Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Most Forgiving Cat Ever

Last Sunday I was apparently not quite focused enough on my physical control, because my clumsiness was worse than usual. This did not bode well for my poor Apricot.

When I come in and take off my shoes, Apricot comes over and "helps." Which mostly consists of me petting him with one hand while untying my shoe laces with the other. Last Sunday morning, when I came in from my walk, we proceeded as usual.

I call him my upside down cat at this point because I'm bent over at the waist to untie my shoes (and get a little stretching in on the side) and he really does look like he's walking on the ceiling, if the ceiling looked like the floor.

As I'm untying my shoe laces, I have a particularly stubborn loop that won't loosen. I have to loosen the first set of loops as well as untie the laces in order to get my foot out. Suddenly my fingers lost their grip on the loop and my hand went flying backwards--right into Apricot's nose!

He was greatly offended. Well, actually, first he was frightened and ran away from me. After I went after him (shoe-less now) and apologized profusely, then he was offended. And after more apologies, he forgave me and let me pet him (and I carefully checked his nose to make sure I hadn't injured it).

From there the day went like Sundays often do. Apricot was his normal cheerful, somewhat pesty self -- he has started bumping into my leg on purpose when I'm occupied doing other things, like food prep. I wish he'd quit.

And the day gave up a whole hour in which I could take a nap. I was quite, quite tired, so this was wonderful.

When I woke up, slightly disoriented, the way one sometimes is, I stretched out my arms -- and hit Apricot on the nose. Seriously. He had just then come up on the bed and was walking up toward me, in the exact spot where my hand was moving into.

I rather thought this might be it: the moment in time when Apricot decides I am dangerous and must be treated with caution at all times. The trust he has in me is something I value highly, considering how rarely he gives such trust and how hard it was to earn. And how fragile it is.

I underestimated him. As I apologized profusely to the air -- he had disappeared off the bed already -- his little orange head reappeared coming up the stairs onto the bed again. And he walked up to me (I put my hands down on the blanket and kept them quiet where he could see them) and gave me a head bump and jumped up on the headboard.

Tentative scritches were met with approval. Indeed, there seemed to be no hard feelings, no grudges, nothing. He acted toward me the same way he always does.

I have the most forgiving cat in the world.

But not a forgetful one. He'll still help me untie my shoes when I come home from work, but not when I come in from my walk! (It's not the same set of shoes, which makes all the difference.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Colby Turns Into A Short Haired Cat

Every year Colby has grown older (this is expected, I suppose). And every year his fur is less kitten-soft and more adult hair. And his adult hair is more and more mat-prone. In fact, the white part is half the silky hair from his daddy and half the cotton-y hair from his mother's line (she didn't have any white on her).
Before the Trim

And the cotton hair is awful. It mats in hours. Literally--I could cut off all the mats I could find and two hours later there'd be just as many. I had to do something. Mats aren't just uncomfortable for the cat; they can cause skin problems and so on and so forth if you leave them to multiply. And like dust bunnies, they multiply.

Sigh. I should be grateful that Thimble grooms himself so immaculately I don't have to worry about him (or even comb him!) and Apricot, also a good groomer, has shorter hair that is not prone to mats. At least only one cat is a problem.

And since poor Colby sucks at grooming himself, it was up to me.

Only ... there was no way I could do what needed to be done. It wasn't like he just needed a bath. I can do that. It's a long process and I hate doing it but I can wash cats. I washed Pippin quite regularly (if you call every 6 months regularly). But Colby needed to become a short haired cat, and that requires the use of clippers, and more accurately, that requires the use of clippers by someone who knows what they're doing. Which isn't me.

Yet I don't want to take him just anywhere. There's the asthma, for one thing. I wanted to take him to someone who I knew had the training and the experience to deal with a cat who might have an asthma attack; and a cat who wasn't quite as strong as his size would lead you to expect (I now think this is directly related to his asthma; he got short of breath when running around as a kitten so he didn't do as much of it, thus not developing his muscles as much as, say, Thimble, who I swear lifts weights when I'm not around).

I was talking about this problem to a friend at work, who chirps up that her sister takes her cats to this one groomer that she really likes, and she (my friend) could get her (the sister) to give her the contact information should I want it.

Yes, please.

Last year (like at the end of 2016) I'd asked my vet for recommendations but she'd given me just a phone number and I hate calling when I have no clue who is at the other end. I prefer to do some web searching as well.

My friend at work got me the contact information and the phone number was the same as the vet had given me (so this person was doubly recommended), only now I had more to go on. There was even a website, so I went there and perused. I liked what I saw, so since I could make an appointment online (all right! No cold-calling phone call required!), I did so.

Since Colby absolutely loves his new hairdo, and came back completely okay both emotionally and physically, I can highly recommend this person / business should you also live in my area and need a groomer. It's Livie's Loft Cat Grooming.

On the one hand, the prices are expensive. On the other hand, they aren't, not really. Colby took two hours to do; and just how much would you want to be paid per hour to wash and blow-dry and comb out and clip or shave a cat? Remember there's overhead you'll have to pay (rent, etc) on top of that hourly wage.

Last Friday he had an 8:30 am appointment. I took the day off and brought him in. He was not pleased to be in the (small) cat carrier in the car and told me so at random intervals all the way there. It wasn't the strident meows Tiger (cat long time ago) was capable of. This was more conversational. Basically he was telling me this wasn't something he wanted to have happen and where were we going and could we go home now please?

He doesn't talk after you take him out of the car though.

Livie's Loft really is on the second floor but you don't go up there. You get stopped at the first landing by a heavy wooden countertop. You can pass cat carriers (with, presumably, cats in them) under the counter and fill out paperwork and pay and stuff on top. I filled out the form and looked around, wondering if I just leave him?

About that time another customer came in, this one a repeat customer. I asked her if I was just supposed to leave Colby. I said I kind of wanted to talk to someone before I left him. She asked if I'd rung the bell.

Me: What bell?

She points.

Yeah, there's this huge white button on the wall to my right, (it's about an inch or more square with a surrounding probably five inch square total installation white rim) with an equally huge sign above it that says "ring bell". In bright red, if I recall correctly.

I was so on edge that I could do nothing but laugh hysterically at myself while I pushed the button. So much for me being observant.

The groomer, a woman, comes down the stairs quite promptly. I tell her about Colby's paw (if you've read Colby the Nine Fingered Cat you know what I'm talking about); his asthma, and his strength issues. And she was very nice and reassuring and all, but I still felt like the worst kind of betrayer as I left him there, with a stranger, to be bathed and have a hair cut.

While I waited for the two hours to be up I needed something to do. Go home? Are you kidding me? You expect me to go home without Colby? Colby the baby? Colby that both Thimble and Apricot consider to be theirs, and Thimble would probably have a thousand fits if I came home without him.

Yeah, no, not going home.
Colby proves that anime eyes are real.

But I usually go grocery shopping on Saturday (the next day) and it's supposed to rain on Saturday but not today, and grocery shopping takes about an hour and a half, and I'm sure I can make it take two hours simply by strolling through the grocery store and perusing the shelves instead of my normal mad rush.

Pro tip: don't do this. Don't try to "waste time" grocery shopping. I spent way too much money. "Ooh, they have this? I didn't know they had this!" Multiple times.

When I came back to get him, he was in his carrier. I had asked her if she could take a few photos for the blog so that's where the "getting bathed" pictures are from. (He looks so much smaller wet!)

She seemed a little startled when I said I wouldn't know if I liked it or not until I saw how he reacted. I guess maybe to most people their opinion matters more than their pet's opinion, but quite honestly, I don't understand that view. To me, it doesn't matter if I like the way Colby looks. If he likes it, that's enough for me.

And he does like it. He loves it. I've seen him groom more in the past few days than I have in the past few months. His only complaint is that he's colder than he was, but he has solved that problem by sleeping with me. (And I'm certainly not complaining about that result.)

She had to shave his tummy due to the number of mats (I am such a bad cat mom. I should have had this done earlier!). And now I believe that cats really do have a natural body temperature of 99-102 degrees (F). His tummy radiates heat.

The rest of him, save his head and his legs--the part that had short hair to begin with--and his tail, which doesn't mat, was done in a "comb clip" or a teddybear clip. It's about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. And he's so incredibly soft and fun to pet. Before my fingers would always hang up on a mat and I'd end up picking at it and he'd leave in irritation. Now we both enjoy me petting him so much more.

I think I will like the visual look better when his tummy's in a teddybear clip too. He does look awfully funny now, though. His head still looks huge but his body definitely shows he's too thin. Perhaps he will eat more now that he's not so uncomfortable? We can but hope.

So if I want to keep him in a teddybear clip, I have to do this every 8 weeks. Let's hope Apricot learns to deal with it better.
Thimble! I haven't even let him out yet!

When I brought him home, Thimble was absolutely fascinated with the way the outside of the carrier smelled. I let Colby out and then had to walk after him trying to get the harness off him for a few minutes, but I succeeded in that and put the harness away.

I looked back and Thimble was sniffing Colby's neck. Although she used all un-fragranced products on him, he still smelled very different and not at all like Colby. And if I could tell (even though I do have that ultra-sensitive nose) you know Thimble and Apricot had it even worse.

Thimble, however, gave Colby a few licks, as if to say, "yup, you're you." and was fine with him after that.

Thimble still loves you, Colby!
Apricot on the other hand, reacted worse than I'd feared. He took one sniff of the carrier (even before I let Colby out) and took off for the hills (or under the sofa, as the case might be). He refused to come out for five hours. When he did, he took one whiff of Colby from a distance of a few feet and ducked right back under the sofa again. It took three days for him to start treating Colby normally again instead of "stranger danger!"
Apricot's checking out this stranger.
He seems awfully familiar ...

It's a good thing Colby doesn't get his feelings hurt easily.
Using his tail to keep his tummy warm.

Colby the Nine Fingered Cat

Okay, now before you panic, he still has all his "fingers." What's he's missing is one of his claws on his front feet (which have five claws apiece, or they did).

Here's what happened.

We had our normal vet visit at the end of December. Everybody went together in one large cat carrier like the previous "all-together" visit, and this worked admirably well. I was able to lift it into and out of the car, carry it to the car from the dining room table and back again, and drag it along on its Cat-allac roll-y thing.

Thimble at the vet.
The other two (including Apricot!) came out to explore.
Being together helped steady their nerves for all three of them, and they were fairly normal in behavior when I got them home. Apricot did his disappearing under the sofa act, but that is normal for him and he came out fairly quickly, just a few hours.
Colby and Apricot at the vet
Colby, Thimble and I were in the kitchen. I was doing something at the counter and Colby was using one of the cardboard scratchers behind me. I turned around and noticed Colby's white paw was all pink striped.

Wait, what? Where'd he get pink on his paws from--oh crap it's gotta be blood.

Next question. Where'd he get blood from? (In other words, himself, or Thimble?) And the big question, how?

He took a step and limped almost imperceptibly. If it hadn't been for something that had happened earlier with Thimble, my mind would not have gone to his claws.

About a week before I'd been clipping claws (I try to do this close to the vet visit in order to be polite to the people who have to handle my cats) and I noticed one of Thimble's back claws looked strange. Like it was only half there. I had brought this to the vet's attention and she said it looked like he'd ripped it partially off, and this did happen to cats (never happened to any of mine!) and since it was all healed up and stuff, not to worry about it.

So now Colby has blood streaking his paw and he limped just barely? I sat down with him and made him let me look. He didn't fight me about it, precisely, but he was extremely reluctant to let me see.

Left front paw, his forefinger (had he been human) was claw-less and bloody. It had already stopped actively bleeding, and when I looked where he'd been there wasn't any on the floor.

So bonus, my cat has fast clotting blood, I suppose.

There wasn't any blood on the floor but there was a completely intact claw, only minus a cat's foot in it. It was equal parts fascinating and gross.
Told you it was gross.

Okay, um, now what do I do? I've never had this happen to a cat before--Thimble doesn't count because that didn't happen where I could see it and deal with it. I felt like a right fool calling the vet half an hour after I left there, but I didn't know what else to do.

The vet's advice was to keep it clean as best I could (given that a cat walks on all four feet and needs to use the litter box and covers their litter box leavings using their paws to move the litter) and make sure it didn't get infected (that would be puffy bright red flesh and ooze; again, gross). If it did get infected, then I had to bring him in for an antibiotic shot but for now he could stay home.

Both Ginger (the breeder) and the vet recommended putting neosporin (or an antibiotic cream similar to that) on his paw. I knew from previous cats that they're allowed to lick that and it's not poison or anything.

But Colby was really reluctant to have his paw messed with, so I left it alone, just checking it once a day. And by two days in, the raw place was filthy because he wasn't cleaning it. Colby and his (lack of) grooming skills. I asked Ginger how to wash it without getting all of Colby wet. She said don't--just put neosporin on it.

