In Memory of Oolong

One of our cats died in our arms last night.

Oolong came to us as a kitten in a box almost 12 years ago, and Meghan took her in promising to find her a home.  We were new parents ourselves, and not in a great position to feed yet another mouth, but after I got home and met her we decided to keep her.

She got her name because she was the color of pewter – like a colonial teapot.  Besides her color she was remarkable for another reason: she didn’t much like human contact.  As time passed only a few humans besides ourselves ever saw her.  We had other cats, but Oolong was like a ghost.

Her kittenish hair grew out into long, fine, pewter-gray fur — bunny fur, as one person described it.  She had lion’s mane around her neck, and a duster for a tail.  Gray fur poked out from between the bottoms of her toes and a good brushing would leave enough fur to make a new cat.

She did acclimate to our house in Willimantic, and quietly became an indoor/outdoor cat.  During the summer months we would sit on the front steps and, if the street was quiet and we were quiet and Oolong was feeling particularly social, we would be granted the pleasure of her nervous presence.  During the winter she would live primarily in the basement during the day and come up to sleep on our bed at night — stealing away in the gloom of early morning.

After we moved north, our cats became strictly indoor cats: Mel because he has FIV now, and Oolong because we were worried that she would get lost.  She was very afraid of the the dog, so her world shrank to just the upstairs of our house — three bedrooms and a bathroom.

This new living arrangement gave us a new cat.  The formerly shy, quiet, anxious kitty that we had known for a decade quickly became a loving, chatty, snuggly cat that demanded attention and talked to me in the morning.  Rather than chafing at her restricted living quarters she thrived.  I really think she could relax for the first time in her life.

We noticed one day in 2013 that she was getting very thin — much too thin for the time of year.  She didn’t show signs of stress, but she was getting downright boney to the touch.  We took Oolie to the vet’s office, where they ran scans, scratched their heads, and suggested various medications.  Her weight loss continued so we found a new vet, who ran more scans and pinpointed the problem immediately: her liver was failing.  Her skin was orange, her eyes yellowing, classic jaundice.  Her liver was swollen.  He predicted six months to live, but prescribed daily vitamins that would support her liver in the meantime.

Pilling the cat became a daily ritual called “Mommy’s psycho time” where Meghan would (apparently) lose her mind and shove pills down Oolong’s throat.  After waiting a prescribed hour to make sure the vitamins were absorbed, we would feed her and psycho time would be over for the day.

The first evening after the first morning, Oolong demanded love from me as usual — but wouldn’t come near Meghan.  We quickly decided that only one of us would betray her tiny trust, so that she would always have someone to feel safe with.  Eventually she would trust Meghan as soon as the pill was swallowed.

When one knows that time is limited, you quickly learn to make the most of it.  We endeavoured to make her final months as pleasant and filled with love as possible.  Our cat’s new-found personality found this quite agreeable.

Our nightly ritual began shortly before I climbed into bed: Oolong followed me through my bedtime routine, chatting at me to get into bed so she could demand love.  No matter what else was in store for the night, life would stop so that she could be nuzzled, petted, scratched, and snuggled until she was done.  In winter she would play cave cat under the covers.

We would maintain this nightly ritual for nearly two years — a year and a half longer than predicted.

Her end took a surprising turn.  We expected a short period of listlessness, absent appetite, vomiting, and confusion from liver toxicity.  Instead, she died from something different: a blood clot.

We are no stranger to blood clots in cats.  Years ago we had Baker, so-named because he was a powerful kneader, and who’s heart mummer led to a blood clot that temporarily paralysed his hind quarters.  We gave him aspirin for six months, hoping to avoid recurrence and educating ourselves on what to do.  The best that medical science can offer is very little and the prognosis is universally poor.   When Baker suffered another, more severe blood clot, we had to make a hard decision.

We have been saying goodbye to Oolong for nearly two years now, knowing that any night could be her last, but we didn’t expect her end to come this way.  Oolong’s blood clot similarly affected her hind quarters, but with her weakened condition there was little the veterinarian could do to help except to make her more comfortable.

We sat in the exam room and said our final good-byes as she passed.  The kids were away on a trip and didn’t know until afterwards; there was no time to tell them, it all happened so fast.

She will be missed.

Mel and Oolong in 'The Kitty Copier is Broken'
The kitty-copier is broken. The second copy is fuzzy. (Mel and Oolong, 2013)
Trimming Oolong's claws
Meghan said “Trying to trim Oo-long’s claws. Did most of one side before she became an impenetrable fortress of fur.”
Mel and Oolong
Mel and Oolong visiting me while I worked at home (2014)
Oolong says 'blah'
Oolong was unimpressed with our new digs (2012)

Pics From The Car Show

We had a little sight-seeing tour of a car show happening a hop-skip-and-a-jump from our house.

volkswagen dune buggy
My one-time dream car: a late-’60s VW dune buggy
Model A
A Ford Model A with real leather trunk and a rumble seat
Bo's green machine
My regular mechanic has several show cars, including this one: a very rare ’93 Saab 900 configured for rally racing
yellow mustang convertible
An early-model Mustang convertible. My mother had a 1964-1/2 yellow Mustang convertible (the very first production year!) so I snapped a pic to show her. Alpha child, her veritable twin, is posing in front.

Not shown: about a hundred more cars, and a bunch of motorcycles.

Perseids

night time photo without a flash
Selfie of us stargazing on a blanket in the backyard. I didn’t use a flash and it was pretty dark.

We all (Mom, Alpha, Beta, and I) camped out in the back yard to look for shooting stars — tonight is the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower.  We saw a couple of bright streaks, a bunch of dim streaks, and a handful of satellites.

The grrlz got curious about the stars as we lay on the blanket, and we talked about the Big Bang, extra dimensions, time travel, landing on the sun, and extraterrestrials.

Town Lines

The girls passed a milestone of sorts: the rode their bikes past a town line today, en route to Livingston Park (aka Saunders Recreational Area) in Tewksbury.

Beta wanted to go for a bike ride, and Alpha didn’t want to do any chores, and they both knew that I’m a pushover for going on long bike rides.  Beta chose the destination, because Livingston Park is pretty cool and we never let her go there.

Alpha led the way, as the park is on the way to Strongwater Farm (where she takes riding lessons).  I think she wanted to prove she can ride her bike that far, as she wants to volunteer to work with the horses when she’s old enough.

While there, they climbed around a little:

climbing on the jungle gym
The girls doing things that mothers shouldn’t see

On the way home we shall euphemistically say that we “held a few lessons on keeping bikes away from the car lanes,” or maybe “keeping to our side of the white line (and why that’s a good idea),” and leave it at that.