He lifted his paws and placed them pleadingly on the glass door of the church. He was very handsome and very hungry – a gray and white kitten with no tags and a compelling cry. How could I deny him?
When I took him home, my son said, “Can we call him Guillermo?”
“Guillermo. Yes, that’s perfect,” I agreed.
Guillermo wasn’t long for our household. He had other worlds to conquer. He ran away, returned, ran away, returned and finally ran away. Adios, el gato!
Wait a minute. Is that Guillermo? No, it couldn’t be! If it is, he hasn’t grown. I sat at my desk in the church office watching a very handsome and very hungry gray and white kitten with no tags paw at the glass door.
A friend of mine was there encouraging me to go get the pretty kitty and take him home with me. Even if it wasn’t Guillermo, it might be a cousin. I hemmed and hawed for a bit before deciding to adopt him.
When we got home, my children noticed right away that Guillermo was not a boy. I prefer male pets. They seem to be less trouble. I don’t remember ever having a female pet before. I had two black and white kittens once, Pearl and MOP (Mother of Pearl), but they turned out to be boys. Mildred, the black cat, was actually Milton. We had dogs: Moose, Boots, Hesse, Virginia Wolf (also a boy and part wolf), Gerd von Birkelbach, Jonathan Swift and a few more.
My granny always had boy dogs on the farm. They were always collies, and she always named them “Boy.” That simplified things. “Here, Boy!” We never knew if she got a new dog. There was always a collie, and it was always named Boy, but not necessarily the same Boy.
Now we had a girl cat. I named her (no, not “Girl”). This was a special cat. She needed a special name.
She was as friendly as an aloof animal can be. Her coat was beautiful – sleek, but with just the right amount of fluff. Her carriage was stately, elegant. She had incomparably precise white markings, distinctively adorning her paws and forehead. She had no bad habits — like unexpectedly rubbing against your legs and giving you the creeps, or clawing furniture, or using the indoors instead of the outdoors for her “necessaries.” She had no cry. I thought she might be mute, but I never really questioned it because I liked her silence. It added to her mystery. As cats go, she was an odd bird. I named her Consuelo Lopez.
For you TV trivia people, you are correct! Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the name of the nurse on Marcus Welby, M.D.
She was a tramp, you know. Not the nurse, the cat. Oh, yes. She would leap onto the sill of the picture window and adopt an artful pose as the “toms” gathered on the front porch to screech her name.
“Consueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelo! We loooooooooooooooooove you!”
In her best Mae West impression, she answered with a slight upward move of her chin and an inaudible, but resoundingly welcoming, “Hello, boys.”
Night after night after night.
Her first litter came forth with the help of my younger son, her birthing coach. He tried to get her to imitate his breathing/hissing through the teeth method, “Hee! Hoo! Hee! Hoo! Push! Push!”
Her mouth open wide, teeth bared, she offered only silent screams. It was the most moving thing I had ever witnessed.
Five healthy kittens later, she cleaned them up, as well as the entire “delivery room,” and was content to rest and nurse her newborns. She left them only for food and necessaries.
As they grew, we tried to contain them. You are familiar with the term “herding cats.” Well, that was our impossible assignment, although our first attempts were not only successful, but entertaining.
Using cardboard boxes, we built a cat condo. It had upstairs and downstairs, peek-a-boo windows, and wall-to-wall newspaper carpet. As the kittens grew, so did the condo. We added rooms and redecorated, but never in time to keep up with their growing demands.
When my older son came home from college, he exclaimed, “They’re demon cats! Mom, they’re hanging from the drapes, and they poop everywhere!”
It was time to clean house. We turned them out, reclaimed our den, and began to watch the miracle of motherhood at its best.
Consuelo was the consummate cat mother. Her skills at training her progeny were unmatched. The kittens and I watched as she hid behind the planter on my deck, paws anxious with expectancy, eyeing her victim, waiting until just the right moment. Then she would spring from her hiding place and pounce on the prey with proficiency.
“Prrrrrrr, pfffttt!” she commanded (which is cat-speak for, “OK, kids, it’s your turn. Go out there and catch a bug for Mama!”).
Consuelo was no longer silent. She had something worthwhile to say to worthwhile creatures (humans obviously didn’t qualify), and she was saying it.
After the hunting lesson, she would bark another command, “Meow! Click-click!” and the kittens would line up behind her in single file. They followed her like General George Patton into the War Room for more instructions.
After a few weeks she implored me to help with the feeding. (She had a way of letting you know what she wanted.) It was time for the troops to start eating solid food. So I complied. She would finish up their meal with a “glass” of mother’s milk.
Eventually, they were weaned. That meant I had to find a new home for them. My daughter and I packed up the adorable fivesome and headed for Foodmax. They were the hit of the day for shoppers who gladly adopted Crusader, Sebastian, Simogne, Priscilla and the calico.
When we came home, Consuelo was distraught. She went to every room of the house calling for her kittens. She ran outside and called them for hours. It was absolutely heart-wrenching. She mourned for days. She was inconsolable.
But it was only a few short weeks until she had another litter. Then another.
When we moved to another city, I was the designated driver for Consuelo and her latest cache of kittens. Nobody else would ride with her.
She was a little tense … panting and hissing things like, “I cannot believe you are dragging me and these little babies halfway across the state. Can you not see that I am stressed out here?!? And what am I supposed to do all day while you go to your new job? Stay at home and take care of these brats? I have a life, too, you know. I’m not just another pretty face. I have a mind, and a darn good one. But, no, it’s always about you. You never think about my needs …”
She really gave me an earful … silently.
One of the first things we did in our new town was to look up a service for spaying cats. My courageous son said he would hold her in the car.
“Get a bath towel to wrap her in,” I cautioned.
“Mom, I think I can control a little cat for two miles,” he said condescendingly.
“OK. No skin off my nose.”
A few seconds out of the driveway, he was begging me for the towel.
Consuelo never took to life without kittens. She caught birds, chased squirrels and tangled with ‘possums and raccoons, but it wasn’t the same. At night when I called her to come in, she never answered me, just dangled a lone paw over the doorway from her perch in the rain gutter. Her zip was gone.
But she continued to mother. She mothered me.
I had lingering pain from a frozen shoulder, and I felt it most at night. Consuelo always knew just the right time to leap onto my bed, walk up my tired arm and rest her head on my shoulder. She would place a paw, with claws open the tiniest little bit, on my cheek as if to say, “If you move, I will dig in. Be still. We both need our beauty sleep.”
The warmth of her little body on my shoulder was better than drugs or a heating pad. She comforted me to sleep with her silent lullaby.
“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” — Psalm 32:7-8 (KJV)