While I like pets overall, I am not a very good owner. I have a sad history of having good pets, yet never having/spending enough time with them resulting in getting rid of them. Swearing off pets has been my attitude for many years, NO, just say NO! But I have always thought of myself as a “good with animals” kind of person, and have had some incredible relationships with animals that still boggle my mind. Over the past few years the longing for a pet feeling crept back into my mind. I decided the snakes around our house could be my pets… I kid you not; both snakes I was checking in on regularly got run over in the driveway. That pretty much killed my desire for any sort of pet, ever again.
After moving yet again..
Places I have lived;
Flushing New York, Cutchogue New York, Mtn. View California, Guerneville California, Forestville California, Monte Rio California, Sebastopol California, Santa Rose California, Oakdale California, Salem Oregon, Portland Oregon, Gladstone Oregon, Wilsonville Oregon, Turner Oregon.
As I was saying, after moving again into another house, I was emotionally ambushed by a half wild cat living on the property. He was starved but otherwise seemed in ok health. Renamed by Pam and I, “Kelly” became Manfred, or Manny for short, giving way to “Manmans”, “Mannymans”, and sometimes-just Fuzz. (On occasion, he was called other names not fit for this story…)
Far as I could gather from talking to the previous owner, Manny was found in a box with his sister in a parking lot, at night, in the rain, abandoned. Someone took pity on the pair and brought them home only to realize the were very allergic to cats. So Manny was given to the previous owners of the house we lived in. I think Manny had good care for about a year, then the owners moved and put up the house for sale. No one bought the place for 2 years. So Manny was once again abandoned to fend for himself. The previous owner did try to keep him fed by leaving a bag of cat food in the barn. I don’t know how much of it Manny got, but the result was a family of twelve skunks living under the house. Luckily the house sat on 2 acres with lots of mice and other things He could hunt to survive. Knowing all along I was only going to be living in that house for a year (the house was to be torn down and my daughter Sarah and son-in-law Shane would build a new home), I knew there would be an end, a final day that I would have to leave Manny on his own again, and I too would be just another person in Manny’s life to come and go. But I was determined to give this cat the best year of his life. What I didn’t know was just how much I would end up loving Manny and how hard it was to say good-bye, all three (5)times. My daughter’s family are now feeding Manny. They are renting the place next door.
(Manny after we started feeding him, chunky!)
Manny is a big tomcat with huge cheeks, big head and a wonderful coat. I’m not sure what kind of cat he is, but if I were to pick out a cat at the cat store, I would buy him every time. He has medium long hair in a symmetrical stripe pattern from nose to tail. His colors have grays, reddish browns with a white patch on his face, chest, and belly. Also white feet. I never knew how much he weighed, but he is a good size cat for sure. He is incredibly quick and deadly with his teeth and claws and in full attack mode he looks pretty fierce. He’s a real talker too, many different sounds and nuances that I would learn to decipher. I never took on a wild cat before, Manny being only half wild made getting to know him easier, but as I learned, he’s not only part wild, but also he’s Manny, a very smart yet emotionally damaged animal
(read, could be a real butthead).
Meeting Manny: Pam and I were moving again. Work wasn’t coming in and we needed to get out of the house we had lived in for the past two years. We were very fortunate to be able to move into a house owned by my daughter and son-in-law. The house was pretty trashed but we all worked for about a month and a half getting it fixed up even though it was scheduled to be torn down later that year. Like I said, very fortunate. While spending my days over at the house painting, cleaning, and everything else I noticed a cat looking at me from far off. Didn’t think much of it but I saw him again a few days later. One day he was hiding behind a piece of plywood leaning up against the barn. Not a very good hiding job since his whole tail was exposed. Maybe it was some sort of dumb human test he came up with. I guess I passed, it cracked me up. Once we were moved into the house the cat started showing up at morning coffee time on our patio. This is when we noticed how thin he was. He still had some size to his shoulders, but his belly was tiny and his ribs were showing a little. Ok, so what would you do? Cut to Pam and I checking out the price of cat food to see if we could afford to feed the cat. First time we didn’t buy any. We were so on the fence about the whole thing. Should we, shouldn’t we? Meanwhile my younger sister is telling me I’m an old softy and the cat will be sleeping in my bed before too long. This went on for a week, meanwhile this cat is hanging around….geez. One evening we broke down and gave him a small bowl of milk! The next morning Pam was up before me. When I finally got up she pointed out a dead mouse on the patio. The cat sat near by. We were both like GOOD KITTY! Lavishing praise and thanking him for the gift. So then he gets up and walks over to the empty milk dish and sits down next to it. Cut back to Jon and Pam cruising the pet food isle loading up on cat food. He really won me over, what an introduction to the mind of Manny. He knew how to interact with us, he was smart, understandable and… oh god he would be sleeping in my bed before too long!
