Random acts of violence as seen through my cat’s eyes

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I have never laid a hand on my cat in anger. And I never will. But someone once did. That much is for sure.

I adopted Eli from the Fauquier SPCA when he was two. I’ve had him for eight years. So how can I be so sure that someone harmed him when he was little?

In order to understand, you must first understand the family dynamics at play, and my relationship with Eli. Basically, he’s my best friend. He’s my therapy cat. I’m his “number one person.” He counts on me for everything. Food, shelter, and most importantly, a clean litter box. He trusts me and he loves me. When I’m home, he’s never too far away. He sleeps on my bed at night and on any old t-shirt or pair of sweats that still has a trace of my scent during the day.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

When I lived in Virginia, it was just the two of us. That’s when we really established that wonderful bond. But when I moved back home, Eli had to get used to living with my mom, too. It took a little while for the two of them to get to know each other and establish their own boundaries. Now they get along famously. My mother is officially Eli’s “number two person.”

Having said all of that, it’s been fairly easy to figure out that poor old Eli was either abused or lived in a really dysfunctional environment before I got him. I’ve watched him over the years.  Here’s what I’ve discovered. He is very sensitive. He runs from anything he thinks he can be hit with — even a relatively harmless toy, like shredded cloth tied to the end of a stick. He is very skittish around some people — especially kids and men. He doesn’t like it when someone approaches him too quickly and he hates loud voices.

In fact, angry voices are definitely a trigger. It doesn’t matter if the anger is directed towards him or towards another person. Either way, it makes him really upset. How do I know? For one thing, he meows. And this is a cat who never says anything unless he’s cranky. If he can’t get his point across that way, he resorts to stronger tactics. He uses his teeth. Yes, he bites.

That’s exactly what he did the other day. I was expressing my opinion about the outcome of a soccer game. And because I wasn’t pleased with the result, I was not exactly speaking softly. The next thing I knew, Eli — who I jokingly refer to as a pit bull in a cat costume — was sinking his teeth into my foot. Repeatedly. And since I didn’t have any shoes or socks on, it hurt. A lot.

I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn’t happy about his behavior. Undaunted, he bit me some more. He even tried to jump onto the bed to get at my hands and arms. I rebuked him again — this time using a sterner voice to let him know he had been a very, very, very bad boy. After a few minutes I walked away and thought about what happened.

“You know,” I told my mother, who was in the room and witnessed the whole episode, “I think he was trying to protect you. I think he thought I was mad at you and that I was going to hurt you. ”

In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
Eli under the Christmas Tree. Christmas 2013.

If that was indeed the case, it begs a different question. We all know that abuse directed at our pets takes a huge toll on them. But what happens when they witness humans harming one another? How big a toll does it take on our companion animals when they see us physically or verbally harming each other?

I am sure someone has done some sort of research on this. I’m sure their findings are available in a report somewhere. But to be honest, I haven’t found any information about this issue anywhere online.

The Peacemaker

All of that being stated, I do know how it affected one cat. That was Tiger. She was my first cat — the cat I grew up with. And she was a peacemaker.

Anytime there was a family argument — and trust me, we had plenty — my tiny, Siamese-tabby cross got right in the middle of it. She would literally stand between the warring parties and cry until she got our attention. Once she had it she would end the debate by giving us the dirtiest look. It’s almost is if she were saying, What is wrong with you? Knock it off. Stupid people!

If that’s actually what she was saying, she was right.




It’s National Scrabble Day!

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I knew I was really scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel when I typed the following into my search favorite search engine just now: “April 13 is national…”

And boy did my computer come up with some interesting answers. But as soon as I saw the first one, I knew exactly what to write about. Today is National Scrabble Day!

I’m serious. If you don’t believe me, just type the same phrase into your own search engine and see what happens. You can also read all about the unofficial holiday here.

The Best Board Game Of All Time

In Brief Legal Writing Services typewriter  illustration
Vintage typewriter key. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I must admit, I am much happier about this than I should be. But for one thing, I was getting sick and tired of writing about serious stuff. I also had no idea what on earth to write about today. And anyhow, I absolutely love Scrabble. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best board game of all time. Or one of them, anyway.

