Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some mysteries will never be solved

Life in the microsanctuary means that every day is an adventure and sometimes an utter disaster. It's never boring and rarely predictable.  The animals have dictated that upon waking (and they usually help me with that, too), I can run to the bathroom and brush my teeth, but after that must get right to the important business of feeding, medicating, and cleaning. Waking up and returning home both require a check-in with each animal. In the hours that I was asleep (or gone), someone could have gotten into something and created a mess or damage, someone could have gotten hurt, become sick--I just never know what I'll find, and that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

A week ago Sunday morning, I woke up (I had only slept for < 4 hours) to find Snowden had a bloody nose. I cleaned it up and examined it but was unable to tell where the blood came from. It seemed like a scrape, but I wasn't sure.  In another cat, this would have put me on alert mode, and I would have watched carefully to try to determine what happened, but Snowden has a history that made me extra concerned. In November I came home from teaching class to find Snowden a mess! His nose and mouth were bloody, he was covered in urine, and he was definitely not well.  He had been fine when I left. He's a very needy cat who spends a lot of time with me, and he had not acted different or indicated any discomfort, and he seemed quite normal when I left for class a few short hours before. I rushed him to the vet, where we determined after many tests, that he had most likely gotten a urinary blockage, which allowed toxic levels to accumulate in his kidneys, causing mouth sores. The blockage cleared itself (thus him being covered in urine), and after flushing his kidneys with IVs, everything returned to normal.  This was disconcerting mostly, because I've often had male cats with blockages, but it's always very obvious, because they cry. He gave no indication that there was a problem. He's a very sweet, mellow, laid-back guy, so it's not terribly surprising. Since then he's been in great health, but seeing the blood around his nose made me more fearful than I would normally be.  I spent the entire day watching him, following him around, trying to make sure he was totally normal and urinating okay.  Fortunately, I didn't have plans outside the house that day, or I would have had to cancel. This is part of the reason I don't make many plans ahead of time, there's always a fairly high probability that I will have to cancel for animal health reasons, and people don't always understand or accept that.

I noticed shortly after I freaked out about Snowy, that Charlie's nose looked really similar.  Under the circumstances, it didn't bring the relief that it might have. These cats are friends, and they don't fight.  Poor Charley was violated by his previous family and declawed, so he isn't even able to scratch. Snowden never fights with anyone--ever.  I am 100% certain their bloody noses were not caused by a fight. Maybe they got into something that scraped their noses; Maybe while outside in their cat enclosure a small animal swiped at their noses; I truly have no idea. I've spent the last week watching them and examining everything in our environment, and I still have no winning theories on the bloody noses. They're almost healed up now, and both cats are perfectly fine otherwise.  It's always very disconcerting to me when something like this happens, and I'm unable to figure it out.


She only has two teeth, so
 her cute little tongue flops out a lot.
On the cat front, Dej's four cats moved back in with her after living with us for a year. She was finally able to get a job in her field and settle into one place, so it was time for them to go home. We miss them, but I think all of the cats are happier back in their own worlds.  Shortly after they left, we took in two special needs cats with some very serious medical issues.  We have made great progress with their health in the last six weeks.
 Daffy and Tulip (mother and daughter) are tiny cats with giant personalities, and they've settled in without any fights or issues with the other cats.  More on Daffy and Tulip later...  I've never had such a hard time getting a decent picture as I have with these two.  I have taken hundreds of pictures, and this is the best I've managed to get so far.

