Friday, December 31, 2004

Lola and the Tree

30 degrees
Overcast, calm winds
10-18 inches soft snow on ground

I think I may celebrate New Year's Eve by taking down the tree.

Normally, I like to keep my tree up well into the new year (see previous entry) but poor Lola has been in exile in the back rooms since we put the tree up. I'd like to get her out among the general cat population again.

Besides, she has been having way too much fun in the back rooms. Cats have inhabited our storage rooms for years without wreaking the havoc that this one small black cat has done. Earlier this week she demolished a cat toy--a ball of fluff wrapped with tinsel--leaving skiffs of soft yarn everywhere. She has chewed holes in the cardboard cat scratcher I put back there.

Then she discovered my box of crochet yarn, high up on the shelves near the ceiling. It started with a few balls being unfurled down to the floor. I would re-wrap them and put them back up in the box. After a couple days of this, however, I just cut the yarn off and put the balls that had made it to the floor back on another shelf. Then, today, I went in to check on the cats and found an elaborate macrame construction that spanned two rooms and incorporated eight or nine balls of yarn.

I know that as a Gemini, she has a lot of energy and seeks intellectual stimulus, but you'd think having Pickle and the three other boys back there to play with (or torment) would be enough focus for her energies.

I had *hoped* that--being as she is now a year-and-a-half old--she would have given up on her kittenish ways. Or at least moderated them somewhat. Last year she was merciless, climbing the tree like a monkey and trashing the ornaments every night. I tried putting a second tree (our old one) upstairs with cat-resistent ornaments in an attempt to lure her away from the "good" tree downstairs, but she treated both as excellent cat toys.

Having one Christmas and a year under her belt hasn't made any difference. I set the tree up downstairs, well away from the windows to discourage her from using it as an elevator, and waited to put ornaments on it until I was sure she would leave it alone.

Such a vain hope.

For the next couple days I had to re-position the branches every morning--fluff the tree back out--from where her slight weight had bent the branches in her climbing. An indication of what I am up against: I put *one* decoration on the tree--a small foil star on the very highest spire. And for three days running, the top branch was bent over and the foil star found varying distances from the tree come morning.

So Lola went into the back rooms before I dared put anything fragile on the tree...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Frannie



Without hearing, she relies doubly on her vision to assess the world around her.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Sparky

There is a winter song that came to be associated with him in my mind and now every time I hear the haunting melody, a sad ache of old grief comes over me.

I remember holding him as he fought for his final breaths. I held him and through my tears told him he was loved. But I couldn't hold him tightly enough to keep him from death.

It's been six years and it still hurts like hell...

Sparky's Page

Friday, November 26, 2004

A Cat For Thanksgiving

I had vowed to try harder to trap the big stray cat and bring him inside once I was over caring for Johnny in his final days. But I didn't expect that to happen quite so soon.



I took this picture of him with the telephoto lens last summer. He was wary enough of us that he didn't even want us to look at him. I had tried before to capture him but he alway had avoided the trap, so if my efforts the past two days seemed a bit casual, you can't really blame me. I was sure he was trap-wise.

A few nights ago I tried lacing the cage with catnip. He would nibble what was within reach but refused to go into the trap. Yesterday, while I was preparing the turkey, I cleaned out the refrigerator. There was chicken left over from last week, so I pulled it from the bones and used it as bait around the entrance and inside the cat trap.

Denny and I ate ourselves into exhaustion and lay dozing upstairs. Long about nine or so, I checked the video camera on the porch and saw that the cat trap appeared to be sprung. I rushed downstairs and saw that indeed, the big stray cat was in the trap. After I hollered up to Dennis, I went out and brought him inside.

He complained loudly but hadn't hurt himself trying to escape. I was glad for that, because some times they can hurt their claws and skin their noses in their fear and struggling. The fact that he complained to us about his treatment suggests that he is an abandoned cat, not a feral, for in my experience, feral cats don't usually complain to people because they don't expect us to do anything about the situation.

We got him installed in the big cage downstairs and let him settle down in peace and quiet. He seemed fairly calm today when I went in and fed him. He didn't offer to scratch my eyes out or bite me. I guess that's encouraging. I have to say that it is a relief to know that he is warm and safe. He is the longest-running of our various feline visitors and we would worry about him if we didn't see him for a few days. I sleep a bit better now that he is inside.

So now we have to think of a name...

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Last Full Measure

Our little Johnny died at midday today, only a few feet from the spot where I had first laid eyes on him, some 16 1/2 years ago. He was still warm when I got home from work and I thought he was sleeping, so let him be. Only when I went downstairs a bit later to bring him up to the bedroom to be with us did I realize he was gone.

He seems to have gone peacefully, painlessly we hope. That little stripey kitten surely gave us all his best, all the years of his life. He made this house a home and became the center around which we have built our House of Many Cats over the years.

So, we shed a few tears for him and tomorrow we will bury him just inches away from Newt, his life-long friend and companion. As sad as it is to say goodbye to him, it also seems right that he and Newt should be together now. They left a heart full of memories behind them and will both be a part of us and our home forever.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I have been working myself pretty hard these past few days--carrying both Denny in his post-op status and Johnny in his final decline. Denny has been a good patient--I am the one who is always asking if he is comfortable, if he needs water or more ice for his knee. I get up earlier than I like in order to make and fetch coffee for him. Then, when I wake up myself, I will bring Johnny upstairs to sit with us on the bed while we watch our morning programs. That's when I give him his fluids.