Okay, I will, I will. Phooey on him not liking it.

And hey, presto, magic! For Colby disliked the feel of the goo on his paw and cleaned it off, thus cleaning off his wound in the process. I thought to myself, well, that's kind of cool. I'm tricking my cat into grooming himself.
The next day--
Colby's none the worse
for the wear.

Six weeks later ...

Colby's paw is all healed up. He's still got a "please don't touch that" response to that one finger, when I'm clipping the other claws, but it's just a residual. I don't think it actually hurts him, given that his response isn't the instantaneous reflex of pain but the slightly slower thought process of "that paw hurt a lot, don't touch it now."

But the claw shows no sign of growing back.

And apparently, sometimes that happens if the cat has ripped out the entire thing, quick and all.

So now I have Colby the Nine-Fingered Cat.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Colby Has an Unfortunate Encounter with a Soap Dispenser

All his life, Colby's very occasionally had these weird wheezing episodes. He's a bit clumsy drinking out of the fountain, and they seemed to happen after he had a drink, so I thought perhaps he was just getting a bit of water down the wrong throat.

The other two didn't really find these wheezing episodes alarming.

Recently, he had two in a week, and both times the other boys were very concerned about him. Now cats are good at hiding illness from humans, but not so much from other cats. When the other cats get worried, that's when I start to worry.

I did some research, and "cats wheezing" had two main causes; feline asthma and cardiomyopathy (yes, the same thing Pippin had, although he never wheezed like Colby does). And Colby does have that heart murmur.

So I decided to bite the bullet and have Colby tested for both. The first is a chest xray and the second is an echocardiogram. We went to Pippin's old doctor, Dr. Cousins, today. (She remembered me. I found this odd. I only went there once a year with Pippin for checkups, and surely in a year there are tons of people coming through her office.)

The Evil Soap Dispenser
The little room at the specialist veterinary practice that we were in had a counter, with a sink, and an automatic soap dispenser. Colby was doing his usual investigation (he does this at every vet, trying to find the best place to hide). I was standing on the other side of the room, watching him. It is a small room, but I was still more than five feet away from the sink.

Colby jumps up on the counter and tries to go behind the sink. He activates the motion sensor on the soap dispenser, which makes the normal sound of a soap dispenser and deposits soap on his neck. The sound panics him and he twists around, leaping off the counter. In the process he pushed the handle of the sink on full-blast, and water even splashed me.

This encounter completely dampened (get it?) his enthusiasm for exploring and he went and laid down beside the empty carrier as the best of a bad deal for a hiding spot.

Colby is NOT a happy camper
I didn't at first realize he'd gotten soap on him until I found a bubble of it (you know how those foam soap dispensers are) on his fur. I had turned off the water by this point and dried myself off. Now I had to use paper towels to try to dry poor Colby off and get the soap out of his hair. Dry paper towels weren't doing it so I had to get wet ones and make him even wetter.

Now my nerves were on edge simply from being back here at this office. My last memory of being here was not a good one.

While normally I try not to laugh at a cat who's done something like Colby just did, I simply couldn't help it. I was laughing at him while I tried to clean him up, adding insult to injury.

And that's when Dr. Cousins walks in. I'm on the floor, my back to the door, with Colby hidden in front of me between me and the wall and the carrier. I explained what happened to the poor fellow, giggling the whole time.

She also found Colby's antics very amusing and said that they had some dry pet shampoo there for when a pet was there and needed a bath but couldn't be gotten wet, and she would use some of that to help get the human soap off him.

We did the talking thing where you tell the vet what you've observed and why you decided to come here (which was made longer by my tendency to go off on conversational tangents all the time). Then they were going to do an ultrasound (an echo-cardiogram, it's called, when you do an ultrasound to look at someone's heart) and x-rays for his lungs. But someone else was using the ultrasound machine and Colby and I had to wait for that person to be done. We almost fell asleep. He was on the metal "pet" counter and I was leaning over him, my arms around him, and my head on my arms (he indicated he wanted me doing this, so that's what I did).

