Fur babies, Kitten, Lost pet, pets, Travel

Eat, Play, Love

Recently I’ve been walking with a friend on the Atlanta Beltline where there are loads of people out with their dogs. With no dog of my own going on nearly a year, I’m on a “soft” hunt, stopping walkers with cute large dogs that smile at me to learn where they got theirs.  One such golden retriever encounter sent me to a website where I saw similar smiling pups and cats, too, and I soon landed on an image I couldn’t unsee. 

I’ve already got Bo, an oversized big-hearted orange tabby who recently lost his buddy Louie, also a ginger, but who now seems bored living with just us humans. Adding insult to injury, the vet suggested he slim down and switch to wet food, so his days sans kibble have grown noticeably duller.

If you cast your line out, that cork is eventually going to bob, and while I do like fishing, be careful what you fish for. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the kitten became an obsession, and of course I emailed Jessica, owner of the kitten’s mama who, as it turns out, lives on a farm several states away in Pennsylvania. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work, but from our exchange I’d learned that the kitten is super sweet, great with people and dogs, and in a week will be weaned and ready to go. Despite the highly impractical deterrent, my husband agreed this was one cute cat. Fast forward a few days and several thousand SkyMiles later and we found ourselves on a plane to Baltimore.


My suitcase held a collapsed cat carrier, a dish tub litter box, small bag of litter (which security flagged) and other assorted kitten things–toys, towels, food and water bowls–and in my carry on some reading, a toothbrush and change of clothes.  With so much already invested, in flight my brain kicked into worry mode: With Samantha sleeping outside, what if coyotes get to her before I can? Or as many new adoptive parents fear and experience, what if this family changes their mind? 

Typical Annapolis street

Putting worries aside, we landed and made our way to our Nissan Rogue. The way back held luggage, the middle seat, which I draped with a shower curtain, was dedicated kitten land, and the humans called front. We made our way to Annapolis, Md., every bit as beautiful as I’d heard, and walked around past old houses and the waterfront, which felt equal parts Virginia and New England, all of it quaint, historic and oozing charm.

Faidley’s, Lexington Market

Next stop was Baltimore and lunch at Lexington Market, home of Faidley’s famous crab cakes and every type of seafood imaginable. The baseball-sized crab cake we each ordered was delicious, not too eggy and with barely any filler, and we stood at one of the small round tables to eat, airport style. 

After lunch we headed to Millersville, Pa., passing rich farmland with stripes of green, brown, and gold rolling hills and into Lancaster (pronounced “LANG-ki-ster”), the oldest inland town in the U.S. We stayed at an inexpensive Airbnb in Bird-In-Hand, Pa., and our room was in one of several non-descript buildings behind a pretty Victorian house. Simple enough, it had a double bed, a Bible on the nightstand, two bars of soap the size of foil wrapped pats of butter, and zero Wi-Fi. Driving in we noticed an Amish-owned market selling pies, but arrived too late to sample any. We did see several Amish families traveling via iconic horse and buggy, tops up and wipers going in the mist, and with surprising bright red blinking turn signals illuminating the rainy road. 

Former train depot now Lititz Welcome Center

Dinner was in an adjacent town, Lititz, and we struggled pronouncing it: Le Tits? Luteetz? Leatitz?  I asked a woman on the street who could only offer that she knew it had “tit” in its name, but shrugged her shoulders saying what did she know, she was from Jersey. (It’s LIT-itz by the way.) Lititz was a cute town that reminded us of Decatur, Ga., where the parking meters stop running at 6pm and there are blinking crosswalk lights so cars stop and let you cross. The 18th- and 19th-century houses and shops are well-kept, the restaurant menus fresh and modern, and there are even local wines from Pennsylvania vineyards, so dinner was surprisingly good.

Vines overhead enclosing brunch patio

We got up early and checked out, which meant putting our room key in a bowl on a desk in the main house’s living room, where it seems no one ever goes. A few steps to the car and it was on to Lancaster for breakfast. Google gave On Orange 4.7 stars, so we put our name on the list and waited on Orange Street for a patio table. Swedish oat pancakes, peasant omelets, and attentive, amicable staff made it a memorable spot. Afterwards we saw the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Penn Square and peered inside Central Market, the oldest (1730) continuously running public farmers’ market in the country, but unfortunately, it’s closed Sundays.

Next, we headed to Jessica’s in Shippensburg, Pa., over an hour’s drive, but passing more picturesque farmland. We drove down a long driveway to the back of the house where we saw little faces inside peering out at us. Jessica and her daughter came outside, the daughter holding the tiny kitten they had named Samantha. Mom and daughter both wore long dresses, and on her head, Jessica wore a sheer white net stiff cap which appeared to be in the Amish Mennonite tradition. I read that “The Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites are the car-driving, outreach focused cousin of the more broadly known horse-and-buggy Amish” (www.beachyam.org), and I thought I’d spotted a Honda Odyssey in their driveway. Her menagerie of cats and dogs greeted us too and Jessica, a mother of five, reminded me of my friend Martee with her similarly pretty face, relaxed countenance, and warm heart she wore outside her body.

