Bitter to Receive

On the morning of July 3, 2024, our dearly beloved Lucifer, the cuddliest demon cat in the world, lost his battle with age, arthritis and as we discovered at the end, cancer. We knew he was getting older by the day, we knew his arthritis was slowing him down, but the cancer was a surprise – and a terrible one.

He just wasn’t himself when we got back from ALA late Monday night. It seemed like he perked up seeing us home, but that perk was brief and by the next evening it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable and couldn’t really get around under his own power.

Today he’s gone. I want to believe to the Rainbow Bridge, playing – or more likely sitting on the sidelines looking dignified as he always did – riding herd on the beloveds who went before him; Freddie, Mellie, LaZorra, Sophie, Erasmus, Zade, Jennyfur and my dearest Licorice.

Lucifer was the first cat I’ve had since Licorice who chose me – and not my husband – as his person. I’ve loved every single cat in between, but Lucifer was special, a heartfelt and now heartbreaking memory of just how marvelous it is to be loved so much by a cat who could – and once upon a time did – do fine on his own but choose to give his heart to a human instead of remaining a solitary soul.

More than one vet has told me that cats with demonic or evil-seeming names are generally sweethearts, while cats who have sweetheart names tend to be, well, less than sweet. Lucifer certainly wasn’t named for his demonic nature – but rather for his ability to deceive. The friend who rescued him from his feral life believed that Lucifer was a)female and b)in need of neutering when in fact he was the opposite in both cases.

When Erasmus lost his battle with cancer twelve years ago, the post about his passing was titled Not All Tears Are Evil, a reference to the parting at the Grey Havens at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

The title of this post also refers to The Lord of the Rings, specifically to the appendices regarding the death of Aragorn, when Arwen proclaims that “if this (death) is the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

When it comes to cats, the tragedy is always that our lives are so long, and theirs are so short. And it is bitter to receive. Lucifer will never sleep on my heart again. But he will sleep in it forever.

Stacking the Shelves (202)

Stacking the Shelves

This has never happened before. I got nothin’. I didn’t see any books that appealed to me either at Edelweiss or NetGalley, and my hold on Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb has not come in at the library.

Instead, I have a kitten. Freddie, who was finally named for Frederick the Literate in the Charles Wysocki print, has been living in my office this week and hiding in the bookcase. He and Mellie have growled at each other enough under the door that we let him have the run of the house. We are hoping to eventually achieve peace in our time, but Freddie and Mellie are still scrapping. Every time she gets her floofy dander up, he finds himself another bookcase and hides behind the bottom row.

Books provide an escape for everyone. Even kittens.

freddie in the stacks


The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 1-6-13

It’s the first Sunday Post of 2013. And away we go!

During this week’s unpacking, we unearthed the box of stuffed animals. I found my Hedgie. Hedgie is a hedgehog. Isn’t she adorable? I got her on a trip to Vancouver a few years ago. She’s been quietly resting a box, along with a bunch of her friends, for several years. Now she’s back on my desk where she belongs.

But the cats didn’t rest much last night. We bought some new inserts for this type of cat scratcher. Basically they’re corrugated cardboard, but, well, anything that saves the furniture is all good. The humans didn’t open the package. The cats went wild during the night. There was a tiny package of catnip wedged between the two scratcher refills. Score!

If you want a more bookish score, there are still a few brief hours left to get in on the New Year’s Blog Hop. The prize here at Reading Reality is a $10 Amazon Gift Card. It might make a dent in your wish list.

What happened last week on the blog? Funny you should ask…

13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads
New Year’s Blog Hop
A- Review: The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
B+ Review: Devil in the Making Illustrated Edition by Victoria Vane
B+ Review: Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov, Guest Review by Chryselle
Stacking the Shelves (29)

Now let’s look ahead to this week!

On Tuesday, Jade Kerrion will be here to talk about Double Helix, her science fiction romance series. I’ve already finished book one in the series, Perfection Unleashed, and it’s an absolute thrill ride. So yep, I’ll have a review. And there’s a giveaway as part of the tour.

