Fred is old. Sixteen years old, the best I can guess. He’s cuddly and loving. He’s a great companion. He’s also a ruthless killer.

I worried about how he’d adjust to moving to the ridge. He’s been an inside cat all his life. The move meant he’d become primarily an outside cat. I took him to the vet for the first time in years to get his shots. I bought him an expensive seresto flea collar. After we moved, I gave him his favorite treats repeatedly to reinforce the idea of home. I did everything I could think to do to make the transition successful.

I shouldn’t have worried. Fred loves his new freedom.

One morning while I was away, my landmate sent me a picture of Fred under the house, standing over the fresh kill of a rat. I looked for the rat when I got home, but it wasn’t under the house. I knew before I found it that the rat would be somewhere in the house, and I was right. Fred left the headless rat on the floor beside my bed.

Yesterday, I walked into the bedroom to find a decapitated mole and two, kidney bean-sized aborted babies. One of the babies squeeked and squirmed as I grabbed it with a paper towel.

Fred is a murderer, and it seems he’s proud of it. Just look at him. His stare is paralyzing. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night, not because I’m think he’ll hurt me, but because I’m afraid of what new dead offering he might bring.

Good Dog, Joe

Joe, my husband, and I will go to the vet this morning to euthanize Joe. My prayer last night wasn’t answered the way I wanted. I wanted Joe to die at home in his sleep.

I can count on one hand the number of times Joe has been to the vet. I’ve taken him for drive-through rabies shots, and once a few years ago for a growth on his leg that wound up being nothing. I used a rubber band from Ruth’s braces to get that off (he kept licking at it and worry over it) rather than to have it surgically removed. Joe’s not going to like this trip.

Joe was always nervous, or really, more like antisocial. We adopted him forever (but of course not forever) ago at Pet Smart. His favorite place was either on his bed or under our bed. He’d really only come downstairs when he needed to go outside or when he’d smell good food. He’d take a piece of ham, a slice of turkey, or the crust from a pizza and go back upstairs under the bed to eat it.

Joe was a single-minded dog. Sometimes I’d throw old bread or cornbread out in the yard for the birds. My backyard birds are spoiled on black oil sunflower seeds so I’ve never actually seen a bird eat the bread I throw out there. But Joe would see it. It’s as if he counted the pieces. He’d bark to go out, grab a piece of bread, then come back in, climb the stairs, and eat it under the bed. He’d do it again, one piece at a time, until the bread was gone. He’d do the same for pizza crust scored in the living room.

We started thinking Joe had gone deaf. I’m not sure about that. I think he may have just stopped leaving his bed unless the need to go outside, ham, turkey, bread, or pizza was involved.

Honesty, I don’t know if Joe is going to be upset about this trip to the vet or not. I’ll hold him the whole time and tell him what a good dog he is. He’ll think that’s strange, but he’ll like that. I think it’s more that I’m upset. I’m projecting my death, the husband’s death, all my loved one’s deaths onto Joe. When I die, I want to die at home.

We don’t usually die at home, basically because it’s too expensive. That just seems like a stupid reason to me. Not that it’s too expensive, I can understand that it would be, but that we turn to doctors or nurses to help us die.

For a long time I haven’t been afraid of death. Of course it’s sad, truly mournful, but I do have a problem with the process of dieing and with funerals and burials. Nothing against the professionals, but it seems to me that we’ve added these unnecessary layers to it to remove ourselves from it, too make it easier on us, the living.

That’s not going to work for me. There’s nothing easy, and everything is easy, about it. One minute you’re alive, and the next minute your dead. What happens after that is a mystery. I believe it’s a wondrous mystery, but no one knows.

So I’ll do this weird thing and take Joe to vet to die. Then I’ll bring Joe’s body back to the house and bury it on the hill. I’ll cry some more, I’ll mourn. I’ll wonder at the mystery.

But first, I’m going to go get Joe a piece of bread.

Meet Percy

Percy is all cat. In this picture, he’s about to attempt to kill a bird or two. Percy chooses if he wants you to pet him or not. He will not understand that tables and counters are off limits. He’s a great combination of ornery, rambunctious, and loving. Percy is not my cat, but he’s my son’s, who has moved back home (at least some of the time). So guess who has to take care of Percy?

I wouldn’t mind so much, but Ming, my cat, hates Percy. I’ve worked with them for months, but Ming isn’t having it. I had to take Ming to the vet because Ming stopped using the litter box. He’s peed on floors, bedding, blankets, clothes, boxes, and people. $104 later, Ming comes home with a diagnosis of sever anxiety. The doctor recommends separating them permanently. So now Percy is an outside cat except at night when I close him off in a bedroom.

I don’t need this added work. Son’s mother (where Son stays most of the time) doesn’t do pets. Our homeowners association doesn’t allow outdoor cats, but I’m knowingly breaking that rule. My backyard sanctuary is disrupted as now I’ve introduced to it a murderous predator who kills for sport.

Taking an adult cat to the humane society means certain death for Percy. Even if I could find a new home, I hate to do that to Son, who will eventually (there’s no telling when) find a home and want his cat.

Ming is us ingredients the litter box again now that he has no interaction with Percy. Now I have a new morning buddy during my patio time.

All I can say about all of this is Son had better put me in a really nice nursing home when it’s my time.


Fred the Cat

Today I am grateful for my cat, Fred.

Fred came into our lives a couple of years after we moved into our home of fourteen years. In the move we brought with us a solid black cat named Ray, but about a month after settling in he got out of the house and was probably eaten by coyotes. After trying to adopt a cat from the local animal shelter that turned out to be in poor health, eventually Frank and I found ourselves at Petco looking for a replacement through their adoption service.

There were several cats at Petco from which to choose, but I immediately honed in on a black cat, similar to our lost Ray, and asked a sales associate if I could hold him. Oddly, she replied, “You don’t want that cat. You want this cat.” She opened the cage, picked up a grey tabby, and put him in my arms. He immediately stretched out the length of my arm and nuzzled my neck with his head. The cat soon-to-be-named Fred knew he was going home with us.

Given Ray’s suspected demise, I try to keep Fred and our other critters in the house unless I’m outside and able to watch them. Fred often has other goals. He enjoys waiting inside the house by the interior door of the garage until I drive up to the house and open the garage door. That’s when he makes a run for it via the kitty door. His escape usually amounts to his running across the front porch and along the side of the house to the patio around back where he waits for me to let him back in. It’s a game we play.

Last night after dinner with a friend, Fred and I played this game, only this time he wasn’t waiting on the patio when I opened the sliding glass door to let him in. I called, “Fa-re-ed!” in the familiar way I do with no results. I did this off and on for the next hour, calling his name and shaking the kitty-treat jar. Nearing panic, I expanded my search until I eventually found myself walking through the neighborhood calling, “Fa-re-ed, Fa-re-ed!” along the sidewalk, up to the traffic circle, and around the overgrown briars, milkweed, sumac, and goldenrod on the hill behind our house. Desperate, I looked through the brush toward the patio when I saw a shadow, but in the dark at that distance I couldn’t tell if it was the base of the patio chair or the hoped-for silhouette of a cat. I made my way down the hill and into the yard. The shadow moved. Fred had returned.

I am grateful for Fred the cat and for his return. But as I examine how I felt during the search, I wonder about the nature of gratitude. Does gratitude take us to a place where we try to hold on to something lost? Does being grateful mean we hope to keep situations, pets, relationships, people, the way they are? Did my search and subsequent panic nearing despair make any difference to Fred, or was he in complete control of the situation from the beginning, watching from under a bush, or obliviously enjoying jungle-kitty mode as he stalked a mouse or a mole in the dark? How much of feeling grateful is tied up in actually being selfish, or in trying to control, rather than letting things be as they are?

I held Fred as I sat in a chair outside in the dark, feeding him his favorite treats  and releasing my frustration over the whole ordeal, relieved, content, and grateful.