Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

What’s Past and The Promise of What Lies Ahead

Today begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year. I’m wishing you a good (and sweet) year, whether you celebrate or not.

 

If you were reading my blog three years ago, you might remember that spring and summer were the seasons of the hummingbird mother and babies, my father’s illness and death, and the passing of my oldest cat Mac.* These events swirled together, as life’s events often do, and I ended up writing a lyrical essay called “Ordering in Four Movements.”

That fall the essay was published in Phoebe (45.1), a beautiful print journal. If I ever put together a collection of prose pieces, maybe this one will find a “book” home. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share it with more readers via an online journal, so I submitted it as a reprint to Ginosko Literary Journal where it was subsequently accepted. This weekend the journal went live. I hope you will enjoy this piece. It means a great deal to me since it covers emotional issues that preoccupied my mind at the time.

Ginosko Literary Journal — “thumb through” to page 33

* The links in the first paragraph are to the original posts I wrote about these events. The one about Mac tells his life story ;).

I’m still working on my gun essay, but I was challenged to try it from a different angle, which has taken me down a muddy and tangled garden path. Oh boy.

May you have a sweet week ahead. And a happy birthday to poet Mary Oliver!

 

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Light and Color in Alaska

What was that intermission all about? The gardener and I went to southeast Alaska, cruising on a small ship–and also staying in Juneau awhile.  Then we got back and became sick almost immediately. How often has that happened to you? Is it the germs on the plane?

Since I’m not feeling so hot, I’ll mainly post some pix to give you an idea of what we saw. Unfortunately, the photos from kayaking are lost, and that was the most fun of all. But we used a lil old camera I had lying around and for some reason those photos did not turn out or the SD card is locked somehow. I didn’t dare take my iPhone with me on the kayak. However, I did take it on the river raft trip we took during SIXTY MPH WINDS. What an experience.

One of the things I took away from Alaska was how different the landscape depending on the lighting. You should be able to see from my pix that sometimes the natural color of Alaska appears to be greyscale and sometimes the color is vivid.

Here we flew into Juneau, the capital of Alaska. It is inaccessible over land.

That is a color pic, by the way. In Skagway we picked up the train that took us up into the mountains. These pix are out of the train window, but at one point I did stand out on the platform, leaning over. You have no idea how much my fear of heights has improved recently!!!

And here:

We saw creeks and tall trees and other mountains in the distance.

Bald eagles are plentiful in Alaska, but we saw the most on our terrifying and uncomfortable river rafting trip. This photo was taken, though, not from the raft in that wind, but by someone else through a telescope with an iPhone.

Because we were on a very small ship, we were able to get up close to a lot of glaciers, particularly in Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay. Notice the color changes.

The melting glaciers lead to many waterfalls along the route.

The wildlife was abundant, so abundant I wish I felt like talking about it! Alas, I feel pretty ick today.

Here’s a pretty water pic. No filters.

And on the ship they took pretty good care of our food and drink needs. Crab legs and butter are gluten free.

 

 

The liqueurs are for the hot chocolate with giant marshmallows and whipped cream (and candies if you like).

See that white Bailey’s bottle near back on the right? It’s gluten free and dairy free!

I hope to be chattier next week ;). Have a good one!

P.S. OK, I can’t withhold this video. In Juneau, on the last day, we saw first an adult bear run across the road in front of our car–and I mean directly. My phone was zipped in a pocket. Then we saw a cub eating by the side of the road, but the photos are crap because the grasses obscured him. So we stopped at a salmon stream to look for bears. They weren’t there, so we meandered back along the bank and toward our car. That’s when I saw two black bears crossing our parking lot! In the video you can see one of the bears in the way back near the trees and then the low white wall. The group of people and dogs were unaware of the bears until I warned them. The particular concern was that one of the dogs was unleashed and “wandering.”

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The Dowager’s Tail (more apologies to Chaucer)

Now that the baby has told his story and been put in a confined area for a brief time, I, the dowager duchess known as Pear Blossom, will tell you the history of this family.

Before I arrived at age six months, the household was ruled by a handsome male ginger and white with a magisterial presence. His name was Macavity (aka Mac-the-cat). He commanded an excitable blond terrier mix (dog, that is) and four humans–father, mother, son, and daughter.

