Pain and Progress: My New Life Story, Apparently

I started physical therapy last week, and my second appointment—on Thursday—was so brutal that I ended up having to duck out of work early Friday afternoon because of the pain. (And as someone who already works from home, I only take sick time when I absolutely cannot focus on my job.) I spent the entire weekend on the couch babying my ankle, feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I’d ever recover.

Last night I told my therapist to take it easy on me, and explained my reaction to the last session. We backed off the weight-bearing exercises and focused on stretching and range-of-motion stuff, as well as strengthening my core and glutes (apparently if you do nothing but sit on the couch for two months, your ass gets weak).

But she also put some tape on my ankle—the kind that has a pre-tape and then the actual tape goes on top of it—along the foot, right underneath where the separated bone fragment is still hanging out.

I’m not even kidding, as soon as she put it on my ankle felt stronger. The pain I usually felt when standing up went down a bit, too. How could a piece of tape could make my ankle feel stronger than an actual stabilizing brace? I am still not sure what kind of sorcery this stuff is, but I hope it stays on until I can get to my next appointment and figure out the trick.

I iced my ankle when I got home, as recommended, and then realized I could walk fairly easily around the house with no brace. The tape really does stabilize my ankle. I have no idea if it’s all in my head, but I don’t care. I still can’t twist my ankle or bend down, and I walk with a limp since I can’t bend my ankle in normal walking fashion yet—but a limp without crutches is a definite improvement.

On Friday morning I was convinced I’d never recover, and now I’m starting to feel like there’s a chance I’ll fully recover in time for all of the fun spring/summer activities I’ve got planned. (Cross your fingers and toes, y’all, because I really need to get out of the house again.)

The light at the end of the tunnel

I had my 8-week follow-up at the ortho doc last week, and unfortunately I’m not entirely healed yet. He said he could see the bone fragments were “trying to heal back” with the rest of the bone, but there was still one chunk that wasn’t cooperating. It’s likely why I’m still having a decent amount of pain, especially when touching that specific spot.

The doc (well, PA) said that it’s likely the bone chunk will stay put, but should smooth out and hopefully not cause pain forever. Or it might cause pain forever. It might just be when something presses on that spot (you know, like a SHOE). We’ll just have to wait and see how much trouble it’s going to cause me. :/

In better news, I was told to start transitioning out of my boot into a brace around the house, with the intention to start physical therapy and transition from the brace to nothing. Armed with the info that it’s not likely I’ll injure the ankle any further at this point by trying to walk on it (carefully, though, as it’s still weak and could buckle), I started using the brace around the house. I quickly discovered that I could walk easily with the brace and one crutch, and after a couple days of doing that I’m able to sort of limp around with the brace and no crutch. I was even able to walk to the mailbox with the brace! I had to use a crutch to help me, though. I’m still not good at stairs or uneven terrain, and I’m trying to take it slowly. It’s hard to tell if the tendons are still injured or if everything is just tight because of lack of use, but I definitely don’t want to push too hard.

I start physical therapy tonight, which I’m excited about. I’ve always had relatively weak ankles that have plagued me while hiking (basically I’m slow af going over rocks or other uneven spots because my ankles would roll easily), so I’m hoping that in addition to rehabbing this ankle I can learn how to strengthen them both so I can get back out into the woods without having to worry about injuring myself again. (Because apparently now that I’ve broken and sprained my ankle it’s more likely it will happen again. Yay.)

After two months of what felt like little to no progress, it seems like a lot of improvement has happened in just the past two or three days. I’m not sure if that’s normal, but I’ll take it.

Life on crutches

Spoiler alert: It sucks. Actually, that’s probably not much of a spoiler alert since it seems as though most people I talk to have been on them at some point in their life already. I guess it’s a testament to my luck that this is the first time I’ve broken a bone. (We’re not counting the toe I likely broke when I drunkenly slammed it into a table leg several years ago.)

