Closing Out the Year

Everything is pretty well tucked in and dormant in my garden. We’ve had several blasts of frigid air and surely many more will descend on us before spring. Really, winter has barely arrived.

2017 has been stressful, and 2018 promises to have new challenges all its own. John and I didn’t even feel like we could manage a Christmas tree this year, but I did put up Christmas lights outdoors. It’s enough to feel festive, shining light with abandon into the darkest, longest night.

I continue to rejoice in the beauty of the changing seasons, including the deep, earthy colors and the pale decay seen throughout my garden. They are what the end of the year looks like, so I’ll leave you with them–and a little bit of pre-Christmas snow.

2017: The Year of the Cat

This year has been all about cats, and while I love them, I hope that next year will revolve around them a little less.

We began 2017 mourning Shamoo, my furry companion for the last 18 years. He was a great cat, and we were sad to lose him, but he had lived an enviable life to its fullest.

Only a month after his death, John and I decided that with the horrible state of the world, the seemingly endless issues to worry about, and a growing concern for the well being of the marginalized people we work with daily, we needed a soft, furry friend to pat at the end of the day. Well, two furry friends to pat would be perfect!

And so we found the Ladies at the Humane Society. They were extremely shy at first, and honestly it wasn’t until August that they really seemed to settle in and accept us as their people and this as their home. As they’ve settled in, it’s been wonderful to discover what lovely Ladies they are. They’re sweet cats. And beautiful. They enjoy interacting with us. They are wonderful friends for each other. They love to lounge. They love play time. They are graceful and dignified. And so floofy! They are worthy of the names Lady Ygraine and Lady Morgaine.

As good as they are, it was still work learning their rhythms and routines, figuring out the best ways to approach them, and working with them to teach them to trust us. Looking back, plenty of time during the first half of the year was taken up by them.

We had all begun to settle into a routine together when Larry appeared in the back yard. That was at the beginning of July. Things are still far from settling down again. I keep reminding myself that even cats as delightful as the Ladies took more than half a year to get acclimated. I also remind myself that Larry has come a long way since first coming indoors.

It’s easy to lose track of those things because he remains a very difficult cat. He’s violent. He bites hard. He demands constant attention but lashes out when you don’t do exactly what he wants when he wants it. He steals the laundry and metal objects. And he’s still separated from the Ladies.

But he also gives tremendous hugs that can last for five minutes. And he’s interesting and clever. And handsome. He has figured out how people open doors and twists his paw around the knob to try to do the same. The only thing preventing him from taking over the world is his lack of thumbs. He loves clicker training. I’ve been training him for a few weeks and he can touch his nose to a target, sit, stay, go through his tunnel toy, and jump over a paper tube on command. He seems to enjoy the positive interaction with John and I when he is able to do things we approve of.

The clicker training has gone a long way in improving his behavior. One big example is that he is able to sit and stay on the ironing board positioned next to the computer so I can do tasks like write this blog post. However, he gets impatient quickly and gives me big sighs or starts fiddling with metal objects or gets into my lap and tries to stick his face into the treat bag. Then the biting begins again.

John and I hope we can continue to work to modify his behavior and train him to be a better cat. It has been slow, stressful, and draining. We hope that we are up to the challenge. More than one person has asked why we’re putting so much time and energy into a cat known to bite us in the face. It’s that we happen to be in a position to try to help this little life that the universe cast onto our doorstep. Not everyone would be. And we have compassion for a little guy who was created because it’s cool to own a Bengal cat, even if they’re a challenge to care for, and who was not trained well by his former owner.

We’re also transitioning into calling him Perry instead of Larry. Perry will be short for Sir Percivale, who was one of the knights of the round table. Percivale was discovered running around in the woods. He wanted to be a knight, but first he had to learn knightly manners. It seems a fitting name for this cat.

Just last week, the people across the street moved out. They were my link to his previous owner. I watched them load their belongings into pickup trucks and drive away, and I struck me how much we are really stuck with Perry now. And I have no hope of solving some of the mysteries in his life, like how old he is or the details of his pedigree.

So now we’re approaching 2018 and we have three cats. I hope very, very much that it will be a good year for us all.