It wasn't any exotic location in the South Seas, not a Caribbean tropical island or a ski week in Quebec...it was 8 days on 23-acres of gently rolling landscape in the Region of Niagara along a paved road. The property is a 'post-card-vision' of a comfortable red brick ranch home...a separate double garage...evergreens and deciduous trees...all accenting the property. A place to call 'home' with acres to roam backing on Chippewa Creek. Often deer are seen prancing the snowy terrain. Sounds idyllic?
This is where my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live. They are away on a group vacation with 6 other family kin...and I'm here to 'house-sit' and be a 'Mother Hen' to 3 orange and white tabbies, an Australian shepherd dog and an aquarium of fish. This is my 'family vacation' for a week.
On Christmas Day, I spent with the human family and 3 days prior to Feb. 8th, came for my 'orientation care' of house and pets. It's back to the country, akin to my parents' farms in Brant County. Today, there are no cows to milk...no gardens to plant or harvesting for daily food...no gathering of eggs from the chicken coop...no horses to drive...no tractor, binder or plough to tend the fields.
It was a wintery day when I arrived, wary of freezing rain, blowing winds and icy roads. Parking in the driveway, loud barking from the house welcomed me. Wiley greeted me with more 'barking hellos' and soon calmed down with a milk-bone-biscuit...and we are suddenly 'buddies'! So for a week, I am enriched with Wylie (the Australian shepherd...a herd dog). He's frequently out daily for his run and returning with a bark at the front door to re-enter. He craves for attention (to which I give plenty); he misses his family and like a built-in-timer, mid-afternoon he watches through the dining room window for the school bus to arrive with my grandson. When that doesn’t occur, he wants OUT...rolls in the snow and then sits up facing east from where the bus should come. His eyes, very intelligent looking and uniquely two-toned… brown on the outer sides and pale-bluish shade on the inner. He's very observant and very gently tolerates the felines.
Watching a special on TV about sledding in Northern Ontario with several Huskie dog teams, Wylie became most vocally communicative, barking with these dogs...so excited he was viewing them! Other breeds seen by him on TV, he'd aggressively bark...chasing them away. Good Dog! During the day, he sprawls at my feet…reclines on any chesterfield or love-seat…or sits upright at the front door for ‘out’.
When offering him a doggie milk-bone, he'd take it and lay down to chew upon it. Following 2 times only, I'd asked him to sit prior to acceptance...Wiley, thereafter, automatically sat on cue to obtain the treat...whether milk-bone or tartar-bone treat. At night, when the lights go out, he wanders down the hall to the master bedroom awaiting entry to find his overnight position on the carpet (usually beside my daughter's side of the bed) or at the foot by the doorway.
If I had the energy and physical ability, I'd be out daily for the fresh air exercise! I'm certain he'll welcome his human family home…due on Sunday.
And now for the felines: All rescue cats, they are orange and white tabbies and appear to represent three generations ~ grandfather Mr. Floyd, son Magic and Chevy the grandson! I comment here that the comparison between these four animals and having 4 human children at home is amazing in that all have varying personalities which call for independent attention.
Mr. Floyd: A rescue cat originally from the SPCA, he was given to my daughter by a friend. Now 19 years old, he’s a Four-Pawed Senior Cat Citizen! A bit bony, he’s lost some of his ginger-coloured hair; his stripes are still visible on sides, legs and tail…beautifully marked with large white moustache and chest, a white stocking and 3 socks. He’s well preserved and happily content…walks with dignity and determinately with each forward paw and manages to play occasionally with the other tabbies. Sitting, he’s very regal and poses with front legs and paws erectly together and glances around with an ‘air of wisdom’ in that cat head of his. He reminds me of Grizabella from the musical Cats. Due to health issues, he has four small tins per day of Purina Fancy Feast with special meat and gravy aromas. Then he flakes out…in sun rays on the dining area floor…a small child-size leather armchair…on the carpet near a floor radiator…or his favourite, a deep leopard-patterned cushion in a quiet dark corner.
Magic: Located below their deck one day, my daughter rescued him. He’s a real recluse that claims the basement his ‘home hangout’. He’s seldom seen with the rest of his family. Ten or 12 years old, he has a medical problem that has caused great weight gain…often referred to as Fat Cat. I didn’t see Magic until Wednesday evening when he waddled over to me, rubbing against my legs…his habit is to appear in the middle of the night, climb the stairs and wander to the dining area, leap to the table for his prescribed nibble food. Surprisingly, he hung around to play with the other tabbies and with the red laser lights I beamed on the floor for him to chase. Then he flopped down to rest his orange/white body. He’s a charming ‘loner’ who, to my thinking, was being hospitable with his guest…me!
Chevy: In the Fresco parking lot of a large plaza, my daughter and a friend discovered him late last fall wandering alone…about the size of a 5 or 6 week old orange and white kitten. They rescued him and named him after my daughter’s car. On Christmas Day I met this bright-eyed ‘kitten’ with big green eyes whose fur is caramel and ivory/white. He’s extremely playful, frisky and friendly, now about 8 or 9 months old (according to the Vet)…looking like a mature ‘teenager’. He’s mischievous and full of discovery antics. He’ll tear paper, unwind the bathroom tissue and play with bootlaces. He’s so lucky to have been rescued! He gets special ‘Kitten niblets’ for healthy growth. Mr. Floyd and Chevy’s feeding stations are on the end of a side kitchen counter. To assist Floyd, there’s a soft-seated chair upon which he can first jump to reach his food and water. To satisfy Chevy’s taste buds, he gets a small forkful of Mr. Floyd’s special diet. Chevy can be found wherever mischief will take him…playing in an open drawer among clothing…playing with a toy attached to the scratching post…stretched out asleep atop any chesterfield…snuggled on a person’s lap…even a hidden niche. At night time, he’ll enjoy the privileged place between the bed pillows of the adult bed.
The fish in the large aquarium are the most passive…large black angel fish(?) with spreading fins and several smaller fish swimming in tropical seawater. I feed them mornings and at dinner time. Chevy often sits and gleefully watches…and tries to paw-reach them as they float through the water.
My ‘vacation days’ with this family is high-lighted by the 'hotel-meal-menu selection’ provided me in the refrigerator…meat sauce for spaghetti, a full chicken dinner sufficient for two, chili-con-carne, large container of chicken soup, ham dinner, makings of salads with dressing choices, etc. Drinks include pure pomegranate/blueberry juice, lemonade or bottled water. For tea, I can boil water or operate their Keurig coffee machine for specialized brews by Van Houtte.
I just need …a maitre-de…with a selection of wines!
How fortunate is this menagerie of fins and four-footed pets!
Each a loved family member…living in a pampered family environment.
Perhaps it’s the quaint little quilted house labeled...“My Home” over the entrance
…with a long corded attached toy.
Merle Baird-Kerr…penned February 16, 2015
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