My cat Barkley, friend and companion of the last dozen odd years, died a few months ago. In what seemed to me a cruel and untimely fashion: he was hit by a car. Part of me, a rational part of my mind, reminds me that this is a common fate of urban animals who dwell in close proximity or adjacency (is that a word? if not, it should be) to streets well-traveled by cars. And part of me, a hand-holding part, tells me to focus on the good, the positive, to remember all the wonderful and crazy and silly times and moments shared with him. To remember the half-eaten, headless voles and mice whose freshly-killed corpses he deposited at the front door, in proof of his prowess. To remember the way he lazed and flopped and rubbed himself orgasmically in the small patch of catnip growing behind the back door.
And then another part of me just misses him.
Growing up, in Pasadena, we didn’t have normal pets. I missed out on the kitties and puppies, the cats and dogs and occasional parakeets or lizards or fish that most kids or neighbors seemed to possess in abundance. Instead, we had an aviary with generations of mourning doves with Greek mythological names. So it took me awhile to get used to – to come to understand – to like and appreciate – quadrupeds. And many of the other bewildering varieties of fowled and feathered beings who sometimes share space with us bipeds. But I came to like them. Many of them, anyway.
And now, with Barkley two months gone, I find myself thinking….again….about animals.
And seeing them everywhere. This is easy to do when one lives in semi-rural isolation, just outside of a small town. There are dozens, nay hundreds of bird species, from dark headed Juncos to aggressive Blue Jays to circling, patient, lazy and hungry Turkey Vultures. There are the neighboring cows and horses and goats and, most recently, donkeys. There are thousands (seemingly) of insects, now that Spring is upon us; most recently there have been a spate of visiting Bumblebees, enormous black and gold banded buzzing beasts who go about their business with amazing (to me) diligence and focus.
But, honestly, the last place I expect to see animals is when I go shopping, at the Supermarket. Of course, there are the occasional patient dogs, left tethered and leashed by their owners outside. But inside.…??? Animals in the aisles? Naaahhhhhh. I don’t think so.
Except, of course, if you live in Oregon. And if you shop at a Co-op, a ‘co-operative’ market which specializes, among other things, in more kinds of organic goods and foodstuffs than you ever knew existed: not just organic veggies and fruits – but organic (range-fed) chicken – organic (wild) salmon – and, yes, even (especially!) organic cat and dog treats up the yin-yang.
And then there are the Simians.
When you first walk in and enter the fruit/vegetable produce area, you see them hanging from the rafters.
A group of friends in their own little world.
Some seem….what’s the word? almost….philosophical.
Others despondent. Or perhaps merely stoic.
Moving over to the Organic Pet Food section, there are more. Waiting, silently, to engage those who look up, over the top of the shelves.
And if your pooch is injured or wounded, what better cure than a topical salve to apply to the hurt ‘Owwwie’ spot? The fact that it is made from Hemp may account for the demented grin that appears on Fido’s fizzyognimee.…. Or is that physiognomy?
Humans get animal treats too. Some are the ordinary garden-variety; but if you have a yen for Buffalo snacks, you may be in luck. And, no, I’m not making this up. The only thing I couldn’t figure out is: is it ‘Grab and Go’ …. or Crab-and-Go? In either case, the buff Buffalo looks so pleased with himself, you just have to go with the flow.
Near the rear of the store, more animals wait patiently for….adoption. Looking at them made me think of Pip, Charles Dickens’ 19th century orphan – and of other parent-less animals and children I have known, met, or encountered, in ‘real’ life or on the pages of books. There’s something about their eyes, the way they sit there, patiently, staring at you in silence. And waiting…
And you just know, they know more than they’re saying. They must. How else to account for….what you see….if you have the courage to meet their gaze….and look into those eyes.
I turn away, to the section which houses water bottles and thermal coffee mugs and once again must stop. And stare. And start to grin….and raise my imaginary but oh-so-real glass of beer or bordeaux in an answering toast –
And, yes, all things must come to an end. Even the animals. Stuffed, painted, printed, but all alive in their own ways. And, yes, even those who are no longer among the living….do they qualify as well? As.… ‘animals’?
I don’t know.
Actually, the truth is….it’s not just animals that I’ve got on the brain.
It’s death, too, sometimes.
And, occasionally, the undead. Like the zombies – and the living – in Colson Whithead’s compelling post-apocalyptic zombie novel, “Zone One”, which I just finished, and can’t seem to get out of my head. They’re in there, too, among my neurons. Some recent. And some going way back, to a distant age…
Like this guy. My last image on this shopping expedition which has turned into a zoological ramble.
Needless to say, my priorities have changed. I’m not the same person who went in search of organic non-GMO soy dairy creamer hours ago. Now I have a new problem to solve: I need to get a job. And earn some money. To pay for the new Zoo I’m going to have to construct….to house all my new animals. And the organic free-range Treats that I’m going to inundate them with….until I bury them under a raw recycleable tidal wave of hemp-buffalo bites.….
Or maybe I’ll just let them fend for themselves….and come back with half-devoured headless rodent corpses, a la Barkley. I still miss him, by the way. But even when he’s not here….he’s here.