Greetings weary traveler. While the year has been full of emotional twists and turns, you are welcome to pull up a chair, sit by the fire with a cuppa, and share our tale. As with many of life’s changes, we begin with loss. While I hesitate to start the holiday epistle with sad news, it is necesary to explain the current state of our household.
After losing Elsa in 2012 and Cassady in 2013, we were greatly saddened when Ezra passed away in March of this year. While we humans were dealing with our own cumulative grief, HB, who had loved Ezra, too, was now alone in the house all day, and was starting to show signs of loneliness, namely compulsive grooming leading to a bald belly. Working through the possible medical causes, we were also giving consideration to the vet’s suggestion that we could get another cat. Knowing it was not as simple as that, I had replied that, while HB had loved Ezra, she hadn’t been particularly fond of Cassady or Elsa, so the trick would be getting the *right* cat.
But as the weeks went by, the belly grew ever balder, with the hairlessness creeping higher onto her chest; we decided to start looking. The next cat to join our pride was to be Steve’s choice in the main. Although all of our cats are “our” cats, there is some level to which Steve and I each have a preference for a certain type of cat, and each individual may be slightly more one person’s than the other. Cassady and Ezra had been my companions since before I met Steve, while long-time readers will remember that HB was Steve’s Scottish Fold and Elsa was my special girl, both adopted in 2003. Having lived for years with a slight imbalance, it was Steve’s turn. Now I realize some might ponder that it should have been my pick since “my” three had passed. But honestly, I wasn’t ready and something had to be done for HB.
Steve has a particular fondness for Scottish Folds, while I have a particular requirement that we adopt
homeless, non-pedigreed cats; so, as we had in 2003, we set-up alerts with pet finding web sites for Scottish Folds that had fallen on hard times in a shelter. Neither of us wanted to rush things, and Steve had a narrow band of interest – an orange kitten under a year old. We also wanted a male because we thought that might be best with HB.
A couple of months passed with dozens of email alerts generating a “meh” response from Steve. Then one Friday in June, I received a notice about a 14-week-old flame-point Scottish Fold at a shelter about 2 hours north of home. The included photo was unquestionably adorable. That night I told Steve there was a cat to consider and that he had to think very seriously about it because I didn’t know when a closer match would come up again. The grin that crossed Steve’s face as he looked at the profile said it all. We filled out the adoption paperwork and emailed it to the shelter that night with a note that we’d be there by noon on Saturday to see if it was a fit.
And it was. While a bit nervous at the shelter, the cat who was to become Fergus (after a lengthy name selection struggle on Steve’s part) was very affectionate with both of us, with a deep purr for a body so small. He hadn’t had his extra bits taken yet, so we had to wait until the next weekend to bring him home, but we completed the deal and staked our claim.
Although it was important that the kitten and I get along, I wanted Steve to have time with him and make the decision. So, while Steve was playing with the beastie, I made a classic shelter visit error and looked in the surrounding cages.
This was when I met Missy. She was an older cat, a tortie-and-white with a dramatic flame down her nose and goofy eyes. And she wanted my attention, reaching through the bars to grab my arm. I scratched her through those bars for a while before opening the cage door to gain better access. Through all of it, she looked at me with soulful, yet slightly dopey eyes. She didn’t seem to be doing that well in the shelter. While we were completing the paperwork for Fergus, I asked the staff what was her tale of woe. I was told she was 16 years old and her owner had surrendered her due to a change in housing circumstances. While I think they were right in their assessment, they may have also seen the word “SUCKER” branded on my forehead when they shared that they didn’t have much hope of her ever being adopted.
Having made our arrangements to pick up Fergus the following weekend, Steve and I drove away. Amazingly, we got about 30 minutes down the highway before I said the words. “I already know the answer to this, but it would be a really bad idea to adopt Missy, too, wouldn’t it?” With our hearts still bruised, and after a lot of discussion and tears, Steve and I agreed that it wasn’t the best idea, but it was what we were going to do, assuming we could confirm that Missy got along okay with other cats.
I quickly called the shelter before they decided Missy’s number was up, and we drove back the following Saturday with two carriers in the car. The shelter staff brought Missy from her cage into a larger cat colony room so we could see how she interacted with other cats. What we saw was that she had gotten even more disheveled over the course of the week, and that she had obvious neurologic issues – and she was not aggressive with other cats. So we brought her home with us, too, and ended up with a 16-year-old cat with goofy eyes, a wobbly back-end that makes her walk like Captain Jack Sparrow, and an abdominal mass that our vet found at her first visit. Fortunately, after an ultrasound to get a better look, he thinks it’s a benign fatty tumor.
Either way, and regardless of all of the above, Missy (whose name we kept; we figured she had it for 16 years, there was no reason to change it now) is family now. She is extremely affectionate, still assertively grabbing our arms when she wants attention, and looks infinitely better now than she did at the shelter. A few months with her own heated fleecy, good food, and lots of love have worked their magic on her. We don’t know how long we’ll have with her, but we know she will be happy the rest of her days and won’t die in a shelter. I think of her a bit as my Elsa tribute cat. Elsa didn’t make it to her teens, but we honor her memory with our adoption of Missy.
The thing is, despite all the turnover, the demographics in the house haven’t changed nearly as much as one might think. Missy is the demandingly affectionate tortie-and-white, but the bigger “I’ll never learn” similarity is in the Fergus-HB relationship. 18 years ago, I brought home an energetic male kitten because I thought my older tortie needed a friend, and Ezra tormented Cassady for years with his need for PLAY until Steve and I adopted HB and Elsa, finally giving him friends who enjoyed his attention.
Fergus is very rambunctious and everything you would expect an 8-month-old male kitten to be. He’s also huge, surpassing HB in weight by the time he was 6-months-old. While HB seems to enjoy the minute or so that Fergus will spend grooming her, it very quickly devolves into a forced wrestling session that she does not enjoy. One thing is for sure, HB isn’t lonely anymore.
We so often say “Poor HB” when we have to pull Fergus off of her, but the reality is also “Poor Fergus”. We brought a kitten into a house with two old ladies who don’t want to play with him. We hope to remedy the situation by adopting another young male cat after the holidays so that Fergus can have a buddy to wrestle with and they can wear each other out. In the meantime, Fergus has decided he’s definitely “our” cat, with plenty of love and snuggles doled out to both of his human servants.
As for the rest of it. . .
Having spent several years foregoing lengthy vacations due to a variety of cat-related illnesses, one bright spot of the past year was that Steve and I were finally able to get away for some much-needed rest and relaxation, or what passes for rest on my Death March vacations. In June, Steve joined me for a few days in Vancouver, BC following the annual Special Libraries Association conference. Vancouver is a great city in a really gorgeous area; we had a fantastic time seeing some of the sites.
September held the Big Trip with a return to Hawaii. The last time we were there in February 2010 (yes, that was our last real vacation), we had decided we would go somewhere else on our next trip since we’d been to Hawaii a few times. However, after all the stress of the last few years, we decided there was something attractive about going back to a place where we knew where we wanted to stay, what restaurants we liked, and had a general sense of what we’d like to do. I tend to put a lot of work into vacation planning, and this was going to be our “minimal advance planning” vacation. Of course, in the final countdown to our departure, I had to admit to someone who knows me better than expected that a last-minute daily schedule spreadsheet had indeed been created for our “seat of the pants, let’s relax and not plan much” vacation.
Finally, in November we headed to Utah for a trip that was planned months before we adopted Fergus and Missy. You see, in addition to spending a few days at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, the main reason for the trip was to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, with the original intent being to bring home a hard-to-adopt cat. With Missy already filling that space, and the aforementioned need to adopt a kitten for Fergus, we were unable to bring a feline souvenir home this time. At least not yet. . . But we greatly enjoyed our time volunteering at the sanctuary nonetheless and see another trip there in our future.
Work has remained the same for both of us. I am still a law librarian at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, and I continue to be actively involved with the Special Libraries Association. This year I finished my 3-year commitment to the San Francisco Bay Region chapter culminating as Past President. I am also serving on the association’s Nominating Committee, helping select the slate of candidates for next year’s election.
Steve is still a senior development lead at Microsoft. After several years away, he also stepped up to do the lighting design for a local community theatre charity event. He still wouldn’t be able to do it frequently or for a bigger production, but I think he enjoyed getting back into the booth to MST3K his way through tech rehearsals.
We also continue to volunteer in the Clinic at WildCare and provide foster care at our home for orphaned baby raccoons. Very exciting this year – the WildCare raccoon foster care program was the subject of a feature article in the October issue of Ranger Rick magazine! A few of the photos of our foster kids playing in our yard made it in. We were thrilled to be part of this issue.
If you want to keep up with us throughout the year, Steve and I can be found on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also re-committed to blogging at www.midwesterngirl.com. If you’re interested, many more details about the trips to Hawaii and Utah can be found on my blog, along with other posts throughout the year.
Wishing you and your families a wonderful holiday season and peace in the New Year.