• cats

    Goodbye to a friend

    I’ve been procrastinating writing here because my last post was about the death of pets and the only blog I can write now is about the death of another. Last Tuesday, we came home to discover that Mushu, my fourteen year old cat, had passed away sometime during the day. Himself found her outside by the side of the house, where it looked like it was sudden and that she had fallen from a standing position. Not being a doctor, I’m guessing it was a heart attack or stroke, but we’ll never know for sure.

    Losing a cat is, of course, a bigger deal than losing fish, and I have been very sad for the last week. This is one of the most horrible months that I’ve lived through in a long time, but Mushu’s death sort of takes the cake.

    She was old and it was her time and she didn’t suffer, which is precisely the death I would have wished for her, but all the same, I miss her incessant meow and companionship. She had more than her fair share of quirks and was often difficult to live with, but I raised her from a wee thing and I miss her. Having only two cats feels strange on a number of levels. I keep waiting for her tiny body to jump up on my desk or chair next to me, to feel the indent in the blankets as she would jump to stay by my feet and keep watch over me.

    She was a beautiful cat, with midnight fur that shone brown when she sat in the sunlight. When she was little, we called her a dragon because every fall, she’d grow two puffs of gray fur behind her ears. I can only hope that we did well by her. We buried her beneath the pear tree, so that she is still with us.

  • cats

    The Missing

    One of the great joys in my life is cohabitation with a very particular animal.  Nearly three foot long from yellow eyes to rump, with a classic tabby coat and  a lanky and expressive tail that often crooks at the tip like a question mark, Nevyn has now graced my doorstep for the better part of sixteen years. I first met him as an eight-month-old kitten and was still in his original home at the parents’ of a friend.  His enthusiasm for life had already made him unwelcome; his war on every standing lamp and glass of water clashed rather specifically with the sort of established order that that household preferred to operate by.  When my friend moved out, the cat came with.  Gratis.

    Soon my friend and I lived together, so I witnessed Nevyn’s adolescent growth spurt and his eventual maturity that dictated that lamps may stand, but glasses of water were improved by tipping over.  This was the era in which we discovered that push handles on doors are not cat proof and that while he desperately wanted to be an outdoor cat, he had no idea what to do once he achieved it.  We learned to be more circumspect about our beverages.  Nevyn eventually learned that drinks on certain surfaces were not actually his. We moved into an apartment with circular doorknobs and a lobby shaped rather like a cat trap. It had taken a few years, but detente had been achieved. My friend went on adventures and when he did, the cat stayed with me.  Over the years, Nevyn has not only infiltrated every crevice of my heart, but he’s also made himself known to all of my neighbors.  He has a curiosity and a friendliness that has lead him to coming home on more than one occasion smelling like cheap perfume.  He is rarely too busy to crawl in your lap on a bad day, or rub his face against yours (or anyone’s, really).

    So you may well imagine my terror on the day he got out of the house without his collar and didn’t return for dinner.  This is not entirely unprecedented, but it was rare enough to worry.  An opportunist, he has been known to climb in windows and go through open doors to total strangers.  My neighbors all know him well enough that he occasionally sticks around for an extended visit.  I figured he’d be home by morning.  He wasn’t.  I figured he’d be home by evening.  He wasn’t.  I printed up flyers to avoid despair and began posting them around the neighborhood.  I searched the streets for a small gray body.  I found nothing.  I wondered if he’d wandered off to die, but as my most recent memory was of him head-butting the closed cat flap door rather enthusiastically, this seemed unlikely.

    On Saturday, I took my flyers to every veterinarian, groomer, church and train station anywhere near our house.  I walked the streets and put up flyers on every electrical pole within a mile radius.    Exhausted and despairing, I finally posted to my closest friends on Facebook (I believe these are called, in real life, actual friends) and asked for advice as to what else I could do to try and find him, or even what had happened to him.

    “Have you tried Craigslist?” my far away cousin suggested.  “I’ve rediscovered my cat a few times through Craigslist.”

    In my mind, Craigslist was that weird place where people who were looking for casual hookups went to, well, hook up.  I’d used it occasionally to buy things that would have been prohibitive to ship, but I’d never really spent much time on it.  Even the main page is overwhelming, with so many categories shoved together that it’s hard to know where to even start looking.  I knew, intellectually anyway, that people went there to find jobs and places to live, but I’d never used those services myself.  It had never occurred to me that one might find one’s lost pet there. But, there he was.  I didn’t realize it at first and I posted my ad with a large picture of my lanky friend.  Within an hour, I had two e-mails from people who wanted to make certain that I’d seen the ad of someone who had found a large gray cat in my immediate neighborhood.  It had been posted two days earlier.  I couldn’t possibly have replied to it faster.

