Family is what you make of it

The first time Mom laid eyes on Shere Khan, she was answering an ad for a kitten who needed a new home. “He doesn’t like people,” the man said. Mom sat down, and Shere Khan promptly jumped up on her lap to say hello. She brought him home. He was to be a companion cat to Tiger, a lovely ragamuffin kitten my brother-in-law had found in a parking lot in Virginia, and brought him on a family trip to see my parents. Tiger ended up staying, but he was about to claw my Dad to death. The vet said he needed a playmate.

Enter Shere Khan.

upside down
Shere Khan’s motto: The more attention, the better.

The first time I laid eyes on the gray tabby, he was full of the usual kitten antics, but he had a new trick to share, one I found hilarious. He would sit back on his hind legs and rise up, front feet dangling, like a meerkat. He was warmly affectionate, and highly entertaining. I called him my Little Buddy.

Tiger was always more aloof. My sister and mother call him snooty. But I think he’s just a little shy.

lookin lovely
Tiger, bird-watching on the deck.

That was until last fall, when I started traveling to check on Mom, on a more-or-less regular basis. I tried each trip to make friends, and he eventually became less standoffish. He even stood still for some petting, now and then.

tiger playing
Tiger’s pretty fond of sleeping, but he and Shere Khan both like to play.

A few months ago, when Mom got sick, I essentially moved in to help her out. Both kitties got used to me pretty quick, and I’ve discovered most of Tiger’s hiding spots for sleeping. Shere Khan likes to curl up beside me and take a nap. He lets me know, either by staring, winding around my legs or by talking, that it’s time for me to stop what I’m doing and dole out some attention.

Watching them play is fun, but I’ve come to enjoy seeing them groom each other. While one is licking, the other usually has a blissful look on his face.

wash dah face
Shere Khan thinks Tiger does a purr-fect job washing his face.

I caught them at bath-time this afternoon, and they ignored me for a while.

Mmmmm. You got the right spot.

That is, until I turned on the flash.

tiger licking
Hey! I’m takin’ a bath, here.

Luckily, Shere Khan is quick to forgive. Like Tiger, I’ve been the recipient of several of his loving head-bumps.

Shere Khan gives Tiger an affectionate head-bump.


Better than a petting zoo

I was pretty tiny when my grandmother introduced me to my first farm animal. She taught me how to pull up a clump of grass, and hold my hand open, so the cow wouldn’t nip my fingers. I was tickled when that big ole cow’s tongue raked across my little hand, sweeping all that grass into her mouth. I was fascinated.

Later, I thought I would surely live on a farm. The nearest I came was renting an adorable little house that someone had created out of a tobacco barn. I took evening walks around the peanut fields, enjoying the fresh, summer air.

I’ve grown softer with age, though. And I’ve never been an early bird (read that “up before dawn”) type of person, nor can I see myself getting up in the dark to milk the cows or feed the horses or whatever it is farm people do while the rest of us sleep. But I do love farms. And the animals that live on them.

My oldest daughter and recently I took a long-overdue road trip to see my sister’s family in Virginia. Cassie got to meet her little cousins, 3, and not-quite-1.  We both managed some cuddle time with the little one, and enjoyed getting to know her big sister. When Teresa and C.H. offered to take us to the farm, we didn’t hesitate. Even the drizzle couldn’t keep us away.

Cassie hadn’t been to their farm. I had, and couldn’t wait to see Lily and Gracie again. I made their acquaintance three years ago, and as they were rescue horses, my sister was trying to fatten them up. Gracie was still a baby then, resembling a pony more than a horse. What a difference three years made! Lily is gorgeous, and Gracie is grown, and so beautiful.

Lily and Grace 2013
Lily and Gracie, a few years back.
cassie and horses
Cassie, meet Lily and Gracie! Two gorgeous, glossy horses.

We fed the Boer goats (who couldn’t seem to get enough)!

hungry goat
Hungry goats are impatient goats.

We saw a Dexter calf. I couldn’t figure out which one was Mama, but none of them let us get too close.

Cute, huh!

I enjoyed seeing all the animals, but I think Cassie’s favorite was this little guy:

meeting Dusty
For her first experience with equines, Cassie did alright! She made friends with Dusty, a standard crossback donkey, and took a short ride on Lily.

I may never live on a farm, but I’m glad there’s a farm in the family.