Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas from Magoo, Smudge, Bella and Dolce!

Everyone here hopes that all our furriends are having a great holiday break.

Smudge is doing well. He still is not eating as much as we would like, but I have seen him at the food bowls a couple of times which is a little reassuring. He is as playful as always and fell in love with the Whirly-Bird cat toy he got from Skeezix. The picture above is from a Nip session on the Saturday before Christmas.

Smudge has proven himslef to be the Lover of our foursome in yet another way. We sent him off to visit Grandma for a sleepover. Now Grandma has a cat named Cloe. I have to take her word for it, because in four years I and my wife have never seen the cat. I was beginning to wonder if Alzheimers' was setting in, because the dear MIL kept talking about this cat that noone had seen but her. It took Smudge less than a minute to work his magic. Cloe came bounding out to greet this new visitor. The MIL said that Smudge and her sat beside each other and Cloe followed him around wherever he went. When we went to pick Smudge up, m wife and I finally saw this suposed cat named Cloe. Cloe was all rubby and purry and very talkative for the first time in four years. After we got Smudge home, we got a phone call from the MIL; Cloe was besides herself searching for her new friend.

We are sending Smudge over to Grandma's for two weeks. One reason is that we are taking a trip and the other is that Cloe doesn't like his food and he doesn't like hers. We want to see if the less chaotic household of Grandma will help him put on some weight. Although I would break my heart not to have him here all the time, I know he loves his Grandma and it might do him some good. If it helps him plateau from his CRF, then it might evolve into a longer term situation.

PS: In regards to the ending of the story, "Guard Well, Old Shep", there were some readers that were upset that I didn't let Tom know what had happened to Shep. I didn't realize that miracles have become so scarce that people can no longer see the signs. When Shep went to hide so that he could pass (which is a natural instinct for a dog), there is no body because Shep did not die. Because of his sacrifice, he was given another task and he left to go and fulfil it. I alluded that there were only two set of tracks so noone would think that Shep had been taken away by a wild animal. Tom knew that there would have to be a body if Shep had passed away at the end of his tracks. For there to be no body, there would have to have been a miracle. I do believe that when science and reason can no longer explain, then miracles must be accepted. That all said, I hoped you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. Dolce made me promise to write something funny next time. I told her to put her thinking cap on and help me think of a funny story. She refused. She says there is no way she is wearing a cap of any variety.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dolce's Story Chair: Conclusion

Dad: It has been a wonderful week being here at Dolce's Story Chair. Dolce has had an immense amount of fun serving Hot Catmilk and Catnip cookies all of her furriends. But like all good things, our time here must come to an end. Dolce will leave the chair right where it is now. She hopes that someone else will choose to sit in it and tell all the furriends stories of wonderful and scary adventures.

So please sit back and hold your bestest friend tight. For when i left you Shep was in mortal danger as was his friend, Puddles the Cat.

Shep felt the heat from the now raging fire sear his whiskers and cause the ends of his fur to curl. He tried vainly to find Patches' green scent amonst all the darting and flowing red scents.

"Patches!" Shep barked again and again for his friend."Patches! Where are you!"

Shep looked up at the stairs leading to the second floor. Shep knew she was not there for he would have come across her scent when he first noticed the smoke from the fire. Puddles had to be somewhere on the first floor. Shep ventured towards the hallway leading to the living room and the den. The living room was an solid block of red and orange to Shep's eyes and nose. He feared the his friend have been trapped in that mass of flame and heat.

He darted past the open flames of the living and quickly ducked into the Den. Even here there were clouds of smoke and the wall of books was beginning to catch fire. Shep sniffed the air; there was not trace of green in the air. He stopped and wondered where Puddles would have hid once she knew the fire was raging.

"Of Course." Shep remebered, "You are such a stupid old dog."

Shep dashed past the opening for the living room. He let out a large yelp as a blast of steam and fire exploded from the room. He did not need to look to know that his left rear haunch was badly burned. He ignored the pain.

Shep stopped outside the open doorway of the Laundry Room. It was hard to tell, but Shep was certain he caught a faint trace of Puddles' green scent amonsgt all the smoke flame.

"Puddles! Answer me if you can hear?" Shep called out.

He thought he heard the faintest response from within the laundry room. A loud crash from the living room warned him that time was running out for both him and Puddles. Shep ran into the Laundry Room. Now Puddles' scent seemed stronger. It made sense to Shep that Puddles would hide in the Laundry Room since that was where she was locked whenever she had been bad. Shep thought about Puddles choice of hiding spot.

"Oh no, Puddles." Shep thought. "You didn't!"

Shep looked around the dryer and the laundry tub trying to find Puddles.

"Puddles!" Shep cried out.

"Shep?" A weak voice came weakly from behind the washing machine.

"Puddles." Shep was relieved to have found his friend. "You have to come out. There is a fire!"

"I know." Puddles slinked out from the washing machine.

Shep saw that Puddles' right jaw was burned and and that her whiskers was completely gone. There were missing patches of fur where something very hot had obviously hit the wounded cat.

"Whatever has happen, you need to forget about it. We need to go!" Shep coaxed.

"I can't make it, Shep." Puddles tried to retreat back towards the washing machine. "I've hurt my eyes and my whiskers are gone. I can't find my way out."

Shep knew that cats use their whiskers to tell them whether a space was too small for them to get through. Puddles, having lost her whiskers, felt as though the world was pressed up right against her.

