Sunday, December 31, 2006

17 degrees, partly cloudy, light snow
24 inches of snow on the ground

The last day of the year...

It was--on the whole--a good year, but these last two or three weeks have been stressful and crappy. I could say I won't be sorry to see the year end, but the time-tide that carries the year away also takes with it Dinky.

December 26th was the day that me heart stopped and I have trouble right now seeing the continuity in my life. There is just the Time Before and the Now, with its deep sadness. I'm going to be mourning that little kitty for a long time.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I took a jigsaw puzzle to work last week to work on when things got quiet but I realized last night that it was the puzzle I last worked during the Superbowl back in February. Dinky was doubtless sitting curled up next to me--unremarkable in her ordinary presence--as I put the puzzle pieces in place, neither of us suspecting what lay in our future. The diagnosis of CRF was still some weeks away and I had no inkling that the next time I took that puzzle out of its box, she would be gone.

I hate being so wracked by grief but I know it is a process that has to run its course.

What hurts is knowing that time is taking her away from me, that with each day that passes her essence is less distinct, her presence less palpable. My little calico cat is slipping away and there is nothing I can do to hold her as tightly against my heart as I would wish.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Things are pretty sad in our little corner of the bed. I don't know if Punkin comprehends what has happened to Dinky but surely she has noticed that she is gone and I am very sad. Am I imagining the sorrow in her eyes or the tenderness with which we touch?

How many nights did Dinky sleep curled against my side or riding on my hip? She insinuated herself so smoothly into my life that it was only in the last couple years that I realized just how much she loved me. I am discovering now just how much she came to mean to me, how deep my grief can go.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Twenty-Eight Cats

One year ago today our thirthieeth cat, Fat Sally died. Then, for three hundred and sixty-five days, we had twenty nine cats.

Today we have twenty-eight. Hard to believe what a hole that twenty-ninth cat leaves in the household. But that is something I will write for myself.

I already know we have passed the zenith of the arc and will never have twenty-nine cats agin. That each year will end with fewer and fewer. That's how it has to be, because I don't want to die leaving dozens of cats needing a care-taker. I owe it to them to see them through their lives safely before I leave mine.

It's just the attrition that's killing me...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dinky is gone.

It was relatively quick and painless. I'm going to miss her forever. But I am glad that the long downward journey that began with the renal failure diagnosis last spring is over for her and that there will be no more needles and no more droppers of medicine.

And that the last thing she heard was me telling her how much I loved her.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays This Quiet Morning

10 degrees, high thin clouds
15 inches of snow on the ground

We had a very enjoyable family dinner at my uncle's house yesterday, getting home about 8:30pm after coffee and cards. We had a couple holiday phone calls from our friends in California and my cousin in Washington State.

Dinky slept under the covers beside me all night (short as it was for me.) I think we are both comforted by the contact. She's not eating. I got about five mouthfuls down her yesterday afternoon but when I tried to feed her more last night she started gagging. I gave her something to settle her stomach but didn't try to feed her any more. I'll make her some soup this afternoon and try again. I am conflicted about force-feeding. I don't want our last days to be a series of confrontations over food, but I hate to think that she could be hungry but just be unable--for whatever reason--to eat. Cats always seem to stop eating before they die, as if some internal voice were telling them that they didn't need food any more. Maybe that's why I am trying to keep Dinky interested in eating, to hold her here a bit longer.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

15 degrees, overcast
16 inches of snow on the ground

I always knew this time is coming and that every one of these cats is going to break my heart eventually. Dinky has been such a joy to know, it's hard to think of life without her--she takes up considerably more space in our hearts and home than one would expect. I'm glad I can voice my sorrow here without fear of misunderstanding. After all, she is still with us and I shouldn't be whining about the inevitable future--I need to focus on the moment and enjoy the love we share today.

She's not feeling good and she doesn't seem to be eating much, if at all. I gave her vitamins and a small amount of baby food this morning. I know her mouth is sore and hope the antibiotic will heal that enough that she will feel like eating. There's not much else we can do but keep her as comfortable as we can. I know she enjoys being home with us--which is why she's not going to spend another night at the clinic.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

10 degrees, overcast
16 inches of snow on the ground

Denny picked up Dinky from the vet clinic yesterday afternoon while I was at work. There is a big circle of happiness completed by having her at home.

She had pink streaks of amoxicillin on her face and throat and a polka-dot bandage wrapped around one leg where they had shaved her to administer fluids. I cut off the bandage, washed her face and combed out as much of the hardened antibiotic syrup as I could. It took her a while to relax and accept the fact that she was at home. She slept curled up next to me all night long, not moving from the bed until this morning.

Denny was told that her blood values--which had been elevated from normal by a factor of ten--had been lower by half yesterday afternoon. I don't know if that means she still has some kidney function or if the flushing out of toxins was working. I just hope it means that she is feeling better. I doubt that I will put her through hospitalization again. The IV-fluid therapy may have helped but I know the stress of being away from home didn't. If I can double up on her fluids at home and maintain similar numbers, I know she will do much better. There's the adage, "Treat the cat, not the numbers," and I know the boost of being home and comforted has to weigh in for something in the equation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

17 degrees, overcast
Strong northerly winds
16 inches of snow on the ground

I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year.

This should have been a week of relaxing and enjoying the season. I had my cards in the mail, Denny is home for the holidays... Instead, I’m feeling like a Grinch and all the over-the-top gaiety grates on my nerves. There’s the constant refrain on the media about shopping days and one-day sales as the country convulses in the annual retail frenzy that has nothing to do with giving from the heart and instead lays an expectation on us that we need to give every casual acquaintance something more than our good wishes.

Denny and I are terrible at enforced gifting. When we see something we think someone would like, we give it to them then. We don’t even buy each other Christmas gifts.

The main downer is that I know this is Dinky’s last Christmas with us. My thoughts dwell on those other dear souls who left us in the dark of winter...Sparky, Johnny, Newt, poor Fat Sally.

I think about the dire straits Dinky and Sparky were in twelve years ago. Christmas for them that year—their first winter—was spent cold and hungry, abandoned by the people they had depended on for food and shelter all their brief lives. It was one of the last days in December when they were brought into the Shelter. In my heart, I bless the gruff man who rescued them, who gave enough of a damn not to just leave them to freeze or starve as their “owners” had done. If not for him, I never would have had the chance to know Dinky and Sparky, two cats whose sweetness was undeterred by harsh circumstances.

So if I can milk one good thing out of this sadness, it is that Dinky will not die cold, hungry and alone.

While my delayed Christmas loaves baked this morning, I finally began to string bright chains of beads on our tree, which has stood adorned only with lights for the past few days.

So what does this season mean to a pagan? The kernel is, as Denny says, the days are getting longer. Leave it to me to try to plumb the symbolism of that, to find the inner significance of this festival of light that we hold in the dark of the year.

We watched “The Da Vinci Code” on Wednesday night and the character Robert Langdon said that Jesus, even if only human, was a source of inspiration for millions, perhaps a reflection of what was divine in all of us. Maybe that is what this season is, in the heart of it. A celebration of the light that shines even in the darkest days, of the love we show one another, that binds us together and comforts our sorrows.

The lighted evergreen tree in the depths of the forest has a meaning that pre-dates the Christian era by thousands of years. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it.

I don’t have answers as such. I don’t really know if it is possible to have answers for some of the questions we ask ourselves about our world, our universe. I just know there is love, that it is the only miracle I know, and I know that it is enough to know there is love. Once I know that, all the fears are meaningless. There is love. That is answer enough for me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

20 degrees, partly cloudy
16 inches of snow on the ground

Well, the news from the vet is not good concerning Dinky… They were unable to get her kidney values down even with IV fluids, so it would seem that she has lost all her kidney function and her time is very limited now.

I had such hope that she would be able to hold this inevitability at bay for a while longer. But would there ever be a good time to say goodbye to a cat like Dinky?

Tomorrow we will bring her home for this little space of time we have left. I’m just sorry that there is nothing we can do to hang on to her. This disease will take everything from her before the end--everything but that little heart so full of love and the mind as quick as mercury. I will fight to keep her comfortable as long as possible. I hope I don’t give up too soon. I hope I don’t hang on too long. I know that is the last gift I can give her but I don’t want to do it. I want her to die in her sleep curled up in my arms, where she has slept for so many nights. I want her to carry happy dreams and a sense of love and security into eternity…

Damn it all.

So, tonight, for comfort, I am holding close the realities of the lives I have saved, even if only for a while. I guess all we can manage is a little while, and then we have to let go. I am so very glad I brought Dinky and Sparky home twelve years ago.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

26 degrees, windy, fine snow
17 inches of snow on the ground

Dinky is spending the next two nights at the veterinary hospital.

I took her in to see the doctor this morning to get a blood check on her kidney values. They had been dropping ever since she was diagnosed. But we didn't check them in November and she's been acting a little quiet the past two weeks, so I thought a re-check wouldn't be out of line.

Her values were all through-the-roof elevated. The vet wants to keep her a couple of days to try and "flush her out" with IV fluids, then she'll come home for us to treat with more sub-Q fluids. She is still bright and active but I know this means her disease is moving to a new phase--a phase closer to the final one.

Damn it.

I know--you're thinking, She has so many--what's the big heart-ache over one? But the sad truth is that the cats that we are most likely to lose are those who have been with us the longest. Dinky's been with us almost twelve years now--the dirty, starving, half-grown cat who was brought to the Animal Shelter in deep winter. She and her brother, Sparky. Sparky died just before Christmas in 1998 and I have clung to the sweetness of his memory as I held on to Dinky. She has been a wonderful cat, a great companion, and I am trying hard to muster gratitude for her presence in my life out of the heaviness that is in my heart.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dinky

22 degrees, overcast, snowing
4 inches of snow on the ground

Dinky is such a character and constant presence in my life that when she was diagnosed with chronic renal failure (known in cat circles as CRF) last spring, I came home from the vet clinic and cried.

