Endless Summer’s End

While summer technically ended in September with the autumn equinox, for me it felt like this weekend marked the end of the season. A big reason for this is that we’ve had an unusually warm summer, which lasted with highs in the 90s well into October (The Weather Channel says the temperature here hit 93°F on Oct 17, and was in the 80s and high 70s for a week thereafter). Even with air conditioning, it was a long summer. But climate change will probably make this the new normal – perhaps for the rest of my life. Pour one out for the Bay Area summers of highs in the 70s.

I took Friday off from work, as the pandemic means there isn’t much to use vacation time on other than staycations. I slept in a bit, and then went over to Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands, which was a delightful walk. I walked for about 20 minutes along the bay (more or less – it’s still pretty marshy around there), and then came back and hiked around the hills in the park. The hill reminded me a lot of the dry areas in Hawaii, with brown grass and scrub, and scenic views of the bay. I’ll definitely have to go back next time I want to do a longer walk. Although if we get some rain in the next month, it might look pretty different if the plants start waking up!

After my walk I drove up to our vet to pick up some medication for our cat Roulette.

Rou – who turned 17 in July – had had a rough week: Last Sunday after a normal morning and early afternoon, she suddenly slept for most of the next day and a half, didn’t seem able to jump like before, and was peeing outside of the litter box. She got a little better by Wednesday, but still didn’t seem quite right. She was also having a little, well, leakage in other places she slept, which would not be that big a deal if one of her favorite places wasn’t between my legs in bed overnight. So I’d picked up some puppy pads to lay down in a few of her normal places, and also ordered some waterproof blankets.

We talked to our vet on Thursday. We didn’t really want to take her in unless we had to, because the car and the vet really stresses her out (and we couldn’t go inside to the vet with her because of the pandemic). Our vet suggested that she might have arthritis, which might be getting worse as it gets colder, so she prescribed some meds for that. We’ve started her out at the lowest level, and it seems to be helping: She’s able to jump more, and she’s curling up more normally, not sticking her legs straight out as much. And while she’s not always hitting her litter, she’s doing better than she was last Monday. And she seems fine with the extra blanket I have over myself at night.

She still seems to be basically happy, so hopefully we can keep her comfortable.


Yesterday we filled out our election ballots and dropped them off, and then got ready for the evening.

Halloween for us is usually a pretty lively evening, as some years we’ve gotten 300 kids or more. Our neighborhood I think attracts kids from surrounding neighborhoods – and even cities – to be driven in. It’s not really a big deal for us – Debbi enjoys seeing all the costumes, especially of the young kids, and we buy a bunch of candy and when we’re out we’re out – but this year of course we had no idea how many kids would show up.

So I bought a couple of bags of candy and we divided them up by putting 2 or 3 pieces each into a plastic snack bag. Then around 5:30 Debbi laid a bunch of baggies out on our front steps. I cleaned off our wooden glider and sat there, while Debbi brought out a folding chair, and we sat on the front porch to say hi to people as they went by or came up to get candy.

Some friends stopped by and hung out in the yard for half an hour before they drove around to look at Halloween decorations (something we did on Friday night). Otherwise we had a steady trickle of kids until about 8:15 pm, with maybe 50 to 60 kids coming by. Most of the kids were younger and accompanied by their parents, and almost all of them were wearing cloth masks and/or keeping their distance from other people. So it seemed pretty safe for everyone involved, and we felt pretty good about having helped them have a positive Halloween experience.

Our award for “best costume” was a girl – maybe 11 years old or so – who went as a jellyfish: She carried an umbrella which had streamers and strands of mini LED lights hanging from it, with frills around the edges. It was a neat look.


Today we made our weekly run to the farmer’s market, and then mostly sat to watch football. But I did go out to mow the lawn for what will probably be the last time this year. Our lawn has been getting a bit ratty, between the clay-like soil getting bumpy, and the drought a few years ago killing off some random patches around the edges. Now we have a zone of sprinklers which isn’t working, and that grass is dying, too. We’ll probably have someone come in and at least fix the sprinklers and spot-patch the lawn, although I’m sorely tempted to just get the whole thing re-sodded.

Anyway, it’s been a long strange summer around here. I’m looking forward to winter and hoping we get some good rainfall to stave off another drought. But I know the winter is going to be rough for the nation, as it will signal an end to outdoor dining for restaurants in many places, and I bet the inability to do things outdoors will lead to even wider spread of COVID-19.

I dearly hope Joe Biden can win the Presidency on Monday. I think he’ll not be a lot more than a caretaker President, but anything would be better than the incompetence of the Racist Impeached President Trump administration, whose lack of leadership has lead to over two hundred thousand American deaths. Otherwise I expect we’ll be stuck in quarantine until at least some time in 2022, if not even later, as I doubt Trump and his sycophants are capable enough to spell ‘vaccine’, never mind organize distributing one.

The Edison Blues

The weekend after our trip to the coast, we noticed that Edison was feeling kind of down – or a least acting that way. He’s been a high-energy kitten, but now he was spending a lot of time sleeping, not really playing. He was eating and drinking, and would engage with us if we worked at it, but otherwise he was just finding different sleeping spots and hanging out there.

So Saturday we took him to the vet – we seem to spend a lot of time at the vet since getting these kittens, but fortunately all for treatable issues. In this case, Edison was running a fever, so our vet gave him some subcutaneous fluids and a shot of something – I think a broad-spectrum antibiotic – to help him shake it. She also drew some blood to run a deeper test if that didn’t help. And then we took him home.

Happily, that treatment seemed to do the trick, as by Monday he had perked up considerably, and by today he was just about back to his normal self. I think his brother Simon missed having his playmate, although he is pretty self-entertaining. But seeing Edison charge after toys at high speed again was a joyful thing.

I guess this is just part of getting new kittens: They come with some new issues. But hopefully now that we’ve taken care of the chlamydia, the conjunctivitis (twice!), and whatever this was, they won’t come down with anything else for a while. For years, with any luck.

Well That Was a Week

The big news this week in our area were the eerie yellow and red skies due to the marine layer lofting the smoke from fires up north high into the atmosphere. (More here.) It was yellow and dark most of the day here in Mountain View, but further south and north the skies were red and much darker. But the air quality at ground level was actually fine, it just made for a from and foreboding rising every time one looked out the window.

The apparent end of the world was overshadowed for me because Jackson started showing signs of conjunctivitis again, meaning I guess the respiratory infection some of the cats had a month ago isn’t entirely gone. So we took him to the vet and got some meds. We couldn’t take him in until the end of the day, so I spent much of the day looking out at the dire heavens, and worrying about our boy. So we’re going him two meds for a week and then we’ll revisit. It remains to be seen whether the others will also need meds, although Edison started showing signs of eye trouble today. Sigh. I was really hoping a month after finishing the last round of meds that we were done with this.

(Despite the dramatic coloring, our weather was greatly overshadowed for the rest of the country by the disastrous wildfires in Oregon, which have been about as bad as anything I can recall in California.)

Unfortunately the marine layer moved out of the area by Friday, which meant the smoke came down to earth, and our air quality has been lousy for the last couple of days. Even worse up in San Francisco, I think. But we’ve basically been sitting inside, running the house fan and occasionally and A/C (the outside temperature did hit 80°F today, and the sun even came out). I don’t think anyone really knows, but the best prediction I’ve heard is that we won’t get relief (in the form of winds blowing the smoke elsewhere) until at least Monday.

Of course, the best thing would be for the fires to get put out. California firefighters have been doing a heroic job of containing the fires – the three large ones around the Bay Area are almost completely contained – but the whole west coast and several inland states have been set ablaze and things are bad.

Anyway, hopefully next week will be better. On top of the pandemic, this week was just nuts.

Kitten Update

It’s been over two months since Simon & Edison joined our family, so it’s time for a kitten update!

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: You may recall that they had upper respiratory infections and kitty conjunctivitis when they arrived, which we treated them for. Well, it turns out it was worse than that: The infection they almost certainly had from the start was kitty chlamydia, which we learned when their big brother Jackson’s right eye started watering and got hecka inflamed. We found out because we took him in to get tested.

So the three boys were on antibiotics for three weeks. We decided not to treat Sadie and Roulette because neither of them had showed any symptoms, and both of them had been avoiding the kittens (and Roulette avoids Jackson anyway). It was a bit of a risk, because if it turns out one of them was infected, then we’ll get to do this again, for all five of them. So of course every time I see Sadie sniffle I think, “uh oh”. But Sadie is a sniffly, slightly-drooly cat anyway, and she hasn’t shown the eye watering that all three of the boys showed. It’s been a week and a half since we finished their meds and none of them seem to be showing any symptoms, so it seems we got away with it.

The other downer is that a couple of weeks ago we were watching The Mandalorian, while the kittens were playing hard, when Edison jumped down off the top of the cat tree and must have twisted his ankle or something because he stopped putting weight on one of his rear legs and went and hid behind the couch. We put a stop to playtime for the night and corralled him and took the kittens up to their room and closed the door and left them alone for half an hour. Then we checked on them and he was limping, but he was using the leg again. So we decided to let it go to the next day, and while he was favoring the leg he was using it, and it wasn’t stopping him from running around. So we’ve kept an eye on him, and will probably ask the vet to take a look when we bring him in for their next shots. He was less adventurous about jumping for a while, but maybe it was psychological. Recently he’s been back to his old self, getting all kind of places, so hopefully it was something small.

We have another appointment for them to get their next round of shots in a week so we’ll have the vet check them out and make sure they’re okay. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, end of bad news.

The good news is that both kittens are growing up and are now in that delightful time where they’re able to do more, and they’re interacting with us more.

And stealing our chairs.

You may have guessed that they’re no longer confined to a bedroom. We staged letting them out, first giving them play time upstairs – usually with Jackson monitoring or even playing with them – and then giving them supervised visits downstairs. Next we let them out all day from morning til night, putting them back for the night. And finally last weekend we left them out overnight, which predictably ended up with us being kitten-piled at 2:30 am, but otherwise they seem to have adjusted well.

Jackson, somewhat to our surprise, is quite fond of the kittens. At first when they’d run up to him he’d tackle them too hard and they became wary of him, but after a week or so he figured it out, and the kittens would look for him whenever we let them out of their room. Simon in particular loves Jackson and would rub up against him whenever he first saw him after being released. We eventually caught Jackson and Simon sleeping together, with Jackson roughly grooming Simon and Simon purring away in happiness. The next development was hearing cats running around the house and spotting Edison chasing Jackson through the dining room. That chase ended with a hiss, I think because Jackson didn’t think a kitten could keep up with him, but they’ve had some chase time since then and it’s gone well. Jackson sometimes gets a little tired of the kittens and finds a place to get away from them, but mostly they get along great.

Simon can be a little winky sometimes.

Sadie and Roulette… it’s a work in progress. Sadie I think has been trying to figure out how to play with them, but has been having a hard time finding a way to do it without wapping them with her paw. It’s funny because she and they all have their spaz-all-over-the-house moments, but they haven’t played chase yet.

Meanwhile, I think Edison is looking for his special big cat to love, the way Simon has Jackson, and he’s chosen… Roulette, our grumpy 17-year-old cat who has spent most of the time since the kittens arrived under our bed. Fortunately we quickly identified that she came down to eat and use the litter, and finally she started coming down to hang out with us in the evening. But Rou would really like to be an only cat. Which is why Edison giving her the hard sell has been so funny: Sitting near her, watching her, trying to sneak up on her and lie next to her or lick her head. She is getting less belligerent, but I don’t know whether he’ll win her over. But he’s trying so hard. It would serve her right if he does, though, since that’s basically the hard sell that she gave my cat Jefferson when she was a kitten.

We’ve been trying to promote acceptance by giving everyone wet cat food together. Roulette and Simon are both very food-oriented, and Jackson and Edison will also join in. Sadie is not really food-oriented and often sits and watches.

As you probably know California has been wracked with wildfires for the last couple of weeks, and the air quality combined with unusually warm weather this month has led us to keep the house closed up and the A/C on for most of the time since we released the kittens for good. So they haven’t really gotten the full experience of sitting in windows and watching things outdoors. They’ve gotten a little of that in the last couple of days, and it seems Simon is a sunbeam cat, while Edison is going to be the one who tracks every little thing that goes by outside. Hopefully we can make sure that doesn’t include him.

The best part is that both of them like to snuggle with us, and each one will spend time sleeping on our chest or sometimes our lap. Edison in particular will sometimes get up and visit each one of us, sitting on our chest for a couple of minutes purring away before he goes back to whatever he was doing. And sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night with one of the cats snoozing next to us.

Despite the hiccups, these are still great kittens, and I’m really glad we got them.

Welcome Simon & Edison

Did you ever find yourself mostly stuck at home for months on end and think to yourself, “This would be an excellent time to adopt some kittens”?

Well, we are, and so we did. Meet Simon and Edison!

Simon is the brown tabby, while Edison is the black fellow.

We met them because one of my cow-orkers was fostering them, and we went over to visit a few weeks ago (pretty much the only people we’ve visited indoors since shelter-in-place started in March), and we thought they were pretty adorable. But, color-wise, they fit in with our three current cats, Roulette (calico), Jackson (gray tabby with white), and Sadie (white with orange tabby markings). And they had fun, playful personalities. So we decided to adopt them!

They are not brothers – Edison is about a week older than Simon according to their records, and they’re about two and a half months old. Simon has had a rough first couple of months, with some sort of bug that suppressed his appetite, and a foxtail or something in his right eye which left an ulcer. But he seems to have recovered from both, and is a little behind Edison in size and weight.

We brought them home two Mondays ago, and they’ve been mostly confined to a bedroom since then. And holy cow they are just about the most high-energy kittens we’ve ever had, other than maybe Blackjack. They zoom around their room and play and play and play. They’re changing practically every day, learning to jump higher, complaining that I’m not scooping their litter enough (we put a larger tray in the room after a couple of accidents), finding their meows, learning to snuggle, learning to clean themselves. Some switch flipped in Simon a couple of days ago and he’s become a lot more assertive, which has been adorable.

We’ve given them some supervised access to the rest of the upstairs, which they find delightful. They’re also very interested in the big cats, though only Jackson is interested in them so far, and somewhat cautiously, although we’ve played with all of them at the same time. Sadie will get a glimpse of them and then run away, while Roulette doesn’t like the cats we already had and I think is in denial that we have more.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been fun and games.

We took them in for their first appointment with our vet, for which they did very well. Both have put on a bunch of weight since they arrived (Simon is going to be a roly-poly guy, while Edison is going to be long and lean). That’s good, but less good is that they both have upper respiratory infections, and also conjunctivitis (or something like it). So we get to give them both meds for the next week and a half, and have to keep them separated from the other cats – and likely also change our clothes when we visit them – to keep the others from getting infected (especially Roulette, who will be 17 later this month; Jackson and Sadie are 7 and can probably deal with an infection if they contract it). Aside from the hassle for us and the disappointment for the kittens, it also means it will be a couple of weeks at least before we can start integrating the household.

Hopefully we’ll all come out the other side okay, but it wasn’t a great start to the long weekend.

As for the names? I’ve had “Edison” in my back pocket for decades waiting for the right cat, and I think this is the right one. We talked through a bunch of other names and both liked Simon. Of course, these are my fourth and fifth cats whose names end in “-on” (Jefferson, Newton, Jackson), so next time we’ll have to add a little more variety. But I think these names suit these kitties.

So despite the speed bumps, we’re very excited about these new additions. I’ve felt since they arrived like these are exactly the kittens we were meant to have.

Three Months Inside

A week or so ago marked three months since I started working from home, and just a little less than that since the Bay Area started its shelter-in-place policy. Debbi started working from home about a week after I did.

As I’ve chronicled, it was rough for the first few weeks, some better than others, but we’ve mostly gotten used to it.

We were doing “happy hour” video chats with friends for the first few weeks, but those have tailed off, though we did one with some neighbors and some former neighbors last weekend. We’ve also done some in-the-driveway evening drinks with other neighbors, using our six-foot folding table to separate us. Sadly, they’re going to be moving at the end of this month, as their landlords wanted to raise their rent, and they found a place closer to where they work. We’re going to miss them. I think their landlords may be in for a surprise, as there are a couple of vacant rental homes in our neighborhood.

The county has been gradually opening things up. Construction started up again a few weeks ago, and the house across the street from us has gone from little more than a foundation to the plywood exterior going up. Other new construction is moving along, too.

Over the last few days, retail businesses are opening up as well. Diamond comics distributors had closed for several weeks, which meant no comic books, but they’re ramping up again and I’ve driven down to pick up my books at the curb the last couple of weeks. Supposedly I’ll be able to go into the store tomorrow – with up to four other people so long as we distance ourselves. Restaurants and game stores and other retail are also opening up – we picked up lunch today and saw a few people eating at outdoor tables at downtown restaurants. Ditto when I picked up coffee today. Meanwhile, the city may close the main street downtown to allow restaurants to set up seating there. (By the time I publish this, the city council will probably already have voted.)

Is it too early? My gut says ‘yes’, but a lot depends on whether the measures to keep people separate work. I do most of the shopping for us – Debbi comes with me to the farmers market on Sunday, and not much else – and what I see is pretty iffy. Safeway supermarkets aren’t very diligent about enforcing masks, distancing, or the one-way arrows in their aisles. I encounter lots of clueless people. By contrast, I went to Costco this morning for the first time since shelter-in-place and it was smooth: Everyone was let in promptly at 10 am, everyone wore masks, almost everyone was keeping their distance. Granted, it was a Tuesday morning and not a Saturday afternoon, but it made me hopeful. I also went to the nursery to get some pots and plants and it was great too. (In case you’re wondering why I wasn’t at work, I took the day off.)

We’ve had a couple of heat waves in the last few weeks – it got over 90° today – and we’ve been glad of our air conditioning. On the other hand, it got cold over the weekend. Strange days in more ways than one.

We’ve been cleaning up our study, buying new furniture and making it a more usable space, and getting rid of a lot of stuff (like, two bankers’ boxes worth of paperwork from my late mother). I’ll likely do an entry about it when we’re all done, but progress has been going pretty well, just more work than I’d expected.

On another front, we’re thinking of getting kittens, since if we’re home all the time it seems like the perfect time to have kittens. And frankly, Jackson and Sadie (who turn 8 this fall) really need and deserve kittens. On the other hand, Roulette (who turns 17 next month) didn’t like these kittens, and has gradually been showing her age. Last night she peed on our bed, though it may have been because we’d closed the door to kick Jackson out so she couldn’t get to the litter. So, I don’t know. I don’t want to have her slowly decline and end up waiting 2 years, either.

So, it’s been a time. I know lots of people have had it a lot harder than we have, even people with jobs, and maybe we’re lucky we haven’t caught COVID-19 (or maybe we have – who knows?). In two weeks Apple has its developers conference, which ought to be an odd experience as an entirely-remote affair.

Now that summer is here we’re gently mourning our vacation plans for the year, which included visiting family, going to Hawaii, and maybe to Las Vegas. But I doubt there will be any non-essential travel in our future for at least a year (and, frankly, any essential travel probably won’t be for happy reasons, if it happens).

I imagine these entries start to sound like a broken record after a while, but so it goes when you’re mostly at home. I hope everyone reading this is doing as well, or even better.

2017 in Review

I’ve seen several people on social media say something along the lines of, “2017 was a pretty terrible year for the country/world, but a pretty good year for me personally.” That pretty well sums up how I feel. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans have been a garbage fire, working tirelessly to destroy the country and stymied in large part by their breathtaking, historic incompetence. But I’ve had a pretty good year.

A few years ago I was going through a rough stretch at work for a variety of reasons (among them my Mom’s declining health and eventual passing), but I feel like this year things really came together. I’ve spent the last two years working on a fun project (Xcode’s new build system, unveiled at WWDC in June), written in a new language (Swift) which I have been thoroughly enjoying, and I’ve been broadening my skill set in a variety of ways. In addition, I’ve been moving into a larger leadership role, which has been surprisingly rewarding. The surprise is because what I’ve always found most enjoyable about my job is building things and seeing them work, but the coordination and organizational parts of my job have been more fulfilling than I’d expected. While I’m still happy when I can carve out a day to work through a problem and code it up, the rest of it has been pretty cool too.

(By the way, if you’re a programmer who’s like me in that you primarily enjoy building things and seeing them work, I highly recommend embracing an automated testing development workflow, because it gives you great feedback and a sense of accomplishment to write tests and see them work. Even working on test infrastructure is fun and rewarding!)

At home we had an unorthodox set of vacations. In February our niece R and nephew J (on Debbi’s side) came to visit for a week, their first plane trip without their parents. I think they enjoyed their stay more than they’d expected; we mixed up seeing the sights with time hanging around at home, and also getting together with some of our friends with kids (albeit younger kids, which didn’t seem to make a difference). R is a couple of years away from college so we drove through UC Santa Cruz, and we had a big day going to Alcatraz and Ghirardelli. In June we went back to visit our families, and spend a few days at the family beach house (which is great unless it’s ridiculously humid). And in September my dad came out to visit for the first time in over five years, which was also fun. It had been long enough that we went to see a few things a second time, for instance the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I sure hope I’m able to make cross-country plane trips when I’m in my 80s!

