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

The end.

this is how we sleptWe look for meaning in death, and it’s easy to understand why. It never feels like we’ve had enough time, so we look for signs to make peace with the end. Signs that it’s the right time, if we’re the ones making the decision. Signs that it was meant to be, if we’re not.

But the truth is that we never really do have enough time, and I don’t think there’s a way to feel confident that it’s perfect timing when a decision needs to be made (or it’s made for you). You just do your best with what you’ve got.

Gordo was my companion for 16 years. I was 19 when I got him—a lifetime ago. He was with me through changing jobs, boyfriends, homes. He licked Ian when we started dating and that meant we were going to get married. He comforted me when I was sad, and made biscuits on my shoelaces before I’d leave the house. Every night he got in the bed and requested I turn on my right side so he could curl up under my chin, my arm wrapped around him so he could fit his head in the palm of my hand. I used to not be able to sleep unless he was there.

Gordo was my friend. And now he’s gone.

Things are getting better all the time

Stella has been calming down some, at least during the day, which means that she isn’t having to be crated all day long while I’m working. (For those not familiar with my situation: I work from home, but I had been crating her because it is impossible to work and monitor a puppy’s every move.)

Lately she’s been putting herself in her crate after our morning walks, but since she puts herself in there I leave the door open and she mostly just naps until around lunchtime. In the afternoon she gets a bit restless, but I only put her back in her crate now if she does the whole inside/outside/inside/outside thing too frequently. She doesn’t quite understand yet that mama has to work and can’t be interrupted every five minutes to let her out or in.

But while she had been crated the whole time I was working with a break every couple hours, she’s now only being crated maybe half the day, if even that. She loves her crate, though, which makes me feel like we’ve done the crate-training thing right.

Last weekend my mom came to visit, and as soon as she left (like, within hours) we noticed BK hanging out on the dining room table while Stella was out in the living room. And then later she sat on the coffee table in the living room and the two of them touched noses.

This doesn’t sound like much, but ever since we adopted Stella, BK has confined herself to her 7-foot-tall cat tree or one of the spare bedrooms upstairs. Up until last weekend she made sure that the only time she was on the main floor of the house and out of her cat tree was when Stella was safely contained in her crate.

BK and Stella

But ever since last weekend, BK has been spending more and more time out and about while Stella’s roamed free. There have been several instances where BK has been sitting on the coffee table in the living room and Stella has walked up, smelled her face and then walked away without incident. Every once in a while BK will meow when she sees Stella walking near her, but Stella hasn’t chased or provoked her and BK hasn’t swatted at her. And that actually surprises me, since Gordo punches her in the face every time she’s within arm’s reach of him.

I have no idea what changed. It’s like all of a sudden BK remembered she’s this giant, majestic cat who rules the house. And without any fanfare, she returned to us.

I’m not going to question it, though I do continue to marvel at how each cat interacts differently with Stella.

Currently

This weekend Ian’s uncle came to visit, and since it rained for almost three days straight we spent much of our time eating and drinking our way around town—indoors, of course.

In what turned out to be a grave a miscalculation of value due to the weather, I had rented two lenses from LensRentals.com to try out on the new 70d I just got last month. Despite all the rain I still needed to get out and see what they could do, but Ian and his uncle were good sports and let me drag them around whenever we had a break in the rain. (Stopping at several bars along the way probably helped my cause, I’m sure.)

Ian’s uncle is a cool dude—a former prison guard at a medium security prison, he’s now retired and stopped here on his way to Cherokee, N.C., where he was going to gamble on the house for a few days. He regaled us with stories of his time in the Air Force and as a lieutenant in a correctional facility, and as a boy growing up in very, very rural West Virginia, and we introduced him to more craft beer than he knew could exist in one town. I figured out early on that in order to not spend the entire next week hung over I needed to act as the designated driver while we were out on the town, and I think that was probably the smartest decision I could have made. Those boys can really drink.

Stella gets some scratchin'

The upside to the rain, though, was that when it cleared for a bit yesterday we had some nice afternoon weather for back porch-sitting. I used the opportunity to conduct a little photoshoot with Stella, who was happy to finally be able to spend some time outdoors without getting soaked.

But now it’s Monday and it’s about to rain again. Last year when we moved to Chattanooga in July, it rained almost every day for a month. Everyone kept telling us that it was so strange for this time of year, but it looks as though the strange might have become the norm and the non-stop July rain is repeating itself.

Sick kitty on the mend (hopefully)

By Saturday morning it was clear BK was getting worse, not better, so we took her back to the vet. While she wasn’t entirely sure, all signs pointed to her having had an allergic reaction to the two vaccinations she got on Thursday. Her belly was bright red and she cried when the vet touched her abdomen, so her best guess was that she had developed vasculitis in reaction to the shots.

Poor baby kittySo she got a shot of cortisone and antibiotics (in case she had developed a UTI; we hadn’t seen her pee in almost a day and she had laid down in the litter box, which is extremely out of character for her), and then some fluids for support. We brought her home and she immediately ate some wet food I put out for her, so we felt comfortable enough to leave her for the weekend since we were going back to Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet to celebrate Christmas with Ian’s family (we had missed it originally because he was sick with the flu over Christmas).

The whole weekend I was worried sick. I barely slept Saturday night, afraid we would come home and find her dead. Fortunately, she greeted us at the door Sunday evening when we got home. She ate some more wet food and was more affectionate than usual. She wasn’t able to jump up onto her condo, though, and later that night when we went to bed she couldn’t jump up onto the bed so I had to put her in it.

BK is still sick, but getting betterBut yesterday morning I woke up and she was in the closet, sleeping in the corner where she sometimes likes to sleep, but usually not overnight. She did get in the shower after Ian got out, which is part of her normal routine, but I found her in it a bit later looking like she couldn’t get comfortable. I had to put her up in her condo later in the morning because she fell when she tried to jump into it, which was a really sad thing to watch.

So I called the vet’s office and they told me to make sure she is getting enough food. She ate two cans of wet food and a bit of dry food, and seemed to have perked up by the time Ian got home from work. She hung out with me while I packed up some of our kitchen stuff, and then she slept in the bed almost all night. She still wasn’t able to jump into the bed, but once I put her up there she seemed comfortable. When we woke up this morning she was sleeping in the cat condo in the bedroom, which is usually where we find her in the mornings.

On the mend, hopefullyI canceled the appointment to bring her back to the vet today because she seemed improved enough to not need to go in. Packing her up in the carrier and carting her over there in 10 degree weather would probably just make her feel worse, so I’m going to continue to keep an eye on her today and see if she continues to improve. She’s sleeping in the closet instead of in her cat tree right now, which makes me a little nervous, but when I’ve gone to check on her she’s been more alert than in previous days. The vet’s office told me that if she seems to be regressing again to just call and they’ll get her in to be seen.

You know, there are many times I’m glad to be able to work from home, but this situation is one that makes me especially grateful. Being able to watch her all day and night without missing work is a huge relief, as is knowing I could run her to the vet immediately if I needed to. Hopefully she will continue to get better and will be back to her old self very soon… and then I’ve got to have a conversation with the vet about not having to vaccinate her again. I am not going to put her through this every year, that’s for sure.

Closure

After we learned Evil Twin had diabetes, the vet strongly recommended we not allow him outside anymore. Not only did he have to be on an insulin shot schedule, his wounds were slow to heal and he had a habit of getting his ass kicked by the other neighborhood cats.

But from time to time, when the weather was nice, we’d let him outside for a bit. He had gotten used to an indoor life by then, anyway, and was good at limiting his outdoor time himself. We would let him out the front door and he would walk around the side of our townhouse, through the grass and dirt and mulch, to the back and climb under the fence to our back patio. We’d find him minutes after we had let him out meowing at the back door to be let in, content his patrol had kept us safe.

RemainsOn Saturday, Ian and I picked up his remains from the vet, and yesterday afternoon I said a few words as we scattered those remains along his patrol route. It was the only thing I could think to do that made sense for him. I didn’t want to keep his ashes inside. He loved being outside, but close to the house. So that’s where he’ll stay, and soon he’ll be mixed in with the grass and dirt and mulch.

We won’t live here forever, but nothing is permanent, anyway.

Best Band Poster EVER

Best Band Poster EVER by MeganMorris

On Saturday we went to Three Brothers, a bar and deli in Murfreesboro, to see Rhythm Kitchen play again. This place is smoke-free, so I was able to stay throughout the whole set this time!

Skylar, the band’s lead singer, had been telling us about this other band’s poster she kept seeing around town that was hilarious, so after Rhythm Kitchen’s set, Ian, our friend Scott and I walked down to Wall Street, another bar on the Square, to see the poster for ourselves.

There we stood outside the bar, cracking up at this ridiculously awesome poster, when we noticed a dude standing outside next to us.

“You guys are really stroking my ego right now,” he said. “I made that poster.”

What luck! I told him that we had no idea who the band was but we had walked over to see the legendary poster for ourselves. I also asked him if I could get a copy of it. “I will hang this shit up in my house,” I believe were my exact words.

I gave him my email address, and what do you know: This morning it arrived in my inbox. The poster was created by Preston Pickrell, who, according to their Facebook page, is the drummer for Now the Never. Props to you, Preston, for creating an epic band poster.

Ian and I are going to try to make their August 25 show, despite hating Wall Street (really, it’s great when you’re waiting on a table at Marina’s but otherwise sucks as a bar). I’m not a huge metal fan, but I’m willing to throw a few bucks toward anyone who puts Metallica and the phrase “donkey punch” on a poster.


In case you don’t want to click through, the fine print reads:
Must be 21 and over and not dressed as a wizard from any movie that Preston deems as lame. He will not accept anyone dressed up as a damn Jedi as Jedi ARE NOT wizards. Anyone dressed up as anyone from those goddamn Harry Potter movies will get donkey punched in the face. Offer valid in all states except Alaska. Fuck Alaska!

An expensive bar tab

Last Friday, after a particularly long week, Ian and I went to the Mellow Mushroom in Murfreesboro after work for a bite to eat and some beers. We left around 10 p.m., and as we were getting into the car we heard frantic mewing. At first we thought the sound was coming from the bed of a nearby truck, but upon further investigation we discovered a teeny tiny black kitten racing around the parking lot, under various cars and through the grass.

He was nervous and scared of us at first, and as we tried to get him to come to us he would creep in and then dart away light lightning. A guy came by with a bagel from Starbucks and threw chunks at the kitten, but gave up rather quickly saying he already had too many cats at home to deal with another. You’d think he’d have learned by now that cats don’t eat bagels, especially when they’re thrown at them, but whatever.

Ian sat in the middle of the parking lot calling to the kitten while I directed traffic away from us, and eventually the kitten crept in and let us pet him. We decided he was too cute to just leave out there, and we could tell he was hungry by the loud, continual mewing and refusal to run away completely, so I went inside and asked Courtney, the bartender that night, for a cardboard box to take him home in. She brought me one that was perfect for kitten transport—it had plenty of holes that were just the right size for him to get air but not escape—and I took it outside to capture the little guy.

As I made my way back to where Ian was sitting, still in the middle of the parking lot, I noticed that he had finally won the kitten over. There it was, laying on its back, belly to the sky, getting scratched under the chin.

This was the point I began to worry that we might be inviting a fifth cat to live in our house.

Uh, we found this guy outside Mellow Mushroom and someone decided we should take him home.

We managed to get him into the box with little trouble, and he didn’t make a peep the whole ride home. We knew that we couldn’t let the other cats know what the hell we were bringing into the house, so as soon as we got in the door Ian rushed upstairs to get the kitten settled in his bathroom upstairs. I got together a bowl of food, some water, two towels, a litterbox and a couple of cat toys for him, and we locked ourselves in the bathroom to see how he was doing. Not knowing what his health status was, we didn’t want to risk him giving any diseases to our other cats, so he was going to have to spend the night in the bathroom. I felt sorry for him, but I knew it was still better than the Mellow Mushroom parking lot.

I put the food and water in the box where he was still sitting, and he ate voraciously. Like he hadn’t eaten in days. When he got up the nerve to jump out of the box I moved his food out, too, and he ate some more. He let Ian and I hold him on our laps, and once he realized we were pretty OK people, he started purring like a lawnmower. Holy crap, that kitten has some pipes on him.

The next morning we took him across the street to our vet, where we learned that he was in perfect health. He was in fact a he, and was about 10 weeks old. He tested negative for feline AIDS and leukemia, as well as intestinal parasites and fleas. The vet guessed that he most was dumped in a populated area by someone who didn’t want him, and quelled our fears of having stolen someone’s missing kitten. (We checked to see if he was micro-chipped and he was not.)

A couple hundred dollars later, we were sent home with an adorable, healthy kitten who we really couldn’t keep but were growing more attached to by the minute.

As soon as we got him home the night before, though, I had tweeted and Facebooked a picture of him, trying to find him a home. I tweeted again that morning, and as we were sitting in the vet’s office waiting on his test results, I got a message from a friend saying her sister was interested in adopting him. Overjoyed, I exchanged numbers with her and by the time I got home I had a voicemail from her sister. I called her back, and we set up a time to meet so she could take the kitten home.

Later that afternoon we met up halfway between Murfreesboro and Spring Hill and just like that, the stray kitten found in the Mellow Mushroom parking lot had himself a new home with a lovely lady and her other cat, both of whom I’m sure will give him lots of love and attention.

Yay, found this sweet guy a good home!

I’m still amazed that it all worked out like it did. I can’t think of how many times I’ve tried to help friends adopt out a stray they’ve found but there were no takers. I was sure that we were going to have to call a bunch of no-kill shelters in Nashville and beg and plead them to take this sweet kitten from us, but somehow it was the right place and the right time and it all worked out.

I did bond with him a bit, but I’ll admit I’m relieved we didn’t end up taking him in. Four cats is a lot, and at times I feel like I’m drowning in cat hair and litter. Don’t get me wrong, I love our cats (well, three of them at least—we won’t talk about Evil Twin), but I don’t even want to think about trying to assimilate a fifth one into our crazy household.