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.