Cat Lady in the Cottage – New Beginnings

“Our house is a very, very, very fine house / With two cats in the yard…”

Lyrics from “Our House” by Graham Nash

The dark hardwood floor could barely be seen under all the boxes, which besides cluttering the floor space, scaled the French doors that opened to the back of the cottage. “Where was everything going to fit?” said an anxious voice inside my head as I surveyed the dollhouse of a house I was moving into. And I still had two last loads to fetch—Lexington and Bobcat. I hoped they would fit in here, in this new world away from the comforts of their spacious condo in the canyon. How would they fair living in a space less than half its size?

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By the time I returned with the cats, the movers had unloaded everything from the moving trucks and were organizing the boxes into a tidy maze. Don, the owner of the moving company helped me unload my precious cat cargo from the car. He put the carriers in what little space was left in the living room, I graciously thanked him for his hard work and he was on his way. That was it. After a grueling eleven hours of moving, the kitties and I were in our new home—a tiny Laguna Beach cottage built in 1922, complete with a porch, a yard, a picket fence and peek-a-boo ocean view.

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I opened the doors of the carriers containing the cats, cooing to calm them, “Kitties, my sweeties, welcome to your new home!” They both cautiously stepped out onto the area rug that was once in my former dining room, now in my new living room. Lexington casually sniffed boxes and investigated all three rooms—bedroom, living/dining room and bathroom, then reclined on the hardwood floor by the kitchen. He nonchalantly looked up at me. “Sooo…what do ya think Lex?” “It’s cool, Mom. I like it,” said the look on his face. Meanwhile, a leery Bobcat hid under the sofa. “Hey, Bobbycat, come on, it’s okay, “ I coaxed. He slowly crept out from under the slipcover and jumped up onto the piano in front of the windows to get a look outside. Satisfied with the sight of his new yard adorned with king palms and patches of grass, he settled in on the perch of his cat tree.

Life’s plans don’t always pan out the way we want them to. After living in apartments for all my life until I reached midlife, I finally bought my first home. The townhouse style condo was mine, all mine and I loved it. It was my forever home; yet after eleven years and unexpected financial hardship, I came to the hard conclusion that the only way to gain financial stability was to sell. The sale went fast and I got above asking price. My wonderful realtor, Cherie Phan, also negotiated the rental of this charming little house for me.

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Surrendering to a tough realization that I initially fought with all my might turned out to be the very best course of action for me.  It’s hard to let go of things that we become so attached to—the walls that harbored so many sweet and sorrowful events, moments and memories. The countless tears I shed as I downsized and packed-up have finally dried as I settle into this vintage abode in which I will experience newfound happiness and peace, and in which I will make new memories.

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Photo courtesy of Wendy Fox

And how are the cats doing, you ask?

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New places to perch

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New places to lounge

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That is the biggest scratching post ever!

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Sports activities in the yard

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Gardener Lexington

Stay tuned…

Moving tips: I used a Feliway (a feline calming solution) diffuser in the condo days before moving and one in the new home on moving day.  I also sprayed the cat carriers with Feliway and sprayed the new home with Convivial House Cat (anti-stress solution) by Cat Faeries. I kept this routine going for a couple of weeks for a harmonious and seamless adjustment.  (Note that the kitties are only permitted outside during the day under my supervision, and are disciplined at staying in the yard.)

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Photo courtesy of Wendy Fox

Posted in Cats, Cottage, Feline Behavior, Laguna Beach, Moving, Moving with Cats, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Signs and Synchronicity

There’s a message in the wild / And I’m sending you this signal tonight…”
Lyrics from “Missing You” by John Waite

I look up from whisking a couple of eggs I’m about to scramble for breakfast on Sunday morning, my gaze lingers down the hallway and onto the deck to see Lexington relaxing on the chaise lounge. An Alison Krauss CD is playing in the living room, and the moment I hear the lyrics, “I ain’t missing you at all, since you’ve been gone away…” she sings in a duet with John Waite is when I see Lexington, and for a second, I see Topper next to him. I blink. Topper’s gone.

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The defiant lyrics of self-protective denial after lost love ring true as I subconsciously trick myself into believing that Topper is still here. I ain’t missin’ you Topper, because you’re not really gone.

IMG_7125After breakfast, I checked-out Instagram and the first thing I saw was a post by musician Adam Lasher to which someone made a comment referring to his cockatiel named Topper. Hmmm. Coincidence….? I think to myself.

