Data “Android” Flynn

These two loved to snuggle each other

Nine years ago, we brought home a pair of 8 year old cats from a shelter. Older cats are hard to adopt, but this particular pair was the most engaging, sweetest and most fun set of cats we’d ever met. I thought at the time that we would have them for a shorter period than if we got young cats. I remember thinking that they’d be coming to the end of their predicted life spans when my eldest son was in high school. This is unimaginable when you have a little kid – an impossibly distant future. But…. Grey is a rising junior. Here we are.

Data actually liked to be worn like a scarf. He’d jump on your shoulder.

Tiberius left us in October of last year. We learned, in that moment, just who was responsible for 99.9% of all the cat related hijinks in the house. We THOUGHT with two cats we probably had two culprits, but noooo. It was entirely Tiberius. With only Data, butter could be safely left on the counter, we never were startled by a cat leaping out of an unsecured trash can, and you could plate dinner without leaving an armed guard or two and still find it on your plate.

Kitty snuggle piles

But Data, like Tiberius, was approaching 17 – quite an advanced age for a cat. Despite being teeny to start with, he was losing weight every vet visit. His kidney numbers weren’t great. He had to have a thyroid cream put on his ear. But for the last year, no lap went unclaimed. I started calling him “Fur and purr” – so insubstantial but omnipresent and loving.

This last week, though, he started refusing food. Including tuna. I may not be a vet, but I know that a cat who will not eat tuna is a cat who is done living. I took Data in to the vet who said that he basically had no more kidneys whatsoever, and that his numbers were literally higher than the test could measure. He also looked very uncomfortable – hunched up. He started hiding, and could only endure about 10 minutes of lap-petting before he went back into a hidey hole. He was telling us in clear terms that it was time. I asked the vet to take some palliative measures (rehydration, anti-nausea meds) and called Lap of Love to see when they could come. Data purred past his last breath.

Watch cat

His parting was easy and painless, if not quite as funny as Tiberius’ (who literally died with a Dorito in his mouth). Unfortunately, both boys were away, so it was just Adam and I saying goodbye. Data was the sweetest, snuggliest, softest cat it has ever been my privilege to live with. He had a kind heart, and was very simple: he just wanted to love and be loved.

Take us with you!

With no children and no cats, the house is very quiet. I find for myself, cats are what transforms a house into a home. My nest is not yet empty, but my children are fledglings. We are unanimous on one thing: we definitely want more cats. I’m not really even sure how long we’ll hold out before we welcome new furry friends into our house. I can only hope and wish that we may again experience the joy and pleasure like Data and Tiberius brought to us.

Farewell, Fur and Purr. You are already deeply missed.


Bright Mocksgiving Morn

The turkey is in, the house is clean, the pies are done and only slightly squished by non-edibility-impacting malfeasance. The cats are exploring the new living room configuration and the children are under strict instructions to play quietly without messing up their room.

I think, while I cook, a lot of you. And I feel grateful. So in a stolen moment between turkey and dishes, let me shrae some things I’m particularly grateful for this morning.

* The complete recovery of Tiberius-cat. Yesterday he got his feeding tube removed. He had gained weight since his last checkup, and is pretty much completely recovered. Fatty livery rarely recurs, so… for the most part we are simply done, after a very difficult month. I’m grateful that our hard work and love paid off with health.

* The long, joyful service of the pastor of my church. He’s an amazing preacher, excellent minister, kind person and rollicking honkey-tonk piano player. His only fault is in being an awfully hard act to follow.

* The embarrassing riches of friendship that are mine. I have few lonely moments. My life is filled with close friends, acquaintances, friends of friends. I have friends of long-duration, new friends, parent friends, single friends, geek friends, faraway friends and friends close enough that I sometimes forget to knock when I invite myself into their house at 9:30 pm. I never thought that this wealth of friends would be my lot, and still find myself looking in disbelief to discover it’s true.

