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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rasputin's Ashes

This morning we picked up Rasputin's ashes from the vet clinic. The ashes are in a small metal tin -- about four inches tall and two inches wide and with a pretty floral print stamped into the metal. It looks like a tin that might contain breath mints or little wrapped candies. The vet or crematorium had clipped a tuft of his hair, and that was in a small plastic bag attached to the little tin. The tin was nestled inside a white plastic "gift bag" that had a cat-paw print all over it and two woven handles.

The label on the bag indicates that the ashes inside belong to "Quilp." I asked my husband why he used that name, which is a nickname our son had given Rasputin when Rasputin outdid himself with mischief. (Quilp is a "bad guy" in Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.) Apparently, my husband couldn't bring himself to say "Rasputin" (another "bad guy") to the vet clinic receptionist, and so fell back on the nickname, not realizing that Quilp was even more rascally than was Rasputin. But then the receptionist had probably never heard of the fictional Quilp (or maybe not even the historical Rasputin), so didn't realize the implications.

Now the little tin sits atop the tall book shelf in the living room and overlooks all our activities. Next to Rasputin's ashes is a small cardboard box (I've never been able to open it) that's from the pet crematorium. The box contains a tin or a small urn that holds Thomas Jefferson's ashes. (I'll write about him one of these days. He was my soulcat who died nearly three ago. I still choke up when I think about him.)

Welcome home, Rasputin!

Monday, December 12, 2011

You were greatly loved, Rasputin. R.I.P. April 15, 1992-December 12, 2011

Rasputin, our tuxedo cat, was put to sleep around 3:30 today CST. Over the weekend he had developed a nasty abscess in his mouth (a tooth?), stopped eating and drinking, and his eyes were runny. He was diabetic, arthritic, and oral surgery would have killed him for sure. We had no idea of how much pain he was in, but he used the litter box faithfully, even just before my husband put him uncomplaining into the cat carrier. He walked out of the cat carrier into the vet's arms, as if to say, "I'm ready." He will be cremated and buried in the back yard of our house that he lived in his entire life. He was 19.5 years old (human age = 92).

He was younger son Jeremy's cat. I remember well the hot, sunny summer day in July 1992 when I drove Jeremy over to his friend Adam's house to claim Rasputin (age 12 weeks). Hard to believe it's been that long. In the fall of 1993, Jeremy went off to college. Since cats hate to move, Rasputin stayed with us even when Jeremy graduated, then moved into my uncle's vacant house eight blocks away. Needing a cat in his life, Jeremy adopted a rescued cat from a shelter and named her Farrah Faucet because she like to drink running water at the sink.

The other cat in the photo above was Garfield who came to us in 1982 at maybe age six from a family whose kid was allergic to cats. We then adopted Rasputin as a kitten, and Garfield, maybe 16 at the time, died the following year. Poor Garfield! He had just wanted to sleep and veg out in his old age, but Rasputin pounced on him all the time, wanting to play.

If it hadn't been for the abscess and the runny eyes, we would have left Rasputin to probably die quietly at home. He was eating and drinking until maybe Friday, and NEVER peed/pooped anywhere except in the litter box. He started howling after Thomas Jefferson died. (That's another story.) I think Rasputin was trying to fill the void, since Thomas could be pretty vocal. 

Our house is strangely quiet tonight.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Boswell and "The Boys" (A True Story)

Hrmmmph! She hasn’t turned on the sign yet. What’s taking her so long? I’m starving! Guess I’ll go look for ‘The Boys.’Boswell and the Boys (A True Story)

Big brother Boswell sauntered to the back yard. “Hey, Boys, where are you?”

He found them where he had left them, playing “Hide ’n’ Seek” and “Attack Cat” between the steps of an old wooden ladder lying on its side against the garage.

“Time to eat! She’ll be turning on the sign any minute now.”

He gave each kitten’s face a quick lick, smoothed their whiskers with his paws, and herded them to the front porch. As the three scampered up the steps, the invisible-except-to-cats neon sign over the front door went on and began flashing “Free Food, Free Food.”

“We hope it will be something really, really yummy,” The Boys mewed in unison.

“Well, beggars can’t be choosers! As long as she doesn’t dish up that shredded stuff…yukko! Now, don’t forget — look cute and sweet. Mew a bit when she comes out. Let her stroke our backs a little too. She seems to like that.”