Daffy & Tulip
Daffy napping
Daffy (eating) lives for food
Tulip loves her post

As of today, I have a young, sweet feral cat living in a large dog cage in my house until her spay appointment Thursday morning.  She showed up about a month ago, looking tiny, scrawny, and scared to death, and has been eating here and living in our (heated) garage. She made friends with my "pet" feral cat of almost three years, Sashi, which I was pretty happy about until I saw them engaged in coitus in my driveway.  I have been unable to get near Sashi (or trap him), but he lives on our property and comes to the door every day for food.  I'm STILL trying to trap him for a neuter, but he's a clever cat.  I'm thrilled that I have her safely in the house and will not have to deal with 6-7 kittens in a few weeks!  I'd love to keep her, of course, but unless I'm able to find a home, she will be released back outside after her spay, where I will continue to care for as well as one can care for an outside cat who's under constant threat and risk. :(

Special fridge poetry

da fuq?!
You know how it is, you're brushing
your teeth at 5:30 a.m. and realize
that you need to go hunt down a black
sharpie and decorate the toothpaste.
Onto a completely different topic. My husband has been decorating the house again. I do not understand the strange things he does, especially since they happen before 6:00 in the morning.  I was sitting in my living room and happened to notice something very strange on the small shelf with my Fenton glass birds--this very troubling rabbit with human legs and a saggy crotch. I don't quite understand it at all. He put it in the center of the birds, as if the birds were all worshiping the rabbit.  Naturally, I gave the only response possible--"What the fuck is that?". He tried to feign innocence, as he always does, but couldn't keep a straight face for very long.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Getting closer

When I entered the herbivore room Monday morning to start the morning cleaning chores, I was quite surprised to find all three cockatiels sharing one cage.  As soon as they woke up and started moving around, Elvis chased Poppy away.  Poppy is definitely winning. Max is happy to sing and interact with Poppy and has no problem including him.  Elvis is still holding out but is definitely warming up. Poppy's persistence will be rewarded eventually, I'm sure.

In the past, Poppy has been somewhat unkind to others. He would literally walk on top of his parents and Franklin to get to something. He shoved them out of the way routinely, so he could eat or have access to a toy.  They allowed it, because he was everyone's spoiled baby.  He was not very nice to Max and Elvis--chasing them away whenever they approached him or Franklin.  I hope Poppy learns a little bit from his experience and becomes a kinder, nicer bird. We will be getting more cockatiels, and I'm hoping if he's able to integrate with Max and Elvis by then, that he's nicer and friendlier than he has been in the past.

Raising so many beings of so many species has made one thing abundantly clear. When we love, treasure, and protect our babies from all unpleasantness, they don't tend to end up with empathy and good character.  It is the suffering in our lives that molds us into kind, compassionate, selfless beings. It takes a ton of work to turn human children into decent people, when they've had relatively easy, problem-free lives.  Making sure those kids understand that they are lucky beyond belief--luckier than 95% of the world, and through no effort of their own is a constant but necessary part of parenting.  I've historically done better with this with my human children than the animals. While I think most of us would love to remove every obstacle and difficulty from our child's life, doing so deprives them of the necessary process of character building. It's easier to be diligent about this with my kids, because I know they will be going out into the world at large, and I want them to be good people--kind, honest people who are respected and trusted by others.  It's a little harder to not spoil the animals--they don't need to go out and get jobs and survive in the world at large.  I also haven't figured how to convince an animal that they are acting like an entitled brat, and exactly why that's not okay to do.  So...I love all of my animals very much, but I have to admit that the ones that I adopted/rescued are generally nicer to others than the animals who have lived here since birth or shortly after.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Living Vegan: shower and skin care

I've been a vegan for over 20 years. All of my close friends are vegan (with a handful of vegetarians in the group), and I don't remember what it's not to NOT be vegan. It's the only normal I know.  I routinely get asked the same series of questions by those starting out on their vegan path, and each time I type up long, detailed diatribes in response to the email or IM, I tell myself that I should get organized and save my responses, so I don't have to keep typing out the same things.  One slight problem with that is that products and ingredients change quite often, so that what might have been a great vegan guide in 2015 no longer works in 2017.  For example, a few years ago, Mary Kay and Avon both had some vegan-friendly products, but both have since resumed animal testing, rendering all of their products cruel and non-vegan.  Some of the products I loved years ago, I've tried to move away from, because though they are still technically vegan, the once small ethical companies get purchased by the big conglomerates, and I try to keep my money from supporting them.

On the one hand, I can see why people find moving to a vegan lifestyle intimidating--all the label reading, things constantly changing, so you have to stay up on what's ethical and what's not.  On the other hand, even if you're not vegan, surely you already read labels with an eye for your health and/or the environment. If not, you should be! Your body and long-term health are far too important to blindly consume products without a full understanding of where and how they are made, what they are made of, and the various social/health/environmental implications involved. If you knew when you purchased your first car that it would be the only care you would ever be allowed to have for the rest of your life, I'm confident that most of us would be quite faithful about maintenance and the quality of the fuel and other fluids added. We have one body.  One. What you put into it and one it is vitally important to the long-term quality of life that you do (or do not) enjoy.  Read labels and shop wisely!

This says "NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS", which is helpful,
but doesn't necessarily mean vegan.
You still have to read ingredients on this one.
The Leaping Bunny logo (right below recycle logo)
I appreciate the vegan labels that make life a little easier. You don't have to read through all of the ingredients if you see either the leaping bunny logo or the V/Vegan logo. I know I have products with the vegan logo, but I just don't feel like searching all of my bottles and jars at the moment. 

In this country, money has become the only thing that matters or confers any power or authority.  The only power or vote you have in this world is how and where you spend your money.  Use your very limited power and vote on the world you want with your shopping habits.

Part of being vegan, perhaps the biggest part, is not consuming any animal products.  That's probably a little more straightforward that the rest of being vegan.  We don't use any products that contribute in any way to animal suffering or exploitation.  Since most of the major drug store/grocery store brands do  a significant amount of animal testing, those are all off the table.  After eliminating the animal tested products, then it's time to check ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients to watch for, and don't burn yourself out trying to go from 0 to perfect in a week.  Start by eliminating the big, obvious, non-vegan ingredients:  gelatin, honey, beeswax, lanolin, etc.  Once you're feeling confident with that, and it starts to feel easy, then you can dig into the less obvious stuff:  carmine/cochineal, collagen, etc.

I'll start with highlighting some of the products we use.

I use the empty container to mix the  "shampoo".
First 2 TBSP of baking soda with water;
then with about 6 TBSP of red vinegar with water to wash my hair.

Large jar in the back is coconut oil. I buy in bulk and fill
smaller containers.
The Marrakesh and Zoe oils are from VC.
routine deodorant rocks!
HAIR:  I haven't used shampoo for many, many years.  I switched to the no 'poo (baking soda and vinegar) method a long time ago and will never go back to shampoo. I spent my entire life trying to get rid of split ends (I don't treat or style my hair, so it drove me nuts that I always had split ends!), and nothing worked until I quit shampoo.  I do still use conditioner, but I've been looking into trying to get away from that (switching to various oil treatments instead).  My hair is very dry (VERY!), curly, with a tendency to frizz, so I've been wimpy about trying to move away from conditioner. I've used Jason's brand primarily for years, though I think the quality has degraded in the last decade.  I get a nice variety of hair products through my Vegan Cuts box, so I usually have a variety of hair oils, masques, conditioners, etc., that I really enjoy using. If they're fantastic, I order them on my own. I really enjoy getting to try a variety of good quality vegan products.  I don't enjoy shopping or wandering through stores, so I would never be exposed to or try many of the new vegan brands that I've been exposed to through VC.  (Not paid or compensated in any way. I just really like their boxes.)

Because I do have long, curly, dry hair, the only product I use for stying is coconut oil (or any of the VC hair oil products).  On occasion, I get other hair styling products from them, and my daughters are happy to use them up.  If my hair lays okay, I leave it down. If it lays strangely or looks too big, it goes into a pony tail. That's the extent of my hair efforts.

I have tried perhaps all of the natural deodorants through the years and found most of them (just like the non-natural deodorants) to be fairly ineffective. I finally found one that works for me, and it was through my Vegan Cuts box. I fell in love with the Routine brand deodorant that they sent me, and ordered more as soon as it ran out. It seems quite expensive for deodorant, but it takes a very tiny amount to do the job, so it lasts for a very long time. 

CLEANSING:  I've enjoyed a huge variety of Vegan Cuts skin care products, and I'm glad to see such a variety of quality products available. My go-to cleanser is Say Yes to Coconuts (my daughter uses Say Yes to Carrots). I use a night cream and a day cream with sunscreen, and those brands change constantly. I like to experiment.  I use coconut oil for makeup remover.

I have dry, sensitive skin, which is prone to eczema, so I have always used very gentle cleansing products. I always have Dr. Bronner's soaps in the shower, but also tend to rotate through a variety of other gentle, soap-free cleansers (many of the from VC).  Despite having incredibly dry skin, I quit using traditional lotions many years ago and switched to coconut oil as my moisturizer.  My skin is less dry than it's ever been. My eczema breakouts are now extremely rare, and I no longer have those nasty bumps on the backs of my arms.

Any minor skin wounds or pimples get treated first with Tea Tree Oil (either the plain oil or the antiseptic ointment).

I think the product we've had the hardest time with is toothpaste. Each of us has had our preferences, and up until recently, we haven't agreed on the same brand.  Luciana is extremely picky about toothpaste and always has been. She used only baking soda for a couple of years, because she didn't like any of the brands that we were using.  Though I can buy different brands for each of us, life is a lot easier if we stick with one. We all agree on the Hello brand toothpaste. I really wish it didn't have fluoride. That is my only complaint. I'm still on the lookout for the perfect fluoride-free vegan toothpaste.

Monday, February 20, 2017

House updates

the new kitchen floor
We've had several projects done in the house over the last few months. After 20 years here, we had built up quite a long list of home improvement projects. Unfortunately, neither of us has the skills to complete any of the projects, leaving us at the brutal vagaries of working with contractors. We have a guy we love, and he's done most of our work here over the last five years.

matching bookshelves
The quality is untouchable. Our animals love him, and our kids call him "Uncle Mark", but like many contractors, he has some issues with deadlines and showing up reliably.  He's been on a tear for the last few months, so we've finally made some headway on our projects.  He's wrapping up the little details on the current group of projects (new windows throughout the house, new bookshelves in the front entryway, refurbish first-floor bathroom, new floors in kitchen, back entryway, bathroom, and basement family room and office area), though we've been sitting at around a 95% completion for almost three weeks now. I find the whole process
photo albums and fiction
incredibly stressful--rushing home and arranging to be here anytime he's able to work on something (only to be stood up routinely), picking out materials (so many decisions and research), making mistakes because I don't really know what I'm doing, living with constant messes, equipment, unusable areas in the house, etc.  I will be SO HAPPY when things are 100% done. That said, I have a whole new round of big projects to start as soon as he wraps up the little details and can commit to giving me some time again.

The number of animals we have definitely takes a toll on the house--floors, furniture--everything has to be able to take heavy, regular cleaning and gets pretty beat up.  We have lots of little repairs and maintenance work done regularly here, but we haven't done anything big since the second-floor bathroom remodel we did a few years ago. I love when the work is done, but the chaos of the work in process leaves me pretty crabby.

Our original windows were a mess. They were quite drafty and tough to open and close. We love the ease of the new windows, and I'm looking forward to the energy savings.

We are most happy with the new family room. We did not have enough seating to accommodate
having friends over (ours or our childrens'), and the seating we had was not very comfortable. The floor was a mess.  After the big flood a few years ago, the flooring was damaged, but I couldn't decide what I wanted to replace it, so I duct taped (duct tape fixes everything in my world) down the damaged seams and edges and tried not to look at it. It has been hideously ugly and unsuitable for our needs for years, but all the decisions, chaos, and stress kept me from doing anything. Finally, Luce complained about having friends over with a duct-taped floor. I felt so bad for putting it off this long. It's easy for Mark and I to not really notice or care, but kids don't like their friends to see things like that.  That comment was enough to get me moving!

One office area; there is another office area/sewing desk, but it's among
 the 5% in progress and not shown here yet.
We had floor to ceiling cabinets built in the office area, so all of the computer, office, and craft supplies can be stored dust-free and without the animals getting into things.  We needed new additional seating but also guest beds for when we or the kids have company, and it had to be inexpensive, easy to maintain, and able to take regular abuse. Instead of couches, I ordered two twin beds (steel frame and memory foam mattresses), which we arranged in an L-shape. They work perfectly as comfy, room sectional-type couch with lots of room for all of the humans and animals to spread out. The mattresses are phenomenally comfortable (they've already seen lots of sleepovers, including Mark and I spending a date night on them to assess the comfort level); so much so, that we will soon replace our mattress with a king-size version of these (really affordable, light, easy to set up, absolutely perfect).  The new mattress will cost 1/5 what our current mattress cost, and it's at least as comfortable as our mattress when we bought it (it hasn't been comfortable for years), and we will be able to carry it upstairs all by ourselves.

This is the same floor as the kitchen, but this photo makes it look darker.
w i d e s p r e a d
I learned that there are not just one-hole or three-hole sinks.  There are also widespread three-hole sinks.  There are fewer faucet options for the widespread sinks, and they all cost more than the standard. I learned this after purchasing a widespread three-hole sink, and a regular faucet. I had to switch to a different model, because the one I loved and picked out didn't come in a the widespread version. It also left us without a functional bathroom for an extra five days.  I will never make that mistake again.  I'm really happy with how the bathroom turned out in the end.
Lila's favorite spot in the world

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hail seitan

I have a different schedule this semester, which allows me to be home on Thursdays. Since I had finished my grading for the week earlier than expected, I had the afternoon to myself and decided to get a jump on some of my weekend kitchen chores. I needed to make dog food and seitan--neither of which I really enjoy making, so I planned to get a big batch of each made yesterday.

We've been having a lot of work done on the house for the last couple of months (everything takes FOREVER, because contractors--UGH!), so generally when I'm home during the day, he's either here working, or I'm expecting him (I'm often stood up). I knew I was going to be alone in the house (love that!), so I took some caffeine (a rare treat for me these days), played my Pandora Prince station way too loud, and spent the afternoon cooking, dancing, and singing badly.

I use the seitan recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. Isa has another seitan recipe posted on PPK here, but this is not the same as the one in the book that I use. I've found that for me the trick to making seitan is making sure I always keep prepared veggie broth in the fridge. The broth needs to be cold, or the gluten gets far too sticky, and it's quite frustrating to get started and then realize that you have to halt everything, because you don't have cold veggie broth. After I get the seitan prepared and simmering, I make up the veggie broth for the next batch, and seal and refrigerate. Then I always have it on hand and ready to go. I make a big batch of it--one bag of Bob's VWG makes 2.5 batches of the recipe, which is almost six pounds (14 cups). I package it up in 1, 2, and 3-cup containers and freeze it. There's a pretty strong expectation that once I make a new batch of seitan, shepherd's pie (my husband's favorite dish) with spicy cashew gravy will follow within the week. I've been craving jerk, so that will be coming soon, too.  
Kneaded, forming equal size pieces to simmer
Seitan (front) and dog food done cooking. Seitan has to stay in pot until it cools.
Seitan chopped, measured, and ready to freeze.
Dog food ready to freeze/refrigerate.
The very helpful cleanup crew
Veggie broth; ready to refrigerate for the next batch of seitan.

