Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

Secret Lives

I read a short memoir recently. It was recommended to me by Charles who blogs at Moore Genealogy when I posted about a couple of family heirlooms on my family history blog.

A big thank you to Charles because The Secret Life of Objects inspired me to want to write about objects as memoir. Not in a hit or miss way, but purposefully. To choose an object with meaning and to write about its “secret life.” #memoir #flashmemoir

I might do that here on this blog, peeps. So consider yourselves forewarned. Today, though, I’m just chattering. And trying to do a little writing as I can. Here. At my laptop.

Or sometimes elsewhere.

This week I was in California for business. I wrote notes for a poem at my favorite cafe in La Canada: Magpie’s Grill. They leave me alone to write, and they refill my iced tea.

On the way home, I saw a bus burning on the 10. The whole backend was engulfed in flames, and the riders were standing off to the side of the freeway. I think it was their luggage that was burning. According to the news story that I later looked up, 49 Korean tourists and their driver had made it out of the bus safely. I can’t help but wonder if their passports were so lucky.

The week was made more difficult because I washed my phone with the laundry. Before this happened, I could have proudly proclaimed that I wasn’t one of those people who get their phone wet. No toilet mishaps. No accidental falls into the pool. No slipping off the edge of the tub. Nope. But I stripped the bedsheets without noticing the phone lying there and just threw them into the washer. It was probably a goner after the waterfall cascade poured over the phone. It was sopping wet inside and already corroding.

But the upside is I now have a new phone. It’s a rose gold iPhone 7. I got a clear case and a glass cover that has a rose gold frame on it. PURTY! Best of all, the camera is much better than that on my iPhone 5s.

Perry is a great big kitten. He grabs Felix in a wrestling hold, almost smothering him, and licks his ear inside and out before Felix can get away. He climbs on Kana’s cat tree with her and walks across her, pretending he just wants to get to the other tree. What a goof. He will be seeing another vet for his fast breathing, though, as I am getting more worried about it.  Here is his “this new life is sometimes mysterious, but I am doing my best to figure things out and please be patient with me” look. Or is it his “what are we gonna do now, Mom?” look?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, California, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing prompt

John Howell’s My GRL and Other Stuff

I read John Howell’s adventure novel My GRL a month and a half ago, but was so busy with promo stuff for Kin Types that I didn’t get a chance to do much besides jot down some thoughts about the book. I’m taking a break now to write my review because his book deserves to be read!

Howell created a page-turning thriller. In the midst of the suspense, the most charming aspect of the story is that the protagonist John J. Cannon is an anti-hero. He’s a lawyer who has taken time off to move to a coastal Texas town and, although he knows very little about boating, buys himself a pretty good sized vessel he names My GRL. John is not necessarily the sharpest, most experienced, or courageous hero. But he’s likeable, the sort of guy you’d like to visit on his boat with a six-pack in your hand—if only it were a safe place.

But from the getgo, John and his boat are involved in a dangerous situation with some very shady characters.  It’s great fun to follow along for the ride. John gets himself into one hot spot after another, but eventually he’s gotten himself in so deep it doesn’t seem possible that he can escape. Has John become canny enough to vanquish such a mighty opponent? Once I hit the last third of the book, where suspense leads to fast-paced action, I couldn’t put it down.

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Reminder: writers not only love reviews, but need them to sell their books. Thank you so very very very much if you left one or more for Kin Types! If you read and enjoyed Kin Types and have not done so, please (Ima begging) swing over to Amazon and leave a review. (and/or Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press).

Verse Daily published one of my Kin Types poems a week ago. I was thrilled, to say the least. They publish one contemporary poem a day. Check them out and be sure to follow them on Twitter!

Perry is still living in his bedroom, but every day he spends several hours in the house with the rest of the cats. I am going very slowly because he loves his room and his privacy, but more importantly for two other reasons. One is that my other cats are old, and he’s very curious and wants to play (or in the case of Felix, to play fight with him), and they can’t handle more than four hours at this point. The biggest reason, though, is that Perry breathes SO heavily when he’s out with the cats. It’s kind of scary. I took him to the vet and had him checked out, paying them buckets of money. She had no answers except that his heart might be slightly enlarged and the next step COULD be an echocardiogram (more buckets). But we don’t have to rush into that at all. However, to be on the safe side, I don’t want him breathing like that all day long . . . .

