Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Isabella Katarina Tillerini

Let me tell you a story. I blogged a bit about my cat Rambis in her last days in October of 2005, and after she died. I don't know if I ever discussed her sleeping habits. Unlike any cat I've ever had, she would curl up next to my chest as I slept. I was her person, and she was my cat, and there was never any doubt of either.

By contrast, Isabella Katarina Tillerini is (and has always been) Kristi's cat. At night, Izzy has always slept on Kristi's pillow (or one of them; Kristi took to using two to allow a little extra room for Izzy). When I say "always", I mean "always". Every night. Even when Kristi and I separated for a few months in 2000, Izzy slept on that pillow -- never on mine.

Then, Rambis died. For several weeks, nothing changed. Then one night I came to bed to find Izzy curled up on my pillow. The next night, same thing. Most nights for a period of a couple of months, she stayed with me. Then she switched back to Kristi's pillow, and has (mostly) stayed there since.

I suppose you could explain this by saying that, with Rambis gone, Izzy was just trying out a new spot (even though that spot was available all along, even when Ram was alive). I'm sure you could come up with two or three other plausible explanations for why she would do what she did. But I know why she did it. She was comforting me. Because that's the kind of creature she is.

It's our turn to comfort Izzy now, as best we can. She's 16, suffering from arthritis and kidney failure. We give her Lactated Ringer's subcutaneously, almost every night, just to keep her hydrated. She has her own room (the computer room, where I'm sitting now -- the room where Rambis spent her last days). We've built makeshift steps for her to climb up and down to her favorite window spot, and put a heating pad there for her aching hips. She's got her own litterbox in here that Smudge can't get to, set on an oil drip pan so that if she misses the box (as she does too often, her hips not allowing her to crouch low), no damage is done. But for all that, she still sleeps at night on Kristi's pillow. And, very occasionally, on mine.


I've been reading a book called "Dominion," by Matthew Scully. It's a powerful indictment of how humans abuse animals. The chapter I've just finished is an attack on the scientific rationalizations that are often used to support the abuse. There are, apparently, plenty of scientists who will happily claim that animals don't feel "real" pain, that they aren't capable of true rational thought. Reading their words made me want to try out on them some of the things they say don't cause animals to suffer. You know, just to see if scientists feel "real" pain.

"Dominion" can be a little bit off-putting (for me) when it focuses on religion; I am not a religious person, and I don't see where religion has, historically, often proven to be a great starting point for ethical conduct. But I give Scully credit for not shying away from the hypocrisy of those who claim to be godly while behaving abominably toward animals. In fact, I give Scully credit generally for being his own man; he's a bizarre combination of committed vegetarian, sincere opponent of animal abuse, and card-carrying conservative Republican. How can one hold the beliefs he does and still work for the likes of Bush and Cheney, as he did? I don't know. It's a mystery. But I like his book, and I suspect I'd like him, even if we'd never agree on either religion or politics.