One day, my litter mate Little Bear and I found ourselves at the end of a cul de sac. He was an adorable and rather stupid ball of fluff. We were hiding in a large rosemary bush at the end of the last driveway. He spotted a human and ran out to greet her! With my more cautious nature, I stayed in the bushes. That was the last I saw of Little Bear for three days.

At that point I had had enough, so I walked around the side of the house. Unbeknownst to me, the mother was on a treadmill that looked out upon the side yard and saw me. Within minutes I was captured and imprisoned in a corner room in the tower. Over the next few days, I met up with my brother; he was adopted by a single woman who lived in the desert and thought he was the cutest kitten ever born; and I was left with Macavity’s family. I was uncertain about him because he was very controlling, and the dog was annoying. I wasn’t yet focused on the humans. They said my tower room smelled very bad, but I don’t know why.

After some loud discussions about how many cats were appropriate for one family to own, I was released from my prison and forced to negotiate an entire house with six other inhabitants. I set up my boundaries, and to my surprise, Mac was not difficult to get along with. Neither was the dog. The humans granted all my requests until they made one mistake. They offered me Science Diet for dinner. I took the opportunity of a briefly opened door and marched down the driveway. I would show them! The mother ran after me and promised she would never make me eat that food again. I came back inside and ate a better meal. It’s now been almost eighteen years that I have been with this family, and they have never brought Science Diet into the house again.

The years while the children were growing up were good. Mac was a benign overlord (although dangerous to touch if he didn’t welcome it), and he had mastered the human language called English by calling our mother “Mom” on many occasions. The human children encouraged him to do so. Then first the boy and then the girl moved away to a faraway place called College. Felix decided to live with us when the girl left. Soon after, Sandy had many health problems and, with my intuitive gifts, I lay beside him when he suffered. Eventually he passed away, and Mac and I forged an even closer bond.

A couple of years later, we all moved to Arizona where Mac and Felix became good friends. Our mother placed three beds on the kitchen counter, and the three of us–Mac, Felix, and I–slept during the day and during the night on those beds, close as the three little kittens. Tiger came to live with us, but she was the odd cat out. We three were a team, and Tiger didn’t fit in. We were never mean to her, though.

Mac was two years older than me, and he began to experience health problems. He was a big boy with a heart defect, and he developed kidney disease and diabetes. Our mother took excellent care of him. She kept his blood sugar down with a special food diet of Weruva chicken. When he eventually died, my grief took me by surprise. I could not eat. The vet told Mother that I would die if she didn’t find a way for me to eat. She cried so hard she saturated the fur on my back with saltwater. I realized that Mother loves me very very much and couldn’t bear to lose me, especially after losing Mac and her human father in the same summer. So I began eating a little Gerber’s chicken and Temptations treats. Those treats have 2 calories a piece, so I was able to get enough nutrition to keep me alive. I rallied and began to want to live. But I was left with a permanent condition of high blood pressure and had to go on medication.

Do you think Mother could wait to get another cat? NO. She brought home Kana. Kana has a similar personality to Mac, so I understand why Mother did that especially because Kana was extremely depressed at the shelter. Nobody wanted an 8 year old big black cat rumored to nibble on people occasionally. So that’s fine, but she needs to leave me alone. Then Sloopy Anne came home, all because she had been at the shelter for two full years and nobody wanted her. Everything was fine until Perry came bouncing into our backyard and one thing led to another. We ended up with a baby living amongst us oldsters.

My life is satisfactory. Mother is very good to me, and I trust her implicitly. Father has an ideal lap when he’s in his chair watching TV. My only complaint is that I have a medical issue that causes some trouble. [Whispering] I get UTIs. They are very painful.

Three years ago, when I was dying from not eating, Mother told me a secret as she slobbered all over me. I will share it with you, but please do not disillusion the other cats by letting them know. She told me that I am her favorite child. She tells everyone who will listen that I have never put my teeth on her in eighteen years.

I suppose that my age and because I was Mac’s companion imbues me with a dignity that commands respect from the others. I accept that respect, although I never abuse it. I am a good roommate. I am also the cat Grandma likes because I curl up in her lap and stay quiet.

Thank you for reading about my family and my life.

Forgive me for using photos you might consider old–I consider them timeless

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The Baby’s Tail (apologies to Chaucer)

I get to go first because my mom says I’m her BABY. The other cats want to tell their stories, but I’m first first first!

My name is Perry.

I love love love my mom. She says we’re best friends! I show her I love her by wrapping my front legs around her neck and licking her ear and neck. She pretends she doesn’t like it, but I know she DOES!

My dad is cool, too, and sometimes I lie next to him on the couch, but only for a minute because it’s hard to lie still for so long!

Before I came to Mom and Dad’s house my life was really hard and my tummy often empty, but I try not to remember those days out on the street.

I was so scared when I was at the shelter. They tried to stick needles in me and grab at me. It was loud with bright lights so I hid in a little cave Mom bought for my cage. I didn’t know yet that she would be my mom, but I knew that I was only happy when Mom came every day to read to me about Curious George. The people at the shelter thought I was the opposite of George—boring and uncivilized and uninterested.

So my mom brought me home and held my food bowl while I ate. She read to me several times a day and sang me songs. She recited poems to me. Toys and stuffed babies surrounded me, too, and Mom taught me how to play games. Pretty soon Dad started to play games with me. He talked to me a lot when Mom wasn’t around.

One day, I realized that I would be with Mom and Dad forever, and I was so happy.

Then I found out five other cats live in the house. Weeeeee. I love other cats! More friends friends friends!

I try to make friends with Felix because he’s the only other boy, so I grab him in a “bear hug” wrestling hold, but he lies there like he’s dead. BORING!!!! Boring boring boring. So instead of playing with him, I have to chase him out of his bed a few times a day just so he knows I’m here.

Kana is the other cat I try to make friends with because she’s the dominant cat. Hahaha. Until I got here, I mean. If you know what I mean! She’s a big sleek black panther girl, and we could be best friends if she wasn’t such a you-know-what. It’s what you would call her if she were a dog. Get it?! Kana has a short temper, and when I try to lie in her bed with her sometimes she gets mad. Or if I “share” her kibble one time too many. Then we sit on our butts and slo-mo throw our punches. Mom says sometimes I bug Kana too much, and she puts Kana in the laundry room with kibble. She says it’s so Kana can get some private time away from me. I try not to let it hurt my feelings, but I don’t really get it.

Although I get along fine with some of the other cats, these are my two favorites. They are the only ones I lie next to in the same bed. We three are the ones mom calls THE BIG CATS.

Tiger, one of THE LITTLE CATS,  likes to parallel play with me sometimes. We bat at the same mobiles. She’s a nice little calico girl, but she’s not really in my category, ya know? OK, I admit it: if I get too close, she hits me with her claws out. I kind of avoid getting too close. But we’re cool.

Sloopy Anne looks just like Tiger, except she has a black face instead of a tabby face. If I see one of these girls slinking around a corner, I don’t always know which one it is. Sloopy Anne waits for me to come out of my bedroom every morning so she can chase me or show me her claws. But after breakfast, I chase her under the chest in the living room. Sloopy Anne is a LONER, but she’s ok.

That leaves the old lady. Not Mom. That other old lady, Pear Blossom. She lies on the back of the couch ALL. DAY. LONG. She won’t tolerate me trying to play with her. She gets crabby, but doesn’t stay mad long. She just loves Mom and likes to sit on Dad’s lap. To the rest of us she is always saying: don’t annoy me. She’s not that much fun.

This last  month, though, there’s been some excitement in our house. My human sister is here with her cat Izzie! Izzie is SO much NICER to me than the other girls. She kisses me and lets me eat her kibble. She doesn’t act annoyed by me either. I wish my sisters were as nice as Izzie!

Life is so wonderful! I don’t have to worry about the heat and snakes and coyotes and storms. Or the big bobcat. I get smelly food twice a day—and treats at bedtime! And pets and hugs all day long. Not too many strangers either. I don’t like strange humans. My Mom says I am just like Curious George. I get into her purse and the kitchen drawers and climb between her arms when she’s cooking. I eat her mail, even the checks! I always want to be in the middle of what’s going on in this place! And my Mom and Dad LOVE me, and I LOVE them!!!!!!

THIS IS ME HIDING FROM MOM AND DAD TO TEASE THEM!

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Mostly Cats

This past week has been exhausting. More travel–to California this time–and time spent at the ER (for the gardener, not me). There’s a story in that ER visit, but I don’t have it in me right now. Scary place, that ER.

The only good thing was that the waiting room had a poster about their therapy dogs. Notice they call them “pets,” but there aren’t any cats. Speciesist of them! Still, I do love when hospitals use therapy animals.

I had occasion to visit Riverside, California, for the first time in awhile. I did my PhD work in that city. Riverside has been a faded flower since I have known it, but you can see that once upon a time it was a gorgeous city. The palm-lined streets are one of the remnants of those days. This particular street grew them taller than I had ever seen before.

Because of all the hubbub of travel and the gardener’s illness (undiagnosed as of yet), I got zero writing done. However, I did make a couple of submissions so that I felt as if I were doing something in the writing department.

I also finished up the calls to the June cat adopters with 100% satisfaction. (I am pretty relentless and track them down eventually). I have a poster to share with you. Feel free to share it around if you’re so inclined. The senior cats on the poster are not at our shelter, but are in Phoenix, Arizona. Their owner, a lady with eleven cats, has a terminal illness–and we are trying to find homes for the cats. There are three seniors left that really need loving homes. They do not have to be adopted together. I watermarked the poster that my daughter made so that even if you share it, I can be found. If you share, just mention that these cats are available in July 2018 and that they can contact me through this blog if they want to find out more.

You want to see even more cat pix? Is that what you said? OK, here are my cats’ headshots. I took them in case they decide to become actors. What do you think? If you notice seven, instead of six, that is because I’ve been babysitting my grandcat Isabella Rose, or Izzie.

Pear Blossom, 18 years old (photobomb care of Perry)

Felix, 12 years old

Tiger, 14 years old

Kana, 11 years old

Sloopy Anne, 7 years old

Perry, 2.5-3 years old

Isabella Rose, 8 years old

Trust me: senior cats are WONDERFUL, so feel free to adopt one of those three from the poster :).

Have a purrfectly wonderful week!

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Multicolored ~ nonfiction by Luanne Castle


A big thank you to The Disappointed Housewife for publishing my piece, “Multicolored.”

The Disappointed Housewife

GREEN surrounds me as I enter the butterfly pavilion. The leaves of the trees and flowers create an oasis in the Sonoran desert. All seems still inside, protected from the dry winds, until I notice the undulant motion of butterflies winging above me, swooping down to sip at the nectar of the blossoms. The guide warns visitors to watch where we step, what we touch. Fragile life whirls around us. After all these years, I think I understand how they feel. One has to go through so many changes to get to full flower. Now is not yet the time to die.

BROWN fur nestles under the leaf. I’m here anew, peeling the caterpillar off the green veins and stem which define the underside. I curl up my fingers, cupping the bug in my palm. It tickles me and then plays dead inside the tent of my hand, as I…

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Saguaro Fruit Season

This was the first year that I’ve lived in Phoenix that all  the saguaros blossomed with white crowns. So this is the first year I’ve seen so many white blossoms all turn into juicy red fruit. An animal must have eaten some of this one!

Check out the bird sitting on the top. Birds seem to love saguaros.

Here’s a good article about the harvesting of the saguaro fruit.

A couple of the cacti in our yard, thanks to the gardener.

One of the most inspiring people in my life has been a gorilla–namely, Koko, lover of cats and poet of sign language. Sadly, she died last week at age 46.

This image by a fan of Koko was shared on Koko’s Facebook page with a request to share it, so here it is. RIP dear Koko. I just don’t understand how little her death has been on the news. The people whose lives we celebrate on national television when they die have not done as much for our future and our planet as Koko has done.

#amwriting #writerlife #writerslife I had two beautiful acceptances this week. One publication coming out in a day or so . . . .

HAPPY NEW WEEK!

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Rocks and Light: Natural Art

After last week’s Phoenix excursion and the second hummingbird baby flying off into the big world, we took a drive up to the Lower Antelope Canyon to see the stone sculptures. They are on Navajo land outside Page, Arizona, right near Lake Powell.