That’s how Perry treats Felix. He treats the female cats much nicer. When they give him warning growls, he listens.

#amwriting: I’ve written two poems, peeps! Yay me!

Have a happy and productive week!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Kin Types, Poetry Collection, Writing

Poetry Book Reviews: Goodwin and Swartwout

I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.

In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.

Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.

Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.

 

Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.

Friends vanish like misplaced directions

into skies you used to claim. Age begins

sucking your bones until you lean shriveled

into the mouth of harvest.

In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.

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Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.

I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.

Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

Typical Tuesday with Luanne Castle | Modern Creative Life

On Tuesday morning, I wake up between 5:30 and 7 AM, depending on the slant of the sun. There is a gap between my blind and the window sill where the brilliant Arizona morning light blazes through.…

Source: Typical Tuesday with Luanne Castle | Modern Creative Life

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Cats and Other Animals, Kin Types, Lifestyle, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

A Morally Ambiguous (Feline) Character

When Harold Hill sang his way into River City, Iowa, in the musical The Music Man he showed himself to be a con man. He believed he was a liar, and he tried to keep that information from the townspeople. Now, as it turns out (spoiler alert!), Harold was a liar and a con man, but he also was a dreamer and a believer, but he couldn’t really admit it to himself. It’s so easy to ignore the way Harold has manipulated people when we see him get trapped by love and notice that other people’s lives have been enhanced by their belief in Harold’s dreams.

This complicated personality makes for what is known in the lit biz as a morally ambiguous character. What is odd in this case is that morally ambiguous characters typically make good tragedies, not musical comedies. But Meredith Wilson, the writer and composer of the musical, knew what he was doing. He knew we (audience members and humans) could relate to someone who was bad but also good. We’re all a mix of good and bad, after all, although we like to think we lean way more to the good than to the bad.

The most famous morally ambiguous character is probably a creation of Shakespeare: Hamlet. Do you have a favorite morally ambiguous character from book or movie?

Have you had people like this in your own life? People who bring you joy, at least occasionally, but also bring you a lot of grief by their actions or inactions? Or someone who does something bad, like commit a crime, but in general is big-hearted?

If this person is a coworker or casual friend, it is one thing. But if he/she/they is a family member, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. How much “bad” can we overlook in order not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”? If you deal with an addict, for example, you might be used to feeling conflicted about your loved one.

If you’re a writer, how do you create one of these complicated beings? How do you show terrible behavior and yet create an appealing character?

This is a subject that touches me personally for the memoir I’ve been working on for a looooong time, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Lemme know what you think about this subject, pretty please!

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Perry update: gosh, he’s cute. Have I said that before? He’s been out for a few hours at a time each day now. He gets along fine with the other cats because he is so good-natured, although obnoxious. He just wants to play with them, and although they absolutely do not want to play (although Kana might want to and hasn’t admitted it yet) with him, they realize he has good intentions.

Sloopy Anne update: First let me say that Tiger doesn’t get along with Sloopy Anne unless they are in the kitchen. Tiger has slept with the gardener and me for years, with the door closed so nobody bothers her/us. Sloopy Anne can’t stand the bedroom door shut at night and will wait in there hiding hours ahead of time so she doesn’t get shut out. Lately, Sloopy Anne has been in the bedroom, under the bed or on the floor, each night . She then advanced to jumping on the bed while we’re asleep. Tiger retreats to the top of my head and Sloopy Anne at the foot of the bed. If it stayed like that I would be fine with it, but why did I think she had a Machiavellian plan to take over the bed and kick Tiger out of it for good? Well, night before last I woke up at 6AM to a cat fight. Sloopy Anne was angry and attacking Tiger! It was some kind of argument over the litter box, but Sloopy Anne was definitely on the attack. A morally ambiguous cat?! Now I have to get that door shut while she’s eating dinner to keep Sloopy Anne out at night!

My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the hurricane(S). And those we lost 16 years ago today on 911.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Characterization, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing Talk

Cats: Feral or Not? A Tale of Perry

So what’s a feral cat? According to Alley Cat Allies, the wonderful charitable organization that helps feral cats, “Millions of cats share our homes, but not all cats are suited to living inside. For many community cats (also known as feral cats), indoor homes are not an option because they have not been socialized to live with humans. They would be scared and unhappy indoors. Their home is the outdoors—just like squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. They are well suited to their outdoor home.”

Sounds simple, right?

But it isn’t. I suspect that a lot of cats that are assumed to be feral are merely strays. Feral cats are terrified of humans and view them as a real threat. But many cats when they are frightened may act the same way: cowering or running away, speechless (no mewing), or thrashing wildly if confined.

The gardener and I have been supporting the efforts of Alley Cat Allies for years as they try to promote TNR: trap-neuter-return. That keeps a feral colony from having more kittens, but doesn’t confine cats that can’t live inside.

But how many cats end up in feral colonies or merely dead because they are assumed to be feral, but are actually not feral at all?

Nobody knows.

Why am I bringing this up? Because of Prince Perry Winkle. Remember when we first trapped him? We got him neutered at a clinic and brought him to the shelter where he proceeded to act like a feral cat.

I told them that the clinic vet had said he wasn’t feral, but nobody believed me. They thought the vet lied, that I lied, or that the vet made a mistake. A big one.

For about a month I went to the shelter almost every day and read to Perry. It was the only time he got any positive attention because he hid in a cave and had staff persuaded he was a difficult and possibly dangerous (to them) feral cat.

The only hint anybody had that he wasn’t feral was that when I read to Perry he would blink at me. If you have a cat you know that blinking means I love you or I trust you. It’s a way of talking, communicating with a human. I would blink back at him so he knew I understood and trusted him, too.

If you read any of my bazillion posts here about Perry you know that he gradually warmed up to me, but it was really slow at first. When he learned the trick of “give me your paw,” it seemed huge. I didn’t know if we would get any further than that.

Well, now Perry is the biggest cuddle bug ever. I have never seen a cat as adorably cuddly. He curls up in my arms. rubs against me, kisses me, licks me, and demands I pet him by pushing his head up inside the palm of my hand. If I say, “Give me a kiss,” he kisses me immediately. This cat is not only not feral, he’s TRAINABLE. Like a dog.

And the other day I started letting him out to explore the house and meet the other cats, for less than an hour each day. Kana is shut up in a bedroom that Perry doesn’t know about. She will be the last hurdle. The other cats are fine, and so is Perry. Felix, friendly when approached. Pear, ignores him. Tiger, gives warning hisses to stay away, and so far so good. Sloopy Anne hides under the drape and peeks out through a gap she creates at the floor haha.

Watching TV with Mom

I found a mobile vet here in town who charges very reasonably and she came here (so as not to stress out Mr. Scaredy Cat) and clipped his nails (whew!!!!) and examined him. He’s healthy and about the age I thought (1.5 years) and definitely not feral at all. The vet told me that people dump domesticated cats at feral cat colonies all the time. IMAGINE A BIG SAD FACE HERE.

What if we had left Perry to fend for himself, assuming he was a feral cat and should just stay outside? He would have died for sure.

The only negative thing about his checkup is that this guy who was 9 pounds the day we trapped him is now 12.25 pounds, and he’s too fat. I take all the blame! I kept feeding him the same amount after the worms were gone that I did before. So now he has to lose a little weight. Like his mama.

He loves his hairbrush

To calm Perry for the exam, the vet put a little mask on him. I’ve seen those things before, and they work quite well. They are along the same lines as putting blinders on a horse or a cover over a bird cage. Or a blindfold on me for an MRI (no, I am not kidding). But the vet had to use a different mask than usual for cats because Perry has this cute little pointed rat face. (I love pet rats, so watch it). Very pointy all the way to his little pink nose. It’s hard to take a pic of so you can’t usually notice it in his photos.

I laughed about it and mentioned my comparison to a little rat face, and the vet told me it’s very likely that Perry is part Siamese. And as soon as she said it, I thought, YES, THAT EXPLAINS IT. It explains his chattiness. He’s always trilling and chirping to me. It explains his big smarts and trainability. And it explains his puppy-like behavior–the excitement and licking and all that.

