Gold Star

I guess I have to admit I said it a lot. Actually I’ve been saying it for years. When I did a six-butt day in the massage room, or blew away the gym and set a PR, or even back when my late and ex husband was dying, however comfortably, in the hospital and I was like a bug on a windshield zooming to the other side of DC in my spare time to make sure things were right and he had what he needed.

More lately it’s just been finishing a work day with the pain from what turned out to be freak localized joint destruction, and then getting through the hip surgery, and after that hitting the PT like a pre-war housewife whaling a 9 x 12 Axminster with a carpet beater.

Last night we got tickets to the third How To Train Your Dragon movie, a series which is at least 50% squee porn for people who love cats

[a longish clip, but if you don’t see a rescuer luring a feral cat in the first minute or so, there is no hope for you]

and I ditched the goddam Zimmer frame, which has been giving me palmaris longus tendinitis anyway, and strode into the theater with just my Alpine poles. Which, part of the time, I didn’t use. I’d already covered over a mile with them earlier in the day. It felt good. So did seeing an actual film in an actual theater without tottering and clutching the railings up to my seat, pulling myself along like a rope climber. And given how much I still get depressed about having to be repaired like an old beater, it was pretty exhilarating to be reminded that Hiccup, the young dragon trainer, also has had a metal gizmo standing in for part of his leg since the first film.

We had soup waiting for us at home, and after clearing off the Engineer disappeared upstairs and came down with one of those small, understated boxes embossed with a firm’s proprietary name in gold leaf: the kind of small box that means business.

“You’ve been asking all this time whether you’d earned one,” he said, “and I know you don’t usually wear things on little chains, but this still seems like the way to say you did.”

Gold Star

All the way through, not plated. Okay, I’m wearing it with a Star Trek “Deep Space Nine” T-shirt. Sue me.



The Mark Of Zorro

Mr. Ferguson is the mostly gentlemanly, the most debonair, the most delicate and polite of the current cat population. He uses his toes as actual digits — you should see him reach into the bag and pick up a piece of popcorn — and he offers gallantries to his wife on a regular basis, but, well, genteely. He even carries his tail in a dashing curl.


And then there’s what happens when it’s time for a checkup at the vet.


That’s my front delt. I didn’t notice until I got back from the gym, owing to the digging of his rear claws into my thigh when we commenced stuffing him into the carrier. It kind of captured my attention.

You’ll be glad to know he checked out A-OK.


Viking’s Funeral

There’s no gentle way to lead into it. Torvald Einar Magnussen, the magnificent FloofViking, the most lovable complete dick ever to inhabit a feline body, has been welcomed into Valhalla.

I had been wanting to post something lately about the Miracle Kitty, as Dr. Cohn called him, a survivor who lived two and a half years past the rough life expectancy of cats who’ve been diagnosed with his kind of heart condition. He just was not having it. We were sure he was a goner twice, the right medication combination took shape, he accepted it every morning and evening with a stoic mien and a thought balloon that said “fuck you with extreme prejudice,” and kept on keeping on.


Torvald On Platform

2009 (probably) – 2018

Last night was no different. He took his pills, let me kiss his nose (a fairly reckless thing for me to do considering that he once nearly took my face off), ambled out to dig the night noises on the porch, and eventually allowed himself to be herded off to bedtime in the basement with his buddy Agatha, the only cat who can be around him without getting relentlessly chased, rassled, body-slammed, and in various ways battered in the style of a Klingon wedding night. He’d been jumping up in my lap nightly — kind of a new thing, so far as frequency — dicking Aggie out of the heatybed, scooting up and down stairs at a clip with his big, fuzzy, jodhpur-like caboose double-clocking, demanding kibble every few hours, obstructing the hall when my clients entered and demanding pettings, which usually led to the most pronounced elevator-butt reaction I’ve ever seen in a cat. Some of my clients I’ve had to block in a little extra time for so they could pet Torvald.

The Engineer went down to put out food in the morning as he always does — he’s the breakfast chef, I handle lunch — and, just when I was clambering out of bed, he bellowed my name.

The Engineer never bellows. He had found Torvald at the foot of his favorite cat tree, right next to the food dishes and water pan, lying on his side, already cold and stiff.

