A New Year

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I got about half way through December and realized I hadn’t blogged yet, and decided to take the month off. But now, it’s a new year, and that brings with it all sorts of changes.

For starters, Eva and I  adopted three new cats yesterday. A sibling pair of black cats with white markings, and one brown/gray tabby male. All are about two years old, and have lived together since kittenhood. The names they came with are Diana (f)  and Dancer (m) for the sibling pair, and Classy for the male tabby. Diana, at least, is likely to undergo a name change, since we just had a cat named Diana. To date, Diana is the only one who is actively out and visiting with us, while Classy is hanging out under the couch. For the moment, we aren’t quite sure where Dancer is. (As I type, Diana has become Eva’s laptop).

No photos as of yet because I don’t want to freak them out (any more than they already are), but I assure you, there will be photos.

In far less momentous news, I’ve started the new year by working out each day. The holidays brought me a Wii Fit, and while I’m not fit yet, I’m working on it. As weird as it seems to have a video game leading me through Yoga or fitness training, it does seem to work pretty well for me. On the other hand, we’re only 4 days in.

Any other news will have to wait, because someone wants attention. And what’s the point of having cats if you don’t drop everything to attend to their every whim.

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Eva’s Memorial to Artemis

I read a draft of David’s blog post about Artemis and told him that he had not gotten anywhere close to capturing the quality of their connection. I later realized that I had a different perspective on their relationship, and what I wasn’t seeing was an outsider’s perspective. I asked David if I could write a guest post and he agreed. So here goes. picture-001

When my cat, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and I landed at PHL to meet up with David (who had moved there a few months prior to start rabbinical school), he met us with the keys to our new house. We stopped by his apartment to pick up his cats, Artemis and Diana, and we all moved into our first home together. Thus began my life with the deities (my collective term for Artemis and Diana).

Having lived with David and Artemis for almost 11 years, I still struggle to find words to describe the nature of their relationship. In some ways, they were like an old married couple: reflecting each other’s moods, taking comfort in their routine and knowing exactly how to press each other’s buttons—which they did with great regularity.

Artemis on White SofaDavid and Artemis would pick up each other’s moods. When David was anxious, Artemis became anxious. When one of them was grumpy, the other one became grumpy. This was a particular issue because Artemis used to get very grumpy when she was sick. Unfortunately for all 3 of us, Artemis had a lot of experience with illness. Thus when Artemis was sick, I got to deal with both a grumpy David and a sick Artemis.

As one might imagine, Artemis developed a deep loathing of the vet. She loved the part where she got to sit on David’s lap and look out the window on the car ride to and from the vet’s office. As soon as we entered the vet’s building, she would start hissing. She hated that place so much that she would hiss at inanimate objects, just in case we forgot how angry she was to be there. But, as soon as we got back into the car, she would revert to her normal happy self and enjoy the ride home.

At some point our vet realized that Artemis was slightly less agitated if David held her while her blood was being drawn. This stopped working when David started getting really anxious about Artemis’ health, which, in turn, made Artemis anxious. Once we got to the point where I had to calm David so he could calm Artemis our vet decided that David had become more of a hindrance than a help.

Artemis often treated David like an oversized kitten. She loved to groom him to make sure that he was always clean and tidy. Artemis groomed me on occasion, but gave up grooming my hair once she realized that I was a VERY long-haired cat and that was not within her job description.

Artemis had no compunction about disciplining David when he did something wrong (using her own definition, of course). Artemis indicated her displeasure to most people with a very gentle bite which clearly conveyed “thank you very much, but that is all for now.” With David, she used a wide range of bites, depending on her degree of displeasure with his behavior. She never did that with anyone else. Not me, not the other cats, no one but David.Artemis peeved

Artemis hated it when David traveled and responded by defiantly acting out. She would get on the table (something she knew was forbidden) and look me straight in the eye, daring me to remove her. When David returned she would snub him. She would occasionally have to get on his lap or groom him, but as soon as she was done, the snubbing resumed.

When we both went away we would get a cat sitter because the conventional wisdom is that cats prefer to stay in their home territory and dogs prefer a kennel. Although we were always happy to come home to our cats, we did so with a bit of dread. We knew that Artemis would act out for the next few days, just in case we thought she was ok with the idea of us leaving home.