It makes me sad when I think of how Perry was almost overlooked because it’s so darn hard to tell the difference between a feral cat and a scared cat. In a shelter or veterinary clinic, many cats are scared cats. If I hadn’t paid attention to his blinking and felt that it meant something, I might never have brought him home and learned the truth about him.

Lesson learned: I’ve learned quite a few from him, but the biggie is to watch for small, subtle signs of communication. That takes patience and time–something in short supply in busy shelters and clinics with overworked staff and volunteers.

If you sign up to read to cats at a shelter, you can be the eyes watching the cats for signs of communication!

For a little visit with Theo, here is a video of him learning his new activity. His mom found a free treadmill on the Next Door app (love that app!):

Hugs and prayers for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey. The devastation and flooding is horrific. My heart goes out to all those people and the animals, as well.

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Essay, Nonfiction, Writing

A Spotted Jumping Dog



I really want to thank the bloggers who have had me over to visit or talked about Kin Types: Carla at Writing Customs, Marie at 1WriteWay, Merril at Yesterday and Today, Robert at O at the Edges, and Adrienne at Middlemay Books.  You guys (y’all, youse) really know the meaning of collaboration in this whole writing and chatting thing we do. I treasure all of you.

If you missed any of those posts, just click the links above.

And, above all, take a peek at my cute granddog, Theo. Isn’t he adorable?

And you thought I only do cats? In fact, Theo is the spitting image of my last dog, Sandy, although Theo has large brown spots on his skin that are visible through his thin blond fur. And Theo’s legs are longer so that he can jump on the counter-heighth table (taller than a regular kitchen table). Which he does. All the time.

But he’ll learn. He had a hard life on the streets of Indio before son and ND rescued him.

Now his life is hard, but only in that he has to live with two great cats who are not as naughty as Theo.

If you are wondering about Prince Perry Winkle, he is now officially the most affectionate cat ever.

I haven’t been writing, but I have been starting to organize for book promoting and spending time with Perry because I had to go to California this past week for work. I hope to get things under control this week and then get back to writing again. I keep trying, folks.

How about you? What are you trying to get under control?

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Filed under Book promotion, California, Cats and Other Animals, Kin Types, Writing

New-ish Cat and Brand New Book

I had a couple of requests for a Perry update, so as tough (hahaha) as it is to write about him, here it is.

We’ve moved way beyond the “give me your paw” trick. His next move was to head butt my face and rub against me when I was on the floor to feed him.

Soon after, he indicated he wanted me to scratch his cheeks. Then pet his sides and the length of his tail.

Now he has added in a squishy and slobbery nose rub and even a little kiss-kiss.

He also keeps rolling on his back and trying to get me to pet his stomach, but with those “natural length” claws of his, I am not that stupid. Gotta get those nails trimmed somehow, but I don’t want to spook him and have a setback.

My son and ND (new daughter or, as some would have it, daughter-in-law) gave me the sweetest little instant camera for my birthday. It doesn’t take the place of my iPhone camera, of course, but I can snap a cute pic of a cat and put the photo into a little frame within a minute. Those little pet frames always beg tiny pix, so these are just right at 2″ or so. I’ve been learning how to use it, and Perry is the model.

My first attempt with the instant camera: I had to learn to use the little buttons

Today is the day I have to take Perry’s poo in for the final check in the deworming process. If it’s negative, I plan to be paranoid and do it again in another week or two. That is because the first time I had it checked, it was negative and then look what I’ve gone through because that was just a lull in the worm cycle. Ugh.

If it’s negative, we put the gate up at the bedroom door so the cats can meet. I’ll try to feed him on one side of the gate another couple of cats on the other side–at the same time. Over the gate I will hang a sheet. That is enough for most cats: gate and sheet and they think they are stuck in there.

Kana and Perry did have a little meeting the other night though. The hall outside Perry’s bedroom was so dark I couldn’t see anything and when I opened the door, suddenly there were two cats in the bedroom! I thought I was seeing double. But Perry was running away and Kana was sniffing Perry’s toys. I picked up Kana, and she managed to graze her teeth on my hand because she was unhappy in the extreme to be removed. What a stinker. She is the trouble-maker of the house, for sure. That is why when I go away, she has to go into her bedroom for the duration. That’s ok, it’s my office and it is the nicest room in the house IN MY OPINION.