They told me, when his heart failure was detected, that he could die of pulmonary congestion, which he declined into and came back from twice; or that his kidneys could fail because of the medications that kept his heart going (which almost happened); or that I ought to be prepared for the possibility he would just keel over suddenly from an arrhythmia. I think he chose door number three.

We gave Aggie some food in the next room, by the little water fountain that we’d added to the menu when he had to start Lasix and needed to drink plenty. I had to look for a box big enough. He was about eleven pounds, not heavy for a Maine mix, but longer than you would think stretched out.

I called the place I’ve used before to arrange a Viking funeral. Cremation is Nordic, after all, though the burning ships are more of a Hollywood thing.  He may not have died with his sword in his hand, or whatever the feline equivalent might be, but he spent every day of his life in joyous battle with a world full of trees that needed to be shown who was boss (before I snookered him inside for good) and birds on a stick and catnip veterinarian toys (yes, they make those) and every other cat he ever encountered who wasn’t Aggie. Ragnar Lodbrok (which means Hairy Britches), at least as played by Borgnine here, would have saluted him as a brother.

I picture him walking into Valhalla with that rolling lope that somehow took up all the center of a room or a whole door from side to side, as the drinking song becomes ragged and pauses, giving the don’t-try-it stare to the dogs under the tables, and demanding chow and a good fight, in whatever order.


First Visit To The House

New Year Pose

I Now Own The House


Also, Fuck Your Guitar, This Is Mine Now

Every cat you ever own, I always say, is the best cat in the world.

Torvald Einar Magnussen, he who can vanquish Thor, the first, the son of greatness, forgive my Latin: Ave atque vale.



Critter Crises

Just before we start, no one was ever anything but fine. Except me. I think I had my last heart palpitations this morning, just thinking about it.

What happened was, about a week ago I asked the Engineer if he would make me just a giant bowl of braised mushrooms for supper, as I frequently do. Normally he does these bad boys (shiitakes and baby portabellas) with a whack of shallots, along with thyme from the front yard and dry vermouth and some garlic, only we were scandalously out of shallots, so he doubled up on the garlic and the whole house smelled like Lucy Westenra’s bedroom. In the end there were more mushrooms than I could eat and I left my bowl on the table while I did the washing-up. And forgot about it.

In the cold dawn I awakened and remembered with horror that garlic (like onions and all their relatives, including lilies) is toxic to cats. And that four of our six had had the run of the first floor all night. And that my dearly beloved Mr. Ferguson is the one who likes to get up on the table.

The Engineer was off to work early so he wasn’t around for me to cling to as I approached the table and saw the mushrooms, with their visible festoon of garlic chunks, nosed about and looking nibbled-on in the ceramic bowl. We had sprinkled them with cheese. The cats love cheese.

Everyone looked okay. I called the vet and asked. They punted and told me to call the Animal Poison Control Center.  Veterinarians who know their toxicology are standing by, they said.

I have dealt with “toxic to cats” before, at least in a mild way. Once, back in my old house when I was married to my Late and Ex, Apricat of blessed memory ate some azalea blossoms. I found him chomping away and seized my veterinary manual, which advised me that azaleas caused nausea and irritation and that I should cause the cat to vomit them up by placing a quarter teaspoon of salt at the back of his tongue. I am a good cat wrangler and had the salt in there faster than Mr. Zip can spit; Apricat, released, took a couple of steps away from me, turned his head back with an expression that clearly said “You swine!”, put his head down and urked a wad of melon-colored blossoms onto the beige carpet.

Here, however, I faced the possibility that the garlic had gone down the hatch anything up to eight hours ago. I tried to add up the number of cloves the Engineer had minced and divide by the poundage of mushrooms corrected for the water they had released.You get the idea. The best the Poison Control people could say is that there was a low risk of a toxic dose and that I should watch all the cats for the next five days for signs of weakness, nausea and locomotor ataxia. (They said wobbly gait, but I was busily looking it up online and reverting to the medical terminology that I find exact.) Garlic damages the red blood cells, so that the liver and spleen can be slammed with busted erythrocytes that overwhelm the normal clearing functions of both organs. It sounded perfectly horrid.

Everyone was okay all that day.

And the next. And the day after that.

And, well, everyone was okay. Either someone pushed the shrooms around and said “Blargh,” or ate some and went off and barfed in a corner which I have yet to find, or it just wasn’t enough garlic to do damage. Back in the day, some people would tell you to worm your cats with garlic. Never tried it, happily.

Anyway, don’t leave garlicky things out where your cats might eat them. And for god’s sake never let them near lilies, which pack enough of the critical chemicals that a little pollen can kill a cat. They smell like rotting ragout anyway.

The Poison Control Center wanted my Visa for more than I would charge for a half hour appointment. The workman is worthy of his hire and I paid it, but some people don’t have that to pay. I wonder what they do.

In other news, hawthorn extract  alleviates heart palpitations. Verb. sap.




Heatyvent And The Despised Marshmallow Bed


Torvald has discovered a new love and its name is heatyvent.

All the cats, unsurprisingly, like heatyvent but he is the biggest customer, no doubt because he is usually in the living room when the furnace is ginning up for the day. That vent’s right above the heat exchanger and right behind my chair — in a perfect world there would be no furniture near a vent, but I’m not sure where we’d all sit. It makes a nice little sauna.

Most days he’s come out after a half hour or so. Then, a couple of days ago, I was tossing the living room and murdering clutter, and my eyes fell on Marshmallow Bed, which was a big hit when it arrived a couple of years ago but which all have spurned since about the time Torvald got up out of it one afternoon and immediately collapsed from the heart condition for which he now receives five drugs a day. I’ve wondered idly if some whiff of panic adheres to the thing, but it’s been sitting on the floor under the stereo, forlorn, finally used to stash a couple of lumbar pillows that the Engineer doesn’t like.

I looked at this useless heap, threw the pillows back in the Engineer’s chair, and stuck the white fuzzy bed next to the vent. The next time Torvald ambled into the room he disappeared into it almost instantly. About four hours later he emerged.

Heatyvent == well, Heatybed — has become the lodestar of his existence. Where, previously, we dared not open the nearby door to the upstairs because he would be up there like a shot in search of ALL THE BUDDIES that he knew wanted to play with him, now he barely lifts his head when he hears the doorknob turn and says blearily “Huh?” before subsiding again.

I was a little worried, given his dicky heart, but when the furnace heat isn’t going, he’s still the same cranky, unsocialized dick he’s always been, trotting into the kitchen for kibble and down the stairs to harass Agatha. He just loves Heatybed. He always has been quite vocal about telling us that despite clear Maine Coon antecedents he is not suited to withstand frigid temperatures, that his breed is actually Virginia Goon, and he is not having the porch in winter, thank you.

Mr. Ferguson gets it overnight. He’s becoming hard to find, too.

I guess this will go on till around April.

All Hail Fancy Feast

Not the stripper (and yes, there is a badass plus-size burlesque performer by that name), but the canned cat food. I never thought I’d be saying this, but this comminuted slaughterhouse-sweeping gravy-suspended meat collation is my current Gratefulness Object. See, a client who nursed an old cat through the terminal kidney disease of old age brought me the book she came to depend on, and I frantically opened it to the chapter about CAT WON’T EAT ANYTHING. “Cats who reject everything else,” said the oracle, “will sometimes eat Fancy Feast.”

If you are not a cat person, understand that this is pretty much Burger King or Popeye’s for cats, pulverized and pressed-looking fragments of vaguely animal flesh swimming in gluey sauce. The Engineer ran right out to Shoppers Food Whorehouse on his lunch hour. We put the dish in front of Torvald, who was sitting rather glumly on the bath mat in front of the first floor commode — somehow, that was the new favorite place, a bit inconvenient for clients. He looked at it and looked up at us. The Engineer hugged me. I was sad. The Engineer patted me on the back. The Engineer dug his blunt chunky fingertips into my deltoids and forcibly turned me around, a wildly out-of-character act, and there was Torvald ear deep in the dish of soupy crap.

He’s been eating it ever since, at the rate of about three little cans every day. Another client had a case shipped to him from Amazon; he’s got fans, that one. No more turkey baster. The vertebrae have stopped sticking out like nailheads and he trots and leaps and butts me with his head.

No idea why the vet didn’t know about this.

A day may come when his appetite for everything fails. But it is not this day.