Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sitting Shiva for Miss Fancy

The term Shiva is derived from the Hebrew word, seven, and 
refers to the seven-day period of mourning during which family members 
suspend all activities to mourn the deceased. 
This is called “sitting Shiva.”
“My husband thinks I should wrap up my head in cellophane and tie it with a red ribbon,” Shelby Jo told me. “He might be right.”
“Gee, I don’t know about that,” I said. “As a fashion accessory, I seriously doubt you will make the cover of ‘W’. So, other than hoping to lose an inch off your waistline, whazzup with the cellophane?”
She batted her eyes. “He says I’m a sucker for sick kittens, so I might as well make myself look like a lollipop.”
You can’t argue with that kind of logic. Shelby Jo transmits signals from her house to every stray cat within a ten-mile radius. I am told that some cats, like some children, instinctively know how to locate the best neighborhood hangout. Shelby Jo’s house is the CAThedral and Shelby Jo is the feline answer to Mother Teresa.
“Tell me about the lollipop thing again, Shelby Jo.”
“It’s a long, creepy story. Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“I can’t wait.”
“Well, some months back, a kitten with feline leukemia showed up at my back door. I knew the po’ lil’ thing wouldn’t live very long, but what else could I do but take it in and try to make her last days as pleasant as I could?”
(In order to have that kind of compassion, one needs to believe that a cat’s memory storage has the ability to roll over into the afterlife, but I didn’t mention it.)
“Did you give the po’ lil’ thing a name, Shelby Jo?”
“Yes, of course I did! She deserved at least that. I called her Miss Fancy. She wasn’t on earth for very long but she made quite a splash. Right away, Miss Fancy became the neighborhood starlet. She had permanent “eyeliner” around her larger than normal eyes and even a beauty mark on her nose.”
 Shelby Jo got teary-eyed at this point and had to stop and fish around in her pocketbook for a Kleenex.
 “A few weeks ago,” she sniffed, “the inevitable happened.” She blew her nose and wiped at her eyes. “Lil’ Miss Fancy went to cat heaven and she hadn’t been with us nearly long enough, so we buried her in the back yard. I planted some impatiens at the gravesite and it made me feel a little bit better.”
The following week Shelby Jo had to leave town on business. When she called home, she was told that her other cat, Bailey, along with the next door cat , Okay, were perched right on top of Miss Fancy’s gravesite and had been there for several hours. The two cats sat Shiva for Miss Fancy on and off for seven straight days. Shelby Jo’s son, a budding photographer, documented it on his iPhone in case he needed to prove that he was not high on something hallucinogenic.
Later, I discussed the phenomenon with Dr. Lisa, the cat vet. Curious if that kind of cat behavior was normal, I related the tale of the two cats sitting Shiva. Dr. Lisa said that she, too, had heard stories of cats visiting graves. She offered the medical explanation that felines continue releasing oxygen after they are dead. Research, she said, has determined that cats are so sensitive that they are often lured toward other sick, dying or dead animals. They may even be drawn to sick children.
With Halloween right around the corner, I couldn’t help but wonder if this type of graveyard behavior is why black cats are paired with broomstick witches, ghosts and goblins. Just saying.
While Shelby Jo was in mourning for Miss Fancy, another stray kitten showed up at her back door not long after Miss Fancy went to that litter box in the sky. Sick with an upper respiratory infection and way too thin, Shelby Jo named her Twiggy. It figures.
The kitten was so congested she could barely breathe. Because her sense of smell was blocked, she had little or no appetite, so Shelby Jo had to teach her how to eat. That, of course, was before Dr. Lisa waved her magic antibiotic wand.
Since then, Twiggy struts around sniffing, smelling and eating everything in sight. A whole new world has opened up for her, thanks to Shelby Jo and Dr. Lisa.
“I may have to rename her because she’s eating me into the poorhouse.” Shelby Jo told me with a big, fat grin on her face. She’s obviously in love with Miss Twiggy.
“What does the kitten look like,” I asked.
“She has black, mink-like hair, with some white on her face. Much like the other Twiggy, she’s quite the fashion plate. Get this: she wears white gloves on her paws with scallops around each pad. She also wears a white slip with a pilgrim collar.”
“If you ask me,” I said, “Twiggy’s basic wardrobe has a far better chance of making it into ‘W’ than you do wrapped in cellophane.”
“No doubt about it,” she replied. “But I never thought my fashionista tips would come from a cat.”
I looked at my friend who was dressed in stretched jeans and a faded tee shirt her husband had outgrown. Her hair was a mess, in bad need of a cut and color job. On her feet she wore old rubber flip-flops that no longer fit making her toes hang off the edge. 
“Shelby Jo? Let’s review those fashionista tips you learned. I think I must have missed something important.”

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