Reaching an Understanding:
This story is a progression of a relationship between Manny and Me at the speed of trust. It draws parallels to dealing with people in general too. You never know what is going to happen if you are determined to give love, answer rejection with open arms, never let anger overcome patience, and always reassure when misunderstanding take place, as they always do, but with Manny, misunderstandings had teeth and claws. Pam and I both got hurt pretty badly a few times. We never knew for sure what set him off. Manny was now part of our lives. He was still super cautious but started to hang around close, then finally rubbing our legs softly as he walked by. I thought great, he’s tame, and I reached down to pet him and wham, I had blood coming from a few deep scratches in my hand. I yelled HEY at him and he ran way. Ok, not so tame. I had to make a decision, do I want to deal with this cat or not. He was clearly more complex than I imagined and I had no idea how to reach some sort of understanding so we could both enjoy the benefits of our relationship. I decided to keep trying but kept my distance from him for a few days. The next time he walked by softly rubbing my leg I carefully reached out and gently petted the end of his tail. I knew I could get my hand away if he attacked again. He turned his head to see what I was doing and I let go quick. This went on for a while until he was comfortable with me petting his tail. Spending more time with Manny, Pam and I discovered he either was abused, or just plain crazy. If our feet got too close he attacked them. If I held something in my hand or tried to play with him, he would get spooked and run away. I think he was kicked and had stuff thrown at him. The attacking of our feet thing was a problem. It seemed he not only didn’t like feet near by, but if he was frustrated by Pam or I, biting our toes was his way of letting us know, along with hissing and acting like a crazy cat. He liked to sleep in front of the sliding glass door. We went in and out a lot so we were always in danger of an attack. Enter the spray bottle. Maybe 3 times of getting squirted and he moved away form the door when we asked, “go on Manny”. Gurrrr said Manny but moved out of the way. He always has to have the last word. I continued using “HEY” as my way to let him know he was in trouble or he looked like he was going to attack. I read somewhere not to use your pets name when they are in trouble as not to associate the name with discipline. Pam and I both experienced Manny checking himself when he wanted to bite our feet. He really had to work at it. During all this time we feed him every day and boy did he get fat. He went from skin and bones to chunk with a big ol’ belly that swayed back and forth when he walked. Pam and I were both pleased to see him putting on some weight. His body was in starvation mode and everything he ate got stored as fat. He did slim back down and over the year and a half I knew him, he would put on weight and lose it a couple times a year in sync with the seasons.
With any relationship there are rules, things you can and can’t do to each other, ways of communicating along with a bunch of baggage brought into the relationship by all involved. Everyone is like a minefield and you never know when you will set one off. I guess the trick is to not take it personally, not go into defense or rejection mode, but to learn from best you can, to reconcile the offense and hopefully the offense becomes a non-issue over time. Manny had rules, lots of rules. I was determined to bring our relationship to the next level but I didn’t trust him for one second. I figured getting him to lie on my lap would be the next logical step. I had no idea how to get him on my lap let alone what the heck I would do, or he would do once he was there. I didn’t have to wait too long, a couple months I think. We were outside, I patted my lap inviting him up. He walked around rubbing on my legs talking to me. Back and forth, rub on this and that, and finally just sitting at my feet looking at me. I don’t remember how long this went on, not long though, a few days and he jumped up on my lap. We both didn’t know what to do; I kind of got freaked out. I kept talking to him telling him he was good and “it’s ok”. That lasted a few minutes till we both had enough stress, so he jumped back down and lay by my feet. Progress! Over the summer and into fall I kept working with him. He was getting a lot more comfortable sitting in my lap. One thing that took me by surprise was his purring. With all the stress of a wild cat on my lap I forgot that cats purr. Manny has a wonderful purr. Sometimes he adds a little grunt with the purring, sometimes he just makes little sounds. I forgot how comforting a purring cat can be. His is slow and loud with a little metallic gurgle in there somewhere. But I still didn’t trust him, really I still don’t. Caution is required to avoid injury every second of contact. Learning Manny’s rules required effort and bravery. If he was on my lap there were places I couldn’t touch him. No touching back feet, some tolerance for touching his front feet but that was really risky. Rubbing the belly was pretty chancy as well. If he was walking around or standing I could pet his head, back and tail but if he was laying down, no touching at all was allowed. And what’s really crazy is he would let me pick him up??!! Manny is a tomcat and always getting beat up from cattin’ around at night. Trying to pet an injured cat is just foolish. But I didn’t know he was hurt most of the time. He has a very thick coat. I couldn’t figure out why he would be fine laying in my lap with me petting him then suddenly be growling and hissing at me. I finally figured it out and each day I would gently feel around for wounds on his head and neck. His reaction was clearly thinking I was hurting him, makes sense.
Having a safe, warm place to live is something most people take for granted around these parts. Becoming homeless, running out of all options is a terrible thing to go though. All security and sense of home or belonging is lost and God only know where you will end up. There are some people who, without fanfare and at total personal expense offer a safe place for those who cannot, for whatever reason, make it in the real world. As I tried to give Manny a place with us, taking care of him the best we could I considered his existence before we came to know him. Being abandoned, wanting human contact yet living alone. In a way he was homeless. Being a cat he could live just about anywhere but having people who gave him love and care wasn’t something he had. Maybe I thought at the time I could provide this for Manny, but in the end it was I who became homeless, being loved and cared for by people with far more compassion than I ever dreamed of having.
As Oregon fell into winter our compassion for Manny increased. We couldn’t let him in the house, just no way. He would curl up at the sliding door and when the weather got really bad he stayed in the barn, I think. I made a small lean-to next to the house for him. It had a wool sweater over a space blanket. Several frosty mornings he would be in there. Pam and I gave into the idea he could stay in the garage during the day when it was nasty outside. So we set up a chair with his wool sweater and let him in after he ate in the morning. When the weather turned really cold I put a heating pad under his sweater. He pretty much spent winter, days at least, sleeping on the chair. He still spent nights outside since we couldn’t leave the garage open. We would get skunks and whathaveyous everywhere. He would get up from the chair and move to my lap when I came out for a smoke. During those winter months we spent a lot of time together. The new house starting date was delayed and it turned out we stayed an extra 5 months at the house. The second winter Manny discovered we left the garage window open. He could easily jump up and climb in. This was a great solution for all of us. Manny could come and go as he pleased and we had the piece of mind he had a warm spot to sleep anytime he needed it, plus, no other critters could make the jump.
In the House:
(feels soooo good!)
During the summer months Pam and I were busy with the yard and our huge 50’x50’ garden. We got into the habit of leaving the sliding door open and once in a while Manny would follow us into the house. He was real casual about it rubbing on the sofa and meowing. I guess I could have tried to pick him up, but then again no. We called him out of the house and he complied. Whew! The last thing we needed was a wild cat in the house! Our Christmas that year was pretty subdued. I had no work coming in, no money for gifts. Pam and I put up a tree we cut from the back yard and did our best to have a good holiday. Stress and boredom had finally clouded our better judgment and we started discussing letting Manny in. We didn’t know what he would do, he wasn’t fixed so he could spray all over, or claw our furniture to bits, we just didn’t know but somehow it didn’t matter, we were too curious of what he would do and how it would be to have him in the house. With each step towards bringing Manny closer being a part of our family My sister’s words ringing in my ears. I was going to get a huge told-you-so from her. The door from the garage into the house was open. Pam and I stood inside the house, “come on Manny, comear Manny, good boy, it’s ok”, and so on. He took a few steps into the house, took one look at the Christmas tree and ran back out. He had that wide-eyed freaked-out look he got just before attacked, hissed, or ran away. Pam and I laughed, so ironic. We both knew he wanted to be a inside cat big time. Just a few months ago we were shooing him out! We kept trying but that tree was a no-go. After we took the tree down he came in. He wandered around checking things out. It looked so strange seeing him in the house, he’s really is a big cat. After a few minutes of smelling everything in the living room he plopped down on the carpet and stretched out as far as he could. Manny doesn’t lay down gracefully, he plops with an audible thud. He really liked that carpet.
While living and visiting in the garage our time together was about visiting, me petting and scratching all his favorite places. If I let him he would sit on my lap for hours purring away. Once inside the house our relationship, Pam, Manny, and I, was about what we were doing. He would accompany us out to the garage when we went out for a smoke, and run back in when we went back in. If someone was in the kitchen is was worthwhile to check it out, maybe it was snack time. Or if we were watching a show, finding a place on the couch. He would follow us around the house, sometimes into our bathroom.
Manny was really good in the house. He didn’t pee anywhere and I only had to tell him no twice, for scratching the furniture. Getting him out of the house was a bit tricky and always required a bribe of some sort. Really I think he would have been ok sleeping in the house, but he spent the good part of every night out catting and hunting. He wouldn’t have liked being locked in. One problem we did run into was the couch. He seemed to think it was his and would sleep where I normally sat. Asking him to get off the couch was a learning process. First few times required us shoving him off using a big pillow. This was met with hissing and a general “I’m pissed off” mood from Manny. It got better but still the rules applied, if he was laying on the couch I couldn’t touch him. This made for some tense moments when I needed to move or get up. But if he was at least 25% on my lap, on the couch, everything was fine. Pam and I enjoyed his company and he looked so cute inside. As we got ready to move he became more and more clingy. Each time he came in the house stuff was moved around or gone. I knew he could sense the stress and I did explain to him we would be leaving soon. He became my little shadow the last few days. I always talked to Manny as if he understood me and I think for the most part he did. It would take him a few minutes to process my requests, or demands. I think in part or as much as he could, Manny trusted me. I never hit him or threw stuff at him. When he hurt me I would try to reestablish with him we were ok. He was safe and I think he knew it. I never saw him more relaxed than when he was in the house. What a great animal. I knew he had been through hell, but he was still willing to take a chance on us, to trust us and make the best of the situation. Then we moved. One of our friends who was helping us move brought their dog, it ran into the living room and Manny was gone. Pam and I went back the next day to finish up. He came around but greeted us with a hiss. He was definitely confused and upset. I spent as much time with him as I could, then said goodbye and left.
I have visited him a couple times since we moved. First time he was a little apprehensive since Sarah had been feeding him. But within a minute he was rubbing all over me. I didn’t have a chair so I sat down in the driveway and offered my lap as best I could. He didn’t go for it but instead plopped down as close as he could get rubbing his head on my leg. I knew he missed me, he even lifted the “laying down, no touch” rule and let me pet him all over. I loved seeing him but leaving him again just about broke my heart. He walked with me to the edge of his boundary, sat down and watched me walk away. He was still there when I turned the corner and he was out of sight. I cried for a week, still kills me, even as I write this down. I’m not sure it’s a good thing to visit him, for him or I. Maybe we can be together again if we end up in a good living situation, good for him to be there, or if we move back to his property. If we do get back together he will have to be fixed, but I will let him in our room and he can sleep anywhere he wants for the rest of his life. For now he’s on his own. He looks good, a little worse for wear but ok.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have another pet. Really mixed feelings about Manny. If we hadn’t fed him and tried to fit him into our lives would he have been better off? Would he have even survived? I’ll never know for sure, but I do treasure the time we had together and the comfort we gave to one another, Manny and Me
This story jumps around, I know, and has a confusing amount of house moving, building and such, It’s how my life has been, just one crazy thing after another. Here is my final wrap up of my time with Manny. On the 10th of January 2019 Manny went missing and I never saw him again. He was very ill and I knew we didn’t have much time left. But let me back up a bit. About four years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinsons. It got pretty bad and I was facing a wheelchair or walker to get around. We felt it would be best to move back to Wilsonville and live in the loft Sarah and Shane built for us in their new house. So we moved from Turner, Oregon, back to Wilsonville. It was a very rough move for me. I couldn’t help with the moving. I was having mental problems as well as physical problems. But I slowly improved with lots of physical therapy and drugs. This also meant I reconnected with Manny. At first we both kept a little distance, not sure of each other I guess. My daughter Sarah had lovingly taken care of him, the best as she could. So he was her cat at this point. It took a month or two for us to warm to each other and start hanging out again. So for the last 2 1/2 years or so, Manny and I spent lots of time together. He had become very tolerant of people. He didn’t run off at the first sign of the grand kids or any other stranger, or dogs. He also liked to play (finally) and we had some fun killing the tall wild grass shoots. He would just shred them. He had that kitty aids thing, or what ever, and began to waste away. He didn’t have many, (any) teeth left so I cut up chicken into tiny bits for him. I knew he was on his last legs, but Pam and I still bought him a new kitty bed and did all we could to comfort him. I really wish I could have been with him when he died. But, it was not to be. I miss him terribly, Pam, and Sarah too. I keep on expecting to see him around the house or out in the yard. For now we are not getting any pets. If we can get our own place to live, we might get a kitten and matching puppy. But even if we could get another cat, Manny is still too fresh in our minds, and that would not be fair to the new cat. Manmans (aka Fuzz) was one of a kind.