#23 For the Record, I’ve Never Owned a Cat

Disclaimer:  There are minimal photos for this entry.  The reason will soon become crystal clear.

Cute yet questionable species.

Pets?  Dogs, absolutely.  Rabbits, sure. Fish, certainly.  Chinese hooded rats, why not? Chameleons, of course.  Guinea pigs, by all means. But cats, never. I think felines are fairly cute from afar.   But honestly, there’s just something that I don’t trust about them. So, for the record, I’ve never owned a cat.  Why does this matter? The fact that I’ve never been around cats for any extended period of time is the entire reason this entry exists.

Our house in Mexico is located on the side of a hill so as a result it does not have much of a nice, flat, grassy, tree filled yard for the resident Jack Russell Terrier, Lola.  When she needs to “do some business” she has one option. There is a space located on the backside of our house on the lowest level of the property. In order to access the area our 16 and ½ year old dog must cross the deck then carefully negotiate a metal, spiral staircase to reach the spot. 

Deck that must be crossed to the reach the “business office”. Not too shabby of a view to take in along the way.

Once she arrives, it’s not half bad. First, it is surrounded by a rock wall offering a great degree of privacy. Cactus plants dot the ground, flagstones providing a small meandering path and palm trees sway overhead. From a dog’s perspective, one would think it’s a great place to complete the job at hand. 

It’s the staircase that poses the problem. When the need arises and she is let out Lola takes a few steps across the deck, glances backward over her shoulder shoots a knowing glare. At this point it is easy to imagine an animated thinking bubble floating above her announcing, “As soon as you are not looking, I’m just going to take care of “business” right here, lady.”  Coaxing her to take this incredible journey several times a day was indeed a challenge.  

Lounging on the deck pre construction time period.

For several weeks we had work done on the deck thus shutting down her path to “the spot”.  We needed an alternative. Luckily, the entrance to our house has a two level courtyard with a lovely garden, two storage spaces, bodegas, and seventeen stairs.  At the uppermost level outside one of the bodegas there happens to be a small, rectangular area filled with sand.  This quadrilateral would become Lola’s temporary “business office” to avoid the construction zone. At first she was confused about the relocation, but Lola quickly made it obvious she preferred the lack of a spiral staircase.  We would watch as Lola happily scampered up and down the stairs as needed to the area we jokingly referred to as her cat box.

As the construction timeframe extended into additional weeks, as most construction projects tend to do, the cat box began to manifest traits of an actual cat box including an unpleasant odor.  Yes, of course we cleaned it but, there’s only so much that can mask certain things.

On letting Lola out one morning, a wonderful idea dropped from the sky.  Simply mix cat litter in with the sand.  I’d seen the commercials for Fresh Step claiming 10 days of odor free freshness.  Each time the cat stepped into the televised litter box, tiny cartoon flowers rose into the air proving the point of the product’s name.  Then there was the Tidy Cat advertisement showing 100’s of cats lined up throughout a house to use one litter box.  When the unknowing humans return they find only two cats in the home and are none the wiser they’d just missed the feline fiesta because the product had kept things well, tidy.  I was dealing with one small dog. What could go wrong? That day I picked up a giant bag of cat litter at the local Walmart and raked it into the sand. Immediately, Mountain Spring freshness filled the air.  This is sensational I thought as I gave myself a figurative pat on the back.

All was well for a few weeks.  Then it became obvious the time had come to add more product.  The first time around I simply grabbed the largest container on the shelf because I needed to fill a larger than normal litter box.  This time I was shopping at Costco. The container was large, of course, but the brand was different. That shouldn’t matter the noncat owner thought to herself.  Cat litter is cat litter, right? Once home, I dumped the giant container of litter into the space and called it a day.

If only I’d known then what I know now.

The next morning I awoke to small bits of sand dotting the living room floor.  Construction had concluded so that wasn’t the source. The following day clumps of the strange sand lead the way up the interior stairs toward the bedroom and tiny dog paw prints trailed across the floor in the office area.  Hmmmmmm? I went to bed pondering this dirty mystery. As we slept a light rain fell clearing dust from the sky and dawning a lovely sunrise. After Lola’s morning trip to her “business office” she returned with gigantic clumps of sand like matter stuck to her legs…except, it wasn’t sand.  Piles of cat litter were quickly tracked throughout the entire house by this unknowing pooch. It was at this moment I became familiar with the concept of clumping cat litter.

While advertisements claim “easy scooping”, “odor control” and “advanced crystals” the mess I had on my hands I would wish on no one.  With a broom, dust pan, vacuum cleaner, Roomba, bucket and mop the predicament was taken care of. Meanwhile the outside the “cat box” had morphed into a 4×5 foot space of what seemed to be cemented cat litter.  And, I can assure you there were no tiny cartoon flowers rising from the space. Rakes, shovels, buckets and elbow grease brought back order to the kitty litter chaos. Only after this massive clean up were we able to start with a clean slate so to speak.

Lola and “grand dog” Penny headed for a Zilker Park outing during a trip to Austin.

As humans we adore our pets.  We walk them, feed them, toss them toys, bathe them, talk to them in strange pitched voices, and even rub their bellies.  It’s not even considered crazy to see dogs dressed in costumes or sweaters. These human behaviors make it completely evident who controls the true brains of the operation in the owner/pet relationship.  In my quest to provide for my canine a location for her to, well, you know…I proved that point in a proportionate manner. My parents always said, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Now fully aware, moving forward I’ll make time to read the fine print. But, for the record and somewhat in my defense, I’ve never owned a cat.

March 3, 2020

“Hi, I’m ‘Stop That’.  But sometimes they call me, ‘Get Back Here’.”

– How almost every dog introduces itself to canine companions.

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