Just Shelley

Just a cat

It was the shoe clawing that left me uncertain.

She was getting old, over 18 years old. Her arthritis was getting worse, but she could still make it upstairs: slowly and painfully, sometimes having to pull herself up with her front legs rather than push from behind.

She had good appetite, always wanting to have her tastes of whatever it was we were eating. She was particularly fond of the salmon steaks I made, and I must admit to having salmon more for her sake than ours.

Then, she stopped eating as much. It started with her midday treats, which began to go uneaten more often than not. Then it was her dry food, and her morning and evening wet food. By the time she lost interest in the salmon, we were desperately worried. She still chased her feather around, though slowly, and not for long. I sometimes think she chased the feather more for us than out of interest.

We knew that this would be her last year. It’s something that lurks in the back of your mind, but you don’t actively acknowledge in your thoughts. It manifested in little things, like whether I should buy a flat of her cat food, or just a few cans. I bought the flat.

Taking her into the vet was something we didn’t do lightly. As a young cat, she was abandoned, twice, at the Humane Society. I think she equated the carrier and the vet with loss, and fought against any trips with a desperation that left us shaken. The only good thing about taking her to the vet was returning home, when she would bound out of her box with a gladness that shown like a ray of silver hued sunshine— tail high, she would explore every nook and cranny of her home, and claw my shoes, to mark possession.

When she stopped eating, though, and could barely drink her water, we knew we had to take her in. During the exam, the vet tried to determine how far we wanted to take tests, because of her age, and the costs. But we had to give her a chance so ordered up the tests.

The results weren’t completely definitive. A beginning loss of kidney function was expected, but not the fluid around her lungs. Not good, and ultimately fatal, but neither of which would account for her loss of appetite. The doctor did think there was a good possibility of cancer, perhaps returning via her thyroid where she had a tumor once before. We had treated her for her thyroid tumor, but in rare cases the problems can return.

We took her home as we waited the blood tests, and to think about what we could do. At her age, surgery is a high risk, and anything else would require frequent visits to the vet, only to prolong her life a few months. She hated the vet though, and I hated the thought of her last months spent in an endless round of vet trips, needles, being force fed, and poked and prodded by strangers.

We tried hand feeding her using baby food. She’d take a lick or two, but that was it. Still, she purred when rubbed under her chin, snuggled in our arms, and clawed our shoes,

That last day was warm outside, and so I took her out on the front lawn. She was an indoor cat, so this was an extraordinary treat for her. She laid on the cement of the steps and felt the heat of the sun-warmed surface as it soaked into her stiff joints. She walked about on the grass, nibbling on the blades. People would stop when they walked past and comment on how beautiful she was. She was beautiful, silver stripes with white mittens, one eye green and one brown. They didn’t see what I saw though: the effort it took for her just to get to her feet, the weakness of her steps.

When not outside, she slept on my lap. After my roommate came home, she slept on his lap. That evening when we talked, asking each other if we were sure, she got up, came over to claw my shoe, and then laid down with her head on my foot.

At ten that night, roommate said good-bye to her and I put her in the carrier and took her to the vet one last time. In the room while we waited the vet, I held her in my arms and talked to her. I thanked her for the joy she brought us for 18 years. I told her how much we loved her.

The vet came in and picked her up to prepare her for the final injection. It would be given through a catheter, which is the quickest, painless approach. Little girl looked up at the vet, thinking she was roommate, and then hissing when she realized she was held by this strange person. My little girl still had fight. I felt pride, and even a faint hint of humor.

In a few minutes, the vet returned with her wrapped in a soft white towel. She was placed in my arms, and the vet asked if I needed more time. I held her close, and said, no, we had said good-byes. One shot, one last breath, a sigh really, and she was gone.

I left with the empty carrier. As I drove through dark streets I screamed—raw, primal cries of grief that stripped my throat. I drove until I couldn’t scream anymore and then went home.

I no longer see her shape out of the corner of my eye, and it’s no longer strange not to see her water and food bowls. I told myself I wouldn’t second guess the decision we made. I don’t most of the time, but every once in a while, when I put my shoes on, I remember that last time she clawed my shoe.

Critters Photography

At rest

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

As you can see, today Zoë was catching up on her beauty sleep. The patches in her fur are where she was shaved on the neck and her butt for drawing blood and administrating the radioactive iodine. It will grow back.




