Category Archives: Cats

Entries where I mention or talk about my cats.

The Return Home

Flying for just over an hour with total sinus congestion is not, I’m sorry to report, nearly as fun as it sounds. There’s the pressure, the weird sounds as your eustachian tubes try to equalize the pressure inside and outside your head — something kind of like a squish, and something kind of like a pop — and the whining from the wife, who says she’s tired of listening to the whining when she’s done cross-country flights with her sinuses inflamed, infected, and pretty much packed solid, thank you very much.

But anyway, we left Dublin. More pictures are forthcoming, I promise, though they may not be particularly exciting. Coffee shops and bookstores, pretty much, and a line of strange sculptures that could be puka frolicking along the central divider along O’Connell street. I wanted to see more, to do more, but walking more than a few meters made me short of breath, so we just sat around. Around six we caught the bus to Dublin Airport, from whence we made the aforementioned flight of pain.

A fourteen hour layover in Heathrow Airport also sounds like a great deal of fun, I know, but in spite of the pending excitement we decided to spend the night at a nearby hotel. The cost of said hotel was 64 pounds, which works out to something like $140 at the current exchange rate (at least it felt like it). In the morning we took a shuttle back to Heathrow to catch our flight to San Francisco.

I have no pictures from Dublin Airport, not even of the giant stainless steel flying pig, nor of Heathrow, nor of the hotel we stayed in. Nor of my sinuses.

The flight from London to San Francisco took just over ten hours. Fortunately, I’d armed myself with decongestants before we left (which I’m not supposed to take, but damn the hypertension), so Jennifer didn’t whine at me as much. I caught a couple of inflight movies (Firewall and Failure to Launch) and started to watch the in-flight presentation of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but decided I did not want to see the emasculated version of it. From San Francisco we caught a twin propeller turboprop plane with room for the pilot, the steward, and a dozen or so passengers. I haven’t flown in one of those for decades, and that’s not an exaggeration. Puddle jumpers, we used to call them. Retro, they call them today.

Made it home safe and sound, looked around the house, and discovered that one of our cats, Azzie, had gone missing. We checked every single nook and crannie in the house, twice, every place where Azzie was known to have lurked in the past, but he wasn’t in any of them. We decided that we couldn’t do anything about it tonight, and resigned to not seeing him until later, if ever again.

We poked around, I attempted an fsck on my ever broken computer, played with one of the other cats, and then went out on the back patio to defy my manhood and cry about the missing cat. That’s when I heard his distinctive whine coming from somewhere in the back yard.

I opened the patio door and shouted up to Jennifer, “I hear him! I hear him!”

Jennifer came tearing downstairs, and we hunted around the back yard, not seeing the cat anywhere. We kept hearing occasional whines but the acoustics were deceitful. Finally, though, we tracked him to where he was hiding underneath the wooden steps that lead up to the patio. I poked at him through one side until he went out the other side, where Jennifer caught him. He struggled and squirmed, though, and before I could open the back door to let them in, Azzie had leapt out of her arms and scurried off to elsewhere in the back yard.

Against the far fence of our back yard is a hedge, one of those thick gnarly things. You can see a picture of it here, kind of along the right hand side of the photograph, though this picture was taken two years ago and the hedge has grown to roughly ten times that size. Another not exaggeration. Azzie had run behind the hedge and was lurking there, whining at us, daring us to come back there and grab him. Of course, the hedge was so thick that even with our powerful camp lantern, we couldn’t see him.

Finally I got down on my belly and peered through the hedges and found him. Jennifer told me to grab him by the scruff of his neck and pull him out.

Now, I know that lying on your belly on a gravel path at midnight while you have bronchitis, reaching through a thick, brambly hedge to grab a scared cat by the scruff of the neck sounds like a lot of fun, but it is my sad duty to report that it is, at best, annoying. Azzie wanted nothing to do with the idea. I reached in slowly, very slowly, and then shot my hand forward and grabbed his neck with an accuracy that can only be achieved when you aim for the scruff of a terrified cat behind a row of thick hedges. I mean, I got him, and pulled him out, knowing that both the cat and my arm would be covered in dirt and brambles and scratches and possibly insects, but that wasn’t the important thing. The important thing was getting the cat.

