Now nearly a year old, Frankie and Johnnie were a panacea to a once lonely widower, the former silent house embraced their lively antics. Usually each morning when leaving the house I took a trash bag downstairs with me. 

The Next Six Months

Both cats anticipating this move would run down the steps to the recreation room before I’m on my way to exit through the front door on the ground floor. That’s how they see me off, but not before I must pet both as a loving gesture. I still had to keep the watch and clock workshop door closed, otherwise Frankie in her madness to explore anything and everything could create havoc among the loose watch parts on my workbench. Any open area was too inviting.  Her curiosity is boundless, sadly, I learned, if I’m not protective, it could be with unhappy consequences.

  As I leave, hearing the automatic garage door open, the cats quickly run upstairs jumping to the picture window sill to see me off. Often, when arriving home, one or both felines will be looking out of the window, ogling the passing scene, or awaiting my return, unless they’re busy getting in some mischief as young cats full of vim and vigour will do. Should I enter through the ground floor, the cats hearing me open the door will already be in the rec room waiting to greet me.  At other times, they’ll be at the top of the stairs landing, Frankie stretched out in all her glory on the rug expecting me to honour her patented ritual of my rubbing her exposed belly and pretty head. (A cat will never expose her soft undersides, excepting to those she loves and trusts.) Johnnie, sitting quietly by, awaits my greeting by touching and scratching her head and cheeks. She always rises on her hind legs to meet my hand as I do this.

Frankie The Busybody

  I’ve never brought a package home that Frankie (if not catnapping) makes it her business to try to see what’s inside. I recall bringing up a luggage case and putting it on the bed for a planned trip. Naturally, the busybody jumped onto the bed upon opening the zipper of the cover, Frankie leaped inside the open case, claiming it as her territory. Gently. I tried lifting her out, she protested by making herself a dead weight.

  A similar scene plays itself out when I open a drawer to a dresser, she’s already jumped inside before the drawer is fully extended and starts to paw at the clothing or objects within. In the kitchen, if I’m there when the phone rings, she thinks it’s her solemn duty to jump onto the table, sit quietly by until the conversation is ended. Having done her job, she leaves. At other times, when spreading papers to look over or paying bills by writing checks at the table, she squats down on those objects, looking so pretty and quizzically, with front paws folded under her chest. What is Mr. Mom doing now? Her actions fill me with joy and pride in knowing this beautiful Calico cat is so animated and curious and wanting to be near me.

  On the nights I eat at home, Frankie will insist on being my companion at the table. While Johnny the Tabby, could care less, (I think), as long as her needs are taken care of by me, she has never jumped to the kitchen table. Could it be she deems it Frankie’s property and verboten? Frankie will get on the table; she has her “special placemat” the one, farthest away from my dinner. She watches intently, without ever moving, every morsel of food I put into my mouth. Only when offered a nibble of something she may eat (I’m protective of her diet) does she move her head to the napkin where it has been put, smells first, and then does me the honour of devouring it. I put more tiny bits on the napkin, only after gulping her fill does she depart the table and lets me finish the meal at my leisure.

  An empty brown Kraft shopping bag on the kitchen or living room floor must be explored by getting inside, fighting and banging it around trying to get out of the sealed end. So far, she has never succeeded in tearing one open. She lets it be. Next time around the process begins all over again, Frankie’s not a quitter! (Later in this story, two pictures will depict Frankie inside the shopping bag.) In her play, in the living room, she sort of made the bag a home inside her home.

  Many an evening while in bed and looking at the television, Frankie will jump onto the bed and plunk herself down on my chest with her pretty face barely two inches away from my nose. I do not know what a cat behaviourist would call that action. I call it a wonderful expression of her love for me with a desire to be near that object of her love.

  By this time my adopted “children” have been with me for more than a year and I owe them so much for the comfort they have given me, the love is beside the point. With them love is not like a spigot that is turned on and off, as is the case in so many human affairs. Their love is pure, unadulterated, unshakable and immeasurable. Honesty in their scheme of things is their way of life.

  My experience in being a good parent or Mr. Mom entails much more than just providing a good living environment and food. (Although as strictly house cats the chances of a communicated disease is lessened greatly.) They still need yearly checkups and shots to keep them healthy and safe from catching certain diseases from other animals, their keepers and vice versa. They will appreciate playtime and the daily brushing of their fur. I found a woman’s hairbrush with stiff bristles please cats most. Besides, it brings a glossy sheen to their fur while removing loose fur hairs. In Frankie’s case her soft Ermine like fur takes on a sheen not seen too often on cats. She’s blessed in so many ways, excepting one, which will be forthcoming shortly in this narrative.

  Keeping their litter boxes clean and fresh is another boon to their health and environment. In telling your cats you love them it does not hurt, I think they understand. But, actions in their world, speak so much louder and clearer than mere words.

  It may seem to some readers of  “Frankie Weiss and Her Magic” that my heart belongs more to Frankie than to Johnnie. Not so. They share my home, my thoughts and my heart, equally. It’s just that Frankie and her antics and mishaps give me so much more material to write and boast about, and in one instance to almost cry about.

  Johnnie, I have come to realize, has the classical beautiful face of the striped Tabby. Her bodily build is different from Frankie’s. Her striped black and silver fur, with tinges of light tan or brown does not compare in the least with the beauty of Frankie. Johnnie’s fur is wirier. Yet, in no way detracts from her overall eye appeal or beauty. Earlier I wrote she plays second fiddle to Frankie, but not in my heart, she’s just as precious.  When I first laid eyes on Johnnie, I had to look no further for a companion cat to Frankie. Sometimes, we humans are blessed with an insight that comes out of the blue. I knew we’d be soul mates. Nothing during these years of our family life disproves that thought. When I first went to Marlton looking for cats to adopt, those first two cages containing the Calico and Tabby were meant to be. Meant to keep my need for their companionship and love endless. I repeat, having said on other pages, cats too, have an insight in knowing what is good for their self-preservation.

