This hasn’t been a great summer.
There is something about being out of work that just demoralizes a person, even though I know I’ll most likely have classes to teach in the fall. And even though I’ve been busy, I somehow don’t feel I’ve been busy enough or doing enough constructive things.
I dragged Scout the Feral Kitty to the vet yesterday, even though I can hardly afford to do something like this right now. Scout is the last survivor of three brothers that were born in the barn last spring–thanks to a woman who feeds all the cats in the area, we wind up dealing with this kind of thing all the time. And since I have a hard time letting anyone go hungry in my barn, I contribute to the problem right along with my neighbor.
Scout developed a terrible eye problem about ten days ago. I was able to get ointment in his eye a few times, but I had a sneaking suspicion there was a cheatgrass seed in there. (For the uninitiated, cheatgrass is an invasive grass that is the bane of just about every animal owner in central Washington. The seedheads are so sharp they can pierce flesh, so cattle and horses get the seeds embedded under their tongues. Dogs can get the seeds embedded in their ears. Nasty, nasty stuff.)
And so I dithered about what to do about this poor cat for days–until I finally realized that I was probably suffering about as much as he was because I felt like I couldn’t do anything for him. Scout’s only been letting me touch him for a couple of months, but he progressed from a skittish I’ll-let-you-scratch-my-back-only to climbing in my lap and rubbing his face on mine in such a short time that I’ve been a little astounded. I had assumed that I’d missed the crucial human socialization window with him and that he’d always be freaked out about being petted. His brothers both disappeared (probably coyotes) so I’m guessing that’s part of the reason he’s been so desperate for companionship.
But even though he had become super friendly, he was naturally bewildered by my grabbing him by the scruff of the neck to cram medicine in his sore eye…I had violated the terms of our friendship. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get him into a carrier, so I had to haul him to the vet in a (slightly skunky-smelling) live trap–after he spent the night in said trap in my pantry without any food.
My sister says she thinks that smart cats kind of know when someone is trying to help them–I know that horses do–but that’s a lot to ask a young half-wild cat to figure out.
Anyway. The vet said it was indeed a cheatgrass seed. Scout is now downstairs in my pantry, deseeded, de-flead, and de-testicled. He finally decided this morning I wasn’t trying to kill him after all, and I almost cried when suddenly stood up, arched his back, and begged to be petted. After about ten minutes of frantic purring and ear-rubbing, he took his first bites of food in almost two days.
My next problem is that he’s bonded so tightly to me I probably won’t be able to convince him that everyone else who lives here is OK. A few of our cats have popped in to touch noses briefly, but the dog is also going to be a big obstacle for him.
Last year after the newspaper went under, I had to prove to the state I was looking for work. I had to attend an interview with the WorkSource folks to prove I had actually holding up my end of the bargain. I was terribly nervous about the meeting because “job opportunities” in my line of work are so scarce out here that I was having a very hard time meeting the “three contacts a week in your line of work” requirement.
Anyway, I sat down with this nice woman from WorkSource for my job search audit. When asked me what my last job was, and I told her I was an newspaper editor.
“What’s that?” she asked. (No, I’m not kidding.) I have to admit I was at something of a loss to explain it to her. I have to laugh at the irony–there I was, nervous about having to prove that I was “searching for work in my field”, and then I get a baseball bat to the head like this that reminds me that I really have no “field” at all anymore.
“Uh…have you seen the movie Spiderman?” I asked her. “Remember that guy who chomps on cigars?”
“Oh, yeah! Really? Wow, that’s cool.”
Last week I got a letter from the state telling me I have to attend a mandatory three-hour meeting on Tuesday in Moses Lake–apparently it’s intended to school me on the proper way to keep/search for a job. I’m supposed to bring a form that I fill out regarding my “job strengths” and “job weaknesses.”
I didn’t have to do this last year. Apparently the state’s computer system has decided I’m a crummy employee who can’t keep a job, because I was on unemployment nine months ago.
Although I know that none of this is my fault, I still feel tainted somehow–like there really is something wrong with me. It’s depressing as hell when you spend twenty years getting good at something only to wake up one morning and find out you need a new career.
Last night at the barn I was dabbing fly ointment around the mares’ eyes (black flies have finally made an appearance) and spent some time brushing manes and tails. The girls were so itchy that Friday even asked me to use the hairbrush on her nose. We all stood quietly for a while–there is something so restoring about being with the horses it’s almost like a drink of water for the soul.
It felt weird to be out there without Scout, though–he’s such a part of the landscape at the barn it almost felt like the sun had stopped shining–but at the same time, I was deeply grateful and relieved that I’d been able to catch him and they’d been able to get that horrible seed out of his eye. And I don’t know if I’m imagining things or not, but it didn’t seem like the vet charged me very much for all the work they’d done on him.
I hope when I’m sitting through that agonizing meeting next week being “trained” about how to keep a job I remember to remind myself that I at least had the time to help a small friend of mine this summer.
That might not be worth anything to the state of Washington, but it’s worth something to me. Welcome home, Scout.