Mr. Porter and Mr. Dunkel. #FTW

It couldn’t have gone better without it being a Disney movie.

We picked up Dunkel about 6 PM last night. After talking to the amazing woman who, along with her whole family, provided Dunkel’s foster care (and still provide care for a number of homeless animals), we ditched the idea of isolating Dunkel for the night. He was used to having the run of their house and locking him in a bathroom would have been confusing and more like punishment than anything else. We decided to introduce Dunkel to Porter slowly and see what happened. We always had isolation as a backup in case Porter really freaked out.

We kept Dunkel in the carrier we brought him home in so Porter could see and smell him. There were a few hisses and low growls from Porter, but his body language was showing some curiosity, too.  Dunkel really wanted out, but when Porter got really close to the carrier he settled into his bed. We did this for about half an hour and then got a big bath towel that we could have used to throw over them if we needed to separate them. We let Dunkel out and took him to the laundry room where we put the carrier with his bed in it.  It’s also where the upstairs  litter pan, food and water are and we figured he could track his own scent to the bed and find it. We closed all the upstairs doors and the basement door at the bottom of the stairs so their range was somewhat limited. Then we watched.

The next hour or so was Dunkel ripping around the house and sniffing everything. He was born in the attic of a Doctor’s office that was being worked on and apparently the whole litter had some respiratory issues due to the insulation. That’s what we figure makes him snuffle so loud when he sniffs. And he was sniffing everything. He kind of did this constant circuit around all the areas we had left open. Porter would follow him. He’d hiss if Dunkel got too close, but no swiping or attempts to make physical contact. After an hour of this, Dunkel started jumping up on the back of the couch and snuggling with us. It was at this point Carla and I looked at each other and said out loud that we had a new cat. Before we went to bed we went ahead and opened up the basement door so either of them could get to the finished part. No cats are allowed in the unfinished part of the basement since there are cleaning chemicals and just things that we don’t want cats in.

Then we went to bed.

Dunkel came in to visit us, but then disappeared for the rest of the night.  Porter slept in his spot at Carla’s feet. About 4:30 this morning Dunkel meowed and Porter was off like a shot. Dunkel came in, then left, then Porter came back and left. This went on until 5 AM.

We decided to get up. It’s Saturday. Naps are not only allowed, they’re encouraged.

Since the night had passed without any major incidents, we decided that it was time for them to work things out for themselves. There’s been a little hissing on both sides. There’s been a little shadowboxing. There was one adorable moment when Dunkel and Porter pawed at each other through the bars of a dining room chair. There have been nose-to-nose sniffs with no drama. Things have sort of settled out where they’re keeping their distance and not getting in each other’s way. The upstairs litter pan has been used by Dunkel and Porter’s made no move to block him from using it or anything like that. For the most part we’ve settled into a détente where both sides are curious about the other.

Dunkel has handled himself well, but he came to us directly from a home where there were a lot of other animals. While being only six months old and a full year younger than Porter, he’s probably clocked more time with other animals than Porter has. I’m extremely proud of Porter. From his perspective, his lifelong companion and playmate just up and disappears. Then there were a couple of days of getting all the attention.  Porter liked the attention. Bock, rest his soul, was an attention hog. In that way Bock was really the alpha cat (though Porter could make Bock do anything through the strategic use of grooming). Porter and Bock wrestled all the time and Bock was so much bigger than Porter. Porter could take Bock down, though, so I have no question in my mind that Porter knows good and well that he can take Dunkel down anytime he wants. He doesn’t want, of course, because he’s a sweet cat at heart. But Carla and I are making sure we give him a lot of attention. Porter’s a talker and I make sure I answer him. His favorite thing in all the world is getting rubbed on the belly with a foot (preferably bare) and I’ve made sure he’s getting one every time he asks.

We’ve already declared the experiment a success. This is technically a trial adoption with a 7-day length, but we’ll likely make it final on Monday when we take the carrier back over for the foster family.

I’ve thought a lot about Bock today. There’s no question I wish he were still alive. He’s not, though, and given that’s the reality of things, I think where we are right now is pretty awesome. We’re a two cat family again.

With no further ado, here’s your multimedia extravaganza!

Here are some stills:

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And here is some video of what happened when Dunkel found the catnip pouches last night. Sorry for the dark video.

Well, here we go …

I have two reasons for writing today. The one that I’m probably the only one to care about is that I’m trying to establish writing at least a little bit every day. Over there on the right I say that this is the place where I write whatever the hell I feel like. I fully understand that just because I write it doesn’t mean you want to read it. I’m grateful to those who do and hope you get something out of the experience. If you don’t, you aren’t going to insult me by not reading. You should only do things when you get something out of it. Even if it’s just a sense of smug superiority. I decided a long time ago that the purpose of my life was to serve as a cautionary tale to others. I’m OK with that.

The main reason I’m writing, though,  is because I completely understand if your reaction to yesterday’s post was “Yes, yes, yes, journey of self-discovery and heartfelt self-disclosure, blah, blah, blah.  But what’s happening with the cats, man! That’s what I want to know about!” You have a point.  There are priorities, after all.

So here’s the deal. Porter’s essentially OK, but he’s not quite getting the level of overstimulation he’s used to. Like the rest of us, you can tell that there are times he starts looking for Bock and then realizes he’s not here. He’s clearly enjoying getting our undivided attention and he does seem to amuse himself just fine.

A first photo of DunkelThe big news is the little guy over to the right. He doesn’t know it yet, but his name is Dunkel. He’s going to find out sometime this afternoon. We went over to the mind-blowingly amazing Boone County Animal Shelter last night and were introduced to him. He’s six-months old and is in a wonderful foster home with other cats and dogs.  He’s great with them. You see the white fur behind him? That’s a cat who’s lost the use of her back legs. Dunkel has become attached to her and routinely grooms her. Since coming into the shelter can be a bit stressful, the foster caregivers thought he might do better with a buddy around. I could see Porter doing that.

So many of the descriptions of his personality sound like Porter. I’m going into this optimistically, but I’d be lying if I said Carla and I aren’t a little nervous. It’s unrealistic to expect love at first site — we’re talking about cats here — but am I going to see a side of my sweet little boy I’ve never seen? We do know that Porter’s littermate and sister Chunk (who owns the woman who introduced Bock and Porter into our lives) is pretty accepting of other cats and dogs, so I’m not worried about genetic predisposition. This is probably just pre-first-date jitters. I remember those. All my old dates probably do too. Their worst fears were realized, after all.

So the plan is that later on this afternoon we’ll meet the foster caregivers over at the shelter and do the paperwork for a trial adoption. We have this elaborate plan involving keeping Dunkel in Carla’s bathroom (well appointed with all the comforts a cat could need) and rigging things so that Porter will be eating and using a litter pan right outside the door. The idea is to get them used to the idea there’s another cat and get them accustomed to the smells. Then, starting tomorrow, we’re going to wing it.

I’ll let you know. I’m excited.  I’m scared.  And I’m still a little sad. But I’m mostly excited.

 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross can bïte me

I don’t meant that of course. I don’t claim anything of a deep understanding of her work. It’s a link-bait headline and the closest thing to a fair interpretation is that I mean is that she’s the poster child for thinking about grief and I’m tired about thinking about grief. I’m tired of bursting into tears. I’m tired of reliving Tuesday morning. Tired.

A more accurate title would be The Uninformed and Unfair Caricature of Things Other People Have Said About What Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Wrote Can Bite Me, but that doesn’t really sing. And it’s missing the extra umlaut. Did you know an umlaut is also called a diaeresis? Neither did I.  You’re welcome. Anyway, Carla actually invited Dr. Kübler-Ross to take a big bite out of the big old existential whatever sometime Tuesday afternoon, and I guess I internalized what she said.  It popped into my head this morning after reading through some comments from yesterday’s post.

I’m not tired of missing Bock. From what I’ve read in so much of what you kind people have written to Carla and me, I’m always going to miss Bock.  We’re always going to miss Bock. And I’m completely OK with that. What I’m not OK with is Carla having to mourn and miss Bock and worry about my sorry ass at the same time. So I’m going to stop that now. The part about having to worry about my sorry ass, I mean.

My father died when I was 16 and dealing with his death kept me pretty much screwed up into my 30s.  Note what that sentence says: it wasn’t his death that screwed me up, it was how I dealt with it. I’ve been to too damned many funerals since then. I’ve learned a few things that work for me. I’m not going to talk about those, not right now anyway because it’s just self-indulgent and boring. Sufficed to say that in my head a death or something equally bad is just an excuse for my psyche to throw a party and invite every terrible thing I’ve ever thought whether it has anything to do with anything or not.

The problem with that is that is … well .. pretty much everything. But what I’ve been fortunate enough to see this time around is that one of the bad things it does is take up a lot of mental processing time that’s much better spent being amazed at how wonderful people are. And holy crap, you people are fantastic. Carla and I have said over and over to each other how amazing everyone has been about supporting us through this awful time. Some of you have written about the pets you lost. Some have simply said ‘sorry’ in just a few words. Some, on Facebook, just hit the ‘like’ button trusting that we’d understand that what they were liking was us and not what happened.  Stupid Facebook.  But don’t worry, we got it the way you meant it. And each and every one of those things wove a tapestry that is more than the sum of its parts. I’ve not been out of the house since this happened — not unusual given how I work — but Carla was surrounded by folks at Cincinnati State yesterday who came over to lend their support to her in person. She is grateful, and so am I. The folks I work with have been great. We mostly talk on the phone and via IM and e-mail, but it’s helped so much. I’m grateful. I’m humbled. You have made me want to be a better person. Anyone out there who says social media doesn’t lend itself to real interpersonal relationships are hereby cordially invited to kiss my ass. Clearly I have work to do on that whole ‘better person’ thing.

I said up above that for me, at least, experiencing the death of a loved one seems to be a black hole that attracts every crappy thing I think about (and there are a lot of those). Relevance or accuracy aren’t prerequisites for showing up, and are actually discouraged it seems. This loss of a cat who means so much to me (for his meaning doesn’t end with his life) has forced me to look at who I am and what I believe about how I relate to the world around me. Or, more precisely, how the world inside my head looks at the world outside my head. More than the death of a person, the death of a pet makes you look at how you relate to things because there aren’t all those messy words and opposable thumbs to make things complicated. Unless your pet is a monkey.  But then you have other issues.  Anyway, there is something streamlined about this, for lack of a better phrase. And it’s made me realize something that needs to be said. To come out, if you will.

So, thus it is spoken here in this place on this day in my 50th year:

I, Tom Streeter, declare myself to be … an introvert.

Crickets?

Really?

OK, so I’m sure this is as big a shock as Brian Boitano coming out as gay. I will be happy provide feathers upon request so you can knock yourself over. (But only for knocking yourself over, you sickos.)(Be a better person, be a better person, be a better better person.  Dammit. This is going to be hard.)

introvertCarla found this graphic on Facebook and shared it with me. The funny thing is, I really thought I was anti-social. Sort of the opposite of this from the movie Clerks:

Dante: You hate people!
Randal: But I love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?

And it turns out that I am exactly the opposite of that. People are OK in small doses, but — no offense intended, really — being around a lot you people collectively really kind of sucks for me. But I like what you think. I like that you think. I even like meeting new people. Slowly. Over a period of time. And please don’t take it personally if I don’t jump at the chance to be in the same room with you at the same time.  really, it’s me, not you.  You’re great. But can you just talk to me on Twitter? Cool.

So 140 characters may not be your thing (ohhh, look at Mr. and/or Ms Fancypants with the complex ideas that can’t be boiled down to the length of a one-liner). That’s OK. I think I’m going to keep writing about whatever the hell I think about here and there’s Facebook or Twitter or comments that we can have a conversation.

I don’t want all the joking around to overwhelm the only real point I have in writing all of this.  Thank you.  Thank you each and every one. You have kept me going, and I am grateful in ways I can never say.

How it’s going

I woke up this morning with a Bock-sized hole in my heart.

It’s finally been more than 24 hours since things started going to hell and that’s a good milestone to be past. I very badly need to forget what happened between 8 and 9 yesterday. The sooner the better. It was such a small part of Bock’s life. There was so much more. Bock never had to anyone in his life who didn’t love him. That’s a pretty good life. We could have kept that going for quite a while, but it’s not to be. I want to focus on the good stuff, because there was so much of it.

