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The Rascalbear Octology

A writey ranty pet post.

I read somewhere once that one way to give your readers help in identifying with your characters - either protags or antags -  is to make them pet owners. *Entering writey mode* I thought about that, then realized I would be remiss in doing so. Why? Because none of them have time or wherewithall to nurture another living thing. It's part of their underlying problems that need to be worked out in the story. Well....ok, so that's not entirely true. One character does have a pet: Callos Polir. He's a Po Krotan involved in all manner of underworld activities including slave trading, weapons running and gem smuggling. Real nice guy. Well, at least he is to Dobibor, his pet dart-tailed grapple. I don't think this helps make him endearing to the reader though. And it's not supposed to.

Still, Callos is a better guardian of Dobibor than a great many Montreal inhabitants are of their critters. *Entering ranty mode* As the annual 'moving day' tradition begins anew here this July 2nd, thousands of people will abandon supposedly loved cats and dogs to their empty apartments as well as the streets, because they cannot find a new abode that allows pets. Ok, so a lot of this problem is due to overly-restrictive landlords concerned about noise and cleanliness, but the majority of the problem, as I see it, is a pathetically callous attitude toward animals. An attitude that is rampant here, combined with a disgusting throw-away lifestyle. While 40 to 50% of Montrealers have pets, the average time those pets are kept is - are you ready for this? - 19 months. That's one year and seven months of an average pets' average life span of 10 years. So the next time you see someone in Montreal with a pet that appears to be more than three years old, good grief stop and congratulate that person for being so gracious. Seriously. Maybe rewards and positive reinforcement work as well for the humans as it does for the pets.

Rascalbear in goof mode.These statistics infuriate me all the more this year because I'm currently facing the mortality of my own beloved pet, my cat Rascalbear. *Entering pet mode* He was rescued from beneath a dumpster; a feral, six-week-old kitten from who-knows-where. Unwanted, cast off, and forgotten even by his own mother and litter-mates, I have to admit even I did not want him when my then-husband called to tell me about the cute Siamese kitten he'd found at work. Well, I was being honest. We already had two cats in a small one-bedroom apartment, and a hoarder I'm not. In exasperation I said that if Q-Bert didn't eat him for lunch, he could stay.

That was 16 years ago.

I found out last month that Rascalbear is showing early signs of chronic renal failure. This means that, while I can do some things to keep his health in good standing, he is on a downhill slope towards what will eventually mean making a decision I'm not looking forward to. I'm not surprised - he is, after all, old enough to drive - and I'm thankful that he's been around this long. It's the longest life span ever for one of my cats. But that doesn't mean I'm not sad and angry that this amazing animal, who comes when called, plays games with me, meows in concert when I whistle, and runs down the stairs to greet me like a happy little puppy when I come home, is likely to be gone in a relatively short time despite my insistence that he live forever. Because that's what pets are supposed to do, right?

But they don't. And I'm glad I'm a person for whom that truth hurts. Because apparently, not all are so lucky.

Rascalbear sitting pretty on his kitty pillow.To the people who will move in a few days and leave their animals on the street like an old stained couch or broken TV: I feel bad for you. Bad that you never had the chance to feel an emotion toward your pet that will ultimately culminate in a grief so overwhelming that you will miss a day of work and regret all the times you were too busy for that play-time, that walk, that begged-for tummy rub. People like you were never too busy for your pets, because you never really had one to begin with. You couldn't have, if you were able to leave the animal behind just because you needed new living quarters. For whatever reason you needed to move, it's not bigger or more important than the creature inhaling the exhaust fumes as you pull away from the curb. If there is a hell, I really hope there's a special place in it for you.

Myself, I'm going to go spend some time with my goofy little Rascalbear. Yes, I have my things: my writing, my guitar, my art, my piano, my husband, my family, my internet friends and social media peeps. But he only has me. And I'm going to make sure he gets as much of me as possible while he's still here. And as I continue my second-and-a-half draft, I'm not giving pets to any other characters except Callos. Like so many Montrealers, they just don't deserve them.