This area is actually out in the middle of “nowhere,” from the point of view of someone with celiac, an auto-immune disease. In this case, you know I am talking about the gardener.

No offense to anything else about the town, but you don’t want to get stuck in Page if you have celiac. While we were there I found an old blog post someone had written about just that issue. There is supposed to be an Italian restaurant that serves actual gluten-free food, but it seems pretty apocryphal to me. It was closed for the season when that blogger visited (three years ago), and it was closed on the day we tried to go (Monday). Using my gluten-free app, we drove from place to place–and each restaurant was closed. And to tell you the truth: they didn’t look like the sort of places that would be genuinely gluten free. So we went to the only grocery store we could find. Since we had no microwave, I figured I would find some tuna salad for the gardener. Even the tuna salad had wheat flour in it!!! I bought some tough-as-leather chicken pieces and a tub of potato salad that I thought was just awful (tasting as it did of sweet pickle relish), but the gardener was satisfied. We tried two restaurants at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina while we were there. Both times he was glutened, probably by cross-contamination.

To see the stone sculptures you have to take a “hiking tour” through a Navajo company. I was worrying that my foot would develop a sudden, intense pain, as it occasionally does, and that I would hold up the group or at least the gardener. I needn’t have worried about too much walking. It’s not much walking. Instead, if I had known what it was I probably wouldn’t have gone. You go down into the canyon via stairs, ladders, and walking very narrow, very rocky trails. I am afraid of heights and am claustrophobic, but those problems were nothing compared with walking on narrow rocky surfaces.

My reconstructed foot is very fragile. I need a flat enough surface to put my foot down in order to put my weight on it. Otherwise, the rebuilt navicular bone could crack. My tone would be different in this post if that, in fact, had happened. But the only reason it didn’t is because the gardener, with his bad shoulder, had to hoist me through these narrow tunnels so that my weight would be on him instead of my foot. I was super careful how I placed my foot each time. Now that I have come through on the other side completely whole, I can say that I am so glad I did it. I wish everyone could see these beautiful natural artistic canvases of rock and light.

Because this is what you experience:

And this:

And this:

This one gives you the perspective of how far down we were.

That afternoon we were exhausted and went on a cruise of Lake Powell.

The way to do Lake Powell is to rent a big houseboat with a large family and/or friend group. Get one with a slide and grill! And explore all the northern canyons. When the kids were in high school, we rented a boat just like that in Lake Mead (closer to Las Vegas and near the Hoover Dam) and took their friends with us. It was such a fun family experience. Though these lakes are sort of “sister lakes,” they are quite different. Many people prefer Lake Powell, but it is more solitary and Lake Mead has more of a sporting lake feel to it.

No, zero writing went on this past week. Lots of Perry hugs, though, when we got home. In fact, all the cats were so happy to see us walk in the door!

 

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From Japan to Lebanon to the Hummingbird’s Nest All in One Day

Recently the gardener discovered the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix: RO HO EN. We visited the other day for the first time. I was so taken with the size of the pond, and this spot of beauty nestled under the tall condo buildings near the Central Arts District (theatres, museums, opera, and arts schools). If you haven’t been to that area, it’s a must see–so active and vital.

 

The garden resembles a lovely park more than it does a Japanese garden of the sort I am used to (Portland, the Huntington, etc.). They offer tea ceremonies to the public on the third Saturday of every month. The fee is $30 ($25 seniors). Imagine living in one of those condos with a view of the garden all year round.

 

 

The pine cones were fun because they aren’t a common sight in Phoenix.

 

The park did not have flowers or too many bells and whistles, so the gardener was not impressed with that aspect. For me, the park-like environment was fabulous. But it did come with a $7 price tag ($6 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for little kids).

 

The pond is loaded with giant carp, and when you check in they ask if you want to buy a little bag of food for the fish. The way they all gather to eat a few crumbs was a little terrifying for me. I thought it might be stressful for the fish. The upside for them is that the pond is so big that their environment is better than that of many pond-living carp.

 

This big guy in the middle was truly enormous.

Ducks live at the pond, too, and the mothers all were watching over their ducklings. One duckling imprinted on us and tried to follow us until we discouraged her. This is a short video of a baby duck, just in case you want to see cute right now.

After the garden, we went to one of our favorites, Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli. The owner Isam is so nice, the gluten-free options are diverse (pita, tabouli, and more), and the Lebanese lemonade to die for.

 

This time a tray of turnovers sat on the counter. They looked intriguing. Isam told me that he makes them for Ramadan every year. He is Christian, and though he makes them on behalf of his Muslim customers, he admits to loving them ;). He explained that on Ramadan, because of the fasting, people need the quick energy this sweet treat provides. He said he starts with a pancake and fills it with a cheese or walnut filling, turns it over, and deep fries it. It’s then covered with a rosewater syrup. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE rose flavored food and drink. I keep two bottles of rosewater in my fridge! I brought home two kataif–a cheese and a walnut. The gardener told me I was consuming 1,000 calories each. Hahaha, I just grinned as he was saying it because these are obviously not a gluten-free treat!

 

Click on the link to find out more: Atayef (Kataif)

Now for an update on the hummingbird mom and her babies.

They are growing up so fast. The gardener watched one fly away already. I wonder if their mother is the child or grandchild of one of the hummers who hatched in our backyard a few years ago.

Since I restructured my memoir, making it more of a hybrid genre in structure and style, I have debated adding a few poems to the book. This week I revised a couple of poems I am contemplating for the book.

Happy week, everyone!

 

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A Desert Spring

Ever since I finished National Poetry Month, I’ve been slammed with too much to do. It’s not all been work. A lot of it has been cat related. And even a genealogy rabbit hole (not even my family haha!) that I fell down.

But I’m devouring Natasha Trethewey’s poetry collection Thrall, and I’m so engaged. You won’t be sorry if you pick up a copy and start reading.

Here’s a little photo show of the prettier parts of the week.

This bobcat was stalking prey in the wash next to my house. He goes along nicely with a poem I think (#NaPoWriMo is a blur) I started last month.

Here is the coolest part of seeing him. He stopped totally still with his left hind leg (you can see the leg here just before) raised in the air. He had visually locked onto his prey. And then what do you think happened?

I’ll be darned if a little songbird didn’t land on a branch of a tree to the left of the photo and sing out a warning. IT GIVES ME CHILLS RIGHT NOW JUST TELLING YOU ABOUT IT.

I can’t even imagine how to put that into a poem without it sounding sappy!

There were some more saguaros in blossom at Mayo. Yup, I had another issue.

See the little hole up near the top? It looks like a mouse hole. It’s actually the entrance to a bird’s home. What I would love to show you are the older saguaros in vacant lots around here. They have lots of branches unlike these ones that were planted by somebody–in this case, Mayo. They also blossom at the ends of every branch. And some of them are absolutely riddled with holes from birds–completely battle-scarred. But there isn’t any place to safely park to take a pic.

(That reminds me, right outside my kitchen window was the most glorious male cardinal ever–smaller than Michigan ones and the red more orangey and vibrant–but my camera/phone was too far away to get a pic in time).

Some of the landscaping at Mayo is now mature enough to produce some shade. Since it’s turned hot again, that’s a good thing.

It’s flower time, so the gardener has been obsessed with planting flowers in the yard. He buys flats and flats of them and plants them all over–in beds and pots. Actually drives me nuts because the flowers come ahead of everything else. (He thinks I act that way about the cats, but of course, that is DIFFERENT).

Do you know how many times I’ve been to the nursery lately?

Perry continues to be the cutest most adorable softest squishiest handsome boy ever who really sets the household on end. Hah. See here. Kana was sleeping peacefully on top of the tree. Tiger was lying in the sun on the bottom. Perry had to take the middle part as he tried to “engage Tiger in play.” I put that in quotes because that is not how Tiger sees it.

When nobody will play with Perry or he gets yelled at by me, he sometimes retreats for a little pout.

I did a couple of submissions this week, so at least something happened in the writing sphere.

My new job at the shelter is contacting people who have adopted cats during the month. I LOVE hearing from them. Some of them send me photos of the kitties all comfy and happy in their new homes. Makes it all worthwhile!

Make it the best week for you and those around you!

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