  The next few months passed quickly in the Weiss household. The cats were going about the business of being cats and I was only too pleased to be part of a threesome that had merged into a real loving family.

Gingivitis Rears It’s Ugly Head

  Frankie and Johnnie were now about one and a half years old. During that time, never was their health a concern, until one day, noticing Frankie would only take a half-hearted nibble at her usual food, I put it off as a normal aspect of a felines feeding habit. Sometimes, disregarding a food they enjoyed devouring in the past. But this went on for a number of days; she’d smell and walk away from her food tray. She was not eating. Her flanks showed a loss of weight. I was worried, what is wrong with this cat that looms so large in my daily thoughts and life? This was not a good happening!

  Calling Dr. Rothberg, I made an appointment for that afternoon. The pet carrier came out of the closet, Frankie went right inside and she regarded this carrier as a second home. Johnnie would run away and hide at its appearance. Johnnie deplored going to the Marlton Animal Hospital for her health checkups.

  Arriving at the Hospital, neither Frankie nor I were prepared for the diagnosis. We went into the examination room, opening the pet carrier Frankie would not leave, I helped take her out onto the steel examination table. Dr. Rothberg gently opened Frankie’s mouth, to her trained eye, the cause was apparent. The gums had a flaming reddish colour, an unforgiving indication of Gingivitis. She was afflicted with this curse.

  This is a disease common to both human and animal. It could be inherited, just as many other life-altering illnesses are. My Frankie as beautiful and blessed she is and was could lose her life. This was not an illness to take lightly. Many cat keepers would put a cat down, rather than spend the money necessary to arrest this inherited genetic disease.

  For me, there was no option. Frankie was part of my life. Two years prior, I lost my wife of thirty-nine years, now; I did not want to go through another tragedy in losing Frankie. Money had no value in my thoughts; Frankie and her survival came first.

  A call was immediately placed to an animal Dental Specialist in Bricktown, New Jersey. We made an appointment for the next morning to verify the diagnosis.

  Frankie and her Mr. Mom spent a sorry night, she not eating and I was not sleeping, if at all, fitfully. The “ring” of the word Specialist meant big bucks. However, to me, my beautiful and loving Frankie was priceless.

  The next morning, we drove to Bricktown, New Jersey, 65 miles from our home. Never did I dream what the future would hold for this feline so dear to my heart. The two of us were doomed to go through a lot of torment and suffering. If Frankie hurt, her Mr. Mom hurt right along with her. I cannot speak for Johnnie; she may not have understood what was taking place.

  Frankie was immediately taken into the examination room, I was told to wait in the reception area. Upon examination the diagnosis was confirmed. My poor dear Frankie had a serious case of Gingivitis. It would cost anywhere between $350.00 and $850.00, depending on the blood work, X-rays and other various tests to determine the best procedure in removing all the affected teeth and gum treatment.

  Frankie’s health was excellent otherwise. I had not driven 65 miles just to hear the bad news; I told Dr. Fiorito to go ahead, to do what was best in this case. I felt sick and hurt for Frankie knowing the trauma she was to undergo. The procedure would take a few hours. Hours that would find me on pins and needles and anxious to know that my beautiful Calico had survived this unexpected and torturous ordeal.

  Time weighed heavily on my hands, while having a few cups of coffee; in trying to read magazines, comprehending the printed word was difficult. I was in no mood to read things that meant nothing to me. Frankie, her surgery and future health were foremost in my mind. Finally, two hours and ten minutes later Dr. Fiorito came out to speak to me. Frankie, like the true champion I think she is, came through her surgery in great style. Seven teeth were removed, some gum suturing and she was resting comfortably as the anaesthesia wore off.  Dr. Fiorito told me the attendant would take me in to see Frankie in a little while. The doctor gave me instructions and a number of prescriptions were written for tablets that had to be crushed and mixed with her food. Finally, the attendant came to take me into the operating room to see my little Calico.

  As I entered, Frankie looked up at me, surprisingly, she did not look any the worse for what she had gone through the past few hours. Nearing the table I tried to touch her head, she started licking my extended fingers. My heart felt good; I knew whatever the cost, it was worth it. My beautiful little feline, even with what she had just gone through showed her love for me.

  I was given a bill for some $708 and change. It was dated 11/10/98. More than the money, she’d be Frankie, once again. The cat I learned to love and who changed my lonely life, as a widower, was ready to go back to her home, minus seven teeth and with suturing in her gums

Putting the pet carrier on the table, Frankie willingly went right inside; could it be this little Calico knew her ordeal was over and she was going home? Frankie, in the carrier, sat quietly as I talked to her in a soothing voice on the drive home. Every so often, I put my finger through the carrier openings and Frankie would raise her pretty head and lick my finger.

Arriving home, I opened the carrier door, Frankie came out, quickly looked at Johnnie who greeted us as we entered and went into the kitchen to her food tray. Poor dear, though she had gone through such a traumatic episode only a few hours earlier the pangs of hunger took over and she ate a little from her food tray.

Don’t cats know they are supposed to hurt? I marvelled at her need for food. What human would want to eat after undergoing such an involved surgical procedure? Felines, I can only assume are more tolerant of pain than us mere mortals. After all, millions of years taught them survival skills humans do not possess.

I dread to think what would have become of Frankie had she not undergone the treatment for Gingivitis. Happily, we were home and past the ordeal of having her affected teeth removed. A few months later, taking Frankie in for a health check-up, Dr. Rothberg gave me the good news that Frankie had regained her lost weight. I now thought we’d be family living happily ever after. This was not to be.

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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