I am burned out on death, yet I can't give up on Johnny, though I know at this point it is just a matter of waiting and keeping him comfortable. So many sweet and funny memories revolve around this worn-out tabby cat. From his very first day with us, he wasn't what I thought I wanted--but in so many ways, he turned out to be just what I needed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Waiting

The hours of darkness seem timeless in this season. I have spent so much of my life at these latitudes that darkness doesn't bother me. There is something comforting, sheltering in the long darkness, like being in the womb. I am so accustomed to doing daytime activities without the sun that I don't even think about it. It is like living on a space station, or the moon.

It is with a pang of sadness that I realized that Johnny will never see the sun again. Our comfort-loving kitty-boy went blind at the end of summer and now his final decline has begun. he is locked in a darkness that leads irrevocably to the last endless night.

He has been much in my thoughts of course. There is no question that I love him. He gives so much love back, who could help but love him? But my sadness for his loss has less of the visceral tug that Newt's death caused me. There is part of me that feels it only proper that he and Newt should soon be together--they were such devoted companions in life.

But fond memories of our sweet-natured boy are already flooding my thoughts in advance of his death, a sort of pre-mourning. I know his end will be a release for him. I know he is worn out. He has been such a steady presence in our house for all these years that I haven't yet grasped the emptiness his loss will bring.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

And Back Into Autumn...

40 degrees
No snow on the ground

So, two days of rain and we are back into the waning days of autumn. Bare, dead grass and soggy ground.

Johnny keeps doing better. He is eating a bit now and usually not in his bed during the day. We bring him upstairs so he can sit with us in the mornings and evenings--it's sort of nice to re-connect with him now, at the end of his life. He doesn't want to stand still for the fluids, so I haven't been able to give him much--but we brought one of the fountains in from the shop for him and he is drinking more on his own.

Dare I hope he hangs in for a couple more months?

Friday, November 5, 2004

2 inches of snow on the ground
9 degrees

Winter has come in this week, beginning with last Sunday evening's snowfall.

It was light and had almost vanished by the time a second storm blew through the area on Wednesday and left us with about two inches of snow and temperatures well below freezing.

*~*~*~*~*

We got some fluids for Johnny yesterday and I gave him some last night and again this morning. They seem to have helped him a bit--he asked to come out of the cage today and wandered myopically around downstairs while I cleaned his cage and set out fresh water and food for him. The fluids won't avert the inevitable but if he has just hit a rough patch, they will buoy him through it--and if he is on his final decline, they will float him for a while until he gives out.

What is important to us is that he looks and seems to feel better.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Grendel Update

Denny called me at work shortly before quitting time on Thursday to tell me he had seen Grendel in the house.

"Did you grab her and give her a big kiss?"

"No, I left her alone!" He's just as relieved as I am that she wasn't outside. I still didn't totally relax until I got home and saw her with my own eyes. She probably wondered why she was the focus of so much attention as she peered out from her den under the dresser.

So for the past two days, Denny and I have been telling each other what a relief it is that Grendel didn't get outside.

Maybe this is a good time for me to make some effort in friendly-ing up to her. She's live at the margins of our household for so long, we generally let her go her own way and aside from checking on her when I feed the cats, she is largely ignored. Not in a neglectful way--she just isn't comfortable with any kind of attention and there are plenty of other cats around here who are.

But as she ages, it would be nice to be able to handle her enough to check on her general health and to take her in for medical care when she needs it.

Perhaps some good can come from this little scare.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Escape

Damn, damn, damn...

Denny ran outside in the middle of the night to get his pills out of his truck and left the door ajar behind him. He was only out about a minute but our feral girl, Grendel, is missing today. At least we haven't been able to find her in the house.

(Yes, former English majors have feral cats named "Grendel"...)

Now, there have been times in the past where we have lost track of her of a day or two, but we looked fairly extrensively this morning. It seems too much of a coincidence that she would change her usual hiding spots today, so I am afraid she got outside.

On the plus side, she is probably the one cat we have who is best equipped to handle being outside on her own--she lived for four or five years in our area before we caught her and brought her inside. But she has been inside for the last five years, the area has changed around us and other feral/abandoned cats have moved into our area (we have three regulars that we feed).

I am thinking (hoping!) that she might have second thoughts about her break for freedom. It is cold and wet outside and I am sure the shadows are full of scary things. She is a timid creature, not used to confrontation.

She had developed her own routine in the house with comfortable hidey-holes and nights out in the screened-in kitty condo, and cats are creatures of routine. So if she hasn't turned up inside the house by the time I get home tonight, we may try closing the spare room off from the rest of the house and leaving the condo door open, so she can come back inside if she is so moved. We will set the cat trap as well, but I am hoping against hope that she will want to come back to the familiar comforts of house living.

I have harped and harped on Denny about making sure the kitchen door latches when we close it. This isn't the first time it has popped open (but I am hoping it will be the last) and I knew even as I kept reminding him about it, he was tuning me out. So if something good comes from this, maybe he will finally realize I wasn't being a worry-wart every time I would remind him about latching the door. I know he feels badly about it, so I am trying to hold my tongue.