At some point we tried boarding Artemis and Diana at the Arnold Creek Cat Retreat. This turned out to be a brilliant move on our part. Artemis enjoyed her vacations so much that she ceased her post-travel retaliatory behavior. When we arrived at the cattery, Artemis would offer some perfunctory hisses before slipping into her routine. She would walk around the cattery informing all of the other cats that she was in charge, then she would go sit under the feather toy and wait patiently for Shirley to play with her. There were some more perfunctory, guilt inducing, hisses when we left. Apparently, once we were out of sight she would settle in and enjoy herself.

For reasons beyond our ken, all three of our cats developed lymphoma. When we moved back to Portland in 2004, Artemis was just becoming symptomatic and we were concerned that she might not even make it through the move. As soon as we got somewhat settled, we went to the Cat Hospital of Portland and met Dr. Elizabeth Colleran—Artemis’ arch nemesis. Artemis never did figure out why we were so enamored with her and we had to resort to euphemisms when she learned the words “vet” and “Dr. Colleran.”

I give Dr. Colleran most of the credit for getting Artemis’ lymphoma into remission not once, but twice. I also know that Artemis fought her disease with everything she had because she did not want to leave her David.

It is no exaggeration to say that Artemis was in charge of our household. She supervised everything we did: our morning showers, our meals, working, reading, everything. Since there were two of us she was sometimes forced to split her attention, but she never slacked on her responsibilities.

Artemis did not always come to the door to see us out, but she was always in the window meowing when we got home. Artemis at the DoorIf I got home before David she would hang out with me, while always keeping an ear out for David’s return. Every time we walked in the door, she would remind us of the protocol. Specifically, that she was to be picked up and properly greeted before we did anything else. She always voiced her disapproval if we wanted (or needed) to put things down before picking her up. That was just not how it was done.

Artemis aged very quickly at the end, and she only started really looking like the old lady she was in the last 3 months of her life. But even though she was feeling really crappy all that time, she did not forgo any of her responsibilities to David or the household. Recognizing that time was short, David fretted over whether he would be able to let her go if it came to that. But Artemis was true to the end. She was herself until her final seizure, after which it was unquestionably time to say goodbye.

I have had 5 cats who were with me until they died. But Artemis’ death has been the hardest to bear. There is nowhere I can go or anything I can do at home without being acutely aware of her absence. When I sit on the couch with my laptop, I still contort my body so I can leave my lap available for her (she always felt that laptops were a waste of a good lap, even if she was happily settled on someone else’s lap).Artemis and David I still automatically check for her water bowl. Most cats hate drinking water, but not Artemis. She loved drinking.

Artemis had a very odd fetish, but I suppose everyone is entitled to at least one. Artemis loved to sit on my dirty bras, the stinkier, the better. Artemis herself had an amazing smell. It was warm and comforting in a way that I imagine mothers smell to their babies.

Mornings are the time I miss her most. Mornings were the one time of day when I had Artemis all to myself. I always found it comforting to leave David, barely awake, cuddled with his most beloved Artemis.

I often say that I come second to Artemis in David’s world. He has always denied it, but I still think there is some truth there. There was something about their love for each other that went deeper than I could fathom. I am confident that David’s love for me is true and deep. I also believe that there was something ineffable between Artemis and David. A quality of love that he and I will never share.

Artemis Died

My most beloved cat, Artemis, died last night. That’s about all I’m up for saying about it at the moment, but will do a fuller memorial to her here at some point soon(-ish).

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Meet Shadow (aka @invisicat)

I finally managed to get photos of Shadow. Not because she decided to come out, but because Eva and I finally decided that we’d had it with a cat who was a freeloader in our house and didn’t even have the decency to properly snub us, but rather hid all the time and did her best to pretend we didn’t exist. So on Sunday, we chased her out of her hiding place and attempted to catch her. Of course, she then fled to Hiding Place(2). So we chased her out of there, and she went to Hiding Place(3). Which happened to more or less trap her in a corner. I grappled with her, and I bled. Profusely. And she peed on me. And attempted to run back down the stairs to Hiding Place(4). But we, being the humans, had outsmarted her, and shut the door at the bottom of the stairs. And Eva was successful in corralling her. At which point we were able to contain her in one small room. We spent much of the remainder of Sunday in that room with her, being generally ignored.

Monday, I took her to the vet. No, let me rephrase. Monday morning, she I engaged in epic battle in which I bled profusely (but was not peed upon) at which point I got her into a travel kennel, and we went to the vet. Where she behaved like a perfect lady. Purred. Let me pet her. Didn’t put up any fight when the vet took her temperature or drew blood. She even explored the exam room a little, which meant I had the opportunity to take the following photos with my phone.