"You must trust me, Puddles." Shep asked. "I will get you out. I will protect you."

"I trust you, Shep." Puddles relented and crawled closer to her friend.

Shep reached down and clamped his jaws around Puddles' shoulders. Shep gently squeezed and picked his friend up up from the floor. Puddles went limp as she placed her fate solely in Shep's paws.

Shep turned to leave the Laundry. He sudenly saw that the hallway was now ablaze. His and Puddles' escape route was now a dangerous mass of flames. Shep felt something give way deep within his chest. He knew his time had come. Shep steeled himself and prepared to make a dash for the backdoor. Within his jaws he could sense Puddles' tension.

"Fear not my friend." Shep thought. "I have never failed to protect those I have sworn to guard."

Shep exploded from the laundry room and burst through the flame filled hallway. His own vision was scarred and damaged from the heat of the flames. His nose pointed him straight and true towards the back door of the house. Pain shot throught Shep's paws as burning linoleum seared and stucked to his feet. He felt another sharp pain in his back as something fell from the roof. Nothing of his pain distracted Shep from his objective.

Shep nearly collapsed as he and Puddles crossed the threshold of the doorway. He tried to set her down gently, but he stumbled badly on the last step of the deck and he pitched her unceremoniously into the snow. Puddles looked weakly at her friend. From his eyes, Puddles knew that Shep was all but gone already. There had been only one thing holding him here; the burning desire to guard and protect those he loved. Now that everyone was safe from the fire, Shep's duty was over.

Shep began to walk away.

"Tom." Sarah grabbed her husband's arm and pointed out that Shep was slowly moving away.

"Let him go." Tom choked back a tear. "It's his time. I will find him in the morning and we will put him to rest like the hero he was."

Shep silently slipped away from the family and walked slowly away. He did not want to pass in front of them. He walked past the brambleberry bush and down towards the creek. As Shep walked, he found that the pain in his side and paws was gone. So was the tightness in his chest and the dull throbbing in his back and hips. His nose was somehow clear of the stench and overwhelming constriction of the smoke. He tested the air. All he could smell now was that pure silvery white scent.

"Welcome, Dearest Shep." A figure appeared next to Shep.

SHep first thought that the silvery white scent came from this figure, but he realized that it did not.

"You gave your life to protect those you love, Dearest Shep. And for that you have earned an eternity of peace." the Figure said. "But there is one who needs your protection."

"To guard." Shep barked, "To protect. That is all I ever needed to do."

"Will you then guard and protect this special one?"

Shep barked affirmatively.

The figure pointed towards a star faraway on the eastern horizon.

"Follow the star, Shep. It will guide you to the one you must protect. But you must hurry for the Winds of Time are nipping at your heels."

Shep saw a vast rolling wave of pure darkness from the west barrelling towards him and the figure. Shep turned his nose towards the star. The silvery-white scent that had been so faint and elusive was now so bright and obvious it lead like a arrow to the east.

Shep barked once and then he ran towards the east as he followed the silvery-white scent. Shep ran and ran in pursuit of the scent. He ran barely a stride away from the every progressing wave of blackness. As he ran, the years fell away from him. Soon too his thick coat and wide tail also fell away. Shep ran and ran. The years became decades and the decades became centuries.

Shep felt the earth benaeth his paws change. It was no longer the soft mushy turf of his home. It was replaced with the hard, uneven roundness of a cobblestone road. Strange scents assailed his nose, but they could not replace the one scent Shep had chosen to follow. Shep followed the scent through several dark alleys and empty roads.

The silvery-white scent blossomed into brilliant cloud. Shep could see it and taste it on every wisp of air. It seemed to be coming from a small structure at the end of the alley. Shep warily approached. He saw several animals in a stable. They were all entranced by a simple couple standing watch over a small baby in a manger. Shep approached.

This was the one. This tiny babe was the one he had chosen to serve. He was the source of the brilliant, silver and white scent. Shep did not come any closer. He moved to the side out of the way. From his spot, Shep could see the entire stable and the small alley way leading up to it. Once again, Shep took on the mantle he knew so well; to guard and to protect.

Tom followed the footprints in the snow. They had followed the brambleberry hedge to the end and then had headed towards the creek. Tom figured that's where he would find his beloved friend. Suddenly, Tom stopped. He looked frantically around at the pristine snow. He could see where two sets of tracks had arrived at the creek bank. He looked down again.

The only tracks he could see were his; Shep's had suddenly ended. But of Shep, there was no sign...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dolce's Story Chair, Part 4

Dolce: I teleported here early before Dad shows up so that I could apologize to all my furriends for falling asleep and causing my Dad to stop the story for the night. I just keep getting so fuzzy and warm with all my furriends nearby on the big comfy Story Chair.
Magoo: Dolce, you’re actually awake. I thought you might be sleeping already.
Dolce: Real funny, Magoo.

Dad: Good evening. How are my kitties? Everyone behave themselves for Mom?
Bella: We all miss you, Dad.
Dad: I miss you too. For all our friends, both furry and human, I’m going to try and finish the story tonight, but when I told it to Smudge and Magoo originally I told them a chapter each night right up until Christmas. So there are really two more chapters left. So with that, make sure you have a mug of Catmilk, a Cookie, a warm soft comfortable spot and your very bestest furriend nearby.

Shep’s unease at discovering the faint red scent had not dimished as Christmas Eve day turned into Christmas Eve night. His nose told him that the danger was somewhere near the beautifully lit Christmas Tree. Shep was certain he had examined every bough and branch of the tree and still was not able to locate the source of the danger. He sat on his braided rug by the fireplace and stared at the tree. A rustle between the packages caught his attention.

“Puddles.” Shep looked over the package containing Timmy’s firetruck and spotted the family cat playing with something on the tree skirt. “What are you doing? I told you that there was danger here and you were to leave it alone.”

“Sorry, Shep.” Puddles replied haltingly as she pushed and pounced on something hidden beneath the embroidered tree shirt. “There is something underneath here. I can’t let it get away whatever it is. It could be something tasty or something shiny. Or even better, something tasty and shiny.”

“Fine.” SHep relented. “You may pounce and chase all you want around the tree. But there is to be no biting of lights or chewing of wires. Agreed?”

“Agreed.” Puddles said half-heartedly as she furiously attacked a suspicious fold in the tree skirt.

Shep slowly walked out of the living. He did not know why he even tried to reason with Puddles. She did things that seemed to defy description or logic. Shep was not the only one in the house who felt this way. Shep had heard Tom talking about things the crazy cat had done. Shep felt immensely proud that nobody had ever used the word crazy before the word dog in this household. Shep figured that was why Cats were given nine lives. They used them so foolishly that without extras not a single cat would make it out of kittenhood.

“Not a time to worry about Puddles.” Shep mumbled to himself as he walked towards the mainfloor den. “I need to find the source of that scent.”

Shep spent several hours wondering around the house. His nose searched high and low and tried to locate the source of the faint red scent. He was unwavering in his determination to find it. His only distraction was when he circled through the kitchen for the third time and found that Sarah had forgotten to close a cabinet door that hid a wonderfully ripe smelling garbage bag.

Shep could hear Puddles knocking things off the Christmas Tree. He would have barked and told the humans what she was up to, but his nose was too busy rooting out a leftover chicken bone. As it turns out, it was Puddles' adventures in the Christmas Tree that lead to Shep’s adventures in the garbage being discovered.

“No!” Tom stated sharply as he pulled Shep away from the torn garbage bag. “No digging in the garbage, Shep.”

Tom starting to forcefully guide Shep towards the backdoor. Shep tried to fight.

“Don’t put me outside!” Shep pleaded. “There is danger in the house. I won’t be able to find it if you put me outside.”

Shep paced frantically back and forth on the snow covered deck. He was frustrated that he could not continue his search. He tried looking around to see if he could find another way back into the house. The night sky was dotted with a thousand twinkling stars. Shep was reminded of the silvery white scent again. He noticed a particular bright star on the eastern horizon of the sky. Shep's thoughts stirred again. This star meant something to him. The opening of the back door broke Shep from his reverie. He bolted past Tom and quickly ran through the house. The source of danger had not taken advantage of his banishment outside. Shep was dejected that he was no closer to finding the cause of the mysterious red scent.

Shep finally succumbed to exhaustion. He had sniffed, and smelled every inch of the house. Although the faint red scent was still in the air, Shep had been unable to discover the cause. He went upstairs to Tom and Sarah's bedroom and curled up on his sheepskin bed. The humans were already asleep in their bed.

"Maybe if I was younger, I would have been able to find it." Shep had started to question his abilities.

He closed his eyes and laid his head down on his paws. For the first time in his long, long life, Shep felt that he had let the family he had sworn to guard and protect down. Shep let out a deep breath of air.

Magoo: Sorry Dad. I don’t mean to interrupt. Dolce wake up!
Dad: Did she fall asleep?
Dolce: No. I was just playing a game with Sammy and Miles who could keep their eyes closed the longest. I think I won.
Dad: Okay. I guess I can continue.

Shep woke up when his last breath make him cough. He opened his eyes and cringed as they burned from the thick pall of smoke. He tested the air and was assualted by a brilliant red scent that burned so brightly in his mind it left traces across his vision. Danger! Fire! Smoke! Danger! Every muscle in his body ached. He had spent so much energy trying to find the source of the red scent that now when he was faced with it, he did not have the strength.

Shep tried to bark and warn the humans, but the smoke stole the sound from his voice. Shep moved into the hallway to find out where the smoke was coming from. He was immediately struck but the searing heat that seamed to roll off the ceiling and down the walls. He ran towards the bedroom containing the twins Timmy and Jessica.
He could hear them whimpering as they tried to sleep. Their brains were trying to warn them of the danger, but they could not free themselves from whatever dream held them captive.

Shep felt a blast of heat from behind him. The fire was moving rapidly along the main floor ceiling. Shep darted into the room and tried to roust Timothy and Jessica by licking thier faces. The twins barely stirred as they were somewhat accustomed to Shep's middle of the night visits.

"Wake!" Shep tried to stir his charges. "You must wake now!"

Shep decided he could not wait for the twins. He reached up and grabbed Jessica's pyjamas in his teeth. He pulled and tugged backwards on her clothes until she was dumped unceremoniously on the floor. The noise of Jessica falling to the floor woke Timothy from his sleep. Shep did not wait for Timothy to wipe the sleep from his eyes. Shep grabbed Timothy by his sleeve and pulled him from his bed to the floor. By this time Jessica had realized something was wrong and she was starting to cry.