I just hope our poor old fat feral can be brought back inside with a minimum of excitement.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The House of Many Cats

I have been working on the cats'webpages for most of these past five days--decking the main page out in Halloween splendor and struggling to resolve issues with the CSS layout.

For some reason, the text in the lengthier entries kept getting cut off. I started to think maybe the two-column layout with its "float" commands was conflicting with the footer that the website owner has programed to appear on every page. I experimented with removing the classes that used the "float" option and cleaning up the template to remove classes and ids I wasn't using, in the process actually learning what classes and ids were. By abandoning the two-column approach, I finally could get all of BeBe's entry to appear without being cut off. Now the biggest problem seems to be that when the pages load, the background color doesn't come in until I refresh the page. Haven't figured out how I screwed that up yet.

I also worked on the Memorial pages, putting the CSS instructions in the header of each individual page and coding the background color into the actual body of the HTML document. I hoped that by taking CSS one step at a time, I would better understand the process. I finally have a rudimentary or "place-holder" page up for each of the cats and most of our angel-kitties. I still have a lot of writing to do on most of them and I want to post several photos of each cat, so I will have to hold a photo shoot for those who have been camera shy up until now.

I need to get the scanner working again in order to put up a page for cats that we may have fostered but that went on to other homes--a sort of "Friends of the House of Many Cats" page.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Clarence

There were two moose munching down on the wind-tossed alders at the edge of the deck when I went downstairs this morning to get the cream for my coffee.

In the past couple weeks, it has finally sunk into Clarence's narrow little Siamese head that *I* will protect him from Frannie. That if he is nestled up against me on the bed, he is safe. So now he sticks close to me at night and rubs against me and rolls under my stroking hands in a revelry of pleasure and security.

It is gratifying to see when I remember what a frightened, unhappy little kitten he was just a year ago.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Punkin

I was petting the Punk yesterday after I got home from work and it felt as if the fatty cyst on her back had gotten larger. So, I parted her fur and took a good look at it. It had grown to twice the size it had been just a few months ago and developed another lobe.

Yikes!

Since Lucy's malignancy, I wasn't going to take any chances, so I called the vet clinic right away and got her scheduled first thing this morning.

So much for sleeping in on my days off.

So, I didn't do much today--just hung out at home waiting for it to be time to go get my kitty. I always worry a little when they go under anesthesia, even though Punkin has been there many times before and she hasn't been wheezing as much this week as last.

Dots carried Punkin out to the waiting room for me. She said she had to use extra anesthesia because after giving the usual dose, Punk was still sitting there just watching her suspiciously (well, Dots didn't say suspiciously but I know Punkin well enough to know that's how it was) so Punkin was still pretty groggy this afternoon, though she did visibly perk up when she heard me call her name.

We do love each other desperately, my fat red cat and I.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Star

I guess I haven't done an update on Star (aka Skinny) for a while.

She's living in the house now.

Denny asked me to keep her inside back in August, thinking he would have a chance to work on taming her while he was home from Cold Bay, so one evening, I invited her in and didn't let her out again.

For a few days, she asked to go outside, but as the days grew cooler and we didn't have the screen doors open as much, she settled into a routine, spending much of her time in the condo or downstairs with Lola and Clarence.

About a month ago, she began to come into the bedroom in the evenings and even venture up onto the bed while I was reading or watching television. occasionally, she would attack my feet in a manner reminiscent of the Toe Wraiths until my startled screams would send her dashing back down the hall. When Denny was home these past few weeks, she got brave enough to come up on the bed in the evenings and play with strings and--eventually--our fingers.

Sunday evening, Denny was able to stroke her paws just a bit without her jerking away and since he has been gone, she and I have been drawing ever closer that inevitable first official petting. She will peer at me from around the foot of the bed and I will make the "come here" gesture I make for Frannie and she will come up on the bed. When I go back to reading my book, she will dart forward and bat at my fingers until I put the book aside and play with her. She will let me stroke the insides of her front legs but still shrinks from letting me touch her head. But she is close, very close.

Despite the shyness she shows and whatever conditions have led her to be that way, she is a lively and intelligent little cat who seems to enjoy our interactions. I think it helps that she can watch us with the other cats and see how fearless they are around us.

What really feels good is not worrying about her being outside in the wide and wild world.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Flyboy

I came across this article while doing a search on Alaskan news....

Flyboy

Monday, July 19, 2004

Johnny

I had to finally admit to myself yesterday that Johnny is dying. It is a hard realization to face.

His appetite has dropped markedly off in the past day or two, no matter how I coax him and I suspect he isn't drinking much water, either, as his output is down as well. He is alert and affectionate--last night I took him upstairs and he laid on the bed with us for a while before I took him back down to the cage and tried to interest him in some food. I put a freshly-washed Kitty Cup bed in the cage for him and he settled into it but had no interest in food.

Tonight I will try to get a little food and water down him but it has been my experience that once they loose interest in eating, they are ready to die. It's as if his body knows there isn't any point in prolonging things.

