Nero's Fiddle
A View From The Handbasket

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Just passing through
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:50 PM
If any of you out there have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that as of about six months ago, we had four cats. I'd post pictures of them from time to time like the proud cat dad I am.

Well, that's changed a little.

Back in June, we took one of the four in for a vet visit, and one of the vet assistants showed us what appeared to be a dirty cotton ball. It was, of course, actually a kitten that someone had found, only a few days old, in the parking lot of a Lowe's. The vet assistant had nursed it back to health over the intervening weeks, and was looking for some kind sucker to take her in. We certainly weren't intending to go to the vet with one cat and come back with two (or roughly one and a half, really), but that's what happened.

She arrived with her only possession -- a little red mouse toy she had had practically all her life:

We named her Penelope, which was quickly shortened to Loopy. Penelope is a tremendously affectionate cat who loves to be petted and will crawl not just into your lap but right up your chest and nuzzle your neck with an enthusiastic purr. She's playful in the way only kittens are, and quickly found a place in the house. Griz was not at all happy at first, but after weeks of hissing and yowling and further months of indifference, the two gray tabbys will now romp around the house and play with impressive vigor. The others were largely unimpressed but not particularly bothered by the newcomer.

Which was a bit of a surprise in Athena's case, since we expected she would resent the arrival of yet another distraction from the proper object of attention in the house. In fact, she handled it well. If she had any resentment, she took it out on her usual target of milk jug rings:

Soon enough, we learned why she treated the new arrival with such equanimity -- she may have known we would soon need a lively young kitten in the house to fill an enormous void. For just a week after Penelope came home, the kidney disease Athena had battled with for seven years suddenly gained the upper hand. For months we had been feeding her special food and giving her sub-cutaneous fluids to keep her systems in balance, and as the above photo shows she was still happy and playful (when that particular mood suited her, of course). In late June, though, she suddenly lost interest in everything, including eating and drinking. Her once overwhelming spirit withered and vanished. She wandered the house aimlessly, staring at her water as though she *ought* to know what it was for, dammit, but just couldn't place it. Then she just wandered in circles.

Late on a Saturday, it became clear that whatever time she had left would be filled with misery (or at best frightened confusion). The vet assistant who brought Penelope into our world generously opened the vet clinic to help usher Athena out of it. The cat that throughout her fifteen years until her last days required a small SWAT team to take to the vet, even at her sickest, went along without a struggle or even a cat carrier.

Which reminds me of my favorite Athena story, and how I'm sure she would want to be remembered:

Back when a year-old Athena was our only cat, just before Chloe showed up, we went on a driving vacation out west. Athena was sent to stay at the vet where we found her, and where my mother-in-law took her dogs. A few days into Athena's stay, my mother-in-law got a call from the vet. Athena refused to eat or drink and would violently attack anyone who tried to come near. The vet refused to continue to keep her, and in fact questioned the wisdom of keeping such a brutal animal as a house pet. They demanded she be picked up immediately. When my mother-in-law arrived, a vet worker donned gloves that could be used to train a German Shepherd and wrestled Athena into a box that looked like the one they'd ship the Tasmanian Devil in. She took the box back home and stayed well clear as she opened it.

Athena sauntered out, purred, and nuzzled my mother-in-law's leg. She then ate some food and drank some water and curled up for a nice nap.

Some people thought Athena was a mean cat. She wasn't and was actually quite affectionate in her own eccentric way. She simply knew what she wanted and wasn't terribly interested in alternatives.

Chloe, on the other hand, was always as far from mean as is possible. She and Athena were wildly different -- while Athena was fearsomely smart and assertive, Chloe was a bit dim (and somewhat dotty as she grew older) but the sweetest companion you could hope for. Nothing made her happier than purring in our laps or on our chests as we napped. It was in these moments that she looked serene and fulfilled, rather than her usual aura of mild bewilderment. She could also make sleeping look like art.

One of Chloe's oddest talents (and she had many, including inducing sleep, slaying bugs and talking to socks) was her ability to get sick on national holidays. More than one Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve were spent with Chloe at the emergency vet. So when at Thanksgiving (a month after she passed her annual physical) she suddenly stopped eating, became lethargic and started vomiting, we were concerned but not surprised. This time, however, a shot and some pills would not cure her holiday woes.

Either through cancer or some other necrosis, her pancreas was riddled with growths, which were also appearing in her liver. Her abdomen was full of fluid and further growths. She vomited up dark green bile. There was no more purring, and she walked with great difficulty. There was no hope for recovery, only prolonging things for at best a few months with surgery and frequent treatments which would be painful and stressful. And she was already clearly in pain. So yesterday Chloe left us only a few months after Athena, after the two of them had been with us for nearly fifteen years.

Even with Rosabelle, Griselda and Penelope doing their level best to take up the slack, the house and our hearts feel oddly empty. Time moves on and the pain will of course fade, but we'll always miss them. Rest in peace, kids. And Athena, don't chase Chloe. You know she doesn't like it.

1 comments on this post
Hold the extras
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:43 PM

Helpful tech hint: lots of USB flash drives these days are coming with what's called U3 software on a separate partition that shows as read-only. It apparently tries to give you familiar menus and settings when you plug your drive into different computers. This stuff automatically installs and runs on whatever PC you plug it into. (Unless you don't use Windows, in which case it just takes up space on the drive.)

Someone out there must like this, but I just want a device to store files on, not some pushy application trying to unify my digital life. Fortunately, you can get a program to reformat your drive as a gloriously empty vessel waiting for you to do as you choose with it:

The site will plead amusingly with you not to delete this precious, precious invasionware from your drive, but will eventually relent and let you download the uninstall program.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007
Fun with numbers
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:59 AM

In other news, polio is down substantially since we ended Prohibition.

1 comments on this post
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Rules for other people
Posted by neros_fiddle at 11:11 AM
George W. Bush, President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, had this to say to Pervez Musharraf yesterday:

You can't be the President and the head of the military at the same time.

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