* My work is so many of the things I want out of my labors. It is interesting, important and educational. Every day I have more to learn than I can master. I had the flexibility to take care of my cat, but I go to work every day feeling like I will have important things to do, and that I am growing in my career. It also allows me to afford things like veterinary care for my cat. It comes with a hard toll to pay in fatigue and absorption, but I try not to complain about getting what I have asked for.

*Finally, of course, my family. I love reading advice columns, and the stories I hear make me grateful of loving, thoughtful, undemanding parents and in-laws. My own little nuclear family is made up of people I find interesting, and whose company I enjoy. My sons are fun and funny and growing more independent. My husband is helpful, thoughtful, kind and loving.

As Calvin says, Halcyon days are usually only awarded retroactively. I do feel as though, perhaps, I’m in the midst of a halcyonic stretch myself right now.

Great Justice


Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a newly-wed, I talked my husband into getting a cat. A friend of ours had a connection to a woman in Connecticut who ran an informal shelter, and we went there to select the animal that would be our companion. It turned out not to be much of a selection process: Justice hopped up on the counter and went to lay down in the cat carrier. The message was clear: stop yapping and take me home with you.

We did.

A young Justice
A young Justice

I am oh so tremendously sorry to tell you that Justice died today, and the universe is a bleaker place for it.

Justice was a remarkable cat. Many of you knew him well. He was rescued and neutered a little late in life, so he had quite a bit of the rakish Tom left in him. He was without exception the most gregarious cat I’ve ever met. During parties with 30 or more people, while his sister was hiding under the bed, he would be in the middle of the crowd, hamming it up and demanding scritches from whomever in the room had the worst allergies. He was impossible to ignore, and would drape himself over you, your keyboard, your book or whatever triviality you were attempting.

Justice was always in on the action
Justice was always in on the action

Justice was a very adventurous soul. When we originally got him, he started going crazy in the confines of our apartment. We got Magic to help burn off some of his kittish energy. It didn’t work. He was very unhappy as an indoor cat – always trying to escape and looking longingly out windows. When we finally accepted that our grief tonight was a price we would be willing to pay for him to have the life he wanted to live and let him outdoors, he was much, much happier. He followed us on walks around the neighborhood. People would stop us and ask if we had him on a leash – but we didn’t. He just followed us non-chalantly, as though we happened to be going the direction he was headed anyway.

Do you like my snuggly Justice-scarf?
Do you like my snuggly Justice-scarf?

Justice excelled in all catlike arts. He was an excellent hunter – often expecting us to be impressed by the rabbits and squirrels he offered to us. He spent many an hour napping in a finely cat-like way. But oh, he was so gentle and patient with people. He excellence with children was unsurpassed. He never offered violence at any but the most outrageous treatment. He liked to sniff the heads of babies to see if they were tasty. He was incredibly patient with kids, and their attempts to play with him.

Justice welcomes an infant Grey home from the hospital
Justice welcomes an infant Grey home from the hospital

Justice had his trials of course. There was the long bout with urine crystals that ended up with a full abdominal surgery and ignominious shaving. There was the broken leg. The tattered ear predated our acquaintance, but bespoke a more than passing familiarity with pugilism. He bore them all with great dignity and pride: charming the staff of the veterinary clinic, and making friends wherever he went.

He was well loved throughout the neighborhood. When we left our last place, the neighbors brought over the toys they’d kept for him, and the treats. He invited himself into many a home, assumed his place on the guest list at many a gathering and was a well known local figure.

Justice joins the family for a walk
Justice joins the family for a walk

Last night he slept at my feet – crowding me so that I had to contort myself in bed. The night before, I’d cuddled him as I put him on the porch so he wouldn’t follow me on a longer walk that would take him outside his territory. Tonight, he has left us and is gone. I confess myself completely bereft.