I know on one level that he has had a long life and that his time is nearly over, but I am still bummed out about it. He has been a part of our household since our earliest days of living here--like Newt was. It hasn't been quite a year since Newt left us. Johnny will be with her soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bad Kitties

They stayed up late
They trashed the house
They were BAD KITTIES...
and they acted as though they didn't even care...
--T Shirt motto

Well, this morning was Nash and Tiny's vet appointment for dental cleanings, so just before midnight last night, I picked up all the cat food in the house. When one cat has to fast for the doctor, they *all* have to fast for the doctor.

Now, I had done this last week only to have our appointment cancelled due to illness. All during the night, the cats had come up on the bed to check on me, as if to remind me that they didn't have any food out. This week they left us alone.

But when I went into the spare room to get the cat carriers, I found out why. The pantry was a mess. *Someone* had chewed open two bags of dried beans and some dried cherries and strewn them all over the floor. For good measure, several packages of zip-loc bags had many tiny holes all over them, and a roll of paper towels had had the stuffing kicked out of it. I kept waiting to see if anyone is going to swell up and get sick from ingesting dried beans but it looks as if the appeal was more the mischief/entertainment value.

Denny and I were laughing so much as we cleaned up, we were almost late for the vet appointment.

We had a good discussion with Dots concerning Lucy when we went to pick the cats up. She agreed that pallative care is the kindest way to go with her.

Damn, if an operation could save Lucy--or even give her six more months--I'd go for it. But what I suspect would happen would be that they would open her up and see there was no hope and "not let her wake up", as they put it. So she would lose the three weeks or the month of good time she might have left.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Yesterday was a better day for Lucy, I think.

She was sitting on the lowest shelf of the cat tree when I got home from work Friday evening, so I didn't have to crawl behind the coal stove to pry her out. I gave her the pain medication and was glad to see she was interested in food when I was dishing it out. I gave her the last of Newt's shrimp as a treat and then dug out one of the cans of Precise I had on hand to see if she might like to try it. She did--a change of pace from the usual Friskies. (So I stopped off on the way to work yesterday and bought some more.)

She was still out and about when I went out into shop yesterday morning, so I gave her attention and more food. She hasn't been back behind the stove since Friday so I don't know if she is feeling better (the Metacam is helping?) or is responding to the attention, but checking on her condition is much easier. It eases me as well to be able to pet her and talk with her.

Her stomach seemed a bit bloated compared to her prominent spine and Dot's remark about FIP lodged in my mind. Were the other cats at risk if Lucy has in fact developed FIP? So I did some quick research yesterday to try to find out the latest thoughts on that confusing disease. I didn't want to put the other cats needlessly at risk but if there was any exposure problem, it had undoubtedly already occurred.

Well, there is still a great deal of confusion--and old information--on line about FIP. The best link I found came from the Cat Fanciers' Association. I figured that the breeders would be the ones to have a vested interest in knowing the latest, so I followed their link to this site.

"Transmission of FIP from cat to cat is considered to be rare. This fact has caused leading FIP researchers to state that cats who are ill with FIP are unlikely to be a risk to other cats and thus do not need to be isolated.

When I read those words, a frisson of relief passed through me. This was what I had suspected but to see the thought in print was very calming.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Spring Fever

Lucy was behind the coal stove this morning and although I went out to the shop at least a dozen times during the course of the morning, she ignored my gentle pleading to come out and see me. So her dose of Metacam went undelivered. If she doesn't come out at supper time this evening, I will have to find a way to extricate her so I can offer at least some relief for her discomfort.

The medication is a blessing. For so long there just weren't any effective pain medications for cats and this seems to be both fast-acting and effective. Within minutes of her dose last night, Lucy was out and about the shop and even nibbled some food. We shared a sweet moment when I checked on her before going to bed--she let me rub her head whle she purred and pushed against me.

On a lighter note, the other cats have had serious spring fever. They must sense that the first fresh shoots of grass are not far away. Punkin has been insistent on trying to get outside and Frieda meets me at the door, asking if I have any grass for her.

When I was at the Shelter on Wednesday, Tony mentioned spreading hay in their home dog run to combat the mud and how much their cats enjoyed playing in the hay. So I got the idea of pulling up the old, smelly indoor/outdoor carpet in the cat pen and replacing it with a couple of inches of hay. I have had a gift certificate from The Wagon Wheel just sitting here since Christmas--I had thought to get some starter plants once the greenhouse was moved and refurbished--but buying the cats some hay seemed like a better use of it.

So I went downtown in my little pickup and checked out the hay options. I was able to get two compressed bales of Washington-grown hay for about $30 and it only took about 2/3rds of a bale to carpet the cat run. So I put some hay in BeBe's cage and in the cat porch the house cats use also, and still have some of the first bale left over.

We'll see how it works out. The lovely smell of fresh hay certainly beats what the cat run smelled like before. The cats seemed excited by the novelty of having the grass to play in. I like the idea of just changing out the hay when it gets wet or muddy rather than dealing with that old carpet. There are litterboxes in all the pens so I don't think there will be any problem with inappropriate use of the hay. Perhaps come fall, we can cut our own blue-joint rye and use that over the winter.

I wondered if there might be any potential problems in using hay but cats and barns have gone together for centuries and I can't recall ever seeing anything in the literature about health issues arising from hay. I worry that my grass-fiends like Cissy and might make themselves sick with eating the stuff--or worse yet, plug themselves up with it--but I will just keep my eyes open for any problems.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lucy




All of our phone conversations this week have been about what we should do for Lucy. I don't know if there is a right answer. There are just answers and we may never know if one was right or not.