Colby roused right before the doctor came back to get him. She carried him out with his leash around her wrist (just in case). The tests didn't take too long, and a tech brought him back with a towel while the doctor was looking at the results.
Colby on his towel after his tests

The towel is because when you do an ultrasound on a human or a pet, you have to use a goo to make the contact between the skin and the instrument a good one. Then they wash the goo off. This means Colby was now damp on his chest and on one side of his neck (from the soap dispenser incident).

He wasn't shaking or outwardly frightened. More just tired, annoyed, hungry, and wanting to go home.

Hungry was because they wanted me to bring him in with an empty stomach. This morning I woke up with all three cats on the bed, wanting to know where the food bowls went. "Mama, the food disappeared! Make it come back!" Because of course there's no way to not feed Colby while the other two still got food.

Dr. Cousins came back in and gave me the good news first. Colby doesn't have cardiomyopathy. His heart's just fine. They did see this (and I quote) "trivial" backflow thing which is where the murmur comes from, but his heart walls are within normal specifications and he's all good there.

But his lungs show signs of feline asthma. Except she said they just recently decided to call it feline airway disease since the symptoms can come from a lot of sources, not just traditional asthma.

Oh. I had to ask her to repeat what she was saying because my brain had kind of turned itself off after "he doesn't have cardiomyopathy" and while the words were registering in my head, they weren't being retained.

Colby's future: it could stay the same, or it could get worse. Worse would mean more wheezing episodes and more severe episodes. It doesn't get better and there's no cure. There's medication that can help, as well as air filtration in the house. (Well, given my own breathing problems, Colby's living in the best house possible for this disease--I've got three separate air filtration systems including HEPA filtration.)

The medication is ... wait for it ... inhaler based. Seriously. You get an inhaler. For a cat. Um... how does this work exactly? I'll wait while you picture it in your head and giggle at the mental image, the way I did.

Okay, what happens is you get this device that has a little mask that goes over his nose and mouth; the muzzle area. There's an air chamber attached to the mask with a one-way valve. When he breathes in, the air comes from the chamber; when he breathes out, it goes into the air. The inhaler goes on the other end of the chamber. You press the inhaler and push the aerosol medication into the chamber. From there you wait until the cat breathes in a certain number of times (seven was a number mentioned on the website) and then you can release the cat.
The inhaler would go in the green end

And you just train them to get used to it, one piece at a time. (Start with the mask and give treats after; extend the time the mask stays on and give treats after; add the air chamber to the mask and give treats after; extend the time the mask and chamber stay on and give treats after, etc etc.)

Colby's asthma is mild. As far as I know, he goes for weeks without an episode. (Of course I'm at work or asleep a lot of the time.) So he doesn't have to have medication yet. It's a steroid, so if you can hold off on giving it to them, that's better; but of course you don't want to compromise their health either.

I'm just supposed to get the mask/chamber device and work on getting him used to it so I'm prepared when he does need an inhaler, and he also has to come back for x-rays once a year to monitor the situation.

Okay, I suppose this could be worse. He could have had both cardiomyopathy and asthma.

When I brought him home, Thimble was happy to see him, but not particularly concerned. They were both happy to see their food dishes. Apricot, on the other hand, went in the room with the sofa the minute I opened the door and went under the sofa and hasn't come out since. I don't know why. Possibly they used the same waterless shampoo on him in the shelter and he recognized the smell and it brought back bad memories? I don't know. I hope he comes out soon.

So there you have it. I have anxiety disorders and a cat with anxiety (Apricot). I have breathing problems and now I have a cat with breathing problems (Colby). Any bets on what Thimble's going to manifest?!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thimble and the Shower

As I'm getting ready to take a shower in the bathtub, I'm doing that part where you test the water to make sure you're not going to scald or freeze yourself. One hand is resting on the edge of the tub to support me.

Thimble, who is in the bathroom just kind of being there, reaches up and gives my wrist a tentative lick as if to say, "you don't have to do this, mama--I'll wash you."

"Thanks," I told him, "but there's a whole lot more of me to wash than you're thinking of. I have to do it this way." He knows I hate getting wet.

The shower curtain liner is clear, and rests inside the tub wall; the shower curtain is a winnie-the-pooh theme and is outside the tub wall. Thimble positions himself so he can watch from the other side of the tub, but inside the curtain.

Whatever floats his boat, I suppose.

After the first shampoo and rinse, I have my eyes closed due to not bothering to completely rinse my face. I'm just going to put more shampoo on my hair; I hardly see the point.

I become aware there's a cold draft on my feet. Normally the shower curtain liner has adhered to the side of the tub by now and prevents this from happening. Odd. So I rinse off my eyes and look to see what's going on.

Thimble is sitting inside the tub on the other side of the liner. The liner is protecting him from the shower itself, but he's got to be getting wet from the floor of the tub! He seems to be quite pleased with himself. He's the one causing the draft, as his bulk is preventing the liner from keeping the colder air out.

I laughed and called him a silly cat. He did not dignify this with any sort of response.

This is the way I finished the shower, almost all parts of it. With my giant Maine Coon sitting in the tub with me, watching the water hit the liner and run down it and not being a bit worried about it.

He did decide to leave when I started using the body wash. It has a stronger scent than anything else and given the way he wrinkled his nose and shook his head a bit before he went over the edge to the other side of the tub wall, I gather that was the reason for distancing himself. He still stayed inside the shower curtain itself, and once I rinsed everything off (including the liner) and turned off the shower, he got up on the edge and waited impatiently for me to clean off the tub.

He knows I run a squeegee over the walls and the tub floor, and he was waiting (barely) until I finished. Then he attempted to get back in, on the shower end of the tub, just as the shower head did that thing where it drips the last remaining cup or so of water out of it.

This was not acceptable, so he backed off. After I got out of the tub and finished drying off and was getting dressed, however, he figured the shower head was done being startling and got back in the tub to investigate things.

Silly cat.
Thimble, investigating.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Reunion Trip 2017

It was time for my family reunion again. This time instead of asking a friend to look after my cats and then having a disaster in their family cause me to have to scramble at the last minute to find someone else (which is what happened last year) I just paid someone to take care of them.

Surprisingly (to me, anyway) a lot of vet techs do pet-sitting for some extra money on the side. The person doing my cat-sitting had recently retired from being a vet tech in order to be a stay at home mom. She was a bit exhausting to be around (major extrovert!) but I felt my boys would be in good hands. They were.

They weren't happy about my absence, but they didn't go on a hunger strike or anything, so it's all good.

The reunion itself was quite nice. The day before an aunt/married-in uncle combo had a 50th wedding anniversary drop-in. Since there were two family gathering events so close together and my sister (the one that visits me) hadn't been to the reunion in some time, she flew in to attend both and stayed at my cousin G- and A- with my parents and me.

My parents and I drove up on Thursday. I ended up driving the whole way while mom read to us. With the occasional random commentary (not on the book) from my dad. The traffic was dense but only had a few slowdowns, and we got there around 7:30.

Shortly after our arrival I went for a walk to stretch out a bit (driving for over 10 hours can really do a number on your muscles) and discovered the fly in the ointment for this trip: cousin G-'s neighbor's dogs. Last year they'd been in kennels whenever I was out; this time they surged up over the bank onto cousin G-'s driveway and proceeded to behave remarkably as if they were planning to attack the minute I turned my back.

I did not know that a dog could snarl and show teeth at the same time it barked constantly and aggressively at you. Points for multi-tasking, I suppose. I managed to face them down for the ages it took Neighbor to come out on her porch and yell at her dogs to come here (they did not obey very well, but enough that I was able to leave the area).

The problem is, the biggest, most aggressive dog weighed as much as I do (probably more) and was physically the same size as well. Which meant should it knock me down, I stood a good chance of getting killed, or at the least, badly mauled. The truly irritating part was that no one seemed to take this threat seriously. I suppose, though, one really has to be there to observe how aggressively dogs react to my sheer presence to understand. I've had dogs on leashes being walked by their person try to get at me, barking, yanking on the leash, and the person be completely and utterly baffled by the dog's behavior--apologizing to me and saying "he/she's not normally like this." It's like a reverse superpower I have!

To get that part of the tale over with, the dogs were kenneled or indoors the next morning and Saturday morning when I went for a walk, but Sunday morning I encountered them again. At 4 am in the morning, which seemed a bit excessive to me. (I was awake and out because if you want to go on a two hour walk before the sun rises and makes everything bright and hot, you have to get up early).

Bad dog aside, the rest of the trip was well worth it. I got to spend not one, but two nights interacting with my extended family. And because the 50th wedding anniversary couple don't live around here, and their children and grandchildren also don't live around here, we don't normally see them--which means I got to have fun meeting people I don't usually get to interact with.

One of these children's family groups is also a musical group called the Celtic Martins. They played two songs for us; the bouncing dancing (not that we did) kind of celtic music on violins and guitars that I absolutely love. I was, for that short time, in musical heaven.

The morning of the reunion my dad has always gone to "the barn" with his brother C-, and this year my sister and I came along. The barn is a converted barn (thus the name, obviously), which the family has turned into a country-cooking restaurant. We're talking very primitive restaurant here ... which means the food is delicious. I had eggs and bacon on a bagel. First time I've ever liked a bagel. Granted, the one time I ate a bagel before this it was dry and just the bagel. I don't think you're supposed to eat them like that.

Then I went back to bed (I tried to catch up on my sleep this trip, but I was constantly being stymied by the thin walls of the room my airbed was in and the fact that everyone else was logically awake during the day). I did manage some sleep, however--good thing, too, all this socializing!

The reunion started at three, and there were lots of people there. I love lots of family--if I get bored with one conversation, or if it starts going off the rails into uncomfortable territory, I can simply find another conversation to join.

Plus lots of food. My Aunt D- brought a cherry cobbler made from cherries that had been growing on the tree that morning (YUM) and because my uncle C- is also lactose intolerant, she used lactaid milk in the sweet biscuits that go on top of the cobbler. Yeah! A homemade dessert I can eat! (That's the same uncle C- that we had breakfast with.)

Cousin G- pulls around a large tractor (we're talking tires taller than I am) with a wagon and hay bales on the back. Actually, I think they were baled barley that he'd put up the night before. There was going to be a hayride! Lots of the younger people were quite enthusiastic about this concept, and several of the older people (including my parents) joined in.

Me? Are you kidding me? Have you not been paying attention? Fumes from the tractor engine, prickly barley sticking into my skin, too much extra noise to understand anyone's words ... sensory nightmare. No, I stayed put and watched the hayride group trundle off down the lane, glad they could enjoy it even if I couldn't.

There were plenty of people left to talk to. I was outside the large garage where the tables and food had been set up, sitting in a circle of chairs with a group, chatting, when it started to sprinkle. I hate being wet, so I got up, went in the house, retrieved my umbrella, and came back to my chair, umbrella wielded.

There was some gentle ribbing at my expense ... right up until five minutes later when the sky opened up and it went from a sprinkle of rain to buckets. Then I got several comments of, "okay, I guess she does know what she's doing" which, although just as joking as the previous commentary, was rather gratifying to hear.

By the way, the hayride isn't back yet. And there's no roof on it.

I hadn't paid too much attention to who went, but I knew at least one person with a walker had gone. They were all going to be drenched and I felt that they would appreciate the ability to at least pretend to get drier. I ran my idea past my sister (just in case it wasn't appropriate) and she agreed and helped me ransack poor cousin A-'s house for towels.

The hayride was at the farthermost point from the house (of course--Murphy's Luck, right?) when it started to rain so it took them a while to get back, even going as fast as the tractor would go (pretty fast for a tractor). Cousin G- also has a huge garage that isn't connected to the house (we were in the connected one) and he opened that with his remote and drove the whole kit and kaboodle into it.

Holding a tall stack of towels (every towel we could find that wasn't in use) in one hand and my umbrella in the other, I walked through the pouring down rain to the other garage and held out the towels to the soaking wet people descending from the hayride.

My parents, since we were staying at Cousin G-'s house, had the luxury of going upstairs and taking hot showers and changing into dry clothes. Considering my mother's respiratory health, I was quite grateful she didn't have to drive somewhere before doing this, like everybody else.

The reunion is supposed to last until 9, and usually breaks up later than that, but half the people were soaking wet and wanted to go home and dry off, so the reunion broke up early--it was a little after 8, so it wasn't all that early.

The consensus was this would go down in the history books, and we'd be talking about the hayride where it rained for years to come. There were even a few people on the ride who loved being wet and enjoyed that part! (I find this very strange.)

Of course, all the socializing over the weekend was exhausting to my social ability, and by Sunday morning I was fairly well a wreck as far as pretending to be normal went. Good thing we were going home.

