Saying Goodbye to Slinky Malinki

slinky-december-15hWhen you love unconditionally, you permanently wear your heart on your sleeve. When you love a cat, you turn a blind eye to the fact that you will most likely outlive them.

I knew Slinky was at the end of her life, and I somehow thought I could prepare myself for what was to come. I know better.

Still.

Slinky died at home Monday night, resting on a soft blanket on the heated tile floor. I was with her off and on most of the day, but she took her last breath in the ten minutes I was gone to pick up my son. Mike stepped into the garage to let me know when we returned. She quietly slipped away. I sobbed.

Back inside, I held her frail little body, wracked with grief. Her eyes were a giveaway that she was no longer there, but it was hard to let go.

Slinky Malinki captured my heart, not because of her sweet disposition and loving ways but in spite of them. She showed up as a stray on the steps of our front deck about six years ago. We had a bowl of dry food out for another cat we were feeding at the time and she helped herself. I mistook her confidence for friendliness, and she took a swing at me with open claws and then left.

She returned every few days, and gradually spent more time with us on the deck. She wrapped herself around our legs, but if you reached down to pet her, out came the claws, or worse. One afternoon I was sitting on the steps and she sunk her teeth into the back of my arm. Hard.

Then one day, out of the blue, my oldest son bent down, picked her up, and carried her into the house. She froze in fear, but I was so happy to know we could catch her and get her to the vet. A week later I took her in for a checkup. They confirmed that she was already spayed and she checked out for all the scary things.

We tried to make her an indoor cat, but she wanted no part of it. I did the next best thing and made a little “apartment” in our sheltered side yard. She had an elevated bed, enclosed on four sides, with a roof and an umbrella to keep her dry. She had her meals outside for a year.

Once again, it was time for an annual check up, so I brought her indoors over night, then spirited her off the next day. It was after that second visit, and nearly a year and a half that she decided to move in. She claimed a spot under my desk, then moved to the back of the desk and life got better from there. I gained her trust, not all at once, but slowly over months and months. She hated being picked up, and I did so on an as-needed basis but also to let her know it was okay. Slinky had no interest in lap sitting either. Yet she would come to the front of the desk, give me gentle head butts, and gradually we became trusted friends.

Then an amazing thing happened. I had foot surgery last November, requiring me to be off my feet for six weeks. Slinky started climbing up on the couch, then settled herself on the blankets around my injured foot.  What a gift! At a time when I was in pain and feeling fragile, Slinky stayed close by. There is perhaps no better medicine than a warm, purring cat.

slinky-on-my-foot

Slinky resting next to my healing foot

slinky-next-to-copy-of-book

Slinky stretched out across my legs. That’s the corner of my laptop with a photo of the Slinky Malinki children’s book for which she’s named.

I miss her sweet, little soul.

Autumn on My Mind

Are you following Kerry at Love Those Hands at Home?
If not, you won’t want to miss her sumptuous love letter to Autumn. Here’s an excerpt

Autumn seduces me, energizes me, makes me feel alive. My blood sings and fizzes like champagne when autumn comes to me.  – KerryCan

You can read her entire post here.

It’s a gorgeous piece of writing, and one that perfectly captures my feelings of the approaching season.

Even in California with our subtle, seasonal changes, the arrival of autumn is unmistakable. Breezes finally blow through the valley, chasing away the ugly smog. The last of the pumpkin vines shrivel and die, but not before gifting us their wonderful fruit.

Dusk settles in earlier, and for this fair-skinned gardener, working longer hours outdoors is no longer unthinkable.

I cleared out the back corner of the garden, pruning away overhanging limbs, dead leaves and the growing layer of pine needles.  Look at this pile?

garden waste pile

Pile of pine needles, dead leaves and tree pruning. (Slinky’s tiny feet in the background)

garden corner after pruning

After: I don’t have a good before, but you saw the pile (Slinky’s ears in the lower corner)

Ironically, the pumpkins I planted in May were a complete fizzle, while the self seeded (squirrel-planted) vines were a hit. One of those vines produced four tall, hefty carving pumpkins, ready for our resident, master carver (Mike).