I don't want to keep cutting out parts of her in a vain attempt to keep her alive until there's nothing left. But I don't want the experience with Rosie to make me give up on her too soon. The thing is, if the cancer has spread to one organ, it has more than likely spread to others as well. But what if the cancer is contained and can be easily removed? (What are the chances of lucking out like that?)

I told Denny that this is the only life Lucy will have and I don't want to make a decision based on what is easiest for us. As if any of this is easy.

And yes, I know she will live again but this is the only life she will share with us--our sweet orange-and-white girl. I believe that there will be a reunion, somewhere out of time. I believe the bonds of love are not severed by death. We will meet again but this time now is what we have to share in this life.

It rends my heart to see her so sad and depressed, crawling behind the coal stove as if to hide from the pain. I miss the firm bump of her head against my hand when I pet her, her conversational meow, her unfailing good spirits. She has always been such a sweet-natured creature.

I have started her on a daily dose of Metacam, and it seems to help. Dots said fluids might be helpful, too. The blood work didn't come back decisive one way or the other but there were disturbing indications, including an elevation in kidney levels and active corona virus.

Both Denny and I are leaning toward the "lets just make her as comfortable as we can until we can't any more, then let her go" option. I want to do the best we can for Lucy, but there is only so much we can do. If it was just a matter of money or effort or time--or love--we could save her. But it is a matter of illness and inevitability.
It is hard to believe that age is nibbling away at our kittens...

I know that much is said about the connection that human twins have, so I wonder if a similar bond holds true in littermates. Do kittens or puppies feel a special affinity toward those they shared the womb with? How will Frieda and Cissy react when their sister is no longer here?

There is no doubt they will miss her. The three have been a sort of mini-pride in our cat family--socializing, sleeping and grooming together. If one is threatened and raises a call, her siblings are quick to respond. Even now, Frieda and Ciss seem to be looking for Lucy when she has put herself away in some quiet spot. I don't think I am anthropomorphizing to say they seem concerned about her.

She will leave a hole in more than two hearts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Three Sisters

The Three Sisters will soon be two.

We noticed last week that Lucy Sue has been losing weight. Once I started watching her, I saw that she isn't one of the first in line at suppertime any more. Her normally melodious meow has a tone of stress in it now.
So, I took her in to see Ralph yesterday afternoon. I had a strong feeling that the news would be bad. The X-ray revealed a mass in her abdomen in the vicinity of her kidneys. Ralph suggested doing some blood work to see how her organs are functioning, so we will have the result of that tomorrow.
But just the fact that the mass is there...

Lucy--as you may or may not recall--had a growth removed from her cheek last September. She healed quickly and seemed to be doing great all winter, but it is apparent that the malignancy has spread. She has weakened so fast in the past week that we may only have time to say goodbye to her--a couple weeks or so.
But we will know more tomorrow, I hope. I just have a bad feeling, a forboding that set in once it dawned on me that she has lost some weight.

Lucy was one of the kittens born here, in this house, September 28, 1991. They were like a blessing, though we didn't think so at the time. Lucy, Frieda and Cissy...I was the first human being to ever touch them.

In the flush of kittenish energy, Lucy took her name from another crazy redhead, though as she matured, she developed a quiet dignity befitting her size. Her most distinguishing trait was her fondness for going off somewhere to fall asleep and then ignoring any and all calls. I have given her up for lost so many times because she was off somewhere sleeping and couldn't be disturbed for human concerns.

I don't want to think about her final sleep.

Damn it.

Saturday, April 3, 2004

Black Jack

I can't believe this...

I went by the Shelter office on my way to work today to pick up my eggs from Sherry. A woman was there, signing in her cat. It wasn't until she spoke to me that I recognized her. She had taken one of the stray cats I had trapped in our neighborhood--about ten years ago.

Allergies were forcing her to give up Black Jack, but he had obviously been well-loved and well-cared-for this past decade. I had occasionally wondered how he was doing over the years, so to see that he had had such a loving home was heart-warming. I'm just sorry she has to give him up.

I would take him home if I thought he would be happy with us--though Denny was a bit downcast this weekend when he learned I wouldn't give Lola and Clarence up, so I can't push for more cats right now. I have a vague sense of responsibility toward Black Jack but on the other hand, he has had-- thanks to my efforts on his behalf a decade ago--ten good years with people that loved him; though not (apparently) enough to find him a new home when allergies made it impossible to keep him any longer.

Bottom line--he has had a good life but there are more outstanding cats at the Shelter. Ones that deserve the chance that he had to find humans to love them. I certainly wish him well but if he had been meant to be our cat, we would have kept him for ourselves those many years ago. He didn't fit in then and there's even less reason for him to fit in with our cats now.

I wish things were otherwise but there just aren't enough homes for them all.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

I said a prayer for the burnt-out kitties, hoping they were finding places out of the wind where they could gather some warmth. Their people had been working on getting heat in the husk of the house on Wednesday. That they could devote so much time and energy in the face of their personal disaster toward comforting and collecting their cats tells me their priorities are right and that the cats are in good hands. They won't be given up on.

It was about twenty degrees at home, but even with the brisk wind, Cissy was out in the cat run when I arrived.

My hardy Alaskan cats think that 20 degrees is fine spring weather.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Still Missing Newt

The essence of Newt still hangs around me. I can almost feel the soft caress of her cheek against my skin.

I have been so focused on how much I loved her, I sometimes forget how much she loved me. She was only a small kitten when she came to live with us, so we encompassed her whole life. Newt was never a flamboyant cat, but she loved deeply and passionately in her quiet way.

Now she hangs in the air like a faintly heard melody that still brings tears to my eyes.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Max temp: 28 degrees F
Min temp: 17 degrees F
Wind N at 40 knots

The Toe Wraiths had their flu boosters today. I planned out the confining of the kittens better than last time and actually got the two into their carriers with a minimum of struggle. They didn't like it much but after a few complaints, they hunkered down to see what would happen next. They were docile in the exam room, letting Dots exam them with a kind of numbed passivity. I know it has been said that kittens that aren't handled in the first seven weeks of life are untameable, but I have learned not to believe everything I read, especially in regard to cats. They may never out-grow their skittishness, but both Clarence and Lola have turned into loving, friendly little cats.

I am proud of them. I hope their brothers are doing as well.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Happy Birthday, Charcoal

Max temp: 43 degrees F
Min temp: 35 degrees F
Peak wind: E at 25 kts

Charcoal is a Pisces. We don't know when--exactly--she was born, but when we brought her home in November of 1994, she was seven to eight months old and had her adult teeth. Her personality revealed that she was neither Aries or Aquarius. And with those sea-green, soulful eyes--I haven't had much doubt about this ethereally-lovely, quiet, sensitive cat.

She was a sad case when I first saw her--a half-grown kitten, hunched in the kitten pen at the Animal Shelter, her back resolutely toward the door. She would turn frightened eyes toward anyone who came within the pen and try to escape any hands that would pick her up. She will be a beautiful cat, I thought, if she gets a chance to grow up.

So shy, she came very close to not growing up. The Shelter was crowded with cats and kittens. She was adopted out to a home but brought back because she tried to escape and hid when she couldn't. Such a timid cat would not make a very good pet, it was thought, and her time had run out.

I told her story to Denny. "If she's all that shy," he said, "we'll never know we have another cat." So she came to live with us.

I had hoped she might become as close to me as that other outstanding Pisces cat in my life, Kisa. But Charcoal--we call her "Charly"--is not Kisa or any one else. She is herself and the circumstances of her life have shaped her differently. She is sweet-natured and affectionate but she and I have never had the opportunity to bond as deeply as I did with Kisa, who was my sole companion for the first nine years of her life. I never have felt the subtle psychic click that marks a meeting of true minds with Charly.

But she is perhaps our most lovely cat and a soothing presence in her own quiet way. I am glad she came to live with us.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Sage

Max temp: 36 degrees F
Min temp: 26 degrees F

I spent an hour yesterday afternoon lying on the cold gravel underneath the Shelter office, trying to coax Sage, one of the office cats, close enough to grab.

She had darted out during an unguarded moment, into a sudden confrontation with a large dog tied outside, and she was under the building before anyone could grab her. The dog is sweet and gentle with cats but of course, she didn't know that.

The day was sunny and spring-like but the ground is still cold, cold, cold. I finally wormed my way out from under the building and fetched my parka to lie on. That gave me a measure of comfort but didn't sway the cat any. I slithered out from under the building several more times to return with catnip, toys and finally salmon--to no avail.

My blandishments and sweet-talk couldn't compete with freedom.

And the mouse.

It was apparent soon after I wiggled as far as I could under the building that the cat was answering to a more ancient instinct than friendship with humans. She was obviously hunting something--and I saw the silhouette of a vole-like shape against the light coming from the other side of the building. Sage was so focused that I was dismissed as a distant distraction.

After about an hour, something changed. I suspect she caught and killed the mouse while I was taking a break, because the final time I wiggled under the building with a dish of salmon, she finally came over to sniff the food and I coaxed her close enough to grab. Holding her firmly and murmuring soothing nonsense, I slinked my way out into the sunshine. She was a good cat and didn't struggle.

Once I had her back in the office, I made sure she had all the salmon she wanted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Kisa

Max temp: 38 degrees F
Min temp: 27 degrees F

Thirty years have passed since Kisa was born. I still have difficulty expressing how much this little cat has affected my life and the lessons she taught me. I will miss her forever seems like such an exaggeration, but as time passes, I find it ever more true. I still see her in dreams and always feel a pang of loneliness.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Vet Visit

Max temp: 31 degrees F
Min temp: 13 degrees F

I decided it was finally time to start the kittens on their vaccinations.

I don't hold with annual boosters and all that, but I wanted to get them some protection, especially since the cat flu has been going around the Shelter. So about one-thirty I started to round them up. I had allowed fifteen minutes to corral cats and fifteen minutes to drive into town.

I should have started rounding up cats at one.

Lola and Clarence have become friendly, affectionate little kitties but they are still not too far removed from the kittens who were born in the derelect van. It doesn't take much to panic them and once panicked, they revert to semi-feral.