Tuesday evening, Eva spent the evening with her, and she agreed to be held for most of the evening. I came home, and was snubbed (she let me hold her for 10 minutes). I was home this morning, and she completely ignored me. Eva is home now, no doubt receiving tons of affection. So it goes.

No doubt this, too, will change. But at least now you have the pictorial proof that she exists.

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A New Cat

Eva and I adopted a new cat on Sunday. She is going by the name of Shadow at the moment, which seems singularly appropriate, as she is solid gray. She is adorable. She is three years old.

This is normally when I would post some lovely pictures of our new cat. Many, many more photos than anyone would truly be interested in. Beautiful photos of the cat lounging in a variety of dignified poses as well as some rather more embarrassing photos that shouldn’t really aren’t appropriate to the dignity of a cat. Maybe even some photos of Shadow with me, with Eva, with Artemis. However, we do not have those photos here. And do you know why? Because we haven’t seen her since about Sunday at 5PM, when she discovered that there were better places to hide than under the secretary by the front door.

The key difference between me now and me 14 years ago is that I’m not freaking out. I understand that cats, moving into a new house, often hide for a bit. I’ve been through this a few times with cats. As long as she seems to be eating and using the litter box, I’ll remain relatively calm.

It is, however, very disappointing to acquire a new friend, a new cat, selected because she seems to respond to you at the humane society, and then have her disappear as soon as you get home. It’s just not the goal you’re hoping for. In fact, it kind of seems like nothing has changed, since we never really see her (though we do hear her from time to time.

By the way, the reason we are using the name Shadow instead of the name she had previously, is that her previous name was Chloe. Now, we have a history with a cat we named Chloe. And it didn’t end well.  And therefore, it seemed like we really needed to find a new name for the cat we adopted this weekend. Because she is pure gray, and somewhat shy, Shadow seemed an appropriate choice. We were hoping, however, that she might not live up to the name quite so literally.

As I said, we are not yet particularly worried. Cats take time to adjust. We are giving her time. When she’s ready, she’ll come out and say hello. But until that, we’ll satisfy ourselves with hearing her in the closets every now and again, and seeing the food disappear and the litterbox get used.

Diana Memorial Noro Socks

It’s been way too long since I blogged. First, I wasn’t blogging because I had nothing to say besides, “I’m still missing Diana,” and I didn’t think that merited anyone else reading it. Then, I couldn’t quite figure out how to start again. Then I got pretty busy. So I haven’t been blogging. 

But now, I return. With a new knitting project: socks of Noro yarn, which I deliberately started while mourning Diana. It not’s that I didn’t have other knitting projects, but they were all for other people. And for the first week after Diana died, I didn’t feel like knitting at all (hard as that is to believe). After that, I wanted to begin to explore knitting again, but didn’t want my sadness and mourning being poured into a baby blanket I was working on, or a gift for anyone, in fact. I wanted to have those emotions become part of something I was knitting for me.

These socks are made of Noro Kureyon sock yarn which I bought with a gift certificate which was given to me as a thank you for doing a bat mitzvah. Noro is significantly more expensive than the sock yarns I’ll usually buy, but I’ve always admired the colors. It was a splurge, and it was for me. So when I was deciding to make something for myself, that I could put whatever emotions I was feeling into, this felt like the right thing to work on. 

At the beginning (and I’ve been working on these for 2 weeks or so, now), there was a huge amount of sadness involved. I would not have wanted to been working on a baby blanket at the time. Now, I’m still sad sometimes, but for the most part, I’m ok. In between I turned the heel, realized I’d made the foot too short, ripped back, and turned the heel again. I’ve been watching the colors slowly unfold from the skein, and enjoying the progress as they do. 

I’ve knit my sadness into them, and I’ve knit some happiness into them. Now, it feels like i want to finish them before moving on, as though finishing the socks will officially mark the end of a period of mourning for Diana. Obviously, the process of mourning doesn’t end that suddenly, but having a demarkation, whether it be one of time or accomplishment, can be useful to let one know when it’s time to regard life as “back to normal.”

In Judaism, there are three stages of mourning. First, there is shiva, which lasts about a week. Then comes shloshim, which is 30 days. Finally, for the first year after the death, it is customary for the mourner to go to the synagogue daily to recite the kaddish, a prayer in memory of the deceased. Obviously, I wouldn’t observe these stages for a cat, even one I love as dearly as Diana, but I want some way to mark the end of the period of active mourning, and I think finishing the socks will be that way. 

So I’m knitting along on my socks, and looking forward to finishing them, and moving onto the next stage of life.

A Memorial To Diana

Our cat, Diana, died yesterday. We had her put to sleep because it was all we could do for her. It was time, and I have no doubts about it  being the right decision. She was ready. Nonetheless, it is hard.

Diana was with me for 14 years. I acquired her (or vice versa) during the weekend of July 4th, 2004. She was never what you would call a typical cat. When young, she loved to play fetch with some foam rubber  balls. As she grew older, she became more interested in seeing if she could teach the humans to fetch the balls, dropping them farther and farther from whomever was throwing the balls for her.

She wanted affection on her terms…which usually meant just as I was falling asleep in bed. She would come up to us and tap me gently with her paw to get my attention. Usually she would start by tapping on a hand or a shoulder, but if I didn’t respond to that, she would tap my nose or eyelids.

Diana was named for the Roman Goddess. She entered my household when she was 3 months old as a companion for Artemis (who was then just over a year and a half). Her name, on entry, was Tango, and she’d had a somewhat hard life. She was living in a tiny studio apartment with 2 humans and 3 or 4 other cats. In contrast, my much larger studio, with just myself and Artemis, seemed luxurious. She was tiny at the time. In the evenings, after work, I would come home and lie down on the couch to watch a baseball game. She would climb up on me, snuggle in the crack between my bicep and my chest (from the armpit to the elbow) and sleep. She was so tiny that all of her body would fit just between my armpit and elbow.

She grew, and became somewhat stand-offish. Eva and myself she could take or leave. However, there were some friends whom she allowed special privileges. Neither Eva nor myself would ever have been allowed to flip her upside down like this.

Artemis adopted her and treated her as her kitten, grooming her and taking care of her, which was a good thing, because Diana couldn’t really keep herself properly groomed. She just didn’t care that much for her appearance, though she was beautiful. For years, Artemis would groom her, and Diana would let her. Sometime, around the last 5 years or so, Diana decided she was too old to be groomed by Artemis, and she didn’t want to be bossed around by Artemis any more. As a result, I spent every more time cutting dreadlocks out of Diana’s coat.

She wasn’t always the most elegant cat. She had medium length hair, which got pretty hot at times. So she would sometimes sit in positions which were not the most elegant.

Diana was a brave cat, most of the time. Dogs didn’t phase her. In fact, for the year we had a dog (Snowball–named by a 7 year old, not us), she terrorized the dog psychologically. She would casually saunter between Snowball and her rawhide bone. Diana had no interest in the rawhide bone, but it flipped Snowball out, so Diana started to do it deliberately. It took us forever to catch

on and figure out why Snowball would suddenly start barking. Diana also loved to perch atop Snowball’s kennel and peer down into it.

Diana loved thunderstorms, and would happily watch lightening with me, no matter how loud the thunder was.

Diana did, however, have two mortal enemies: The UPS man and the doorbell. For reasons known only to Diana, the UPS man was terrifying. Not Fed Ex, not US Mail, just UPS. She could distinguish the sound of a UPS truck from half a block away. She tell the difference in sound between the UPS truck and the Fed Ex truck. And she would scurry away at her fastest speed. The doorbell was also scary. People at the door were okay, but the doorbell itself was terrifying. She was a strange cat.

Diana was not particularly motivated by food, which meant that we often struggled to get her to keep weight on. Note, here, Diana deigning to eat, if it doesn’t inconvenience her too much. She didn’t have any foods she particularly loved, and tended to prefer dry food to wet food.

Chewing on plastic was always a favorite pastime. She loved the heavy-weight plastics, like those found in ziplock baggies, but she was flexible. Any plastic bag we left hanging around she would be delighted to pattern with her teeth marks.

Diana had a close relationship with Artemis for most of her life. They would hang together, sleep together. They were usually perfectly happy hanging out together, though sometimes Diana did create a bit of trouble. She would at times hunt Artemis’ tail, or do other things to try to provoke her sister (not biological sister, but definitely how I thought of them).

Diana love to hide in small spaces. She would find a favorite hiding place, and use it for all it was worth. Whenever I moved, Diana would find a spot in the new house and stay there, sometimes for days. Usually it was a spot I just couldn’t find.

Diana was a wonderful cat. We will miss her terribly. She has been a part of my life for almost all of my adult life. I’m not sure what life will be like without her. I will miss her. I’m pretty sure Artemis misses her. I know Eva misses her.