The Gold Medal For Cutest Kitten of 2007 Goes To … Samwise!

Our cat Sam as a kitten in 2007 with his tags hanging below his neck

Sam was posing on top of the scratching post, just staring at the wall, and his tags and pose reminded me of an athlete accepting a gold medal at the Olympics.

Note: In the interest of family fairness, I should point out that, at over a year old, Emma would have been in the running for cutest kitten of 2006, thus I’m not showing any bias for Sam. I’m not slighting her because she chewed on my laptop’s power cord, just so you know.

You Go Your Whole Life Without Ripping a Hole in the Fabric of Space & Time and Then …

A wood duck swims in water color yellow and green by reflections of fall color in nearby trees

I don’t even know how it happened.

I was happily photographing ducks back in the fall when I pointed my camera at the confluence of yellow and green reflections and suddenly a white spot appeared in the water and I felt the universe start to come apart at the seams. This wood duck drake swam by and its wake seemed to close the disruption and life as we know it was spared. All hail the mighty wood duck, silent guardian of all that we hold dear.

Today’s temporal disruption comes courtesy of an out-of-focus downy duck feather in the foreground

Wet Christmas

A mallard floats in a sea of yellow as a duck pond at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden has its water colored by reflections from the nearby trees

On this rainy Christmas day here in Portland (it did snow earlier so we had a shot at a white Christmas, but alas our more typical wet Christmas won out), here’s one of my favorite wildlife shots of the year, a mallard drake resting amidst the reflected colors of the fall leaves.

The picture was taken in late October at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden here in Portland.


Our kitten Sam gets some rest on his third day with us in December 2007

Sam and Emma are resting after a good play session where they started to feel each other out. We’re going to keep them in isolation from Scout for a bit longer but after a good visit to the vet they are now both staying in the guest bedroom.

Emma had a rough night last night. We had been keeping her in isolation from both Sam and Scout in the downstairs bathroom, sometimes letting her wander the house when Sam and Scout weren’t around. At night when I went to bed, she started mewing loudly and clawing at the door of the bathroom. I went to bed with Scout, but my wife eventually woke up to the racket so I went down and slept with Emma on the floor for a few hours. After she was settled I went back upstairs where Scout was still sleeping in the bed.

In the morning, both Sam and Emma had their first visit to the vet, Laurelhurst Veterinary Hospital, who have looked after Templeton and Scout in the past. Emma was quite the lady except for when she was confined to her carrier in the vet’s office. She attempted a repeat of Saturday’s escape attempt, but this time she was thwarted by the plastic carrier and its metal grate — not that it kept her from trying. But otherwise her visit went well, she may have a mild case of upper respiratory infection that often occurs in kennels, and we’re going to have to see if she bathes as regularly as she should, but otherwise her health looks good. The rough night and the escape attempt must have worn her out, though, as I’ve never seen a cat in as deep a sleep as Emma was this afternoon. Perhaps it’s just her nature, time will tell.

Sam (pictured above) had a good night, even if my wife didn’t — she spent the night with him and between his loud and constant purring and his playing, she wasn’t getting the best night’s sleep before Emma’s woeful cries woke her up for good. Sam was the perfect gentleman at the vet, purring so loudly that the vet couldn’t get a good reading on his lungs until she distracted him and quieted his motor. Well he was the perfect gentleman until it came time to draw some blood, at which point he attempted to draw some blood of his own. To be fair, he let out a long and loud wail of warning before the claws started flying, so perhaps he was the gentleman even then. A towel was called for to keep his legs wrapped up while they worked on his ears, he had mites before and a yeast infection so they cleaned out his ears for us and we’re giving additional treatment at home. They also think he’s younger than the four months estimated by the humane society based on his size, you can’t tell it so well from the pictures but he’s a skinny little thing.

Scout is still not happy about the visitors into her home, but she did start playing with me today — more than she’s played at any time since Templeton died. It will take her a while to come around — after all Templeton taught her that all cats but the two of them were not to be tolerated — but given the personalities of these two, I think she’ll come around in time.

Say Hello To Sam & Emma

Our black cat Emma relaxes on the bed on her third day with us

We’ve chosen names for our two new little ones, sticking with our tradition of taking names from characters in literature. With the previous two, we selected names from famous works, Templeton from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Scout from Harper Lee’s wonderful To Kill A Mockingbird. With these two, we’ve selected names from little known authors and forgotten works.

The little orange tabby we’ve named Sam (short for Samwise), taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. He purrs almost constantly and seems like he’d be a faithful friend, so Frodo’s faithful partner and friend seems an apropos choice. The older black kitten (pictured here) we’ve named Emma after the heroine from Jane Austen’s Emma. We chose her name because Austen is a favorite author of both my wife and I, and we think the name is lovely. She has a lovely personality, despite the intensity of her gaze here.

Escape Artist #2

The cardboard cat carrier that our cat Emma chewed a hole into

Scout was an escape artist from the day we brought her home. We tried to keep her isolated from Templeton, but still let her see us, by putting her into the downstairs bathroom and putting a baby gate in the doorway.

No good.

She just climbed the gate like it was nothing. Then we tried stacking a large box in front of the door.

No good.

She just climbed the box. We added another box. She climbed that one too. Eventually we realized she’d just keep climbing and risk hurting herself if she fell, so we kept the door closed. Fortunately Templeton accepted her quickly so she didn’t stay in there long.

Before long she figured out how to open doors anyway. The ones in the old house had handles that she figured out she could jump up and pull down on to get the door to open. Her true master stroke though was her discovery that she could stick her paw under the door and vibrate it enough to jimmy the door open. This became her favored technique and made us all but give up on trying to keep her isolated.

We put her and Templeton in the upstairs bathroom one day when a contractor was working here (we had told him we would), but she jimmied the door open shortly after we left for work and earned both she and Templeton their freedom to wander the house.

I’m not sure armed guards could keep her locked up.

It seems we have acquired our second escape artist. When you adopt a cat at the Oregon Humane Society, they give you these temporary cardboard cat carriers to bring the cats home. We have a plastic one we used for Templeton and Scout, but we wanted each cat in their own carrier, so we used the temporary carriers which had been festively decorated for the holidays.

I didn’t realize just how temporary one of them would be.

We placed each carrier in the back seat and began the short ride home. They were both quiet at first but then I heard some quiet mews coming from behind me. I couldn’t figure out which one was speaking up, but eventually Emma’s carrier started to rock and it was clear who was unhappy.

When we got home, we left the cats in the carriers in the living room while we got their rooms set up with food, water, and litter boxes. My wife came upstairs to find Emma half way out of her box, she chewed and scratched a large hole in the carrier but was having trouble getting her hindquarters out.

Scout would have tried to figure out how to get the top to open up, but Emma apparently prefers a more direct approach. A little less Houdini-like, perhaps, but an escape artist nonetheless.

Christmas Presents

Our cat Sam as a four month old kitten sits on the guest bed on the day we adopted him

It was two weeks ago today that we said goodbye to Templeton. But today isn’t about goodbye so much as it is about hello — make that two hellos — as we went to the Oregon Humane Society today and adopted two lovely little cats. It’s a good thing we left when we did or we might have adopted a handful more, there were so many wonderful cats to choose from.

We haven’t chosen new names for them yet — the only thing we know for sure is that they won’t be Candy Cane and Purrana, their current names. They are each in quarantine, one in the guest bedroom and one in the spare bathroom, until they pass their vet exams on Monday (thankfully both have tested negative for FIV).

The little fellow in the picture above (originally named Candy Cane) was dropped off at the Humane Society on December 15th so he had been there exactly one week, the reason listed for giving him up was simply “last of litter”. He is four months old and had fleas and ear mites but has been treated for both, he’s also been battling diarrhea for a few days but the cause isn’t known yet. We’ve got him in isolation in the guest bedroom, he’s been curled up either on the bed or on a blanket on the floor.

It took all of about two seconds for me to fall in love with him when they first brought him into the “Get Acquainted” rooms. He climbed into my lap and didn’t leave until I handed him to my wife, he just purred and purred and that was that. I think the only reason he lasted a week without someone adopting him is that he was in a cage due to his illness and not in the normal communal kitten room (a place so full of cuteness that if you stare too long your head will explode).

Our black cat Emma on the day we adopted her

The cat named Purrana (we’re leaning towards calling her Emma, sticking with the tradition of naming the cats after characters from literature) was dropped off on the 5th of December, so she had been there a while longer. Her previous owners felt they had too many animals, so this one and half year old is now the newest member of our household.

We selected her because she had been around cats before, had a good personality, and has a beautiful black coat — I’ve never had a black cat before but think they’re lovely, as does my wife, so I’m thankful we found her. She was sprawled out and sleeping in a great pose when we first saw her, which reminded me of Templeton’s various poses.

She was more nervous when they brought her in to visit with us, but she loves to rub her head up against yours and it didn’t take us long to realize we had found our second cat to adopt. She’s isolated in the bathroom on the main floor, which isn’t as photogenic as the bedroom, but I only got a couple of pictures of her anyway. She refused to leave my lap so I had to push her gently away with my leg just to take this picture, and then I let her climb back into my lap and start rubbing her head all over me.

Scout isn’t sure what to make of the visitors yet, she’s avoided going by their rooms but soon enough I’m sure they’ll get acquainted by sniffing under the doors. The two new ones seem to have such gentle and loving personalities that I’m hopeful they will soon all become best friends, but for now it’s best to take the introductions one step at a time.

Now we just have to choose their names …