Lola started struggling before I even got her downstairs and it was all I could do to cram her into the carrier and get the door shut before she bolted. I had planned to put both kittens in the same carrier so they would have each other for company but when I tried to put Clarence inside, he slithered over my shoulder and down my back--with his claws. I spent the next fifteen minutes chasing him--up the stairs, over the sofa, down the stairs, around the kitchen table, up the stairs, over the sofa, etc... The only break I got was that humans have more endurance than cats in this type of thing and he eventually gave up, hunkering down by Lena and crying with his little wussy voice. I felt so sorry for him.

By then, of course, the other cats had gotten wind that something was up. Pickle went and hid in the back room but trusting little soul that he is, I lured him out with toys.

I carried all three carriers out to the car, along with an empty one and my purse, then came back and grabbed Punkin, who realized too late that her number was up as well. (No doubt she had been congratulating herself on missing the excursion once the other carriers went out to the car...)

My stack of four carriers impressed the other clients in the waiting room but I told them, "This didn't even make a dent."

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Pickle

Max temp: 43 degrees F
Min temp: 29 degrees F
Max wind easterly at 53 kts.

Yes, it is really blowing tonight. Rather scary-sounding, and I won't be on-line long in case the power goes out.

Pickle Boy is looking a lot better over the past few days. All Dots did was give him some eyedrops but whatever has been troubling him seems to have passed and left him none the worse for wear.

I am glad. He is such a sweet, easy-going, uncomplaining little soul, I hate to think he wasn't feeling well.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Counting Noses

Max temp: 30 degrees F
Min temp: 16 degrees F
Wind southwesterly at 40 kts

This morning I dreamt that the kitchen door had come open and we were outside collecting our cats. As is often the case in dreams, while the door was undoubtedly our kitchen door, the outside area had transformed into a version of my Aunt Joy's backyard in Washington, all green lawn and sunshine.

In my sleep, I mentally went down the list of cats...Johnny, Newt, Red Fred. (Apparently my sleeping brain hasn't yet accepted the fact that Newt can't go missing any more. She is where she will be for all eternity now.) I spent considerable amount of time in my dream trying to coax Red Fred close enough to grab.

As a hangover from the dream, when I left for work this afternoon, I gave the kitchen door an especially strong tug when I closed it, making sure it was securely latched.

Still, about five pm, I had a call from Denny.

"How many cats are in the house?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I had the back door pop open while I was out working in the wood pile. I'm trying to figure out if any are missing. How many cats are in the house? I counted thirteen."

Well, I know we have twenty-eight cats but to come up with the number actually in the main house off the top of my head was hard. I started with the ones that would be the most difficult to retrieve.

"Is Grendel in?"

"I've seen Grendel. She's in."

"How about Clarence and Lola? Are the Toe-Wraiths in?"

"Yeah, the Toe-Wraiths are inside..."

"Okay, let's see--Punkin, Dinky, Bunny..."

"Yeah, they're here..."

I finally had to log in to the cats' webpage to get a roll to call. I am sure that given a few minutes, I could have come up with a list but I didn't want to risk overlooking someone, not with the wild winds and weather.

We finally determined that there should be fourteen cats in the main area of the house. Since Pickle Boy had gone into the back rooms to visit with "the bros", that left the thirteen that Denny had accounted for.

Still, I did another nose count when I got home. Just to make sure.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Remembrances

Smoothing a blanket over the newly-cleared half of the sofa upstairs, I noticed a pink stain--a small smount of dried liquid--and my heart twisted. Amoxicillin. A spill left as evidence of the fight to save Rosie's life, just a year past. (I haven't washed that blanket in a year? I guess being folded in the laundry basket didn't give it much use but still...)

For years after Kisa died, I kept--unwashed--a jacket that still bore the blurred, muddy imprints of her paws...

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Max temp: 23 degrees F
Min temp: 10 degrees F

There was a new face outside at the food dish this morning. I looked out the kitchen window while rinsing off my hands and a pale face was looking back up at me. "Hello, Kitty," I said, ever ready with the witty repartee. I opened the door to offer him some fresh (ie, unfrozen) wet cat food but he scurried off under one of the trucks.
I think--from the glimpse I got of him--he is an orange tabby. (And I use "he" because orange cats run about 75-80% male due to feline genetics that I won't bore you with here.) Maybe when he learns we mean him no harm, he will be less skittish. Maybe he's just a neighbor, making his rounds. One can only hope...

I dreaded getting up this morning, so set the coffee pot on auto-brew so there'd be coffee and set the alarm to allow me an hour and a half to leave the house. I taped SNL (Elijah Wood) but still sat up 'til damned near one watching TV anyway. And with one-two-three-four-five-six cats on the bed clustered around and on top of me in various constellations, I had to wake up numerous times during the night to negotiate any change of position.

Still, after the alarm rang and I had downed a cup of coffee, I didn't feel half bad.

It is getting noticeably lighter by eight-thirty in the morning. We are just over a week away from Candlemas /Groundhog's Day--the half-way mark between winter solstice and spring equinox. Halfway there, though that doesn't mean much this far north, since spring doesn't really get here until May...

I do wish Pickle would start looking better. I suppose I will be taking him back to the vet this week but I don't have anything new to show them. I could try to come up with a stool sample but in a multi-cat household, that isn't as simple as it sounds. I mean, coming up it some cat crap is no problem at all, but being sure that said sample belongs to Pickle entails following him around for hours at a time...