A second vine produced one basketball sized pumpkin, took a rest, then pumped out a second pumpkin, turning a lovely shade of orange.

round pumpkins four days apart

A third vine tip-toed up on us, producing a perfect little pumpkin the size of a cherry tomato. Then in the dead of night a critter ate it for supper.  Boo-hoo! But wait…another pumpkin eventually took its place and it too is turning orange.

protected pumpkin

“Under Armour” Pumpkin

protecting the pumpkin long view

Tiny pumpkin, big fortress

Summer is far from over. Even when the autumnal equinox rolls around, we’re still in for a few more heatwaves. That said, the California Gray squirrels have stepped up their game, knowing intuitively what lies ahead. Indoors, Slinky is getting a head start on snuggle weather. She’s resting in my lap on a soft blanket, her coat still shiny on her diminished frame.

slinky, august 2016

Slinky Malinki

There’s an interesting conversation going on in the comment thread of Kerry’s post on the origins of  the use of the word “fall” vs “autumn”. Here’s what I learned:

Fall and autumn are both accepted and widely used terms for the season that comes between summer and winter. Some who consider British English the only true English regard fall as an American barbarism, but this attitude is not well founded. Fall is in fact an old term for the season, originating in English in the 16th century or earlier. It was originally short for fall of the year or fall of the leaf, but it commonly took the one-word form by the 17th century, long before the development of American English. So while the term is now widely used in the U.S., it is not exclusively American, nor is it American in origin. – Source: Grammarist

I love learning the origin of a word. While I know my Southern Hemisphere friends are looking forward to fall, how about the rest of you? Are you ready to say goodbye to summer and to welcome the ‘fall of the year’?

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August Doldrums: Dirty Air, Dryer Woes and a Cat Named Slinky

I have the August doldrums. Blah!

It is usually hot, dry and smoggy in San Jose throughout August. It’s been particularly bad this year with multiple wildfires burning up and down the state.

Spare the Air Alert: Source, San Jose Mercury News

Spare the Air Alert: Source, San Jose Mercury News

After five years of the drought, there is plenty of fuel feeding the wildfires. Millions of trees have died from drought-related conditions, providing even more fuel than usual. According to News Deeply

A bark beetle epidemic driven by drought is killing off millions of trees in the Sierra Nevada as California starts another summer plagued by drought and higher temperatures.

This is the driest time of year, with virtually no rain during the months of July, August and September.

The Soberanes fire started in July in Monterey County, not far from the lovely town of Carmel where we spent our get away weekend in March. It’s only 60% contained and fire crews don’t expect to have it out until September 30th!  Because San Jose is in a valley, the smoke gathers in the basin, with no wind or rain to carry it away. It adds to such a sense of gloom when the skies are a hazy gray. Even when you avoid the news, as I’m trying to do, it’s impossible not to see those hazy skies and realize what’s happening around us.

august smog

Believe it or not, there is a mountain range beyond the trees. You can just make it out.

valley fair view smog

View of the mountains from a nearby shopping center.

My dryer woes aren’t nearly as dramatic, but oh what a pain. We bought a new washer and dryer in late June and took deliver July 8th. They purred like the proverbial kitten and as with all new appliances, they use less water and less energy…when they work.

The first time I used the steam setting on the dryer it leaked water on the floor. Assuming it wasn’t properly connected, Mike contacted the appliance store who referred us to a certified repair shop. The first repair person said he needed a part (for a brand new dryer!) and would have to take the dryer to the shop because he didn’t have enough room to repair it in our home. I asked him to please leave the dryer till he received the part so that I could dry clothes on other settings. A week later, and before the part arrived, the dryer started making a loud banging noise, akin to putting a bowling ball on the fluff cycle. In addition to that awful noise it also smelled like stale smoke. Did I mention that the dryer was only a few weeks old?

A second crew came out on a Friday and took our dryer back to their shop. Meanwhile, laundry for four piled up. They promised to return it Monday, than Tuesday and by Wednesday we were mostly out of clean clothes and towels. I loaded up the dirty clothes, headed to the laundry mat, and spent three hours getting it done.

A third repair person returned and reinstalled the dryer on Thursday, turned it on and asked “does it always make that noise?”

Ah….no.

I explained that the “bowling-ball-on-the-fluff-cycle” noise was one of two reasons the dryer was in for repairs. He said he didn’t understand why they would take the machine back to the shop, but there was nothing to be done for it that day and off he went.

Are you still with me?

A fourth crew (an experienced repair tech and a tech-in-training came out and spent three more hours trying to repair the machine. They completely dismantled it, spreading out the parts in my narrow side yard, then left to buy “longer screws” assuring me that the manufacturer-installed screws were too short.

This made no sense to me, but I’m not an appliance technician. I gave them directions to the nearest Home Depot and off they went. Once they had it all put back together they insisted all was well and that the sound of the dryer was “normal”. I signed the repair order but with an asterisk and note saying that my signature did not mean it was “repaired to my satisfaction” only that it appeared to be working…for now.

Gosh it felt good to have my dryer back and in working condition.

For two loads, that is.

The appliance repair shop has now washed their hands of us and the manufacturer opened a claim. I’ve tried (twice) to email my request to the service protection plan, only to receive error messages. When I call they say “volume is high” and to please fill out the form on the web. Sigh

And then there is Slinky.

Slinky napping in the garden

Slinky napping in the garden

She is still hanging in there, but I’ve seen a recent decline. She saw our vet twice last week, which led to a diagnoses of a “very large hyperechoic cystic mass on her liver”. The better news is that it is NOT cancer, but a benign growth. She continues to eat, groom and purr, all good signs, but she’s lost more weight. She’s a tiny 5 pounds, about 2.5 kilos. She’s not in any pain and as long as she continues with a good quality of life, we are happy to have her with us. My heart is heavy when I see her tiny frame, but then she purrs in my face or crawls in my lap and I can see that for now she’s doing okay.

I know many of you live with cats or dogs, so you can relate to the angst.

Nothing magical or transformative will happen when I turn the page to September, but I still find myself craving the fresh start of a new month.

I’m grateful that Slinky is still with us. I appreciate Cal Fire crews and their tireless efforts fighting wildfires throughout the state. I’m grateful for the clean and well maintained laundry mat nearby. Having a washer and a dryer in my home is a luxury that I know others can’t afford. The same was true for me for many years and I try hard never to take it for granted.

cal fire collage

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the cooler days of autumn, clearer skies and the days we have left with Slinky.

How is the world treating you?

Of Possible Interest:

Topographical map of San Jose/Silicon Valley

CalFire official website

Fascinating article on prototype design for the Developing World Laundry System

Sleeping Under a Tree

It’s been years since I napped in public. It was much more common in my youth.  I could fall asleep anywhere: curled up in a chair at the college student union, at the beach with friends or on a wide swath of lawn with a boring textbook close at hand.

The idea of sleeping under a tree seems idyllic, but in reality you get twigs in your hair and bugs in the wrong places. Unless of course you’re a cat.

slinky under the maple tree

An afternoon snooze on a warm spring day

Though her senses remain muddled, Slinky Malinki, my shiny black kitty is still with us. She found her way out the back door into the garden this weekend, and settled herself in a cool spot of green under the maple tree.  She spends most of her time sleeping, but her appetite remains good. She grooms her coat to a lovely shine.

slinky under the tree eyes closed

Slinky’s cozy little nest

She’s the grand dame of the house, keeping Lindy and Mouse in their place, even with her limited vision. If either one of them gets too close, she  takes a random swing in their direction. They’ve learned to give her a wide berth, even though they are more than twice her size.

mouse near the sweet peas

Mighty Mouse in the garden

lindy near garden bench

Lindy keeping a respectful distance

Living with Slinky reminds me a lot of the toddler years. She wants in until she’s out; then she immediately wants back in. I close the door, leave the room and she starts howling to go out again. She walks out the back door, takes a few steps, and then she wants to come in. I can hear her howling at me now to open the door once again. I’m outwardly patient, but weary as well. She’ll be ready for another nap soon.

slinky under the tree sun on her back

Nature’s pillow

We have a cat fountain indoors along with a small water bowl near Slinky’s favorite sleeping spot. No matter.  She wants to go outside and drink from the cold water in the bowl on the steps. She relieves herself in the garden, even though she has a litter box. She uses that too…or the floor when the mood strikes. She’s officially crossed over into high-maintenance territory, leaving me feeling weary when the day is through.

Whoever said “dogs have owners, cats have staff” knew what they were talking about.

slinky under the tree

Yes, Slinky…I’ll be right there.

If Slinky Had a Thought Bubble

When I was sorting and editing photos this morning it hit me: Slinky needs a thought bubble.

slinky in the sun

Here’s what I think it might say:

My appetite is back You gotta love that thyroid medication.

or perhaps…

Finally that miserable heat wave is over. I thought it would never end.

maybe she’s thinking

I never miss my morning sun bath. I love vitamin D.

or

My shiny black fur looks like chocolate in the morning light. Is that why she keeps pointing that flashy thing at me?

Wouldn’t life be interesting if we were all walking around with our own thought bubbles? I’m sure there’s a Halloween costume idea in there somewhere.

What would your thought bubble say today?

Slinky Malinki: Life in the Blue Zone

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking a bit world-weary

Our little Slinky has a sordid past. We don’t know the details, but she arrived on our front steps a few years ago with fear in her eyes, looking for a meal. I reached down to pet her and she lashed out, biting and clawing my hand. Boy did that hurt.

My family quickly learned to keep our hands to ourselves. Slinky visited our deck every few days and we offered her food and water on her visits. She started rubbing up against our legs with a nervous purr, but any attempt to pet her sent her scrambling, biting or both. This went on for months. Then one day, my son simply bent down and picked her up and carried her into the house. She froze in his hands, clearly terrified, but I rejoiced knowing we could get our hands on her. In November of 2010 I lifted her into a cat carrier and took her to our vet.

contemplation

Contemplation

I warned our vet about Slinky’s propensity to bite and claw, but they countered that she was a sweetie. Clearly they’ve seen it all. Her health checked out, I paid for boosters and an exam and came home.

We kept Slinky indoors that first night, but with a small house, two boys and at the time, four other cats, she was under great duress. The eventual compromise was to create an outdoor enclosure in our back, side yard. This kept her safe from the dangers of the street, including cars and cat fights, but we still dreamed of having her inside.

Slinky Today

We’ve come a long way since those early years. About two and a half years ago, and on her own terms, Slinky moved indoors. She sleeps on the back of my desk and keeps the other cats in line. She’s the smallest and the oldest and hearing-impaired, but Lindy and Mouse know to give her a wide berth. Slinky likes to dart outside for ‘fresh’ water, then quickly returns to her chosen spot on my desk.

Until this summer.

When we cleaned out the side yard earlier this year, we tossed the decaying bench. I bought small blue cushions for the bench, and used to sit there to keep her company and to give her treats. The blue bench cushions were still in good shape, so I planned to use them on the back steps. As I tossed the cushions on the patio Slinky seemed to recognize them. She headed straight for them with purpose and intent. I wonder if she has fond memories of sitting on those cushions in her side-yard domain? Whatever it is, she’s spent most of her summer in this area of the patio known as the blue zone.

Life in the Blue Zone

Slinky wants to go out on the porch around 6 am.

slinky takes a drink

A long, cool drink at the bowl

She has a long drink of water from her blue bowl, which is really a ceramic tray used to catch water under a plant. She spends the rest of the day on her blue cushions.

slinky grooming

8:42 Grooming

slinky grooming

9:04 Planning her day

slinky naps

9:12 The first of several naps

On really hot days, she slips off the sides on to the cool stones, but by day’s end she’s back up on her cushions.

slinky slides off the cushions

Another nap, resting her head on the cool stone

slinky on blue cushions

Another nap

At dusk she comes inside and sits on the arm of the couch for a bit of TLC. She purrs and head butts and looks for affection, but we’re still a bit leery. One false move and the claws come out. A quick hiss follows, from a place of fear. Slinky recovers and things return to normal. Eventually we’re all off to bed until Slinky sounds the alarm the following day. She can’t hear so she dials up the volume to an impossible-to-ignore cry: GET UP! IT’S TIME TO RETURN TO THE BLUE ZONE!

Slinky patrols the blue zone

Slinky patrols the Blue Zone

Slinky is loud-mouthed, quick to temper and at times a bit of a bully.

Sometimes you just can’t explain love.

A bit more about Slinky and the origins of her name

2012: Slinky in the Garden

2013: All’s Well with Slinky

Penguin Books: Slinky Malinki by Dame Lynley Dodd

slinky turning grey

My old, graying Slinky. On a recent visit, my vet described her as “an old woman with really good teeth.”

 

Garden Catharsis

Slinky

Slinky Malinki

Today was one of those days.  We all have them.

The vet called to say that my sweet Slinky Malinki needed an additional blood test. Earlier tests revealed an infection, an elevated thyroid and unexplained weight loss.  She refused her pill hidden in delectable treats, and I wasn’t able to pill her without the help of my husband who’s on a business trip…in the Bahamas.

My youngest son called from school not feeling well and asked to come home early.  He seems to be doing okay, but he’s only called home from school twice in three years so I worry.  It’s a mom thing.

The check-engine light stubbornly refuses to budge on my aging van, much like the extra weight around my aging midriff.  This is not a good week for the car to break down.

So, when the going gets tough, the tough get gardening.  After dinner with the boys and a quick clean up, I headed out doors.  I pruned away dead branches from the lavender shrubs, cleaned out several pots, and watered my neglected annuals.  The coleus had to go, a task I’ve been putting off.  White flies or mites were everywhere, so any hope of saving cuttings was finally put to rest.  San Jose has a yard waste pick up each week with our trash.  I didn’t want to compost the ‘buggy’ plant so on to the heap it went.  I filled  up my watering cans, trimmed the potted roses and swept the by-now-dark front deck.

I brought the fairy garden into the garage for some TLC and finally called it a day.  Hard work, especially outdoors, is invigorating and cathartic.  Problems remain, but a clear head and a tired body put it all in perspective.

What do you do when the going gets tough?