I’m too puddled up to type it out, and it wouldn’t be good form to post it after this beautiful elegy.

    But damn, it makes me miss them both so hard.

  20. 20
    Louise says:

    A wonderful story, beautifully told. Love the pictures, especially the one with the cone.

    Steve, my condolences. You did the right, loving thing.

  21. 21
    Libby says:

    Good Lord but I love these reader pet stories. This was such a great one. Cheering, even with the sort of sad ending.

  22. 22
    donovong says:

    Lovely story. Now, excuse me while I go and get this cinder out of my eye. And pet my puppies..

  23. 23
    jayboat says:

    Muddy, if there is an animal heaven, there are some tails waggin’ in your direction and some purring goin’ on that I hope you can hear.

  24. 24

    Muddy – that was simply incredible, and the pic of Fionn curled up in Druid’s cone just slayed me. Agree with others that you really should indie publish a book of stories and pictures. I’ll bet it would do well.

  25. 25

    @Steve: I’m so sorry for your loss. Claude knew he was loved.

  26. 26
    Jess says:

    @Mino: I was thinking the same. More? Please share!

  27. 27
    SIA says:

    muddy, a wonderful story wonderfully told.
    [sniff]

  28. 28
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Thank-you Muddy. This was wonderful to read and the pictures are beautiful.

  29. 29
    khead says:

    Wonderful post. Tough thread overall, though.

    Sorry for your loss, Steve.

    I gotta go find a cat to hug.

  30. 30
    CaseyL says:

    @Steve: My condolences to you and your wife. You had bonus years with him, and you made them count. You did good.

    Muddy: That is a wonderful, very bittersweet story. Like you, I doubt there is an afterlife, but wish/hope for a Paradise for animals. If there is such a place, I’m sure Fionn and Druid are there together.

    … and now I need to get another box of Kleenex.

  31. 31
    Kristine says:

    Thanks for the lovely story, muddy.

    Steve, I’m so sorry. It’s always so hard although it’s for the best.

    My two beasts just had a very late breakfast–hates DST, I do–and are now napping. I’ll be working to the sounds of soft snoring and occasional muted thumps as one or the other’s legs twitch around. Dreams of running.

  32. 32
    Evergreen (formerly Betsy, forever ago) says:

    I think I’ve got something in my eye.

  33. 33
    SIA says:

    @Steve: I’m so sorry you’ve lost your friend.

  34. 34
    muddy says:

    Thank you to everyone for your kind words! Anne Laurie, it was great to open my computer to see my boys this morning, you have made my entire day. Readers should know that she picked the pics from a group I sent, she chose well! There had been two cone pics, one inside the cone and outside. Fionn had to go back and forth to enjoy both the warm belly and the kissyface. (Poor Druid had two TPLO surgeries)

    There was also one scanned from a print, not of very good quality, with Fionn’s face and paws tucked into Druid’s crotch. nsfw!

  35. 35
    muddy says:

    @Steve: My thoughts are with you. I have had to do that so many times over the years, it never gets easier.

    I think it is a shame though, that as humans we can’t be allowed the same dignity as afford to our pets when it is time to go.

  36. 36
    tesslibrarian says:

    What a lovely story! Thank you, Muddy, for sharing it, and for being the safe haven for so many more.

    @Steve: It will get better. You’ll never stop missing Claude, but that’s just part of it. Take your time to grieve.

    After awhile, you’ll think of funny, sweet, silly things he did, and instead of making you sad, you’ll laugh and just feel lucky to have known him and had him in your life. It will come in moments at first, then longer spaces, then those happy memories and the warmth they provide, even though you still miss him, will seem like yet another gift he gave you. It just takes time to get there.

  37. 37
    muddy says:

    @Wonkie: Yeah it’s scary all right. We were in hillbillyville then and the threat of gunshot was not unimagined. But then those who don’t care for their dogs on chains don’t bother to check on them in the night, so there was that.

  38. 38
    phillygirl says:

    @Steve: @Steve: I’m so, so sorry. In their few years, these guys give us joy. You won’t forget that.

  39. 39
    Yutsano says:

    KITTEH!! PUPPEH!!

    And who’s cutting the damn onions?

  40. 40
    SG says:

    Now I’m crying for Fionn and Druid and remembering my dear Max and Boris.

    Max and his sister Mollie were rescued as puppies with the rest of their litter. For years it was just the two dogs and then my daughter brought home Harry, a tiny kitten filled with fleas, ear mites and two kinds of worms. I spent days sitting on the porch holding the little thing, combing out fleas because he was too young for any kind of flea remedy. Harry was brought up by Max and Mollie and is now a kind of dog-cat. He does a lot of Max-like things — carries his toys upstairs and down and presents them ceremoniously, wags his tail in a very un-catlike way, chews on household objects.

    All was serene until the night my daughter found another hard-luck case, a pregnant tabby left outside in the snow. We called her Sheba, the Queen of Mean. The first thing she did was snarl and scratch poor Max in the eye. Max was only saying hello. There wasn’t a person or creature alive that Max wasn’t happy to see until Sheba came along.

    We had to isolate Sheba, pay for vet exams, etc. and keep her until she gave birth locked up in a back bedroom away from the others. She was so aggressive (and unpredictably so) that it was a foregone conclusion that I’d pay anything, including spaying charges, vaccinations and out-and-out bribes, for the nearby no-kill cat rescue storefront to take her off my hands. Of the four kittens born, we kept two and the rescue ladies took the other two (only, of course, after another round of vet checkups and immunizations at my expense). Sheba, by the way, was unadoptable and spent her years lounging in the sunny front window and terrorizing the other cats in the place.

    We named the two kittles Boris (Badenov) and Natasha (Fatale), which Bullwinkle fans will recognize. Tasha is the runt, a tiny black & white with OCD who can leap to the top of an open door by bouncing off the screen door. Boris is his mother’s son, a tabby, but without her malice. I’ve never known such a confident cat. And he loved Max without reservation. He nuzzled Max, he rubbed himself on Max, he wrapped himself around Max’s butt. And poor Max, gentleman that he was, would try to escape or deliver warning snaps in the air, but nothing fazed Boris in his pursuit of true bromance. To Max, Boris was the spawn of Sheba, the demon who attacked him.

    When Max finally died (his catalogue of health woes was long and sad), Boris was puzzled and bereft. Until he transferred his attentions to Mollie. Mollie didn’t have Max’s history with Sheba, so she was okay with Boris clambering over her and glomming onto her butt. Now Mollie is gone too, and is together with her brother again. Boris cuddles up to Harry or to his people, but it’s not the same. And I so miss having dogs around the house.

  41. 41
    SG says:

    @Steve:

    Steve, I am so sorry for you and your wife’s loss. Perhaps you can take comfort in knowing Claude’s life was well-lived, filled with love and people companionship, and that when he needed you to let him go, you helped him avoid more suffering. I wish you the best.

  42. 42
    muddy says:

    @SG: I tell the animals that it is only appropriate to bite within one’s species. The dog follows the rule better than the cat. go figure

  43. 43
    Clime Acts says:

    Thanks for this lovely, joyful, and heartbreaking story. Kind of like the rest of life.

    The longer I have dogs the more I see how they model life for me, on a smaller, shorter scale.

    I learn from them every day.

  44. 44
    Bubba Dave says:

    @Steve: Deepest sympathies. You did the right thing, and it sucks anyway, but Claude is better off for it.

  45. 45

    @Steve: My condolences. It never gets easier – they leave such big pawprints on our hearts.

    @muddy. What a wonderful, bittersweet story. You are a grand hero to the animals I am sure. There must be an open bottle of ammonia in here.

  46. 46
    muddy says:

    Just don’t put the ammonia on the meat.

  47. 47
    Jenn says:

    Wonderful post. Tears flowing plus laughter at those antics, and then more laughter because I’m trying to type on this damn phone with 2 dogs intent on licking my tears away!
    __
    Steve, I’m so sorry. Best wishes to you.

  48. 48
    ruemara says:

    @Steve: I still think I hear Butternut or see Smudge out the corner of my eye. I like to believe it’s because they’re pointing out that they’ve just stepped away for a bit. My deepest condolences to you.

    @muddy: This was a beautiful story of love. Thank you for sharing, for doing those rescues and for giving a home to such wonderful brothers from another species.

  49. 49
    Steve says:

    Thank you for the kind words, everyone.

  50. 50
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @muddy: What a beautiful story of love and loss, muddy. What a gift to read about Fionn and Druid as I lie on my couch, both my boys on my lap. Thank you for sending it in – you write wonderfully.

    @Steve: I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved Claude, Steve. My deepest condolences to you and your wife. I hope Claude peeks in and lets you know that he is now playing pain-free on the other side.

    @SG: Your story was wonderful, too, SG. So much love and laughter our furry companions give to us.

  51. 51
    Paul in KY says:

    RIP Fionn & Druid. I know they are together now. Hard to see to type right now…

  52. 52
    Paul in KY says:

    @Steve: Very sorry to hear of your loss. My condolences. You did the right thing as he was suffering. You are a great pet owner.

  53. 53
    Liz says:

    I came for the politics, I stay for the pet stories.

    Thank you so much. I need a tissue.

  54. 54
    Stentor says:

    Anne, I’m going to make a special trip to come see you the next time my wife & I go back to Vermont, just so I can hug you. She lived in Rutland while we were dating when I first met her. Our first date was a trip up to Waterbury to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory, then a short trip over to Burlington in the middle of January to go to SweetBreads. We’ve been together for five years now, got married about three years ago just after her birthday on the anniversary of the very first time I called her long distance after we had been exchanging e-mails.
    She also adores my cat Sneakers, a 12 year old black male Burmese that I adopted from a friend. I’ll send John a picture of him along with my story, just so you can take a look at him. Thanks for your story, made me well up there near the end.

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