The big wooden door slowly opened. The three little cats shrank back against the porch rail supports.

“What little cutie pies! You’re soooooo adorable! And such shiny little eyes! Getting pretty friendly, aren’t you! Well, here’s your supper. I ran out of cat food, so this is some of our beef stew leftovers. Eat hearty! I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast.”

The three brothers politely waited to dig in until she went back inside the house and closed the door.

“Hey, this is good!” Boswell exclaimed. “We’ve never had THIS before. The diced veggies are a nice touch, and they add a bit of color too.”

For a few minutes only smacking noises could be heard. Soon the stew was gone, the plates licked clean, and three little mouths were smeared with gravy. They washed each other’s faces to get the last morsels.

“Mmmmm, that was good,” chorused The Boys. “Maybe we should let her become our person. Then we could live indoors. We’d be cool on hot summer days and snuggy warm in the winter.”

And so it happened. The three little cats continued to charm the nice lady who, of course, continued to feed them. One late fall day she scooped them up and put them into a couple of plastic boxes with narrow slits in the sides.

After a visit to the vet, the three little cats found wonderful new homes. The nice lady with the invisible-except-to-cats neon sign adopted Boswell. Another nice lady adopted The Boys and named them Licorice and Snickers. They still play “Hide ’n’ Seek” and “Attack Cat,” but now in a large, leafy silk plant on a stairway landing. And at least twice a day Boswell sits in a window to watch his person feed hungry stray kitties with “Free Food, Free Food.”

********** AFTERWORD **********
I am the nice lady with the neon sign. Boswell joined our family which included Thomas Jefferson who lived for his first six months at a cat shelter and Rasputin who came to us as a kitten from a friend’s cat’s litter. After Boswell was rescued, we had also welcomed into our home two other strays, Wilson (who looks somewhat like Woodrow Wilson) and our first female, Little Frida Kahlo (now Little Debbie).

Boswell has been a treasure! He is probably part Maine Coon with a muscular build, long silky black fur that never tangles or musses, heavily furred pads, and a happy-go-lucky disposition. We know he was born in our garage sometime during the spring of 1999, and we saw his mom (aka “Georgia O’Keeffe”) carrying him around to various places in our large back yard. Even once he was weaned, he stuck around. We weren’t feeding either of them at that time, so they had no reason to stay. That fall, when Georgia O’Keeffe had a litter of two kittens (again, in our garage), Boswell seemed content to be their guardian and babysitter especially whenever she decided to get away for a *cough* break. We often saw the three brothers scampering around in the backyard, or, more often, the two smaller ones scampering and Boswell off to the side, watching. We named the two babies Snickers (because his coloring looked like the inside of a Snickers bar) and Licorice (for obvious reasons).

About that time, we realized we had an invisible “Free Food, Free Food” sign above our front door. It didn’t take long for this little family to find our front porch and the plates of cat food we put out for them!

Nowadays Boswell (renamed Kuro, the Japanese word for "black") is our official sentry to alert us to any strays who see our sign and come up onto the porch. He waits patiently inside the doorway as we take food out and chat a bit with our little guests, but has never tried to make a run for it (realizing, I think, how cushy he has it living with us). The nice lady who adopted Snickers and Licorice has the perfect set-up for cats—a long stairway to romp on, a large silk plant to hide in, a tropical fish tank for entertainment, homemade kitty snacks to enjoy, and big, soft beds to sleep on.

Whoever said ferals/strays cannot become gentle housecats has never met these cats!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yesterday Rasputin (age 19) walked all around the house, into every room, even went down the basement twice despite his bad arthritis, and howled repeatedly. It was like he was saying goodbye to the other cats, the humans, and to the house. Finally, late in the evening he stopped howling and found a new place to lie down under my grandmother's rocker, and next to the heat register. Periodically, he would walk into the kitchen to drink water out of his bowl or faithfully (!!!) use the litter box. He hadn't eaten anything all day, but threw up white foam at least three times. When I went to bed at 2 a.m., I didn't expect to see him alive today.

Well, he's still alive and has been eating, is still under my grandmother's rocker most of the time, but no longer howls. I plan to make tuna salad for lunch and squeeze out the tuna water for him (his most favorite thing in the world next to Arby's beef). Maybe I'll also squeeze out a fish oil capsule. Wonder if he'll lick up the oil.