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RIP Jake, 2005(?) – 2013

Yesterday evening our fine cat Jake let us know his time was up and after lots of snuggles he made his last trip to the vet.

It wasn’t unexpected. In January the vet discovered a large, fast-growing tumour in his abdomen. As an FIV+ cat he was not a candidate for either surgery or chemo so we took him home to spoil him in his last weeks — and oh yes, he was spoiled, spoiled with chopped chicken and tuna and even milk, and endless cans of $3-a-can special prescription yummy food, and was allowed to sleep on my head and had fresh water run for him every five minutes and all kinds of other spoiledness.

He came to us in 2007 with his pal Elwood, sick enough that his FIV+ status was quickly discovered. His original name was Ricky Bobby but we thought that was too goofy even for him so he quickly became the other Blues Brother.

After his initial illness, despite his lack of an immune system his health was pretty good except for his teeth. Over two separate surgeries several years apart he had them all removed and was a much happier guy afterwards. (Cats don’t actually use their teeth for chewing, so it didn’t stop him eating pretty much whatever he liked. It meant he could stick his tongue WAY up his face though.) After his first surgery he got a hilarious special gold-star certificate (which I should have kept) from the vet for excellent behaviour.

Here’s the first picture we took of him when we got him — lying on the stairs, demonstrating his habit of being totally immovable and also his other habit of lying down in inconvenient spots where he blended in well and could be easily stepped on.

Jake on the stairs

Of course, laundry was a different matter. He always had to sit on contrasting laundry for maximum shedding effectiveness.

Jake on the black laundry

He liked laundry a lot. Particularly dirty laundry — underpants or other unmentionables — the kind an enterprising cat could dig out of the hamper, drag down the stairs with much triumphant yowling and then hump to death in the middle of a dinner party to great effect. Jake killed all of our socks repeatedly and sometimes even larger items, whole pairs of pants or dressing gowns, fell to his mighty hunting skills.

In a more practical vein, he was an excellent hunter of millipedes. It used to be Elwood who found them and played with them a bit before turning them over to Jake to kill and eat, so for four happy years I didn’t have to deal with a single millipede myself*. After Elwood died I had to take over the finding (ick) but could still sic Jake on them for killing and disposal.

After his teeth were out his tongue often stuck out when he was sleeping since there was nothing to keep it in:


Not that we got to see it much since he often slept with a paw shielding his face:

Jake, paw on face

He was particularly fond of sitting on my head if I was lying down with a migraine. You wouldn’t think a purring cat on your head would be at all good for migraines, but somehow it did help. Perhaps he learned it from Elwood.

Jake on my head

He was a huge burrower. When I washed the duvet cover I’d try to pile the duvet in an entertainingly burrowish way for him.

Jake likes to burrow

In his last weeks he wasn’t much good at grooming himself so he’d park himself in front of Carson and let Carson groom him, at least his front half.

Carson grooming Jake

They were good pals, although not above taking a random swat at each other just for fun when passing each other in the hall.

Carson and Jake

He affected a dignified obliviousness to being dressed in cunning outfits.

Jake with cravat

He was never full of mischief — he wasn’t a climber (although he did like M’s loft bed), nor did he push small objects off shelves. He limited himself to scratching the furniture, jumping on the kitchen counter, and doing absolutely anything in pursuit of fresh water.


Bye, dude. You were a good pal.


* Bugs are a Pink Job in our house


I absentmindedly pick up and throw out loose elastic bands, thanks to my old cat Tigr, who ate them (elastic bands are not good for cats).

I never leave Swiss Chalet undefended on the kitchen counter, thanks to our old cat Oliver who was a fierce, fierce predator of all things Swiss Chalet.

I put my slippers on a high shelf when I take them off so Elwood can’t bite through the drawstrings, and I pick up plastic bags left on the floor so Elwood can’t pee on them (he had a serious fondness for piddling on plastic).

All these cats are gone, but I’ll probably be doing all these things until I’m 90.

We are, or at least I am, a creature of habit.

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RIP Elwood, 2002(?) – 2011

We lost one of our kitties last night. He had stones blocking his urethra that proved immovable and thus inoperable; we did the kind thing.

He was a very fine cat.

He came to us in December 2007 from a rescue, along with our other cat Jake. They thought he was from someplace near Keswick. Here’s the first picture we have of him, just when we brought him home. He was a little unsure and decided to sit by the front door, just in case.


He settled in quickly. He was a very sociable cat; if someone was home he was always in the same room with us, although I could never convince him to be a lap cat. He was loud and opinionated, especially about his food and his water dish (anyone who’s been to the bathroom in our house knows that Elwood would always come in with you and demand to have his water dish refilled), and could carry on long conversations. He was a Biter of Strings – no shoelace, window blind, jacket drawstring or other hanging cord was safe.

Elwood eating the cord for the window blind

He would come running in the morning when he heard my alarm so he could stampede across my bladder, crawl up into my armpit and have some snuggles before the snooze alarm. He would lie on my head and purr when I had a migraine (believe it or not, this actually helps) and would nap with me when I was sick. He slept on his back with legs ridiculously askew, like an otter or a fossil.

Elwood at his most dignified

He always ate first even though Jake was bigger. He would dig at the kitchen cupboard in which the food was kept before eating; we never figured out whether he was trying to cover or uncover his food (which was, after all, just sitting there in the open). He napped luxuriantly on the heated floor in the bathroom. He had funny little grey dots on the end of his nose. He loved lying in clean laundry and was a good sport about our house rule that if you don’t help fold, you have to wear a Cunning Hat.

Elwood says "Don't point that thing at me! I was sleeping!"

60/365 May 2: Elwood

He came running whenever I opened a particular desk drawer because he knew that’s where the treats are kept and quickly learned not to fight the claw-trimming that had the treats at its end. He’d always be there waiting at the front door when we came home, saying WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN and FEED ME.

He never minded being the dorkier Blues Brother.

Rest well, bud. We miss you already.

I work, they snooze

Passive resistance cat resists passively

(Not our cat. But likely representative of our cats’ potential reactions to the treadmill.)

It’s the limp, folded-over front paws and the back paws juuussst barely keeping up that really get me in this one. Bwah!

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What IS that scary thing?

M: Daddy, what is that?
D: It’s a tie.
M: It is?
D: I understand how you might not recognize it. I haven’t worn one since… uh…

(We pause to consider this question. Someone’s wedding? Maybe? We can’t recall any recent funerals…)

D: … well, I haven’t worn one for a long time.
M: How do you wear it?
D: Pretend I am wearing a shirt (demonstrates bare-chested tie-tying prowess, with only one false start)
M: Huh. That’s complicated.

Tie is removed and put on the bed, where a cat is most interested by its sudden appearance and starts to creep up on it.

Me: Dude, that’s a tie. Don’t sit on it. Fur is not a necessary component of ties. (Attempts to move cat.)

Cat: (jumps back about three feet in 0.1 nanoseconds) WTF? There’s a SNAKE over there and you gotta go sneaking up behind me and touching me without warning like that? Geez, woman! Aaaaaa! Oh, my heart! I think I need a nap now. zzzzzzz

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Because they can.

Quotation of the Day for September 24, 2008

“Why then, if not to steal food, would a cat go up on the counter? Why did George Mallory try to go up on Mount Everest, which was quite a lot more trouble? Because it is there. Because of the view from the kitchen window. To lick the drips from the tap in the sink. To try to pry open the cupboards and see what’s inside them, maybe to squeeze among the glassware. Or, on a rainy day, to look for small objects to knock onto the floor and see if they roll.”

– Barbara Holland

Cats, watching me work

“What, us? We NEVER go on the counter.

…um, when you’re watching, anyway, but never mind that. See how cute we are?”

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29* things to be happy about

If Mark Morford can come up with 29 things to be happy about, I imagine I can too.

  1. Central heating and a non-leaky roof. I’ve spent enough time living in tents that I really grok the utter luxury that is the concept of Inside. Get wet? No problem; you can go inside where it’s warm and dry off. If you’re living in a tent it may be days before you stop experiencing pervasive shivery damp.
  2. On a related note — dry feet. There are many lovely benefits to outdoors work, but the all-day-every-day wearing of sodden hiking boots and sodden wool socks is not one of them. Pull the socks off at the end of the day and casual observers seeing only your feet might place bets on how long your corpse had been underwater. Dry feet are a great, great thing.
  3. xkcd
  4. RSS. O how very much time this saves.
  5. Cleo the MacBook. This is far and away the most pleasant computer I’ve ever used. Pretty, too.
  6. Zappos Canada. As of this moment they have 1233 women’s shoes in a 6.5WW. As opposed to any local stores which have, in round numbers, zero such shoes.
  7. The wonderful women of WNET, who tell me about things like the existence of Zappos. And who give great advice about absolutely anything. And who tell really dirty jokes.
  8. Webkinz World. Totally cute and harmless little games and Sims-like rooms to decorate for the online versions of Webkinz stuffed animals. Uh, I only do it to help out my kid (hrmph).
  9. Catbeasts. I mean, check out the wildly goofy expression on Elwood here as he (very inconveniently) bites through the window blind’s cord: Elwood eating the cord for the window blind
  10. The library. The lovely library robot phones me when my holds are in, I pick them up, then when I’ve read something I can give it back instead of having to wedge it into my overstuffed bookshelves. All for free! This is very happy-making.
  11. Borax. Can’t beat it for getting the euphemistic “pet odors” out of stuff.
  12. Friends who blog for an entire year without once requiring the invocation of Godwin’s Law or any of its corollaries.
  13. Seven years ago at work we had a videoconference link to one single other location. It cost upwards of $5k. If the video worked, the sound didn’t and vice versa. Today I can download Skype and get a great audio+video connection for absolutely free. Now we’re getting something close to acceptable 21st-century technology.
  14. iPods are pretty nice bits of technology too. Thousands of songs, several dozen audiobooks, half a dozen movies, a few hundred podcasts and some random photos and mine is now barely half-full. Subway delay? OK, I’ll watch another podcast. Overseas flight? Hah, no problem. Feeling evil? Put on the Feeling Evil playlist. An iPod and a library (see above) mean you can pack a whole lot of entertainment into remarkably little physical space.
  15. My local bra shop. If you are neither shy nor modest, they make bra shopping supremely efficient. Take off your top, let the woman eye and measure your goods, and hey presto she brings you a small selection of bras which magically fit and are not ruinously expensive. Next time, pull the bedraggled remnants of last year’s purchase from your purse and she is a) unfazed and b) able to both recognize it and produce a new version for your immediate purchase. Contrast: go to The Bay, wander about randomly, end up in the change room under fluorescent lights with 15 bras in various sizes, one of which fits but is ugly. Ugh.
  16. Dread Zeppelin. Led Zep done in reggae style by an Elvis impersonator. Too silly.
  17. CBC Radio 3 (warning: sound). No better place to hear good Canadian indie music.
  18. Strindberg + helium
  19. Scrabulous. If the Scrabble people have any brains whatsoever they’ll cut them a sweet licensing deal and call it good, because they’ve absolutely nailed the online Scrabble concept.
  20. Common Craft’s Explanations in Plain English videos. They use markers, bits of paper, and Lee Lefever’s hands and they are brilliant.

  21. Butterflies
  22. The Shape of a Mother
  23. The heated floor in our bathroom, and the programmable thermostat that makes sure it is warm by the time I get up in the morning. Worth.Every.Penny.
  24. Champagne
  25. Large Canadian Roadside Attractions
  26. All those pocket knives and oh-so-dangerous tiny embroidery scissors confiscated by the airplane police? You can buy them in big lots on eBay. Need 40 pairs of cuticle scissors, a batch lot of corkscrews or 20 pounds of multitools? The NTSA will auction them to you for cheap, so you’ll have extras next time they nick the one you’d forgotten at the bottom your purse.
  27. Online versions of old Infocom games.
  28. Married to the Sea:
    Married To The Sea
  29. Chocolate. Chocolate is definitely a happy thing.

And there it is. 29 things to be happy about. Much easier to compose than 88 lines about 44 women, too.

*: approximately. HTML makes an exact count tricky while I’m writing, so I expect I’ll end up with a couple of quick edits to add or remove items. Or I could be less of a write-in-code person and turn on the graphic interface, I suppose.



Thanks to Abbey Cat Adoptions (go ahead, click the link and look at all the adorable kitties that need homes… I dare you….), we’ve been adopted by two new kitties.

This is Jake. He’s 2 and he’s originally from Hamilton:


And this is his pal (they were in the same foster home) Elwood, who is 5 and from Collingwood:


They’re settling in very well. Jake has decided that M’s bed is his territory, which pleases everyone except Elwood, who was firmly batted away from the prime next-to-warm-small-child zone tonight. Jake’s also discovered that if he sits on the stairs he blends in very well, thus maximizing his chances of killing us and providing himself with fresh meat. In the meantime he likes to sit by the kitchen table and wait for M to “drop” things in his vicinity.

Elwood is louder and more overtly sociable and likes to play with the ribbons on all the helium balloons left over from M’s party last weekend. He likes to experimentally claw at things at night, making boring sleeping humans transform into lively awake humans, but we’ll work on that.

Yay, cats! And hey, now we have a kid that’s old enough to scoop out litterboxes!