    And then I waited.  I waited in front of my computer for nine hours, wanting to see the return email the second it came in.  He’d been gone for two days already and I was frantic to get him home.  No reply came.  Distressed but hopeful, now that I knew that he was alive and nearby, I went to bed, certain I’d wake up to an e-mail in the morning. I didn’t.  I sat vigil in front of my computer for another twelve hours and still had nothing.  I took to the streets and started ringing doorbells, which was when I made two delightful discoveries.

    The first, is that there’s a herd of feral cats living in my town.  The second, that there’s a collaboration of people who go out of their way to take care of them, to trap them, to get them neutered and to feed them.  I’ve received calls from so many people who just wanted to know if he’s home.

    Three days later, in the middle of the night, the person who posted the ad finally called me.  She had gone away for the long weekend and hadn’t been checking her e-mail.  Argh.  She lived in a few towns away and she’d picked Nevyn up off of our block and taken him to a veterinarian local to her and submitted him as a stray.  I was furious, but Nevyn was safe.  We were reunited in the morning (and he was reunited with his collar) and despite being shaken at having spent four days in a cage, he’s returning to his old self.  He was chipped and given a rabies shot by the fine folks at the veterinarians who took care of him.  I went online and registered his RFID tag to my name and number, so now I know that if he gets picked up by another “helpful” soul, he’ll get back to me with less drama.  I’ve learned a few things from the experience.  For one, I’m codependent on my cat.  I’m not certain this is a complimentary quality.  Also, I have the kindest and best-hearted neighbors.  And for a third, someone needs to invent glue that can keep a collar on a cat.

    My cat has now become part of the technical revolution, not just because you can scan him like a can of peaches, but because we would have been parted forever if it hadn’t been for social media.  So thank you Craig, whoever you are.  If it weren’t for you, my family would have been broken forever.

  • cats,  knitting,  spinning

    Unabashed knitting and spinning post. And a cat.

    Now that I’ve started spinning, it’s a lot harder to have a generic “this is what’s on the needles” post, since I now also have to include what’s on the bobbin. I am still very much a beginning spinner, so my spinning tends to sound a like like:

    “Spin, squeak of wheel, spin, spin, spin, SQUEEEEAAAAK, whoosh!, @#$@@”

    For those of you that are not spinners, let me translate. What is happening is that I’ll get into a spinning zen and the spinning will be going along. However, I only know how to spin one thickness, which is Very Thin Indeed, so inevitably I’ll reach a point in the fiber I’m spinning where I’ve spread it out too thin and the yarn I’m spinning will actually break. At this point, the flying maiden, which is the part of the wheel that feeds the yarn to the bobbin will make a joyous leap for freedom, snatching my yarn straight out of my fingers. And then the spinning stops while I fix this. Repeat.

    Currently, I consider success the slow extension of the duration of time between these moments of high spinning drama, which are getting longer. Here’s a picture of my latest attempts, which may not actually just be cut off and discarded, like the last attempt.

    It’s really just an excuse to accumulate baskets of sheep fleece, which I’ve managed to keep limited to one basket so far, a significantly smaller basket than my knitting basket, which I think I could actually sit in if it were ever empty. Which it is not.

    I’m working on two things in knitting at the moment, as my wrist permits. I’ve been very interested in learning to design my own patterns. I took a class back in January, even. Since then, I picked up the Vogue Sock book, which my brother had bought for me shortly after my mom died. (Sometimes my brother is very cool.) Not being much of a sock knitter, I never did too much with it, but I figured that socks, being small, would be a good place to start. And so I did:

    Unfortunately for our heroine, I used the sock knitting chart calculator in the Vogue book for the wrong yarn weight to my yarn. This is a really basic mistake, but when you’re on the train and you’re *pretty* sure that you’ve got DK weight yarn in your bag, but it turns out that it’s actually fingering weight, well…oops. Thus far I have the nicest beginning of a sock for a cat. Back to the pattern board, which is just as well, since the stitch design I put on there is probably too complicated for such a colorful yarn.

    Speaking of cats, someone’s been partying hard. Or, well, found all the crap that I pulled out from underneath my brother’s desk yesterday and decided it was the snooze spot until someone obnoxious with a camera came around and ruined things.