I shoved Azzie at Jennifer, who had a towel ready. She wrapped him in the towel, nearly swaddling him, and ran for the patio. I had had the foresight to leave the patio door unlatched, so that Jennifer could just shove through it without having to work the doorknob, and that’s what she did. She dropped cat and towel onto the breakfast nook floor, and he shot up the stairs faster than I’ve seen any cat go in years.

Me, I ran upstairs and made for my nebulizer.

So, we’re back from Ireland, and all the Crawford household, two-legged and four-, are accounted for. Azzie’s terrified of me now, and I guess I can’t say as I blame him. How would you feel if you were grabbed by the scruff of your neck and forcibly dragged from your hidey-hole by a giant creature? He’ll get over it, of course, because Azzie’s long term memory is only slighty better than that of your average turnip (though I may be giving the cat too much credit).

Until then, though, he’ll skitter and hide every time I go near him. But he’s inside, where it’s safe and warm and loving, and that’s what matters.

Weekend Updates

Over the weekend, Checkers spent most of her time lurking in one spot or another in the library; for a couple of full days, her favorite spot was behind the books on the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases. I took to calling her the Lurker in the Library, which appealed to the Lovecraft fan in me. However, she started doing much better yesterday, to the point where she was relaxed enough to come out for Jennifer when she came into the room, and to sit and actually play with us for a bit when we dangled string in front of her and gave her skritches on her head. She also purrs loudly and is interacting with us more. She prefers Jennifer’s company to mine, but I think she’ll loosen up more over the next few days.

Most of the other cats still don’t care. Tangerine’s more interested in Checkers’s food. Azzie likes to hang out in the kitty carrier that we brought Checkers home in. Rosemary coudn’t care less about the presence of another tortoiseshell in the house. We don’t know how Zucchini feels, and probably never will. Sebastian, however, finally got around to expressing his outrage with hissing and yowling, and Checkers hissed back at him. We’re still keeping her isolated, so we won’t have to police that situation for awhile.

This past weekend was DunDraCon. I meant to go on Saturday and Sunday, but Saturday I ended up sleeping until 2:00 in the afternoon, at which point I just kind of figured there wasn’t any point, so I spent the rest of the day at home. Sunday, after Sunday School (third session of the Da Vinci Code class), I drove down so I could spend a few hours there. I hung out with K. until he needed to get set up for his game, then went to the open game room and played a few games with C. and some other random person he had met. After that, went to K.’s Galactic Champions game. It was already full up with players, so I didn’t get to play, but I did get to assume the role of the over-the-top supervillain for a bit, and that was quite fun. K. is an outstanding GM; if gaming were a profession like law or medicine, he would be among the most respected practitioners. Alas, it is not.Oh, I also made a few purchases; the 6th Edition of Call of Cthulhu (and I’m still planning on running a game someday); the new color edition of Give Me the Brain (I’m kind of disappointed that it’s a full-color glossy card game now, instead of the cheesy card-stock black-and-white Cheap Ass format that it has been in the past); and Cheap Ass Games’s Kill Doctor Lucky. I also got a T-shirt which reads, “Innsmouth Emergency Medical Services”, which is funny to me at least (see the image below).

So, all in all, a pretty decent time at the con. I wish I’d gotten to spend some more time there, since I have a pile of games that I enjoy but that I never get to play (the other two games in the McFries trilogy, for example, as well as ChronoNauts, Burn Rate, Cthulhu 500, and others). Perhaps next year.

No marker

I was avoiding going home.

I had to leave the office at three in order to take care of some business on the main campus. I drove out there, parked in the parking lot of Borders so that I wouldn’t have to pay the six dollars parking fee in one of the campus parking lots, and walked. It took fifteen minutes to walk to the office where I had to take care of my business. Then I walked back, went into Borders, and bought three books that I had been thinking about all day. I didn’t need any new books, of course. Jennifer and I had just spent the weekend moving about a hundred books and two bookcases from the living room downstairs to the spare room upstairs, the room that will eventually become our library. We had spoken over the weekend about the fact that we have close to three thousand books, many of which we should probably get rid of, but I have a hard time letting go of anything. Books included, even if I’ve never read them and probably never will.

