Monday, March 25, 2024

Sabrina: A Memorial

Sabrina (a.k.a. Mama Kitty) entered our lives via our sweet foundling cat, LB. (With permission, we humanely trapped LB from our neighbor's yard when he was a kitten.) We think Sabrina was LB's mom, thus the original name of Mama Kitty.  About a month after kidnapping, I mean adopting, LB, I reset the humane trap in hopes of catching his mama to get her spayed through a community cats program. For three nights leading up to the appointment, I would check the trap every few hours until around 2:00 AM. Chad would check the trap starting at 7:00 AM. On the last morning before the spay appointment, Chad woke me up early, and said we caught Mama Kitty. I threw on some clothes, loaded the trap with Mama Kitty into my car, and drove her to the appointment. Later that day, I picked up the cat, drove her home, and put her into a large dog crate outfitted with a small litter box, food, water and a blanket bed. Mama Kitty stayed with us for three nights in the house in her crate while she recovered from her surgery. She probably felt very scared and confused, but she ate a lot and healed well. On the fourth day after her surgery, Chad and I carried the whole crate over to the neighbor's yard, and with our neighbor's permission, released the cat back into her familiar home turf. She bolted wildly from the crate as soon as we opened the door. 

We didn't see Mama Kitty for a week after that. 

One evening, I spied Mama Kitty peeking around the end of our hedges. She ran off when she knew that I spotted her. I set some food and water in the spot where she had been. She didn't touch it. I tried again the next day to set out food and water for her. "Nope," she said. On the third day, I set out food and water again for her, and finally spied through the window as she ate. Every day thereafter, I moved the food and water bowls a bit closer to our carport. Mama Kitty made a slow migration up the driveway for her daily meals each evening around sunset. I would sometimes walk down to the neighbor's yard and call to her after I served her food, "Mama Kitty, dinner time." It took several months, but eventually, Mama Kitty would arrive in our carport around sunset, and wait under my car for her dinner service. Several weeks after that, I decided to pet her as she ate. Just three little pets on her head. She gave me a look as if to say, "I'll allow it, but don't get carried away." We slowly built trust and made progress, and eventually I introduced her to a brush. She loved brushing. It was her favorite thing ever. She would block the steps to the front door, until I sat down and brushed her for at least ten minutes each evening. Mama Kitty would walk around my feet, showing me which side to brush, or poking her face into the brush to make sure I got her cheeks and chin. We had a comfortable routine. 

Sometimes Sabrina showed me her tummy during brushing

I decided that she needed a better name than Mama Kitty. She was more than just a mom, she had her own sweet little soul and identity. We tried a few names including Tiny, Ladybug, and Ebony, but they just weren't right for her. I have always liked the name Sabrina, associating the name with the Audrey Hepburn movie, Sabrina the Teenage Witch television series, and a fun former coworker whom I liked. One evening as I brushed her, I tried the name Sabrina aloud, and she gave a slow blink of implied agreement. 

Over the years, eight in total with us, Sabrina amassed a collection of carport furnishings including a heating pad bed for cold nights, a raised cooling bed for hot days, and a raised little house with a front and back door so she could rest in shelter, and also escape any predators or harassment. We have spotted coyotes, foxes, neighbor dogs loose from their leashes, raccoons, and opossums at Sabrina's food and water bowls over the years.

Sabrina visiting her large son through the window

Sabrina ventured across the threshold of our home several times on her own accord, tentatively taking a few steps inside, sniffing the air, but she always turned tail and ran right back out. One cold night three years ago, when snow started coming down with alarming speed, Chad donned oven mitts and a protectively thick sweatshirt, and picked up Sabrina to bring her inside. Sabrina was mortally offended. She ran under our dining table and sat frozen in fear for hours. When she finally emerged from under the table, she meowed plaintively at me, then started trying to break through the front window to get back outside. The whole situation was so pitiful and awful, that I opened the front door for her, and let her slink back outside. When Sabrina was safely at the base of the front steps, she turned to look back at me, and telepathically said, "nice try, but no thank you." She got back on her heating pad in the carport, and stayed planted there.

Sabrina only scratched me a few times over the years: once harshly when I tried to pick her up, twice very gently when I brushed her the wrong way, once when I gave her parasite prevention drops on the back of her neck for the first time, and a few times gently on the back of my ankles when I tried to reenter our house without brushing her for long enough. Sabrina never bit me. 

