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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Post #14: A Word About Cats

I sometimes hear the question “Do you like cats?”  I gather from this question that cats are an animal that people either love or hate.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about cats.  I’ve not had a chance to get closely acquainted with them.

Wife had cats while she was growing up.  I never did, at least not intentionally.  That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a cat try to adopt us.

My first experience with cats was when my family was living in Tucson, Arizona.  I was around age 6.  My dad had been transferred to Tucson because of his job.  We rented a small house in a lower middle class neighborhood.  This was in 1959 and people did not rely on air conditioning as heavily as they do today.  We slept with the windows open on most nights.

The cat that wanted so badly to become a part of our family seemed to be especially fond of me.  She was a black cat with white markings.  The cat would lay on my window sill at night to sleep.  Sometimes, she would sit there, meowing at me.  My bed was up against the wall, next to her window.

Unfortunately, with the cat on the window sill, I could not sleep.  Her presence triggered my asthma.  She would purr and I would wheeze.  She would meow, and I would cough.  She would purr and meow, and I would wheeze and cough, gasping for air.  Then, my mom would come into the room and add to this cacophony of wheezing, purring, coughing and meowing by yelling at the cat.  The cat would ignore her.

These episodes were usually followed by rushing me into the bathroom and turning on the shower full-blast.  Mom and dad would stay up late, trying to help me breathe.  There was no such thing as a rescue inhaler back then.  My parents had been told that steam would help my breathing.  So we all sat in the bathroom with the shower running hot water and steam filling the room.

I would get better after a couple of hours and we would all be able to go back to bed.  I don’t think the steam really helped me.  I think I got better because I was removed from the source of the allergens and it took that long to recover.  By the time I went back to bed, the cat had given up on my returning, and left her window sill.  Usually, I was better, but would still have trouble breathing. I was also taught to sleep on my side, so that I could breathe easier, as my body returned to normal.

Later in life, I would learn that my reaction to cats involves more than just asthma.  I’ve learned that if I touch a cat, I need to wash my hands before rubbing my eyes.  Otherwise, my eyes will start to itch, get watery, and swell.  I’ve learned that a cat that rubs against my skin will cause an itchy rash.  I’ve also learned that along with the asthma, my nose begins to run and I begin to sneeze.  All in all, living with cats is not good for my health.  So I avoid them, as much as I can.

Cats will sometimes try to force themselves on me, however.  And sometimes, this is not good for the health of the cats.  I’ll talk more about bad cat karma next time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Post #13: Katie Grows Old

The boys grew up and went off to college.  Katie’s life became quieter, and she grew older.  There were still moments of excitement, though.  I woke up one morning to the sounds of Katie barking.  I looked out the back door, and Katie was playing with a small furry object.  A black furry object, kind of like a kitten.  Only this black furry object had a white stripe down it’s back.  I went back into the house and grabbed my .22 rifle.  The poor little skunk was half dead, and Katie was taking her time finishing the job.  So I got Katie out of the way, and killed the young skunk.

Wife’s parents died, and left their house to Wife, her sister, and our two children.  After much debate and prayerful consideration, Wife and I decided to buy out the rest of the family and move into the home.  We really had not considered that to be an option, until the neighbors began asking us to please move in.

It took quite a bit of doing to go through her parents’ belongings and decide what was going to be kept, who would get what, and what should be sold or donated.  Then the process of moving our stuff into the old house began.  Finally, we were moved into the 80 year old house.  And Katie was introduced to her new back yard.  She now had a house with a chain link fence so she could see what was going on in the world. 

She had lost some teeth and could no longer hear.  She was a lot older, but she could still remember how to dig and how to follow her nose.  We looked out into the back yard one day, and Katie was gone.  There was a busy boulevard between our new home and our old house.  I was fearful that Katie would try to find her way back to the old house and get run over.  I started a search, going up and down alleys and streets.  I called her name, although I wasn’t sure she could hear me.  Thankfully, I found Katie across the street and down at the end of the alley sniffing around a trash can.  She was next to the boulevard, but had not yet crossed it.  I brought her back home, and made the yard a bit more secure.

Katie lived out her last days resting under a large oak tree.  She could no longer climb.  The squirrels were still of interest for tracking, but she no longer risked life and limb to give chase.

Katie had to be put down when she was 13.  We were the grateful recipients of many kindnesses at this time.  Katie had let Wife know that it was time to go one Sunday morning.  She had become lethargic and it was obvious she was in pain.  I had recently undergone surgery and my wounds were not yet healed.  I was unable to lift Katie or carry her to the vet, much less dig a grave.  One of our church members came to our house and dug the grave for us.  With great kindness the vet came out to our home with an assistant and put her down.  After Katie was dead, the vet surprised us by offering to bury Katie.  She placed Katie in her grave and covered her. 

We had Katie buried under the huge oak tree where she spent the last couple of years of her life.  We would look out of our back door and at the ancient oak tree and remember Katie, and remember all of the years of faithful service that Katie had given to us as companion, playmate and protector.

RIP Katie
1989 - 2002