Later on Sunday, it was almost twilight as I drove down Laguna Canyon Road to meet my friend Lori at The Cliff for a view of the sunset and a glass of wine when the car driving next to me sped-up causing me to see its license plate, which included the letters PAW. I smiled, thinking how cute that license plate has the word, “paw” in it! I glanced over to oncoming traffic, all the beach-goers heading home and I see another license plate, which among its numeric identification included the letters PAW. Seriously? Seeing the word “paw” in two different license plates within three seconds of each other must be some kind of sign, I muttered to myself.  As the sun went down, Lori and I pondered the possible meaning of the “double-paw” sign. We came up with a few ideas: my strong animal—particularly cat connection; feline finger-gunning (paw-paw); a reminder that horses also call to my soul and that I must get back to riding lessons someday—no wait, that would be a “hoof-hoof” sign, I said. We cracked-up laughing as we attempted to crack the case of the mysterious “double paw” license plate sign.

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This morning as the synchronistic events lingered in my mind, it hit me: maybe the “double-paw” sign was another way of Topper getting through to me; his way of saying hello and comforting me, letting me know that he’s still around, just in a different way.

Hey, Top Cat, I am missing you, a lot, even though I’m starting to adjust to your departure.

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Keep the signs coming, Love Bug.

Posted in animal empathy, Cats, Grieving, Music, Pet Loss, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Topper’s Presence

I greeted the New Year with an emptiness in my heart and in my home that was palatable. It seemed so much quieter and more still somehow, despite Lexington and Bobcat on the sofa in the living room. How is it that an eight-pound cat, who just in September was a sturdy thirteen pounds, could have such a big personality and presence? Topper left us on December 30, 2017 to explore the other side of this life—Heaven, the Other Side; wherever our spirit goes when our body can no longer hold it.

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In October Topper was diagnosed with advanced stage gastrointestinal lymphoma. He had started loosing weight, vomiting and his eating dwindled from hearty to a few licks and bites, even though he still seemed interested in the feline pate I was serving. During the first vet visit I had blood work done, which didn’t reveal anything unusual. But after meds to treat the symptoms didn’t do much, I took him in again for an ex-ray, which also revealed nothing menacing. He seemed to be in good health. Two weeks after that, I noticed him thinner and awoke at 2:00 a.m. just in time to catch him vomiting blood. My heart broke as I heard a voice in my head that screamed, “CANCER!” I pulled him next to me in bed after cleaning the mess; barely slept and took him to the animal hospital at 7:30 in the morning, leaving him with staff until the vet got in.

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I arrived at work with having only four hours sleep, without having taken a shower, wearing no make-up, jeans and a t-shirt. I shut my office door and avoided co-workers. Thanks to a major adrenaline rush from the stress, I was hyper alert and managed to accomplish a lot considering the grave condition that my Topper was in. The vet called with a dark scenario—Topper’s liver was shutting down, he was in bad shape and cancer was the suspect. That afternoon an ultrasound revealed the suspected demon—advanced cancer. Topper was stabilized and given a long-acting steroid, anti-nausea meds and an antibiotic. The plan was to keep him comfortable and to see how he would manage on the steroid.

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Two days later he still wasn’t eating much and was quiet and listless. I stopped into Coast Pet Supply, despondent and sad as I told Topper’s condition to Francisco who was on duty at the register and who recommended hemp oil to quell the nausea and reduce inflammation. I gave Topper a dose at 4:30 in the afternoon and a couple hours later, he came out from hiding in the bathroom and seemed alert. He meowed at me. “Sweetie, are you actually hungry?” I inquired. “Meeeow,” he replied, and promptly gobbled down more food than I’d seen him eat in a month.

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I believe the hemp oil was very instrumental in giving him a decent quality of life until late December, when his body started to shut down. After a second trip to the vet on a Wednesday to remove fluid from his tummy; having twice the amount of fluid removed from two weeks prior, he lost interest in food and in all activities. His face was drawn and he was thinner than a week prior. On Saturday morning I called the animal hospital to let them know it was “time.” My vet was on vacation, but a vet tech recommended an in-home euthanasia service, Home Pet Euthanasia of Southern California.

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Me and Topper on Christmas night 2017.

Topper passed sweetly and peacefully on the sofa, nestled in my arms and wrapped in an afghan knitted by my mom. Lexington and Bobcat lounged on the floor and watched as I kissed Topper’s head and said, “Good-bye Love Bug…”

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In loving memory of Topper who came into my life as a nine-month old kitten in May of 2007, full of spunk and spirit. I love him deeply and miss him dearly.

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Sidebar:Dr. Julie of Home Pet Euthanasia was serene and kind, making a compassionate transition for Topper.  He was treated with such respect and dignity down to the delivery of his ashes directly to my home, which were contained in a beautiful wood box with a carving of branches from the Tree of Life on the lid.  Although the moment of his departure was extremely painful, I found such peace, relief and joy (yes–hard to believe) in the way that “Top Cat” was able to make his exit.

Posted in Cancer, Cat Lady, Cat Love, Euthanasia, FELINE HEALTH, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments