Helter Skelter

our cat Sam running out of frame as he plays as a kitten with his furry mouse in the guest bedroom of our house in Portland, Oregon

A picture of Sam playing yesterday. At first I was annoyed with myself for not doing a better job and getting everything in frame, but after a while the picture grew on me and I like the way the composition highlights the helter skelter style of his play.

Controlled Mayhem

Our cat Emma tosses a toy mouse with her eyes open wide

A couple of action shots of Emma playing with her furry mice, in better focus than yesterday’s picture. She’s definitely feeling at home with us now, her first few days she didn’t play much and then pretty gently, but it’s controlled mayhem now. I’d describe Sam’s play as controlled mayhem but that would imply there was control involved. Some of my best shots of him today accidentally have him running out of the frame.

They are both playing quite a bit now and are very active, which I think is a combination of them feeling better as well as getting more comfortable with us and each other. They are also eating a lot, which may not be an issue given how much exercise they are getting, but it also means they are using the litter box a lot. Being in a closed room with them somehow becomes a little less appealing (what exactly do they put in that kitten food anyway?) — for the first few days it was raining so much I couldn’t open a window for relief, but the past couple of days I’ve been able to air out the room from time to time.

Our cat Emma jumps and tosses a toy mouse with her eyes open wide

Do or Do Not, There Is No Try

A toy mouse appears to hang in the air as our cat Sam plays with it in December 2007. Original: _MG_6610.cr2

After giving praise to the Oregon Humane Society and our vets at Laurelhurst, I have a major bone to pick with both of them. The Humane Society told us that Sam might have an upper respiratory infection, had diarrhea, and had been treated for fleas and ear mites. All good, we wanted to know as much of the little guy’s medical history as possible. Sam got an exam at Laurelhurst as soon as possible and it was discovered that the mites were probably gone but he had a yeast infection in his ears, so we’ve been treating that.

But how is it that both of these fine organizations neglected to tell us that little Sam has Jedi powers? I was watching Sam and Emma play with their furry mice when suddenly Sam began to levitate the albino mouse. Fortunately I had my camera in hand to document the event, as people tend to not believe me about things like this.

Maybe we should have named him Yoda?

Good Homes

Our cat Sam as a kitten on Christmas day in 2007 with water on his tags from when he'd accidentally dunk them as he drank from his bowl

Thanks to the good work of the folks at the Oregon Humane Society, such as Scott who helped us, Sam and Emma weren’t the only pets to find good homes over the Christmas holidays.

The night before we went to the Humane Society, I browsed the online list of available cats and wrote out a list of the many names, crossing out the ones that weren’t recommended for a multiple cat household. I highlighted in yellow those I thought sounded interesting, one of which was Sam (then named Candy Cane) and one of which was Emma (then named Purrana).

I’ve been browsing the recently adopted pet list at the Humane Society’s web site to see what other animals got adopted, after watching them all it was hard not to want to back up the ark to the front door and bring them all home. I’ve been happy to see so many of the cats find homes, particularly those we came close to bringing home ourselves.

There was the little black kitten, Mad Max, a playful little thing who we requested first and actually got his paperwork before we changed our mind and requested Sam, and Sam was so adorable we didn’t look for any other kittens so young. I was happy to see that Mad Max got adopted later, as did his cage mate Will Smith. So did Snowflake, a lovely creature who was next on our list if we didn’t go with Emma.

Isis also found a home, an energetic black kitten who we feared might be a little too aggressive. Jack Frost, a very timid all white cat that lived in the same room, also got adopted. So did Lily, another all white cat who seemed very sweet but was not recommended for multi-cat homes.

Thankfully nine year old Sidney also found a home, she didn’t care for shelter life and was ill while we were there. Also adopted were Pudge and Truman Capote, who looked too much like Templeton for us to really consider.

To my great surprise, Crumpet also got adopted, an occasionally irritable black cat who had been there half a year. If we didn’t already have Scout, I would have wanted to adopt Crumpet, after Templeton I have a real soft spot for cats who seem irritable in such public situations but who might be a real lovable lap cat at home. But I didn’t want to risk it with Scout, getting used to new cats in the house is going to be hard enough for her, and we think Sam and Emma will be good companions for her for years to come.

So my thanks to all those who helped these animals find homes, and my best wishes that the remaining pets will soon find homes of their own.

Sam’s tags have water on them in this picture, he sometimes accidentally dunks them as he goes to get a drink.

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.