Blogs from 2015
(By the way, I have a new review of Monstrous Regiment, by my favorite author, Sir Terry Pratchett up on Goodreads. It’s the first in a series of Snarky Reviews of Good, Bad, and Great Books.)
I want to introduce my readers to the sweetest, most mischievous, and most beautiful cats in the entire multiverse. There are three of them, although one is a Labrador who simply thinks he is a cat and comes running when you call, “Here, kitty, kitty,” or even address the actual felines by name. Those names, by the way, are Frankie and Jez. Frankie is named after my first Frankie, who disappeared almost twenty years ago, presumably eaten by a coyote. Jez, of course, is named after my character in Huntress, and a terrible misnomer it is. First, although she has the instinct to pounce and even to be fascinated by a cursor’s movement on a computer screen, she never gets to go outside to hunt (because of all the coyotes in the area, not to mention the bobcats and hyenas), and second because she is terrified of her own shadow. The only way she is like Jez in the book is that she is orange—and of course even that isn’t quite right because Jez had fiery red hair. Maybe she will grow into the name, or at least waver in her deep conviction that humans and dust motes are out to kill her.
One of the few things she’s not afraid of is her brother. Here is a picture of Frankie as an eleven-week-old kitten, with his catnip-filled sock toy.
And here’s Jez at the same age (you can see she’s darker orange):
Here’s one of how they like to sleep now.
Here is a picture of all three kitties (Victor thinks he’s one, so he’s a puppycat). The photo is called “Pat pat” because if you look carefully you can see that Jez is patting Frankie, who is patting Victor. Victor has learned to pat pat with his paw, too, when he wants pets.
It’s amazing how patient Victor is with the kitties. Both of them, and especially Frankie, love to rub up against him and even sleep pressed to his side. He will tolerate this for a while, then eventually heave a huge sigh and get up and find somewhere else to nap. I don’t know if the cats are too warm for him or whether he just can’t see the point in cuddling with them, but he does tolerate it with as good grace as possible. Here’s a picture of Victor sharing his dog bed with an almost-grown Frankie. As you can see, our pets match our carpet. That was an accident, honestly!
It's funny the way the animals cruise around the house. Victor will follow anyone who is moving around, Frankie will follow Victor, and Jez will follow Frankie. So wherever you go there is an animal train trailing after you, all looking expectant (especially if it’s anywhere near mealtime).
Another pic of Victor and Frankie sleeping together, along with what Victor is thinking.
We got the kitties at ARF (the Animal Rescue Foundation). We got them because Julie decided in the middle of summer that I needed something to cheer me up. I was having a bad week—I believe I’d been back in the hospital for an infection (since having Wegener’s means my immune system is attacking my own body and since therefore the chemo drug to treat Wegener’s knocks my immune system out entirely, even what ought to be a minor flu can turn into something life-threatening) and Julie wanted to cheer me up. She said, “How about we adopt a kitten?” And something went ping in my brain and I said, “Oh, yes!” not really thinking that we could because I knew most of the work caring for a cat would devolve on Julie, and she was already doing superhuman caregiver stuff.
(Photo: kitties in a basket—so curious!)
But she really meant it (as I’ve said, she’s an angel) and we drove straight to ARF. We were only in the market for one kitten, and I wanted an orange one, because Frankie the first was the sweetest, mellowest cat I had ever had. What did we find, then? Of all the dozens of adorable felines that were available, there were two who looked like orange Creamsicle Bars. They were . . . well, just about Victor’s color and all sorts of shades lighter and darker. Tiger-striped. Beautiful. And they were having the time of their lives playing with each other in their spacious, well-appointed, plastic-walled living quarters.
(Photo: Frankie and Jez as kittens wrestling with each other. They still do this all day!)
I fell madly in love on the instant, and was also plunged into terror. There were other people in the line in front of us to be served. What if they wanted my kittens? (The moment we saw them playing we realized that we would have to take both of them. They were just too happy together.) I went through maybe forty-five minutes of agony before a volunteer could allow Julie and me to visit the little darlings, at which time Frankie cuddled up to me and purred, which was exactly what his namesake had done to win my heart so long ago. Jez went bananas for a feather on a string on a stick and did somersaults trying to catch her own tail. Then Julie rushed out to get an application for adoption while I sat in my wheelchair and petted my new babies.
(Photo: When they’re not playing, they’re sleeping—like this, for example:)
I don’t think either of us has regretted the decision for a moment since. The kittens, who were eleven weeks old when we got them and so tiny and fragile that they felt like dandelion fuzz sitting on your palm, are no particular breed. They had worms and fleas and mange when ARF took them in, but they were cured of all that before we saw them and have been healthy ever since. (And they were already fixed. Please, please spay or neuter your pets! The world have enough surplus kittens and puppies already!) They’re basic rescue cats, nothing fancy. But they’ve brought so much fun and warmth with them: to watch them is to laugh out loud or else to go awwwww.
(Photo: Awwww in the kitty castle.)
Frankie is still lighter orange than Jez and has a cream-colored face. Jez is deep orange, with lighter tiger-stripes. They both have green-gold eyes and big ears, which is supposed to mean they’re good mousers, but fortunately neither have ever caught a “present” for us. This means either there are no mice in the house or that the folklore about ears isn’t true. (Does anybody besides me hate the term “old wives’ tale?”) They both have long, stripy tails and soft, thrumming purrs and sharp, piercing little claws.
Here is a picture of Frankie alone, sleeping up against Julie’s laptop:
Here’s Victor in his Halloween costume this year: he was a British copper (well, that’s what it looks like to me). I think of him as Sam Vimes’s K9. He’s sitting, which is why his legs look so short.
And his other Halloween costume, that makes him look like a kitty, even though it’s supposedly a leopard.
And here’s a picture of Victor looking very handsome in his red bandana.
The kitties love to get into mischief. Playing with electrical wires is great fun. In fact, the two of them just now got together and turned off my computer. Fortunately, I had just saved this document, but I was terrified that one or the other would get electrocuted.
They also love the game “let’s throw all the moss out of the artificial plant’s pot and scatter it in a circle ten feet in diameter on the carpet.” I’m sure they think that the ensuing clean-up is tremendously rewarding for humans. Jez also loves to climb one of the six-foot potted palms and sway back and forth while balanced on a branch. Now that she’s no longer a kitten kitten she’s getting a bit big for the game, but she still thinks it’s worth trying.
They have lots of cat toys, too, but they also enjoy playing with Victor’s hedgies (big hedgehogs that grunt) even though they are about the same size as the hedgies.
(Photo: Asleep in the midst of toys . . .)
Cats are supposed to be carnivores; I read an article in Popular Science saying that felines can’t survive on a veggie diet. But Frankie is an omnivore. He likes cereal (his favorite is Rice Chex), nuts, cheese, fruit, chocolate (which he sneaked, just as he sneaks most of the human food he eats), and whatever you are eating right now. He zooms in on a plate of people-food like a fighter plane landing on an aircraft carrier. Both cats are fascinated when the dog gets a treat, although one thing they hate is cat treats. The sight of Victor chewing holds them mesmerized.
(Photo: Victor and Frankie in Victor’s dog bed . . . what a patient boy Victor is.)
Frankie is going to be a big cat. He not only likes human food; he loves his cat food and the chicken he gets with every meal (vet approved). Jez only plays with her chicken: while she’s toying thoughtfully with one shred Frankie is inhaling piece after piece. We have to defend Jez’s share for her, but she usually walks away after only eating a few bites of the chicken no matter what we do. Fortunately, she does eat her daily requirement of cat food.
(Photo: Frankie pops out of the basket. A little fuzzy, but then he was on the move. Jez is safely stowed at the bottom of the basket where nothing can get her.)
The kitties are like night and day in their personalities. Frankie is gregarious and fearless; he loves everyone and is always in the mood for pets. He loves Victor, although Victor only patiently and sweetly tolerates him back (he honestly was trying to nurse on Victor the other day, so you can see why the dog doesn’t adore him). Jez, on the other hand, is convinced that the world is Out to Get Her. She is as skittish as a witch on a broomstick in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane. She actually loves being petted, especially around the ears, but it has to be on her terms, and her terms are similar to an agreement with Microsoft (as in 35 pages of unreadably small print in which you agree that you are an indentured servant to Microsoft if you have ever glanced at their software).
(Photo: You make a good pillow! Frankie and Jez curled up together.)
What the cats would do without each other, I don’t know. They play together all day. They shape each other’s world. They don’t always sleep cuddled together, but they’re always in the same room. Frankie the first and Suzie were also brother and sister, but Suzie was an odd duck of a cat and really only liked humans. She put up with her brother because Frankie the first got along with everybody, but she didn’t love him. Jez and Frankie are loving siblings. I’m so glad they’re here.
(Photo: Frankie gives Jez a bath. She’s enjoying it, too.)
By the way, did you know that Victor is now qualified as an official therapy dog? He passed his Canine Good Citizen test, and now he can visit me in any hospital, not just UCSF, which allows any dogs as long as they are reasonably mellow. He can also go visit other patients just as wonderful therapy dogs visited me and cheered my hospital stay. I am eager to give back some of the puppy love I got while I was sick, and pay forward some of the marvelous volunteers who gave of their time in bringing cats and dogs to my bedside.
Also by the way, ARF does a splendid job of saving the lives of animals who would otherwise be euthanized. They house the rescued dogs and cats in wonderful conditions, not cramped wire cages. When we adopted Frankie and Jez, Julie and I made a big donation to ARF, and I wish that they were close enough to allow us to volunteer (or that there were 48 hours in a day). But I know some of my readers may be looking for a place to volunteer, and you might consider your local animal rescue organization. There is nothing like the look in a dog or cat’s eyes when they are content to make you feel all warm and glow-y. If you are moved to help in any way, then bless you.
(Photo: Ooooh, those eyes!)
There’s one other site you might want to check out. It’s devoted to rescue dogs who would probably been euthanized because they were born with birth defects. But they are happy and energetic, and the Mia Foundation exists to give them a fighting chance. I think it must be run by human angels.
Thank you so much for reading about my kitties! I love you, each and every one. Please send me pictures of your pets—I’d love to see them!