So what’s the deal with that cat?

Have you ever gone into a Chinese Restaurant or Asian Grocery and wondered why they have a little electronic cat waving at you?

It hasn’t made me sneeze AAA Batteries despite my allergies.  Never mind those allergies, I’ve found them cute and perhaps a quaint thing, but never known why they are there in the first place.

If I have a choice, typically I’ll go to a Chinese restaurant over any other.  Usually as a result I’m not given the choice.  After all, how many times can you have Curried Chicken, Sesame Balls, and Deep Fried Calamari?  Three or four times a week if I had my say, and I’d be as big as a house instead merely as tall as one.

I understand that the reason why the places have a lot of red in them – it’s because it signifies happiness.  But why the cat?

With the advent of the Chinese Buffets I can go and sample every bit of Chinese Food that I want until I’m engorged and can’t fathom another morsel of MSG encrusted rapture.  I mean, Mongolian Beef? Oh yeah, I’m there!  I’ve worn my restaurant welcome out with that one, I’ll go back to the buffet three times just to have more of that spicy treat. 

At the one particular Chinese buffet that I prefer, just up the road a piece, there’s a little pile of odds and ends near the door to beckon you.  Turtles carved from soap stone so that the head moves when a breeze touches it, chopsticks, and other brightly colored gewgaws.  Some day I’ll learn how to use the chopsticks, but for now I’ll look at them and take them in before I pass by them to go to the Koi pond and have a seat.

What is the deal with that damn cat!

Ok, so the story is that it’s beckoning good luck.

A bit too vague?  Here is the long story.

Asian people (broadly) greet one another with their palms up.   At least that is what the Wikipedia article tells me.  It is to say hello and bring them in. 

Left paw waving at you (on your right) brings in customers.
Right paw waving at you (on your left) brings luck and wealth.

As with anything that is “Eastern”, by the time it has made it to the United States it has gotten … Anglicized or is that Americanized?  That is to say confused.  It also means that the left and right paw rule can also mean the opposite depending on who you ask.  Just smile and nod and think happy thoughts, after all it is a cartoon cat waving at you, how much more can you want?

The first thing is that it is attributed to originally be a Japanese cultural aspect, and not to be a Chinese one.  I’m not completely sure why I always see them in a Chinese Restaurant or when I go on a mad search to find my Oolong Tea in a Chinese, excuse me, Asian market.  After all, the Asian Markets I patronize are either Vietnamese or Korean run but in the view of Pan-Asian splendor, there are things there that are Japanese and Chinese, and these stores sell them all.  My favorite Chinese restaurant in Willow Grove PA was run by a Malaysian family, so more of that Melting Pot that creates some of the most interesting aspects of society in today’s United States.

What was a simple ceramic statue has been transmogrified into a coin bank, and then with the expertise of the Japanese, a solar powered statue made mostly of plastic, with a solar panel in the back of its head that powers the little paw that waves you into the shop.

Most likely it beckons you to buy a little solar powered plastic cat that waves to you as you come in to have a meal at the Chinese buffet.

On Federal Highway.   Just ask, I’ll give you directions if you’re down here.  I’ll also try to mooch a lunch time buffet out of you too if you are bold enough to ask directions, so be forewarned.  If they try to serve you up a cat, it will either be ceramic or plastic, your kitty is safe.

Abandoning Your Best Friend at 5:30 AM

After tossing and turning from 4AM for another 90 minutes, I decided it was time to see if the world was safe to be greeted.

Listening to the soft snoring coming from nearby, I did not want to wake her.  Softly, Softly, I reached up onto the headboard just inches away in the predawn gloom and found my phone.  Pressing it to my chest through the thin blanket, I turned it on and allowed it to come alive.  I reached up and found the glasses that were next to it and put them on.

The phone announced that I had an email message with a vibration through my sternum and a soft chime.

The soft snoring continued unabated, so I stealthily pulled the device in under the covers to darken the effects that the display would have on the sleeping beauty.

Going through email and finding nothing particularly important to deal with in the early morning gloom, I checked Radar and found that it was going to be a crystal clear morning.

This allowed me the opportunity to get checked into what ever chat channels I usually keep going all day long, and get caught up on the things people are doing.

The website Craigslist caught my eye, so I set the phone to go out and fetch the morning information.  People are giving things away, both concrete and otherwise, and it can be an entertaining read to find out what others are doing in the course of their day.

I was clicking on an item that I did not really need when my subconscious made me miss.   I had clicked on a picture icon, a tiny camera graphic on the glass screen.  When the picture rendered, I saw staring back at me the face of a small dog, a fawn colored Chihuahua, begging for attention.

When ever I see those pictures, my heart usually pauses.  These are never a good sign.  Someone believes that they can tell Man’s Best Friend that they’ll be fine in a new home and all will be well.   I was right, that was exactly what had happened.  Someone believed that there would be a new home for this poor creature.  A 6 year old dog will never understand why it was abandoned and now lives with a new person or family.  It will always be confused and hope that it will go back.

Of course this is a preferable step to that of turning a middle aged dog into the shelter.  They simply don’t last.  The people wanting dogs usually want puppies.   Cute little fur balls they can teach to be their perfect little creature, not understanding that work that comes along with a non house trained pet.  After all, that cute little puppy is a clean slate, as will your floors be after you clean after it for the 25th time in That Spot.

The six year old Chihuahua won’t have that problem, it’s already house broken and just wants to be with you, the original owner. 

Had it made it to the Shelter, that dog has a high chance of merely being put down because the shelters have so very many dogs coming in in this Republican Induced Great Depression.   After all, you can downsize your life.  Dump that old couch, the pictures of Great Aunt Maude won’t fit in the newer smaller apartment, the Big TV has gone to the thrift shop, and the extra serving dishes along with it.  But you can’t seem to find an apartment that fits what you really need because they won’t take dogs, no way, no how. 

It was impossible for us to find an apartment that would accept my 47 pound dog because they had an arbitrary weight rule against “big dogs”.  So we had to search and eventually bought a house that we’re in to this day.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that, and those who are trying to find homes for their middle aged dogs are usually doing it because they lost their jobs in this downturn and are scrambling so that they won’t be homeless themselves.

The dogs end up jettisoned and confused.  Cats fare better because, in my own experience, fewer places ban cats.  That is despite the fact that I have always been able to tell a cat lives in a place.  There’s a certain smell…

Hopefully that poor creature will find a home.  There will be many more after it.  I got mine in a shelter, so should you.

In the eye blink that it took for me to read that short little paragraph about the soon to be homeless dog, I had that flood of thoughts.  Shuddering, I blanked the screen and threw the covers off.

Snoring ceased, the wet nose sniffed the air and sleeping beauty awakened.   I got out of bed and we began our day with a mile and a quarter dog walk.  My dog had her second chance.  She rescued me.

Cats are my Kryptonite

When I was young we would go to visit my Aunt Ann and Uncle Frank in Glassboro.

Every Saturday night without fail we’d get into the car, the four of us, and ride through Suburban New Jersey.  The trip was around a half hour and for a pre-teen it felt like it was forever.  Not to worry though because they were good people, family.  It was one of those comfortable routines we’d have until I hit my teens and started getting that “hard wired angst” that we all got.  I’d slowly duck out of sight and then begin to opt out of going by the time I was 13 or 14. 

While family night was all well and good, there was a problem.

Aunt Ann had cats.  Not one but usually a herd of three or more.  She loved those cats and like anything else if you have pets, they are yours.  For others, pets are part of the background.   The cats didn’t necessarily ignore me or the rest, they were just going about being cats.  Which is to say fairly indifferent until you had something they wanted and then all the sudden you’d have a friendly being trying to take advantage of your good nature.

That’s all well and good but while Aunt Ann had cats, I had allergies.   Specifically to Cats.

My allergies were so bad at one point that my visit to Aunt Ann consisted of going there, saying hi and hanging out for as long as I could then retreating to the front porch to try to decongest.  We tried allergy pills that sometimes worked to help me stay inside for a while but the reality was that it was so bad that when I stopped going, it wasn’t so much of why but why it took me so long to assert health.

This allergy got so bad that in my 20s I would call ahead to find out if there were cats at the party and if so I would simply beg off. 

There were a couple things going on here.   In New Jersey at that time, I would have hay fever from Labor Day through the first hard freeze.   I would also be gobbling a Chlor-Trimeton tablet every 12 hours without fail.  It would make me sleepy, tired and somewhat cranky for four months out of the year.   If I suspected that there were cats somewhere I had to go, I’d slip in another tablet at an hour or so before I’d arrive which meant no alcohol.  I was the designated driver before we got a name for it.

One Christmas Dinner at Mom’s house in my early 30s I had an interesting conversation.   It drifted onto my cat allergy and that I just had come off of “allergy meds for the season” and was grateful that we had an early freeze.  The couple that sat across the table listened intently and told me of their own problems with allergies and their solution.

The premise was that I was one of those typical kids fed on whole milk and cereal every morning without fail.  Add to that heaping gobs of cheese with dinner and a glass of milk to go with the sandwich at lunch.  Their explanation was simple – your body was loaded with allergens already from your dairy addiction.  Cut the dairy out and your allergies would go away for the most part.

It seemed kind of strange to me that something that the Milk Marketing Board was saying was so healthy could be the downfall of my childhood, but I thought I’d try it next season.  Starting August 1st, I begun to use up the milk in the house and by September 1 I would be completely off of any sort of dairy. 

It Worked.   Completely. 

That first season I had to take exactly three chlor-trimeton tablets.  Three.  In four months.

I was the kid who could not even sit on the front porch of my neighbor, Karen, because she had her black cat there.  Now I was actually able to spend time with friends with cats.  It wasn’t that I was able to spend the evening or sleep over, but instead of going there and hanging out for 20 minutes and leaving, I could go and stay a reasonable amount of time, enjoy myself and then disappear.

Since moving here, I’ve returned to baking with dairy, and if I’m having a hamburger, it will have a slab of extra sharp cheddar on it.  I’m also noticing that I’m not quite as bulletproof around cats as I used to be. 

The moral of this story is that while it may not work for you, it was a life changer for me.  As a result, I am now able to visit with friends for a time where I couldn’t do that before. 

It all came to notice to me the last time I went for a visit to work with someone on his website.  There’s a cat in the house and I lasted an hour before I had to beg off.  It looks like I’ll be using up the cheese and treating it as a once in a while thing instead of a daily requirement.  Between the spring time allergens that we get in South Florida that are beginning to get to me, and the limitations that my cat allergy put on me, it is a small price to pay for the freedom not having to worry about all of that brings me.