Sabrina gained weight every winter looking like a velveteen bowling bowl. She lost weight every summer, no longer needing the insulation. Her body adjusted naturally for each season. Last summer she got so shockingly skinny, that I worried for her health. I thought it was the end for her. But when cooler weather finally arrived, she gained weight again, and seemed fine and healthy. 

The last time I saw Sabrina, on the night of March 10th, she laid down at my feet for brushing. I knew immediately that something was amiss. Usually she walked in quick little circles around my feet. But that night she was so lethargic. I put my hands gently into her fur searching for wounds, and found none. I turned on my phone flashlight to look for any signs of injury, but found none. I put my hand in the soft luxurious fur of her back, and urged myself to remember this feeling. I just knew that she was saying goodbye. After a few moments, she got to her feet, and ambled away from me. I hurried to bring more food back out to refill her bowl, but she was already gone by the time I returned. We haven't seen her again since that moment, not in person, and not on our multiple security cameras. 

Chad and I continued to put cat food and fresh water out for three days, to the delight of two raccoons and one opossum. Then we stopped. 

I have accepted that Sabrina likely knew her end was near. She gave me the absolute gift of a goodbye. For that I am incredibly grateful. Sabrina almost certainly took herself off to hide, and pass in peace. I miss her so much. A week after her departure, I sat on the front steps where I usually brushed her each evening, and cried. I have cried in the shower. I have cried while washing dishes. I tried very hard not to cry in public during my shifts at the library, or while shopping at the grocery store. I cried when I emailed our regular pet sitter to let her know not to put out food or water for Sabrina during our next trip. I cried typing this post. I will miss our sweet, brush-loving, carport-dwelling, semi-feral cat so much. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Manic Hobgoblin's 2024 Resolutions

Cute pic of one of my cats, unrelated to this post.

Manic Hobgoblin (the unhinged, hyper-aspirational, hyper-achieving, status-obsessed, multi-hyphenate voice that sometimes lives in my head rent-free) formulated his 2024 resolutions last month. Unfortunately for Manic Hobgoblin, he claims that he was at a silent retreat without wifi, and could not communicate with me, his humble (and very reluctant) assistant, to post these resolutions until now. (I think he was actually in jail, or maybe filming a reality TV show, and they took his phone away from him.) Also, Manic Hobgoblin read a New York Times article about February actually being the best month for resolutions, so he figures now is the optimal time to release his 2024 resolutions. (I suspect he only read the headline, because when I asked him why February is the best month for resolutions, he gave zero reasons, and left the room while tapping on his smart watch as if late for a very important date.)

So, without further ado, but with grave reservations, and multiple implied disclaimers, here are Manic Hobgoblin's 2024 New Year Resolutions:

1. Trademark every marketing phrase he can think of. It's called passive income. When one of the phrases is used, the money will roll in. (Editor's note: Nope. Not how that works. The paperwork and fees to trademark phrases is a lot, and most applications for trademarks are denied. The lawyer's fees and time invested to then enforce those trademarks will also be a lot.)

2. Start a bunch of short term rentals in hot tourist destinations. Also passive income, because Manic Hobgoblin will charge the renters all sorts of fees, but make them fully clean the place, and prepare it for the next round of guests. (Editor's note: This will fail. Mortgage loan rates are pretty high now, and Manic Hobgoblin doesn't have enough liquid assets to buy properties with cash purchase. Short term rentals are in their flop era due to predatory and unscrupulous operators such as Manic Hobgoblin. Short term rentals are also a scourge to many otherwise quiet neighborhoods, and the general affordability of housing, so many cities and neighborhoods are stepping up rules, regulations, and enforcement against short term rentals. Manic Hobgoblin is too late to this game.)

3. Jazzercise! Twice a week. (Editor's note: This seems fine.)

4. Drink four gallons of water a day exclusively from limited edition Stanley tumblers. (Editor's note: That's too much water. Read about it on Web MD. We have too many YETI and KODI tumblers already. I'm not buying Stanley tumblers for Manic Hobgoblin.)

5. EGOT. (Editor's note: good luck with that.)

I hope that 2024 is a good year for all of us. Wash your hands. Be kind. Have compassion for your fellow Earthlings. 

I set a goal to read forty books, which is the closest I get to making annual resolutions. I might join Manic Hobgoblin at Jazzercise. Chad and I plan to hike and kayak at Acadia National Park later this year. Discuss your plans and goals amongst yourselves on your Google doc or your group chat.