I drove the whole way home. There were some stops on the interstate but they didn't last long (thank goodness--my patience was not in good shape). Less than an hour from home it started raining so hard I couldn't see the line markers and (eek) discovered I was running between two lanes. Luckily the traffic was fairly light so I wasn't endangering anyone but I decided to slow down at that point. The problem is always do you slow down, risking getting hit from behind by someone who didn't and can't see you very well due to the heavy rain, or do you keep going and risk hitting someone who did slow down and you can't see them very well due to the heavy rain. Discovering I wasn't seeing the lane markers well enough to stay inside them tipped the balance to "slow down." I did so slowly, of course, as braking in heavy rain is also a good way to start sliding.

But the rain didn't last long. I was grateful, since I didn't particularly want to get my luggage out of the car in the pouring rain.

And then at long last I was home, and making my way through my door into the kitchen, dragging my luggage with me, caroling happily "I'm home!" to the cats.

They were suspicious that it was really me, and I had to talk for a few minutes before they accepted that the sound of my voice over-rode the odd smell I had. (If you stay somewhere else for a few days, you start to smell like that new place. It's not something (most) humans can detect, but a cat is able to.)

Then they were very happy to have me home, and I unpacked as fast as possible to get all the "bad reminders" tucked away to reassure them I wasn't going away again.
The next day I took a nap. My knees are bent between them.
Colby's upside down closest to us while Thimble's on the other side.

Thimble has never done this before.
He blocked the door to the outside so I couldn't leave again!

Colby blocked the hallway: he was a toll cat and
must be paid in petting before I could pass.
And Apricot's been snuggling up against me while I read or watch tv. It's hard to get photos of that since he's tucked up against my hip and kind of behind one arm!

The day after I got back I had to vacuum the house and go for groceries. The cats did not appreciate the going away part and mobbed me when I got back, grocery bags or no grocery bags (usually, the bags deter the mobbing and they wait until I unload everything). 

I took several days off work for after I came back in order to recover. But tomorrow, vacation is over and things go back to normal. The boys aren't going to be happy with that--they just love having me home all the time. Pity ... I love being home all the time with them, too. Until I win the lottery (that I don't play), however, we'll just all have to live with my being a contributing member of society with a job that feeds us and keeps a roof over our heads. 

If anybody knows how to successfully explain that to a cat, I'd love to know.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cat Behavior Tip

When two cats mirror each other, or mimic each other physically, it means they like each other. Thus you can imagine how it warmed my heart to see this happen the other day:

Notice the almost identical poses (despite the size difference). I'm so glad Apricot is okay with Thimble, since they're both such dominant cats. (Color me surprised: that's not how Apricot acted at the humane society. There he gave me the impression he was more content to be the ... er ... underdog.)

Apricot made friends with Colby first (of course, it's hard to not make friends with Colby. He's a very non-threatening sort of cat who is quite happy being bossed around by the others).

Thimble, however, was a different story. Apricot and Thimble had a lot to work out between them, and Thimble's maturity level wasn't helping.

However they seem to have become fast friends lately. Every night before we start the bedtime routine, I am usually sitting on the floor with them, with my back against the dishwasher door, eating my bedtime snack.

Apricot has started (like for the last month now) coming up to Thimble and asking to have his head washed. He does this by lowering his head to Thimble's face and headbumping him. Thimble is more than happy to wash him. (If you recall, Thimble would wash the world if given half a chance.)

And at some point during the bath, Apricot turns it into a mighty battle. A very lazy mighty battle, I'll grant you. Thimble's happy to do this, too. It's so funny watching Apricot dart around him, like a bee around a large rock, and move in to try to grab a foot or face. Thimble responds with defense, and then occasionally moves to offense, but he stays lying down for the most part while Apricot stays on his feet. Apricot's so much smaller than Thimble that this is the way he feels most comfortable playing with the bigger cat.

Thimble's favorite move is a headlock, but since he's usually on his side, he doesn't have a lot of leverage and Apricot can twist out of it whenever he likes--which is another key to both of them staying happy during a mighty battle.

Colby, meanwhile, is perfectly happy to watch from the sidelines. He's kind of lost his taste for mighty battles, although he does get into them occasionally. He's usually blocking the air conditioner vent which is next to where I'm sitting, located under the sink. (And does anybody know why a kitchen's air conditioner vent is under the sink, where presumably you have to stand to at least rinse the dishes to put them in the dishwasher, and possibly wash the non-dishwasher-safe ones? I mean, why do so many people want to have cold feet that it's a common location?)

Anyway, I'm very happy that they are all three happy together. (Cue song here.)