But she has done very well on fluid therapy. I am encouraged to think she may be with us for some time to come.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Punkin

28 degrees, clearing
three inches of snow on the ground.

Punkin is my darling.... Since she came to live with us at such a young age, I think she actually believes that I am her mother. The force of her conviction has convinced the other cats as well--no one has disputed her right to be Queen since she took on the role upon the death of Whiskers in 1999.

She is mostly a hands-off ruler, content to claim the best sleeping spot (which she will share with the blind kitty) and first shot at my attention, letting the minions dicker over their own petty roles. She walks through the daily hub-bub of the House of Many Cats with her confidence as her shield, taking little notice of the underlings.

She reserves her focus for the people in her life, Denny and me. She lights up when we call her name, eyes alive with intelligence and affection. It was the smallest quirk of fate that brought us together--but we have formed a bond so deep that it seems as if we were fated to meet.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

30 degrees, overcast
Snow / rain
3-4 inches of snow on the ground.

Home sick from work. Trying not to feel so guilty because instead of tackling all those things that need to be done at home, I am taking it easy, sleeping and watching television.

I was up in the middle of the night with an intestinal upset. It struck again when I got up to go to work and I realized that *this* was what sick leave was for--those days you don't want to stray too far from the bathroom. So here I sit, watching the heavy, wet snow fall past the window.

I have decided to skip the nearly-requisite holiday letter this year. There just isn't enough news to fill a page. If I were more ambitious, I would have photos of Denny and me to send out with the cards but I don't think either of us is feeling very photogenic. So I will probably just write a couple lines in the cards and enclose our email addresses and links to my blog for the fans of tedium. Then they can see that I wasn't lying about there being no news from us.

We have made some progress with Grendel this year.

After years of basically letting her be, we became more intrusive this year--probably as a result of Fat Sally's death. We didn't want any hidden health problems to crop up when it was too late for us to do anything for her, so Grendel got hauled to the vet several times this year.

She is passive for a feral. She will let me pet her if she can't escape but then will sneak off to a new hidey--hole soon after. Catching her to take her to the vet has become progressively less traumatic though we still have to corner her and stuff her into a carrier against her efforts to escape. But then, there are several nominally "tame" cats that have to be treated like that, so I'm not holding that against her.

Grendel has to be about eleven or twelve now--a round-bodied tortoiseshell with golden eyes. she is virtually invisible most of the time. She and Skinny (aka Star) have a large cardboard box hideaway in the corner of our main upstairs room. If the house is quiet--after I go to work or town or after bedtime at night--Grendel comes out of her den and will go downstairs to sleep on the bed of the spare room, desirable because of the access to the outside cat condo from there. When the weather is fine, she likes to sit out in the condo and watch the birds and take in some sun.

Her fear of us is slowly eroding. She watches us warily if we enter the room when she is exposed on the bed, but doesn't run for cover every time she sees us. I try to peek into her den and say "Hi" frequently, just so she will get used to our attention. It's a quiet life but she seems happy, with shelter and companionship and a steady supply of food. I hope some day I will wake up to find her sleeping on the foot of my bed, but if that never happens, I will still feel we have done okay by her.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Snickers

30 degrees, mostly cloudy
3-4inches of snow on the ground, 2 inches new

Well, I almost made it home last night before the snow started.

Yesterday was a rainy, miserable day. I wondered more than once why I hadn't thought to wear a hat as I shrugged my jacket up over my head to brave the dash from car to building. The temperatures seemed to promise nothing but rain--it was 41 degrees at six pm--but before I left work for home, the temperature had dropped to 34 and heavy rain had blown in with the gusting northeast winds.

Figuring on a standard lapse-rate of three degrees per thousand feet, I guessed it was probably just about freezing up on Green Timbers Road. The road had been one long stretch of rain-polished ice when I had left for work, so I wasn't looking forward to facing it at freezing temperatures.

Even down by the shore, the rain had a thickness to it that hinted at impeding snow--the raindrops hit my windshield with spatterings of ice. About halfway up Baycrest Hill, the rain abruptly turned to snow. Despite the constant rain we had had all day, it was sticking, too--turning the landscape white and forming shallow slush on the road.

I slogged onward. Having slid once too often into the snow berm on the downhill side of Green Timbers Road, I slowed way down before making the turn from the highway, even though it meant I had to scramble for momentum climbing up the rise from the highway. The tires spun a bit but caught and I didn't have to drop into four-wheel-drive.

Judging from the inch of snow in the driveway, it had been snowing for a while up on the bluff top. Today our world is a white-flocked winter wonderland. I hope it lasts for a while.

It is a mystery to me why Snickers was left to languish at the Animal Shelter while her two siblings found a home. I knew from the first time I met her that Snickers was an exceptional cat. She had life and personality and a way of looking you directly in the eye when she spoke to you. I marked her as special, taking an interest in her and hoping every week when I went in to volunteer at the Shelter that she would have found a good home.

I guess eventually she *did* find a good home. Ours.

I was really trying to hold the line against gaining more cats but every now and then one comes along that you can't close out of your heart. I cared about the shaggy earth-toned tabby and worried about her fate. As I dithered about whether I could possibly squeeze her into the House of Many Cats, she contracted a bad case of cat flu.

It was difficult, in the ramshackle conditions at the old Animal Shelter, to keep the animals all healthy. One sick cat coming into the small cat shed could spread an air-borne virus overnight and there weren't any decent facilities for quarantine. Serious illness usually meant euthanasia.

When I showed up for my volunteer day, Snickers' cage was empty. I was afraid to ask what had become of her, though I peered into the crowded supply room and the office area to see if she was in isolation there. I couldn't find her and went through the day with a sad heart, wishing I had been able to save her. I knew too well the realities that made it so hard to save sick cats, especially when there weren't enough homes for the healthy ones, but I knew I would hold the memory of the out-going tabby close to my heart for a long time.

That evening, as I passed the Shelter on my way home from work, I remembered that I hadn't checked in the bathroom. The small but warm room frequently had to stand-in as an isolation area. Maybe, just maybe, Snickers had been put in there... I heard her miserable meow as I unlocked the bathroom door. She was there--nestled next to the space heater but too sick to do more than raise her head when I came in. With her eyes gummed up and her nose clogged, she looked pretty sad. But she was alive and I felt as if I had been given a second chance to save her. Without really thinking, I bundled her up, put her in the truck, and took her home for personalized nursing.

Despite being young and strong, Snickers almost didn't make it. It took several vet visits, days of force-feeding and subcutaneous fluid therapy before she started to make signs that she was interested in living. And when you fight so hard for the life of a cat, it is very hard to put them up for adoption. I guess it is true that when you save a life, you become responsible for it.

Snickers was ours because I couldn't bear to lose her again.

She is a wonderful cat. At least all the people who know her agree with that. For some reason, most of the cats that know her well find her insufferable. Maybe they think she is an incorrigible suck-up. She isn't confrontational but she doesn't back down from defending herself and she is good at it. Anyone who tries to violate her personal space can end up with scratches while she is unmarked. She may not be well-liked by her peers, but she is respected.

She radiates self-confidence and a joy of life that give me a warm feeling when I look at her. It is obvious that whoever gave her up for adoption was not a connoisseur of cats, because she is a treasure among felines.

In other cat news: Dinky has been a real shit about taking her fluids lately. I massaged her shoulders and she doesn't seem to have any inflammation there that would account for her attitude. Maybe it's just too much for too long as far as she is concerned.

She saw me warming the bag of fluids this morning and split. It took me about half an hour to find her, wedged in the back of the pantry. I have to be so careful when I start preparing the fluids or else I find myself extricating her from the most inaccessible location she can find.

I started Frieda on acidophilus yesterday. All I could find were tablets, so I cut them in half and ground them up to mix in her baby food along with the slippery elm. She seems to be doing no worse off her meds than she was doing on them. Maybe I will give her gut some time to regroup before resuming the antibiotic. She had been on it for a month already.

Cissy has bounced back from her cold and is her old self again.

Tommy is quietly blooming under the additional attention he has received since his seizures and seems to be feeling quite well. The blood work showed that his glucose levels were fairly well-controlled in the month before his seizure. SInce I hadn't been giving him insulin up until a week prior to his reaction, I am wondering if he really needs it or if his diagnosis was based on the slight elevation of glucose levels that all the cats seem to get under the stress of a vet visit. I will get him rechecked in a few weeks to see how he is doing but right now the risk of overdosing him on insulin seems greater than the risk that he's going to lapse into diabetic coma.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I've Been One Poor Correspondent

36 degrees, overcast, rain
A very sodden 2 inches of snow on the ground

What depressingly gray and damp weather. Only the lack of towering fir trees reminds me that I am not on Puget Sound but in Alaska. Rain is so prevalent a feature of Western Washington winter that my most persistent memory of the Christmas song, "Silver Bells" includes the image of rain trickling down the windows of the family car, refracting the holiday lights of Tacoma's Sixth Avenue as the song played on the car's radio.

I seem to owe everyone I treasure emails, letters or phone calls. *sigh*

Truth is, my daily life follows a regular pattern of work, sleep, cat care and house-cleaning that I have very little "news" to inflict upon my family and friends. Many of the little landmarks in my daily life--"Frieda's not puking so much any more and her diarrhea has cleared up"--are of no interest to anyone but Denny and the vet.

In dreams and in waking life, I feel close to old friends and family members that I haven't seen in years. They are in my thoughts quite often, especially in this reflective season. Yet I seem to have a real writer's block when it comes to actually sitting down and writing them or picking up the telephone. I can find time to update this journal (and that time has been curtailed so that I am scrambling to keep up my daily entries...) so I should be embarrassed that my mother keeps dropping hints about how she'd like to hear from me.

And it's time to compose the annual holiday letter. Which makes me realize that for as busy as we always seem to be, not a whole lot has happened this year that would interest anybody but us.

But this is the first year in a long time that we end the year with the same cats we started with. I guess that's something.


Maggie

The link will take you to photos of Maggie but since she is one of our cats who hasn't had her page finalized, there isn't much else on her web page yet.

I guess Maggie is about seven or eight years old. She started her life in a neighborhood of Anchorage known as Muldoon and enters on the scene as an abandoned cat, a young mother who was raising her kittens under a trailer in a mobile home park where my brother and his family was living. My sister-in-law and nieces took pity on the poor cat and rescued her and her kittens. The kittens had no trouble finding new homes but, as is so often the case, an adult cat without the benefit of kitten-cuteness is not as sought-after as a pet. So my brother's family kept "Momma Cat" as their own.

A year or two passed and the family was moving out-of-state. So--you guessed it--we took in "Momma Cat." I met her for the first time when Denny pulled into the driveway with the fluffy tabby cat sitting on the front seat of his pick-up truck. She looked very composed for a cat who had just had a 220-miles road trip. That quiet self-composure is a hallmark of the cat we re-named "Maggie."

Maggie is a great cat. She doesn't pick fights or force her attentions on people. She is smart and pays attention and tries so hard to understand what we ask of her that she reminds me of Newt in that respect. Her fierce little Persian-type face makes her look forbidding but it masks a sweet and compliant personality that any cat-owner would cherish. I am glad the long road from Muldoon ended at our house.

She lives in the shop right now and I can't recall quite how that happened except that there were strong personalities involved and she was being terrorized by one or more of the established house cats. Moving her into the shop seemed the best solution for all concerned at the time. The dynamic in the house seems to have mellowed lately, and we are slowly trying to reintroduce her into the household social group. As she is a very low-profile kitty, I am optimistic that she can find a place in time.

She has a happy life in the shop--sitting in the window or outside in the cat run, sunning herself or looking for errant shrews in the straw carpet of the cat run. Like many of the more self-effacing cats, she doesn't demand attention but I suspect she would enjoy having more. I hope we came make that our holiday gift to her.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Miss Molly

38 degrees, occasional rain
3 inches of wet snow/slush on the ground.

Today's featured cat is Molly.

I surely enjoy Molly, a brown tabby of indeterminate age. She is such a pleasure to hold--round and soft and full of pleasant noises. She is a "hummer," who comments on most any occurrence with a short "Prrt" sound and reacts to physical contact with her persistent purr.

Her life has improved quite a bit since the winter she spent sleeping in the woodpile of a summer cabin and scrounging for food where she could find it. She found it mostly at our house, but being skittish, she never let me approach too closely. All we could do for her was make sure that food was left out for her and watch and worry over her.

A deep snowfall forced me into action. When I went out to leave her food that night, I saw her tracks, weaving from side to side in our driveway and realized that she was looking for a path through the two-foot deep snow cover--and that she was wearing herself out trudging through the snow. I followed her tracks to the carport next to the house, where she was huddled underneath a boat. I set the food down and while she was eating, I edged close enough to grab her--that desperate hold that knew there would be no second chance. I had her inside before either of us could draw two breaths.

I don't know much about Molly's life before she was abandoned. Someone had cared enough about her to raise her and feed her and have her spayed. But she was been living on her own for months, and some time before she came to live with us, someone had made her fear people and flinch from contact. At some point, two of her canine teeth had been broken--had she been hit by a car or by a human being?

It literally took us years--a decade--to overcome her fearfulness. That she comes to us when we call her and greets us with joy may mean that she has finally forgotten the hard life and the times before...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cissy

36 degrees, overcast
rainy, windy
3 inches of old snow on the ground

Cissy is the other of Demi's surviving kittens. Strange to think of her and Frieda as kittens when they are fifteen years old but there is a wealth of emotion encompassed in the designation "kitten". There is something special about knowing someone their entire life. I was the first human to touch them (and will undoubtedly be the last.) Frieda and Cissy (along with a handful of those we adopted as very young kittens) go through life with a sense of confident entitlement born--no doubt--from never having to scramble for shelter or scrounge for food.

They have only known love and security, and it shows. Cissy is a friendly, talkative cat who loves to be held and adores being combed. She is less assertive than her sister but has been known to insist on respect from those cats who joined our family after her. In any confrontation, she knows she can count on Frieda to back her up.

But by and large, Cissy's joys in life are the simple ones--sunning in the cat run, hunting for voles and shrews and savoring fresh grass in the spring and summer. In the winter, she sleeps snuggled up to the warm and fluffy Toby John and Tommy on the sheepskin bed in the middle of the shop.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Frieda

37 degrees, cloudy, occasional rain
4 inches of slush/snow on the ground

Kind of a draggy day. We were up at two in the morning as Denny had to head north for an all-hands meeting before heading out to Bethel. He only had four days at home this trip--hope he can get a longer break next time around.

Anyway, I waved him off about three-o-clock, then sat up awake until nearly five, watching DVDs and working a few crochet squares. I woke up before nine but felt groggy and slow to move most of the morning. I had a sinus headache that I just couldn't shake until I finally took an Advil and a nap.

She is fifteen now, my little red tabby girl, Frieda. She still is the dominant personality among the cats in the shop. Judging from my very limited experience, orange female cats seem to have dominant-type personalities.

Only about 20% of red/orange cats are females. There is a reason the phrase "ginger tom" rolls off the tongue. Genetically-speaking, the feline world produces black or red tabby males and tortoiseshell or calico females in abundance. And every now and then, red tabby females.

Like her coat, Frieda is a firebrand--stubborn, assertive, protective of her family and courageous in the face of threats. In her youth, when she was allowed access to the outdoors, she stalked spruce grouse, chased off intruding dogs and challenged eagles and owls who came too close. I fear unrestrained, she would have had a brief but exciting life.

Now settled into retirement in the shop, she is the Queen. Any disturbance (if she doesn't initiate it) will draw her attention. Any threat to her mother or sister will draw her wrath. She oversees her domain with a no-nonsense air about her, emphasized by her short, upright tail, like a little exclamation mark.

She may be fifteen years old, but no one messes with Frieda.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Twenty-Nine Cats

34 degrees, overcast
About four inches of frozen snow on the ground.

No one sets out to have twenty-nine cats.

They just happen, one cat at a time. Johnny was an abandoned two-month old. Newt was in a box of kittens outside the grocery store. Toby (the first) was struggling to survive in zero-degree temperatures at the town dump. Fred was subsistence-living in our woods... Just single little lives in need of shelter. One by one, like individual pearls on a string, we added them to our life.

I have thought a lot about Demi lately. The first few years that she lived with us, she was genially ignored, overshadowed by the cuteness of her kittens. She is not a pushy cat and never demanded attention, but I have memories of her following me on my treks through the woods, happy to keep me company.

From the first, she has been out-going and friendly. Abandoned by her original owners and expecting kittens, she discovered the dish of cat food I kept out under one of the vans and must have clung tightly to a steady source of food. One morning when I went out to fill the dish, she popped out from under the vehicle, looked up at me and said hello.

I brought her inside and set her up in the shop with bedding and a litterbox. Gradually over the next week, she worked her way into the house and up to the bedroom. Two weeks after we met, she gave birth to six kittens in a nest box I had set up for her in the back room. Frieda, Cissy, Lucy and their siblings entered our life.

Inobtrusive and self-contained, Demi is a member of our household who rarely demands or receives special attention. She was and is content to have a warm, safe place to sleep, regular meals and occasional cuddling, but time has brought to us a greater appreciation of the little polka-dotted calico with her unfailing affection. She slipped into our routine with barely a ripple but she is a comforting presence in our daily lives.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

32 degrees, overcast
5 inches of snow on the ground

A quiet, rainy day.

The truck was glazed with ice this morning, so I left ten minutes early to go to work. The road were in much better shape than I anticipated--normal winter conditions--so I made it to work in good order. I spent some time this afternoon changing the cats' webpage to its holiday format. Then, since I have 29 more days to go with Holidailies at Home and 29 cats, I thought I would take a little space each day to introduce one of our cats.


Fred is the cat who has lived with us the longest, joining our household in the early winter of 1990. He is an easy-going, friendly cat who enjoys being with people. He has to be at least seventeen years old--possibly as old as nineteen. At this point in his life, he is a skinny old man of a cat, wiry and spry. He has a notch on one ear, a last souvenier from Wild Red, the feral cat who fathered Frieda and Cissy and who used to make life interesting for Fred back in the days when he was allowed free access to the outdoors.

Now Fred's world has shrunk to the shop and the second-floor mezzanine, which he shares with Twitch and occasionally Cissy. He spends most of his time napping in the laundry baskets or on the spare bed. With his advanced age, he carries a feline dignity that spares him from the petty byzantine bickering of cat society. Where he was once a target for casual abuse by the other cats, time has mellowed their attitude toward him and he can pretty much do as he pleases and go where he wants.

He still enjoys sitting in the outside cat run and watching the world go by. I doubt he recalls the winter he lived in the forest behind our house and only came to us for food and affection. The year after he came to live with us, Demi showed up and her kittens were born here. Every other cat who joined our family found Fred here first, ready to accept them into our household without prejudice or rancor.

In the sunset years of his life, we appreciate his love and unfailing good-humor and are glad that fate brought him, an abandoned young cat to our door so many years ago.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

15 degrees, clearing
7 inches of snow on the ground

At least being 'way over here in the upper left-hand corner of the continent, I don't have to get my daily journal entry in until the very last minute...

Well, it was a typically quiet Saturday for us. Having Denny home is a pleasure that is all the sweeter because of the times we have to spend apart. As we see retirement approaching, and with it the end of these mandatory separations, we seem to be rediscovering the pleasure we take in each other's company.

Corny-sounding but true.

We woke about eight-thirty and Denny made coffee. We watched DVDs (a series of South Park Christmas episodes) because none of the broadcast stations program anything for adults on Saturday mornings. Sometimes I miss having cable. But it was a nice way to spend our waking-up time before we devoted ourselves to our chores.