Since Perry is in the bedroom all the time, I have certain times of the day I spend with him. My daughter shipped me her old laptop so I can get some work done while I’m in with him.

Probably because he is young, Perry loves his dolls. Sometimes his teeth or claws start holes in the dolls and I have to take them away or stitch them, but that is just him loving them ;).

I’m not used to having a cat so young. It’s been many years since 17-year-old Pear was that young! Perry likes to shred tissues and other paper. That ought to be great when he’s got the run of the house with all our business and writing paper lying about (yikes).

 

I noticed the other day that Perry is now filling out. I suspect that means that the worms are gone and that he is absorbing his food better. He’s going to be a fairly large long-haired cat. And now that I am petting him, I can verify that his fur is super soft!

Perry and an interactive doll:

There was a speck on the lens that shows up in the video. Does anybody know how to remove something like that through Windows Movie Maker?

 

 

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KIN TYPES IS NOW AVAILABLE AT AMAZON! Copies should be arriving soon (I hope)!

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Kin Types, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Like a Mourning Dove

This is a hectic month, so I need to slow down my blogging for a few more days. But I’ll be back soon.

In the meantime, here are two sweet baby mourning doves.

 

If I Could Mourn Like A Mourning Dove
by Frank Bidart
It is what recurs that we believe,
your face not at one moment looking
sideways up at me anguished orelate, but the old words welling up by
gravity rearranged:
two weeks before you died in pain worn out, after my usual casual sign-off
with All my love, your simple
solemn My love to you, Frank.

If you don’t know the work of Frank Bidart, you might want to check him out. Here is a bio and selected bibliography from poets.org:

Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California on May 27, 1939 and educated at the University of California at Riverside and at Harvard University, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.

His first volume of poetry, Golden State (G. Braziller, 1973), was selected by poet Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series, but it wasn’t until the publication of The Sacrifice (Random House, 1983) that Bidart’s poetry began to attract a wider readership. Bidart’s early books are collected in In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990).

His recent volumes include Metaphysical Dog: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013); Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008); Star Dust (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); Music Like Dirt (Sarabande Books, 2002); and Desire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. He is also the co-editor of Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).

About his work, the former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück has said, “More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since Berryman (whom he in no way resembles) Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma.” And about his career as a poet, she said, “Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country.”

His honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Paris Review‘s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky” in 1981. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.

Bidart was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2003. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has taught at Wellesley College since 1972.


Selected Bibliography

Metaphysical Dog: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)
Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
Star Dust (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005)
Music Like Dirt (Sarabande Books, 2002)
Desire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997)
In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
The Sacrifice (Random House, 1983)
Golden State (G. Braziller, 1973)

See you soon, peeps!

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Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Writing

The Trick the Cat Learned

I’m writing this between Canada Day (this past Saturday) and Independence Day (tomorrow). Happy belated and future celebrations, y’all, you guys, youse, you’uns, and however you pronounce that direct address in Canada.

A brief update on Perry today. Since he was on his own for whoever-knows-how-long, he doesn’t like me to touch his head or his back, and he spends some of his time under the bed (and the rest on the bed or in his cat tree), but he is certainly learning his lessons well because I taught him a trick.

He’s pretty sweet, isn’t he?!

Here he is on the bed (that has lots of layers of covers on because of the deworming). By the way, today is dose #2.

So is Perry feral or not? My guess is that a lot of people would have automatically classified him as feral, but that he was somewhere on the continuum between socialized and feral–and that with some effort he is moving over toward the socialized side. It’s nice that he likes to lie on the bed with me to watch TV, likes to play with me, and taps my hand with his paw every time I ask.

I am reading the 2nd set of galleys for Kin Types. With an uptick in work lately and spending time with Perry, I stopped writing again. Ugh. I need to find a routine that works. Maybe writing in the bedroom with Perry? But that would be ignoring him!

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Kin Types, Lifestyle, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk