Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gentleman Fred

I am crying as I write this. Fred is gone. He was my good buddy.

He was given to us, my family in Ohio by a Chinese family who came to look after our kids while my husband and I were out of the country. The young woman was studying biology and was close to finishing her Ph.D. from the University of Dayton. Her husband had just received his and they were about to have their first child. The grandmother- to-be was living with them in anticipation of the baby and was also looking after their young cat, Tigger. This was 1990.

We had several other cats. We had Wat (she was very tiny as a kitten), Buggers (she earned her name), Coquette (a beautiful and sweet Abyssinian given to me by the owner at a cat show - "Here. Do you want her?") and PVP (my son named him Playful Velvet Paws... shortened to PVP). Should we take in another? My daughter loved the little tabby, but who wanted the tabby the most was our cat, PVP.

PVP loved tabby cats. I cannot say this enough. Before moving to Ohio, there was a cat also named Tigger who used to visit PVP. He had a collar and so I decided to walk to the house to let the owners know where their cat liked to come everyday. He lived about six houses down - quite a distance. I found that Tigger was not 'altered' and suggested they might do that especially since he liked to visit friends so far away from home. The owner said she did not believe in those 'sorts' of things... Well, not long after our conversation Tigger disappeared for two weeks. PVP was heart broken. He cried and cried for attention. So, I walked to Tigger's house to see how he was. He had narrowly escaped death and was hit by a car and lost his tail. His owner said her vet suggested neutering (as I had) and so she did. Tigger was traumatized and never visited PVP again.. and PVP was sad. There was a moment of happiness when a manx tabby, named "Shamus" came to visit.

I cannot emphasize enough, PVP loved red cats especially stripey ones. That morning we returned from our trip from over seas back to Ohio and the young man and his pregnant wife, holding the striped tiger tabby asked if we would take 'her.' "The next place where we are going will not let us have a cat." PVP said "MEOW!!! MEOW!!!" I took the tabby in my arms. "She is a very nice cat." said the young woman. As I looked down at Tigger I said, "Tigger is not a she. She is a he." PVP stood as tall as he could to see Tigger, "and I think we will take him to be PVP's friend." I later re-named him Red Fred.

When I returned to Los Angeles, Buggers and Coquette had been eaten by a coyote in Ohio and Wat passed away there, too. I found a kitten in Glendale which I named Mouse (he squeaked when he spoke and loved cheese).

I have always trained my cats. They sit up. They come when they are called and I had one cat that was especially good at fetching. This time I thought I should teach my cats how to behave well with company. My dear friend, Rich, and his daughter are in this silly video of PVP, Fred, and Mouse.... at the dinner table.

PVP developed kidney problems and he passed around 2002. Fred had always been the silent kitty but when PVP died he started talking. Fred did his best to be patient with Mouse, who has always had a hard time being calm. Fred was always a pillar of strength and a most thoughtful cat. He also, very adroitly demonstrated that cats have logic - a special type of logic. And in this lesson, showed that if I feel that perhaps a cat's logic may have 'holes' in it, then surely as there is light in a day, even our brightest and most logical humans are silly and illogical. Fred loved his friend Miss Chicken. And he loved to come and sit next to me while I read the news on line. It always worried me that he might fall. He would climb the tree to the tip of the branch next to the lip of the roof and the weave forward and backward and then... jump! Then he would 'MEEorawl!!!"

I always opened the window and let him inside. He loved to do this sometimes several times in a row.... kinda made me crazy sometimes... but he was such a gentleman...One time in Ohio, after Buggers disappeared, Fred was late coming inside for dinner. Then at the window over the kitchen sink, he appeared. I ran outside and collected him in my arms. I touched the side of his chest and he winced. Something had pulled a large section of his skin open and it was hanging. I took Fred to the emergency and they said he was the best patient they ever had.

Here is Mouse. Mouse loves to eat grasshoppers. I understand why a cat would love to 'play' with one. I have never understood why he loves to eat them. He usually leaves the legs and wings somewhere I can see them...???? (video to come)

This is Magic. She lived with me for a period of time upstairs and Mouse was quite jealous. Magic was leery with Mouse and with good reason. If you ever wonder if you find your cat watching TV if he/she really understands what is going on, this little video will clearly show how much they truly understand... (video to come)

The last days of Fred's life was very difficult for me. I did not want him to go. He was having trouble with his kidneys and I gave him drip liquid into him under his skin. He fell off the roof in March and the vet came to the house to look him over we decided not to take his canine tooth, "...it may heal inside his jaw and it is probably too much of an operation for him, now..."

I had water bowls all over the house and the garden and as it became harder and harder for him to jump up on the bed I carried him about. I knew he was loosing his vision - his eyes seemed to always be dilated - and when I called to him he could not quite find me to face my voice. On Saturday, I was talking to my daughter on the phone and the back door was open. I went outside to find Fred and decided to walk down to the sidewalk. Off in the distance I saw a little figure talking - Fred was nearly down the entire block! I ran to get him and carried him home. He like to hold my fingers in his paws. That day he paced and paced trying to feel better. I gave him more subcutaneous water and he ate. The next morning he was stiff and I took him to the emergency in the morning. They called to tell me he was having seizures and put him on Vallium. I didn't think I would see him much longer, but maybe a few more days... I called the hospital, "can I come and see him?" "Yes" As I walked into surgery, the doctor stood away from his little body on the table. He was gone. I gathered him up and took him home. I keep seeing him here and there. He was such a fine Gentleman.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


On a trip with the California Wetlands Recovery Project 2008 Symposium, I chose the to go to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. This area had been a National Park and Preserve set aside, studied extensively because, for all the insults by people to the land, rivers, watersheds, ocean and ecology, the Tijuana Estuary was still a vital functioning system teeming with life not seen elsewhere in California or the Nation.

Now, Homeland Security has seized the land and is building the Boarder Fence. Homeland Security does not have to follow the law of the land... it has been given by Congress a privileged position, which allowed it the suspension of more than 30 laws that you, I and all other entities must follow to protect land, property and life, to build a structure to keep Mexicans from coming across the boarder. This 'fence' which is already starting to crumble from poor workmanship, will span from California in the Pacific Ocean to Texas, through the Gulf of Mexico, cutting sensitive ecosystems and communities... without vision or craft. Already, the 100 foot mounds of dirt are eroding, with boulders tumbling and soil swiftly washing down streams... Now, they are thinking of filling in a very large ravine that runs next to a city near the boarder. Filling the valley, using the same craftsmanship of the other developments and cement work, could mean disaster.

Underneath are a number of water pipes (there are people who LIVE in them) that are already below grade and the highway, and there is a stream that runs along the hillside over the filled ravine.... In a very rainy year, the hillsides could collapse causing an international incident killing many many people.

The largest number of people live just above the highway but their houses are constructed of this and that and sit upon layers of tires.

There seemed that day, to be a large fire near by.

Many homes are built with scraps of wood.

The political postures of building a fence to keep out 'the illeagals' only serves those people in power. Their shoddy ideas cause more environmental disasters and human tragedy then nature.

This estuary has millions of dollars invested in it to serve two countries' needs of fresh water and healthy near shore fisheries. But, because of this insane policy to demonstrate some sort of political will, these actions will not only destroy this wetland but the poorest of the poor.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Waxwings found the Ginkgo biloba!

Well, since the last update, I had waxwings sitting about in the Jacaranda...

Tonight, abound 6:30 p.m., I found them back in the ginkgo! There is a slight breeze so, the birds must hang on. One looked as if he was not too happy with all of the bouncing. The tree is full of birds! The still shows just how many per branch! They sing to each other until the sun is gone.

They are sleeping in the ginkgo, tonight.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Bombycilla cedrorum

I have been hearing high pitched whistles that sort of reminded me of Chimney Swifts that used to fly around my house in Ohio. They would nest in the two large chimneys and sometimes the babies would fall from the nests and their scratching and peeps could be heard from the basement... so, I would go down into the basement into the boiler room and find the little 'things' in the dust or clinging to the inside wall of the chimney clean out. For the most part, when the birds would fall from their nests, they were big enough to fly. I would gently pick them out of the dust and ash and let them grab my shirt with their claws (their legs are so short it is almost as if they only had feet) and wear them around outside like a fancy pin. Eventually, they would fly off.

However, those birds do not come out this way to California, at least that species. Cedar Waxwings come in flocks through my yard. One time in fall, my Ginko tree's leaves had turned all yellow. There was a lovely breeze and when I opened the widow, there were fifty or more little Waxwings 'blending' and waving softly with the wind.

So nice to see them in spring, too.