Sunday, October 21, 2007

1997 - 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007


There had been a hard frost overnight along the shoreline. Dry green leaves fell from the alders in the faint morning breeze. I watched them from the waiting room at the vet clinic, thinking what an apt metaphor for Tiny's life they made.

In my lap, wrapped in a plush blanket, Tiny drifted in and out of consciousness.

Her life had never been easy. There had been joy and love but above all, there had been pain. Crippled at an early age by human abuse, the little cat was stunted; her health was always fragile. She had been on pain medication for several years just so she could move around. Over the last few weeks, her movements had grown more awkward and difficult. For the past five days, she had barely moved at all.

We had known this decision was coming--we anticipated making it for the last two or three years. We knew the day would come when medical treatments would not be enough. We agonized over having to make that decision, but her sudden deterioration made the decision easy.

She was worn out and at the end of her strength. There was grief but no second-guessing our decision. Just sadness. Sadness that the bright and loving little spirit had been trapped in a crippled, painful body. Sadness that her potential had been stunted.

She was only ten years old. Under other circumstances, she could have expected another four or five years of life. Instead, like the frost-burned but still-green leaves falling outside, her life drew to its premature conclusion in the quiet veterinary clinic. All I could think of to tell her as she was released from her painful body was that I loved her and I was sorry.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Skinny's Back!

It took until 3:30 this morning, but we finally have all the occupants back in The House of Many Cats.

It took a combination of high- and low-tech efforts to get her back inside the house.

Denny spent an hour or so yesterday hooking up a couple of monitor cameras to our in-home system, adding a view of the back deck/cat condo area and one that monitored the pet door of the cat condo from inside the spare bedroom. So we could see if anyone entered the cat condo from outside and if they came through the pet flap.

The low-tech approach was the fishing line and weight we rigged from the condo door to the bedroom window. All I needed to do if a cat entered the enclosure was give a tug to shut the door and the weight would keep the door from opening again.

So all left to do then was sit and wait.

Because I had to get up for work at 4:30-ish this morning, Denny said he would stay up to watch the trap. Of course, he fell asleep soon after dinner, but I was not sleeping well anyway so I found myself napping as I kept one eye on the television screens. One was set to the back door cam and the other to the spare-room cam so between the two, I had the cat flap covered.

I had hoped to see our skinny little girl show up right after sunset but the hours of darkness stretched out without a sign of her. I got up periodically to check the live traps, just in case, but no luck there either.

About two I woke up noticed that the outside camera view seemed to show a cat silhouette but the inside cam didn't show anyone in the bedroom downstairs. I glanced back at the outside cam in time to see a faint outline of a skinny black cat scamper across the deck away from the house.

I had missed her. If she had been in the condo, she wasn't there now and who knew when she would come back. I got up, put some wood in the fire, double-checked the spare room and went back to bed. About an hour later, I woke up to see the same cat-shape silhouetted against the window downstairs. This time I didn't even think about it--I yanked the string.

Denny woke up during the excitement so while I ran down to bolt the condo door, I could hear him yelling that we had a cat. But when I checked the spare room, she was no where to be seen. I dashed outside with a flashlight to double-check the condo--maybe she had run back outside and was hiding in the litter box?


But as I played the light over the cat flap, I saw a black head peek out from inside the house--Skinny.

"Hi there, baby!"

A huge weight lifted off me right then. She was back in the house. I only had to check four or five times before I let myself believe it. Skinny ran upstairs and comforted herself with the familiar confines of the ferals' hidey-box in the corner. I had to look in a couple times to convince my heart that she was really home before I went back to bed and slept the best I have since she and Bart got out.

I can cope with the lack of sleep today because my heart is happy.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Happy To Be Here

This is Bart being happy to be inside and warm this morning.

About an hour after I got home from work last night, I went downstairs to get something from the kitchen. Even before I got to the foot of the stairs, I could feel the chill. The door was standing part-way open and the cold night air was streaming in. As I hit the landing, I caught a glimpse of Skinny on the front porch steps but when she saw me, she went running. Oh no! I knew there wasn't a hope in hell that she could be called back to the house. She is one of the most wild of the cats. Taming her was always something I put off for later...

I closed the door, hollered for Denny and we began a nose count. I was relieved that Grendel was still in her den upstairs but Bart was missing.

On the minus side, there would be no coaxing Skinny to come to us and even though I know Bart loves us, I didn't know if he would come to our calling.

On the plus side, both Skinny and Bart were experienced outdoor cats. Bart lived for several years in our yard before we trapped in him 2005 and Skinny had hung around the yard for several months in 2004 before we lured her through the door. They were both wary and knew the hiding spots.

Contrary to popular notions, cats are homebodies and rarely "run away." They can get lost and they can get scared and hide but generally they will stick close to their home.

And it was cold and windy--not very enticing weather for cats who have slept warm and safe for the past few years.

We felt fairly sure that given the chance, both Bart and Skinny would want to be back inside. We just had to find a way to get them back in without letting any more cats out.

We decided to close up the spare bedroom and open the outside door of the cat condo, hoping that the cats who have spent so much time sitting there looking out would realize that it was a way to get back in. We could peer through cracks in the stairs and through the wall vent from the living room to see if any cats were in the bedroom and then sneak out and shut the condo from the outside before anyone could get spooked and dart back out. I also set the live trap and put it by the front door where we could watch in on the monitor camera. Just in case.

I went out a couple times after midnight with a flashlight, calling for Bart. He answered me once and I saw the glint of his eyes up by the fuel tank but he wouldn't come to me and when I walked up there, he melted away into the darkness. About one am I saw him briefly on the front door camera but when I went outside, he was no where to be seen. I took a chair out and sat there for about twenty minutes, hoping he might come to me, but he never did. Cold and tired, I went back up to bed.

I got up about three to check the spare room--no luck.

About five, I came awake gradually, aware of a warm, purring body snuggling next to me. I opened my eyes and saw Denny standing by the bed, looking down at me with a smile. I looked at the cat purring under my hands--and it was Bart!

"He was sitting on the cat tree in the spare room when I checked," Denny told me.

It was a very nice way to wake up. We still have to find Skinny but I am probably about as happy as Bart is this morning.