Damn, I have such a glamourous life!

Friday, January 23, 2004

Max temp: 29 degrees F
Min temp: 17 degrees F
Oh, and there's probably eighteen-to-twenty-four inches of snow on the ground...

I saw our pheasant around noon today, enthusiastically eating the sunflower seeds I had thrown out for the birds and ignoring the chicken scratch feed I had bought Just For Him.

In related news, the stray cats indicate that they Would Rather Starve than eat the Precise dry food I bought for them. Probably because it has real cranberries... (Don't fret--they had access to their usual Iams Active Maturity dry food as well...)

Glad I didn't buy big bags of the stuff. I suppose someone in our crowd will eat it...

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Max temp: 38 degrees F (just after midnight)
Min temp: 30 degrees F
Wind southwesterly at 36 kts

I heard something that sounded like rain but then turned into ice falling last night after I went to bed.
I woke up with a splitting sinus headache--almost sick-to-your-stomach intensity. I crawled out of bed long enough to start coffee, feed Sunny and Toby and then grab some Benadryl tablets. It took two cups of coffee and a second dose of medication before I felt like I could function. I had all the cat boxes to clean as I had skipped them yesterday. I also needed to give Toby and BeBe some change of scenery from their separate confinements.

Picky's eyes are still veiled. I wish I knew what was bothering him. He eats and plays as usual. He absolutely hates the medication Elaine gave me--the big horse-sized pills I have to cut in half. Even the halves aren't that petite. He foamed at the mouth and drooled so badly after the first dose that I haven't repeated it.

So on the chance that he is suffering gastic distress, I cooked up some slippery elm syrup and dosed him (and Punkin too while I was at it.) In good faith, I suppose I should try to get one of the pills down him this evening, just so I can give it a fair trial. His ailment doesn't appear serious but we don't know, do we?

I filled out a cat survey yesterday. I hadn't realized that we have 21 cats aged eight years or older.

Lola and Clarence are the youngest of course. Then Frannie and BeBe are probably the next youngest... Sunny, if the information we got from her previous owner is correct, is eighteen. The vet clinic's earliest record for her showed either her birthdate or first clinic visit was in October 1986.

It would seem there is a shit-load of grief waiting for us down the road.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Max temp: 42 degrees F
Min temp: 30 degrees F
Winds easterly at 25 kts

Up early this morning (7:30, early by my lights) to go to the Shelter. This is the last week that I will be covering PD's shift but I may continue to get up early to do my volunteer bit even when I am back to my regular schedule. The work goes much faster without the social component, and since the Shelter doesn't open until 11, I can work undisturbed.

I opened the door to plug the Chevy in and rain was pouring off the roof. The temperature was near forty, so plugging the Chevy in was probably not necessary... I thought about it for a few minutes then decided that I'd drive the Suburban today. If the road got too soft, I might need the 4-wheel-drive option. So I went through the shop ("Good morning, kitties...") and plugged the Suburban in. Because it had been sitting in the sub-zero temperatures since the last time it had been run.

I made some coffee, then checked the woodstove, and watched the morning news while I drank two cups. About 8:30, I headed into town.

It wasn't a bad morning at the Shelter. There were three empty cages and the cats in residence were all very nice. People have been trapping and bringing in strays during the cold snap, but we have finally had some good adoptions so the population hasn't increased.

I sang to the cats as I worked in the quiet morning--the songs I had made up for Kisa and Newt and some others that came to me.

We seem to have hit a run of white kitties lately--there were four currently in residence. It is funny how it seems to go in spurts. A few months ago, all we seemed to get were black cats. Then it was black-and-white cats. I told Sherry we should have a January White Sale...

I got all the cats done by eleven, then Sherry showed up and we chatted for about twenty-five minutes. Then I had to head to Save-U-More for dry cat food (I forgot it when I went shopping on Monday). I bought two small bags of Precise dry cat food--will see if the strays like it. It seemed like a high quality food and I want to give them the best nutrition I can during the winter. And three big bags of Iams for our cats. And some Jonny Cat for the Shelter. And a couple of boxes of Litter Perfect for me. And a bag of dry kitten food for Clarence and Lola...

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Max temp: 39 degrees F
Min temp: 25 degrees F
Wind northeast at 25 kts

In the past 48 hours the temperature has gone from minus ten to near 40--the bank thermometer showed 42 degrees in the heat of the day. MH is right--if the temperature would stay 20 degrees all winter, life would be good.

Saw the gray-and-white stray heading for the brown van this noon. I think there is still a box full of insulation covered with rags that I put out there for Wild Red many years ago. There is something that makes the van attractive to strays at any rate, so I trust he is staying sheltered and warm enough.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Max temp: 35 degrees F
Min temp: -10 degrees F
Winds easterly 25-35 kts
Snow

The wind started blowing this morning, when the temperature was still below zero, but by the time they began to really howl, driving fine, dry snow out of the east, the temperature had risen to sixteen degrees or so. The gain in air temperature was off-set by windchill, but it was good to see the cruel cold begin to abate.

I saw the tracks of the gray tabby this morning, so he has weathered the cold, and the black cat was by this evening to eat so I know he is okay. I haven't seen any sign of the pheasant since Denny and I watched him on Friday.