As I was snapping pictures, I took a quick shot of my very favorite kitchen tool--this little Ninja chopper. I picked it up a very long time ago at Target, and they still sell them for under $20. I use this every single day. It's powerful, easy to clean up, and has saved me so much time. Almost every dish I make starts out with finely chopped onions, garlic, and/or ginger. Though I have a big food processor (the Ninja blender/processor system, which is also fantastic), it's a real pain to get that out to mince a few cloves of garlic or an onion. This little thing sits on my counter, and I can do a 30-second rinse, and re-use for the next item. It's powerful enough that I often use it to make oat and almond flours as well as to completely pulverize the very crunchy cat kibble (for our toothless cat Daffy). It is seriously the best $20 I've spent.

I should add that I'm not compensated in any way by Ninja. I don't blog reliably enough to roll that way, nor could I live with myself if I sold out like that. I just really love the product and think for anyone who cooks, it's invaluable. When my last blender died (A KitchenAid, who I contacted to get it repaired but got no response from the company at all. They don't support their products, I don't buy them any more). I did a ton of research and went with the Ninja system for the following reasons: their chopper is awesome; we have a Shark Ninja vacuum that has put our old Dyson to shame (will never buy another--the parts are poor quality that need constant replacement), and they offered a lifetime warranty on their products if purchased through the website. I've been so happy with all of their products and customer support, that I purchase the Ninja duo system for my daughter for Xmas. They now only offer a five-year warranty rather than lifetime, but that's still quite impressive.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Poppy in Proximity

We lost our beloved cockatiel Franklin several weeks ago.  He was an old guy when we adopted him several years back, and this wasn't a surprise, but nonetheless a heartbreaking loss. While we've all grown attached to him, Poppy was his best friend and has suffered the greatest loss.  Poppy's parents, aunts, uncles, and Franklin were all quite old, and Franklin was the last of Poppy's flock.  We've had Max and Elvis (I have to point out that they came with these names--not my choice) for a couple of  years, and they came older and very pair bonded. They kept to themselves and didn't really mix into the existing flock. They never fought--just lived separate lives and spoke different dialects. I knew Poppy was going to take that last loss hard.  I've worried quite a bit over the last few months as I've seen the inevitable signs that Franklin was getting older and weaker. We went to the vet a couple of times, as he was losing weight, and each time, there was nothing wrong other than he was too thin and an old guy. Cockatiels can take loss so hard, that I really worry whenever one of them goes that the others will become depressed and/or ill.

Poppy and Franklin
 I was very concerned that without Franklin, Poppy would fall into loneliness and despair. He never seemed to like Max and Elvis, based on the disdain he showed them, so I didn't really see him integrating with them.

Elvis and Max
I have curiously observed Poppy's overtures at friendship over the last couple of weeks.  The first couple of weeks after his loss, he was quite depressed and stared at the wall a lot. He completely ignored Max & Elvis. I started spending a lot of time with him--singing and playing (which is mostly letting him pull on my nose ring or assault my face in various other ways) to cheer him up.  He started by watching them intently, sticking about three feet away from them (they previously usually stayed on different sides of the room).  He has progressively edged closer and now hangs within about a foot, sometimes less, of them.  Max & Elvis are rather strange, and they hang out in spots
Elvis, Max, Poppy (far right)
in the room that the other cockatiels never went.  Despite living in that room his whole life, Poppy has never played in the rabbit/guinea pig hay or the rabbits' box village, but suddenly he's just casually "hanging out" there by Max & Elvis.  They aren't yet including him, but they don't chase him away either, so the relationship is progressing slowly but positively. I've noticed a few times in the last week, that Poppy has made some slightly bolder advances--joining in when Max & Elvis "sing" with me (which is a different dialect from Poppy's repertoire) and even eating greens from the same plate as them.

I find this most interesting, because Poppy is a very confident, arrogant bird. He was raised with a loving flock that all took good care of him. He's always been cage free and feels like he owns the room.  The other cockatiels always catered to him ("the baby") and let him be the boss; he was a spoiled brat.  I didn't think he would humble himself to try to ingratiate himself into the other flock, but he most certainly is doing so. He's going about it in a very deliberate, conservative manner, and it's quite impressive. His need for connection is apparently more important than his need to be the boss, and he's playing a very different role than he has in the five+ years he's been alive.

