Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Pets have always played a large part in my life. My dad used to tell stories about a cat he had named Sally, who guarded her kittens with her life and got onto the backs of any dogs who came near. When I was born, my parents had a cat named Bunny (after Bunny Berrigan, a jazz trumpeter my dad liked). I guess Bunny got the boot when I tried to sit on her and she took a swipe at my face. I obviously do not remember this.

When I was in either first or second grade, we had another tabby cat named...Sally :-). Nobody spayed cats in those days. She had two litters of kittens. I took one of the litters to school for show and tell and was thrilled that Mrs. Pauly drove me to school that day (we didn't have a car). Poor Sally had the scroungiest suitors. I distinctly remember three tom cats on each corner of the porch with Sally sitting on the fourth corner. They were all growling at each other. I never witnessed anything else. My mother probably hurried me away from the scene. Unfortunately, Sally disappeared election night of 1956. My mom was counting votes over at Glanzman School and let the cat out that night. She never returned. We were heartbroken. I still have a mental picture of her going out the door that night.

One of her kittens from the first litter grew up to have babies. We then acquired Sam from Izzy, who we had given to Camille down the street. Sam only lasted about 6 months. My parents found him dead and probably poisoned on our neighbor's porch. Mom was always suspicious of our neighbor after that.

Christmas Eve, 1957, is one I will never forget. We didn't go the usual way home from Grandma Gors's on the East Side. We detoured via South and S. Detroit. My Grandpa parked the car - it was dark and snowing, and dad got out. I had no idea where he was going. He came back in the car with a meowing cat over his shoulder. I was totally blown away by our kitty's arrival. He was a Siamese - quite exotic for the time, and we promptly named him Sam Lee, or Sammy for short. Sammy became a fixture in our house for the next twenty years. We hauled him around in our bicycle basket, and he would sleep on the front steps. He was talkative and friendly, meowing all the time. We loved him unequivocally.

When I went away to college, Sammy was ten years old. When I came back he was close to 15. I moved away, and he stayed with Barb and Skip. His coat looked bad and he was very elderly. Looking back, I'm sure he had thyroid and arthritis issues. When Barb and Skip moved in 1977, they took him with them. Sadly, he got out of the house and disappeared close to his 20th birthday.

When Bob and I got married in 1976, we got Tasha, a tabby whose mother was Ralph, a somewhat weird orange tabby who lived at his mom's. Tasha was an insane kitten - climbing curtains and raising havoc everywhere. We didn't quite know what to do with her. After we got her spayed, she turned into a slug, and wasn't much fun any more. To liven things up, we got Black Kee, a black half Siamese cat from a friend of a friend over on Princeton. She was a beautiful cat, and quite athletic. She could catch things in her mouth when you threw them. All was fine until....MAX.

A little boy came to our door with Max. He was absolutely darling. We loved him instantly. Nobody seemed to want him so we kept him. He drove Black Kee up a wall. She started peeing everywhere in the house. We were still living in Waterville at the time, and didn't quite know what to do. When she peed on Bob out in the front yard, that was the last straw. He took her to the vets in Whitehouse. We didn't know what else to do.

Max and Tasha, who was now known as Gray Kee, continued to live in our house. We moved to Beverly with both of them. We started letting Max out for short periods, but he was terrorized by a neighbor's Rottweiler and was never quite the same after that. He tried to climb a tree to get away from this menace, and I think he may have had a heart attack. It was totally the wrong thing to do, in retrospect. Max ended up getting ill in the backyard one day. We drove him to the vet but he was in congestive heart failure, and there was nothing that could be done for him. He was a sweetheart and I will always miss him.

We were left with Tasha, who was almost 13 and not in the best of health. She never interacted with anyone. We decided it was time to look for new kitties. After a trip to a south end pet store we acquired Buster and Spike in 1989. Tasha was totally intimidated by the two of them. She had problems making it to the litter box and we again had to make the sad trip to the vets.

Buster and Spike were total opposites. Buster HAD to be outside. He lived at the house and used it as his hotel. Spike never went outside and he became the family baby. He was an extremely docile and friendly cat and is probably the family favorite or all time. Katie grew up with these two kitties. They were parts of our lives from 1989 until 2005. We have many many pictures of the two of them sharing our house. Bob was very much attached to Spike. I don't think there will ever be another cat like him.

In 2005 we went to Las Vegas. In order to do this we put Buster at the vet to board, since his recently discovered hyperthyroidism needed medication on a daily basis. Spike was home by himself for the first time ever. We had the neighbor come in to feed him every day. We were only gone for 4-5 days, but I think he didn't know what to do without Buster and us. He stopped eating. This, we found out, can be extremely serious to overweight cats, and can lead to a cascade of fat breakdown that damages the liver. When we returned, he was not eating well and the whites of his eyes were yellow. We took him to the vet and had blood drawn. His bilirubin was sky high. I tried every food to entice him to eat, but the damage was already done. He at one time was 16 pounds. He slowly was starving to death in front of my eyes and nothing would help. We had to put him to sleep the end of May. It was very very hard.

Katie and Bob decided to get a kitten in June, as Buster was pretty much an outdoor cat. They picked out Eddy, a beautiful little Siamese mix who I absolutely fell head over heels for. We got him shots and everything seemed to be okay. We also attempted to adopt a cat from a work friend whose daughter was going to abandon him. The cat didn't like Eddy and Eddy didn't like him. The stress was hard on Eddy. We gave the adopted cat back to his owners but the damage was done. Eddy came down with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), for which there is no cure.

I will not go into detail the horrible month I spent watching Eddy stop eating, his little tummy filling with fluid. I can hardly write this. Suffice it to say that the day we put him to sleep was the most horrible day of my life. It was the end of August, 2005.

My niece had found a stray cat in the alley behind her house in April, 2005. She could not afford to get shots for her and asked us if we wanted to have her after we lost Eddy. We just could not say no, so Isabelle, at the age of 4-5 months, give or take, came to live with us the beginning of September, 2005. She is a very unique cat, both behaviorally and in her looks. She has a very flat face, and I suspect she is at least part ocicat. She has a quirky personality and it took some getting used to after docile Spike. About this time another friend found four newborn kitties and their momma in a shed behind her country home. She wanted us to come out and see them. Of course, we were only going to take one, but two of them just followed me around, and we agreed to take a black one and a gray one if she could keep them until after Katie's wedding on Oct. 15. They were not ready to be weaned yet, so this worked out well.

The end of October, 2005, brought Mickey and Molly into our home. They both have yellow eyes. Mickey is gray and Molly is black. The three of them all get along most days and we were now up to a family of four.

Buster was not particularly happy with these cats, but he put up with them during the winter. By spring, he was ready to live outside most of the time and very rarely came home. I think he was mostly trying to avoid getting his thyroid medication. Tragedy struck the end of the summer, 2006, when I, in a hurry to take my mom to an appointment, forgot to check under the back end of the car. Buster was underneath...

We took him to the vet but his pelvis was broken and nothing could be done for him. We lost him just before the weather got cold. I was in despair as to what we were going to do with him that winter anyway, but did not expect this tragic ending to his interesting life. He certainly had nine lives, and had avoided tragedy before this; once he had gotten caught in a garage door and we thought sure he was a paraplegic, but he came through that. He had had numerous abscesses from fights, and used to follow Katie to grade school, crossing numerous streets. He probably led the most interesting life of all of our cats.

We now have three indoor cats. I will never have another outdoor cat, as it is just too stressful worrying about where they are and what will happen to them. I suspect that this will be the most cats we will ever have at one time again, as we are not getting any younger and must think of what will happen to our cat family when we are old. I cannot imagine a life without them, but must try to resist having a huge colony of them for obvious practical reasons. I love them dearly and right now they are healthy. I can only hope this continues into the future. They are now nearly four years old. Experience tells me they will live to at least 12 and possibly 16 or more years of age. I love them all.

Pictures of our various cats can be found on my Webshots pages:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trees again

Trees can also be a pain in the butt. About a month ago, a large branch broke off over our side door and was just hanging by the bark. We knew it had to get trimmed off but a cherry picker was needed, as the branch was about three stories up. We also had a dead tree out in the way back yard and some other trimming needed to be done. So, some big bucks later, the dead ash tree (another victim of the emerald ash borer) is gone, and the trees were trimmed up.

Well, that was supposed to be the end of it for awhile. However, we discovered that the immense ash tree in our front yard that straddles the property line is now dead. This tree is really really old and really really tall - probably at least three stories. The trunk is huge and would probably take four to five people holding hands to get around its circumference. Half of the tree was blown down by a storm about fifteen years ago. We have pictures of it lying on our neighbor's roof (the previous neighbors in that house). That piece was as big as some trees, and it was less than half of the tree. I'm not sure how the removal of this tree is going to be financed, but I have the sneaking suspicion it will be our task. I don't think the neighbors have the money to remove it, and it needs to be taken down because if it is blown over in a storm, our house would be majorly damaged. I don't quite know what to do about this, either. I'm sure the guy will want the wood. He wanted the wood from the other tree. Perhaps we can strike a deal.

So, trees, while beautiful, can cause major property problems, money, and anguish.