I’m extremely lucky that I work from home, so my day-to-day hasn’t been inconvenienced in a way that affects my job performance or ability to get to and from work.

But everything else has been affected, and a lot of things I used to barely think about doing are now incredibly inconvenient. I can’t get into or out of the shower on my own, I have to use a chair once I’m in there, and it takes forever to get dressed. I shower at night now because I don’t want to have to get up a couple hours earlier in the morning—and I don’t even dry my hair anymore. Since I broke my ankle four weeks ago, I think I’ve put product in and dried my hair twice.

Things like forgetting a piece of clothing in another room turn into a logistical nightmare. There is no more quickly getting up and grabbing something I forgot somewhere. I’m fairly quick on the crutches now, but I can’t carry anything unless it can be held in my hand along with the crutch grip. I drink all of my water out of Nalgene bottles that have a loop attached to their caps. My snacking has been cut down considerably because if I can’t fit it in my pocket, I’m not able to carry it back to my desk. I plan out my trips to the bathroom to maximize my time being upright—I’m constantly scanning rooms and making mental notes of things I need to move or bring back with me before I sit down again.

I’m incredibly lucky that Ian has been able to help me with literally everything, though. Since this happened, he’s been cooking every meal and bringing it to me on the couch. He comes home at lunch to let the dogs out/in (I can do this now, but if it’s wet outside I’m unable to wipe their feet down), fix me lunch and carry it over to my desk for me to eat it. He’s been walking the dogs, cleaning the house (I did manage to clean the kitchen and the bathrooms at one point, but I paid for it with foot swelling and ankle pain later), carrying my foot-elevating pillows from the bed to the couch and back again every day, and moving stuff around the house that I can’t carry, which is almost everything.

When I do have to leave the house, he has to help me down our steep staircase in front of the house. He takes my right crutch and I hold onto him and the left crutch as I try to put the least amount of weight on my right foot for each step down. We repeat the process for getting back into the house.

My insurance finally approved a monthly rental of a knee scooter, but it’s not as big of a help as I thought it would be. It’s got a basket on the front, which helps me carry small things to and fro, but it’s cumbersome to move in small spaces and I keep running over my left foot when I try to back it up to navigate around things.

I tried putting some weight on my foot while in the boot this weekend and it was slightly liberating—but now my ankle hurts worse than it has for a week or two. So now I’m back to taking it easy and not pushing things. The pain isn’t always terrible, but I’m not a huge fan of pain killers and have been trying to not take them unless I think I won’t be able to sleep because it hurts too much. (For reference, I just finished the bottle of 20 that I was prescribed in the ER the night I broke my ankle. It was meant to last three or four days.) I really hope when everything is healed I don’t have lasting issues from this, but the more people I talk to the more worried about that I get.

I’ve never been good at waiting, but that’s all I can do now. I feel a little relief that this happened in the middle of winter and not right as the weather was changing to lovely spring days, because I’d likely be spending most of my time indoors anyway. It’s been chilly and rainy most days, and the dogs have been mostly content to sit on the couch and chill. We did start sending Stella to camp twice a week instead of once so that she doesn’t get too bored (or fat) from not leaving the house as much as she’s used to, but Star Fox has been more than happy to stay inside with me so I don’t feel too guilty.

I miss being able to do a lot of things, but most of all I’ll be glad when I can walk the dogs again. That’s probably what I miss the most.

It's a wild Saturday night at my house.

2016: What the hell was that?

It’s a universal truth that 2016 can be described as a dumpster fire of bullshit, but it will go down in my personal history as the first year I’ve ever completed a Project 365. Well, 347 out of 365 ain’t bad, right?

Despite not having 365 photos in the set, I’m counting the project as complete. I set a reminder for myself every day at 5 p.m., and that seemed to be the key to me taking a picture. There were a few days (18, actually) where I apparently forgot completely, and instead of going back and trying to fudge something for the day I’m just going to leave it. It’s 95 percent complete. Hooray!