Carla had to go into work today, so it’s just Porter and me.  We’re The Odd Couple.  In that we’re both odd (“One’s cranky, neurotic and needy. The other’s a cat.”).  Porter has never been alone in his entire life. For much of his life his companion was Bock. It’s not that they were inseparable, they didn’t spend every minute together, but they were both always in the house. To my knowledge, Porter is unaware of the fact that the world doesn’t come with at least one other cat to play with. I don’t intend for him to learn. As it stands at this moment — and everything is subject to change — this Friday afternoon Carla and I will go down to the Boone County Animal Shelter and find Porter a new buddy.  We want someone of similar size and age to Porter, easy-going and not all-black. We’re not replacing Bock: we’re finding Porter a new buddy and us a new cat to love. The Bock-sized hole in our lives is very precisely sized — custom-made, even — and will never be filled.  To try is pointless. But, as I said, Porter has never been alone and I’m afraid he’d get bored and, as I also said yesterday, that’s a terrifying proposition. I’ve always called him my little empiricist. He has to try everything. We need to have another cat to distract him. So we’re going to get one.

It is, of course, impossible to know what goes on in a cat’s mind. While Porter loves attention when he wants attention, he’s always been a little more solitary than the “Hey what’s going on OK fine why don’t you go ahead and pet me now then?” guy Bock was. There were certain things he’d do that would attract Bock’s attention and be a prelude to play. I’ve seen (and heard) many of these since yesterday evening. The first time just made me melt.

It’s hard not to see Porter this way. Click image to see a larger version from ComicsKingdom.com

An important ritual around here has always been The Giving of the Treat when we’re getting ready to leave the house. To keep them from bolting out into the garage when we headed out, we learned to give them a Pounce treat in the food tray of their carrier. That would distract them long enough for us to get out the door. After a while it became clear they didn’t give a crap whether we were leaving or not, but they sure liked the treat. We always — always — waited for them both to be there before we gave it to them. Yesterday evening and this morning Porter got his treat solo. Add to that the fact that no smells have been added to the litter pans or food feeders overnight and I’m pretty sure Porter knows Bock isn’t here now. He’s not moping around or being more (or less) vocal than usual. We leave sometimes and come back, after all. Maybe he think Bock will too. Or maybe cats don’t work that way. It’s just been a day, but right now he doesn’t mind being the only cat. Carla is right that nighttime will be the real test. That was their playtime.

Porter abides. I’m working on that with him.

Goodbye, Mr. Bock

The last photo taken of Bock

This is the last picture Carla took of our cat Bock. She took it yesterday as the temperature plummeted and hunkering down seemed to be the best way to go. He slept with us last night, sometimes up against me, sometimes down at Carla’s feet. He’s spent most nights with us since we got back from our cruise over Christmas. Our bedtime ritual was for him to come in to be petted, and then he’d settle down.

He seemed perfectly normal this morning when he walked in on me as I was in the bathroom, as he always did.  He stretched out on the door frame and sharpened his claws . He walked in and gave me a look that said he wanted to check out the shower, so I slid open the door to let him in. He walked to the other end of the shower, nearest me. I heard a little thump and asked him if he found something to pounce on.  Through the  frosted plastic door I could see him moving, but not too much.  I opened my end of door after a moment and he tried to come out.  But his back legs weren’t moving.

I called for Carla and the nightmare began. It’s only been a couple of hours since all this happened, and this is the point I already want to forget. He was in some distress, but he only yowled some. There was undoubtedly pain, but there was also the confusion that comes from something being wrong and just not understanding. We got him to the vet as fast as we could. The drive was awful. We had no idea what had happened, but Carla knew when she saw him it was over. I did too, especially by the time we reached the vet. It was clear he was dying. They saw him immediately and had the answer within minutes.  A congenital heart condition, a clot that paralyzed his hind quarters, little hope that the clot could be treated or that it wouldn’t happen again even if they could treat it. The vet had tears in his eyes when he told us the most humane thing was to put him down. Since we already knew, in our hearts, that this was coming Carla told him to go ahead. They’d taken him to the back and we could still hear him yowling on occasion, but part of that was putting in the IV and sedating him so he’d be more comfortable.  After a few minutes they brought him in to us so we could spend some time with him. His eyes were open and he was looking straight ahead. Who the hell knows what’s going on in a cat’s head on the best of days? Could he hear us tell him we loved him and thanking him for making us so very, very happy? I don’t know, but when the vet came in for the final injections, we were petting him and he knew he was loved. Because he was.

We got Bock as part of a pair.  Porter is a week younger than Bock and they never knew life without each other even though they were from different litters in the same household. Bock was the gregarious one. He was outgoing. In an act of desperation the day we got him, I gave them these silicone beer bottle caps to play with because we had everything for them but cat toys. Bock became obsessed with his bottle caps. He carried them around in his mouth.  He chased them if you threw them.  He’d bring them back to you.  Or partly back to you.  He never did figure out that whole “you have to bring it all the way back before we can throw it to you” thing. We called it the “mic drop.’  He’d chase after the cap, pick it up and bring it back about half way and drop it.  Then he’d come and sit at Carla’s feet and expect her to go get it.  It didn’t happen.  Sometimes he’d wander off and do something else, but other times he’d finally go get it — you could feel the eye roll as he tolerated the simpletons he was saddled with — and bring it over so Carla would throw it.

This is an important point.  Bock was our cat and we loved him very, very much, but Carla was Bock’s human. He liked me.  He knew how to get me to give him a belly rub or to brush him. But Carla belonged to him. She knew how to throw the bottle caps right. Because of the way we work, I’m home most of the time and we spent hours and hours together, but when Carla came home she was the center of his attention. He’d follow me to the bathroom like he did this morning so he could stare at me, but if Carla made a noise somewhere else in the house he was gone.

It’s not a big secret that I don’t care much for people, on the whole. Bock had a different personality from Porter and between the two I could anthropomorphize the hell out of them. I’ve spent many an hour talking to one of them or the other, and I have to say that Bock was the guy most likely to come over when I’d been staring at this laptop for hours on end and and paw at my elbow and say “Hey. You. Primate.  You need to pay attention to me now. Let’s keep our priorities straight.”

As I write this with tears in my eyes I can’t believe I’m never going to feel him doing that again.

I’m worried about me. I’m worried about Carla. I’m worried about Porter. My sweet little boy (for I am his human) has never been without the companionship of Bock. My favorite thing was when Porter would go and start grooming Bock. Bock would enjoy it for a while, then it inevitably set off either a wrestling match or an epic chase around the condo. Just yesterday — yesterday! — I laughed as I watched it play out as it has so often.

Because I’m 50 years old and have buried more people that I’ve cared about than I can count, it’s not surprising how fast I’ve become accustomed to putting Bock in the past tense. But goddammit, he’s supposed to be in the bed on my desk right now. I’m supposed to see him curled up in front of the speaker by the TV. He’s supposed to be asleep on top the tower or the Kitty City. We only had him for a little over a year. It’s not fucking fair.

I don’t let much in anymore. The Buddha was onto something with that whole “all existence is suffering” thing. But Mr Bock?  He got in. Deep.  And it’s going to take awhile. As awful as this is, it could have been worse.  I was right there.  Carla was off school today. We have the most wonderful vet practice (Hebron Animal Clinic) nearby. It could have been worse. We’ve already made the decision that there will be a new cat joining our family someday. Not too soon, not too long. The idea of a bored Porter is, frankly, terrifying. Bock was always there to help him burn off his considerable energy. He hasn’t started to do a search for Bock, but I expect it soon. Like everything else this awful, awful day, it will be hard.

Early on when Bock and Porter were just little fuzzballs, I made up this little ditty that I’d say to them when I was getting dressed in the morning and they were playing in our bedroom window. I don’t know if I ever said it when Carla was around.  It was our thing:

Mr. Porter and Mr. Bock,
Coolest kitties on the block.

Mr. Bock and Mr. Porter,
Best darn kitties from border to border.

I got to say it to him one last time this morning, just about three hours ago.

Goodbye, Mr. Bock. I miss you more than words can say.