Monday, July 27, 2020

His Spirit of Adventure

Tucker evidently thought that if an old lady could do it, a baby-faced middle-aged mancat could do it.

My roly poly (who is, in fact, just a year younger than Josie), has decided that he, too, would like to journey beyond the apartment’s front door. This started last week, and, frankly, surprised me. Tucker has always been very timid of the world beyond the cosy apartment. Over the last year or two, however, he has become much more outgoing with visitors, when we have them; the fact that they are a rarity makes his friendliness toward them more surprising. He used to hide from guests. Now he stays to rub up against them and purr.

So it is that he has begun to think outside the apartment, as well. One day, he simply invited himself to go past the door while I was coming in. I am always wary of the cats doing this, even if I think they never will, so Tucker did not make it past the threshold. But on later occasions, I permitted him to explore, and he has, to a very limited extent.

He is much more ready to hurry back to the apartment than is Josie, and it takes only a mild, brief sound from me to make him turn and scurry away from wherever it is I don’t want him to be. Nonetheless, I keep a close eye on his ramblings and am always ready to grab him, if need be.

But he is content to sniff and look at this strange world, hearing noises from unexplained origins, and watching people - from a distance - whom he doesn’t know. It is a strange change of behaviour for a cat who still has little interest in what is beyond a window, barring the odd raucous magpie. I am hesitant to smother any curiosity, however, as what stimulates my beasts is always in low supply. If the smells of a well-trodden carpet and hints of what lie behind others’ doors intrigue one or two of them, I won’t stifle their spirit of adventure.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Cats' Bowls and Dogs' Dishes

Memorials come in all shapes and sizes. I have my Memorial Wall, with the pictures of the cats I have lost hung above the urns containing their ashes. But there are other remembrances, too, hardly to be recognised as such.

Earlier this month, I wrote about once more making available the little ceramic cup that was placed near the floor of the bedroom so that Cammie could have a drink in convenience and ease after her first stroke. Since cats never drink enough water, especially during the hot months, the return of Cammie’s Cup produced another easily-accessed source of water for my beasts. Initially meant primarily for Josie, she and Renn have used it so much that its contents are frequently at a low level. So I have replaced it with the larger Cammie’s Bowl.

The princess never used the bowl. It is, in fact, not one but a pair of identical bowls, one of which I use for the outsider-cats (after the raccoon family smashed the big glass bowl originally serving that purpose). I have decided to use the second in the place of Cammie’s Cup. Periodically, they will be washed and exchanged. But whichever is being utilized inside will be known, for the duration of that interior use, as Cammie’s Bowl. It provides sustenance and refreshment in the same place as the cup, and in the same spirit.

In deciding on this change, I was reminded of another bowl that I have, and which has been in use for at least forty years. Made of strong and thick plastic – it’s rather sad that even such a cheap material as plastic was made better in the old days – this ordinary bowl was long known in my family as the Dog’s Dish.

When I was a youth, my family had a cockapoo called Finnegan. She had curly black hair, except at her chin, where it was white (that white spread and diffused as she aged); like Tucker now, Finnegan loved ice cream, and she would often receive a share in the Dog’s Dish. Thinking about it, it was probably not a good receptacle for the purpose; it should be shallow, with a heavier base, so it could not be moved about by a tongue lapping up the last particle of cream. Yet she never complained. I suspect it was used simply because it was an odd bowl and cheap. But I use it for ice cream still, and for potato chips, and fruit slices…

There is Tungsten’s little ceramic dish, and Josie’s original plate that broke, Bear-Bear’s cat-bed, and Cammie’s saddle-tree… All items which, though not officially named, nonetheless remind me of my lost friends. We all cherish the photographs we have of those family members who have gone ahead, but sometimes it is the more ordinary, the more mundane items in life that stir the strongest memories. Like the whiff of a scent, a slant of light, a few bars of a song not heard since childhood, our memories are sometimes reawakened by the every-day; memories that are themselves every-day, and ordinary, yet which remind us of the extraordinary people, places, times – and animals – we once knew.

