Wednesday, November 26, 2003

You Can Close Your Eyes

Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning around
And I still love you


Little Black Newt is gone.

I took her in yesterday afternoon, just as the day was ending.

I knew the time was close when I got home from work on Monday. Her eyes wore a faint haze of pain and she complained whenever I lifted her. She was wobbly on her feet, but her appetite was good and I still clung to the hope that she would go peacefully in her sleep.

As if I didn't know better than that, after fifteen years together. Tenacious, intense Newt wouldn't let go of life easily. Not without help.

I brought her up on the bed with me Monday evening several times, and gave her some fluids, but I dozed off and when I woke, she had wandered off. I wanted her to sleep with me that night, to hang on to the last few moments of peaceful togetherness, but she was restless, as if seeking something, and when I would rouse and go look for her, I would find her lying wearily in the back room or at the foot of the stairs. I can't imagine what a perilous and tiring journey the trip downstairs was for her...

Tuesday morning, when I found her collapsed in the litterbox, unable to right herself and get out without help--I knew it was time. I dashed around, preparing the carrier and waiting for the vet's office to open so I could call. But as I was cleaning the cat boxes to dissipate my nervous energy, I asked myself what my hurry was. Why was I in such a rush? Was I rushing to out-run the inevitable or to avoid thinking about what was to come?

So I made the appointment for the late afternoon--we would have one last day together.

I tempted her with all her favorite foods, but she just turned her face away from my offerings.

Her hindquarters grew weaker. I found her lying half in and half out of her sleeping box, as if her legs had given out as she tired to climb in. I helped her into her sanctuary and sat on the floor with my hand inside the box, resting on her as she lay there quietly.

From time to time during the day, I would go and sit with her, putting my hand in to feel her breathing. I put my favorite Christmas CD on downstairs and turned on tree lights. I had wanted Newt to see one last Christmas and this was the best I could do for her. Or for me. The whole day was--all in all--painful and too short.

There was a part of me that was recoiling from the reality. I kept finding things to do, keeping myself busy so I wouldn't think too much about what was coming. Then I realized that this was unfair to Newt. I was frittering away her last day--our last chance to spend time together before eternity took her. I forced myself to slow down, to stop my busy work and go back and visit with her, touch her, tell her I loved her.

I planned on running my errands before the vet appointment, so that the truck would be warm for Newt's final ride but I found myself with time on my hands and decided to go ahead and run my errands early so I could spend some quiet time with Newt before we had to go.

While pumping gas in the cold wind, I gave myself a mental shake for my lingering indecision--she's old and she's tired and she's in pain--just let her go. I knew I had to--but it was one of the hardest things I have yet to do.

I got back home with nearly an hour to spend with Newt. She was lying where I had left her. I gently carried her in and placed her on the bed, then sat on the floor with my arm along her back, feeling her warmth. She purred a little at my touch but mostly we just sat together in the darkened room in silent companionship.

The memory of those quiet moments are sweet. I wish I could have frozen time and stayed like that with her forever.

But too soon it was time to start the truck and bring the carrier up from where it had sat warming all day next to the wood stove. I tucked a hot water bottle in one end of it and laid the plush cat blanket inside. Then I gathered up her insubstantial little form and put her inside. She protested weakly but quieted down once we were in the truck and on our way.

The sun was setting in clear colors of peach and blush and blue as we pulled up to the vet clinic. In fifteen minutes, Newt was gone, too.

I held her, looking into her eyes as they grew more unfocused and distant, as she grew more limp in my arms. The end is always so quiet--but the final twitch of her lips as her heart stopped just about broke my own heart.

It hurts so much to let her go, my little Newt, my silky black kitty. How I hated to let you slip into your final sleep, because I will miss you so.

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes
It's all right


Driving back up Baycrest with my sad burden, I recalled the tiny black kitten who had ridden up that hill with me fifteen years ago. She had settled into the warmth between my knees as I worked the clutch on the Datsun and stayed there, purring, all the way home...

I suppose it sounds sick or morbid, but I drew some comfort from preparing her for burial. I suppose some of it is the psychological need to convince my heart that she really was dead. I had to stifle my urge to protest when Dots had curled her body ("just like she came into the world") into the moisture-proof bag--"But she can't breath in there..." On the trip back home, I found myself driving with the extra care I always did when I had one of the cats with me even though Newt was past caring how quickly I cornered or braked.

I had washed a scrap of plush, white fabric to wrap her in. I spread it out and laid her on it, curled in the compact shape of a sleeping cat. There was a bittersweet comfort in touching her dear body, the familiar thick black fur, hanging on to the sensation for as long as I could. Weeks ago, I had found her collar with her name tag. I slipped my silver ring on to it before placing it around her neck. I let my hungry fingers caress her just a few more times before wrapping the fabric around her and binding it with strips of linen. No Egyptian princess was ever prepared for eternity with more loving--or heartbroken--hands.

What a small package she made.

So much of her essence seemed to imbue that parcel, I couldn't bring myself to put it out in the cold just yet. I tucked a sprig of autumnal-colored silk flowers under on of the strips of linen and added a black raven's feather before I zipped the bag closed around her and put her in the back hall.

So this old world must still be spinning around
And I still love you

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Reprieve

I couldn't do it.

I thought I was prepared. I had set the alarm for eight-o-clock this morning--just enough time to get up, preheat the car, throw on some clothes and go.

I gave Newt the last of the second bag of fluids last night. She showed some interest in eating but several hours later it all came back up. I washed her face and paws and brought her up on the bed to sleep with me. She stayed, softly purring, for fifteen or twenty minutes but then she wanted to go into the back room again.

The night was long. I had turned the furnace up and kept the woodstove loaded because I fancied she may have been cold. She has grown so thin, it is hard for me to imagine otherwise, but she seems to prefer the quiet and seclusion of the back rooms, which are the coolest in the house, so I don't know...

I woke once during the night to find she had joined me again on the bed, but she stayed only a few minutes before drifting off again.

I woke about seven and lay in bed listening to the morning news. After a while, I got up and checked Newt. She was resting in the back room. I began to clean and warm the cat carrier. I put a soft plush blanket in the bottom and a bottle of hot water, slipped inside woolen socks, on either end.

When the alarm finally went off, I thought, "In an hour, this will all be over..." I went into the bedroom and shut it off.

I dressed in the houseclothes I had worn yesterday--wanting to smell familiar and comforting to Newt. I went outside and started the car to let it warm up. I put my purse and the carrier out in the car. Then there didn't seem anything more to do but gather Newt up in a soft blanket and carry her out.

Carrying her out of the house that has been her home for the last fifteen years--the house that grew around her. I let her lay swaddled in my lap rather than putting her in the carrier. She eventually relaxed and purred as we took to the highway. Her little paws pressed and relaxed against my hands, kneading my skin gently.

I drove down Baycrest with tears pouring down my face.

It just didn't feel right. Waiting in the small room for Dots, I was seized with the desire to scoop Newt up and just leave, take her back home. There was just too much life left in her. She was still soldiering along. To take her life from her now, while she was still fiercely engaged in maintaining herself, would rob her of something I couldn't replace. I would be crushing out some bright spark... I couldn't do that indignity to her resolute little soul.

Dots was most patient with my indecision, trying to be supportive of whatever I decided. So, Newt came back home, with another bag of sub-Q fluids and some anti-nausea medications.

Yes, every day is a quiet agony for me, because I can see someone I love slipping away. I can project into the future to the time when there will be no Newt, just the memories of the years we have shared. So I grieve in advance for my loss. But Newt doesn't see that--she follows her own path, her own destiny. Until I am sure it is *her* suffering I am abating, I can bear with my own.

I know she is going to die. I have no faith that she will last out the month or see Christmas--but until the fire goes out of her eyes, until she is tired of fighting, I will do what I can for her, so she can die in her own time, in her own way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

And If I Could Pray...

Say a little prayer for Newt tomorrow morning....

She was so disoriented and wobbly this morning, I knew. I called to make an appointment but my favorite vet wasn't working today. The visiting vet could see us this afternoon, or I could wait until tomorrow for Dots. Having made one decision, having to make another one threw me off step. I was embarrassed by how choked up I got on the phone. I have been expecting Newt to die any day for well over a month but finally talking to someone about it brought out all my emotions. I finally told the clinic I would call back when I had made a decision.

Newt had asked to go out into the shop before I got on the phone, so I went out to talk with her. She was curled on the steps by the door into the house and I sat next to her and curled myself around her and started crying like a baby. She pushed her little paws against me and pressed her head against my lips. Fifteen years. It is so hard to say goodbye--and harder still to have to make the decision. So I sat and cried. It felt good to just let the sadness and frustration and misery out.

I pulled myself together enough to call the Shelter and leave a message that I wouldn't be in today. Then I gathered Newt up and took her upstairs to the bed, nestling her in with a hot water bottle against the pillows. I decided to spend the morning watching the old home videos of her in her youth but had to rewind the tapes. While I was doing that, Newt decided she had had enough of my cuddling and sniffling and wanted to go see the boys in the back room, so I let her go in there for a while.

During all of this, it seemed I had made a decision, so I went downstairs and hit redial to call the clinic--and got Sherry at the Shelter.

I blabbered something about trying to get the vet clinic and when she asked if one of our cats was sick, I tried to explain but just broke down. Sherry managed to piece together what I was blubbering about and was very sweet and sympathetic. After talking with her, I managed to pull myself together enough to call the clinic.

This time I got the vet tech, Cindy. She was really sympathetic and intuitively knew what I needed. "Dots is off today but she'll be in tomorrow. Can you come in first thing in the morning?" I made arrangements and hung up the phone.

I went upstairs, sat on the bed, and bawled like a baby. Little crippled Tiny tottered over to sit beside me, wondering what was wrong. Normally, her duties would have been taken up by Punkin, but Punk was out in the shop slumming. I ran my fingers over Tiny's narrow back and tried to pull myself together.

I can't do this thirty more times. I can't go through this with each of my kitties. It is so hard to put your finger on the calendar and say, "Here--on this date, this life will end..." It's a power I don't want to have.

I know I have done my best for Newt. I know there is no coming back from the condition she has slid into. Life has its seasons and hers is drawing to its close. I just didn't know it was going to be so hard to let go of her.

And if I could pray, my prayer would never end..."

Monday, November 17, 2003

5 inches of snow
Zero degrees

***

My other journal is off-line for the moment. Efforts are being made to rememdy that, but meantime, here I am...

Every Monday starts the same. I sit at work in the quiet hours of the morning thinking of all the things I will do when I get off work. Using Monday afternoon wisely can put me well ahead on my chores. But invariably once I get home, the length of my day catches up with me.

Also, invariably, when the softness of my bed starts calling to me long about three pm, I find someone (one of the ubiquitous four-footed someones) has puked on the bed. Always on Mondays, when weariness pulls me down and the thought of stripping the bed and re-sheeting it is...just...too...much.

What a bunch of comedians those cats are...

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Sliding Toward Solstice

It is cold--damn cold--outside. It's eleven degrees Fahrenheit right now. With clear skies, the temperature will undoubtedly be zero by morning.

The past few days have plunged us from late autumn right into winter, like falling through thin ice into a dark pond. I love Alaska and I love winter but this time of year feels like sliding down an icy slope into a dark pit, fingernails scraping futilely against the unyielding smooth surface in a lame attempt to slow one's descent.

Denny leaves for Florida tomorrow night--the bastard.

Not that I *want* Florida. I'm so fair-complected that my skin comes off like a vampire's under strong daylight.

Warmth would be nice, though.

Like nearly everything in life, we have to pass through the darkness to get back to the light. I shall try to think heavy thoughts and get my spirituality back into some cohesive form so I can appreciate the season, this turn of the wheel. I coast on my contentment for so long that my life goes unexamined. Perhaps I will use Denny's absence to go deeper inside myself, do some meditation, get in touch with the unending.

Meanwhile, the clear night sky presses down on us like a cold iron.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

-- W.B. Yeats

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Catching Up

When did I lose control of my journal-keeping? Was it in October, when Punkin was so sick? Or in September when Mom was hospitalized with serious heart problems? Or back in August, when the convergence of summer visitors and the pressure of outdoor activities and household events made it all I could do to keep up with daily life--much less document it?

Whatever the case, my satchel is littered with yellow sticky-notes and scraps of notebook papers with partial journal entries or rough-sketched notes and dates...so this is a rather catch-all entry.

I haven't really mentioned the kittens yet, have I?

It was the first weekend in August that we noticed we had kittens. Or rather, the little tortie we'd been feeding for the last year or so had kittens. The one I had been earnestly hoping was spayed... Oh well.

I came out the door one morning in August to go to work and two little furballs bolted off in a panic--an orange blur and a white blur. We knew we had to do something or we would be watching little kitties get killed by predators, cars or weather. We watched for a week while making our plans. We wanted to be clear how many kittens there were so none would be left without their guardians when we trapped the whole boatload of them and had the parents neutered. I knew enough feline genetics to know there had to be a black one somewhere in the mix.

Turns out, there were two black ones. The tortie (who I was calling "Baby" because she was so small and delicate-looking) or her mate (a black shorthair who has been hanging around for a bit longer than her) would bring two or three of the kittens down to eat at quiet times in the morning or evening. Rarely were all of the kittens together at one time.

We rigged the cat run so we could pull the door shut from the kitchen window, blocked the cat door from the shop and took to feeding the strays in the cat pen for several days. Their reflexes were so good that it was hard to get the jump on them. Our first attempt netted only the dirty-looking white kitten. He spent a rather miserable night and day alone in the big cage in the spare bedroom, hunched in a hidey-hole and scared spitless. I felt so sorry for the little guy...

The next evening, though, we hit the jackpot, nabbing the three remaining kittens in one fell swoop. We quickly had them stampeded into carriers and transported to the big cage then re-set our trap. With all the commotion, I didn't expect much luck with trapping the adult cats but they both turned up within minutes and began looking for their babies. So we nabbed them as well.

Baby was obviously an abandoned housepet. Within minutes, we had her purring and rubbing against us. her mate was another story--spitting, lunging and hissing. We put him in the smaller cage until we could get him neutered. Once he recovered from surgery--still showing no inclination to be a housecat--we released him back into our yard.

Baby, after her surgery, ended up going to Cold Bay where Denny had found her a home with friends. Denny and I handled the kittens to the point where they would tolerate it, then I took them to the Animal Shelter. After two weeks, the red and the black boys were shipped to Kodiak where they found new homes. But the little black female and the dirty white male were another story.

The little girl didn't seem to be growing as fast as her brothers, so I brought her home to fatten her up. The male kitten--who was slowing turning into a flame-point type a la the Ugly Duckling--was still scared and unsocial, so I took pity on him as well and brought him back home to keep his sister company and--I hoped--get socialized.

Suffice it for now to say we have two four-or-five month-old kittens in the house. The small black female I had at first called "Daisy"--a name that never quite suited her. Somehow the name has changed into "Lola", which seems to be the right one. The ungainly, shy flame-point male I dubbed "Clarence," but Dennis calls him "Pinky" or "Toute-Suite". (Don't ask me--maybe it's that latent French-Canadian blood coming out.) Friendly and fun, Lola is a good candidate for finding a home but poor Clarence is so shy we may be stuck with him.

Come to think of it--I don't have a Siamese-colored cat yet. I am hoping that Denny giving him nicknames signifies some sort of bonding. Also, while I was in Fairbanks, he took a couple photos of the kittens sleeping. We *are* trying to break the causal chain of ever-more cats in our house, but I haven't found my Last Cat yet... Or maybe I have, and his name is Clarence.

I am fine-tuning my low-carb cheesecake recipe. This week, I tried fewer eggs, more cheese and a half-cup or so of whipping cream. I was happier with the results. I made an almond-flavored and a lemon-flavored cake and have been eating a slice of one of those for breakfast. This is *some* diet, ain't it?

Poor Little Miss Newt has good days and bad days. On the good days, I start to think she might make it til Christmas. On the bad days, I fear she has only hours to go. Sometimes, the good days turn out to be bad days when--after being encouraged by her appetite--I find she has lost her previous meal in some out-of-the-way spot. The medications I try to settle her stomach seem to have no effect. I continue to tempt her with her favorite foods but even those seem to have lost their appeal to her. It hurts my heart to feel how thin she has become. I am thinking I will take her in to see the vet tomorrow in case there is anything we have overlooked in making her comfortable. She seems cheerful and happy--purring whenever I pet her--but this morning she seemed distracted and wandered around as if looking for a place to crawl into and hide. She wants to go outside but the weather is forbidding today. I finally let her go into the back room with the boys--there are plenty of cubby-holes to tuck herself away in back there and the boys are scared of her so they will leave her alone.

I hate feeling so helpless and inadequate. I *know* I don't have the power to stop death. Not even medical science has that power. But I always feel guilty and failed when one of our dear cats passes on.

Damn it.

Anyway, on other cat-related fronts, I hopefully have defused some of the tension between Frannie and SunSpot by creating a bed for Frannie atop the cupboards over the sink. Since Sunny appropriated the top of the pantry next to the refrigerator as her own, Frannie has clashed with her several times daily in an attempt to re-claim her favorite sleeping spot. The spot over the sink is even higher and more private, so I am hoping that Frannie will accept it as a substitute and quit baiting Sunny.

Even as his companion fades, Johnny still plugs along with the same innocence and general good health that have characterized his last fifteen years. It is impossible--by looking at him--to guess his age. I was cleaning the cat run a few days ago and he jumped up on my shoulders, wrapping around my neck like a fur stole--something he has done since he was a kitten. His warmth and solidity felt comforting.

Denny is supposed to be home from Cold Bay tonight. The plane leaves late and snow showers are forecast in the mountains. I hope he isn't troubled by them, though he told me that the S10 has studs on all four tires. I guess my days of driving the Crown Vic are very limited now.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Newt

She has good days and not-so-good days.

I noticed on Monday that she was getting dehydrated, so I went down to the clinic and picked up a bag of fluids for her. I had a chance to talk with Dots about her, which made me feel a bit better about letting her go when the time comes.

The fluids are helping her--she has perked up slightly--but I know it isn't enough to reverse the flow of time. She is having trouble keeping her food down. Each day seems subtly more difficult for her, yet she remains a bright and cheerful little cat.

As I got ready for work this afternoon, Newt moved from her place at the window to curl herself on the bed. I passed to and fro through the room, pausing to pet her and hear her steady purr.

A line from a book I read long ago kept running through my mind. In a discussion of purring, the author observed that although it was generally thought purring denoted contentment, cats sometimes purr when they are in distress. "Some have been known to purr while they wait for death."

I stroked her skinny body--it hurts my heart to feel the sharpness of her bones under her still-lush black fur. I rubbed her cool ears then pressed a kiss on the top of her head. I told her how happy we were that she had come to live with us. "Mommy loves you, Newt. You're a good kitty." I couldn't bring myself to verbalize what was in my heart--If you need to go before I get back home, it's okay--I understand...

There is a bitter-sweetness in these last days of our long journey together. I am glad to have her back in the house, back near me for stolen moments of companionship, the quiet, fierce love that still connects us. Fifteen years is a long life for a cat and I can't feel she has been cheated. I suppose it speaks to what a fine cats she is that I wish for more time.

Her passing will mark the beginning of the end of an era, as our first Homer cats leave us, taking with them bits of our own youth. They will continue to live warm in our memories, as surely as the hidden timbers of our house will forever carry the marks of their youthful claws.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Autumn Mist

Yesterday was another foggy, misty day, so traffic at the airport was very slow. The most work we did all morning was answering the phones to tell people when the weather was forecast to improve... Even after the ceiling and visibility lifted, it seemed everywhere else in South-Central Alaska was socked in, so there wasn't anywhere to go.

I spent most of the morning reading blogs and worrying about Newt. I guess there *isn't* much to worry about as she is plainly in the process of moving on, but I worry about her comfort. The blog-reading was depressing. I happened across lisaviolet's diary entry chronicling the last days of Lucky in July, and then spent hours reading a blog recounting the bliss and the pain of a young woman trying to parley friendship into love. Just when she thought that her gorgeous friend felt the same about her--he backs off in that self-excusing way men have. I just want to be friends... I'm not sure what I want right now... and leaves her heart exposed and bleeding. (Lord knows I have done *my* share of unrequited loving. It was the major theme of my twenties.) I felt the pain of both the diarists so much that I felt tired and depressed by the time I was finished.

At that point, I decided to take a couple hours of leave and went home at three. I had brought a cat carrier into town with me for Sue to borrow for moving her cats, but figured when I hadn't heard from her by three that she was going to move them on Monday. Of course, she showed up at work about half-an-hour after I left...

Ambitions for all that I wanted to get done at home aside, I ended up throwing some wood in the stove, putting BeBe outside in his cage and crawling into bed with Punkin and Charlie. I was just dozing off when Sue called. We made arrangements to meet up this morning for a cat carrier exchange, then I settled back into the flannel sheets I had bought as a birthday present to myself. (I like them so much, I went back on Saturday and bought two more sets.)

I dozed until the five-o-clock news came on then roused myself so I wouldn't disrupt my sleep pattern--such as it is. I brought in BeBe and some more wood and fed the cats, then played blackjack on the computer while listening to Dateline and American Dreams on the TV. (I have developed an addiction to blackjack since I bought the Hoyle Casino 2004 CD while I was in Fairbanks.) Then I started puttering around getting my dinner ready so I could eat it while watching Criminal Intent.

There were actually double-Criminal Intents tonight, so I only got to see the new episode once so far. But having double-CI was so nice I don't mind. Afterwards, I found myself dozing during the late news and I finally faded out by ten-thirty.

So of course, I woke up about two-thirty and couldn't get back to sleep. I had finished my soda so went in the bathroom and got some water. Once I got settled again, loud screams from the kitchen sent me downstairs to break up a confrontation between Frannie and SunSpot. While I was there, I turned the wood stove down.

And so back to bed.

Since I seem to fall asleep better when there is some background noise, I turned on the TV again. At some point in the last week or so, a new channel has appeared on our translator--Channel 9--which turned out to be UPN. Also, Channel 13 is coming in much better--they must have done some work on the translator in October. So I found myself watching Andromeda, which I haven't really seen since I discovered Criminal Intent a year-and-a-half ago. By the time the episode was over, I had eight cats on the bed with me. I know--I counted.

Some of the sweetest moments I spend with the cats are at night, gathered together on the bed. Punkin, who sleeps on my pillow, often "holds hands" with me, resting her paw in one of my open hands, or pressing against my head. I will caress Bunny and Pickle when I rouse to turn over, sharing the sweet warmth and companionship of family members in the snug dark.

I shifted around, trying to get comfortable, and most of the cats repositioned themselves to other venues.

Newt came drifting out of the back room like a wraith and I invited her up onto the bed. She settled in with me, purring and licking my hand. As I dozed, she kept staring with vague, distant eyes, as if looking to discern the road that lies ahead. I don't want to over-romanticize her passing but from what I have seen of natural death, there seems to be a period of limbo--hours or days where they are between this world and the next--not fully in either one.

I feel guilty that I am not fighting as hard for Newt's life the way I fought for Rosie's but in the end, I don't think I did Rosie any favors by forcing her to stay alive an extra month. I will force-feed if there is a chance of recovery, but to do so for weeks at a time seems nothing but an indignity when we can see that death is inevitable. I am treasuring each moment Newt shares with me.

She left after about ten minutes to go sit in the window. She wants to go outside but I am half-afraid she will go off to die in some secluded place and I'd never find her. To die alone seems to be a preference for some cats--as if encumbered by the bustle of life.

I finally went to sleep about an hour before the alarm went off. I slept deeply and had intense, confused dreams.

I really hate working the early shift.

Before I went out to the car, I leaned close and petted Newt, trying to tell her that it was okay for her to go if she needed to--not to wait for me to come home. I know that animals don't understand language but I am also convinced that the process of forming thoughts into words does something in our minds that animals can pick up on. Maybe it's not language but animals have no need of language. Who knows what the language centers in our brains used to do, before we developed this gift and this crutch...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Misty Morning

Another foggy morning.

The airport is quiet. Aside from the phone ringing from people wanting to know when--if ever--the weather will improve, the silence is eerie.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Miss Newt

Little Black Newt continues to drift around the house like a ghost, growing thinner with each passing day. She has thrown up her food a couple of times this week but she doesn't seem to have any discomfort. She crawls up beside me in the evening and purrs--is she saying good-bye?

After the long ordeal with Rosie, I am reluctant to drag her to the vet for heroic measures. What can they do? As Denny says, she is fifteen years old, been hyperthyroid for two years, and she's had a good run. She just seems to be wearing out. She looks at me with tired eyes. I look back, trying to read her state of mind, hoping she will let me know when she is ready to let go. As long as she is enjoying sitting in the window or cuddling with me at night, I will let her be.

She went to the backdoor this morning while I was cleaning litterboxes, so I let her outside for fifteen minutes or so. It hurts my heart to think it may be her last time outside. For fifteen years she has been the busy little soul of our home.

She and Johnny were kittens when we built this place--our first Homer cats. They used to climb up on top of the wall plates and sleep, or dig through the heavy plastic sheeting that during our first winter was all that divided the living area from the shop. Behind the sheetrock of the walls are studs etched with the faint marks of their young claws and errant tufts of fur. Johnny and Newt, more than any of our cats, are a part of this house.

All Souls' Day

Another misty morning.

I came home from work last night and finished setting out the Halloween decorations--mostly just lighting candles and setting up the witch figurine and a couple of candlelabras. I lighted some scented candles and packed the woodstove for the night--it was so warm outside that it wasn't really needed but I was mindful of how thin Newt has grown and I wanted her to be warm enough.

I had left a bowl of candy on the porch in case anyone came by while I was at work, but as usual, no one came trick-or-treating to our house. We are just too far from town. So I am left with a couple bags of minature candy bars which will undoubtedly get eaten between Denny and I although neither of us needs the calories or carbs.

I woke early, feeling rested--unusual for me.