Last night, I went to Grey’s back to school night. In one drawing hung on the wall, Grey drew four things: one thing he liked to do (read), one thing he liked to eat, I forget the third. But the fourth was one thing he loved. And he drew a picture of his beloved cat Justice. When I sat the brothers on the couch and told them their cat was dead, Thane did not really understand. But Grey did, and he burst into tears. “He was my best friend,” he said. “I loved him so much.”

I know child. I did too.

May you never be forgotten, beloved friend
May you never be forgotten, beloved friend

The Magic is gone

Some animals are exceptional, at least in their owner’s eyes. Our cat Justice, for example, is the friendliest and most social cat you’ve ever met. He invites himself in to new houses, makes friends, and may be better known in the neighborhood than I am. Other pets are just who they are – not exceptional but no less loved.

Christmas Magic
Christmas Magic

Magic was just such an animal. After noticing Justice was going completely crazy at home by himself, we decided a logical solution would be to get a second cat for him to play with. We went to a now-defunct animal shelter in Arlington where one of our friends volunteered. Magic was always a little funny looking – she had a tiny head with ginormous eyes and a big body. At first glance, she looked a lot like Justice, but further examination would show she was nothing at all like him. She was purry and affectionate from the get-go, but only tolerated a certain amount of petting before suddenly baring claw or fang to the offending hand. Magic loved to eat and to sleep. She was a comfortable house cat – a fixture on cushions, with a funny wheezy snore. She never longed to go outside, happily lounging inside where it was comfortable, like a sensible and comfort loving cat.

This morning she died. She was an elderly cat, and has been on medication for several years. She had gotten less and less active lately. Last night she began throwing up. As we got ready to go this morning, she was trembling and looking terribly unhappy. I had the boys talk to her, telling her they loved her and petting her. Adam took her to the emergency vet this morning, but she died as she was brought in, with his kind and loving hand touching her.

The house is quiet now. No snoring cat lies in the corner. An extra food bowl and litter box can be put away now. Justice’s sister and friend will no longer play with him. My sons face a feline farewell for the first time, faces grave.

Farewell, Magic. May there be sunbeams where you are, and bowls overflowing with food. May no one clip your claws, or want to sit on the seat you’re sitting on. May they leave cans of tuna unguarded on the counter. May you have scritches under your chin and behind your ears – but not too many. You will be missed, and your absence keenly felt.

Brother and sister
Brother and sister

Those of you who knew her: do you have any favorite Magic memories or pictures?

The order in which things happen

So often, through fortune and fate, things transpire like this.

1) You get unexpected money (raise, bonus, birthday)
2) Something unexpected and expensive happens (cat breaks his leg)
3) You curse fortune

Consider the same features, but a different order

1) You sign up for an expensive vacation to Istanbul
2) Your cat breaks his leg and needs emergency splitting (and xrays, and medication, and a radiologist, for crying out loud)
3) Your oil change arrives with word that you need new brakes
4) Your husband comes home with news of an unexpected bonus and raise
5) Midas says you don’t really need new brakes after all

Theoretically, the brake stuff would neutralize each other, and the unexpected costs and unexpected extra moolah would be just the same as if you’d gotten the moolah first and the costs second. But no! When it happens the other way around, instead of bemoaning fate that has wrested your so-recent money from you, you bless fate for providing you with an unexpected windfall with which to pay your cat’s vet!

So much of life, the joy or the annoyance, is wrapped up in the perspective from which you look at it. Your cat comes home with a broken leg. Do you focus on the joy that your cat came home, or the troubles of the broken leg? You need to do yardwork. Do you focus on the unfairness of spending Saturday afternoon mowing, or rejoice that you have a home with green grass for playing on? I try to remind myself often that I have only a certain degree of control about what happens in my life, but I have quite a lot of control about how I view and approach the facts I can’t change.