Friday, July 24, 2020

One Down, One Up

Earlier this week, I wrote about Neville’s diabetic treatment, and how his insulin dosage has been reduced with, apparently, good results. Today, I must report that Tucker’s dosage is being increased.

This, however, does not worry me a great deal. His dosage has been two units in the mornings and one in the evenings; the latter is now being increased to match the former. It isn’t a great jump and will, I think, be beneficial.

Unlike Neville and my late friend Parker, Tucker’s diabetes has always been rather erratic. One ‘curve’ will display an excellent set of numbers, from moderately high down to just right; the next will show him nowhere near what he should have. There is a danger, of course, in adjusting the dosage too often, just to match fluctuating numbers. But the roly poly one has been on his current amounts for some time, enough to demonstrate that, while they are adequate, he can do better.

In another week or two, I will perform a ‘curve’ on my long-suffering sausage-like beast, and see how he is doing inside. Until then, he will play a little, eat very little, purr a lot: in other words, he will continue being Tucker.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Tickets Purchased, Rooms Reserved

I received some good news yesterday. My delayed holidays have been scheduled at last, and I hope to have them at the start of September. They will be two weeks long, rather than the three, due to a number of people in my department at work being away for so long. I have already taken a week off, and did not find it very relaxing (which is why I always try to have all three of my weeks off at once.) But the two remaining, taken together, should be a relief.

My plans are already formulated - the benefits of a good imagination. I will be taking a sleeper on the night-train to Idylland, arriving the afternoon of the day following my departure.

I will stay for the night, possibly for two, at the Hotel Splendide, in Idylltown, where the staff retain fond memories of Mr Parker…

Then I will head to Verdureland, the expansive province of forest and glade, stream and meadow between the capital and the Borea Mountains, to the north. I have rented a tiny cottage in the valley of the Catsbourne River, where I will take my fortnight’s ease.

This is the plan, anyway. Its manifestation is a month and more away, so there is plenty of time for disarrangement.

In this year, when too many have lost too much, I am grateful to have a job at all. However, except for the newest employee, I am the only one in my department who has not had lengthy time off - my supervisor is on very extended sick leave, another colleague is on disability leave, two others were given enforced time off, twice, isolating themselves for safety’s sake - so I am looking forward with enjoyment to a holiday for myself. I will keep everyone apprised of any developments but, considering my destination, my itinerary should remain constant, even in the uncertain world of reality.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Quiet Times for Josie

Josie is hard of hearing. She is not deaf, though she may be considered partially so. She can certainly still hear, but I often must speak loudly to her, or be close to her, for her to know that I am speaking.

The most obvious signs of Josie’s growing impairment come when I walk into a room where she is lying. She will start or jump a little upon seeing me, as I materialise silently near her. I always try to let her know visually that I have arrived, but trying to get her attention with a movement also startles her. My Chubs will catch me out of the corner of her eye and her head will whip around, surprised by my presence. Speaking loudly startles her, so I sometimes make a noise that increases in volume. This, however, will wake her unnecessarily if she is snoozing. I usually try to allow her to sleep through my presence; if she does not, though, she experiences the same start that comes from seeing me suddenly. Living with a partially deaf animal can result in dilemmas.

I wonder what she thinks of all this. Being a cat, I am sure that she takes it in her stride. Just as I imagine that Cammie was frustrated by her abrupt blindness but quickly accepted it, Josie probably just accepts the diminishing sounds in her world. But I chuckle over the possibility that she fumes, like a human, that people are always mumbling these days; why can’t they speak up?

In her old age, she has become, as I have mentioned previously, much more demonstrably affectionate. Is this due to her growing disabilities, her decreasing sharpness of hearing, her slowing movements? Is she less secure than she used to be? As she accumulates years, I will show her that she is safe and loved. I just may not be able to tell her so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Numbering Neville

Three weeks ago, I decided to lower Neville’s insulin dosage. He had been receiving three units twice a day (once in the morning and again in the evening.) Two ‘curves’ (examinations of his blood-sugar numbers over a day) had taught me that his numbers were going too low. The first curve was low but satisfactory; the second was too low, period.