Thanks for all the good wishes for Zoë’s continued good health. She’s been a good friend to me and life would be very quiet without her.



Media Mailed

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Tonight I sent off the books for those of you who emailed me your addresses. The UPT is in boxes, and the Practical RDF is in bubble envelopes. Zoë helped me pack the books, so you’ll know which ones are from me by whether they glow in the dark or not.

Just kidding — Zoë’s radiation does not rub off on inanimate objects. Not unless she were to pee on your books. I can assure you that if my cat peed on your book, I would not send it. Well, not without drying it, first.

I got a very good deal on envelopes and boxes at our local Office Depot, and the Media mailing rate is incredibly low. All total, mailing the Practical RDF books came to about 3.00 each and the UPT to about 5.00. Since I would rather not have 3.00 and 5.00 charges on Paypal (of which I believe it would take 1.25 anyway), instead I’d like you to consider donating some canned goods or money to your Humane Society. If you would prefer, you can also donate to another charity, or drop it into the tin of a really good street performer. Or you can have a good cup of coffee and a PB & J sandwich, on me.

Then, if in my journey late summer, my odyssey through the States and beyond, I come into your area and you want to buy me a beer, well, you’re on.

Speaking of the little princess, she’s happily home and has spent the last several hours exploring every last bit of the town-home, climbed into boxes, snuggled, ate, snuggled, played, and snuggled some more. She hasn’t slept once. I did a little research and found out that if we hold her close for three hours a day, the amount of radioactive exposure we’ll experience is 3 mrem/year–an increase of 1% over normal radiation doses we experience from the sun and other sources. This is supposedly equivalent to drinking one cup of coffee or one diet soda per day. We have decided to snuggle Zoë the 3 hours and do without one can of soda or a cup of joe a day.

It was a surprise to hear, though, that coffee and soda add to our radiation exposure. I wonder if Starbuck’s is managed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Further research shows that drinking coffee shortens our lives an average of six days. If you think that’s bad, did you know that if you eat 40 tablespoons of peanut butter, one after the other, you’ll die of aflatoxin poisoning?

All in all, I’ll take my chances with Zoë.


Glowing in the Dark

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today has been spent trying to achieve a glow of health in both my cat and my connectivity.

I took Zoë to the specialist located in the other side of town. Come Monday, she will be admitted to a special NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) sanctioned room, get a shot of radioactive iodine in the butt, and then have to spend four days until she ‘cools’ down enough to come home. We will, then, of course, keep her 3 feet away from us at all times for two weeks–not letting her sleep with us, only cuddling a couple of minutes at a time. Of course.

I also spent a considerable amount of time today trying to get the SBC DSL modem/wireless router working. After talking with two very knowledgeable help people, we got the three lights glowing a nice steady green, a working ethernet connection (which is quite fast), but, unfortunately, determined that my modem does not have wireless. They are sending me a new one. In the meantime, when my Charter fails, I can turn on the ethernet portion of the DSL.

Between cat and connectivity I have not accomplished much this week and am behind in my work. I don’t mind the cat–Zoë already worked her magic on the new vet, who agrees with me that she is an adorable little princess. But I can’t cuddle my cable or DSL modem and neither has a soft furry neck to scritch, so I do regret the time expended on both of them.

Critters Travel

Travel Agent


As is usual when I’m planning a trip, my favorite travel agent helped me with my maps and with my itinerary. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

I took this photo as I was experimenting with uncompressed TIFF and RAW format photos. Though TIFF is the only supported format with my digital camera, there is a utility you can download that puts a Nikon 995 into a debug mode, which produces RAW formatted photos; however, it doesn’t work with any of the other graphics utilities so I switched it back.

The move away from compressed JPEG is motivated by thoughts of filthy lucre and commercial gain. After reviewing sample photos sent last week, an editor of a travel magazine expressed appreciation of one in particular, and invited me to review the magazine’s editorial calendar and submit photos for upcoming stories.

However, as another editor explained, most print publications demand an uncompressed high resolution large format digital photo, and many prefer film; so I’m trying to push the 995 to its limits, as well as digging out my 35mm cameras. (Well, borrow them from my roommate whom I gave them to. )

Can one return to film after the joys of digital? One can when it takes 10 seconds to record a high quality TIFF image. Life doesn’t hold its breath and freeze in 10 second chunks.