In more concrete terms, you’ll be glad to hear that Justice is doing quite well. We’ve made Justice and Grey roomies, so that Justice doesn’t do stupid stuff like pick fights with his sister or attempt the stairs. He’s eating, drinking, using the litter box and sleeping quite a lot. He’s ungainly when he tries to move — he can’t get far without resting — but I’m guessing once it starts to knit he’ll look pretty funny tearing around with this big blue cast on!

Launch all zig for great Justice

In the fine tradition of mommy bloggers everywhere, I made a few cryptic posts in online forums (see also: facebook, twitter) where I said things like “Justice’s life as an indoor/outdoor cat just likely came to a close. $500 later….” and “Justice is missing. I’m guessing someone has taken him in. Time to canvas the neighborhood.” and “Good news: Justice made it home. Bad news: his leg looks broken. At the animal hospital now with an unusually quiet and calm cat.” and “$500 later, the news is not so good. Looks like multiple fractures & torn tendons.”

Then, of course, I was silent all day. Well, here’s the full scoop.

Justice is the kitty-blob on the bottom
Justice is the kitty-blob on the bottom

Justice is an indoor/outdoor cat. For years he was an indoor only. The thing is, he’s super duper social. He was literally going berserk before we got a second cat, and even with a playmate, he still seemed really unhappy inside. A few years ago, cognizant that this was likely a trade-off between quality and quantity of life, we started letting him out. And he’s loved it. The other day we were walking in the neighborhood when one of our neighbors, whom we’d never met, called out, “Hey! It’s Justice!” Justice loves people, attention and scritches. He follows us on walks. He’s a dog in a cats body, and extremely popular.
Justice on a family walk
Justice on a family walk

Usually, he’s great about showing up at mealtimes. Once in a while he misses one, for reasons I’m not aware of, but shows up again promptly. He’s gone missing a few times, and he’s usually been “taken in” by someone entranced by him. One woman accused us of letting our pregnant, declawed cat wander loose. HE may have needed a diet, but he’s actually a great hunter (too good, really, he keeps catching squirrels) and has a fully functional set of claws, as my stairs attest.

But last night when we came home, he wasn’t waiting at the steps. Yesterday morning, when we woke up, he wasn’t strolling in looking non-chalant. (Note: he is of course fixed.) And then yesterday, after a very long day, when I got home he still wasn’t there. I called and called at the door. (Thane chimed in, which was cute but a little heartbreaking.) I had to wonder if he’d been permanently adopted by someone, despite his collar and chip? If he’d fallen afoul of a coyote or a car? Just as I was prepping to go call through the neighborhood and see if anyone had seen our local celebrity, I heard the tinkle of his bells. Slowly.

Justice and Grey meet for the first time
Justice and Grey meet for the first time

From under the car there emerged a familiar figure. (He likes hanging out under the car.) But only three of his four legs were touching the ground. He looked quite bedraggled and ungroomed. And he had a serious air, quite unlike him.

I got him inside and took a look. The angle the leg was at looked anatomically improbable. 8 pm. I heaved a big sigh and called our vet, who had information on a local 24 hour animal clinic on the phone. Justice and I, and my husband’s Kindle headed out to spend a long quality evening in a vet hospital waiting room.

The vet said that yes, it was broken. The X-rays show that he fractured multiple tarsals and snapped the tendons in his leg. He’ll never have normal use of it again. We’ve splinted it, and he’s in a cast for 6 to 8 weeks. (Note: cat in a cast = very pathetic sight.) But he’s eating. He looks tired, but ok. He’s still trying to move around, and he’s purring and interested. Hopefully the damaged joint will fuse. It will never be as strong as it was. He’ll probably always have a limp, but cats are very adaptable.

We’re not really sure what happened. I suspect it took a great deal of grit for him to get home — I’m grateful that he did. The vet said it didn’t look like anyone hit him with a car. Most likely his leg got trapped, and it was the weight of his own body that did the damage. So I guess we’ll see how this turns out, and how he recovers.

Poor sad kitty!
Poor sad kitty!