Months ago, when Sophie was still a skittish stray, I asked a local artist to paint Sadie and Sally. The painting was to be based on numerous photographs of them, and my description of their personalities. After she had begun the piece, Sophie, at long last, came in from the cold and became a permanent member of the family. The artist modified the painting accordingly. Last night, after months of anticipation, I received a photograph of the completed masterpiece.
May 6, 2013
April 20, 2013
Right now, I hate everything except my cats. And food, particularly ice cream. And wine. And mindless tv. And sleep. Aside from those things, everything is stupid.
Rather than piss and moan about my grief, and I happen to be deep, deep into the anger stage, I’ll update you on the one thing that feels worthy of my time these days.
Integrating the little diva that is Sophie into my household.
Sophie has been inside about a month now. She rarely ventures out of her safe room when I leave her door open. And even then it’s only to charge at Sadie, who’s gotten a little too close to Sophie’s territory, which she has no qualms about defending. Even against the formidable Sadie. Sally pretty much steers clear of the whole business, allowing Sadie to do her dirty work.
It’s my own fault Sophie feels no compunction about staying safely ensconced in her room. She’s got her own litter box, lots of great places to sleep, a window with a lovely tree full of birds and squirrels, loads of toys, her own food and water bowls, tuna service each morning, and the piece de resistance, a magnificent new cat tree.
If you look closely in the mirror, you can see her little black paws hanging off where she prefers to spend her time.
That’s right: Sophie would rather spend her time lying atop a mattress leaning against the wall than on her spectacular cat tree. Not only that, she prefers the bare mattress to a sheepskin rug.
I have seen her lounging on her tree. Once. But I know she’s been on it when I’m not looking as the treats I’ve left have disappeared from each level. And today we made a little progress with out-of-room exploration. I lured her to the end of the hall to briefly play with a toy. But now she’s back on top of her mattress.
How pissed off do you think she’s going to be when I remove the mattress for the sofa bed that’s on order?
We are making progress with integration. The hissing has abated considerably. And all three girls are willing to scarf down chicken in unison on either side of the open door. I’ve also been successful at having Sadie and Sophie engage in simultaneous interactive play on either side of the open door, with the help of my neighbor.
All this leads me to the conclusion that I will have a fully integrated three-cat household in about two to three years.
I leave you with a few more photos of the little diva.
April 1, 2013
I’ve spent my nights since I returned from Houston drinking wine, eating, and watching Downton Abbey with my neighbor. I keep referring to it as Downtown Abbey. My English neighbor corrects me but I’m too tired to remember my error. I keep waking up at 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning and lying awake for hours. I repeatedly open the box of work I brought home and toss the lid back on. Yesterday I was uncharacteristically restless. I began cleaning out closets, cedar chests, dressers, and cupboards at 9:00 a.m. I stuffed four trash bags with clothes and various odds and ends for my cleaning lady. I filled three more with towels and sheets for my mother. I finished at 6:30 p.m., not pausing to eat or rest. Then we put a ham in the oven, along with roasted potatoes and asparagus. It was delicious. Comfort food.
Today I was supposed to work at the office, but I feel too wiped out. I look in the mirror and I see a woman who appears to have aged ten years in a week. I’ll be 50 in exactly 50 days. I’m beginning to look more and more like my sister, who’s 6 years older than me. I don’t like her at all. She’s a cold, cold woman. Seeing her face staring back at me when I look in the mirror is depressing. I’ve spent my day today staring at the computer screen and Googling things like, “Death ages you.” And makes you look like your bitch sister.
So here I am: both brothers are dead. My father is dead. I’m left with my mother and sister.
All the men, dead.
This is so fucked up. Now I can see why women marry their fathers. Or their brothers. It’s comforting. I feel no comfort. The closet-cleaning, drinking, eating, sleeping, and tv are my attempts to avoid my pain. But it’s always there. All day. All night. My chest feels like an anvil is sitting on it. I can’t breathe. I keep sighing. I’ve got bags under my eyes. My skin looks washed out. Ashen.