"I am here." Shep licked Jessica face and then he turned to Timothy. "We have to get out of here. We must go now!"

Shep pulled Jessica towards the door. He knew that her brother would instinctively follow his twin sister. As they approached the heat from the doorway, the twins began to cry in fear.

"Stay close! Stay near!" Shep instructed. "I will find the way out!"

The twins reached out and grabbed a handfull of fur. Shep slowly guided them out into the hallway and towards the staircase leading towards the back of the house.

"Away from the fire!" Shep encouraged the two young humans. "Away from the smoke!"

Shep's nose followed the wisping coiling tendrils of smoke as they flowed and creeped along the ceiling like a bright red monster that wanted to choke the life out of all it touched. Behind the smoke, Shep scented a darker scent, one of pure black. He frantically pulled the twins towards the top of the staircase.

Tom and Sarah had been woken by Shep's efforts to rouse the twins. They stood in the doorway of their bedroom. They were shielding their eyes from the smoke and their faces from the heat.

"Timothy! Jessica!" Tom screamed into the thick choking smoke. Sarah repeated his frantic cries.

"They are with me!" Shep barked. "I am taking them outside, but I will be back for you!"

Dad: I need a cup of Hot Chocolate. By now, Smudge and Magoo would be asleep and I would be able to finish wrapping some Christmas Gifts. But looking around Dolce's Story Chair, there are quite a few kittens who can't wait for me to continue.

Shep lead the twins down the stairs to the backdoor. Timothy opened the door and was quickly pushed outside by Shep. Shep pushed and tugged the twins until they were off the deck, away from the house and standing in the snow.

"Stay here." Shep ordered. "I have to go and get your parents."

Shep turned and ran into the house. All the air was flame with smoke and heat. Shep could see that the fire was consuming the Christmas Tree and the comfy recliner. As Shep ran, he felt his chest tighten and the twinge that bothered him sometimes now threatened to steal the breath from his lungs. Shep stumbled on the last steps of the rear staircase. He could not see Tom and Sarah, but his nose said that their bright yellow scent was not too far ahead.

Shep found Tom and Sarah searching through the thick smoke for their children. Shep licked Tom's face. He tasted the harsh tang of smoke and the bitterness of tears.

"Shep." Tom grabbed his fur. "Where are the twins? You have to find them Shep."

"They are outside!" Shep barked eargerly. "You have to come now!"

Shep pulled on Tom's sleeve and tried to guide him out of the room. He could hear Sarah crying and calling out her children's names.

"Follow." Shep demanded, ignoring the fierce pain in his chest. "I will lead you out. I will protect you!"

Tom started to follow but noticed that his wife Sarah had not moved from near Jessica's bed.

"Sarah!" Tom crawled to his wife's side. "The twins aren't here. I think Shep has taken them outside."

"I can't leave until I know they're safe." Sarah cried as she clutched at Tom's arm.

"I promised you I would not leave until Christmas." Shep licked at Sarah's face. "But I cannot leave until I know you are safe. You must come now!"

Sarah hugged Shep and then placed one hand on his back. Just as he had lead the twins out of the bedroom to safety, Shep now guided their parents. As he reached the rear stairs, Shep could see that the walls of the kitchen were flickering with an unhealthy light. Thankfully, after this trip, everyone would be safe.

Soon Tom and Sarah were reunited with their two crying children. Sarah knelt in the snow and brushed the soot and grime from Jessica's tear stained face.

"Shep saved us, Mom." Jessica said. "He pulled me from my bed and then lead us outside."

"Where's Puddles?" Timothy asked.

Tom's heart sank as he realized that Puddles was still somewhere in the house. Shep looked towards the house. Fire was now visible in several of the windows. Shep wondered if Puddles would be able to find her way out. Shep knew what he had to do.

Shep ran back into the house. He called out to his friend and tried to be heard over the roar of the house fire.

"Puddles!" Shep barked as loudly as he could. "Puddles!"

Dad: I hate to disappoint everyone, but's getting late for this family. I going to send Dolce home with Magoo, Smudge and Bella. I hope to see all of you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dolce's Story Chair, Part 3

Dad: I hope everyone is enjoying the story as much as Dolce seems to be. I don’t mean to be dragging the story out, but Dolce gets so excited in waiting for storytime that she tuckers herself out before the story is finished. So when she starts snoring, that is my clue to stop the story for the night.
Dolce: Dad! You can’t tell everyone that I was snoring. What will Scout think of me?
Smudge: I don’t think he could hear anything over his own snoring. The two of you were almost drowning out Dad’s voice.
Dad: Smudgie, you made it!
Smudge: I’m hiding under Grandma’s bed right now. So I thought I would just teleport over.
Dad: You behave yourself for your Grandma.
Smudge: I will.
Dad: Dolce, it seems more of your furriends are showing up than you originally thought. I heard that some didn’t get a cookie. Remember the deal, you have to make sure your guests are taken care of.
Dolce: I’m sorry Dad. I just got all cozy, snoozy, sleepy curled up next to Scout.
Dad: That’s okay. You make sure there’s Hot Catmilk, Catnip Cookies and Leafy Goodness for your friends. It looks like some of them are here. I believe I ended the story with Shep being left behind from the yearly Christmas tree hunt...

Shep laid stretched out in front of the gently flickering fireplace. Shep hated to accept that he was old but he did feel much better as he basked in the deep warmth of the fire. He rolled from his right side onto his back. His paws curled up in front of him. The house was quit right now; Tom and the twins had left earlier that morning to go and get the Christmas Tree, Sarah was on the sofa across from the fireplace still reading her book.

Shep did not understand the fascination humans had with books. They did not do anything interesting. They just laid there, unlike a ball or a chew toy that could bounce and roll. Not too mention, they also did not taste very good. The ripping tearing sound they could make was pretty fun though. Right now, the book in Sarah’s hands was taunting Shep almost daring him to try and rip it apart.

Shep stood up and gave his body a good stretch. He walked over to the couch and tried to nudge the book out of Sarah’s hands with his nose. Sarah smiled and she set the book down on the sofa beside her. She took Shep’s large triangular head into both of her hands, gave him a big loving shake and placed a kiss on his nose. Shep gave her a quick sloppy lick on her cheek before she could pull away.

“They didn’t want to leave you at home, Shep.” Sarah explained. “Timmy cried when he found out you weren’t going with him.”

“We always play hide and seek in the trees.” Shep woofed back. ”He’s not a very good hider. But he sure can wrassle once I find him.”

Sarah looked sternly but lovingly into Shep’s eyes.

“You have to promise me to make it through Christmas.” Sarah asked. “You have stay with us until after Christmas.”

“I promise.” Shep replied, his tail wagging fiercely.

“You can’t promise that.” Puddles the Cat appeared next to the fireplace and began methodically cleaning her paws.

“Yes, I can.” Shep snapped defiantly. “I wasn’t given nine lives like you. I have only one, and I can choose when it is time for me go.”

“Well then you had better keep your promise.” Puddles said sharply. “Because if you make them sad over Christmas, I won’t get a minute sleep afterwards.”

“I’m glad to see you are concerned for me.” Shep said, sarcastically.

“Whatever.” Puddles replied. “I need to go and rest up. The tree will be here today and I need to be at my best so that I can explore every inch of it.”

“Maybe you can leave it alone this year?” Shep asked.

“You celebrate Christmas your way, and I will celebrate it my way.” Puddles stated as she hopped up onto the empty recliner and curled up into a furry ball.

The tree had stood majestically in the living room for the last two weeks. The bright twinkling lights cast a magically glow about the entire room. All about the base of the tree, there were colourfully wrapped packages. Shep found the lights and packages distracting. He appreciated the tree for the deep woody scent it released into the air. It made the room smell like the forest. Shep heard a rustling on one of the branches. He looked up and saw Puddles trying to bat one of the bright red ornaments off a branch.

“Puddles.” Shep warned. “You are going to get into so much trouble if they find you in the tree again. Especially if you break the last red ornament.”

“But the red ones are the most fun.” Puddles replied as she concentrated on releasing the ornament from its tentative hold on the tree. “If you watch closely, they actually bounce slightly before they break.”

“They are going to toss you into the bathroom again. Just like they did when they caught you chewing on the wires.” Shep reminded his companion.

Puddles response was interrupted by Tom’s yelling from the kitchen.

“Shep! Stop barking at the tree!” Tom called out to the living room. “Sarah. Can you check the tree? I think Puddles is up to something again.”

“Snitch.” Puddles sneered as she leap down to the floor from the tree.

Shep watched Puddles leave the living room. He gave the air a quick test. It was still filled with the crisp clean pine scent of the tree. There was that same lingering scent that had twinged an old scent memory, but now it was getting stronger. To Shep, if this scent bore a colour, it was bright silvery white. Shep enjoyed the calm and peacefulness this scent memory brought to him. He sat on his haunches and savored the moment. He breathed deeply.

His heart began to pound before his mind registered what his nose was telling him. There, far beneath the silver white scent and the clean pine aroma of the tree, was a tint of red. There was danger. Shep feverishly began sniffing around the tree trying to pinpoint the source of the unwelcome scent. The large blue box had a toolbox for Tom. The silver bag had a new set of pajamas for Sarah. There was a football and a plastic firetruck for Timothy in two different green packages. Jessica’s new dollhouse was disguised beneath purple and blue wrapping paper. None of these were the source of the faint nagging red scent. Shep’s instincts put him on edge. His need to guard and protect overwhelmed his feeling of age and worry. Now on Christmas Eve, he had sensed danger in the house and he could not find it to warn his humans.

Magoo: Dad! Dolce's fallen asleep again.
Dad: Poor tuckered out little kitten. I hope her friends can be patient with Dolce and her Dad and wait for the next part of the story.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dolce's Story Chair, Part II

Dad: It looks like I’m the first one here. Before Dolce shows up and gets everyone riled up with her craziness, I wanted to thank everyone who came for the story yesterday. I have to tell you that Dolce felt bad that she forgot that some of her furriends may not be cats or kittens. So she is going to make sure she brings snacks for her bunny, guinea pig and rat friends. Once again thank you very much for coming.
Dolce: Dad! I’m here!
Dad: Dolce. Be careful with that bowl of Hot Catmilk. I don’t want to have to send you back to your mom with a bad scalding. Where are the Catnip Cookies? And did you remember something for your non-feline friends?
Dolce: Smudge and Bella are bringing the cookies and Magoo said he would help and bring the leafy goodness for the bunnies, guinea pigs and rats.
Dad: Thank you Dolce.
Dolce: Dad?
Dad: Yes, Dolce.
Dolce: Can you tell Smudge to stop making kissing noises towards me and Scout?
Dad: If Smudge bugs you about Scout, all you to say back to him is Turtle, Turtle, Turtle.
Dolce: Oh here he comes now. Hey Smudge! Turtle! Turtle! Turtle!
Smudge: Dad, you didn’t tell her did you?

Dad: Sorry, buddy. But you kind of started it by bugging her about Scout.
Bella: I think our furriends are starting to show up again. I better get to my spot.
Magoo: Here’s the leafy goodness. I think I might sit a little bit further away from Dad’s feet this time. I have my doubts whether he has washed them yet.
Dad: Magoo, quit worrying about my feet. In fact they have been washed. It looks like everyone is here. Let me see, where did I leave off with Shep and his family...

Shep sat on the floor in the kitchen and watched as the human, Sarah, gave her daughter Jessica a teaspoon of a thick purple medicine. Shep’s nose twitched at the strong tang of the medicine. The humans had taken their daughter to the doctor as soon as she started coughing, three full days after Shep starting sleeping on her bed. Now after four days of taking the nasty smelling medicine, Shep could smell that the angry red scent emanating from Jessica’s lungs had faded to a faint pink. He knew she was getting better and his tail eagerly tapped a happy beat on the kitchen floor. The sound of the front door opening captured both Shep's and Jessica's attention.

"Dad's home!" Jessica squealed happily, hopped down to the floor and ran towards the front foyer.

"Jessica." Shep woofed as he spun and quickly followed his young friend. "Stay away from the draft."

Jessica just thought that Shep's barking was his excitement at her Dad's arrival home. She giggled and ran even faster to her father's side. Jessica buried her face into her Dad's hip. Tom looked down and grimaced at the shiny, mucousy streak his sick daughter left on his dress pants. Oh the joy of having a sick youngster in the house, Tom thought as he reached down and picked up his daughter.

“We’re getting the tree tomorrow?” Jessica asked as she wiped her hand across her nose. “Right Dad?”

“Yes. Jessica.” Tom smiled. “Tomorrow, we’ll go and find a Christmas Tree. A very special tree. A Jessica Tree.”

Jessica giggled as Tom playfully nuzzled his daughter’s neck.

“Shep’s coming too?” Jessica asked.

“Probably not.” Tom replied. “Shep is getting a little too old to come hunting for Christmas Trees. It’s getting hard on his bones to go for such a long walk.”

“He should stay home with mom.” Jessica stated with a determined voice. “He can see the tree when we get home.”

“That’s a great idea, Jessica.” Tom smiled and treasured the wisdom he heard in his eight year old daughter’s voice.

“Where is your brother?” Tom asked.

“He’s upstairs playing with legos.” Jessica replied.

“He’s sniffling now too.” Shep barked repeatedly. “It’s not as bad as the girl, but it will get worse if you let him go outside without his hat.”

“Shep.” Tom laughed and scratched his dog’s head. “You sure have an opinion on everything.”

Shep looked disdainfully at Tom. He was about to say something else when Puddles the Cat walked by.

“Out of my way, stupid dog.” Puddles sneered as she walked towards the kitchen.

“Dumb Cat.” Shep barked. “Dumb, Dumb Cat.”

Puddles took off for the kitchen at a full run, still yelling as she ran, “Stupid Dog, Stupid Dog.”

Shep really wanted to tell Tom about Timothy’s sniffles, but he could not let Puddles’ taunts go unchallenged. He took off after Puddles.

As soon as Shep rounded the corner leading into the kitchen, he suddenly found himself faced with the puffed out furry body of a cat that had launched itself three feet into the air. Shep tried vainly to stop. He unceremoniously slammed into the wall as he tried to avoid Puddles’ sudden appearance.

“Ha! Ha!” Puddles laughed as she purred and rubbed against Shep’s left foreleg. “You would think after five years, you would have learned that trick.”

“One more crack about old dogs and new tricks.” Shep warned. “And I will carry you into the laundry room and lock you in the dryer.”

“Oh, Shep.” Puddles chided her friend. ”I’m just excited about what’s coming. Can’t you sense it?”

Shep sniffed the air. There was a new faint scent to the air. Somewhere deep within Shep’s mind a memory triggered. He knew the snows brought a special time to the humans. He had images and scents of excitement and happiness in his thoughts. But the faint scent felt much older and much deeper to Shep. He had followed this scent once before, or at least it felt like he had. Shep shook it off as phantom memory. He could not place the scent or where he thought he had found it before. Shep's confusion did not change the warm feelings the scent invoked in his mind.

“You’re being goofy.” Shep teased.

“Don’t you remember?” Puddles sat down on the floor in front of Shep. “The Twolegs will be bringing out the bright ribbons and bows. And the bright climbing tree should be coming soon. It was so much fun the last time.”

“I think I remember someone being locked in the bedroom.” Shep thought aloud. “I think because someone couldn’t leave the bright shining lights alone.”

“They were so pretty, I thought they would taste good.” Puddles defended her chewing of the Christmas lights on the tree last year.

“So when are you going to get the tree?” Puddles asked as she tried to change the subject of the conversation.

“Strange.” Shep thought. “Tom hasn’t told me about it. Maybe he is waiting until the twins are better.”

"Oh. Shep." Puddles suddenly felt sad for her friend. "I saw the cutting thing at the front door. Maybe he just hasn't had time to tell you yet."

"No." Shep felt old again. "Tom is worried that I might not be able to manage the trip. I don't think he means to take me this year."

... Continued Tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Welcome to Dolce's Story Chair, Part 1

Dolce: Dad! We're all here!
Dad: Hi Dolce! Hi Magoo! Hi Smudge! How's my bears? Hello Miss Bella. How's my girl?
Smudge: I miss you Dad.
Dad: I miss you too. Come curl up on my lap.
Dolce: I wanted to curl up on your lap.
Dad: Dolce, Smudge has always slept on my lap. You can curl up next to Smudge, right next to me. Besides, you promised Scout that he could curl up next to you.
Bella: Haha! Dolce's blushing. I'm going to lay up here on the back of the chair.
Magoo: Good thing this chair is nice and big. I think I will just stretch out down here by Dad's feet. Phew! You would have thought he would have washed them before teleporting here.

Dad: I think I hear some of your furriends coming, Dolce. You make sure everyone has a mug of Hot Catmilk and a Catnip Cookie.
Magoo: I don't know why the story has to be about a woofie. Why can't the cat be the hero?
Dad: Magoo, Don't you dare ruin the story for Dolce and her furriends.
Magoo: I'm just saying. I don't think it's fair that the cat ...
Dad: Magoo! Stop it! Just sit and eat your Nip cookie.
Magoo: Mawrow-roohw-roohw.
Dad: Thank you.
Dad: Now let me see if I remember how this story goes...
Smudge: Dad! You know exactly how it goes. There was once a woofie named Shep. He was a woofie, great of heart and full of strength and what he knew best was how to protect those he loved...
Dad: Oh yes. To all Dolce's furriends, here is the story "Guard Well, Old Shep."

There once was a dog named Shep. He was a dog, great of heart and full of strength and what he knew best was how to protect those he loved. He patrolled his yard each morning and night and kept his eyes and nose alert for anything that did not belong.

Shep's ears perked and twitched as he heard his name being carried by the cold December wind. It distracted him from the blue wisp of scent he had been following along the snow covered hedge. There was a squirrel somewhere nearby in the hedge. His nose had followed the drifting scent from the old spruce tree to the hedge. When he had started out, the scent had been a very bright azure blue that lead like an arrow to the hedge, but now the scent floated and twisted in the air and had dimmed to a faint light blue. Shep buried his nose in the snow and tried to triangulate the source of the scent. The scent had completely faded. Shep snorted into the snow and sent a small puff of snowflakes swirling into the night air.

There was a time when he could follow a scent for hours, way past the hedge that bordered the long wide lawn. He would sometimes follow a scent past the creek and almost right through the grove of trees at the far end of his territory. Lately, Shep had found it harder and harder to venture past the far end of brambleberry hedge. He was often dejected to find that he would be forced to give up long before the scent had dissipated. Shep lifted his head and looked back towards the bright light of the doorway of his house. He looked briefly at the direction of the gently rolling scent of the squirrel. He wanted desperately wanted to keep chasing the scent. A sharp twinge in his chest and a nagging pain in his left hip reminded him that he was not as young as he thought he was. Shep heard his name called again.

"I'm coming." Shep woofed back, his deep voice boomed across the thick blanket of snow.

Shep turned away from the hedge and headed back towards his house.

There at the door stood his human, Tom, holding the door open. Shep looked up at his human.

"There was a squirrel in the hedge." Shep barked, "I almost had him. Other than that, there is nothing in the yard that doesn't belong there."

"Done with patrolling the yard, Shep?" Tom asked, not understanding what Shep has just told him. "Well, it's time to come in for the night."

Shep gave a short playful bark. Tom smiled and ruffled Shep's thickly furred neck. Tom watched as Shep headed for the kitchen. Like he had every night for the last fifteen years, Shep went to the kitchen for a evening snack after his patrol of the family yard. Tom chuckled softly at Shep's predictability. Tom went upstairs to his bedroom and left Shep to enjoy his evening nosh.

Shep walked over to the stairs and slowly made his way to the second floor. Normally he would have turned left and gone into the bedroom where the older humans slept. Shep's nose caught a strange acrid scent on the warm air currents of the house. It was not the friendly, warm, golden scent that followed all the humans of the house, nor was it the strong green scent of the cat, Puddles.

Now to a dog, all friends carry a bright yellow scent. The greater the friend the deeper the yellow. But prey or food carries a blue scent. Puddles the Cat had a green scent, because she was not quite prey and not quite a friend. Red is the colour of danger and evil. It warns all dogs that something terrible is nearby.

This scent was sharp and faintly red and it was eminating from the room where the twins slept. Shep looked briefly towards the older humans' room and longed to go to a warm bed. He felt a deep hurtful ache within his chest. Shep snorted and headed off along the thin red trail.

He pushed the door to the twin's bedroom open with his nose. He sniffed at the air of the room. The scent was definitely coming from one of the twins. Shep went to the small bed of the young male, Timothy. He pressed his nose against Timothy's neck. Shep did not smell the same red acrid scent he had discovered in the hallway. Timothy stirred as he felt Shep's cold nose on his neck, but he did not wake up. Shep moved towards the other twin, Jessica's bed. As he approached her bed, the acrid scent grew stronger and stronger. Shep pressed his nose against Jessica's neck. The heat from her body seared at Shep's cool nose. He sniffed at the breath that slowly wafted from her barely open mouth. With each tiny breath, Shep knew he had found the source of the red scent. He licked Jessica's cheek. What his nose had detected, his tongue now diagnosed; there was an infection starting to brew within Jessica's lungs. The humans' would not know about their daughter's illness for several days until Jessica would start to cough.