Home for the Holidays, Sort of (Or, Pets are Family Too)

I'm supposed to be on a plane right now. I should be somewhere over Kansas, or Nebraska, depending on the flight path. But I'm not. Instead I'm sitting at my desk, while someone waiting on stand-by to go to Las Vegas is celebrating the good fortune of getting a straight-through, non-redeye flight to Sin City. I'm happy for them. If that's their final destination, they're in for a good time. Too bad I couldn't also give them my reservation for a night at the New York New York hotel and casino, and tickets to see Zumanity. But maybe they'd prefer "O" at the Bellagio, so I guess that's just as well.
 
So, I'm home for the holidays this year. My home, not my parents'. This last-minute decision was one made not because I couldn't afford the trip, or because they don't want me to come. It's a family emergency. And the family member has four legs and fur.
 
Abby Geiger and Rascalbear cat

I'd been meaning to write an update on Rascalbear's condition, as a follow-up to this post about him, but a crazy schedule and lack of any real news prevented me from doing so. Now I have an abundance of both time and news. The time is good. The news is not. Rascalbear was diagnosed this week with cancer. "Pulmonary carcinoma with subcutaneous metastasis", to be exact. That's lung cancer that has spread to the muscle tissue of his right hind leg, where I first discovered it. A marble-sized lump, it wasn't noticeable until his renal issue caused him to lose so much weight that it could be felt. (He used to be quite the porker, as you can see.) It's good that it was discovered, but bad that it took so long, because that means the ugly disease has traveled throughout his body and could cause new tumors just about anywhere. I have visions of twisted, little, creepy black tendrils of death twining around under his skin, waiting for something new to grab onto. Ugh.
 

I know that elderly cats tend to die of one of either two things - renal failure or cancer - but I had only just come to terms with it eventually being renal failure, when *BAM* I find out that no, it might be a race between the two. To top it off, I find it out just three days before leaving town for a week, leaving him alone with only a friend coming by twice a day to clean his litter box, feed him and give him his meds, not including the subcutaneous fluid injection he requires every two days. That was a bit much to ask, and I figured he'd survive just fine without it. So, what to do? The vet advised low-dose chemotherapy, and advised that it begin right away. Yes, there could be side-effects. No, this isn't a cure, it's palliative. No, he won't get better, but if it works he won't get worse for a while. Could be several weeks to several months. Yes, it's expensive. No, it's not optimal to leave him alone and unmonitored for so long right after doing this. Yes, he'll probably be fine. Yes, I need an answer today. Right now.
 
Ok. Do it.
 
I spent the next two days watching as Rascalbear started losing interest in food and water and simply huddled under a blanket, apparently showing signs of the side-effects I'd been warned about, which could cascade into an aggravation of the renal slow-down. I became almost paralyzed with fear and indecision. There was no way I could just leave him here alone, hoping he'd be the trooper he's always been and pull through. But how could I choose an animal over my family? I rarely see them, the trip's been planned for weeks, all the flights and hotels and rental cars and show tickets are bought…and it's freaking Christmas for god's sake!
 
Enter my husband to the rescue. Although I'd been reluctant to even suggest it, because he himself has been left behind during the past three visits as it is, he volunteered to once again stay home. Rascalbear is family, and it wasn't right to leave him here alone and sick to fend for himself while we run off to have fun in the sun. Relieved but still not feeling entirely happy with the situation, I called my mom to tell her of the change of plans.
 
Enter Mom to the rescue. "Well, we're all sick with bad colds right now anyway, so it's not like it'd be much of a fun visit. Better you just both stay home, avoid catching it, and take care of Rascalbear. You can come out later on when you know where things stand and it'll be better for everyone". I just about fainted with relief at being given the permission to make my sick cat my priority. Yay Mom.
 
No, it's still not perfect. It's not like I wasn't looking forward to seeing my mom, dad, sister and niece, not to mention an aunt and uncle who are "snowbirding" there as well right now, or unwrapping presents under the tree, or hearing the Christmas music I grew up with, or helping make dinner, or staying up too late, drinking too much, and experiencing equal parts enjoyment and frustration at the usual chaos and silliness that is a typical visit to my parents' house. I was. A lot. And now I'm upset that that's not happening.

Rascalbear smug

But it would've been tainted with the constant fear that another member of the family could be whisked off to the doctor for a medical emergency at any moment, and I wouldn't be there to tell him "It's ok, Bayber…you wanna come sit with Mama?" the whole way there and back, or let him hide his little face in the crook of my arm while sitting on that cold, metal counter, waiting for the doctor to come in as big dogs bark from somewhere nearby that's too close for comfort. No. I'm the Mama. That's my responsibility.
 
Now, I have it. There will be no stress, no fear of dehydration, and no separation anxiety (mine or his) complicating matters. And there will be no guilt. Rascalbear may be "just" a cat. But he's my cat, who comes when he's called, talks when I whistle, plays games he's invented, and kicks me out of bed when he's ready to have it to himself. He's family and he should be treated that way.
 
He has no idea how good he has it.
 
Then again…maybe he does.


He's not called "His Royal Hineyness" for nothing!

I came home the other night and had totally planned to work out. You know,  because I've been doing so well on my resolution and all, although the jeans don't seem too impressed. Nevertheless, I was gung-ho adamant that before I started making that spaghetti dinner I would spend at least a half-hour on the excercise bike. I had my shoes and my water in hand.
 
Rascalbear's big blue eyes.And then it happened. Rascalbear came downstairs to greet me.
 
He squawked and paced, and looked up at me with those big blue crossed eyes. And I sat on the stairs and let him show me his belly, and I rubbed his little head, and listened his big, sloppy, motor-boat purr, and I knew the bike would have to live without me.
 
Because Rascalbear cannot.
 
It's been almost two months since I got the diagnoses: cancer, with a poor prognosis. Rascalbear had his third chemo treatment nearly two weeks ago. This time we tried a new drug - Carboplatin - because after two doses of Mitoxantrone, not only did his three tumors not shrink, he picked up a fourth (a little subcutaneous bump on the side of his nose). It's too soon to know if this one is slowing the spread, but for sure it's doing a number on his appetite and energy. Enter a new drug - Mirtazapine - to stimulate his appetite. Wow. And I thought his pain-killer - Tramadol - made him a wackadoodle. Ok, I exaggerate, but in reality that's what both these drugs do: exaggerate his normal gregarious and noisy personality. That was fine with me. It's not right to have a Siamese cat that doesn't demand attention and vocalize every thought inside his furry little head! And the drugs do seem to have helped. The food disappears out of the bowl, and I celebrate every morning upon seeing poos and pees in the litter box. This is a good thing!
 
The bad thing is watching him age before my eyes, despite my best efforts to keep him healthy and happy. Oh, he still has a good quality of life. I'm the one going "Be careful, slow down!" when he tries to barrel down the stairs like his fat old self. But I see it creeping in: that point of no return. He's never going to gain back an ounce of weight, no matter how much he eats. He's never going to run the length of the house again. Soon, he'll likely not even trot it, like he can still do when he's 'in a mood' and full of beans.
 
Rascalbear's Mama's Day card 2012.Because of being hyper-sensative to his condition due to the constant monitoring, strange things have started happening with me. I often see him out of the corner of my eye, and freeze when I hear his squawk. Then I check, and he's fast asleep. I've already - due to a power outage at work on the same day as his biopsy vet visit - come home to a house devoid of his presence, and it felt like cold, ghostly fingers of the future clawing at me. There was an eerie silence in the house, a silence that is usually there during the day, but I knew, KNEW, it wasn't because he was napping, but because he wasn't there at all. And I didn't like it. Not one bit.
 