I forced myself to go for a Pilates session on Saturday. The instructor kept talking about imagining my breath filling my lungs, gathering the energy in my core. As I slid up and down the reformer, I thought, “My brother’s body is dead. He can’t breathe. He can’t gather energy in his core. I can. But he’s gone. He’ll never breathe again. His body stopped breathing fifteen minutes before I got to the hospital. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I could have been with him all weekend. My brother was dying and I wasn’t there.”
My family has been wiped out in the space of eleven months. Brother. Father. Brother.
Thanksgivings and Christmases are no more. They didn’t dwindle one by one over the years; they were wiped out all at once. I don’t have my own family to take their place. Instead I have three cats. Sally sleeps lying across my neck. I love that. It makes me want to never leave my bed.
And there’s that ache, expanding in my chest again, making it difficult to breathe.
Things will never be he same. I’ll never be the same. I was so lucky a year ago. Blissfully ignorant of this kind of pain. I’ll never be blissfully ignorant again.
Until one week ago, I still had my brother. I was grieving my father. And my brother. He was grieving our father and brother. I looked at some texts I’d received from him before he got sick.
“I miss Dad.”
“Be extra nice to Mom. Remember, she’s going to be 77 this year.”
He was sober. He had a chance for a happy future. Stolen from him by leukemia seven days ago.
March 28, 2013
All of my male family members are gone. In the space of 11 months. How do I make sense of this? I don’t. There is no meaning or explanation. Everything does not happen for a reason. It just happens. This universe is random. There is no grand plan for any of us. We are not predestined. My brother did not die Monday because we needed to learn some lesson.
My brother died for no reason other than he had leukemia.
It would be easier if I believed a god orchestrated this. I would have something at which to direct my anger. But there’s nothing. Nothing other than the arbitrariness of this world.
Yes, there are things to be grateful for in the midst of my despair. His agreement to enter rehab in late December gave him three months with his children. They have those three months to remember their dad as he really was. He died of leukemia, rather than an alcohol-related disease. (There is no connection between alcoholism and AML. I checked.) He didn’t kill himself with alcohol.
I thought with the intervention I had saved my brother. I thought I had helped him save himself. I had fantasies of spending time with him when he was feeling better. I wanted to take him for long healing walks in nature. I wanted to help him heal his heart. I wanted to talk with him about all the painful things that happened as we were growing up to help him lay them to rest. I dreamed of being close like we were as we were growing up and in the early days of our adulthood, before the alcohol came between us.
I had dreams that he would finally get some happiness.
But life is not about happiness. It’s not about anything. There is no reason for any of this. Or if there is, none of us know what it is. Will we find out when we die? That’s a nice thought. And it’s quite possible that’s all it is.
My words aren’t profound. Countless people have lost loved ones under tragic circumstances. Countless people have shaken their fists and cursed the universe. Or god. Or cancer. Or alcoholism. So what? People will continue to be born. And then each of them eventually will die. Some, like my father, will have long full lives. Others, like my brothers, will die much too young.
(I chose the cat photo not because of my love of cats. Well, that too. But it neatly shows my irreverence for all of this.)
I wonder if there’s another solar system out there where people (or some type of conscious beings) know the day they are born that there is a meaning for their lives. I wonder what it would be like to live knowing what that meaning is. I wonder what it would be like to know exactly how long we all will live and why we are here. Some of you might be thinking, “Regardless, you should live like today is your last day.” But I can’t really do that. I have to plan for the future in case I’m still here. And what if all that planning is for naught? What if I’m worrying about paying for retirement when I’m going to be dead next week? I should be out looking for a new home for my cats, not worrying about paying my bills when I’m dead. I should be eating Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, and not worrying about my expanding mid-life midsection. I should be sitting outside watching the birds in the feeders, not sitting in here fretting over the box of work the office courier dropped off earlier.
This post has devolved into a meaningless ramble. Which sums up nicely how I feel about life right now.
Yes, I do realize I’m in the anger stage of grief. And that matters because?
March 25, 2013
More on Sophie’s integration later, but for now I give you The Black Lion. (Alas, this was taken with my Blackberry.)
March 21, 2013
Which do you want first: an update on my brother or the cats? Brother, it is.
He sounded much better this morning. A bit of vitality has returned. It must be the two pints of blood they’ve given him. I think those were red blood cells. And today they also gave him platelets. I don’t know much about blood, but I’ve got a feeling I’ll be developing a familiarity over the coming weeks and months. They haven’t done the bone marrow biopsy yet. It’s scheduled for tomorrow morning. I asked him how soon they’ll have the results, and he told me, “Let’s just worry about getting the test done. Then we’ll focus on the results.” That was a nice way of telling me to chill the hell out. So after we hung up, I got on the Internet and researched bone marrow transplants and the chances I’d be a match. It looks like about 35 percent odds a sibling will be a match. So if he needs it, maybe we’ll get lucky. See how well I chill out? At least I didn’t mention it to him. Instead I sent him flowers. White and yellow daisies and roses in a yellow smiley face mug. Daisies are happy flowers.
“Okay. What is it?”
“Which cat do you think will be cat two in the hierarchy, Sally or Sophie?”
“Sophie. She’s younger and will be more aggressive in establishing her new territory.”
Interesting perspective. And despite tonight’s kitty events, it’s still an open question.
Which brings me to topic two: Black cats.
Sophie no longer hides in the closet. Instead she’s taken to waiting by her tuna saucer when I enter. It didn’t take her long to come to expect two square meals a day. Tonight she was very affectionate. She soaked up the petting, purring up a storm and drooling. Have I told you she’s a drooler? Yes, Sophie drools big giant droplets when she’s purring and happy. It’s cute, but a little messy.
Because she was in rare form tonight, I opened her safe room door and left it open. It wasn’t long before Sadie sauntered in. At that time, Sophie was having a bath in the closet. Not hiding, mind you. She was simply bathing after her supper. Sadie didn’t see her as she sniffed about. In fact, she walked right past her. I turned Sadie around so that they were face-to-face. Sadie finally realized Sophie was right under her over-stimulated nose and let out a couple of hisses. They seemed a bit half-hearted to me, and Sophie didn’t appear ruffled. She didn’t hiss back. Sadie walked out the door, hissing a few more times as she left the room. There was no spitting or aggression. No fur flew. It was a bit anti-climactic. So I decided to push my luck and left the door wide open.
Sadie had wandered off to the other end of the hall and set up post there. Sophie watched her from under the dresser. Suddenly, Sophie jumped up, darted out the door in the opposite direction of Sadie, sniffed the guest bath, darted the other direction toward Sadie, stopped, turned, and ran back into her safe room. I left the door wide open for several more minutes, but she had completed her foray for the day. So we went back to petting, purring, and drooling.
This weekend I shall plonk them together as suggested by a fellow blogger, and see if my brother is right that Sophie will become number two on the hierarchy.
- A hiss is just a hiss. (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Out of the Closet (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Discourage (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Sophie Comes Home (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
March 17, 2013
In this post, I share a photographic depiction of Sophie’s recent progress. Today (Sunday) marks the fifth day of Sophie enjoying the comforts of an indoor home. No more looking for safe places to sleep, scampering away at every unexpected noise, scavenging for food and water, steering clear of cars and big burly toms, and cowering in dusty cubbyholes during thunderstorms. She now has her own room with always accessible food and water, treats, scratching post and pads, toys, litter box (which she’s using!), a comfy bed, a window with a view of a tree full of birds and squirrels, stuffed animals should she feel the need for a mama, and a closet to hide in when she’s feeling a little insecure. Sophie doesn’t like the flash, so I’m taking the photos I can get of her, without causing her too much stress.
Sophie enjoying the safety of the closet, but no longer hiding behind the green bin. Her little brown teddy bear is in front of her.
Sophie comes out of the closet and hides beneath the dresser with her pony.
Now she’s ventured from beneath the dresser to enjoy her salmon supper.
Here she is getting some cuddles. She’s not much into her interactive toy, yet.
What’s that under the door?
Sadie has become quite curious about the new addition. My what big claws you have.
If you look closely to the right of the paw, you can see Sadie’s eye peeping under the door. (You might have to click on the photo and get the enlarged version to spot it.)
When Sophie went to use her scratching pad (Sadie’s paw still poking under the door), Sadie hissed at her several times through the door. I shoved a few treats underneath, hoping to defuse the situation. It seems to have worked.
Now I’m working on mustering up the courage to begin the introductions. I’ve given Sophie two socks; one with Sadie’s scent, one with Sally’s. Next I need to rub a sock against Sophie’s scent glands (by her whiskers), and give them to Sadie and Sally. That is my goal for today. I’m not sure when I’m going to attempt a face-to-face. But I hope it won’t be long.
March 15, 2013
March 15, 2013
After three months of wooing Sophie, the frightened little stray, with tuna and pets, I decided we had bonded enough that I could bring her into my home. So on Tuesday night, I did just that. I set up a sanctuary room for her in my spare bedroom to give her a safe place to adjust to being indoors. And to make sure she’s healthy before I introduce her to Sadie and Sally. Sophie first hissed at me Tuesday night when I attempted to pet her. She’d never hissed at me when we were getting acquainted while she was still outdoors, so I was a bit surprised.
On Wednesday morning, I brought a plate of tuna for her, and a cup of coffee for me. I put the tuna just outside the open closet door and sat quietly. She made sad little mewls from time to time, but stayed safely hidden in the closet. Eventually, she popped her head out just enough to eat the tuna (between the sad little meows), while casting sideways glances at me. After she’d eaten, she went back into hiding.
On Wednesday night, I brought her more tuna. And treats. Her favorite is Whiskas Temptations. (Greenies are a distant second.) Again, she emerged from the closet just far enough to eat the treats I’d placed closest to the door. When she didn’t eat the treats I put a little farther away, I picked them up to move them closer to her. Another hiss. I feared this was going to be a long and arduous process. But we have time. And I am learning patience. At least so far as Sophie goes.
Thursday morning, yesterday, I brought her a plate of tuna and again sat with her while I had coffee. She seemed to have calmed down some; the plaintive meows had become soft little mews. But still she would only emerge from the closet just enough to eat her breakfast. I worried that the mobile vet, scheduled to come that afternoon, would be unable to examine her. I imagined scratches and howls and struggling.
I left work early yesterday to meet with Dr. Allen. She is, hands down, the most wonderful veterinarian I have ever known. And she comes to my home so the kitties aren’t traumatized with a car ride and visit to a strange, scary clinic. Dr. Allen has a mobile clinic, of sorts. She has a big truck with a camper, filled with her equipment. If there’s a blood test to be done, or a tissue sample to be examined, she goes out to her truck and does just that, while I wait (impatiently) for the results.
I led Dr. Allen, carrying her examination kit and scale, to the sanctuary room. Sophie, not surprisingly, was hiding in the closet behind a plastic storage bin. As I moved the bin out of the closet, she shot out and made a beeline to the top of the mattress, which was leaning against the wall. (I’d taken the bed apart, at Dr. Allen’s suggestion, so she couldn’t hide beneath it.) She flattened herself against the wall, attempting to make herself invisible. Dr. Allen approached her slowly, and began talking softly to her. The next thing I knew, she was petting Sophie. No hissing! (She truly is a cat whisperer.) She checked her ears for mites. All clear. She looked at her teeth to estimate her age. Sophie is 4 to 5 years old. Amazingly, Sophie sat very still and allowed Dr. Allen to examine her. Things were going much better than I had anticipated.
Next, the goal was to get Sophie onto the scale, and then get a blood sample so we could test her for feline leukemia, feline immunosuppressive virus, and heartworms. Dr. Allen attempted to pick her up from atop the mattress, but she dug her claws firmly into the fabric. Even so, she exhibited no aggression. It was my turn to try. With the slightest bit of resistance, she let me pick her up and seemed to relax in my arms. I put her on the scale where she stayed still long enough to get her weight: 8 pounds 11 ounces. Being smaller and younger than Sadie and Sally, she officially is the baby of the family.
