Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hope for the dim.

In 1997, I received a kitten from a Christian biker filmmaker. (That's another story.)

Smokepuff was and is a gorgeous ball of fluff. Due to his intense camera-phobia, I have terrible pictures of him, but this turned out to be his breed of cat, The Tiffany, which he resembles physically.

These cats are known for their gentle nature and loving devotion.

I have to say this description also fits him perfectly. The breed standards do not go into detail about their intellectual faculties, so while this is a clue, I don't know how he stacks up as mentally typical of the breed. We adore him, but there is no doubt that Puffy is also extremely dim.

How dim is he? the audience asks.

Well, he has a tendency to panic when my husband and I wear hats. This apparently changes our profile in his head enough for him to doubt that he recognizes us. Since strangers make him panic, the reflex operates even after he gets a good look at us, sans hat. While his face brightens happily, his legs still try to run away, though usually in different directions.

We think he has tenuous connections throughout his nervous system. He is capable of grace once all his limbs settle on a plan, yet tends to fall off even the most large, flat, and stationary objects. His tongue, especially, seems to operate independently. He will lick his chops after a treat past all possibility that any residual flavor remains.

One night his tongue, post-treat, went a little wild, in the fashion of a broken windowshade. It continued its motions so long that even he noticed, and thus he kept putting his limbs in front of it, apparently thinking that he had been interrupted mid-cleaning. He seemed incapable of reining it in.

When I realized what was going on, I had to perform a "Puffy Reset" which is accomplished by gently and firmly pressing down on the top of his head. This reboots the system and restores him to tranquility. (When we received a visit from my mother's Papillon puppy, Puffy hid under the bed for several hours until my husband crawled underneath and reset his head.)

Last year it was time for Puffy's teeth cleaning. I dropped him off with the usual procedures. (If I carry him clamped to my chest, he is happy to be transported to and through the gates of Hell itself. A carrier, on the other hand, brings on panic, and the effect is eerily reminiscent of the famous "Mindbeast of the Id Breaking Down the Door of the Krell Laboratory" scene from Forbidden Planet.) He passed his preliminary exam and was handed over to the technician, which he mysteriously never minds. So I was shocked to get the phone call that told me the teeth cleaning had uncovered a serious problem that called for emergency surgery. His eyeteeth, which had always protruded from his mouth in charming vampire fashion, had gotten infected to the point where it was threatening to invade his circulatory system. I immediately authorized his surgery and was happy to bring him home, sans fangs, where he made a quick and complete recovery with the help of vitamins, antibiotics, and kitty morphine.

My discussion with the vet reassured me on several points. He wanted to know if I had seen any changes in Puffy's behavior. I had not. He ALWAYS spent a lot of time hiding under the bed, and he ALWAYS had a good appetite. The vet agreed with me that cats are particularly good at hiding their illnesses. There wasn't anything to tip me off, even with the drooling, which is something he does a lot of the time, anyway, especially around Cherry Garcia ice cream.

And no, his occasional ice cream indulgences hadn't caused the infection; the rest of his teeth were in great shape and Puffy was cleared for future tiny treats. It seemed to be a congenital problem lurking since birth, waiting for a random gene (and Puffy has no other kind,) to activate and cause problems.

The vet told me that we had caught it in time, and it wasn't a possibility that it had affected Puffy's intellectual capacities, except that he probably had been in pain and feeling crappy for those past few months. And indeed he must have been, because Puffy's dimness has actually lightened since his surgery.

This isn't a Flowers for Algernon story, wherein Puffy suddenly begins solving quadratic equations. He still panics when people come in. He still barks (yes, he barks, he grew up with dogs) at people from our third floor window, because he's not afraid of them when they are two inches tall. He still sticks his head into the cat food can and gets gravy all over his ears. He still needs to be rebooted at times.

But he's getting into our laps a lot more often, and staying longer. He appears more quickly when he's called. He's still Puffy, only more so, and now even more of a joy.

So there's hope. Hope for the dim among us. The point of my admittedly long story is that what happened to Puffy can happen to all of those whose brains have been clouded by negative emotions so ably stirred up by Rovian tactics. We've seen signs that people are not falling for the fear so readily. When the fear clears, people are able to think again.

Just as Puffy retreated into dimness when his system was under attack, so did much of the population when it perceived itself under attack. As Puffy got better, his system actually rebounded, so he was capable of being better than he was before. And maybe, just maybe, the rest of America can wake up from this nightware with some lessons learned, and rebound.

To be Americans again. Only more so.


  1. You're right in the sense that fear can cloud people's thinking.
    To Love, Honor and Dismay

  2. Anonymous11:37 AM

    A very sweet story! Puffy is lucky to have such a good family.

    -Montague (came over from dailykos)