That whole set can be found here, by the way.

The year wasn’t all bad, though it wasn’t all good, either. Let’s recap!

January
Jan. 2: Hiking with my fluffy-assed companion. #project365
We hiked a lot with Stella, and I decided that cold-weather hiking is my favorite hiking. There tend to be fewer people on the trails, and you don’t tend to get nearly as sweaty. The month ended pretty warmly, but winter reared its head again soon enough.

February
Feb. 9: We woke up and it was snowing! #project365
Winter showed up with snow, but it was a relatively weak showing as compared to the year before. Still, Stella was happy to eat snowflakes. Ian and I took a trip to Biloxi and found it to be a pretty shitty town with even shittier beaches, although the Beau Rivage was a really nice casino. Luckily it was just a short weekend trip and we didn’t waste any more time there.

March
March 21: My forsythia is blooming! It's kinda weak, but it's something. #project365
March was pretty warm, and we did some work in our yard. Other than that, it looks like we mainly hung out at home with the animals (besides my monthly trip to the Raven offices). Oh! There was a marathon in town and to show our solidarity, we walked to brunch and then all over downtown to drink. I don’t remember much of the end of that day, but I know it was fun.

April
April 11: Chicago was windy af today. #project365
In April I got sick but then better, and we traveled to Chicago to visit my mom and sisters—and my sister’s new super-cute baby! Ian drove up with Stella and I, but then took a flight back home. I stayed a bit longer and worked from my mom’s house (and visited the North Shore Distillery, home of my favorite gin!), and then Stella and I drove back together like the traveling companions we are.

We also took Stella camping for the first time, and she did really well. She sorta-barked only once at something outside the tent; otherwise she slept on my leg the whole night (Ian was relegated to the twin-sized air mattress we’d bought for Stella to use, ha!).

We also hosted our first beer-tasting event with friends on April 30, which was a huge success. The hangover the next day was totally worth all of the great beers we got to try.

May
May 10: This broad was a perfect travel companion over the past couple days. We explored Athens, Ga., patio-by-patio and loved it! #project365
The month started with mourning Gordo being gone for a year on May 4.

A bright spot of the month was when Stella and I traveled to Athens, Ga., for two days to hang out, work and explore the city. I decided it was about time to embrace the benefits of working remotely, and had heard Athens was a dog-friendly city. We rented a small AirBnB near downtown and spent our days working from patios of bars and coffee shops. It got a bit warm, but luckily it was relatively easy to find shade. I was already used to taking Stella around with me in Chattanooga, so I was prepared with plenty of water, snacks and poop bags. It was a fun couple of days, and I was able to get a lot of work done thanks to Stella being happy to chill next to me for the day after our mile or so walk from where we were staying.

The end of the month was capped off by launching a huge project I’d been working on with a team of co-workers for several months. It was a satisfying conclusion to something several people had worked incredibly hard on for quite some time.

June
June 11: The arcade/pinball expo was a dang good time. #project365
June was likely the most exciting month of the year for us, starting off with getting Stella’s DNA test results back, which were a mix of surprising and why-didn’t-we-see-that obvious breeds.

Then Ian and I traveled to Atlanta for the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo, a two-day pinball and arcade machine convention. Friday night was lighter on people so it was more fun; the lines to play pretty much any game by Saturday afternoon were incredibly long. There was also an issue where a session that consisted of playing the game Quiplash! (which I was very familiar with thanks to months of playing it at Raven on Friday afternoons) got incredibly sexist and misogynistic, and I had to leave the room. It was disappointing, and my feedback to the convention’s organizers went unanswered, so I don’t think I’ll be returning.

June 25: At the top of Sandia Mountain. Where it's harder to breathe but the alcohol works faster. #project365
Later in June we took our yearly “big” vacation. We’d originally thought about going to Canada, but after reading that June is the rainiest time of year there we decided to head to New Mexico instead. And it was amazing! We spent a couple days in Albuquerque, which has an awesome craft beer scene, and then took a train to Sante Fe for a couple days for more sightseeing, brewery-hopping and an incredible visit to Meow Wolf. We came back to Albuquerque and did some hiking just outside the city, both in the Sandia Mountains and at Bandolier National Monument (which was breathtaking). I also met up with my friend Molly, who I hadn’t seen since high school, at Santa Fe Brewing Company in Albuquerque. She and a friend of hers gave us all kinds of advice on cool shit to do while we were in town, and they did not disappoint. People kept asking us why we picked Albuquerque for a vacation and seemed incredulous that we’d visit somewhere just because they had cool scenery and a lot of beer. But why else would you go anywhere?!

While in New Mexico, I had a beer-drinking contest with a friend/co-worker who was on his own vacation in Denver at the same time. The contest was to see who could drink the most unique beers while in our respective cities, and we had to drink at least four ounces of a beer for it to count as an entry. I beat him handily at 102 beers to 69. (He’ll put an asterisk next to my win since I had an extra two days, but he agreed to this as we were negotiating the rules so SUUUUCK IIIIIT.)

July
July 16: Quality time with the niece today. #project365

July was kind of a shit-show. Ian and I were both sick at the start of it, though the month improved with a trip Stella and I took to Chicago to visit with family again. My two sisters and I got matching tattoos, and for once I’m really happy with a tattoo.

But the month ended with me (and about 80 percent of my co-workers) getting laid off—the first time I’d been laid off in my two decades of working full time. It wasn’t exactly a shock; I’d seen the writing on the wall for a while. I mainly was just sad that my time with the company and my co-workers had come to an end. It was the first job I’d had where I really felt like I fit in, and I was bummed that my time there was over.

August
Aug. 13: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. #project365
I decided to give myself a couple of weeks to decompress and spent a lot of time walking Stella around town or in the neighborhood. I also started volunteering at the animal shelter in my neighborhood, figuring it was a good time since I was too broke to adopt any new animals that tugged at my heartstrings.

I went to a Railsbridge event sponsored by Code XX, the women’s coding group here in Chattanooga, where I learned enough about Ruby on Rails to inspire me to continue my study of JavaScript.

I took advantage of having dental insurance for another month and got a much-needed crown put on, too. That wasn’t fun, or cheap, but I was glad to get it done while I still could.

I also started working with a career counselor and completely revamped my resume for the first time in years. I realized I didn’t want to leave tech and began a job search—I also started trying to draw unemployment and realized what a racket that whole thing is.

September
Sept. 13: BFF naptime on my desk. #project365
I took Stella on more walks, hung out with the cats, and cooked a bunch of meals. I realized that cooking was a stress-reliever for me, and a good way to feel useful since I still didn’t have a full-time job. I did do some digital media consulting work for a former employer, which was a fun experience. I learned a lot about freelancing—and myself. I can see myself consulting again on a project-by-project basis, but I don’t think I could make a whole career out of freelancing. I appreciate a steady income and routine—and health insurance—way too much.

October
Oct. 16: Toronto you have a lot of dogs and that's super cool but so far your people are kinda rude. #project365
This month was one of the best of the year. We started it off with a camping trip to the Chilhowee Recreation Area, and then we headed to Murfreesboro for an Oktoberfest celebration at the famed Green Dragon bar. Unfortunately the bar itself was closed due to the festival, so I still wasn’t able to go inside and experience it in all its hobbit and dragon glory. One day.

In the middle of the month I went to Toronto with two friends/former co-workers to attend Full Stack Toronto, a development/UI/project management conference that we were planning on attending back when we were all at Raven still. We attended sessions during the mornings and early afternoons and then explored the gorgeous-yet-rainy city of Toronto.

Oh, and Stella turned three!

At the end of the month I started my new job as a quality engineer at Emma, Inc.! They’re based in Nashville but are remote-friendly, and there were already two other folks on the engineering team living in Chattanooga. Emma is known around Nashville (and beyond) as being an incredibly smart and fun company to work at, and my experience so far has exceeded my expectations. It was a strong way to finish out an already great month, and left me feeling energized and ready for what was to come.

November
Nov. 9: I can't believe what happened last night. Still. #project365 #imwithher
Despite such a great month before, November sort of descended into madness with the election turning out worse than I think everyone expected. We hosted some friends at our house for Election Night, and an evening that started out jovial and hopeful ended in sadness and incredulity. I’m still not sure I believe the country will survive the next four years, but a small positive is that—prompted by not knowing how to live in a country that so obviously does not care about the rights, health and safety of women or minorities—I finally started seeing a therapist again.

After my initial couple weeks of despair, I left Facebook (yeah yeah, I’d return in December) and started focusing on things that made me happy and feel good, like hanging up “mental health” lights in my house and walking shelter dogs and learning to code. I went into the end of the year feeling nervous, but ready to take action.

December
Dec. 13: Old Broads Club. #project365
December started off good but stressful. I accidentally fell in love with, and then we adopted, a 13-year-old dog that I’d walked at HES one day. And then I had to head to Nashville for a week at my new job, leaving Ian home to handle all that goes along with bringing a new dog into a house that already has one dog and three cats. (Sorry about that again, guy.)

But by the middle of the month Star Fox was fitting in nicely, Stella’s emo-ness was subsiding and all of the cats (even King Boo) had gotten fairly used to her.

We were planning on renting a car and driving to Chicago for the holidays, since it had been about five years or so since I’d been home at Christmas. Our plans were set, presents were bought, car was rented. And then, two days before we were supposed to leave, I slipped off our back deck and broke my right ankle (officially I broke off the bottom of my lateral malleolus—into several pieces—and sprained the entire ankle) and royally beat up my left knee.

Dec. 27: Today is one week since I broke my ankle, and I had my follow-up with an orthopedic doctor. It's hard to believe that some small, broken, floating around bone fragments are what's causing me so much pain. #project365

I’d never broken a bone before, but the pain was so bad that I couldn’t get up for fear of passing out or vomiting. Within minutes my entire ankle was swollen to the size of a fist, and Ian took me to the ER. I suppose I should be proud of making it to 37 before breaking a bone (not counting the pinky toe I likely broke when I smashed it into the coffee table one drunk evening years ago), but it sucked. It still sucks. I likely won’t be off crutches until mid to late February, and based on the little range of motion I have after three weeks I’m guessing I’ll need physical therapy, too.

Before breaking my ankle, I had been hesitant to talk too much shit about 2016 as a whole. Sure, a lot of people had died and we elected a literal dumpster fire to lead the country, but I wasn’t taking it personally. Until that night. Narcissistic or not, on that night I decided 2016 could go fuck itself.

So here’s to 2017. Here’s to the country surviving, to famous people not dying in droves, and to my ankle healing up nicely. Here’s to a relatively safe, happy and healthy year for myself and my family, and for you and yours.

The DNA results are in!

A couple weeks ago, we did a Wisdom Panel DNA test on Stella to find out what the hell she is since we had no idea and everywhere we go with her people ask us. We’d been telling people she was definitely a herding breed since she herds everything around her (people, cats, other dogs, groundhogs…) and is likely mixed with Chow. We assumed the herding breed was Border Collie (or just regular Collie) or Australian Shepherd, mainly because of her smaller size (she’s 35 lbs, though the vet wants her to be around 30. Hey, my girl likes to eat.).

Today we got the results in and she’s…

Mostly mixed breed (38 percent), with herding breed as the most likely group. (This means that her lineage was mixed farther back than the three generations they can test for.) I was kind of afraid this would happen, since we figured she had to be mixed with a lot of stuff to not have a prominent look of any recognizable breed.

Stella!

Boston Terrier my ass. She’s way too cute.

After this, she’s 25 percent Chow, which I can’t see in her face but definitely in her fluffiness. Then she’s equal parts Golden Retriever (she’s got the ears), Irish Setter (I can see this in her fringe fur) and Boston Terrier—ew, gross. Those dogs are seriously butt ugly. However, I think the Boston Terrier part would explain her size, since all of those other breeds she’s supposedly mixed with are much larger than she is. Boston Terriers generally weigh around 10-20 pounds and are much shorter than she is, so I could see how mixing a small dog like that with the other larger breeds would yield a medium-sized beast like Stella.

It’s pretty funny to learn about her Chow-ness, though, since when we set out looking to adopt a dog I was adamant about avoiding dogs with Chow in them because they are known for being aggressive assholes. She must have only gotten the fluffiness and coloring from her Chow ancestors—she is a very sweet pup and not aggressive toward people, dogs or cats at all.

This was super-fun, but it also makes me want to do a different DNA test on her to compare! I might wait until there’s one available that can go back farther, though, since she’s apparently a serious, serious mutt. But she’s my mutt, and she’s unique, and I wouldn’t change her for anything.

Stella's DNA ancestry

Stella’s ancestry

One year gone

Today marks one year since Gordo died. He was cremated and I planted tiger lilies (given to me by a thoughtful and knowing friend) above the place in our yard where I scattered the ashes. The flowers bloomed and then died, and I fretted until my friend told flowers for Gordome they would grow back again the next season.

One day recently, Ian started to accidentally mow over the burial spot and the lawn mower—which is electric and had full batteries—sputtered and stopped working. “Gordo says hi,” he told me later.

The flowers are growing again now, and should bloom soon.

In the year since Gordo died, I’ve thought about him often. Every day, most likely, since I see things all over the house that remind me of him. I almost started crying when I opened a box of Band Aids recently—peeling off their wrappers would cause him to come running from wherever he was and he would beg to be able to eat the paper.

At first I wasn’t sure how I’d sleep, since every night for nearly 16 years he would curl up under my chin and purr me to sleep, but soon after he was gone BK started sleeping where he used to. She tried to be sneaky about it at first—she’d climb into bed this is how we sleptand get between Ian and me as usual, but when I would wake up in the morning she’d be on my right side, snuggled up to me and my pillow just like Gordo used to. (Well, almost. She’s not super into being spooned like he was.) Now, though, she is pretty obvious about what she’s doing and many nights she’ll immediately settle down next to me and start purring. I’m not sure if she set out to intentionally comfort me, but it worked. It still works.

I don’t see him in Dragon (what we finally settled on as a name for the male foster kitten we ended up adopting) at all, which is a relief. I was so afraid I was subconsciously trying to replace him by adopting another male ginger cat, but he’s pretty much the exact opposite of Gordo. He’s a kinetic ball of energy, and is both skittish and brave at the same time. He isn’t too fond of people, but he loves BK and King Boo and Stella is his best friend. He’s not super cuddly, and I don’t think I could ever hold him long enough to cry into his fur, but he brings a different joy and energy into the house.

And this morning, I woke up with both him and BK sleeping next to me.

I knew the feelings of hollow sadness wouldn’t last forever, but it’s a relief to have made it a year and be able to think back easily and sweetly of the time I spent with Gordo. He was one cool cat who lived a good, long life. So rest in peace, old buddy. I’ll be drinking in your honor today.

RIP Gordo

Every year is getting shorter

Time is ticking out

I hung up a clock today. A real, old-school, two-hands one. I can’t remember the last time I had a clock in my house that made that noise—tick, tick, tick—and it’s a bit disconcerting.

Tick—time is passing.
Tick—you’re getting older.
Tick—time is running out.

It’s easy to waste seconds when we can’t hear them being spent.

Tick, tick, tick. Three more gone. Tick, tick, tick. You better do something, the clock taunts me. Tick, tick, tick. What will you have to show for your time when it’s up?

My first foster failure

Two months ago, I overestimated myself.

Ian and I agreed to foster two neighborhood feral kittens until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered and adopted out, and I thought, “Oh sure, it’s too soon for us to get another cat so it won’t be a problem. I’ll find these siblings a nice home with some nice folks and everything will be fine.”

foster kittens

At first, we were only supposed to keep them for a week. Just to help out a neighbor who was overwhelmed with foster kittens. But then I went to Chicago for a week with Stella and Ian agreed to keep the kittens even longer.

That should’ve been my first clue.

Eventually they gained enough weight that they could be fixed, and then it was time to try to adopt them out. My neighbor and I brought them to a high-end pet supply store to talk to customers and hopefully find them homes with people who spend hundreds of dollars on pet food every month, and we found a man who wanted to bring home a kitten for his hyper dog to play with. I was skeptical, but the people who worked at the store knew him and said he was very good to his pets and would provide Rafi, the boy kitten, a great home.

I walked him out to his car with the kitten and wouldn’t let go of his car door. I gave him my phone number and pleaded with him to call me for any reason, and told him that he could bring the kitten back at any time—no questions asked.

That should’ve been my second clue.

I got home and cried all night, and Ian made me Moscow mules to drown my sadness. I knew it was a good thing that one of the kittens had gotten adopted out, but I felt in the back of my mind like I’d failed him somehow. I decided we were going to keep the girl kitten because I couldn’t bear going through that again. I wasn’t being rational.

That should’ve been my third clue.

But the next day the man called and said his dog had urinated in protest all over his house—twice—and he was bringing the kitten back. I was filled with relief.

That should’ve been the clue that smacked me in my delusional face.

Rafi and Stella

My neighbor asked if I wanted to hit the pet supply store again, but I declined. A friend/co-worker and his 16-year-old daughter were looking for a kitten, and he told me they’d adopt one. I knew they were good to their pets and would be good to the kitten, so I invited them to come visit me for the day and choose one.

I expected they’d pick the boy, since he’d previously been the more outgoing, friendly and not-scared-of-anything kitten, but while they were here Rafi hid almost the entire time. Instead it was Jane (who we’d nicknamed Scorpion Princess because of the way she folded her tail over her back when excited), historically skittish and unfriendly except with King Boo, who captured their attention. She played excitedly with my friend’s daughter and inspected their puppy (from afar) and showed no fear. It’s one of the few times I’ve actually seen an animal choose its owner. So while I knew I’d miss her, I knew she was going to the right place.

As soon as they left with her I cried, but then I saw King Boo grooming Rafi. And later, as the two of them wrestled and ran around the house, I realized I had gotten a kitten for my cat.

King Boo plays father-figure to Rafi

All of the guilt I’d felt with adopting them out was tied into how much King Boo loved having them around. We’d started calling him Papa Boo because of the way he’d supervise their play time, and then jump in to diffuse things and lick their fur back into place. The whole time we were fostering we joked that Jane was his girlfriend, but now that she’s gone he snuggles with Rafi just as much. They sleep together in the bed each night, they nap in my desk chair together every afternoon and they wrestle the shit out of each other at least five times a day.

Despite all of the attention he paid to me, I think I’d been trying to push Rafi away a bit because he was a male orange tabby and I didn’t want it to seem like I was trying to replace Gordo. But as the vet told me the other day when I took him in for shots and they knowingly chuckled at my first foster failure, you can never replace a pet. And not keeping Rafi because he is the same color as Gordo, even though he’d endeared himself to everyone in the family including Stella, wouldn’t be fair to him.

So here we are, a three-cat family again. I’m slightly annoyed with myself for thinking I could foster so easily, but then I see how happy King Boo is to have a cat friend again and I figure it’ll work out OK.

My world is always full of cats

It’s been almost two months since Gordo died. I’m still sad, but I think I’m done grieving in the every-minute-of-every-day sense. Little things around the house remind me of him all the time, but I’m able to smile at the memories now instead of feeling this immense sense of helpless loss. I still haven’t buried his remains, though. I need to do that before the beautiful tiger lily bulbs my friend brought me die, too.

We’re now fostering two seven-week-old orange tabby kittens at our house, which has been an interesting challenge. One of our neighbors runs a trap/neuter/release program in the neighborhood and ended up with six feral kittens that needed to be fostered and socialized, so we took two—and it seemed fitting to help out the orange ones. There’s a male and a female, even though only about 25 percent of all orange tabbies are females.

A little mid-day nap is always a good idea.

They were fairly wild when we first got them a week and a half ago, but now they’re definitely domesticated. King Boo has made friends with the little girl—he grooms her and plays with her and it’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. Stella loves them both, of course, but is partial to the little boy because he’s not afraid of her and lets her groom him. They both eat Stella’s food and Stella will eat theirs if I don’t watch her. She’s got this thing for wet cat food that I don’t understand, but that dog will do anything for just a spoonful.

Well these two became BFFs pretty quickly.

BK, of course, gives zero shits about the kittens. She’s allowing them to exist in her presence, and that’s all we can ask of her.

Our house has been a bit of a zoo lately, but it’s been fun. In a way it feels cathartic to foster these kittens. I can’t keep them for various reasons, but it’s nice to be able to help the little guys out for a while. And the fact that they resemble Gordo makes it a little bit more meaningful.

Maybe I’m reaching there, but it’s helping.

Day three

I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to grieve for a pet, but right now I feel like my grief is never going to end. I went out with friends last night and had a good time and I thought oh cool, maybe I’m feeling OK now. But then I woke up this morning and as soon as Ian and Stella left I started crying and I really haven’t stopped.

sunday snugglesI know, deep down, that it was the right thing to do. The right time. Gordo hadn’t eaten any food since at least Thursday, and he would barely eat the few cat treats I set in front of him Friday and Saturday. Sunday afternoon he laid with me on the couch for a bit, but I could tell he wasn’t very comfortable. That night I put him up in the bed and instead of curling up with me he just kind of sat there. I woke up later and he was gone, but then I woke up again and he’d gotten back up there and was laying next to me, but still not cuddling like he usually did. Monday morning, it became obvious it was time.

He could barely walk a few steps without falling over sideways. He still pawed at the shower glass to get in like he’d been doing for the past couple weeks, and he still drank some water from the tiles once he got in, but then he stayed in there for a while just sitting there. When he came out of the bathroom later that morning I put him on his heating pad, but I could tell things weren’t right. I spent the morning and early afternoon with him, and then we went to our 1:30 p.m. vet appointment and the vet agreed that it was time to let him go.

So we did.

And then we left the vet’s office with an empty cat carrier and came home to a house that now only has two cats. I saw a napkin on the table and realized that I didn’t have to worry about it getting shredded. I unwrapped a tampon and for the first time in years didn’t have that mouthy orange cat come running, meowing because he loves crinkly paper. I saw the Slanket I’d left on the couch and realized I won’t have to put it up anymore so it won’t get peed on. Amazon delivered a box of puppy training pads that afternoon, which I’d been using since Gordo hadn’t been able to get into the litter box for a few weeks. I saw the handful of medications I’d been putting in his food still sitting on the counter. They’re still sitting there.

I can’t bring myself to wash the blankets on the couch because his fur is still on them.

The last two nights I’ve gotten into bed and caught myself waiting for him to climb up on the small step-stool and then to the ottoman, both set up a year or so ago as makeshift stairs to help him climb up to the bed. I don’t know how long I’ll keep waking up and immediately feeling lonely because he’s not curled up with me.

I spent so much energy preparing for the actual end—knowing when it was time and would I make the decision or would I come home to find him already gone?—that I don’t think I fully considered what it would feel like without him here. One of my friends mentioned the “horrible dark feeling” of the loss and that’s exactly what it is. He was a part of my daily life for 16 years and now he’s gone and his absence is so, so loud.