I have cut back on Frieda's medications quite a bit, since they haven't really done anything to cure her symptoms. I am trying slippery elm and yogurt to soothe her gut now, and tempting her palate with ground chicken and special treats. She can go back to the vet in a couple weeks to see what else we can come up with for her. Poor kitty. I sure love that hard-headed girl.

Tommy, on the other hand--Tommy who looked so close to death just over a week ago--is walking around the shop like he couldn't be in finer health. The best guess is that he went into insulin shock. Due to the long-acting qualities of feline insulin, it effected him for nearly two days. He seems fully recovered, though he now prefers the bed we made him on the shop floor to the communal bed he shared with Toby and Cissy. Always a quiet cat, he is relishing the extra attention we give him now.

Though today was mostly clear, there are increasing clouds tonight and the threat (or promise) of snow tomorrow.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December

24 degrees, overcast, light snow
7 inches of snow on the ground, 6 new.

After a cold and dry November, December came in with fresh snow...

Denny got home a little after ten last night, in the midst of a snow squall. After I had assured him that we hadn't gotten any significant snow since he left last week, it promptly began to snow about eight-thirty last night. By the time I pulled into the driveway (about ten) we had accumulated about two inches. Denny arrived about twenty minutes later after a long drive through occasional white-out conditions on the road from Anchorage. At least the problematic headlights on the Dodge stayed on for him or it would have been a much more harrowing trip.

Now he is home for a long weekend before having to head out again early next week.

So, I took the plunge and signed up today for Holidailies--actually, since the quota was filled, I signed up to do the at-home version. I was mildly disappointed not to be able to participate in the portal but that's what I get for procrastinating. Besides, this will be good practice for next year. And let's face it, as boring as my day-to-day life is, I could probably do without a larger readership.

I look forward to being introduced to some interesting new bloggers, at any rate.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tommy and Cissy

I hit the ground running after I got off work this afternoon...

I had a two-thirty appointment for Tommy with the vet, so raced home, grabbed him and headed back into town. The vet is confident in the diagnosis of insulin shock as the cause of Tommy's seizures. I guess now I know what insulin shock looks like. She still feels he needs 2 units a day but drew blood for a glucose profile to see how he has been doing. He also has a mild bladder infection so he's on antibiotics for ten days.

You would think he would be hard to pill. He locks his strong jaws together but once you pry them open far enough to pop a pill in his mouth, he automatically swallows. Much nicer than dealing with Frieda, who is so resistant to anyone putting anything in her mouth (reminiscent of another red cat I know...) that I would much rather give her injections than oral meds...

Once I got Tommy back home, I decided to muck out the cat run and replace the straw with fresh hay before it got dark. The remnants of the last bale I bought have been taking up space in one of the storage sheds since summer. The hard ground and the light snow cover made it possible to haul the used straw out with the wheelbarrow. Once I got started, it only took about half-an-hour and I was finished by five. Snickers was out playing in the deep hay when I went inside.

I'm worried about Cissy, though. She was out in the cat run when I went to clean it, huddled up in the straw and looking miserable, with running nosy and gummy mouth. She is dirty from sleeping on the floor at the front of the shop. She has been quiet and reclusive the last few days--signs that I would have paid closer attention to if I hadn't been caught up with Tommy's problems.

I took her inside, washed her face, gave her one of Frieda's vitamin B-12 shots and started her on some amoxicillin. I hope that sets her to rights.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

20 degrees,
Breezy and overcast
Three inches of snow on the ground

I didn't have to look very far for Tommy when I got home last night--he was sitting on the floor in front of the door in what we call the "gear-up" position (upright with paws tucked under the body), looking much like himself. The food dish I had left up on the toolboxes was overturned, so I suspect that he fell rather than climbed down from there. At any rate, I won't put him up there again. When he is able to negotiate the cat tree, he will be able to go up there on his own.

For now, he seems happy with the two beds I have made for him on the floor. He was up and eating when I checked this morning, and purred when I rubbed his face and chin. He is almost his old self again, but I need to know what's going on with him to send him so close to death and back again. I'll try to get him in to see the vet tomorrow. I suspect an infection of some sort but have such a variety of antibiotics on hand that I want to know which specific one to use.

The skies threaten snow, which is okay with me. The six inches we had three weeks ago has turned into a shallow covering with dry grasses sticking through. Fresh snow would make it more Christmas-y. It sure feels a lot warmer outside--downright pleasant.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Power Outage

15 degrees

Have you ever noticed that when the power goes out, you are hurled right back into the nineteenth century?

I was just about to start the morning medications when the power went out. As usual, for no good reason--calm winds, no snow falling, just a calm, clear Saturday so what the hey, let's kill the lights...

Homer Electric Association is so lame...

So, unwilling to try to give Frieda her B-12 shot by flashlight, I tried to think of something else to do with the time before I had to go to work. Vacuum? Nope, need power. Laundry? Ditto. I *could* clean cat boxes by the light of a headlamp but why do it if it's not necessary? I mean, maybe if the lights were out for a day or so, I would get down to it, but not after just an hour...

Or I could take Tommy to the vet (see below.)

But when I called the clinic, they had no power either, so that option was no good. I set about using my unexpectedly free time to hang little flashlights in the back rooms and the shop and house so that if the power hadn't returned by dusk, the cats would still be able to see well enough to navigate the jumps and cat trees. Just as I was finishing that chore--the power came back on.

At least it came back up before I had to leave for work, so I didn't have that worry.

Our old Tom cat had a better day today. I suspected he might be improving when I went out in the shop at four am to check on him. He had moved from the nest box I made him and was lying curled beside it, in the perpetual left turn he keeps wanting to make. The bedding in the box was damp--from the location, it appeared as if some of the sub-Q fluids I had given him had leaked out. Can't blame him for wanting to lie someplace drier but the concrete slab looked so hard, I brought out an old sheet and covered it with a towel for him to lie on.

He kept trying to get up and walk--so I helped him over to the litte box and stood him there for a couple minutes. No, that wasn't what he wanted. I steadied him as he got out and walked a few feet to the water dish. After he had drank a bit, I carried him back to his bed and brought him a small dish of his own for water. Then, I figured while I was at it--I opened a can of cat food for him. He was definitely interested in that. He hadn't really eaten since Thursday morning. We gave him honey and Nutri-Cal Thursday afternoon and again yesterday but I'm sure it didn't make his tummy feel full.

I sat with him for about ten minutes while he ate and drank, then put him back to bed before retiring again myself. I figured he had either decided to live or this was the last hurrah before his final crash. What was significant was that he was moving off the steady state he had held for the last thirty-six hours, and that meant something was changing.

By the time I got up this morning, he was looking better and even trying to move around the shop a bit--unsteady but looking stronger

Friday, November 24, 2006

8 degrees

I am more accustomed to the idea of losing Tommy today. I just wish there was a way to know if he was comfortable.

He didn’t seem to be in distress when I got home last night. Rather he was in a semi-conscious state—his eyes half-open, his breathing deep and slow, and generally unresponsive, though he swallowed a few dropper-fulls of water. He looked a lot like a dying cat. I reassured Denny that in such a stupor like that, he wasn't suffering, just drifting in a semi-coma state. I moved him to some bedding in a quiet corner and covered him loosely with an old shirt to keep him warm. Though on the heated slab, we needn't fear drafts.

I was genuinely surprised that he didn’t die during the night.

By early this morning, when Denny looked in on him before leaving, he lifted his head.

I checked on his every twenty minutes or so this morning. By mid-morning, he was acting much as he did yesterday: turning his head to the left and with slight tremors in his legs. I gave him a tiny bit more Valium, which quieted the seizure-type activity, and some sub-Q fluids to keep him hydrated. It finally occured to me that giving sub-Q fluids would be smarter than trying to feed him water by the dropper-full. He took a little Nutri-Cal mixed with honey and the juice from a can of Friskies but didn't really seem hungry.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

5 degrees
Clear skies

It stated out as a pretty nice day. Denny and I had pumpkin pie with our morning coffee, then split up to do chores: he had some tires to change on the cars and I had the ever-present cat boxes to clean. He teased me about unloading the dishwasher, so I did that, loaded it up and cleaned the sink as well.

The folks at the Animal Shelter were having a big feast for the staff, volunteers, family, friends and any one else who needed a place to be on the holiday, so Denny was planning to eat dinner there then bring me a plate at work. He has to get up in the small hours tomorrow morning to drive to Anchorage for his flight out to Bethel, so he won't be making a late night of it.

At noon, the televised coverage of the AKC Philadelphia Dog Show began. I always enjoy watching the various breeds of dogs, so I settled in to watch as much as I could before I had to leave for work, doing my primping and packing during the commercials. It was while I was passing through the shop to get some sodas that I noticed that Tommy was lying on the floor next to a litterbox. Since the slab in the shop is heated, there's a lot of lying on the floor that goes on, but he was acting a bit odd, turning his head to the left like he kept hearing something in that direction. When I examined him closer, I saw his paws were twitching--he was having a seizure.

Well, long story condensed somewhat--on top of his FIV and early-stage renal failure, he has mild diabetes and the vet suggested about a month ago that we try him on 3 units of insulin twice daily. I hadn't been too commited to doing that with all the other medications I have been doing the last few weeks. But I finally started getting him his shots on a regular basis about five days ago and he had been fine with it until now. But insulin-shock was the first suspect.

I called the vet emergency number and talked to Dots, who suggested the usual treatment for insulin-shock and offered to meet us at the clinic. We gave him some honey and Nutri-Cal and the twitching stopped. I called her back and told her he had stopped seizing and was resting. She said to continue feeding small amounts of the honey mixture every 45 minutes or so for three hours and to call her if we needed to.

Denny said he would stay home and minister to Tommy. If he is going to die, whether Denny is there or not won't make much difference but I appreciate his concern and commitment. When I left to go to work, Tommy was in a stupor but he was swallowing on his own, so we can at least get sugar and water into him.

As I write this, I have no idea whether Tommy is going to live or die. He lies helpless and vulnerable in the open palm of life tonight. The sunset is beautiful—vivid reds in a liquid blue sky-- and I can’t help but think that it is a glorious evening to die. I know Tommy has had two good years. I don’t know if they were enough to make up for the years of hunger and fear and cold he endured before we made him a member of our family. I do know that for those years, he has been warm and well-fed and known love and companionship. He has remembered how to purr.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Remembrances of things past…

have been having a lot of dreams this fall that take me way back in time, involving people I haven't seen in decades. I was busy in a dream this morning, doing some heavy house-cleaning in preparation for a dinner party, when I was distracted by a cat's meow that was coming from outside of the house. I realized (in my dream) that I hadn't feed the "outside" cats the previous evening and that Johnny was complaining. I knew that he and the other cats would be alright because there was dry cat food out where they were, but I also knew that Johnny wanted to remind me to feed him.

I knew it was Johnny because I recognized his voice.

Only after I woke up did it occur to me that Johnny died two years ago today.

I sure loved that stripey boy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Br-r-r-r-r
I think our thermometer is stuck on six above zero. That is what it reads every clear, cold morning.

Don't get me wrong--I much prefer this weather to rain and slush. It can actually be comfortable in the midafternoon when it warms up into the teens. If the wind isn't blowing. If the wind is blowing, outdoor activities quickly become No Fun At All. I coined the phrase "FTS (as in "F* This Shit") Cold" this week to describe the effect of a twenty-knot breeze on outside chores when the temperatures are in the single digits.

I especially pity the outdoor creatures. The chickadees and nuthatches have been enjoying the ham fat we hung outside for them and I keep the seed feeders stocked. Yesterday morning, there was a pheasant on our deck, eating sounflower seeds that were scattered on the snow. I made sure to put more out for him.

I haven't seen any tracks from the black-and-white stray since just after the snow fell. The wind has hardened a crust on the snow, so unless I were to look closely, I might not see his tracks if he is still coming by for food and water. I hope he has hunkered down somewhere warm.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Evening

Looks like they got even more snow down in town. At least the airport staff is referring to it as "ten inches of loose snow" in the unplowed areas.

I got almost all the Halloween stuff put away (except the outside lights and the pumpkin wreath) and brought a box of decorations downstairs to start working on but I ended up spending a great deal of time just medicating the cats. The workload should get lighter in a few days--Frieda and Tiny fall back to a maintenance dose on their prednisone after tomorrow and BeBe and Punkin are only on the Clavamox for two weeks--or until it runs out. I actually got Punkin's morning dose down her with a minimum of fighting by just walking up to her while she was sleeping and tipping her mouth open. It was inside before she could bring her claws up. Yes--it's terribly rude to do it that way but she fights tooth and nail--literally--and she needs to learn that taking the occasional medication isn't the end of the world.

I did praise her lavishly for being such a good kitty.

I gave Dinky a good quantity of fluids today because I missed yesterday and then I brought in and warmed up the bag I keep in the shop and gave Tiny some. (I want to keep one bag dedicated to Dinky upstairs.) She is feeling better from her meds and enjoyed sitting on my lap while I let the fluids run into her. It makes the effort worthwhile when you can see an improvement. Then, since the fluid was warmed, I went out in the shop and gave some to Demi and Frieda. Demi sat so patiently that I got carried away (200-250 ml) a bit but a good flush will help with her impaired kidney function and she only gets them once or twice a week.

My little checklist is filled up today so I printed up some new forms for the rest of this month and into December. Then, since I had the printer turned on, I made up some labels of the boxes of Halloween stuff and some new photo address labels. Except I didn't do a good job of proof-reading the first batch, so I got the ZIP code wrong. I can use the excuse that the lighting out there is really poor. Anyway, I'll make a pen-and-ink correction and use them for paying bills.

Then I hooked up the DSL modem right before I had to leave to go to work. It seems to be working okay. Denny didn't get to it before he had to leave and it's a shame to be paying for the service and not using it. If he needs to reconfigure things when he gets home, it shouldn't be a problem.

Then I went out and brushed snow off of the Suburban. I decided to drive the it today because I don't know if we are going to get more snow this evening and I want to take things slow with the "winter" Crown Victoria. Although I wished I had driven it when I nearly slid into a minivan at the store. I forgot that the Suburban doesn't have good studs... So I have to ask myself on days like this--do I need studded tires or four-wheel-drive?

Overcast, snowing
18 degrees
6 inches of snow--5 inches new

The new snow is putting me in a Yule spirit. I have been slowly putting the Halloween decorations away--just may add an impetus for me. Also--again--it is time to check out and repair the lights on the trees in the backyard--that task I always vow I am going to get done before freeze-up.

Oh well...maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

10 degrees
1 inch snow on ground

Watching the dust settled after Election Day, I wasn't surprised by the outcome, and was generally pleased. The candidate we supported for governor only got 10% of the vote but he was running as an independent and we didn't really expect him to win. (We just couldn't bring ourseles to vote for the major party candidates. We do enjoy being contrary...)

The best news of the day, of course, was that Donald Rumsfeld will be replaced as Secretary of Defense. It's ironic that had the President made the announcement before the election, he may have stemmed some of the negativity against his party, but it's obvious that the only reason the change is being made because of the outcome of the election. His inflexibility, his inabilty to admit making mistakes is one thing that continues to cripple this president. Pig-headedness shouldn't be confused with resolve.

But the American people have had their say. We shall see how much changes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

15 degrees
Partly cloudy

Up earlier than I wanted because BeBe and Punkin had dental appointments at the vet clinic this morning. Oh joy--how I love getting up early on my day off...

Also, since those two had to fast after midnight, I picked up all the food in the house and the natives were getting a bit restless by seven this morning. So I got up, made some coffee, got dressed and put BeBe and Punkin the their carriers and then put the food back down--to the delight of Slippers et al.

Denny was going to go in with me and vote but his stomach was bugging him so he stayed home. At least Punkin and Beebs aren't the most vocal of our cats, so the drive down to town wasn't filled with nerve-wracking complaints from the back seat. It is hard to concentrate on driving when you are trying to comfort a distressed cat. Punkin has been on the trip often enough that she doesn't seem too stressed out by it. She almost seems to enjoy the change of scenery and having all those people make a fuss over her. Bebe gets out so rarely that he wasn't sure exactly what was happening. (That's our big snowball of a cat in the icon...)

The new vet, Dr. Craig, was meeting Punkin and Bebe for the first time, so we spent a little extra time going over my concerns with Punkin's wheezing and limping. Bebe, although he hasn't been to see the vet in seveal years, is basically a healthy young cat.

It was breezy and warmer this morning so I wasn't surprised to see a wall of clouds coming up Cook Inlet toward us. I was surprised when it had covered the far side of the bay by the time I was heading back home. In fact, before I got to the top of Baycrest Hill, a fine dry snow was falling.

Since the ground was dry and cold, the snow stuck and slowly accumulated during the day. We went back into town about three for a vet appointment for Tiny and Frieda and to pick up the dental patients, so we took the Suburban to hold all the cat carriers.

I wasn't too optimistic about Frieda. She has been losing weight and having trouble keeping her food down and for some reason--probably because her family has a history of tumor growing--I was sure she had cancer. But when I described her symptoms and Dots examined her, she seems to think Frieda may be suffering from irritable bowel symdrome. I felt glad about the diagnosis, though, because that is more treatable than cancer. Tiny has--as I suspected--a bad mouth infection but her pain-management seems to be holding well. So we came out of the vet's office with four cats and courses of medications for all of them. Punk and Beebs will just be on post-dental antibiotics but Frieda and Tiny are starting prednesone and antibiotics, plus an nati-nausea drug and Vitamin B-12 for Frieda.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween

20 degrees
Clearing skies

A quiet evening around the house. I had a supply of candy laid in, but as usual, no little goblins or ghosties or pirates ventured up our drive to knock on our door.

But I had an enjoyable--if lonely--evening. "Criminal Intent" was very good this evening--and for once I remembered to watch it at its new time. Afterward, I took the video camera around the house to capture the lighted decorations and the moon high in the sky.

Dinner was a large dish of macaroni and cheese and a salad while I worked a jigsaw puzzle in front of the television, with the help of the cats.


Witches and Goblins and Jack-o-lanterns bright
Creep through the town on a cold October night.
You hear the sound of running feet when nothing can be seen
And the strangest things can happen on a wild Halloween.

Out in the street, merry children run about.
Masks on their faces, they go with noisy shout.
They rap at every window pane where people may be seen,
And the strangest things can happen on a wild Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Today in history (from Wikipedia):

1938 - The radio drama The War of the Worlds frightened many listeners in the United States into believing that an actual Martian invasion was in progress.


It was overcast and 38 degrees this morning. Even though we are back to Standard Time, it was dark for an hour after I got to work.

Just how I want to spend my birthday--getting up at four-thirty in the morning and going to work. Oh well--one more year is our mantra now.

I had a couple calls from Denny--once early at work to wish me a happy birthday, and another when I got home. I had felt like taking a nap as soon as I hit the door. Something about the warmth of the car as I drive up Baycrest Hill always saps my energy. But my sense of duty kept me up long enough to start doing some of my "cat chores" and then Denny called and we talked for twenty minutes or so. Two more days until he is home. After I got off the phone, I completed medicating the cats and loaded the wood stove and by then I was awake enough to go ahead and clean the cat boxes before going upstairs to chill out for the rest of the evening watching television.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Black Bart

Bart

Today is Bart's Gotcha Day: the anniversary of the day he came into the house to live with us.

Read about it in last year's journal entry.

Bart continues to amaze. He is just such a nice cat that it is hard to believe that this is the same cat who hissed and lunged at me when we had him caged in 2003, the shy "feral" who would skulk for cover if he even thought we were looking at him. A year ago, I assumed he had been born in the woods and grown up feral. Now, evidence suggests that he was once accustomed to a house and living with people. How he lost that life and came to live the fearful, desperate life of a stray is something I will never know. Nor will I know why it was that he decided--at the end of the summer of last year--to make his hestitant approach to us that ended with him becoming one of the housecats.

I just know he is a marvel and a mystery, this sturdy, sleek black cat that nibbles my toes and weaves between my ankles when I go for coffee in the morning, who comes when he's called and purrs with pure abandoned when we caress him.

I am so glad he decided to take the first tentative steps in trusting us.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Only Two Left...

Only two left of the six kittens born in our house on September 28, 1991--the last two sisters, Frieda and Cissy.

At least, that's what I believe. I haven't heard a thing about what became of the kitten we called "Dirt Nose" for the black spot on his nose after we sent him to Nanwalek to live with an older gentleman there. I checked on him a few days later and the woman who had arranged for me to send him over there said he was sleeping in the old man's bed, so I hope it was a good life for him.

His brother, Frosty, found a good home with friends of friends and I ran into the woman in the vet's office in Soldotna about five years ago. They loved Frosty and he was doing great. I hope he had a good life, too.

The calico sister--the one I had wanted to keep for myself--was actually the first to find a home because she was so pretty. She went to a cat-lover in Homer that I had met through Homer Animal Friends, but since she was allowed outside to hunt, I doubt she is still alive. Outdoor cats just don't last as long in general. I know she was loved and that's all I could wish for her.

We kept Demi and three of her daughters--the Three Sisters--girls in various combinations of orange and white. They were a cohesive family unit, our own little pride within the larger population of cats. They groomed each other, slept together and defended each other in the skuffles of cat-dom.

We lost big, gentle Lucy to cancer two years ago. I am still very sad about it and miss her quiet companionability. Temperatmentally, she was probably most like her mother (who is persisting on in apparent good health though she is in her late teens by now) and you couldn't want a better, more basic cat.

Now, Frieda is losing weight and the spectre of cancer looms once again over the little family. This may be her last birthday, so I will spend it being glad for her and her sister and their littermates who brought laughter and happiness into our house on this day in 1991.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Movies

Hmmm…

Lisaviolet had an entry in her diary about her ten favorite movies, so I thought I would post my response here and invite you, gentle readers, to post your own favorite--either here or in your own blogs.

I’m a SF-fan, so at the top of my list would be:

1) Blade Runner--not just because of Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer but because the film is so starkly beautiful and asks questions about what makes us human, what gives us souls.

2) The Thirteenth Floor--because it asks some of the same questions as above, and is a visual homage to Blade Runner, and because I love Vincent D’Onofrio and in this film, I get to see him play two totally opposite characters.

3) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (aka the second film) This is Star Wars but darker and less innocent. The texture of the plot is richer and more morally complicated. I like that. I must have seen this film a hundred times.

4) Serenity--because I would list the whole Firefly television series if I could. But since we are talking specificly about films, I can’t. So I’ll list the film sequel.

5) Dune--I prefer the mini-series but the film is excellent in its own right.

Moving away from SF…

6) Spirit of the Wind--a small film made by an Alaskan Native corporation about George Attla, a noted dog-musher. But it is more. It is lovingly filmed in Interior Alaska and gives quiet insights into the life of indigenous people living in their world and in a world not of their own making. It is a love story about a man and his dog, and about not giving up. I wish I could find it on DVD or even VHS because my copy is getting very worn.

7) Shrek II--because real love stories get more interesting *after* marriage.

8) The Last of the Mohicans--Daniel Day Lewis--need I say more?

9) The Lord of the Rings (the whole trilogy--damn it!) Because it is a masterpiece and maybe they are right when they say it is a tale about how to face the end of life. We are all going West.

10) V for Vendetta--because I love Alan Moore’s graphic novels (when are they going to make “Watchmen” into a film?) And because none of Neil Gaiman’s works have been made into films yet. When they do, the chronicles of the Sandman will be at the top of my list of favorites.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Childhood Poems

A line from a poem I had learned in childhood kept circling through my mind yesterday, so finally I typed it into Google and came up with this. Reading it refreshed my memory--for I once had it by heart--and also brought freshly to mind the two battered little books of childrens' poems that my mother would read from at bedtime. They had lost their bindings and become loosely-folded pages by the time we out-grew those nightly sessions. Reading this poem was like seeing the face of an old friend.

Kitten's Night Thoughts

When human folk put out the light
And think they've made it dark as night,
A pussycat sees every bit
As well as when the lights are lit.

When human folk have gone upstairs
And shed their skins and said their prayers,
And there is no one to annoy,
Then Pussy may her life enjoy.

No human hands to pinch or slap,
Or rub her fur against the nap,
Or throw cold water from a pail,
Or make a handle of her tail.

And so you will not think it wrong,
When she can play the whole night long,
With no one to disturb her play,
That pussy goes to bed by day.

--Oliver Heford (1863-1935)


Of course, the list of casual abuses described in the third verse gives me pause and as a small child I was aghast at the very idea of pinching my cats. But I suppose the poet meant it as a subtle rebuke with the subtext of "If you little bastards weren't so mean to Kitty, maybe she would want to play with you during the day..." It does provide the child with an idea of what sort of behavior Kitty does not appreciate and probably was instructive in that regard.

I searched for another favorite but couldn't find it on-line. It goes like this:

Little Tiger Cat with the spotted face,
Do you think you’ve found a baby-jungle place?
Going through the grass, stealthily and slow,
Are you waiting to jump out and scare the folks you know?
And send them running to the house as fast as they can go?
Little Tiger Cat, it’s no use at all,
No matter what you think yourself, you’re rather tame and small,
And with all your hiding and your stem contemplation,
You cannot scare a single one of high or low station,
And so, there’s no use trying to be like your wild relation.

--Annette Wynne


Isn't it funny how those poems we learn as children stick with us forever?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

ETA--Thanks to Ken L. for sending me the complete lyrics of the poem!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Morning

A misty morning that feels very much like autumn....

I'm working the opening shift, after working the closing one last night. We call this a "short turn-around" and this means I got about four hours of sleep last night. I woke about a half-hour before I intended to, to the sound of Bunny retching above my head.

Nothing will bring me out of a sound sleep faster than the sound of a cat puking. I jumped up, crying, "Not on the bed!" and hustled Bunny off my pillow and onto the floor beside the bed before she brought anything up. Bunny is still suffering from vestibular syndrome and so is a bit dizzy and disoriented--on top of being blind--so I steadied her with my hand while she hacked up a couple bits of white foam. Poor thing. If she still has an upset tummy when I get home this afternoon, I will give her a sliver of Pepcid, but out of consideration for her liver, I don't want to give her any more medication than is necessary.

Anyway, the commotion woke Denny up and he promptly went and fetched coffee, so any hope I had of snuggling back in for another few minutes of sleep was abandoned. An hour later, I shambled out of the house into the morning dimness and headed into town. The morning was overcast and wet, with scatter spits of rain. The weather is supposed to improve slightly this afternoon, but as is typical for this season of changes, one wild, warm, wet storm will follow another up the Aleutians to die in southcentral Alaska.

Despite having to get up before I really want to, the opening shifts on Sunday aren't that bad. The traffic is light--and this in a summer that we are remarking is not very busy--and no one is moving too early, so I can count yesterday's traffic over coffee and pull myself together undisturbed.

If it is so quiet now, at the peak of summer, imagine how quiet things will be in a month.

*~*~*~*

Musical Taste Meme

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Day

In the flurry of my shared time-off with Denny, I vowed to myself that my first day off after Denny went back to work would be a "me" day--just me doing what I wanted to do. Don't mistake--the time shared with Denny was fun and productive but gosh--who doesn't look forward to a day to just laze around with no pressure to "get things done?"

Of course, with the cats, there is always a portion of my time that is dedicated to what must be done to make them comfortable (clean cat boxes) and keep them healthy (fresh water and food, insulin for Toby John, fluids for Dinky, pain-management medication for Tiny, other medications as needed...) But I consider that sort of like living on a farm--there just are certain chores that have to be done every day regardless of how you feel. Not even when I was sick in bed with the flu for two weeks (in January) did I let the cat-duties slide too much.

But I had toyed with the idea of getting up early and driving north up the Sterling Highway with the video camera and one of the film cameras, taking photos or video of some of the scenic places, etc. Maybe exploring some of the sideroads that we always by-pass on our way to someplace else. Then stopping to eat in Kenai or Soldotna and shopping at the stores there.

This idea took for granted it would be a gorgeous day.

Well, the remnants of an old tropical storm rolled in yesterday just as I was getting off work and by the time I got home, it was raining sideways. The winds abated overnight but it is still overcast/misty with occasional rain today--not good driving weather, much less suitable for photographing scenery. So I decided to stay home and knock about the house today.

I spent most of the morning catching up on my blog- and email-reading and folding laundry. As I surfed the 'net, I was repeatedly distracted by the birds outside, visiting the hanging feeders and the plywood area on top of the wood pile where I spread sunflower seeds. With this year's young now adult-sized and active, there was a fascinating variety of nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, sparrows and finches outside the window, swirling about and acting on their little rivalries. I took a few photos of the activites, and just watched and enjoyed other things--like the nuthatch who was trying to figure out how to get at the seeds in the hanging feeder. He perched atop the globe, pecking impotently at the seeds he could see through the plastic until--after watching some of the more experienced birds--he got the idea and awkwardly landed at the bottom of the feeder.

I am only about two loads from having the upstairs table cleared. I also decided to open a bit more space in the little upstairs sitting room by moving the table over to the wall. Once I figured that the boxes that house the feral cats during the day would fit under the table, there didn't seem any reason to have so much floor space taken up with a table we can rarely sit at.