So, whenever His Royal Hineyness asks, he gets me, one-hundred percent, every time. He's doing it right now. He's having a not-so-great day, I think, and just wants to be close, so he's commandeered my lap, making it difficult to sit comfortably and write. But that's ok. It has to be. Every moment counts when every moment is being counted, hoping they continue as long as possible. How long will that be? I don't know, but I'd really like to get another Mama's Day card from my cat. Yes, we do that here. And I love them dearly. The thought of not getting one this year makes my throat close up, but I know hoping for it is a long shot.
 
So from now on, for Rascalbear, every day is Mama's Day. And for me, every day is his, even if it means putting aside the other things I need/want/love to do. They'll still be there for me long after he's gone. He's only here right now. And really, who wants to work out anyway? Feh.

Rascalbear in the sock pile.

The Final Countdown

People ask me these days "How's your cat?" The answer used to be "He's good, actually", but lately it's changed to "He's ok. He's still with us."
 
He's still with us. That's the important part.
 
It's been two months since my last update about him, and I write this knowing there will only be one more. I've watched my Rascalbear go from a "well, I'm not so great as I used to be, but I'm still a feisty little shit" to "can I get a lil help here, Mama?"  He's lost more than half his weight, doesn't get around so well (unless it's where HE wants to go!), and is becoming a rather 'leaky' little critter. I've come home to splotches and clotches of blood from nose and toes, the occasional results of upset tummy that chronic kidney failure can induce, and - most recently - pee in places it doesn't belong. He seems unperturbed. I am turbed.  Ok, yeah, I'm making my own words - again - and one day you'll be texting it, so hush.
 
Rascalbear's April Fools shenanigans.Since February, Rascalbear has taken over almost all of the house in his sickness that he could not do in his wellness. He began to shun the upstairs, so the living room became his home. His takeover of it was a stealth procedure that governments should take note of. It began with a preference for the center cushion of the couch over the bed, and turned into a full-blown hospice-house for the most spoiled cat in the world. He commandeered my brand new fuzzy red robe, two sets of food and water bowls, a quilt, a towel for a tent, and boxes to makes stairs. Where he got the hat and moustache for his April Fools Day shenanigans that were caught on the Rascalbearcam (a comforting technological addition to the mix), I have no idea. But he's always been a pretty resourceful cat when it comes to surprising me. Ha! So, my TV-watching spot is gone. My space in the bed is now under attack, as he's decided recently that the bedroom is once again where he'd rather be. But I cannot fight back. He needs every place he goes.
 
He's also continued his stealth attack on time. Visits to the vet, some for emergencies, have hijacked evenings and weekends. Medications have come and gone. Chemo has stopped. After his fourth treatment, it was decided the tumors were fighting back, and there is no other cancer-killer I can give him that won't knock out his kidneys as well. Interestingly, I discovered accidentally from an ER tech that in his file there was a note that the oncologist had given him a six week prognosis back in December. Contrary little fuzzhead that he is, he's made it to fifteen. So there!
 
Sunny Rascalbear.He also made it to something I'd been hoping for: a chance to sit in the sun. Spring comes late to Canada, so once the rays were actually hitting our patio long enough to encourage him to want to go out, I helped it along by shoveling a path to his little grass patch. Seeing him sit with the sun on his face made all the rest of the crap worth while. Nothing says "thank you, Mama" like this little picture.
 
He sat in the sun again today. Couldn't wait to get out in it once I carried him to the door and showed him what was going on. This is good, but it can't stave off the other signs I'm seeing that say he's almost there. Whether I want to be or not, he's figuring it out on his own. He will let me know. Soon. In the meantime, he still knows who I am, what "Eeeee!" means, and sleeps comfortably next to me every night. I cherish each hour. I think that's all we have. It's the final countdown.


My Heart-Shaped Rascalbear

Heart-Shaped RascalbearSeveral years ago, I had a set of end tables that Rascalbear liked to perch beneath, propping his front legs on the cross-piece and looking out over his domain. Like so many things he did, I had a name for this. It was called 'Heart-Shaped Rascalbear', because of the the way his feet, legs, and elbows framed his fuzzy little head. As they didn't fit into our new living room when we moved, I no longer have the tables, and after I got rid of them it was rather a bummer that I didn't see Heart-Shaped Rascalbear anymore.
 
Until now. Now, every day Rascalbear is heart-shaped. Because that is where he lives: in my heart, filling it with his funny, fuzzy, sucktapuss little kittenhead presence.
 
Two weeks ago, after posting my blog about cherishing each hour, I honestly didn't realize how poignant that was. I knew Rascalbear's condition had once more taken a turn for the worse. They came in waves; little milestones that said 'now we're in a new phase of illness that he won't come back from'. But I never imagined that he would be gone in less than 48 hours. I also never imagined that I'd be fortunate enough to get sick overnight, allowing me to stay home in bed with him for his final day. I cannot thank fate enough for handing that to me. We were like two little peas in a pod, rousing only long enough to eat and take a short trip outside, during which Rascalbear eschewed his little grass patch in order to sit close to me. He was like a little Mama-magnet. Now I know why.
 
Rascalbear sleeping on his pink pillow.Around 1:30am, Rascalbear - sleeping next to me in bed as he had been for several nights, so I could make sure he ate and used the litter box - woke me up, struggling mightily to stand. Already having had trouble walking earlier in the day, his right legs now no longer worked properly, as though they could no longer bear the diminutive weight of his fragile little body. He was otherwise lucid and seemed to have only intermittent discomfort, so although I was horrified by this sudden turn of events, I decided against moving him for a trip to the ER vet service. Instead, we simply lay with him: petting, calming, comforting, talking, singing, and crying, until our local vet - Pierrefonds Animal Hospital - opened at 7:00am. Then we made the call.
 
And waited.
 
Never in my life have I waited for something that, on one hand, didn't seem like it could happen quickly enough, and on the other, was something that I didn't want to happen at all. I don't remember the details. It's just a blur of of Mama-speak, Rascalbear songs, and contradictory thoughts interspersed with a zillion kisses on his fuzzy little head. Please hurry. No, don't. This is it. This can't be it. Can it? At least we're here. Together. You're not alone. I'm not alone. I'm so glad you won't die alone. Please don't cry. Please, me, don't cry. No, now's the time to cry. For all of us. Cry. Breathe. Live.
 
Rascalbear says "S'up?"Finally, our vet friend arrived. A tough little trooper to the very end, my sweet little Rascalbear - my cat, friend, playmate, companion, stress-reliever, sometimes stress-creator, chatty little funny fuzzy Dumplin-Loaf - was put peacefully to sleep at home, in our bed, around 10:40am on Tuesday, April 30th.
 
He was seventeen years old.
 
Our original plans to bury him next to his 'big brother' Q-Bert stymied by lingering knee-deep snow and spring run-off saturated soil (we really tried, but I simply could not put him into a hole full of muddy water), we submitted him to Pet Friends for private cremation. I may get used to having his sparkly little pink urn on the stand next to my spot on the couch, so whether we do a burial is up in the air right now. I will decide on that later, when getting to the remote, forest-covered spot is a reality to be faced once more. As it were, the unforeseen problems with the burial situation actually gave rise to a smile in that that Rascalbear was being like a bad penny - he just kept coming back to me. We couldn't bury him, so he remained with me for the long drive back home. We then took him to the vet for pickup by the cremation service and said our goodbyes, but when we called Pet Friends afterwards to make the arrangements, we were told they'd stay open and wait so we could just bring him in. So I went in and retrieved him, then took him to the service for yet more goodbyes. In the end, it worked out for the best, as I didn't know they had little 'viewing rooms' for pet funerals and such. Seeing my little Dumplin lying all comfy-like with a little blanky in a little basket is a good last memory to have of his physical presence.
 
Rascalbear says "There you are, Mama!"In the meantime, it's hard. Really hard. Today is Mother's Day, and I did receive a card. It was purchased several weeks ago, and the message inside is like a purr from the past. I laughed. I cried. There are no words for how much I miss him. No words for how empty the house is. Nor how quiet, which is something I thought I'd already gotten used to, since in his illness he wasn't nearly as vocal as he'd been his whole life. But I realize now it wasn't just him making all the noise. It was us. Me. It's amazing how much I laughed at him, talked to him, and most of all, sang to him. He loved it. Now, there is no one there for these things. But, sometimes I do it anyway. It helps. It helps me to sing to my Heart-Shaped Rascalbear. Because now he's the only one I have.


Life in the Wake

It began Thursday. Thursday night, to be exact. I had just played a successful show at Club Balattou and had arrived home late and exhausted. I turned off the light and fell into bed, and was immediately overwhelmed by an ache for my Rascalbear and a need to cry. I pushed it away, knowing that if I gave in I would be a puffy-faced wreck in the morning. After what seemed like only minutes, I was awoken by my husband. "I can't stop thinking about him," he said through choking sniffles.
 
I know. Me neither. Cue the puffy-faced wreck: here she comes again. Such is life in the wake of my Rascalbear.
 
"I won't leave you while you leave me." Rascalbear's final hours.It's been almost six weeks since my little Dumplin left us. I think at least three of them went by before I got through a day without tears at some point. I expected that. What I did not expect is that those feelings would return with a vengeance. What is it about this point in time? Why does it suddenly feel like it happened only yesterday? It must be some kind of normal rebound, because it hit us both at the same time. I chalked it up to finally getting used to the house being empty, and not liking it. It's like a bad joke that just goes on and on and on. Ok, I get it. Life without Rascalbear sucks. You can bring him back now. Joke's over.
 

Rascalbear enjoying his sun-square.
Over the weeks, I kept notes. Lists of thoughts and things I felt and did. Things such as forgetting to make breakfast one morning. It had always been part of the Rascalbear Routine. No routine, no breakfast. Or flipping over photographs when leaving them unattended, then realizing I don't have to because he's not here to lick them like he had a strange habit of doing. I still cannot open the patio door without a twinge of sadness. That sound always signaled a happy Rascalbear going out or coming in. I see his sun-square on the floor, and yearn to see him lying in it, knowing how much he would love it. Oh, and the weird 'pinging', as I call it, is still going on. It's like a learned instinctive awareness of his presence that's hardwired into my brain. Where's the Rascalbear? I'll go see what he's doing…oh, wait. Or, geez it's ten at night and we haven't been home all day, he must be missing me…oh, wait. These microscopically quick flashes of subconscious thought jolt my heart every time they happen. It's bizarre and disturbing. Yet I hope it doesn't stop happening.
 
My sleep-sitty little Rascalbear-kitty.Then there's the list of things I learned, usually the hard way. Things such as, don't pick the mess up too soon. I beat myself up for days over clearing away his sick bed, and emptying a litter box that had nothing in it except his precious little butt-print, put there on his last day when he had come downstairs to look for us and was just trying to stay out of the way of supper preparations. I can still see it in my mind's eye, disappearing into nothingness — like a metaphor of his little life — as I tipped the box into the trash bag. What a stupid thing to do. And why was it so easy to sit around staring into space, not writing, not playing guitar, letting time slip by in a way that I was so frantic to avoid before? My idle hands had no Rascalbear to pat, and that felt like such a waste, yet I couldn't stop doing it. We are strange creatures, the way we care about things and spend our time. It is sadly ironic that he may have felt deprived of time and I didn't, and now I feel deprived and he doesn't.
 
Rascalbear's pawtograph.So, I did crazy yet harmless things to compensate. I returned his water bowl to the stand next to the bed. I refilled his litter box and re-created his little butt-print. I delayed laundering the bedclothes in which we'd spent our last moments together. I didn't vacuum for a month, and when I did I left an area beneath the bed undisturbed, where he'd left litter and hair while huddling there. I purposely left all of his medicines on the shelf, right where they were put after their last use. My red, fuzzy robe that he loved so much hangs on its hook, undisturbed. The inner fold holds a faint, cat-shaped print from his last night laying on. I look at it sometimes, then carefully close it again. I don't need to wear the robe now that its summer, but I do need that print. I only wish the one he'd left on my leg once had never disappeared.
 
Rascalbear being a Mama-magnet on his last day.Something I did expect is people asking if and when I'm getting another cat. I know they meant well, but a pet isn't like an old pair of worn out jeans to be replaced. I don't miss having a cat. I miss having Rascalbear. But, the answer to that question is "yes", and "I don't know". What I do know is that I'm probably going to get two cats, at least one of which will be another flame-point Siamese mix who desperately needs a home. Having spent hours searching for them online, I know they're out there, although it's hard to look at them and then go "No…not yet". I then hope they will quickly find good homes even if it will not be mine. I want to be a Mama again and give to another cat what I gave to my Rascalbear. I've read how this is the best thing you can do to honor the memory of your pet. And I agree. It is. And I believe that Rascalbear will let me know when he's ready to make a little room in there for another funny little fuzzhead to come in.

But for now, he still owns my heart.

Rascalbear smooches
 

The Patio

Autumn is here and it's time to clean up the patio. It's especially messy this year. The patio has been neglected. Oh, it goes without tidying from time-to-time no matter what. But this past summer that's about all I did out there. Tidying. It's not usually like this. Unfortunately, aside from the fact that I stopped tanning a couple years ago (thanks, rosacea), it wasn't any fun any more to sit out there. It was just too darn lonely.

Rascalbear photobombs Norman's performance.My husband, Norman, has never been a big lover of the great outdoors, much less the small one. A fan of dirt, sun (he's a redhead), heat, and bugs he's not, so the rare occasion that sees him on the patio is worth celebration. We ate one—ONE—meal outside this summer, on an especially nice, dry, shady, and bug-free day. I cherished it. But it was bittersweet in that it was only the two of us.

There was no Rascalbear trying to steal the picnic-intimacy. Or even the photo-op.

Rascalbear owned the patio. From the time we moved in, it was his domain. Afraid at first that he might escape (with the exception of the wide-banister balcony of my Arizona apartment, he'd always been confined to the house), I was relieved to discover he had no aspirations of scaling the wooden fence and running off into the great, wild green yonder of West Island Montreal. He loved his patio, and whenever I could let him enjoy it, even without my accompanyment, I did.
 
The irresistable Rascalbear 'flop and wiggle' move.But what he loved best was when I was out there with him. Indeed, he'd often sit and cry at the door as though he couldn't wait to get inside, only to jump from the step and promptly flop and show his tummy the moment I opened it. It wasn't "let me in" but "come out here with me". And I always did. Who could resist that fuzzy, wiggly, kitty-belly?

This summer, the weather was beautiful, the sun warm, the air fresh, yet I couldn't make myself sit out there and just…sit. With no fuzzy, wiggly, kitty-belly to rub, it seemed like a waste of time. I mean, could be in the Reddy Room, writing, playing guitar, or at least trying to keep up on Twitter. Why sit outside, even with a laptop, when ultimately the best part of doing so was being human companionship to a little furry critter, who had little else in his day to entertain him? I couldn't come up with a good answer. So, I didn't.

Now, there's a blizzard of leaves on the concrete tiles, which will soon turn into a blizzard of snow. The furniture will be taken apart and packed away in the shed, and the patio will see no one again until the spring thaw. I sit out here now for a few last moments, and I'm sad that it saw so little activity this summer. But I could behave no differently. Perhaps next spring, when the kittens are big enough to go outside. Then, I'll be ready.

Wait. Kittens? Yep. Stay tuned...


Siamese, Squared.

Kitten. It's been a long time since I've uttered that word in my house. It's been even longer since I've uttered the plural. I gave you a tease in my post about the patio. Let me now tell you about my home life these past few months.

All of my cats throughout my life came to me as kittens, but my first experience with two at a time was not planned, having purposely taken a kitten from my aunt's cat's latest litter (Brutus) then having a stray dumpster kitten brought home to me (Barney). Life was rather a circus back in those days. I was eighteen years old, living away from home with a boyfriend, with kittens. Woo-hoo, what fun!

I wish now sometimes I was still eighteen. I could use the energy.

On August 13th, Tuna Tuesday Week Thirteen*, after much searching and several inquiries into adult cats that had either already found homes or were otherwise unavailable or unsuitable, I brought home two flame-point Siamese kittens, procured from a groomer, who'd gotten them from a breeder, and was keeping them in the back room of her shop. Being the last two of the litter, I didn't get the pick. Or did I? Just look at these little faces!

Siamese twins

I named them on the ride home: Doodle and Jitterbug. Male and female, they are night and day, demon and angel (well, usually), and the new critter-witter-loves-of-my-life that Rascalbear has now made room for in my heart. They are nothing like him, but sometimes I see a reflection. They are beautiful and annoying. They are sweet and destructive. They're everything I wasn't sure I was looking for, but they're everything I need. And they're here to stay.

DoodleNot strays or shelter rescues, I felt a twinge of guilt handing over money for them** but that was quickly alleviated by the fact that they soon displayed a host of hidden medical problems that required immediate attention (an issue, I'm sure, that was due to their housing with uninspected/unvaccinated strays). They had feline viral rhinotracheitis as well as conjunctivitis, which has finally taken a hiatus. Diarrhea ping-ponged between them, as well as a serious virus that mimicked panleukopenia, a deadly illness that, without major treatment, nearly always kills afflicted kittens. Calling home from the vet with the news that Doodle might be beyond hope (and Jitterbug almost certainly also infected) was a heart-wrenching endeavor despite the fact that I'd only had them for one week. Fortunately, the test for panleukopenia proved negative, but with high fever and dehydration, he was still plenty sick. With pills in hand, I went home practically screaming with frustration. Why was I being punished for my many months of nursing Rascalbear, losing him, and finally being ready to take on new charges?

JitterbugThen I realized this wasn't my punishment. This was my reward. Who else but me would be prepared to spend the time and dollars doctoring a duo of two-month-old kittens who happened to be in need of far more medical care than expected? I shudder to think where they'd be if someone with less experience or means had taken them, and as stressful as it's been, I'm thankful we've seen it through. I loved my Rascalbear to bits, and nursing him in his final days truly bonded him to me in a way I'd not previously had, and which made his passing something I'll never really get over. With Doodle and Jitterbug, that bonding has taken place at the beginning of their lives, and I see it every day in the way they follow me, talk to me, play with me, and even sleep with me—something Rascalbear rarely did until he got sick.

The kittens are six months old now, growing and healthy, and blooming into their distinct personalities. Doodle has already earned the nickname "Doodlemonster". Smart, stubborn, noisy, and fearless, he's as Siamese as they come. Jitterbug, my little Bugga-Boo, is a little more mellow, but has no problem following her brother into trouble when she chooses to. Sometimes I wonder what I've gotten myself into when, for the umpteenth time, I have to chase them off the kitchen counter while making supper. Then, they do something to make me laugh, and give me cuddles and snoogles, and I know I've done the right thing. I'm a Cat Mama. It's what I do. And now I'm a Cat Mama for two.
Cuddlebugs

*A new tradition begun in honor of Rascalbear. Every Tuesday, on the weekly anniversary of his passing, we remember him by making a supper dish utilizing tuna. The more unusual dishes we've come up with are: tuna burritos, tuna ravioli, and Fishigans. Like Michigans, only with tuna topping. Yum!

**To be fair, it was half of what most breeders were asking, and less than what adoption agencies wanted. Granted the spay/neuter wasn't included like it usually is with adoptions, but those costs were never a consideration in my search.