Somehow I’m now 2-1/2 years into running regularly. I peaked at running 3 miles about 5 times a week (2 out of every 3 days), and decided that I needed slightly more off days, so I switched to running 4 days a week and worked my way up to 4 miles earlier this month, which works out to slightly more distance overall. My legs seem to appreciate the extra day off each week, and it gives me a little more flexibility when we have things going on during the weekend. Frankly it’s the podcasts I listen to which keep me motivated (thanks especially to Limited Resources and Magic the Amateuring) – if I fall behind on my running then I fall way behind on my podcasts, so in a sense I use my OCD to keep me going (though I honestly enjoy the podcasts too).

Our household has been stable, but with a pleasant development: I wrote a few years ago about how Roulette was traumatized by her three brothers passing away, but over the last year and a half she seems to have gotten over her grief and started enjoying life again. She doesn’t put up with Jackson’s crap and stands up to him on a regular basis. She and Sadie sometimes chase each other around (which is hilarious because each is easily the smartest cat the other has ever played with). And she’s started sitting on our laps and even sleeping with us at night. Rou is now 14 years old and is acting younger and happier than she has in years – it’s been a joy to see.

So now we’re having a quiet New Year’s Eve watching television, having eaten Chinese take-out for dinner, our cats snoozing around us. We’ve had fun times with friends and family this past year, and we’re looking forward to 2018 with the hope that it will be better for everyone.

Happy new year to all!

Jackson’s Home

After a long and stressful week, Jackson is finally home!

Wednesday the vet called to say that Jackson still hadn’t passed whatever it was, and recommended we take him to another, more expensive, vet – a.k.a., the hospital – since they had both an ultrasound machine and the capability to do surgery if necessary. So I picked up the little troublemaker – who had an IV needle in one paw and a cone over his head and drove him over.

Despite the cone and hating the car, Jackson loves the vet – at least, he loves checking out the exam room and the people who come to see him:

At least, he was very excited until it was time to say goodbye so he could go in the back. And I could go to work.

Thursday they called to say that they’d given him an enema (which I bet he loved!) and that he successfully pooped out – a hair tie. Which is kind of what we thought it might have been, although there was a chance it might have been a Lego-like brick. They suggested they keep him for one more night to make sure he was fully recovered.

So Friday I left work early to go pick him up. It was, like, 95°F outside, and he meowed the whole way home. He came right out and checked out the house when we opened his carrying case, and then he spent the next hour or so grooming himself all over (the details of which I’ll leave to your imagination).

Since then he’s been, well, I’d call it subdued. Not lethargic, but not completely back to normal. But he’s been eating, not throwing up, and mostly acting like his normal self. And very happy to be home – probably even happier than we are to have him home! He may be a little bundle of trouble, but he’s an important part of our household, and we missed him.

The Trouble With Jackson

I’m heads-down at work this month making the annual push for our upcoming conference, while Debbi is preparing for an off-site for her team at work later this week. Besides that we’ve been doing some deferred maintenance on our home (perhaps worth a post of its own), we’re planning a vacation this summer, I’m juggling discussions with other family members about things they’ve got going on, and I’ve been sifting through some bills which need attention (almost missed the due date for our homeowners insurance – whoops!).

So with all of that we did not need to have Jackson start throwing up repeatedly on Sunday night, waking us up twice, and requiring repeated spot-cleanings of the upstairs carpet over a 12-hour period. (Speaking of home maintenance, we should really get them steam-cleaned, too!)

By the time I came back from my run Monday morning he seemed to have stopped, but he was definitely a little out-of-sorts, possibly from not having slept enough himself the night before.

So Debbi made an appointment yesterday and took him to the vet. I’d hoped to make time to join her, but even for this time of year yesterday was an especially busy day, so I wasn’t able to make it. The vet took X-rays and – as we’d guessed – he apparently ate something, apparently a small rectangle maybe a half an inch by an inch or two, which the vet thinks was irritating his stomach. We’d learned a few weeks ago that someone – probably him – had eaten and thrown up one of Debbi’s hair ties – which you’d think would be very common, but Jackson is the first cat we’ve owned who’s gone after them. So apparently he got something else and swallowed it.

Debbi left him at the vet overnight, and the vet called to say that the object has apparently passed into his colon already, so there’s some chance that it might just come out the other end, which would certainly be the best case. (The worst case would be surgery to remove it.) So hopefully she’ll call and give us some good news today.

So we spent the night without Jackson, which was certainly a little quieter, since he’s our big troublemaker, often pawing at our venetian blinds at 4 am and forcing us to kick him out of the bedroom. But we’ve been missing him, and his sister Sadie has been especially snuggly; as our herding cat, I think she’s upset when members of her household are unexpectedly missing.

But this is stress we really did not need this week!

R.I.P. Maggie

My sister Katy texted me last night to tell me that our Mom’s cat Maggie passed away sometime during the day.

Mom had cats for just about my entire life. When I was born she and Dad had a cat named Dinah, whom I barely remember, although I dimly remember thinking she was someone to avoid. She died when I was still quite young. I grew up with an Abyssinian cat named Amos – I’m not sure if they got him before or after I was born – and he was around until 1987, along with our Welsh Corgi, Punkin, who joined us in 1976. I always found Amos somewhat aloof, even for a cat, just doing his own thing. I don’t really have strong memories of him, even though I was a teenager for part of his life.

In 1988, after I went to college and Amos passed away, Mom and got a couple of cats, a sweet tabby named William, and a feisty polydactyl calico named Jenny. William was my buddy whenever I visited, and I was very sad when he passed away in 2000. Jenny lived a couple more years, and I think enjoyed being an only cat.

We weren’t sure Mom would get another cat after Jenny – well, maybe Mom was less sure than the rest of us – but she found Maggie at a shelter, I think around 2003. The shelter said she’d been found pregnant and with a collar on her neck which was too small. And she was a small cat – maybe 7 pounds – a calico with smoky fur and a smudge on her nose. Mom adopted her, and really had to stick out caring for her for that first year, because she said Maggie took a long time to warm up to her, and even longer to really become her friend. But eventually she settled in with Mom, coming down for treats or to lie on the newspaper, and moving from room to room to lie in the sun in various windows. I guess she would growl and hiss loudly at cats who came into her yard, and avidly watched all the birds which flew into the yard.

She was not a very friendly cat, usually running and hiding when visitors came. It would take several days after I’d arrive to visit before she’d do more than look at me around a corner. She didn’t bite or scratch (much), she just wasn’t very friendly. She did warm up to me when I stayed at Mom’s house while she was recovering from knee replacement surgery in 2012, even getting into the morning paper routine. She’d even sit at the top of the stairs and meow for me to come to bed when it was Mom’s usual bedtime!

She had a bit of a mischievous streak: Mom said she once got outside, and Mom left both the front and back doors open for her to come back in. After an hour, she walked in the front door… and before Mom could close the doors she walked all the way through the house and went out the back. She did come in to stay later in the day, though. She also loved to play with tabs from plastic milk cartons, and would sometimes carry one to the top of the stairs and meow until Mom came out and told her what a good kitty she was. (When we were preparing to sell the house, I found dozens of the tabs behind the oven.)

Maggie had a hard time in Mom’s apartment in assisted living, with people coming in and out several times a day, and having a pretty small place to live. Mom played with her a lot, but as Mom declined (and I see in hindsight that she hid a lot of the symptoms of her decline from us) I think she became neglected and lonely.

The nursing staff told us that when Mom passed away she meowed loudly for a while afterwards, and then she had to endure several days in the apartment alone, with the occasional visitor to give her food and scoop her litter, until Katy and I came to clean out the place.

Katy volunteered to adopt her, and something remarkable happened: She moved into Katy’s house, with her son and her two young cats, and she totally took over the house. She whipped the young cats into line, and became very friendly to the humans. Katy says when she’d have workmen over, the other cats with disappear but Maggie would stay and supervise them. And last December, when Katy adopted a young dog, Maggie told the dog who’s boss, and used him against the other cats, since they didn’t like him.

So after everything, Maggie got her happy ending, a year and a half in a nice old house, with friendly humans, lots of wet cat food, and plenty of time lying in the sun on the porch.

Katy said Maggie had been getting small and thin lately, and we’re not really sure how old she was. Our best guess is that she’s 13, about the same as our calico Roulette, but she could easily have been a year or two (or more!) older than that. She always had kind of cruddy teeth, which is not a recipe for long-term health. So it was not really a surprise, though the suddenness was a bit of a shock. I don’t think Maggie would have done well with a long decline, anyway.

Katy says she’s having Maggie cremated and will spread her ashes over Mom’s grave next time she visits. I think they’d both like the thought of that.

(photo by Katy)
(photo by Katy)