As usual, I found this while looking for something else and got caught up in reading it:

Another tourist's visit to Alaska...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dinky

After all these months of steady improvement, I am allowing myself to relax just a tiny bit regarding Dinky's chronic kidney failure. I can't quite make myself believe that she will "get over it" but she is doing well and looks as good as she ever has, so maybe we can coax a few good years out of her. Keeping in mind that she could "crash" at any time, we live-- for now--in what William Carlos Williams described as the enlightened period between the explosion and the shockwave.

And what guarentees do we ever have, anyway? There is always only just today, so I greet each new day that we have our spunky little calico with gratitude.

When Dink was first diagnosed with chrionic renal failure, I was very upset. I searched the internet for information and joined a large mailing list for support. I found people in silimar straits who were dosing their cats with a variety of medications and supplements. One site offered twelve different treatments to help their cat limp along. You can find a lot of information on the internet, but I have learned to use my own best judgement. Each case is different and there are some opinionated folk who will insist that the treatment they have devised for their cat is the only way to go, and some will even attack you (verbally) if you don't follow their advice--accusing you of not caring for your cat. Cat-folk can be a hard-headed and passionate lot.

I guess I am lucky in that Dinky is fairly young (12 years) and very healthy. In time, I came to see that the single most important thing I could do for her was administer her daily fluids. That and a daily vitamin supplement is what her daily treatment consists of. I feed the dry science Diet k/d in the bowls upstairs--where she does most of her eating--but opinion is divided as to the value of a low protein diet. She gets her wet food (Friskies) with everyone else in the evening, anyway. As I said, her numbers have been steadily improving since Spring. Sure, there is more I could do in treating her--but I am not convinced it would be an improvement. "Treat the cat--not the numbers" was the best advice I picked up on-line about treating cat illness. The cat is looking and feeling good. There may be a time to bring in the heavy guns later, but I'm not going to mess with success at this point.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Vacation

Sticking my head up out of the delicious fog that is a summer vacation to update on the break-neck pace of life in Southcentral Alaska .

Our houseguests left Thursday, so of course our weather has improved. Two sunny days in a row! Well, yesterday started out foggy with occasional rain but the clouds dissipated in the early afternoon. Despite the mist and rain, the air was so warm it had to have been tropical in origin, so I guess the typhoon season has started. Since then, it has been clear and sunny but I have no doubt we will soon have our familiar gusty, wet late-summer weather to remind us that winter is coming.

We drove to Anchorage on Thursday--both to deposit our guests at the Anchorage airport for their return flight to California and to see a dental specialist to complete my root canal. (It seems I have calcified canals in some of my teeth.)

After tending to those tasks, we went to Costco for some half-hearted shopping. The prospect of "going to the big city" always seems to loom larger in the mind than the actual experience. Part of it is my prosaic husband. I wouldn't mind hitting some special stores--bookshops, music or video stores, clothing, etc. Then maybe have a nice lunch at a Mexican place or one of the nicer franchise restaurants. But Denny seems focused on Sam's Club, Costco and maybe--if he has the need--a marine or auto parts store. Loading case lots of cat food and kitty litter on a large, unwieldy cart is not my idea of shopping fun.

Also, as soon as I was dropped off at the dentist, Denny and the guests went out and got some lunch. So he wasn't hungry by the time he picked me up, while I was lusting after a hamburger. I dropped a few hints on the way to Costco that went over his head. While we were waiting in line to check out, he pointed out the cheap little fast food stand in the store: hot dogs, pizza slices, etc. I observed that they didn't have hamburgers.

"Oh, would you like a hamburger? Let's see if we can find you something..." Something that wouldn't take us too far from the straight-shot from Costco to the Seward Highway, of course. Which seriously limited our options.

While I gazed longingly at the various food franchises on the opposite side of Dimond Boulevard, Denny quickly dismissed any possibilities on our side of the divided highway. The nearby Burger King was "nasty" and when we spotted a McDonald's, his whole tone of voice implied all manner of reservations about anyone who would willingly eat one of their burgers. In fairness, I had to agree--the typical thin, rubbery patty of meat with that noxious sauce nestle amid a meager offering of wilted lettuce and soft, tasteless tomato wasn't what I was longing for. It would take a real restaurant to provide what I was lusting after and it became apparent that it would take more whining and wheedling than I was up for to get that from Denny, who wasn't hungry and wanted to hit the road.

Oh, but there was a Subway nearby and for some reason, Denny is into Subway sandwiches, so guess what I got? It wasn't a burger and while it was sustenance, it wasn't the eating pleasure I had hoped for. (As far as cold sandwiches go, I prefer those that Arby's makes.)

But that's Denny--if it isn't fast and cheap, he doesn't have much use for it--at least as far as "eating out" is concerned. But the disappointment wasn't worth complaining about. Denny has many great qualities and being careful with money is hardly a fault. Honestly, I wasn't likely to find a burger that brought as much delight to my mouth as one I could make for myself at home would do. So I'll just make myself some burgers at home to scratch this culinary itch.

The drive home was wet and windy until we got on the south side of Turnagain pass--then it was just showery. We managed to get home before 8 pm so the whole expedition took less than twelve hours. My tooth was pretty excited by the time we got home, so I took one of Denny's pain pills and sleep very well. I filled a prescription for my own pills on Friday. They aren't as powerful but then, I don't need to take a two-hour nap every time I feel a twinge either.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Recommendation (Good Stuff)--Sunscreen

This Aveeno lotion is just wonderful on my sensitive skin. I have to be careful because so many complexion products will irritate my very fair skin, even those marketed for sensitive skin. Not only does this stuff block sun but it moisturizes without being heavy or greasy. I began to use it as my daily face cream this summer. I can go out on the boat all day and come home without a hint of sun burn.

Good stuff!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Only Know That Summer Sang In Me

...Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

--Edna St. Vincent Millay


The swallows are gone.

It took me a while to notice; the magpies and crows were making a fair ruckus. But then I looked up and noticed how empty the sky was.

Just yesterday I watched the fledglings stretch their wings. A family was perched under the eaves in front of the shop. The youngsters have duller breasts than the adults--that seemed the only distinguishing feature from ground level. Above them swirled the cloud of swallows we have played host to this summer, diving and swerving, filling the air with their merry cries.

Then, overnight, the sky is silent and still.

What primal pulse beat across the midnight sky to call them away from summer's pastures and fields? It boggles the mind. It is a month past the equinox and now they have launched themselves out onto the wave of time, riding the crest of summer to the south as our days shorten and the wildflowers go to seed. They live in an eternal summer.

As the flush of high summer starts--imperceptibly--to fade, I await the evitable autumn and wish our swallows well until next year.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Howdy, Stranger

Well, I'm glad to see that no one has panicked, thinking the bears got me, when in truth I have just been busy, busy busy with the frantic-ness that springs from living in a clime where it's too cold/wet/windy/nasty to do any outdoor projects for a good portion of the year.

I have been trying to keep abreast of my friends-list and have been jotting notes for possible journal entries on the odd scrap of paper. So I hope soon this entry will seem out-of-place, nestled among typically chatty, mundane records of my daily life. When that happens, I may just delete this entry, as it will have served its purpose.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lilacs

My dear, departed Grandma has been on my mind even more than usual these past few days. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of her death, and despite the passing years, the sense of loss continues to be close to my heart.

A couple of weeks ago, I was leafing through the scrapbook of poetry clippings that she had compiled--a collection that spanned most of her adult life. My eye was caught by this poem--because of lilacs. Because the lilacs I tenderly coax into bloom each spring are in memory of the lilac bush that stood in the corner of her front lawn, where it blooms forever in my memory. Because lilacs speak to me of her.

Remembered Spring

As I arrange my lilacs in a vase today,
Their sweet scent of beauty sweeps the years away.
I hear my mother speaking in another spring...
"These lilacs are so lovely that they almost sing!"
Together we recited the bit we could recall:
"Come down to Kew in lilac-time"...we didn't know it all.
Gently to the purple plumes I sigh nostalgia's note
While memory of the one I loved catches at my throat.
--Shirley Guerci

I wonder what made her clip this poem from a magazine so long ago. I wonder who it was that she thought of, when she read this poem?

Friday, June 30, 2006

Recommendation (Good Stuff)--Soap

I really enjoy the soaps from Denali Dreams. They feel delightful in the hand and produce a rich, silky lather. I recently placed a large order just because it was so hard to decide which soaps to get. Both the Kitchen soap and the Gardener's soap do good jobs with smelly or dirty hands. I haven't had a chance to try all the floral-scented soaps yet (they last a while in the shower) but I use the Buzz-Off soap quite a bit in the summer just for it's clean, fresh smell. I ordered some of the insect repellent spray, made up of essential oils and use it on my ankles when I am in the green house. I haven't gotten gotten bit yet and it is gentle on my skin.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

August in June

Our wet, warm weather continues...

The sun peeked out a bit this morning, so I put Beebs and Twitch outside early on. Then--before I went to work--I spent a half-hour out in the yard and greenhouse, working with my flowers and herbs. I brought Tiny out with me, as she didn't seem as stoned from her Tramadol today as she has been for the past two days. I guess her body is adjusting to the medication.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World's Longest Meme...

Yet more information you never really wanted to know about me...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Blue Month

The weather today feels like August...

Now lest you think that means it is sunny and hot, let me remind you that August in our section of Alaska is the Storm Season, when old Pacific typhoons crawl up the coast of Siberia to die in the Gulf of Alaska.

It was the three Ws: windy, wet and warm. One thing about the low clouds and gusty winds--it will make it a quiet Friday evening at work. The "Let's fly to Seldovia for the weekend" crowd will decide to stay home, so we won't have the usual influx of Anchorage-area pilots over the weekend. So these rainy days provide a nice break in the summer traffic. And I don't have to water the flowers.

The lupine are beginning to bloom, marking the start of the Blue Month of summer. The sea-peas (wild sweetpeas) have blossomed out a week or so ago and now the lupine join them. Soon the wild geraniums will burst forth as well, and the margins of our roads and woodlands will be awash with blue and purple flowers. By mid-July, the first flowers of summer will have faded and we will move into the Pink Month as the wild lands become dominated by the ubiquitous and lovely fireweed--harbinger of Fall.

It already feels like autumn today. That was fast...lol.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Twitch


Actually, Twitch isn't turning out to be all that bad of a cat.

Since we have started letting him have some "outside time" every day, he has calmed down considerably. Also, since he has that taste of freedom each day, he is more content to remain in his cage other times--much to the relief of the shop cats.

He is an excellent outdoor cat--never wandering far from the house and always coming promptly when I call him. He wears a collar with an ID tag and a bell, so when I call him, I will hear this ingle-jingle-jingle until he comes into view.

Apparently he doesn't like being a white cat, since his first action every day upon finding himself outdoors is to roll vigorously in the dust of the driveway until his pristine coat is a pale beige. I comb out the dust but he repeats the procedure religiously until I have the impression that he would rather be dirty-tan than shiny white.

Friday, June 02, 2006

More Bears...

See--I *told* you there were bears in the woods...

Homer Tribune article

Homer News article

As near as I can tell, this was about mile or so from where I saw the bear a couple weeks ago.

Not that we need to go out to the North Fork for bears. Denny and I were exploring a lot about a half-mile from our place the other day, crawling over downed trees and slogging through the muskeg, trying to locate survey markers. Since the lot had never been developed, it was a jumble of wind-fallen trees, like a huge game of pick-up-sticks. And it seemed every time we found a clear spot to stand, there was "bear sign"--quantities I had never seen in such a small area. Kind of nerve-wracking when you know you have no chance of running. Of course, we were making so much noise in our efforts, it would have been a very deaf bear who wouldn't have heard us coming.

Still, I was glad when we left the woods behind us and headed back home. Some adventures you just don't need.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More About Our Fire...

From the local newspapers:

The Homer News and the Homer Tribune.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

An Eventful Saturday...

We've had it brought home just how precarious our security can be, oft times dependent on wind, weather or the sensibility of others.

We have had a hot and clear holiday weekend, with gusty winds and low humidity. Under such conditions, wildfire is almost certain. A large fire flared up across the Inlet from Anchorage, driven by winds so strong that burnt leaves rained down on Anchorage International. The visibilities were restricted to such an extent in the Anchorage Bowl that a pilot I was briefing for a return flight to Merrill Field decided to delay his return until the morning.

After he left, I sat at the inflight console, watching a team of yellow-shirted fire-fighters pick their way through the infield and out to the Forestry Service helicopter that is stationed at Homer during the fire season. The helicopter started up and called for an airport advisory. Just as he was leaving the traffic pattern, the pilot remarked,"If you have pilots coming down from the north, would you ask them to avoid the Bluff Point area. We have a fire on Green Timbers and we'll have a couple helicopters on it."

"But I live on Green Timbers..."

You know, that is my single worst fear during the summer--to be sitting at work and see a plume of smoke come over the bluff. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed home. Busy signal. Okay--Denny was either trying to call me or on-line. Either way, he was there and so the house was protected. I kept trying our number--between working traffic--for the next few minutes but kept getting a busy signal. Then, as I went back to trying to concentrate on my job, the phone rang. It was Denny--calling to tell me about the fire. He had to call on his cell phone because the fire--three lots down toward the Sterling--had burned up our phone junction box and the land-lines were out. He said the winds up there, blowing out of the northwest at 20 knots, were blowing it away from our house and he was going to fuel up the bulldozer and go down to help.

Needless to say, that last hour of work was one of the longest I have ever worked. Shortly after Denny called, MH, who lives up on Diamond Ridge, called to see if I knew about the fire. His wife had seen it on her way home from work and he was out on Diamond Ridge Road watching them fight it. I told him that I already knew and that Denny was home so as far as I knew, our house was okay. He said that it was his worst fear too, to be sitting at work when a fire broke out at home. I told him that if Denny hadn't been home, I would have called Kenai and told them they had to take my frequencies because I had to go home. It gave me some peace of mind to know Denny was home because I knew that he would never let the fire touch our house.

The plume of smoke was dispersing by the time I made my closing announcement on the radio: "Homer Radio ceases operations at this time...." As I flipped the frequencies over to Kenai's control, I heard the voice of the helicopter pilot say, "Good night--your house is safe!" "You guys are my heroes," I told him.

Actually, Denny is my hero. I drove into the house from Thomas Road (aka the back way) but even on Thomas road, there were concerned homeowners standing on the road watching the fire-fighting operation through the trees. Once, home, I quickly put things to rights in the kitchen. Denny had been making stew and there was a pile of peeled potatoes sitting on the counter, so I put them in water to preserve them and double-checked the stove. It was off. Then I went out and watched the scene from the hill behind the connexes. The helicopter made a couple of water drops while I watched. About a half-hour after I got home, Denny brought the bulldozer down the road. The fire was knocked out but he said there would be a couple guys on the ground overnight just in case the winds stirred it up again. I was glad to know that--the way the wind was blowing, I never would have been able to sleep otherwise.

So that's the most excitement we've had lately.


In other news...

Dinky slept good through the night but was back in litterbox every few minutes this morning. I finally called Dots when I got to work--rather than wait until Tuesday to have Dinky see a vet. She agreed that it sounded like a bladder infection and advsed me to give Dinky a half of a 81 mg aspirin and some of the antibiotic I have on hand and see if that helps her.

As of this morning, our phones are still not working. Denny says it may be a while, and when I drove by the burned area on my way to work and saw the crispy-fried telephone junction box, I can believe it. The area was burnt to ashes--just stumps and naked alders--all gray and black. It not only singed the cabin on the property but was moving toward the highway and came within a few feet of the house on the corner--Denny said the homeowner was out there with a hose, wetting his house down like crazy last night.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday

Yay! No frost on the deck this morning.

I still got up feeling like hell--all achey with a sinus headache. Thankfully, an Advil Cold & Sinus Liqui-gel and a cup of coffee brought me back to some resemblance of normal.


What is my ideal pet? Do you really even need to ask?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bears...

So...about 6-o-clock this evening I was standing in the middle of a trail off of the North Fork Road watching as brown bear wandered across the track about a quarter mile ahead of me.

Geez...what is it with me and bears all of a sudden? I have gone *years* without seeing any and in the last week I have seen two.

About a week ago, Denny and I were driving down a rural road outside of Ninilchik, looking at property. Or looking for property, since most of the areas we have been poking around in are seriously lacking in signage and what are described as roads in the real estate listings often exist only in the imagination of the borough planners.

So, Denny and I were trying to find anything that resembled a cross-street out in some Hooverville neighborhood off of Oilwell Road when I squinted down the road ahead where what appeared to be a large brown dog was waving his head up and down.

"What the hell is that?" I asked Denny, not trusting my eyes.

"Damn--looks like a bear--a big one." The beast in question shambled off to the side of the road.

"I was sort of hoping it was just a big, brown dog..."

"Dogs don't act like that..."

We approached, then passed, the area in question. There was no big brown dog guarding the closest house. Whatever had been there had vanished. So we had no real proof as to what we had seen, but when we went out the next day to meet the real estate agent at the property, Denny brought a gun along--and the agent thanked him for the forethought. Of course we saw nothing in the way of threatening wildlife then--but that's the way we like it.

So, fast-forward to this week, where we have been looking for property near Anchor Point. There was a large-ish parcel of land on the market for a smallish price, so Denny and I went out yesterday and trooped around some phantom subdivision looking for surveyors' markings. Denny wore a revolver in a shoulder holster just in case but the largest wildlife we saw was a spruce grouse who drifted casually off into the underbrush as we walked past. We were interested in the land we saw but the directions from the realtor were vague and since our truck doesn't have a functioning odometer, going a mile down any particular road was all guesswork. Since Denny had to head out to Bethel this morning, I called the realtor and asked if someone could show me *exactly* where the property was located.

So that is why six pm found me and the property owner walking down a rough, sandy road/trail in the lowlands off of the North Fork Road, accompanied by his old, deaf dog. We were about half-way to his parcel when a large brown bear wandered out from the woods ahead of us and started walking down the road in the opposite direction. At that point, I realized that although I had--in fact--brought a gun along to this party, it was about a mile and a half away in my truck, securely stowed under the seat and safe from any possible bear attack. (I thought it might weird-out the seller if I hopped out of my truck and strapped a six-shooter on--and heaven knows it is so much better to be eaten by a bear than to weird-out a total stranger...)

Now, being an Alaskan means you don't shriek, "Omigod a bear!" when you happen upon one in your travels. Nope--not cool. No, you just go, "Hmmm...a bear..." and stop to see which way said bear is heading. We were a respectable enough distance away that our response was one of focused interest rather than fear, though I would have felt a bit more secure if we didn't have the half-deaf dog with us. Because it is widely accepted that the mostly likely outcome when you are out in bear country with your dog is that he or she will find a bear, get them all pissed off, then high-tail it back to you with an angry bear right behind them.

(I have to point out at this juncture that a cat would never do that to you...)

Now, it might seem strange to some of you city-folks, but we actually kept on walking up the road toward the property, keeping the bear in sight. Only when it finally quit the road and disappeared into the brush did my companion stop. "Actually, the property line we are looking for is just about where the bear disappeared." It was obvious he had no appetite to go any closer.

"Hmmm--okay."

A bear you can see is easier to work around than a bear you can't see. Losing sight of it helped us make up our minds. We decided to retreat back to his truck--casting casual but wary glances behind us from time to time--where he showed me satellite images of the land that he has stored on his laptop--delineating the area well enough that so I can go back with Denny and look at it. Preferably during a time of day when bears have better things to do than forage along the roadway.

Frost on the deck (again) this morning.