After we weighed her, I picked her up again and sat down on the floor for the most difficult task: obtaining a blood sample. At this point, Sophie was very nervous, but quite docile. I held her close, and she snuggled into me. She attempted to bury her face in my arm, so I placed my hand gently over her eyes so she would have the sensation of hiding. Dr. Allen put the tourniquet on her front leg and inserted the tiny needle. Sophie remained still. But when Dr. Allen inserted the needle, the vein went flat. We tried both front legs several times, each time the vein collapsing just before the needle went in. Sophie, amazingly, remained still the entire time: nearly twenty minutes. Even so, after numerous attempts, Dr. Allen was unable to get more than just the tiniest bit of blood. She explained that when a kitty goes into fight or flight mode, the peripheral circulation reduces so that all the blood is reserved for vital organs. Sophie was so frightened, she had minimal blood flow to her legs.
So Dr. Allen went to Plan B.
Because Sophie has such long thick fur, Dr. Allen thought she’d have more success shaving a bit off her leg. She went out to her truck to get her electric razor while I held Sophie close in my arms, still hiding her face in my hand. Dr. Allen returned, plugged in the razor, and shaved a small patch of fur off of Sophie’s leg. Amazingly, Sophie registered no reaction and remained still. Dr. Allen made several more attempts on the shaved leg with no luck. She would have to go with the tiny sample she had managed to obtain, and hope it was enough. She wasn’t optimistic. If we didn’t have enough of a sample, I would have to take her to a vet clinic, where they would obtain a sample from her jugular vein, which doesn’t shut down during flight mode. Needless to say, I did not want to subject her to the stress of riding in the car and going to the clinic. Dr. Allen took the tiny sample out to her truck while I sat with Sophie, hoping for the best, but not feeling optimistic.
Feeling anxious, I left Sophie and went outside to wait for the results. My neighbor joined me as we held our breaths. Would she have enough of a sample to do the test? If so, would it be negative?
Dr. Allen bounded out of her truck camper: ”She’s negative!”
Sophie is healthy! She has no ear mites; she has no leukemia, or FIV, or heartworms. The only unknown at this point is whether she has been spayed. Since it is kitten season, and she does not show any signs of estrus, she likely has been.
After the vet visit, I thought Sophie would backtrack, taking days, or perhaps weeks, to come out of her shell, and out of the closet.
Because Sophie has been through so much, I decided she needed a special treat for supper. Since she gets tuna regularly, I’d have to take it up a step: fresh salmon. I bought a large piece and baked it in the oven. My neighbor and I then went up to her room, put the salmon outside the closet door, and sat with her, talking quietly. Sophie ate her salmon, and then went back into hiding in the recesses of the closet. My neighbor and I continued to talk, when much to our surprise, Sophie emerged from the closet. As she walked past me, I gave her a pet. She then went under the dresser, and continued to observe us. We pretended to pay no attention to her, as she sat and watched us. The next thing I knew, my neighbor, who was sitting closest to Sophie, was engaged in a lovefest. Sophie soaked up the petting, purred and drooled, and laid down on the floor snuggled up to my neighbor’s leg.
Sophie is healthy. She’s beginning to feel safe. Soon I shall begin the introductions to her new cat family. Sadie most certainly will remain alpha cat. The question is, who will be number two on the hierarchy: Sally or Sophie? My guess is Sally, but we’ll have to wait and see what they decide.
What I’ve learned over the past two days:
You must remember this
A hiss is just a hiss
- And Sophie Makes Three? (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Sophie Comes Home (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Sophie the Stray Cat (But Not For Much Longer) Photo Blog (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- .5 Cat (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Breakthrough! (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
March 14, 2013
So much happened today with stray kitty Sophie. Tonight will be her third night under my roof in her sanctuary room. But we’re so tired. I’m tired. The kitties are tired. So we shall sleep and tomorrow write a full account of the day’s events. They involve the mobile vet, fresh-baked salmon, hisses from the closet, and more.
- Sophie Comes Home (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- And Sophie Makes Three? (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)