I bought the books anyway. I wanted to browse more but I had promised Jennifer I’d get home before her so that I could start digging the hole to bury Rebecca.

I took the back roads home, because they’re more relaxing than the highway.

Why have I been crying about this? I’m not sure. Rebecca was Jennifer’s cat, after all, and had been part of Jennifer’s life eleven years before I showed up. Rebecca used to sit on the back of our couch where we were sitting, feet folded under her, eight pounds of cat, glaring holes into the back of my head with her sharp green eyes. Sometimes I’d pick her up in one hand and hold her above my head, with her feet and her tail dangling, and she’d look around the room, curious about what else might be happening that she couldn’t see from all of two feet lower down. She was the only cat I could do that with; none of the other cats would put up with that sort of indignity. Either that, or they’re just too heavy.

I never found the knack of carrying Rebecca, though. Jennifer could pick her up and carry her around for quite awhile, but I never did it right; I’d pick her up and she’d start to squirm and wiggle around, and if I didn’t put her down — carefully, of course — I was in serious danger of being scratched.

I thought about these things driving home. I wondered if I should put away her water bowl by the sink when I got home so that Jennifer wouldn’t come across it later on. Immediately, though, I forgot the idea.

Pulling into our driveway and opening the garage door, I thought that perhaps Jennifer was making a joke. She’s not given to practical jokes, especially not tasteless ones like this one, but for a moment I found myself desperately hoping that it were true. Of course it wasn’t.

I parked my car in the garage, left my briefcase and my workout bag and the three new books from Borders on the passenger seat, and got out. I stopped long enough to grab the shovel before going through the house to the back yard with the flower bed where we had decided to bury Rebecca. We had chosen the flower bed because Rebecca had loved rolling in the dirt, and it’s right next to the grass that she loved to munch on during the very few times that she went outside. On a more practical level, though, the dirt in the flower bed is softer and much easier to dig in than the dirt anywhere else in the back yard.

To get to the back yard, we have to go through the kitchen. In the kitchen is the freezer where Jennifer had put Rebecca in the morning, in a cardboard box. I didn’t want to look at it, but I had to, just to know how big I had to dig the hole. I opened the freezer door, and saw the box on the shelf under the ice cube trays.

My God, she’s so small, I thought. The box was barely larger than a Kleenex box. I lifted it; it was about the same weight as the cat that I had used to dangle over my head. I opened the lid just a little, and saw the tuft of a scraggly tortoiseshell ear. I hurriedly closed the box and put it back into the freezer.

At work during the day, I’d talked to a couple of people about the specifics of burying pets. I’d never buried one before, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I don’t know what I could have been missing, though. I think I just wanted reassurance that I could do it right.

The flower bed in the back yard is a raised one that Jennifer and I had made about a year ago, lugging three tons of rocks for the wall and five tons of dirt for the filler, stone by stone, shovelful by shovelful. There’s a big empty spot near the edge where the flowers had never taken hold, and Jennifer and I had decided that this would be the best place for Rebecca. I started to dig, going by my memory of how big the box was.

At some point in my childhood I must have picked up the notion that when a loved one dies, they’re still there somehow, cold and dark and alone and confused. I know it’s stupid, but there it is. And it still seems to me that when burying a pet, they should be buried with a favorite toy or something like that to offer them some comfort: a favorite towel, a blanket, or something that smelled like one of us. Jennifer and I had talked about this, and had decided that we’d bury Rebecca with a twisty tie, or the plastic ring from a milk jug. Those were the only toys Rebecca would ever play with (though God forbid anyone catch her playing; if she was seen, she’d stop immediately and walk away from the toy as if mortally embarrassed to have been caught playing).

Halfway through the digging, I went inside to take off my sandals and put on my athletic shoes, which would make the digging easier. Jennifer came home while I was changing shoes. We talked for a little bit, then she went to the freezer and took out the box with the cat in it. She opened the lid and gave Rebecca one last stroke on her head. Then we went outside together and I started digging again.

“Is it going to be big enough?” Jennifer asked me.

“Yeah,” I replied. “If it isn’t, I don’t mind digging a bit more.”

Jennifer weeded the flower bed while I finished digging the hole. The fill dirt is about two feet deep; beneath that is the hard, nearly inpenetrable soil that we had built the flower bed on top of. I told Jennifer that the hole was done, and waited there while she went inside and got Rebecca. I asked her if she’d put any twisty ties or milk jug rings in the box; she said she hadn’t been able to find any.

I scraped a bit with the head of the shovel to make sure the bottom of the hole was flat, and we slowly lowered Rebecca into it. Then we started to bury her, and that was when I couldn’t keep in the grief any more. I could either hold back the tears, or I could bury the cat. I couldn’t do both at once. So I put the dirt on top of her and I cried. We put no marker on her grave; we’ll always remember where she is.

When we were done and I had finished tamping down the dirt with the flat of the shovel, the dirt looked like nothing had changed. We had done a good job. I thought briefly about watering the spot, just to help settle the dirt down a little more, but that part of me which is still hanging on to the image of the lost, lonely, and confused animal in the dark hole didn’t want her to get wet. Not now. Rebecca hates to get wet.

Hated. Past tense.

We went back inside and fussed around in the kitchen. Jennifer saw Rebecca’s water bowl by the sink, the one I’d thought about putting away but then forgotten to. We both started crying again. The other cats kept their distance.

Jennifer went to bed early, but I stayed up late, writing and reading and watching television and trying not to think about the cat that we had just buried. I laughed at Family Guy and Futurama on the Cartoon network, puzzled over the first chapter of the novel I’m currently reading, tried to concentrate on the short story I’m working on.

At midnight I finally went to bed. My thoughts always storm around in my head between the time my head hits the pillow and the time I fall asleep, and I tried to focus them on my short story. I couldn’t. I kept thinking about Rebecca and the other cats, and the fact that we’re going to have to do this at least another six times in the coming years.

I couldn’t handle it, and I found myself crying softly again.

I have a hard time letting go.

Further Excerpts

This is getting kind of scary. Some people, such as my wife, might claim that I am completely deluded and possibly insane. However, I think that this file, which I found in our web server in a password-protected directory, will prove that our world is in great danger.

Entry One:
This is my secret diary of how I came to conquer the world, which I haven't done yet. It's my fond hope that kitties everywhere who are working for world domination will read my diaries and find inspiration, and that this file will take its place right next to that cat who wrote The Silent Miaow. I think I could teach a lot.


Entry Two:
Okay, so things haven't been going as well as I was hoping. First of all, my agent Bob the Wonder Doberman wears this dumb cape all the time, and says that he won't work for me anymore unless I promise that when I'm done he'll be able to run free through the plains of Madagascar. Or maybe he said planes. I don't know. Sigh.


Here's a tip. never get a doberman to be your agent in South Asia. Get a golden retriever. They're much friendlier to work with, but they sleep a lot.


Entry Three
They tried to take me outside today! I am SO NOT READY! Okay, so all of the other cats like it outside (except Rosemary, who was troubled at having to be taken away from her Secret Mission, whatever that is). I just have too much work to do. It's really unfair.


Entry Four
Salmon today! Yay!


Entry Five
A new cat tree! Yay! This one came equipped with all kinds of special radar antennas and radios and even a satellite uplink! The best part is the second shelf where you can sleep all day and look at the stairs.


Entry Six
My satellite uplink gave me some sad news today. Even though my armies are gathering up well in Mozambique, Bob the Wonder Doberman (he insists on being called that!) is having a hard time finding cats in Antarctica to go along with the plan. He says that Antarctica, being at the south pole, is just crawling with polecats, but he hasn't found any. He says that maybe they're in Alaska instead. Whatever!


Entry Seven
Ate a bug today. Allegra dared me. Gross!


Entry Eight
Rosemary still won't tell me what her Secret Mission is, but I think it has something to do with the dragons that keep moving all over the house. Whenever I ask her who she's working for, she just says that she's an Undercover Operative, and then she laughs. I don't get it.

The people have to know, so I’m spreading the word. Don’t let your cats use your computer, and make sure there are no satellite uplinks in your cat trees!

In other news, the scroll wheel in my mouse started working today under Linux. God knows why. But there it is.

Storyteller Collab: Cat Tree

Storyteller collab:

(© 2002 by Richard S. Crawford)

Write a story in which the character stays in one place. It could be in a room, or in a car (the car qualifies as "one place", even though it may be moving), or hanging out in jury duty, for example.


Really. Just… Wow.

It just keeps on spinning. It doesn’t spin any faster. And it doesn’t spin any slower. And it doesn’t even fall from the ceiling. It just keeps kind of spinning. Around and around and around and around. It kind of reminds me of that bird I saw yesterday out that window over there: the one that kept spinning around and around on the ground. I don’t know what he was looking for.

I could have taken him. Yeah. If I’d felt like it.

But this thing here, wow, it just keeps spinning and spinning and spinning. If I wanted to I could probably just… stretch… out… my… paw… and take it down. Bring it right here. Sniff it. Taste it. Maybe even rub my cheek against it and make it mine.

Yeah. If I wanted to.

The neat thing about it is how it makes everything up here much cooler. Not so hot. It’s like a breeze, and it’s really pretty cozy up here.

One of my lieutenants saunters in and leaps up to the second shelf, just below me. Scratches his claws on the sisal wrapped around the trunk for a few seconds, a proper show of respect. I’m annoyed because I was having fun watching the spinning thing and thinking about falling asleep but I don’t feel like showing how annoyed I am.

The lieutenant settles in and relaxes, stretched out a bit, and starts to purr. His ears are flat back on his head, though, and his whiskers are low, and his tail is twitching. I decide to let him twitch for a few moments before I finally ask him for his report.

"Things are going swell!" he blurts out, a bit more anxiously than I would have liked. But he’s young. He’ll learn. "Reports are coming in from all over the world that things are just about ready for us to move and get going with Stage Three of the Great Plan.

I purred loudly, but I kept staring at the spinning thing on the ceiling. How did it stay up there? "That’s excellent news," I told him, yawning and stretching. "When can we start moving?"

My lieutenant purred even louder. "Any time now," he said. "All you have to do is just tell us when."

I was feeling so good that for a moment I thought I’d go into the hallway and get a fishie treat, but then I thought that it was probably too much effort for the middle of the day. I needed to conserve my strength for my afternoon nap, after all.

"Go ahead and start the operation," I told him. "And spread the word everywhere that our time is at hand!"

The lieutenant leapt off of the cat tree and wandered into the bedroom, where the other cats were gearing up for the afternoon nap time. I heard him meowing their orders at them, and purrs of assent from the others. Soon, I knew. Soon.

A few hours later, I woke up. I heard doors opening downstairs, and I knew that the humans who owned this house were home. Too late! Frustrated and annoyed, I yawned and snagged some of the carpeting on the cat tree; my lieutenant rushed in and sratched frantically at the sisal rope.

"What happened?" I demanded.

"Naps happened!" my lieutenant reported. "Just like yesterday and the day before! We all fell asleep. There are just too many sunbeams on the bed!"

I couldn’t bring myself to growl at him. It seemed like every time we got so close to world conquest, this would happen. Perhaps it’s just our inner cat nature. Who knows?

"Don’t worry too much about it," I told my lieutenant. "We have them as good as conquered anyway. Tomorrow we’ll try again."

But my lieutenant didn’t answer. He was too busy getting pets from the humans. Oh, well. Tomorrow is another day, as the humans like to say.

From the Secret Diary of…

There have been many times when I’ve been in the house by myself, and heard a noise coming from upstairs that sounds just like typing. This often happens late at night, when Jennifer’s asleep and I’m downstairs reading, or during the day when Jennifer is at work and I’m puttering around the house doing chores or, well, reading.

"But of course it can’t be coming from the computer room," I say to myself. "There’s no one else in the house." Eventually, I figure that it’s one of the cats playing with a toy that rattles, or one of the electric litterboxes, or something like that. Because there was obviously no one working in the computer room.

Or… Perhaps there was…

Today I was poking around our home network, looking for a particular file that I’d stashed on our server, when I stumbled across this particular document. It was in the web directory, accessible for all the world to see. It was password-protected, but the password — "fuzzy" — was very easy to figure out. It was only after long deliberation over whether I should delete the document, post the document for the world to see, or change my medications, that I decided that the world needs to know what is happening under our very noses.

From the Secret Diary of Azrael (the Cat):

Day One

Today was good, cause I got to eat and sleep and play a little bit. I almost took over the world, too, but then I fell asleep in a sunbeam. It might rain tomorrow, so prospects for world domination tomorrow are good.

Day Two

Jingle ball of doom had to be subdued. Then the laser beam tried to eat Rosemary and I had to beat it back. This place keeps me so busy, sometimes I don't get more than 18 hours of sleep a day! Have you ever heard of anything so pathetic?

Day Three

I could have sworn they were behind that door! For hours I heard them talking! And I wanted to be with them, so I cried outside the door! Then I realized that they were talking behind me, so I turned around and went back into the office room with the jingle ball and there they were! Wow!

Day Four

This is horrible! It's awful! For TEN YEARS she pulled all of my fur off of me today! Ow ow ow! I was so mad I had to kill a superball. Tomorrow the world will be mine!

The next day...

He left the fireplace on in the room with the big soft bed. I almost took over the world but the kitty cup was really warm and had to be slept in. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn't done it?

Tomorrow is another day...

Jennifer keeps telling me that I’m just making things up. But now I have firm proof!

Meanwhile, I thought that the Olympic figure skating competition tonight was really spiffy.

Making it Cooler

I’m feeling much better now. Oh, yes. The Java programming final that was kicking my butt last week is over; I got a B on the final, and an A- in the class. The instructor assured me that only one student received an A on the final; still, after having stayed up until 2 in the morning a couple of days in a row, I wish I’d done better. Ah, well. Still, an A- is nothing to sneeze at, considering that I haven’t taken a programming class per se since 1984. Back then, BASIC still had line numbers (remember 10 GOTO 10?), Pascal was a rigorous teaching language, the IBM-PC was barely a twinkle in some engineer’s eye, and Larry Wall (inventor of Perl), Linus Torvalds (inventor of Linux), and Rasmus Lerdorf (inventor of PHP) were all shooting spitwads across their frog dissection lab stations in Mrs. O’Hare’s science class in PS-102 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Well, okay, I made that last part up. But the part about BASIC is true.

In other news, I’ve conquered a milestone or two with my Linux computer by getting it to print (mostly) to a printer that is attached to a Windows 98 computer, and getting it to talk to my Palm Pilot. I’ve been fussing with both of these challenges for months, and finally figured out the answers on my own. I feel darn near competent! All I need to figure out now is how to get my installation of WordPerfect to print; for some reason, WordPerfect uses its own weird set of drivers for Linux, and since Corel sold their Linux products to some other company, there is no more support for the program I bought. Dammit. But it is possible, I’m sure of it.

I’m not quite ready to dump Windows yet. but I’m getting there.

In other news: I’ve snagged a couple of minor PHP projects, and I’ll be writing a short series of articles about PHP for a web development company that promises me authorship credit, if not actual money. I got an e-mail from the graduate student I was working with a couple of months ago, and it looks like I’ll get to tromp through the mud collecting water samples again this month or next month. Next week I start my Chemistry and Math classes. The creative project that Evilpheemy and I is going pretty well (and would go better if he didn’t throw me massive curve balls every couple of weeks so that I could feel comfortable working on the source book – *ahem*).

So… Things are busy, but going well. The job hunt is going… well, it’s going. I’ve networked as much as I can conceive of, I’ve sent out at least five resumes a day, if not more, just about every day, and there have been no nibbles, no responses. Ah, well.

This last bit won’t make sense unless you know us and our cats.

You Are:

Allegra’s theory is that everything should be discussed at length, while one is doing it. Allegra’s actions are usually accompanied by some sort of musical trill (simple mews are beneath her) – a sort of running commentary on her day-to-day activities. She is the perfect example of how a living creature can be not a solid, but a semi-liquid. Her movements are usually graceful and sinuous, albeit occasionally comical as she pours herself around the underside of the shelf on the cat tree. She prefers attention on her own terms – only when the unsuspecting human is sitting down and presents an available lap.

Take the "Which Crawford Cat Are You? Quiz