Archive for December 2018

A Tale of a Bastard   7 comments

I lost my little Foo last week. He was old and skinny and arthritic, one milky eye and one sunken hip. He hated the cold, and he was ready to go.

But I miss him. So I’m writing this, just for me really, so I can come back and read about him sometimes, when I feel his fierce, solitary little ghost slipping around the farm, wide-eyed and predatory.

He was not a nice cat. He went about with his claws perpetually unfurled, and he stuck them into anyone and anything he felt like. He bit everyone without discrimation. He didn’t mind his own dogs, but he hated any others, and all other cats. He liked humans okay but bit them anyway.

He was a Bastard.

Even before he was ours, when he was still tiny Tommy the Rescue (there he is in the first photo in a rare moment of stillness, sleeping peacefully with baby Anala), he was a hellion, a wild thing, a ferociously independent little force.

Gaby found him when he was only a few weeks old, too small to be weaned. She was pregnant fit to pop, and having work done on her house. She looked out the window one gray day and saw the workmen throwing rocks at something in a puddle. She went out and found a tiny tiny grey tabby kitten, half-drowned and barely alive. She took him inside, got him some catmilk, and saved his life.

Gaby always has a houseful of cats. I think she was at four or five then (it’s closer to ten now, I believe- I’m always a little behind on the count.) This little terror traumatized all of them. He was just too much of a handful, what with the construction and a new baby on the way, so when he was old enough to eat real food (and no one had responded to her pleas to adopt him) she set her jaw and took him to the Humane Society.

Then she came home and cried all day, went back and paid to adopt the kitten she had just dropped off.

When Brian and I went to meet newborn Nali we came home with him. We were in our brief and only catless phase then- the only time since David and I met that ever happened. Since poor David is allergic to cats we thought we might stay that way, but Foo changed all that. Brian and I weren’t sure how he’d react to this news, but Gaby had given us a full return policy so we figured it was worth a shot.

David was mowing the grass when we got home. I walked out to him, Foo on my shoulder. He said, “Oh. A cat.”

And that was that. Foo was family.

Brian wanted to name him Fu Manchu for his black moustachios, but for some odd reason (I was an odd Mom) I didn’t want his name to be spelled F.U. so it became Foo. A silly name that never suited him.

He rode around on my shoulder for the first couple of weeks, claws gripping my flesh, stormcloud gray eyes wide, purring savagely in my ear.

But as he got bigger he decided even that was too much dependence. He never curled up sweetly on a lap. He never begged for treats or a skritch (although he occasionally demanded them.) His eyes brightened to a hard gold, his tough little body grew sleek and taut with muscle, and those claws clicked and pierced and dug all over the house and the farm.

When we introduced him to the dogs, still a tiny fellow, he went very still. Tramp, bemused, looked to Max for instruction. Max grabbed him in his jaws. We made him drop him and told him that he had to protect the new baby kitty, and that was the last time Max ever menaced him. In no time Foo was terrorizing them both.

David was walking Tramp down the driveway one day when Foo dropped down on poor Tramp’s back from his ambush spot on a tree, all claws fully unfurled. As David tells the tale, Tramp screamed like a little girl while Foo bounded off in triumph.

One night I was on the patio and heard a scream. Foo came flying across the yard out of the darkness, something dark and silent and about the size of a lab right on his tail. He leapt up onto the gas tank, the dark thing streaked away into the night, and I picked up my little warrior, his heart beating through his ribs, and he let me carry him inside before shaking free of me. I still don’t know what it was that almost got him, but he came home many a night with battle scars.

He was a hunter par excellence right from the beginning. The moles who tunneled through our yard almost entirely moved out during his reign of terror. To my sorrow they have returned in recent years since he became less able to cover the entire farm. None of the girlcats, hunters though they are, are his match.

He was a bastard for climbing trees and raiding nests in the spring. One year he must have killed a mockingbird’s babies because she went on a relentless jihad against him. Every time he ventured out of the house she would scream piercingly and dive bomb him. She’s one of the few animals that ever rattled him. For months afterwards he would duck whenever a shadow fell on him from above.

I so hoped that he and Ivy would be friends. Maybe if it were up to him they would have been. He liked Gaby’s cats, even though they found him intolerable, and he clearly enjoyed his mastery over us and the dogs.

Ivy came from a big happy family of lots of siblings and a slew of humans. She was born on the mountain at the Bells’ log cabin and was handled from birth by an endless parade of homeschooled kids at the cabin for Science School. She should have been so ready for a friend. Foo was outside when I opened her carrier and let her out into the breezeway. He spied her from the patio and began pawing frantically at the glass door to get to her. She took one look at him and hissed like a steam kettle, and continued to do that every time she saw him for the rest of their lives together.

When my beloved Aunt Lindy came to visit he bit her immediately to establish dominance. Since she was sleeping in his bed, I had to go in every night and shoo him out so that she could sleep without his fangs looming next her. When I told her his time was coming she told me about the day we had both been in the orchard enjoying the sun, and he came walking across the grass to us. She says she’s never seen a more pure look of love than the one on my face as I watched him.

I was out in the orchard with him one summer night when the mist was thick on the ground, just up to about knee height. I knew he was out with me, but I couldn’t see where he was. Then I saw that question-mark tail come pacing jauntily toward me from the pasture, through the mists. I called to him and he sped up. Then, as he got closer, I could see that the tail was too thick to be his, and a had a white stripe. I levitated out of my seat and called for him. Then I saw him next to Tyr, the pear tree, staring at the skunk with intense interest. I scooped him up and we both made it safely to the house.

He never actually chased the deer, but he sure thought about it. He looked at them, and the horses, with a speculative gaze that was clearly calculating angle, velocity and force.

Foo was a fighter. On two separate occasions he came home with his head so battered that he had to take antibiotics to combat infection, and once had internal bruising after a scrap with the neigbbor’s pack of chihuahuas. The second time it happened Ivy was in a similar state. We don’t know if they fought each other or joined forces against a common enemy. If it was just the two of them it’s the only time they did more than hiss and spit and swat at each other.

He lost the sight in his left eye and it turned milky- as Brian termed it, ‘Foo’s Bond villain eye.’ Around the same time he developed an issue in his left hip. It atrophied and became arthritic, which really slowed him down.

We put him on Cosequin, which helped. His wonderful vet, Jenn, suggested trying him on injections of Adequan. That was a miracle drug. In a few weeks he went from limping to leaping with no loss of mobility from before the injury. We kept him on that for almost a year until he made it clear that he was done with injections. But it gave us about two more years with him. The effects lasted beyond stopping the medication. The winter of ’17-’18 was hard on him as he started to lose weight, and the cold got to him more. But Summer ’18 was his Summer of Love. He stayed outside the whole season, coming in only to eat. He lived on the hot concrete of the patio, or the steps to the deck which were his throne, or most often on the seat of the tractor in the barn. He slept more than anything else, but when he was awake his golden eye blazed as brightly as ever, dead mice still appeared regularly on the doorstep, and he would graciously accept head skritches (but not full body strokes, he was too thin.)

But as the weather grew chilly he began to have a hard time. Sleeping between David’s legs every night was fine until someone moved. The new tabby kitten’s antics were too much for him to cope with. The steps down to the only litter box he would use, and jumping up onto the dry sink to eat, became increasingly difficult. As his skinny little body became even bonier, and his back end began to wobble, it became clear that he wasn’t having fun any more.

When Jenn came he was on David’s pillow, staring fixedly ahead. I believe he was already beginning to travel. He yowled and growled with his old ferocity when I wrapped him a towel burrito for the sedative. Then he lay quietly in my arms while I kissed him over and over. Although he bit pretty much everyone who ever set foot in our house he made no attempt to discipline me now. All of his claws were, as always, sharp and fully unfurled, but not one was stuck in me as he fell into his final sleep.

My little stripey boy is free.





Posted December 14, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

LSQ blog post   2 comments

my poor  neglected blog. i really need to get back here more often.

but in the meantime, here’s my latest LSQ blog submission. my blog is centered around female archetypes in greek mythology, and LSQ asked for crone-focused posts around yule this year.

Posted December 2, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized