Friday, August 10, 2018

Zephyr: A Soft, Gentle Breeze

zephyr nose b:w

I named him Zephyr because the above definition described him so perfectly. In all his grey furry softness, he would brush past a leg or an outstretched hand like a warm summer breeze. From his kitten-hood until his passing yesterday morning, my boy was sweet, gentle, loving and beautiful. In his 19 years, he never once attempted to hiss, scratch or bite a human being (though he once had a lengthy hospitalization where he reportedly growled a lot). This boy was a fluffy, purring mound of love in every way.


He was not a lap cat and in fact, displayed mild anxiety when being held. However the moment we'd place him back on the floor, he'd roll onto his back to accept belly rubs for as long as we were willing to give them. He had so much love in him. And a deep, resonant rumbling purr which started immediately upon anticipation of being touched. Early on, we referred to that as his Insta-purr.

Alex with skitty and zephyr

He came into our lives along with his brother, Skittles - another one of the best kitties on the planet. Together, they were the perfect tag team of sweetness, silliness, softness and spunk. They were as bonded as you would expect litter mates to be. Despite Zephyr's heft over Skittles' sleight body frame, Skitty was the alpha kitty in this pairing. Zephyr was significantly larger than his bro and as kittens, it was comical to see them chase and tumble with one another. Zeph never cared that Skitty wanted to be in charge - they had worked that out long ago.

brotherly love2

As a young cat - and really up until his brother died three years ago, Zephyr seemed to live for eating, sleeping and belly rubs. When not engaged in any of the above, he would fling himself at Skittles and flop down on top of him, silently demanding to be groomed. And Skitty always obliged. It was reciprocal, of course but mostly Zephyr got the best of that deal.

Zeph and Alex

He also had an especially big love for Alex, my younger son. As a child, Alex had a way of cozying up to Zeph and putting his head on his furry belly. Insta-purr. Zeph spent much of his time in Alex's bed through the night. As Alex got older and his hair got longer (waist length for all of his adult years and he's now 28), all he had to do was lean over Zephyr and those soft, sweet paws would bat at and gather Alex's blond locks. Insta-purr.

Of course, my older boy, Jeffrey dearly loved our cats, also. I think that he and Skitty were a little more bonded in the way that Alex and Zeph were, and there were countless times that one furry body or another would be snuggled up either on, or beside him.

Through most of his years, Zeph had a hefty appetite and would practically inhale his food while Skitty ate daintily as cats usually tend to do. Then Zephyr would nose around him as he was nearly done, and ever so expertly nudge his way into his bowl, easing his brother out while he'd quickly have those remaining tidbits for dessert.


This boy loved to engage in conversation. He'd meow and I'd respond with "what?" He'd meow an immediate response which would evoke yet another from me. We could go on back and forth like this for up to a couple of minutes. He was such a vocal and connected little guy.

Zeph had a "quality" which is rather out of character for felines. He was a complete and total klutz. Cats generally have a way of easing their graceful selves into a space without so much as disturbing the air around them, much less nearby objects. Not this boy. Much more often than not, Zephyr's jump up onto the desk, a counter, a dresser or really any surface resulted in a clatter of items falling to the floor, a spilled coffee or an overturned lamp. He was oddly drawn to finding places to lie down which caused mini chaos for me. My desktop keyboard was one of those places. I have a tendency to leave my computer on and applications running when I head out for the day, but I turn my monitor off. I couldn't possibly count the times that a re-lit monitor revealed that Zephyr had changed desktop file names to an extensive blank name by his lying on the space bar or had sent a lengthy message to my sister through Messenger which consisted of one or two repeated letters from the keyboard's periphery. He consistently called up strange but interesting windows and files from somewhere deep within the bowels of the hard drive - the likes of which I never could have found on my own. There have been hundreds of times through the years that Zeph has evoked the question "HOW do you DO that?"

Zeph baby

This boy has had his trials and tribulations. A little over ten years ago, he had a bad bout of Inflammatory Bowel Disease which resulted in his having the surgical placement of a feeding tube through to his stomach. This was when not only his bowel was irritable but understandably, also his mood and he would growl when anyone approached his space. You can read about his care here, where I also listed Zephyr's and Skitty's House Rules for when Benny, the Jack Russell Terrorist came to visit. That post is complete with photos of Zeph in his unbecoming sick boy outfit - and yet he still managed to look adorable. He was ill for a long time but rallied quickly once he was over the hump. When we went to pick him up that day, he rolled around on the examination table like a young feline in catnip. He purred and nudged his head into us and pulled our hands toward his body. The vet tech who reported the previously-mentioned growling was ecstatic over what an absolutely beautiful hunk of purring love he was now that he was happy to see us and no longer feeling poorly or frightened. Upon returning home, Skittles gave him the obligatory "you smell like clinic" hiss and then quickly turned to his task of licking that sick scent away.

Slitty and Zephyr brotherly love2

We lost our Skitty boy three years ago and from that day onward, Zephyr was never himself again. Oh he was still my gentle, sweet, loving boy but he went into a deep sadness, confusion and change over the loss. For more than a year, he spent most of his days crying out and searching for his brother. He would stand at one end of the hallway and let out the most mournful sounds - the one that most cat lovers would recognize as coming from the carrier during the drive to the veterinary office. This was followed by a frantic dash through my apartment looking under beds and peering into dark corners in hopes of finding where Skitty was now hiding. It was heart-wrenching. This would happen dozens of times a day - and without fail, every time he finished eating. Alex finally made the connection between food and crying: Zephyr had always moved in on Skitty's dish upon finishing off his own food. And that dish was no longer there. That cat was no longer there. His anguish was inconsolable. His bereavement seemed to possess him. My vet at that time was about an hour away (from when I had lived up north) and they very kindly armed me with advice and reassurance - none of which made a dent in his resolve to deeply mourn his brother. More than a year later, his frenetic behaviour began to ease ever so slowly. I eventually found a local vet who was recommended by the previous one, and who has been the most wonderfully, supportive gem of a human being.

zeph b w

By the time two years had passed, he only let out his cries once in a while - often in clusters and usually only after eating. But I now had a very changed kitty - much of which was in a very good way but he also needed my attention a lot more than ever before. Zephyr no longer panicked as much when being held. He would still quietly and not-so-subtly look for his way to freedom, but he could relax enough to accept a good head-scratch (he particularly loved that on the left side of his face) and he would even rev up the Insta-purr. He became more vocal but in a very direct way - he'd meow right at me, trying to convince me that it was meal time, or time to go watch TV where he would typically snuggle up beside me. If I didn't respond to his requests immediately, he began to paw me ever so gently. I'd be at the computer desk and he'd stand tall on his hind legs - his front paws resting on my lap. Then softly and sweetly, he would use one paw to tap, tap, tap my elbow and then he'd curl it around my arm and pull it down so I could pet him. In his first 18 years on the planet, he never did anything remotely like that. On the mornings that I wasn't up soon enough for his liking, he'd be up on the bed tenderly touching my face with that soft paw, attempting to angle my head toward the direction of getting my lazy self up and moving. Though if I opted to pet him instead, he was good with that. Insta-purr.

silly zephyr5

His eating habits also changed considerably. He always drank well but his once voracious appetite took a perpetual roller coaster ride through various expensive offerings. As with many older cats, he had developed a moderate stage of kidney disease which was being maintained with prescription cat food. He was also diagnosed with a thyroid condition and his medication helped with his semi-frequent nausea. His appetite remained finicky in spite of this. I never knew when he was about to enter a stage of eating really well for a few weeks or really poorly. With the latter, I would have to coddle him by offering minuscule amounts of costly tidbits at a time, lest the food go stale (in his opinion) over the next 20 minutes. If he ate that, he'd get more.. if he didn't, I'd open a different tin and try that - often mixing up a cocktail of various flavours and textures - occasionally with parts of my own meal. He went through these cycles of eating well and putting on a pound, or going off of his food and losing that weight again. He was clearly losing muscle mass and would never be the chunky boy he was for most of his life. Despite all this, he maintained reasonable enough health for his age, and still had some joy in his life. He knew he was loved.

I recently had the opportunity to go and see Jeffrey in Edmonton. I anguished over whether I should leave Zephyr for those ten days or not. I knew that at this more frail stage of his life, it would not be wise to just have someone come in to my place to feed and medicate him and offer a bit of snuggle time. He often needed to be coaxed to eat and I wanted him to be in an environment where that could be ensured. I found someone who would care for him in her home. The fact that she was also a veterinary technician helped me make that decision. All of the reports I got from her were positive. He was playing, purring and eating really well. Early on, she sent photos. That eased my mind considerably. I had a great time in Alberta and I expect to be posting about that eventually.

sleepy Zephyr3

Upon my return, I picked up a very sick cat. The boarder told me that he had just started pulling away from food on the day I returned. He looked like he had lost weight and his eyes were running green. I have to admit that my knee-jerk reaction was to distrust what the boarder had been telling me but I wanted to get a fuller picture about what was going on with my boy before I came across as accusatory. In the end, I realized that she was indeed being entirely honest with me and that Zeph had been doing well despite incubating an upper respiratory infection with which he began to manifest symptoms the day I came home. She had done nothing wrong and she and her family had given my boy a lot of love while I was away. I'm most grateful for that.

It was a long weekend here, in Ontario so I brought him into an emergency clinic. His was mildly dehydrated and though his typically out-of-whack numbers for kidney and thyroid disease were not alarmingly different, his white blood cell count was very high. He was given subcutaneous fluids, a slow-release broad spectrum antibiotic and some drops for his eyes. I brought him home. He would not eat. He would not drink. I picked up a syringe from the pharmacy to try and get some liquid into him and though he fought me, he took some down. And I later stepped in the puddle which was indicative of his having brought it back up. I force-fed him a bit of his food and he kept that down. His poor little nose was stuffed up terribly and his eyes, despite regular antibiotic drops had a green discharge. Essentially, he had a cold with a secondary bacterial infection, but with his age, his frail state and refusal to eat, he was failing.


Once the long weekend was over, I brought him to my regular Vet and she suggested keeping him one or two nights on IV fluids and a different antibiotic, and hopefully he would feel well enough to start eating. He did not. She sent him home for the night after about 36 hours of support to see if he would eat in his own environment, with the intention of getting him back on fluids first thing in the morning if he didn't eat, or prescribing oral antibiotics for me to administer if he did show some interest in his food. He did not. Overnight, he just got weaker. His back legs could scarcely hold his puny weight and he couldn't get himself completely into the litter box. I knew it was the end of the road for my beautiful boy.

I brought him back at the appointed early morning time and spoke with Caroline, my vet. I expressed my feelings about believing this was it for him and asked her if she could convince me that there was any hope for him, to which I would have gladly clung. She gently examined him and listened to his heart and congested chest and sadly shook her head.

I need to tell you about Caroline. I have only lived in Peterborough for three years now so I don't know an especially large number of people and most of those people don't read this recently-neglected blog nor do they connect with me on Facebook. And some of those who do, do not have pets. However in the event that someone is Googling for a local clinic, I am tagging this post "best Veterinarian in Peterborough, Ontario" because without doubt, she absolutely is. I have had various vets in my forty plus years of being owned by felines (Don't roll your eyes. Yes, I'm way older than that but I just came into having cats in my twenties) and I have been reasonably happy with almost all of them. But I have never had a vet like Caroline de Haan. My previous vets have always been professional, respectful and empathetic. Caroline goes above and beyond that scope.

You know your pet is in good hands immediately by how she intently listens to what you need to report, how she lovingly treats and talks to the animal... and how she compassionately speaks to the creature's person. She is an excellent practitioner without that side of ego which might preclude someone from admitting that she might have missed something. Just before Zephyr was diagnosed with his thyroid issues but immediately after she had done numerous tests, she phoned me up to say that she had been out with her friend (my former vet who recommended Caroline) and they had been discussing my boy. Caroline was asked if she had considered whether Zeph's blood pressure had contributed to his symptoms and since she had not, she asked me to come in and have that checked at no charge. His BP was fine but I was appreciative that she and my former vet both brainstormed a bit about his case and that Caroline was not at all adverse to admitting that she could have overlooked something.

I have had the small grand total of four cats (a nod to my much-adored late females Snag and Topaz) - all of which let me know when their lives needed to end without further suffering. I was therefore able to be with all of them at their time of passing. Caroline is the only vet who has ever held my hand through parts of that trauma, who offered numerous hugs whenever she knew I was losing it, and most endearing to me, gave Zephyr a gentle kiss goodbye on his head. I love her for all of that and make no mistake, her complete staff is also amazing. I strongly recommend Peterborough Veterinary Services to anyone in the Peterborough area who is looking for quality, loving care for their pets. Thank you, Caroline for being the absolute best at what you do and for being the kind, compassionate soul that you are.*

Back to my Zephyr...

blurry zeph

I needed to let my boy go. I remember reading a long while back that this decision should ideally be made neither too soon, while there is still reasonable hope nor too late when there is extended suffering. I readily adopted that concept for the decision-making process. I felt that that final night with him was the tipping point from too soon to too late. Caroline took him to another room to get the IV line into his vein and administered sedation and a pain medication. She had me wait for him in a comfy chair and soon brought him to my arms for one last cuddle. He was too weak and under sedation to even care to look for his way down. He settled in against my chest and Caroline gave me all the time I needed with him while she tended to other patients.

Sleepy Zeph

I held him and kissed him and scratched that just-right spot on his left cheek that he loved so much. I rubbed his belly and kissed his head. Whether he could understand it in any way or not, I told him what a perfectly wonderful little friend he was, and thanked him for how he made my life so much better by being in it. I told him how much I loved him and hoped that in some way - however the universe works, that he'll be with Skitty once again. One more gentle hug. One more kiss and I nodded to Caroline to give him his peace. He let out a very gentle sigh, and I could feel his beautiful life leave his body. My sweet boy was gone. I held him for a few more minutes before I left him behind.

Zephyr paw

You were one of the absolute best creatures on the planet, my Zephyr. You struggled through and survived a lot of pain and anguish to stay in my life. It's your time to rest. Thank you for being my sweet love. May you and Skittles be snuggling and purring together forever on. I love you both.

* Since I wrote the above, I went to pay my bill for euthanasia and cremation and found that it had been greatly reduced. Thank you so kindly, Caroline.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Frost from Fire

As different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.
~ Emily Bronte

It has been a cold, frosty winter for the most part. One downside is that it's been too cold to wander about comfortably with camera in hand. Another is that my apartment windows are so heavily covered in frost, that I have a hard time seeing outside of them. The upside however, is that it makes for some interesting macro photography. Frosty windows with minimal tweaking are below.

frost with morning sun
Winter is a glorious spectacle of glittering fractals complete with a soundscape and atmosphere entirely its own. ~ Anders Swanson
The sun sent its first light over the horizon and sprinkled her golden glitter on my window pane.

frost with morning sun2
It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. 
~ John Burroughs
Just when I thought it couldn't sparkle any brighter.. it did.

frost at sunrise4
What miracle of weird transforming
Is this wild work of frost and light,
This glimpse of glory infinite?
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
The day began to take on peachy hues.

frost at sunrise
How beautiful thy frosty morn,
When brilliants gem each feathery thorn!
~ Bernard Barton
Peach blended with pink and mauve light turned icy panes into a bejeweled mountainous landscape.

frost at sunrise2
What a severe yet master artist old Winter is. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.
~ John Burroughs
As the day grew lighter, so did the colours reflected in the glass.

frost at sunrise3
The frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I just kept seeing little worlds within this tiny frozen space.

In winter we behold the charms of solemn majesty and naked grandeur.
~ James Ellis
I love how depending on the time of day and the colour of the sky, various shades appear to soften the icy etchings.

Nothing burns like the cold.
~ George R.R. Martin
Silvery blue crystals with aqua hues in the sky beyond.

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
~ Carl Reiner
Some of these photos are from last spring like this one taken in March of 2017.

I watch the springs, the summers, the autumns;
And when comes the winter snow monotonous,
I shut all the doors and shutters
To build in the night my fairy palace.
~ Charles Baudelaire
As was this frosty feather.

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours.
~ Robert Byrne
Also from last year, I turned up the contrast and vibrance on this and the next image, and found that these sparse bits of frost looked like unusual bugs crawling around on the glass.

Melancholy were the sounds on a winter's night.
~ Virginia Woolf
This pattern should come with its own sound effects.

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~ Bill Morgan, Jr.
A nighttime shot with enough light from behind to silver-paint the window.

It is said that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer. ~ Author Unknown
Layer upon layer of sparkling frost, and what appears to be a silver leaf a little left of center. I might not be able to see out my windows but they do entertain me.

frost at night
The gaunt limbs, and stark, rigid, death-like whiteness of winter.
~ Bret Harte
And later in the night, city street lights help illuminate the window's canvas so that Jack Frost can do his work.

NYE near-full moon3
There is a grandeur in winter, stern and wild it may be, but a grandeur which speaks to the soul.
~ C. J. Peterson
On New Year's Eve, the moon was nearly full - and it rose early. You might have to pull back a bit to see the curve of that lovely orb in the background.

NYE near-full moon2
The winter frowned its icy eyebrows
~ Florenin Smarandache
Or I could just give you a more distant perspective instead.

NYE near-full moon1
I hide myself in the quiet white of Winter and
nestle in her comforting folds of cold oblivion.
~ Terri Guillemets
And here we are further still - the near-full moon smiling contentedly at Jack Frost's work.

Wolf Moon New Years Day
Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
And on New Years Day, the full Wolf Moon appeared bright and beautiful in the eastern sky.

New Years Day wolf moon
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
~ Anton Chekhov
A bit late in the wishing but Happy New Year, everyone.