Rounding out the week I’ll have reviews of Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series, Angie Fox’s first Monster M*A*S*H, Immortally Yours, and one touch of pure fantasy romance from Kathryne Kennedy’s Enchanting the Lady.

There are two tours on the horizon for the week of January 14: Blair McDowell’s Sonata and Tiffany Allee’s Heels & Heroes. And we’ll end that week with the oh-so-appropriately named Happy Endings Blog Hop.

Stay Tuned!

Echoing Walls

The rooms echo. It’s always a surprise how much the furniture dampens the noise we make. And how quickly a team of movers can ship it all away.

Another adventure.

Our stuff is somewhere down the road. The driver said his next stop is Boise. We’ll see him again next week. Hopefully Wednesday. Probably Thursday. We’re beat.

The car is inside the truck with our furniture. Watching them drive it inside the semi was surprisingly cool. It’s also amazing how small a percentage of our stuff the car makes up, at least by volume. Maybe not by weight. Maybe compared to the books, I don’t want to know.

The cats are not happy. It’s like sharing a hotel room with three very leaky teakettles. Everyone hisses. Steam explodes at inopportune moments.

Our current hotel room has a chair. Everyone keeps trying to hide inside the chair. The chair will not accommodate all three cats at once. Once in a while, the feline version of World War III breaks out. Ten minutes later, it’s nap time again. Until the next battle.

The bed, thank goodness, is a platform bed. For once, they are not hiding under the bed. Getting them all to the vet for their health certificates (we’re flying them to Seattle) was enough fun without that.

Jim Butcher’s Cold Days is awesome. I never thought I’d want to read on my iPhone. I was wrong. On weeks like this, having something to read in my back pocket is a life-saver.


Not All Tears Are Evil

The ghost of an orange and white kitty is on my nightstand this Sunday. And for all the nights to come.

Not exactly, because that wasn’t one of Erasmus’ places to be in our bedroom. He preferred the “kitty chaperone” position. That would be the spot right smack dab in the middle of the bed.

For an essentially not very bright cat, he could be clever when it counted. From the middle, he could get scritched by both of us.

On the other hand, he couldn’t figure out that he could totally wrap me around his paw if he would just sit on my lap every once in a while. We didn’t just have to move four times, we had to open up a particular room in a particular house to make that work. And he would only get in my lap from the left and never the right. I wasn’t allowed to type with Rasi in my lap. Ask me if I cared. Ask me how many hours I could last without caring.

We love them, and they never let us go.

Rasi delivered pens. He was always so proud of himself. He acted like he was bringing us the biggest, most vicious mousie the world had ever seen. All for us. Of course, this meant that neither of us could EVER locate a pen when we really needed one. I would, we would give up every pen we might ever own for the rest of our lives to have him bring us just one more pen. Just one more.

But it’s not meant to be. Our sweet, sweet baby boy lost his battle with cancer. And we let him go while he was still having some good time, before his world became all pain.

Even though we had a vet come to the house to take care of him, Sophie is wandering around looking lost, looking for her daddy-cat in the places he used to be. She watched them carry him out the door, but she wants him back.

We do too.

For now, we both cry. We miss him. I keep expecting to see him at the foot of the bed, waiting for us to come to bed. Or on the table in the afternoon, catching the sun.

This is the sorrow of parting. At the end of the Lord of the Rings just before Bilbo and Frodo board the ship at the Grey Havens, as they are about to leave, Gandalf tells Sam, ” I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”

They may not be an evil, but they hurt like bloody hell.

Rest in catnip, Erasmus. My sweet Rasi boy.

The Bargain We Make

We bring home a small furry bundle. It doesn’t matter whether the little bundle mews or barks. Ours generally mew.

Sometimes it’s fully grown. Still doesn’t matter.

The point is, when you do, you’re making a bargain with your future self. And you’re firmly not thinking about it.

Because that adorable fluff bundle in your lap, you’ve already fallen in love with it. Even if it’s still unhappy with you and not quite house-trained yet. Or whatever adorably disgusting habits are already ingrained into the little beast.

But the bargain that you make is that you know the time you have is too short. You hope for the maximum. You pray for more than that. For a cat, a cat who never goes outside, it’s not unreasonable to hope for 15 marvelous years. Maybe even a little longer.

But that’s not enough. Someone once said that the tragedy of loving a pet is that our lives are so long, and theirs are so damned short.

Erasmus is 12 and a half. My sweet baby boy. After innumerable tests by three different vets in two states, and several different guesses–finally a diagnosis. The one we feared. He has intermediate-cell cancer.

He confused the issue for a few months by holding his weight while being treated for IBD, but that wasn’t it. Now he’s on chemo.

At the moment, he is fine. He acts completely normal. He’s just skinny. It’s his humans who are wrecked. We know his time is running out faster than it is supposed to. He thinks life is pretty sweet, except for the weekly trips to the vet. Meanwhile, he’s getting spoiled rotten.

I know that there are friends waiting for him at the Rainbow Bridge. Zade, our playful Scheherazade, was taken from us far too soon. Jennyfur is waiting to box his ears. And Erasmus needs to take a message to my beloved Licorice for me, to tell him that I still miss him after 16 years.

But I am so not ready for him to take that message yet. Not ready at all.


Detecting with cats

Mystery author Lilian Jackson Braun died Saturday, June 4 at the age of 97. Braun was the author, or perhaps the perpetrator would be the better description, of The Cat Who series of mysteries. She was probably the single author responsible for the entire genre of cozy mysteries with cats as, not merely lap adornments, but actual detectives.

The concept began innocently enough. Her human protagonist was a newspaper reporter named Jim Qwilleran. Like so many detectives, both amateur and professional, Qwill has gone through some rough patches in his life, and is now trying to get his life back on track. A former crime reporter, he is now “demeaning” himself by covering the art beat–a last chance given by an old friend. But crime comes to him, a gallery owner is murdered, and Qwill decides to investigate the homicide. As part of his investigation, he “temporarily” adopts the gallery owner’s Siamese cat Koko, convinced that the cat must have seen, heard, or perhaps sniffed something related to the murder. Qwill’s investigation, his redemption, and his growing “partnership” with the cat Koko complete the story of The Cat who could Read Backwards, the first in the 29-book series that ended with Braun’s death this weekend.

Braun started a trend. Throughout the series, Qwill believes that Koko is providing him with hints and clues, but Koko still acts like a cat, and only like a cat. The “clues” that Qwill gets from the big Siamese are all a matter of the human’s interpretation.

But it’s pretty easy to trace the line of descent from Koko to two feline detectives who really ARE the detectives, Midnight Louie and Joe Grey. Midnight Louie is the co-narrator of a series of mysteries, starting with Catnap by Carole Nelson Douglas. His human is a public relations freelancer named Temple Barr, and the city they investigate is the Sin capital of the U.S., Las Vegas. Midnight Louie is an overweight, all black tomcat who sounds like he just stepped off the stage of the latest “Guys and Dolls” revival. Louie has clawed his way through 21 books so far, and is still going strong.

Joe Grey is my personal favorite, partly because Joe knows what happened to him is wrong for a cat, and he thinks about it sometimes, then washes himself and goes back to solving crimes, usually after he’s ordered delivery from the local deli over the phone. In Cat on the Edge by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, we discover Joe Grey, a smoke grey tomcat with white socks a docked tail. Joe suddenly discovers he can talk, and understand, human. He just doesn’t know why, or how. Then he witnesses a murder behind his favorite deli. Now he has the power to do something about it. But with the ability to talk like a human, comes the ability to think like one, too. Cats don’t face moral dilemmas–but Joe Grey does.

Lilian Jackson Braun created a cat who had his human convinced that he was helping him solve crimes. After three books, she stopped her successful series for 18 years, then picked it back up by moving her human and his feline assistant from the big city to a place she created, Pickax City in Moose County, a place “400 miles north of everywhere”.  Moose County was so far north, it even had a town named Brrr. Read the books. Especially some night when you need to cool off.


How to pill a cat

Google can be so pedantic sometimes.  The search for “How to pill a cat” returns “About 17,400,000 results”.  I was not filtering out the jokes.  I was serious.  Last night was the first time I had to pill a cat in a long time.  And it was about as much fun as I remembered.

First of all, they know. Whenever you approach them with the intent to do something they won’t like, they are gone in a flash. I was expecting “All-Star Cat Wrestling”.  I had forgotten that it would be the second act of the double-bill, preceded by that ever-popular favorite, “The Amazing All-Star Cat Chase”, co starring the local versions of the Keystone Kops, namely Galen and yours truly.  The process is never helped by the fact that the humans do not really want to hurt the cat, and the cat firmly believes that he, in this particular case, is being tortured.

Erasmus used to be a 16 pound cat. That was generally considered by vets everywhere (and we’ve been everywhere) to be a bit on the pudgy side, even for him.  He’s a rather big-boned, long-bodied cat.  He should be big, just not that big.  But since January, he’s turned into an 11 pound cat, and we don’t know why.  He’s 12 years old, so a healthy middle-age for an indoor cat. Galen and I suffered from different, equally horrible fears about what might be wrong with him. We lost Scheherazade to hepatic lipidosis in Anchorage. It was sudden and devastating. My baby Licorice lived with diabetes for more than 5 years, and I lost him when he was 17, after he survived my first marriage, moving across three states, and he let me cry into his fur when I lost my dad.  For those who believe, Licorice is the cat waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge. And Jennyfur, who died of cancer at 14, is with him, because she was Licorice’s cat.  Not my cat, HIS cat. She thought he made the sun rise.

But right now, Erasmus has a problem. Actually he has two problems. First, something is medically wrong. He is too thin. His hipbones and spine bumps are visible. But he acts as if he’s fine.  But the vet checked him out, and so far, all we know is what it isn’t.  It isn’t diabetes.  It isn’t his thyroid.  Nothing showed up on the x-ray.  But his white cell count is elevated. Hence the pills.  If it’s an infection, then maybe antibiotics are the answer.

The problem with him being skinnier, is that now he can run.  And he has LOTS more places to hide.  And all the boxes we’re getting together have created even more hiding places than normal.  After chasing him around the house, twice, we blocked him in the Florida room (Florida rooms are finished porches in, well, Florida) and wrapped him in a towel.  He squirmed out.  Then he squirmed into the towel, and buried his face.  Then out. Over and over.  He dug his claws into my leg, even through my jeans.  This was one of the times when I was sorry dragonhide wasn’t available.

After this came the truly disgusting part.  Clamping the cat’s head in your hand, forcing its mouth open, with all those lovely carnivore teeth, and poking the pill as far back you can with your very vulnerable finger.  Then you hold the cat’s mouth firmly closed and massage their throat until you hope they’ve swallowed the damn pill.  And you are inevitably wrong.  As soon as you let go of the cat’s jaw, they WILL spit out the pill. And it’s slimy and disgusting.  And you know you have to go through the whole process again.  We were lucky.  We only had to poke the icky pill into his mouth twice more, and we didn’t let him go between tries.  The third time I just kept his mouth closed until the stupid pill melted in his mouth, since it was halfway there already.  YUCK.  And we have to do this 13 more times.  Is this Friday the 13th or what?

Meanwhile, the human who has just committed the torture is practically in tears.  I was terrified that he would never forgive me for tormenting him.  But this morning, he hopped into my lap just like he always does, and dropped off for his morning nap.  So far, all is well on that front.

Erasmus’ second problem is his sister LaZorra.  Because Erasmus went to the vet and she didn’t, LaZorra goes into her “Growltigger” act every time she sees him.  Erasmus, big baby that he is, has no idea what he’s done wrong. LaZorra has earned herself a trip to the vet on Monday when Erasmus gets an ultrasound and a checkup on his bloodwork.  Maybe if they both come back home smelling like the “awful vet place”, she’ll stop acting like a witch.  But maybe not.  I’m firmly convinced that she IS a witch.