By way of full disclosure, I’m old enough to remember playing board games as a child. That’s right. Not video games. Board games. I got my first one when I was five. I think it was Candy Land, but I’m not too sure.

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I started playing Scrabble, either. But chances are my mom taught me how to play — probably after Christmas or Easter dinner.  And we’ve had some pretty intense games since then. What can I say? I’m an extremely competitive person.

Having said that, I also play fair. So on one rare occasion, I was beating Mom quite handily — or at least I thought I was. At any rate, I made a strategic decision to take it easy on her, and it backfired. At the last-minute, she used her two remaining tiles to spell some stupid word like “ox” or “ax” and found a place to put it in order to get a whole bunch of bonus points. With that, she won. And I learned a valuable lesson. I’ve never “thrown a game” since.

Getting Schooled By The Master

Ironically, my favorite memory of playing Scrabble also involved a game that I lost. That time my grandmother beat me fair and square.

On a beautiful Australian afternoon, we set up the game board on the picnic table in my grandparents’ back yard. As my mother, grandfather and a few more relatives watched, my grandmother, who was in her 80s at the time, calmly proceeded to outwit and outplay me. If I remember correctly, she spanked me fairly soundly.

But it was hardly surprising. Grandma was brilliant.

As a farmer’s wife in drought-prone Australia, she raised five kids — including my mom — in some trying circumstances. In addition to running her household with all of the aplomb befitting a banker’s daughter, she was also active in her community.

In her free time, she enjoyed helping my grandfather with his crossword puzzles. She loved to travel and took the opportunity to do it whenever she could. Her adventurous spirit took her across the world on several occasions. She came to the United States for both my high school graduation and  my wedding.

In 2009, she and Grandpa celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. But her health was failing by then. She died just one week of their 73rd wedding anniversary in July 2012.

Her memory lives on.

On a personal note

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.
Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

It has been a rough week here at In Brief Legal Writing Services.

On Monday, I learned that the little lump I found on Eli’s back is a tumor.

The good news — if there was any — is that this type of tumor is fairly common in dogs and cats. From what I understand, it tends to be more aggressive in dogs, and affects the liver and spleen in only a small percentage of cats (approximately 10 percent). In most cases, surgery to remove the lump is all that’s needed.

According to the vet, an ultrasound is the best way to determine whether an external mass is the result of cancer affecting the internal organs, so we scheduled one for Wednesday. The next steps would depend on the results.

Before the ultrasound, I tried not to borrow trouble. If anything I took comfort in the fact that the lump was small; that it hadn’t changed shape, size or color since I noticed it; that Eli’s behavior hadn’t changed and most importantly, neither had his appetite.

Being a realist, I also thought long and hard about what I would do in the worst-case scenario. I came to the conclusion that I would not subject him to extensive surgery, no matter what. After all, he just turned 10. I’ve had him — or more accurately, he’s had me wrapped around his little paw, for just about eight years now.

He came into my life in February 2008. I was living in Virginia at the time and had just come home from Australia, where my family gathered to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday and I got to watch my favorite football team win the Super Bowl.

The New York Giants won that championship thanks to some heroics by my favorite quarterback, Eli Manning. So imagine my delight — and surprise — when I glanced at the Fauquier SPCA’s flyer on my way out of the office one day. If memory serves, I stopped dead in my tracks and yelped, “Holy crap! The SPCA has a cat named Eli!”

I went to the shelter and instantly decided to adopt him. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t take him home right away. He stayed at the shelter so he could be neutered, and as I drove home alone, the sun, which had been noticeably absent all day, peeped out from between the clouds.

I picked him up after work on another cold, dreary winter afternoon a couple of days later. As we drove home together, the sun, which I hadn’t seen all day, made another appearance.

Perhaps it was a mere coincidence. Or maybe it was a cosmic sign of approval from my cat Heals (named after New York Islanders and New York Rangers goalie Glenn Healy) who had died of cancer six months before.

In any case, it didn’t really matter. All I knew for sure is that it was definitely meant to be.