Second Chances

I sit outdoors on the second step

and watch this cat eat his food.

He is not my cat

and cannot be my cat,

so he has no bowl and eats

from a folded silver square of aluminum.

The air is close and heavy in our lungs.

The neighbor’s air conditioner

slams to life. Mine echos

a moment later and their rusty

fans spin hard into the gathering dusk.

In this moment, the world

is as thin as the piece of foil

that crinkles lightly at each pass

of the cat’s tongue.

Everything bends along with it.

Lost. Found.

Thin kindness. Sanctuary.

The balance of a life starting over.

Perhaps.

I look down at the cat

as we spin through this darkening universe,

and I am left to answer:

How will we sustain

this small and insignificant life?

 

                                             –Amy Rich

An Update for the Cat Fans

The Ladies Ygraine and Morgaine continue to be absolutely lovely and delightful.

One of their favorite pastimes is to watch the birds at the feeders outside. In January, I got them a bird feeder that would attach directly to the window, and finally the birds have found it. The birds will put up with the cats, but they prefer to eat at the other feeders that are not within paw’s reach. So, this feeder only gets busy when the other feeders are empty.

Sometimes Lady Ygraine gets so excited she hops up on the ledge formed by the top of the lower window. She balances there for a surprisingly long time before hopping down again.

It’s meditative to watch their tails wave as they concentrate on their birdwatching.


Meanwhile, we continue to work with Squire Percival. We’re trying hard to teach him how to be a better cat and how to communicate with us without using his teeth. He’s making incremental progress, and we’re starting to understand him a little better, too. Still, it promises to be a long process.

We continue to try to take him on walks. We think he enjoys them–at least he is agreeable when we’re putting his walking jacket on him–but he gets overstimulated quickly and starts hissing and growling at the world as he’s exploring it. He can only be out for so long before he starts getting too foul-mouthed and attacking us.

We also continue to do the clicker training. His skills now include sit, stay (kind of), touch, weave (between beer bottles), go in (his carrier), mat (as in, sit on it with all 4 paws), go through (a tunnel), and jump. A lot depends his mood.

When he’s doing well, he can be super sweet and goofy. You can get a sense of that in the videos below where he’s doing his usual greeting at the window and when he’s running after his favorite sparkle poof toy.

 

 

Catching Up

For the last month my computer has been on the fritz, and it’s really cramping my style. With it out of commission, I don’t have my photo file organizer or my photo editing software. Normally I take a lot of photos, download them to my computer, sort and organize them there, and edit each one–even if it’s only to reduce the file size to help keep me within my allotted online storage space. I’ve not been able to do any of that for a while.

Luckily it’s the slower time of the year for garden photos. Below is an assortment to update you on my garden in the last month. It’s Southern Indiana, so the weather has swung from cold and icy to a balmy 70 degrees last week. However, because it’s been mostly colder this time around, my first crocus blooms have been a little later. The first one opened on Feb 8. Then with the warm day, others exploded across my lawn. I’m always glad to see their reminder that the seasons are slowly changing.

The warm day also meant that the Ladies could survey their domain from the back door and Perry could try out his new walking jacket. I hope that walks will offer him another positive activity to keep him occupied. I’m still not sure what he thinks.

And finally, the squirrels found the little bird feeder I’d put up for the Ladies. It was full of the good seed, too! I came home from work at lunch on Friday and the base was off the feeder. I had some suspects at the time, and my suspicions were confirmed today when there was a sudden skittering going up the window screen and the Ladies went on full alert. Stupid squirrel!

A Frosty Start to 2018

2018 started out with an icy cold blast that wouldn’t stop. On the coldest night my thermometer hit -1. That cold stuck around for over two weeks, but we thankfully had a warm home to be in. The furnace created an impressive stalagmite under the exhaust pipe. I thought it was interesting to see all the differently shaped furnace stalagmites around the neighborhood.

After a brief break from the frigid cold (one day the high was in the 60’s) we got a nice little snowstorm with 4″ – 5″ of photogenic snow. Frigid temperatures have returned with it, so the snow will be sticking around for a few more days. It looks festive, but our cars are completely stuck.

I’m sure the cats don’t know how good they have it. They’ve been spending a lot of time by the heat vents and on their heated cat beds. In between they have play time and Perry does his all-important laundry inspection. They’ve also thoroughly loved watching the throngs of birds at the feeders trying to survive the cold. I’d failed to stock up on the safflower seeds that the cardinals and other bigger birds eat, so I made an emergency run to Rural King today so I wouldn’t run out. The cats were very happy that their “stories” went uninterrupted.

Last week I got a window bird feeder for the Ladies. The birds finally found it yesterday, and Lady Ygraine quickly found the birds. They haven’t been back since she lunged at the window, but she’s eagerly awaiting their return. The sales woman at Wild Birds Unlimited assured me that she has a the same feeder and a cat and eventually the birds learn that the cats won’t get them. I hope so!

Here’s a slideshow of the first two weeks of 2018. Click on any photo for a larger image and a description.

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.

You’ve Peaked, Evansville.

Every fall in Evansville there is a beautiful moment when the leaves have changed gloriously and enough have scattered across the ground that we are surrounded by a world of autumnal color. The streets are lined with reds, rusts, pale oranges, and yellows. My back yard is bathed in golden light filtered through the maple leaves, and it’s the color of happiness. But, the moment is always brief and an instant later the branches are bare and the leaves on the ground are dry and grey.

(Click any of the photos below for a bigger image and a slideshow of the changing leaves.)

My garden has fully embraced autumn. We didn’t have freezing temperatures until a few days ago, so most things were still growing though they seemed to anticipate the killing weather. Many leaves were tinged with orange and yellow and seed pods were prominent. I picked the last of my beans and brought my house plants indoors for the winter. The Ladies enjoyed adventuring in their new jungle in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, a few photos of the cats. We keep working with Larry to improve his behavior, though he’s still a challenge and very bitey. One thing that we’ve discovered he loves: clicker training. So far he can touch a target with his nose, stand on a mat with all four paws, and sit. He seems happy to do it and happy to have very positive interaction with John and me.

Of course, the Ladies are simply delightful, as always.

All three have the following advice as winter approaches:

Find a warm spot…

 

Enjoy your warm bed…

Wrap your tail around your nose to keep it warm…

And enjoy the changing seasons.