Consequently, I lowered his dosage to two units twice a day. I have not yet performed another ‘curve’ on the Nevsky. They are very hard on him. He hates the ear-pricks for blood; he has not Tucker’s resignation in that regard. But on Sunday I took blood before both his insulin injections, and at the time of day when his numbers’ nadir would likely be reached.

Whereas previously, his nadir dipped to 3.5 (the best range for blood-sugar is between four and eight), it was now 8.5. This is probably average for his new dosage, and is much better. (In terms of blood-sugar, if it can’t be in the perfect range, it’s preferable to be higher than lower.) I will perform a full ‘curve’ on Nev in a few weeks; the interval will allow his body to adjust more to the new dosage, and thus give a better picture of his numbers.

Diabetes is a confounding condition, and affects many of those who have it differently. For instance, Neville’s ‘curves’ are rather drastic, compared to Tucker’s, starting very high and dropping low, then climbing again suddenly. Tucker’s ascension as his blood-sugar builds again (recovering from his insulin injection) is gradual; Nev’s will rise from readings of nine or ten to twenty or more in a couple of hours. This may seem alarming, but it appears to be a safe pattern with him. It’s where clinical signs help determine the treatment’s success. Neville is doing well, I think.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Great White's Way

My cats are indoors-only, though one (ie. Parker) was allowed outside on a harness and leash. But I let a couple roam the corridors of our apartment building, under my strict supervision. Also, while I know that, if it came to it, even the oldest could out-distance me swiftly, I also know my cats and their characters. I wouldn’t trust Neville outside the apartment, but two others are given the privilege.

Renn is not an adventurous fellow though, being of a scientific bent, he is curious, and wants to explore, even if his nerve fails him when given the opportunity.

Josie will go a little farther. She will walk more or less confidently down the corridors and climb stairs. She likes looking out the glass doors at each end of the building. If I hear a door opening anywhere, or someone talking, I am on my Chubs quickly. I don’t think that she will pull a fast one, but I don’t want to give her the chance.

The Great White was on a leash some years ago, but it didn’t appeal to her. I may try it again, to see if her attitude toward it has changed. Until then, she may be permitted the odd ramble inside the building. She never had much desire to widen her horizons, but most people change as they age. My old lady is, apparently, no different.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

My Old Lady's Health

Josie went to the veterinary yesterday, to make certain that her urinary tract infection of three weeks ago had been vanquished. She had finished her fortnight’s course of anti-biotic, and I would have been surprised had it not done its job, as my Chubs was feeling better after the first day of treatment. She arrived at the hospital with a full bladder, so a sample of her urine was easily taken. The infection is gone.

The Great White’s behaviour at the hospital was interesting. She spent the first half wandering about the examination room, meowing, quite restless. Then she decided that all was well and settled down on a padded bench, purring. The purrs may have been nervousness, but her attitude did not suggest this. Something seems to have told her to relax; it was just a matter of waiting to go home.

Go home we did, and Josie spent the rest of the day, snoozing, looking out the bedroom window and eating some treats, presented for being such a good girl. I think she may have found the day satisfactory, after all. I know I did.

Monday, July 13, 2020

When Destinies Lie Elsewhere

Ms Josefina von Chubs was getting ready for bed at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium. It had been a long day. She had slept and slept, eaten, slept and slept some more. She was worn out. She stopped by a window first, though, and peered outside. The night was growing dark; the long summer day was far into its twilight now. But she saw a light in one of the farther buildings. She was certain it was coming from a window in Dr Bellen’s study.

Josie climbed down from her cat-tree and walked over to the administration building. The air was warm but stirred now and then by a slight breeze. Sleeping would be a pleasure tonight. But first, she wanted to see why Dr Bellen was working so late.

“Josie…” Dr Bellen was surprised to see the senior client of the sanitarium at his open study door. He was at his desk, not working, but sitting quietly, with a cup of tea. “What are you doing here?”


“I asked what you are doing here!” the doctor repeated, more loudly.

“I was getting ready for bed. It’s been a long day. I’ve slept and slept, eaten, slept and slept some more. I’m worn out. I---”

“Yes, yes, I understand,” Dr Bellen hastened to interrupt her. “Is something wrong?”


“Turn on your hearing aid!”

Josie, who was growing deaf with age, switched on her hearing aid, pausing immediately afterward and inquiring whether it was usual for cats to wear hearing aids.

“It’s just for purposes of the narration…” muttered Dr Bellen.


“It’s doesn’t hurt for a short duration.”

“Oh. Yes, I suppose not. What are you doing here, Doctor? It’s late. You should be in your cottage.”

“I know. I was thinking about Sunrise.”

“The sunrise?”

“Sunrise. The cat who was here over the weekend.”

Josie nodded. She had seen the frightened orange cat admitted to the sanitarium. He was part of a feral colony, and had been trapped so that he could receive veterinary care. She was certain he had been released already.

“You’re correct,” Dr Bellen told her. “He was allowed to go back to the colony.”

“Was there something wrong with the procedure?”

Josie was aware that feral cats sometimes were brought to the sanitarium, where they were attended to by the veterinary staff. They were given injections to help them fight infections and diseases, and they had operations. She was never quite sure what the operations were for; medical details confused her.

“No, everything went well. Sunrise is a healthy fellow, about two years old.”

Josie looked at Dr Bellen, and walked further into his study. She sat on the couch that faced the fireplace, which was empty on this early summer night.

“You don’t seem happy about his care,” she said.

“Oh, his care was first-rate,” replied the doctor. “I just… I wish he could have stayed here. I think he would have liked it here, after a while.”

“Undoubtedly,” agreed Josie. “Why did he have to go?”

Dr Bellen took some time before responding. He brought his tea over to the couch, and sat near Josie. He offered her some treats, which she immediately devoured. There was no sense in talking to her while she was concentrating on treats, so Dr Bellen waited until she was done.

“The truth is, Sunrise could have stayed, but he was quite unsocialised.”

“You’ve stated before that almost any cat could become socialised…” Josie pointed out.

“It’s true; I believe that. But it often takes a very long time, and requires the person involved to spend so much time with the cat that he can frequently do little else. Working eight or nine hours a day makes it difficult. Then there is the matter of a room for segregation, though in fact it’s more helpful if the shy cat can reside in the human’s bedroom for the process.”

“It sounds like the sanitarium doesn’t have the resources for socialising ferals.” Josie nodded. She feared this was the case. The Cosy Apartment was a marvelous place for a cat already accustomed to people. She knew that shy cats needing to grow used to humans required different facilities.

“We don’t. We don’t have the staff, and the staff don’t have the time.” Dr Bellen sighed.

“But you’ve had to let other ferals go back to their colonies before now…”

“That’s true, too. But Sunrise reminded me of someone…”



“But Raleigh was already socialised,” reminded Josie. “He needed a refuge, a home, not the facilities a feral requires.”

“Oh, I know. Sunrise simply had the same sad expression that Peachy had. I think he would have liked it here.”

Josie sat silently for a minute, while Dr Bellen drank his tea. Josie started washing her face, which she did sometimes while thinking. At length, she looked at the human again.

“Do you remember Tungsten?”

“Tungsten?” Dr Bellen was surprised at the mention of the cat. “Why, of course I do. She was the Cosy Apartment’s first client.”

“Yes, that’s right. My, that was a long time ago.” The time that had elapsed since Tungsten had left Idylland had been five years, a very long time indeed to a cat. “I recall when she left, just before you accompanied her to the station.”

“I recall it, too.” Dr Bellen seemed to be seeing something that was farther away than five years.

“She talked to me at that moment. I asked why she had to go. She thought I was rather silly to ask, I know.” Josie almost smiled. She and Tungsten had disliked each other when they had first met, but then grew to be quite tolerant of one another.

“I don’t think it was silly,” said Dr Bellen.

“Tungsten told me that her time at the sanitarium was up, and that she had an appointment to keep elsewhere. Where is Samarra?”

Dr Bellen smiled. Tungsten had always had a good sense of humour; an erudite sense of humour.

“It’s in the next land, over the mountains,” he answered casually.

“Tungsten explained that each of us can do only so much. You helped Tungsten stay at the sanitarium for a long time, and she enjoyed her stay here. She liked you very much.”

“I liked her very much, too…” said Dr Bellen.

“She knew that if you could have kept her here, in decent health, longer, you would have. She said that General Wolfe once stated that ‘war is an option of difficulties’…”

“Tungsten quoted General Wolfe? General James Wolfe?”

Josie nodded.

“I find it hard to believe that she quoted General James Wolfe…”

“Do you want to hear my story or not, Doctor?” The cat frowned.


“She must have read it somewhere. I think…I think what she meant was, we can do only so much. And when we do one thing, it often keeps us from doing another.”

“I could have kept Sunrise here, and worked with him,” Dr Bellen explained.

“And that might have kept you from devoting time and effort to many other cats. That would have hurt them and their chances. You could have helped Sunrise, but you could also have helped many other cats in that same time. And would Sunrise have been happy in all the time it would have taken to socialise him? And would it have worked out?” Josie stared at the cold fireplace and, after a moment, added, “I don’t know what will happen to Sunrise. He may live a long time, he may live a short time. But what you did for him will improve his life, and that improvement - better health, a stronger chance - was something he never had before.”

“Part of me will always regret not keeping him.”

“Tungsten never said that the options we choose are always easy to live with. They should just be the best we can choose. And...she told me those choices don’t make our destinies; they only serve them.”

Dr Bellen laughed.

“Tungsten was pretty smart.” He put his hand on Josie’s shoulder. “And so are you.”

Josie rubbed her face against the arm of the couch, which always made her look as if she were embarrassed, and blushing.

“Do you have any more treats, Dr Bellen?”

“I’m sure I have a few in a drawer here somewhere…”

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cafe Cosy Robbed and Vandalised

In what appears to have been a deliberate and targeted crime, Café Cosy was robbed and vandalised, Friday night.

Owner John Bellen states that he was relaxing in his bedroom about eleven o’clock when he heard a commotion.

“I was relaxing in my bedroom about eleven o’clock when I heard a commotion.”

Initially, alerted by the sound of something fragile breaking, Bellen thought its origin was across the alley, in a neighbouring yard. A second crash was clearly from nearer by. It came from the concrete ditch outside the sliding glass door of Bellen’s sitting room, adjacent to Café Cosy’s dining room.

“Someone was smashing the dishes I had there for the use of patrons.”

Thinking that he had human violence with which to contend, Bellen was relieved – and not very surprised – when he turned on the light to illuminate the restaurant and found a gang of robbers at work.

The gang appears to comprise a parent and her three juvenile children. Bellen stated that they may be related to suspects who had visited his café last year, but it was difficult to tell, as in both cases the burglars were masked.

“To be honest,” he said, “I don’t mind them helping themselves to the food. The Café Cosy is open twenty-four hours a day, and we don’t discriminate among customers. We are happy to serve cats, sea gulls, magpies; we’ve even entertained skunks in the past. But some patrons can become rowdy.”

Damage was not extensive, principally a soft-food bowl and a heavy glass water-bowl, the latter not easy to replace. The debris was cleaned up the following morning, and the restaurant open for business as usual.

Police are interested in questioning a female raccoon and her children. Charges may include theft under $25, contributing to the delinquency of minors, malicious damage and gluttony.

It is disheartening, Bellen reported, that the incident occurred despite the employment of new security staff, who were on duty at the time.