Kitten backseat snuggling with stuffed cat

There was no catfishing going on here, and the kitten looked just like her photo. Haphazard patches of orange, black, and white fur wrapped her tiny body accented with a miniature pink nose and pads. We attempted to let Samantha’s cat mama have a final moment with her baby, but instead she walked away tired in the way mothers sometimes do. Samantha slept most of the 9-10-hour drive next to a stuffed cat I got her, which had a battery beating heart inside. Her wake time was typical cat–nibbling on kibble, playing, and even breaking in her first litter box, which “gift” we promptly disposed of. Riding along the highway at night with the inside car light on and me twisting around to observe and applaud our barely 1lb creature’s first litter box elimination, we screamed new kitten parents, but in that moment, I was a proud mama.

The Wild West

To better acclimate Samantha to life at home with Bo, I’ve been watching videos from Jackson Galaxy, an internet cat behaviorist my son’s girlfriend told me about (www.jacksongalaxy.com). His “Eat, Play, Love” approach to successful feline introductions recommends that both cats stay busy and entertained, eat well and get plenty of love and attention. The introductions need to be strategic and slow so each cat associates positive feelings around the other, which Jackson marks as one giant step toward successful catification. By letting them eat together with a door initially between them and then a screen, they’ll realize that spending time near the other brings good things, like tasty meals. Orange tabbies are usually males and calicos usually females, so at least Bo and Samantha have that in common. When the walls eventually come down, to avoid a standoff you should give each a fun focus, distract the kitten with toys and the adult cat with a special treat. Soon there will be a face-to-face, but for now, these cats will snack and stare, a screen between them.  

My sister has remarked, “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” and in many ways neither can I. The house is cluttered and under renovation and things aren’t settled, yet the nagging feeling my current cat is bored out of his mind is disconcerting. What if I occupied a home as the only human surrounded by cats and besides, losing two pets in nine months has left a gaping hole and the house, achingly quiet. 

I weighed 1.24 lbs. at the doctor today!

Only a few days in, I alternate being ready for this sweetheart to grow out of her infant kitten stage and just snuggle with Bo already, to her sidling up beside me and rubbing her sweet face against my leg, and me melting there on the spot. These early new pet days don’t feel the same as when the kids lived at home since their excitement camouflaged the extra work. Instead, it feels a little what dating after a divorce or death might feel like–a little premature, contrived, and unusual to be hanging out with a stranger–but Samantha’s friendly nature and face, which I can hardly take in for all its striking beauty, has won me over and soon will Bo as well. 

Did I need to travel all this way to find a kitten? Absolutely not. Did I need to hurry and barely three weeks after losing Louie go and add another pet to this house? Again, no. None of this involved logic, just extra love that needed somewhere to go. Welcome to our house, Samantha. 

Euthanasia, Fur babies, pets


The cat carrier was unzipped by the door for Bo’s ride to his 8am well check, the very place we’d visit again at 5:30pm to say goodbye to Louie, our other cat. They’d be sedating Bo again because at each trip to the vet he morphs into a monster. I scooped him up when he least suspected it, stuffing our furry squirming water balloon into the carrier. I began zipping the top and his head popped out the other end. I stuffed it back down, zipped some more, and a paw shot through the open slit. I continued this Whack A Mole stuffing and zipping game until we were all closed up, then he began body slamming the sides of his carrier, which rocked furiously, wobbling low to the ground like a Weeble, but it didn’t fall down. 

Vine covered trellis in its prime

We took our usual route and I passed a house I always notice, with its striking crisscrossed trellis supporting a beautiful vine climbing its side and back wall. Now it looked scant and dying, life’s fragility greeting me head on today of all days. We made it more than halfway to the vet before Bo began vomiting, but I was done playing Whack A Mole and didn’t dare unzip him. I dropped him off with the usual apologies–sorry my cat is like this, I promise he’s really sweet at home, and he may have vomited, so you might need to clean it up. Sorry.

Up up and away. Artist: Ben Greco

Home now to love on Louie. I found him where I’d left him on the towel on the comfy brown couch, and brought him water and food, which he barely touched. As I sat with him, I noticed the colorful hot air balloon painting on the wall which my older son Ben made years earlier. I told Louie that a hot air balloon would be meeting us in midtown, and later that afternoon he would be taking a ride high up in the clouds. There would be fresh catnip cascading down the balloon’s basket, and he would be able to snack to his heart’s content. Birds would be flying by and he could watch them while he nibbled. No longer weak, he will be light as a feather floating up high until it’s time to check in to heaven. All kinds of people and animals will greet him, our dog Lucie at the head of the line. At home there he can weave in and out of leafy zinnia plants, track butterflies, and nibble on tall blades of grass, and it will feel wonderfully familiar, yet new, and he will always remember our days together, too. Nothing’s ending; a new chapter’s beginning is all.

