Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amber's Frog

Eighteen years ago, I adopted a four-month old 'runt of the litter'. She didn't have a name - she'd just been called "little one" for her first four months. When she came home with me, she was terrified and spent nearly a month living in my closet. Eventually, she learned that I wasn't going to eat her; indeed, she learned that I was there to feed her and pet her and generally just be nice to her. She soon abandoned the closet and took to being my beloved little Amber.

Amber was the best cat ever. I've called AJ that before, but, really, AJ was a second best next to Amber. Amber had a mothering streak in her a mile wide. While she'd been staying in my closet, she had 'mothered' a small stuffed lizard; once out of the closet, she brought her lizard to the bed and could often be found grooming the thing.

In the years between then and her death, that lizard was lost. But Amber adopted other things to mother. One of those things was AJ; Amber doted on the younger AJ all of AJ's life. In later years, on the days when AJ didn't feel like being doted upon, Amber found a stuffed frog (okay, 'found'? not so much... I bought it for her) and would spend hours curled up with it.

It's a totally cute frog; I can't blame Amber for wanting to play mommy to it, particularly since AJ was being a turd about playing kitten. Amber mothered the frog for a few years but as she aged, she found it more and more difficult to move the frog around - it was half her size and her old bones just couldn't handle it.

In 2009, Amber started suffering from congestion in her sinuses; her doctor took a look and found that she had a growth in her nasal passages. She stopped grooming herself and would come to me to have me groom her. I did; it was a daily ritual we had. Shortly after the doctor's visit where he told me about the growth, she started sneezing blood. In May 2009, I had her put to sleep.

She was the first cat I had to do that with. I put her things away and forgot I still had them. Forgot until this past weekend, when I went looking for clothing I thought I'd stashed away. I found her frog in my hope chest and pulled it out to give to Bug and the boys.

I'm glad I did. The boys tend to play rough with each other, but they also groom one another. And now, the littlest one has adopted Amber's frog. He was terrified of it when I pulled it out, but he's gotten over his terror and has taken to licking the frog's cowlick of 'hair' while hugging it to his chest. It helps, I think, that I stuffed the frog's belly with catnip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sometimes, I Amaze Myself...

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I've already packed for my trip to India. The one that is still a week and two days away.

I've now re-packed my suitcase. Today, I splurged and purchased a new hard-sided carry on bag with fancy little wheels. According to the pamphlet that came with the bag, it's a standard 21 inch carry on bag, certified by the FAA or whoever gets involved in bag measuring to fit in an overhead compartment. It's a small little thing, light-weight, too: only 7.3 pounds when empty. It does have an expansion zipper, which adds about an inch and a half to the capacity.

On a lark, I tossed all of my toiletries, books, hats, general *stuff*, including two large packs of face wipes (both are 80 count size packets!) and my water bottle into one side of the new suitcase; into the other, I packed my clothes and shoes. I still had room in there, so I added a scarf/pashmina (awesome thing to take along: can be used as an emergency blanket, pillow, cleavage or head cover) and some socks. I was able to easily close the case, without opening the expansion zipper. This, for me, is really great news! Since I was able to fit literally everything into the case, including all of the things I intended to carry on to the plane for use during the flight (books, some teeth cleaning things, the scarf), I won't have to load up my purse with stuff. Yay! for traveling light!

Also, for anyone worried about me getting sick in India: the water bottle is a Katadyn water-filtration system that allegedly filters out 99.99% of all viruses, bacteria and microorganisms from the water. Add to this that I just bought five little bottles of anti-bacterial lotion. I'd lay money on the bet that I'm not going to get sick.

I will, however, have a terrible craving for fresh fruits, veggies and salads by the time I come back!

Monday, May 9, 2011


This evening, Bug reminded me just how lucky I am. Somewhere along the line, I banked some really awesome kitty karma.

Bug, who started life as "Frankie", lived in a very small steel cage for six months of his life. He was less than three months old when he was put in the cage; nine months when I took him out of that cage. In the interim, he shared that cage with his brother, Freddie, who was adopted long before Bug was, and then with an adult female who was immensely obese.

When I went to that shelter, I was looking for a female calico who could be a companion to AJ when Amber, who was sick, left us. (Amber was seventeen and suffering with a tumor in her sinuses; Amber and AJ had been together AJ's entire life). The female housed with Bug was a calico, but when I picked her up, she struggled and hissed... plus, she felt pregnant. I know she was just obese, but, gosh, I couldn't see bringing her home if her first response was to hiss at me.

As I put her back in the cage, Bug, still named Frankie at that point, turned those golden eyes on me and put a paw out to touch my hand. I ended up pulling him out of the cage and holding him for a moment.... A moment was all he needed to steal my heart. He rolled around in my arms, purring like no other cat I've ever known, and then head-bumped me. He came home with me that day.

Within three days, he had full run of the house. He was respectful towards Amber and, towards the end of her life, would dash up to her, toss a paw over her neck and groom her head. In those last two months or so, Amber wasn't able to groom herself very well, so seeing him do that... wow.

Bug's treatment of AJ wasn't quite so respectful. Of course, AJ was a Diva and expected he'd treat her that way. He, however, wanted to *play!* And to him, play meant pouncing, tackling, rolling around on the floor, then jumping up and dashing into the bedroom. AJ did not appreciate this sort of play and wasn't shy about letting Bug know that. When AJ got sick, though, Bug adjusted his play and started treating AJ much more gently.

His relationship with me has been ...an exercise in adoration. Just this evening, he demanded space on my lap. He doesn't curl up in my lap the way most cats do; instead, he reclines in my arms, sitting like a small child might, and leans into me. Tonight, he kept looking up at me and reaching up to paw my face, to get my attention (he was sharing time with the laptop). He has me well-trained: each time he did that, I snuggled him closer and kissed his head and face, something he seems to love.

This is a common thing for him. Also, that look of adoration? Hugely common:

Did I mention he's also a complete ham?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

AJ, beloved little AJ

So, yeah, part of this is about the cats. Those two above are Bug and AJ (the black one). AJ was the best kitty. She was old: 16 years old when this photo was taken. And she was a stickler for timetables. If I dared to stay up past "our" bedtime, she'd remind me that it was time for bed. Her first reminders would be gentle: a head butt and a glance at the bedroom door, a paw on my arm and a significant look towards the bedroom, or, perhaps, a wail from the bedroom that was intended to get me up off my duff and into that room. If I ignored those, she'd get more insistent: the paw on my arm would have claws extended, the head butt would turn into a full in-my-face head nudge, the wail would be in my face instead of in the bedroom.

On the opposite end of the night, she'd wake me up, too. Usually right about 5:30am. She would, at least, let me go back to sleep, though. She'd also stay in my bed, curled right next to my pillow with one paw touching me.

Once I added Bug to the mix, AJ's life didn't change much. The big change came when I had her life-long companion, Amber, put to sleep. After that loss, AJ did her best to go join her friend. Her teeth went bad; she ended up with one molar and three fangs. She stopped eating then her kidneys failed. I ended up giving her subQ fluid injections on a daily basis for several months. Eventually, she recovered (something her vet claims usually doesn't happen with renal failure).

But then she went downhill again. She lost weight despite eating voraciously; she lost her fur (ripped it out, actually). After a month of vet visits, a blood test showed that her thyroid was on the fritz. Twice-daily pills brought that under control, to a degree. About a month into that treatment, on a Tuesday, she went blind in one eye; by that weekend, she was bumping into walls and furniture: she was completely blind. That was tough to watch, but she seemed to be adapting. The following Monday evening, though, she suffered a stroke and couldn't figure out how to get out of a corner. It was, still is, heartbreaking.

Bumping into walls was one thing; having her cry in fear and frustration because she couldn't see and couldn't turn to her left, that was another. The next morning, she quietly let me hold her in the doctor's office as we waited for him to take us in back and put her to sleep. She's no longer by my side, but she's forever in my heart.

With her gone, I was left with just the very handsome and very affectionate little Bug.