I am planning to adopt some cockatiels, as soon as the right ones come into rescue.  It's rare that I only have three cockatiels.  They seem to prefer being in groups of 6-8.  I didn't want to take any chances on stressing Franklin, so I couldn't adopt anyone while Franklin was getting weaker.

For now, I've been spending extra time singing with Poppy. He really enjoys singing loud duets and taking turns repeating each other's tunes.  He is a little rude and domineering about it, frequently cutting me off in the middle of my turn, but in fairness, I'm a pretty awful singer. We both prefer his voice.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sharing a photo of Sophie...

Dej took this photo this morning.  Sophie looks quite angelic.

Friday, June 10, 2016

There's no sunshine when he's gone

Ivan, the cat who started it all, died very unexpectedly Wednesday. We did not know he was sick until I came downstairs Weds. morning to find him lying in his box, looking "off".  I picked him up and he was limp with some yellow fluid around his mouth. My mom came to get us and rush us off to the vet, as I was too upset to drive safely and really needed to hold my baby.

His blood work was good and his heart was good, so it was tough to determine the cause of his obviously critical condition.  Our option at that point was to drive him to Madison for an ultrasound, which was not an option for me. He was in absolute agony, stressed, and I couldn't leave him like that for several more hours. My primary vet was not in, as he had been in the hospital the previous week and was still home recovering.
  They called him, though, and he volunteered to come in, and do surgery on Ivan. It was the best option for quickly figuring out what was going on and potentially repairing it. I will forever be grateful to him for coming in when he was feeling so poorly. I have serious trust issues and was falling apart over my baby, and I trust Dr. Mark implicitly. He is the only one who could have given me the comfort and assurance I needed to survive this without second guessing myself for the rest of my life. I'm fine with all the vets at the clinic, but he's been with me through so much for more than twenty years. I can count on one hand the number of people who I trust to that level. He's been with Ivan since the beginning, and even my grouchy Ivan trusted him and allowed him "touch privileges" which were accorded to very few people.

He had been given pain meds, so we had lots of time to snuggle and cuddle before the doctor arrived. I gave him hundreds of kisses on his little face (one of his favorite things since he was a kitten--he'd close his eyes and lean into the kisses; he even used to approach me and make a kiss noise, requesting his face kisses) and left him on the surgical table.

I had convinced myself that Dr. Nelson would repair him--after all he was healthy, with good blood work, and only turned 12 last month.  They quickly found the problem. Ivan had colon cancer, and one of the tumors had burst, leaving the colon wall open. There was nothing in the world that could be done to fix my little boy.  They did offer to bring him out of anesthetic, so we could say a final goodbye, but I couldn't even consider putting him through that terror, pain, and confusion, only to euthanize him after. While every fiber in my body ached for one more round of snuggles and kisses, it would have been supremely selfish.

I've loved Ivan since the day he was found newborn, abandoned in a driveway, on May 9, 2004.  He was my first cat, and the bond we shared was profound. Ivan always kept me in sight. Wherever I was, I could almost always count on finding Ivan somewhere within range--he may be hiding, but he was always close and watching. He had intense needs for cuddles, and if given the option, would be touching me 24 hours a day.  As long as he was touching me, he couldn't be happier.  He spent most of the rest of the time being grouchy and complaining. He loved his sisters and Mark and was extremely affectionate with them too.  Being the center of someone's universe is a huge responsibility and could be exhausting and even frustrating at times. It also means that he was a huge part of every second of my existence, and I'm absolutely lost with him. I look for him 100 times a day and am currently on my third day of a cry-induced migraine.

At this moment, life without him seems unfathomable. I will adjust eventually, but he's been my faithful shadow for 12 years, and I feel incredibly incomplete without him.

He always held my hand while he slept.