I moved us to the screened porch so he could snooze in his cat tree in the sun, and there he molded perfectly into it, bowing his head back into sleep. We lolled the afternoon away, alternating between the porch and the couch and the back yard, where he walked a little and lied down in the grass, his favorite place. I will always cherish these quiet hours we shared. 

I missed a call from the vet, who after sedated well checks typically rings me to say the sedation went well, Bo’s woken up and he’s ready to go. This message, however, was of the I was calling about your cat, please call us variety. Of course, my mind raced to, Bo has had a coronary from all the stress and his fatness, and now our furry family in the blink of this astonishingly gorgeous day is gone. I called back but the doctor was in procedures and I would have to wait. An hour later with fear puncturing my calm time with Louie, I could stand it no more and called again, pressing the receptionist to see if I could come pick up Bo. The doctor got on and explained Bo’s blood sugar looked high and he is morbidly obese. It could be pre-diabetes, but they couldn’t collect urine with him being what she dubbed “impressive,” code for the cat who should have had Gabapentin in advance of sedation, which didn’t really take, the 17-pounder who not only hissed and cried and cowered, but viscerally lunged at them.  Results from the blood sample they did get would be ready the next day. I was just incredulous and grateful that we could keep loving on our remaining cat, beautiful Bo, and I picked him up and home we went.

Louie and his good buddy, Evan

Finally, it was time for Louie and me to leave, so Joe put his Zoom call on mute and tenderly carried Louie out to the car. He teared up and I felt bad whisking Louie away so quickly as Joe’s busy workday hadn’t afforded him the leisurely Louie time I got. In the car, instead of perching his paws on the window to watch the world whizzing by, Louie curled up sweetly in my lap with his head down, napping while I told him over and over how special he was. We arrived and I stood outside on the lawn cradling my fur baby as I waited for Evan, my warm blanket I had called earlier in tears, who showed up to support not only his dear friend, but the mom they shared. A nice vet tech greeted us, and we walked outside to the back to meet the doctor. The three of us sat together in a grassy area on a fluffy blanket with Louie peaceful and in his element. The doctor was tender and loving, and the moment sweet, swift, elegant and serene. 

Once home I walked around looking at the towel covered couches, the little ramekins of water spread around the kitchen and porch, the Saran Wrap-covered bowls of kibble at the ready, the pill containers, all of them key players to nourish my sweet Lou, but now reduced to ordinary items to be washed and put away. Disease is particularly messy and depressing.

I felt caged at home, trying to shower attention on Bo, but still kind of mad at him for the embarrassing scene he once again created and emotionally spent from the loss of Louie, so I took off on foot for downtown to move through the rest of this interminable day. Throngs of people spilled out of restaurants, onto patios and lawns soaking in this spectacular day, Earth Day 2022, and celebrating Friday’s arrival. I appeared like a stranger who’d just woken from a trance, walking through any town USA on any spring Friday. I kept going, hoping to get the day done. The air was perfectly gorgeous, and I loved that Louie and I had together squeezed so much out of this day. Home after 9pm, I made some eggs and opened the mail (of course, Louie’s rabies tag had arrived) and went up to bed. 

Three pounds to lose, and much better health to gain. You’ve got this, Bo.

The next morning, I was in full on Bo mode and getting his breakfast, now reduced to mini cans of food instead of the more caloric kibble. The vet called and said Bo’s bloodwork was inconclusive on diabetes, but showed elevated blood sugars, not crazy high, but not nothing. It could be he’s just gotten heavier from the extra food he’s stolen as I’ve been trying to beef up Louie’s dwindling frame. Another call from the vet today concluded Bo is just fat, thankfully, and not diabetic. You can fix fat, but diabetes is not so simple. So fat we will fix, with moving the litter box up the 22 stairs to the second story, sticking with wet food, and regular weigh-ins. 

I’ve shed many a tear over cats and dogs. I hope to love many more. 

Lucie, Louie, Bo

This comment from a friend after I posted about Louie’s passing stayed with me. Life is indeed bittersweet, but all the tears are worth it. You get to love the furry creatures that come into your life, and the energy they bring into your home is like no other–what a privilege. I’ve spent way too much time looking back (Hindsight), yet realize it’s natural to relish what you’ve loved and lost. However, all that love with seemingly nowhere to go does in fact have a home, and it’s here with the people and pets you are with now. And the ones you’ve yet to meet, and there will be more.

Bouquet wrapped with Louie’s collar

Another memorable phrase I’m hanging onto came in a card a friend sent. “Heaven is a little brighter” and indeed it is. I feel certain this life here in these bodies is not the whole story. Along with the card was a lovely homegrown bouquet with forget-me-nots, catmint and catnip, which Bo discovered and devoured this morning. Just like with a birth, seems as with a death, it helps to bring something for the other sibling, in this case, fresh catnip. Big love to you, sweet Lou. We will never forget you.