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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Places Everyone Part II

In my previous post, I began by introducing Pasha lying awkwardly at the bottom of our basement stairs. Like Pasha, our Lilah also likes to sleep at the bottom of the stairs, though in her case, we’re talking about our carpeted center staircase in our current home, with her head resting ever so gently on the last step. Walking down the stairs, I often have to step over Lilah, as she’s really Comfortable and doesn’t think it’s worth moving unless there is a possibility of going Outside or For a Ride. She’ll lie there and blink sleepily at me, trying to determine if circumstances require movement.
Lilah at the bottom of the stairs
And then there was Rosie, who believed that the stairs were nothing more than a series of perfectly sized Rosie Beds, each one offering a slightly different perspective on the world. She loved to sleep on the stairs, about halfway up, where, with a slight lift of her head, she could look out the windows in the living room or dining room or look in the hallway mirror to see reflected what was going on in other parts of the house.
Rosie, on her favorite stair, with The Ball, of course.
Recently, I found Tucker laying on the stairs just like Rosie used to; it was a bittersweet moment as I thought about my little girl who is no longer with us. But Tucker hasn’t slept there since; I think the stairs were Rosie’s Special Sleeping Place--and not anyone else’s.
Tucker's homage to Rosie.
That said, there are other sleeping similarities between Rosie and Tucker. Rosie loved to sleep under the kitchen table with her head resting on the cross pieces of the table legs. In her absence, nearly every evening, Tucker settles into a similar spot. Rosie, though, would push her way under the table; I always felt her fur brush against me as she lounged against the pedestal bar. Tucker, however, manages to sneak under the table and lay right by my feet without signaling his presence. Often the first inkling I have that he is there is when I get up from the table and push my chair in and can’t figure out why it won’t move--until a small sigh of protest alerts me to Tucker’s presence and I apologize profusely for smushing the chair into his little furry body. And just the other day, Tucker sneakily squirmed his way under my desk and fell asleep in the kneehole--and I still have no idea how he managed to do it without me noticing.

I think part of the attractiveness of Under the Table is the pedestal bar that the dogs can lie Against. Come to think of it, I think Against is one of the most common sleeping positions for all of my dogs. Both Jasper and Tucker love to sleep Against the family room couch. Lilah likes to sleep Against the family room chair. In the living room, I’ve seen all three dogs line up, sleeping Against the sofa and love seat there. My dogs have slept Against walls, Against the kitchen island, Against our bed, Against their beds (not in the bed, but Against), Against the closet door (Jasper), Against me, and Against each other.
Jasper, Against the counter
Rosie, Against the chaise.
Jasper, Against my leg.
Lilah, Against the chair.
Tucker and Jasper Against the island, all in a row.
Lilah and Jasper, Against each other.
Of course one of the most special of all Special Sleeping Places is The Couch. Prior to Jasper and Lilah’s arrival, I didn’t allow dogs on the furniture in this house. And by “didn’t allow,” I mean it was just not supposed to happen when I could find out about it. Rosie knew the rules but would break them pretty consistently, sleeping comfortably on the living room couch when she thought I wasn’t around. I would come down the stairs, startling her awake and she’d leap off the couch, stagger around the corner with the dog version of bed head, her fur all mushed on one side of her face. Her expression always spoke volumes, “Couch? What couch? Someone was sleeping on it? Who could that have been? Well, I hope you find him. I’ll just lay down right here--against the couch--because that’s what Good Dogs do and that’s me: a Good Dog. Just lying here next to the couch.”

In our previous house, the dogs were allowed to go up on the couches and chairs. Pasha only slept on the futon couch in the family room. Kelsey, though, thought one of the best Sleeping Places was on the arm of the couch; it was quite wide since the arms were giant pillows. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of this, but a good visual image would be the stone lions that stand guard by the stairs of the New York Public Library.

Now we do allow dogs on the family room couch. Lilah sometimes goes on it , though her favorite spot is the window bench, where she’ll often sleep amidst the other cats (we’ve always felt Lilah was part cat.)
Lilah on the window bench, hanging out like the cat she is.
The other cats on the window bench.

Tucker sleeps on the couch every once in a while. But Jasper, the Comfort Hound, well, he owns the couch. It doesn’t matter how many people are on the couch, Jasper will find the tiniest of openings and just kind of squeeze and pour his long lanky body into it. Somehow--and we’re never quite sure how he does it--Jasper managers to start small on the couch, but expand over time, until there’s barely enough room for him and one single human. And of course, Jasper needs a pillow for his head, though a human lap may be substituted in a pinch.
The couch is for dogs, right? Lilah, Tucker and Jasper get comfortable.

Dogs and a cat (Dawn) sleep on and around me, on the couch.
Speaking of laps, it almost goes without saying, but for Dawn and Athena, a lap is really the Most Special Sleeping Place. From what I understand from the two of them, a Lap is an Inalienable Right for Cats. Both of them will, when the mood strikes, demand access to a Lap, with all sorts of plaintive mews and sad cat sounds. If a Lap is not forthcoming, the demands may get louder, or the cat at hand may stomp off into another room looking for a more responsible and responsive lap. (I swear, if, before I had cats as pets, someone told me that cats can stomp, I would have laughed. Really.) The best Lap, of course, is the one the belongs to a person who is busy, preferably working on something really important, more than likely with a keyboard in front of her.

Sometimes, if a Lap isn’t available, and it’s cold in the house, a Very Good Special Sleeping Place is what we sometimes refer to as The Dog Warmer. Though it is nothing more than a fluffy dog bed folded in half (for added height and comfort), it happens to be situated directly in front of a heating vent. In this case, the real estate adage about the importance of location truly applies. Both dogs and cats take advantage of the warm air that flows from the vent. Of course this only works for about half the year; in the summer, when the cool breeze of air conditioning blows over the bed, it loses some of it's attractiveness.
Dawn (and Athena in the background) on the Dog Warmer.
No surprise to folks who share their lives with cats, Dawn and Athena are often in search of Warmth. A patch of sunlight makes any spot in the house an instant cat bed. And there's something about seeing a cat soaking up the rays to make nearly any human feel warm just to watch. It's as if the cats are radiating heat thoughts.
Athena, as Meatloaf, finding her place in the sun.
Dawn, making sure the sun reaches kitty belly.
Lest any reader of this blog wonder, let me be perfectly clear that all animals who reside in my home are provided a wide variety of designated pet beds and sleeping spots. And sometimes--sometimes--they are actually used by the designated animals: dogs in dog beds, cats in cat beds. Sometimes there’s a bit of a change-up, but everyone has comfortable places to lay their weary heads after a hard day’s bite.
Jasper the Moose pours out of the small dog bed.
Sweet little Lilah looks dwarfed by the big bean bag dog bed.
Athena and Dawn curl up in the dog bed. (It's okay since it's not meant for cats.)
And yes, every animal eventually winds up on the bed that Brian and I sleep in. Sometimes all at the same time. Because it is the Most Special Sleeping Space. And everyone is welcome.
Though it's hard to catch them all in on place, here are 4/5 of my menagerie, on my bed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Places, Everyone, Part I

Years ago, when I lived in my previous house, my Keeshond mix Pasha liked to lie at the bottom of the basement stairs, sprawling in the tiny four foot by four foot space. With his legs sticking out and his head tilted back, he did a pretty fair impression of a dog with a broken neck. One look at him, lying so awkwardly at the bottom of the stairs, and you’d start to think some evil being had thrown him down there. And he slept like a rock in that spot, perhaps because it was cool and confined. Sometimes he was so convincing that when he didn't respond to my calls, I’d run down the steps and wake him up, and he'd blink at me, sleep-addled, and wonder what the heck my problem was. He had been in the middle of a Really Good Nap in his Special Sleeping Place.

Pasha was no different than every other pet I've had or currently live with. They all have their Special Sleeping Place. Or Places. 

There's no place like a cave 
Pasha in particular really liked to be enclosed. He loved to sleep underneath one of our end tables in the living room of our first house; the space under the table was dubbed Pasha's Cave. And it was the best place for a snooze, other than the bottom of the basement stairs...except when the Evil Vacuum Cleaner would come shoving it's nasty noisy nose into his private domain. He would leave very quickly when threatened with the vacuum; usually he felt so safe in his lair that I’m sure he couldn’t imagine how the Evil Vacuum Cleaner managed to bridge its defenses. 

Pasha sleeping in his Cave.

Though he wasn't crate trained at first, when we brought new puppy Rosie home and crate trained her (now in another house), Pasha decided that a crate made a perfect cave and would sometimes just go in it to sleep. We eventually had two crates, one for each dog, and every once in awhile, Pasha would cause a rip in the fabric of the universe when he chose to go in The Wrong Crate. Rosie knew which one was hers and was very particular about it; thus she went in her crate even when Pasha was already there. That lead to a somewhat overcrowded situation, which would cause Pasha to panic and get a little confused (particularly when he was older) and become unsure of exactly how to get past Rosie and out the door. We'd eventually help him out, and direct him to The RIght Crate, and all would be right with the universe.
This is NOT Pasha and Rosie in a crate. I still don't know how Jasper managed to fold himself up so that both he and Tucker could fit in.

Bizarrely, enough, Athena the cat seems to think that Tucker’s crate in our bedroom is one of the Best Special Sleeping Places. Perhaps this is because of the General Cat Belief that every thing, every where is put there specifically for their use. So even though the crate must feature a really strong Eau de Dog, it is comfortable, and there’s a pillow, and it’s kind of enclosed, but you can still see out, so it’s definitely a Cat Bed. Athena always seems surprised and incredibly offended when Tucker (or one of the other dogs) walks into the crate when she’s in there. And then there’s the tricky business of how to exit the crate with Kitty Dignity intact while trying to scramble in between the dog snout and four doggy legs. The effrontery! 
Tucker and Athena in his pen (before he graduated to a crate.) There's a lot less room in a crate.

Confined areas have been favorite spots for many of my dogs. One of Rosie's favorite spots was by my feet in the kneehole under my desk. She'd curl up under there and sleep while I worked in my office. Sometimes she'd rest her head on my footstool, and every once in awhile, I'd be typing away at my keyboard and I'd hear a soft sigh and a moan as she stretched and adjusted to get in the Best Position.  
Rosie curled up under my desk by my footrest. Notice the ubiquitous ball. Rosie was rarely far from one of her favorite toys.

When I was growing up, our dog Twinkle (I'll to write more about her in the future), used to sleep under our dining room table. The table was always covered with a floor-length tablecloth, and all you'd see of Twink would be her black snout and little black nose peeking out from under it. If you got down on floor level, you'd just barely make out her eyes. From her People Blind under the table, she could watch the world walk by, but she was so hidden, most folks wouldn't know she was there. Another favorite spot of Twinkle's was behind the living room couch where she could see out from under it; this spot had the same benefit as the dining room table; she could see and not be seen.

Hiding in caves is also a good thing if you’re a cat. The Underbed Cave is a particularly popular spot for Athena and Dawn. If either of the cats are not in the Specified Customary Cat Spots, you can be sure to find her under our bed, usually in Meatloaf position. (See "meatloaf" entry in my post on pet vocabulary.) Dawn, in particular, likes to hide Under Things. She even has a special look on her face when she hides; if she feels particularly hidden, she’ll drift off to sleep with a self-satisfied look on her face that stays there even while she drifts off to Kitty Dreamland.

On top of the world, or just about anything else 
And of course if you’re a cat, and you’re not Under something, it’s good to be On Top Of something. Dawn loves to sleep on the very top level of the humongous cat tree that dominates our family room. (In a weak moment, I let my son convince me we needed this monstrosity.) Athena likes to perch on the back of the family room couch. There’s also On Top Of a recently laundered blouse, On Top Of a grocery bag, On Top of a dresser, On Top of my stomach or chest (when I allow cats in the bedroom and I’m trying to sleep) and of course the old stand by On Top of the newspaper while I’m trying to read it. 
Dawn, high up in her crow's nest, at the top of the cat tree.
Athena On Top Of my laptop bag.
Athena On Top Of the family room Couch.

(Actually, I think it’s written in the Cat Bylaws, section III, subchapter 12, where the Comfort Factor is discussed as a direct relationship to interruptiveness or inconvenience. This applies as well, I believe, to the Cat On the Keyboard phenomenon.) And both cats are particularly pleased when they can sleep both On Top Of and Under at the same time, which they accomplish by sleeping on a chair when it is pushed under the table.
Dawn On Top of the chair and Under the dining room table.
Dawn, On Top Of the Chair, Under the kitchen  table. It's a completely different experience.

Of course, if you’re a cat and you’ve used up your Unders and On Top Ofs,  there’s always Inside. Inside a cloth bag. Inside a box. Inside a pillow case. Inside a corner. 
Dawn, comfortably "cornered" between the end table, the couch and the wall of the family room.

Basket + Towel = Cat Bed 
I actually put this concept to the test the other day. I had taken a basket out to use for hanger storage, and when I put it down on top of the clothes dryer I suddenly realized that the it was perfectly meatloaf shaped. Remembering that Athena often greets me from that very spot when I walk in the door, I thought that if I put a towel in the basket, I might just create the Perfect Cat Bed.

I knew enough about cat sensibilities not to breathe a word to either cat about this brilliant idea. I had previously purchased a cat bed--the kind that had soft tall sides for kitties to curl up in--and my effort had been soundly snubbed. Surely I wouldn’t expect the Cats to sleep in a bed made for...Cats! So, I put a towel in the basket, left in on top of the dryer unremarked upon, and sure enough, when I came home from work the next day, there was Athena, all tucked into her new basket bed.  Just a few days later, Dawn discovered it and found that it was just the right size for her, too.

A basket full of Athena.
Dawn snuggles in the Basket Bed. Just don't tell her I planned it that way.
I have to admit as a newbie cat owner, I am way too proud of myself for thinking of this concept and actually seeing it work. Somehow, I think it is all going to backfire on me the minute I post this entry; they'll find out. Cat spies are everywhere, right? And if they knew this was a bed made for cats, it Just Will Not Do.

It should be noted that when I first began this post, I actually thought I'd write about special sleeping spots and hiding spots and hang out spots. Since I hadn't really enumerated all of the Special Spots, I was quite clueless as to just how many there actually are. So, to preserve the reader's enjoyment, I narrowed the topic down to just the Sleeping Places. I'll get to Hidey Places and Observation Posts another time. However, even with the focus just on favorite sleeping spots, I discovered there are way too many for one entry. So stay tuned and come back again to read part II of Places, Everyone.