Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stories Continued and Concluded...

The first thing the new girl did when sprung from her carrier was to look around, and spying the sofa, make a beeline for the farthest corner beneath it. Angel, meanwhile, sat across the room silently waiting to see what the wee girl would do. Hours passed until Samantha grew tired of her perch and dove under the sofa, emerging with a loudly meowing kitten in her grasp. Planting her in the middle of the rug, both older females circled, sniffed and looked her over, ultimately deciding she was harmless. This time, Angel took the lead, dragging the newcomer off to the litter box and then marching her past two sets of food and water bowls to a third, and swatting her when she ventured too close to the bowls that were not hers.

Bedtime was another hurdle. Just who would sleep where was decided when, after Sam and Angel found our kitten curled inside a hand knitted lap blanket, they both determined to go there as well. For years thereafter the three would sleep nestled together there on the bed while I was often made to feel completely in the way.

Phoebe as she came to be called, was a hider, terribly ill at ease with any human other than me and only at home with Sam and Angel. Terrified of any outside noise, the vacuum, toys that made sounds, the radio or computer, she spent large portions of the day beneath furniture or in my bedroom closet. Anxiety resulted in a condition known as PICA, in which cats eat non-biologic items such as bits of plastic, dolls feet, coins or other items. They do not ever stop once they start and Phoebe experienced two abdominal surgeries which saved her life but resulted in a very spartan house in which few things are ever left out.

When in her fourth year Jacob was introduced into our family,  her fears intensified and it wasn't until Sam, and then Angel, passed away that Phoebe became slightly more outgoing and began seeking human contact.

Samantha died at the age of fifteen of cancer in 2008. Angel was seventeen at her death in November 2012 snd Phoebe was sixteen at her departure in 2016. Those of you who read regularly have seen the story of Jacob, the sweetest and most inquisitive of the bunch.

They all taught me so much, not only about accepting quirks, foibles and differences in temperament but about the bond between human and animal, the strength of which intensifies with time and the challenges of daily living. I now recognize this as precious and know that I actually prefer the company of animals to that of most humans. The fact of several close friends having died prematurely in recent years only heightens this for me.

I hope the new year is kind to all of you who visit here. Thank you for your care in reading and commenting. I look forward to further adventures in 2018.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Spunky Angel and More...

As Angel grew, she became the consummate opinionated Siamese, expressing her views and vocalizing freely. She loved high places and the chance to surprise whomever she could by suddenly launching herself from a counter or cabinet top. It took patience from both Samantha and me to teach this little mite that she would be fed regularly and consistently and did not therefore need to scale our kitchen garbage can for scraps. She did not adjust well as a bottle baby, and we never learned anything about when her feline mother was lost to her. There was speculation, based upon her behavior, that Angel lost her mother early and therefore developed a reliance on whatever morsels she could scrounge. While Sam swiftly corrected her table manners, Angel's fear of not getting enough to eat remained with her until middle age. As Sam aged, Angel became her helpmate. The two groomed each other and slept together in a ball at the end of my bed or splayed across my legs until another little girl found our home.

It was the spring of 2000 when a co-worker brought in two feral kittens. She took the female blue point Siamese, leaving her all black golden-eyed sister up for grabs. Her first stop? My office, dubbed the Little Gray Cell, a take off of a line from Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Unsure of how she would respond to me, I sat quietly as her carrier was opened on my desk. She sniffed, looked around, walked up to my face, climbed up my shoulder and draped herself around my neck, meowing. For good measure, she also attempted to sit on my head which happily did not last long.

Bringing her to the vet after work, I discovered that the scales around her tail and backside were actually a raging case of potentially contagious ringworm. The phone call to my office informing them of this was particularly delightful. Fortunately, she was able to stay at the vet until medication cleared things up.

Her homecoming to the flat I live in presently entailed loud wailing as she spared no-one her dislike of riding in the car. Sam sniffed the carrier, gave me the evil eye, pushed Angel toward the still nameless newcomer and stationed herself on our sofa to watch further developments...To be Continued...

My Spunky Angel...

You've no doubt heard the phrase, "Small but mighty." The beautiful, petite creature in this photo came into my life one dark night in September, 1996. I was at work and busily posting my activities on shift when a noise broke the quiet. Walking toward the side door out to a drive way, I paused to grab a broom thinking that I might need to somehow defend myself.

What awaited me, however, was not another human but a clowder, which scattered into darkness and the safety of foliage, at my approach. Feral cats were common in many neighborhoods then and the nineties saw a rise in TNR efforts as well as rescue groups and county shelters in an attempt to deal with the problem.

The immediate situation demanded clean up, so the broom was put to good use. As I bent to place one of the larger bins upright, a loudly mewling ball of fur moved into my hand and I found myself staring at the most intense eyes I had yet to encounter. No bigger than my palm, this kitten was clearly hungry and from the looks of things, motherless.

Lacking anything feline at my worksite, I took her into the office, found a small box and a towel and wrapped her up while I went in search of water.  She wasn't having it, and insisted on clawing through the cloth until free and then sitting next to my work notes, watching intently. I left and returned at intervals throughout the night. As she observed this routine, she would move to and from the safety of the box. Finally, as dawn was breaking, she ventured tentatively into my lap, her mewling supplanted by constant purring.

As I placed the tiny seductress on the floor of my car and made a beeline for Samantha's vet's office, I thought about leaving her there for adoption. Bathed, given medication for ear mites, freed of fleas, fed and pronounced fit for a home after blood work, I was presented a bill for $200, given a bag of food and a bottle and kitten milk. When I protested, the vet simply smiled and said, "She'll need vaccines and spaying in the next six weeks." With that, she disappeared, leaving me with a strange kitten and no earthly idea of how to integrate her into a 450 foot space already occupied by a cat.

Sam took one look at the box, drew her head back, hissed at me for the first and only time in her life and promptly stomped away, sitting with her back to me on our bed. It wasn't until the kitten climbed out and walked over to her that Samantha's ire retreated. Seeing the skinny girl for the baby she was, Samantha did what any reasonable adult female would do, she took charge.

Grooming, sleeping, eating, stalking and playing filled their days together as did lessons in manners and hierarchy. When Angel attempted to steal Sam's food, she was seized by the scruff of the neck and dropped in her own bowl. If she failed to bury her litter appropriately, into the box she was hauled until the task was be continued...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sam II

The second Sam in my life met me in August of 1993. She was a beautiful, just-spayed Korat that had been found wandering the property of a gentleman. After placing a "Lost Cat" ad in the paper and getting no response, he took her to a local cat hospital where a rescuer happened to spot her, and knowing I was on the look-out for a cat, called me.

The next afternoon, new carrier in hand, I found myself at a woman's door, excited to see this foundling. A heart-shaped face and big eyes peered at me from the security of her arms, and after some short questions, I placed the cat gently inside her box, and we were off.

Once in my tiny apartment, she strolled slowly around, eventually making her way into the minuscule bathroom and my galley kitchen. House trained, she quickly located her litter box, the softest spot on the bed and the only chair in my front room. I stretched out on the floor and watched her, waiting to see if she would come to me.

The breed, native to Thailand, is known for its lustrous fur and a quiet, sweet demeanor. It is believed to symbolize good fortune. This cat, true to that description, walked over to me, sniffed my shoes, and then climbed me as one might a tree, stopping only when her nose met the tip of mine. After gazing at me for what seemed an eternity, she began to purr and did not stop until she had fallen asleep in the crook of my neck.

Days passed and we reached an easy routine. After trying several names, we both chose Samantha, a moniker I felt she would grow into and the one to which she responded. She was to become the queen of our small home, a devoted companion with whom I slept, played and dreamed for the next fifteen years. Along the way, she would patiently mother two more foundling kittens, Angel and Phoebe, and teach a rambunctious young Jacob his place. She taught me what it means to fully commit to an animal and provided the direction I needed to make a home for us both, and the cats that came after. Sadly, I only have one photo of her which her original rescuer provided me after Sam's death in 2008. Lacking a scanner, it is not on this computer though I keep it close at hand.

Until Next Time...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

She Who Hesitates...

Hesitation...Every time I visit the Pet Finders, the website featuring all sorts of pets for adoption, I search what appear to me to be an overwhelming number of cats in my area, most as close as one mile away. There are photos galore, and it becomes an exercise in overstimulation. I leave feeling a bit frustrated and sometimes verging on tears.

The only conclusions I've drawn are that, apart from being a big softie and wanting to home several which would be not only a lot of work but unrealistic at this point, I've never adopted this way, and I still miss my boy. Someone suggested a hamster, gerbil, bunny or other small pet. Though sensible, I just don't warm to them as well and really know nothing about them.

The very first pet I remember as a small child was my mother's cat, an adopted tuxedo we named Sam. Unlike Jacob, Sam was a largely outdoor cat who loved to wander. Apparently, at one point making his way into the area of the commissary from which bedding and furniture were sold, he inflicted such heavy damage on the underside of a mattress that my mother was forced to pay for it.

I was four when Sam came to stay, and I still harbor vague memories of the evening my mother put me in the back of her car and drove to what I would learn was the pound. I have no recall of any discussion about getting or caring for a pet.

Instructed to stay in the car and keep the doors locked, my mother cracked my window ever so slightly before beating a hasty retreat into an unfamiliar building. She emerged with a loudly meowing feline whose cries only increased in volume as we made our way home.

Sam, as we were quickly to discover, was neither a lap cat nor very affectionate, unless he was hungry. After eating his weight in Puss'n Boots, he would station himself at the front door, and failing to achieve escape, would then roam the apartment. When this proved unsatisfactory, he could often be heard scaling the the shelves in the bathroom, our kitchen or my bedroom. This was because, though a nascent master of stealth, he determined that his angst would only attain the desired result if he succeeded in knocking things around. The faster and louder he did so, the sooner an angry human would put him out.

That he lived in a humid, tropical paradise teeming with an endless array of avian, reptilian and other life forms phased him not in the slightest. I recall the day he cornered a rat as big as he was. It was later found on our doorstep, a gift of the hunt to his frequently annoyed human. Sadly for Sam, he departed the planet within four years, a middle-aged cat who might have lived longer had my mother fully understood the dangerous allure of the world beyond our door.

Until Next Time...

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday Surprise...

Yesterday found me feeling a bit overstuffed from a sweet Hanukkah gathering at the home of friends the night before. They both cook, so the food is always wonderful and the latkes were homemade. With fourteen including a teen and tween, there was a lot of laughter and conversation and our hosts gifted each of us with Hanukkah tees especially for the occasion. The meal was followed by sufganiyot or fried donuts rolled in cinnamon or powdered sugar and cookies provided by one of the guests.

Earlier on Saturday, I had checked our local paper online for the obituary of my most recently departed friend, and found it. There is something about seeing a death notice in print that really says, "gone."  The brevity of facts and recitation of accomplishments or survivorship hardly do justice to the depth and breadth of the individual or one's relationship to them.

By Sunday, all I wanted was the peace of a slow day. As an introvert, I crave quiet, particularly after social gatherings, and so, slept in. An afternoon phone call found me still in pajamas as two longtime friends rang requesting a visit. Luckily, I've known them for 25 years and though we'd not seen each other in quite some time, they are so laid back that neither was offended by my attire. When asked what they'd been up to, the male of the couple responded that it was the season for Jews to play Santa. He has the bushy beard and girth for the job, and a wonderful voice for singing carols and had been the focal point of a party at a local tea room. We spent a wonderful afternoon catching up and then had an impromptu dinner of Greek take-away. As they now live forty-five minutes from here, I'm not sure when we'll see each other again but I'll be in touch.

Wishing you all a good week.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

At least someone has the spirit...

Notice the antlers?

Someone has some holiday humor...

As for me, I'm tired...of losing pets, friends, things...

I hope the new year is better and brings back my now de-flated sense of optimism. I have a couple of painful and longstanding anniversaries this month and though I am glad to have survived them, and grateful for those people and things remaining and for my well being, I am also a wee bit down. That epitomizes this season for many. Perhaps this year I just feel it more keenly.

One of you wrote about the need for routine and mine has been disrupted. I do not find it as easy to bounce back or re-direct my energies. The advice from my friendly mental health professional is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and take things a day at a time. As with most pieces of advice, it is the execution rather than the concept which leaves something to be desired. It would help if I did not see the country I live in being dismantled.

I've decided to focus on what I am thankful for by trying to notice small things and writing them down daily. This may help trick my brain and perk up my mood. Every little bit helps. Additionally, I've decided to take a serious look at my handling of household variable expenditures and do some tweaking. I've found a community of frugal folk and I'm hoping to set and meet some goals along those lines. Though the place is lonely without an animal companion, I need to determine whether pet insurance and a mobile vet are viable options for me. Investigating service dog opportunities is another item on my agenda, though dogs are a lot of work to keep properly. I've also decided to spend more time writing and reduce my time on social media. I'll still post regularly here and read when I can.

Until Next Time...

Net Neutrality Regulations Rescinded...Now What?

The head of the FCC and his minions have just voted to repeal Internet regulatory measures designed to provide equal access to all Internet sites, regulate pricing to avoid gouging and provide low-cost broadband for seniors and others of low income as the world continues to do more of its business online. These were put in place by the Obama administration.

The repeal now allows Internet providers to charge as they choose, bundle site packages for customers as cable providers do, devote higher speeds at greater cost and snail speeds to those who cannot afford the increases. The repeal also permits Internet providers to restrict access to sites, making it possible that the free-roaming late night Internet forays we've all grown accustomed to will be a thing of the past.

Beyond the individual at home, groups of users will also likely see changes. These include libraries of all types, classrooms and other heavily Internet reliant institutions. Free Internet through your library may be restricted, and if you like ambling into the local Starbucks and setting up your laptop, the now free WIFI may not get you where you choose to go, and if you can get there, a fee may be attached. Paying bills online? That may become fee for service over and above the cost of broadband.

More to come in the weeks ahead, and this despite pushback attempts by consumers. Congress can overturn this but given the make up of our current legislative bodies, it isn't likely...

Blogging may have just become expensive, and corporations don't care.

We'll see in the next few weeks how things shake out.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saturday and Beyond...

It was a beautiful day here and though I was a bit nervous, the meet and greet memorial lunch for my friend went off well. The company was friendly and warm hearted, the stories many and the food was good. She would have loved sitting outside and having musical accompaniment as we did. In fact, I do not think she could have ordered a better afternoon for herself or any of us.

Since her passing four weeks ago, I've been thinking about how friends fill our lives and what that can mean for those of us not at home in or close to our families of origin. If I died tomorrow, my remaining family would have no clue who my friends are, which of them I spend the most time with or in whom I confide. Truthfully, I doubt they would care.

In meeting the neighbors, friends and a former colleague of my friend, it became readily apparent just how compartmentalized her life had been. Several of us knew a lot about portions of her life that others knew nothing of at all and it was rather an odd sensation for me to realize that of all of those assembled, only two or three of us knew her for slightly more than a decade.

This is partly because she moved a lot before settling into a house in her current neighborhood, a place which sadly, she only enjoyed for a little over two years before her death. An old hippie at heart, she strove to satisfy a wonderfully creative mind beyond the bounds of convention. Despite two advanced degrees, after a short stint in the hallowed halls of academia, she decided to work alone as a translator, researcher and writer, a situation which though it suited her spirit, did little for her bank account. Of the multitude of talents and interests she possessed, befriending diverse people of varied backgrounds came to the fore at this gathering.

She lived a life of the mind, rich in experiences including time abroad, study, music, reading, writing, editing, language immersion and fun with friends drawn from everywhere she ever set foot. While in need of solitude and privacy, my friend also threw parties, cooked and loved to play either guitar or piano, and sing.

She is also responsible for my nascent interest in the music of Stephane Grappelli and Django Rhinehardt. Unlike the late and much-lamented Django, however, though I also play left-handed, my mastery of the small Taylor guitar she helped me select remains minimal.

It was our mutual love of the Spanish language, writing, editing, research, libraries and books as well as the commonality of graduate school and having lived abroad that drew us together initially. What cemented our friendship despite distance, great changes and the passage of time? A bit of adoration and a lot of respect. I adored her brain and the places it took us in conversation. We could talk about almost anything and did. I will miss her voice in my ear, her laughter and the sometimes cryptic text messages I would find on my phone. The last of these, dated October 25, says simply,"Much love to you."

Her last request was to be scattered over the bay of her childhood home. It seems no matter how far afield some of us roam, the bonds and memories of our most formative time on the planet pull us back, sometimes literally, to the start, at the end.

Until Next Time...