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.

The Great White Belly

Our cat Templeton sleeping on the wooden heating grate

Templeton loved his belly rubs. And with that great soft white belly of his, I couldn’t resist giving them.

Sometimes I’d surprise him, he’d be sleeping and roll over to let off some heat, and I’d gently start to rub his belly. Sometimes he’d make kneading motions into the air with his paws, sometimes he’d wrap his arms around mine, always accompanied by that wonderful purr.

Sometimes, though, he’d use his belly to his advantage. The first time Templeton came to live with me was when I was still in school in Virginia but my wife had already moved out to Oregon. Templeton stayed with me for a few months and kept me company while I finished up my dissertation. I’d be working at my desk and out of the corner of my eye, I’d see him walking in my direction. He’d suddenly stop and flop down on his back, exposing his white belly to the world. He’d watch me and wait for his belly rub. If I didn’t get up, he’d hop up, move a few feet closer, and then flop down again and wait for his belly rub.

I never tested how many times he was willing to get up and move closer, even if I managed to resist the first siren’s call he’d usually draw me in by the second or third time.

Today’s picture comes from just before Christmas 2005, just before that awful night when Templeton swallowed a sewing needle. The wooden grate he’s sleeping on has a warm air vent just below it, so it became a favorite location of the cats our first winter here in Portland. Scout discovered the wonders of the grate first, but Templeton quickly learned from her experience.

Missing One

Our cats Templeton and Scout sleeping in my window seat

I’ve been re-editing some pictures of Templeton, it was hard at first but it has helped me feel better in the past hour or so, and writing these posts has helped as well.

It will be interesting to see how Scout will deal with the loss of Templeton — she has worshipped him since the day we brought her home. She’s gotten more independent as she’s gotten older, but she still loves to play with him. Shortly before we took Templeton to the vet, she walked over beside him, plonked down on her back, and grabbed his head with her front paws, her classic invitation to play.

The poor guy was so spent that he could barely move, so I pulled Scout away. It turned out to be their last moment together.

She’s done OK today, she obviously knows that he’s not around and has been hanging out with me most of the day. I don’t think the full gravity of the situation has hit her yet, after all he did disappear for a week a couple of years ago when he needed surgery after swallowing a needle and our friend Heather graciously looked after him while we were out of town visiting family for the holidays.

Scout is zonked out beside me now in her heated bed, last winter this was one of Templeton’s favorite hangouts but he didn’t want to sleep there this year. Scout was happy enough to take over, which is nice as it sits next to my desk. She was snoring a little while ago but has quieted down now.

We’re about to head up to bed where she’ll curl up on top of me for the night. A positive end to a difficult day.

This picture is from January 2002, Scout (on the right) was 8 months old and curled up with Templeton whenever she got the chance. They’re sleeping in the window seat in my office at our old house in Keizer, a favorite place of mine to curl up with them.

Templeton 1992-2007

Our cat Templeton with a catnip bag

Everything seemed normal yesterday. Templeton died in our arms tonight.

We arrived home yesterday from a trip back east to attend my grandmother’s funeral, and Templeton ran to meet us at the door, much like when he waits by the door to greet me when I come home from work.

He seemed fine yesterday, but he was having problems this evening so we rushed him down to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital (the same folks who performed surgery to remove the sewing needle he swallowed a couple of years ago). The x-rays showed a mass that was making it difficult for him to breathe, and since he wasn’t going to be able to get enough oxygen, they gave him an injection and he died peacefully in our arms.

It’s a sad night for us and I feel miserable, but I’m thankful that he didn’t suffer and I’m very thankful for the fifteen wonderful years he spent with us. He was as magnificent a little creature as I’ve ever known.

Goodbye, little one, and thank you.

Oh Hello Helio

Helio Castroneves prepares to climb aboard his Team Penske racing car at the CART race at Portland International Raceway in 2001

Imagine my surprise a few weeks back to be watching TV and hear that Helio Castroneves was on Dancing With The Stars. I don’t normally watch the show, but Helio was one of my favorite drivers back when I followed open wheel racing. I caught a couple of his appearances and he had the same great attitude and winning smile from when he stormed on the Indy car scene way back when.

This picture of Helio is from June of 2001 at Portland International Raceway, taken as he prepared to climb in the cockpit. He was driving for one of the most storied teams in Indy car racing, Penske Racing, and had just won his first Indy 500 a few weeks earlier (he’d win another the following year). The Penske team switched to a rival league the following year that didn’t race at road tracks like Portland, so this was the last time I got to watch Helio drive in person. I eventually lost interest in racing due to the ridiculous fighting between the rival leagues, but it was still fun to see one of my old favorites pop up in the news again (and go on to win the dance competition no less).