Shep strained to climb up onto Jessica's bed. He snuggled up as close to her body as he could from on top of the covers. Shep silently cursed his age. He would never have missed this when he was younger and stouter. But now that he knew of her illness, Shep's protective nature took over and he would guard his young friend until the illness past.

Tom came out of his bathroom and looked for Shep in his dog bed at the foot of the bed. For the first time in a long time, Shep was not curled up in the old sheepskin bed by the time Tom had finished brushing his teeth. Tom's breath caught in his chest as he suddenly imagined the worst.

Tom went into the hallway and looked around for Shep. He noticed that the door to the twins' bedroom was pushed open more than normal. He walked quietly to the door, pushed it open a little wider and looked in. He saw Shep's eyes glowing from the faint light leaking into the bedroom from the hallway as he laid on Jessica's bed. Tom was troubled, as Shep had rarely slept with one of the kids.

"Guard them well, Old Shep." Tom said softly as he partially closed the door behind him.

Tom trudged back to his bedroom. His wife, Sarah, was awake and was reading a book.

"Is anything wrong?" She asked over top the edge of her book.

"Shep's sleeping on Jessica's bed." Tom replied. "He's stretched out right alongside of her."

"That's strange." Sarah stated as she laid her book down on her lap.

"I think we better have the doctor look at the twins before Christmas." Tom said, "There is that bug going around their class."

"You weren't worried about the kids when you went looking for him." Sarah questioned her husband. "Were you?"

"No. When he wasn't in his bed like he always is, I had feared the worst." Tom replied. "Shep's very old. The Vet said that it would be a miracle if he made it past Thanksgiving let alone Christmas."

"We'll keep our fingers crossed that he makes it through New Years." Sarah rolled over and kissed her husband on his teary cheek. "And once New Years is past, we'll hope for Valentine's Day. I guess this also means Shep won't be helping pick out the Christmas Tree this year."

Tom closed his eyes and thought about Shep. It would be the first Christmas the twins did not have Shep to pull them on their toboggan as they searched for a Christmas Tree. The change in tradition gnawed at Tom's stomach. First Christmas, he thought, then we'll worry about New Years.

...Continued tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dolce's Big News

Dolce: Dad! Dad! Dad!

Dad: Dolce! Stop running around like your bum's on fire. What is it?

Dolce: Smudgie told me that you have a Christmas Story. Can I hear it? Please!

Dad: Did Smudgie mean the one I told him and Magoo after their sister Alyssa went to the Rainbow Bridge?

Dolce: I thinks so. He said it was about a very special Woofie and about something that happens at Christmas time.

Dad: Oh that one. Are you sure you want to hear a story about a dog?

Dolce: I really don't care what it is about, Dad. I just want to curl up next to you and listen you tell a story.

Dad: There is nothing I like better than having you curl up next to me, Dolce.

Dolce: Even better than curling up with Smudge or Magoo or Bella?

Dad: Dolce. I have told you before that I love each of you the same and each in your own way. But how can I tell you the story when we are so far apart?

Dolce: I know. I could teleport to you.

Dad: It's pretty far away and pretty cold. How about we meet someplace special? How about we create a place warm and cozy where all of us can get together?

Dolce: I can do it. It should be a great big chair with wide arms so that I can curl up or stretch out on it. And there should be a place for bowls of Whiskas Catmilk and for Catnip Cookies and Temptation Treats.

Dad: That sounds wonderful, Dolce.

Dolce: It should be big enough so that Magoo and Smudge and Bella can join us too.

Dad: That is very thoughtful of you Dolce.

Dolce: Dad?

Dad: Yes, Dolce.

Dolce: Can we make it big enough for my furriends to come too? I know a lot of them like your stories, even though you make them sad sometimes. It would have to be pretty big, because I have a kajillion squillion furriends.

Dad: It can be as big as it needs to be. But you will have to make sure everone gets a mug of Hot Catmilk and a Catnip Cookie when they arrive. If you promise to do that, then all your furriends can come. I think you should even let their human friends listen in. Even though they cannot teleport like you cats can, they can still use their connection with you to listen.

Dolce: That sounds wonderful. I will let everyone know that starting Tomorrow, December 19 they can join us at Dolce's Story Chair.

Dad: Dolce's Story Chair? Why not Magoo, Smudge, Bella and Dolce's Story Chair?

Dolce: I thought of it so I get to name it.

Dad: Dolce, you are incorrigible.

Dolce: That must mean extremely cute and fun-loving. I'm going to go and let all my furriends and their beans know about tomorrow.

Dad: Make sure you tell them that it is a fairly long story and it will take me several nights to tell it all.

Dolce: Ok. Love you! Bye Dad!

Dad: Love you too, Dolce.

Midnight Monday

Did I ever tell you how smart Smudge is?

I know I told you about how he hid when the carrier came out for his V-E-T visit, and how I had to wait until he had forgotten about the carrier and resumed his normal activities. Well, now he has another trick.

He has learned something from all the visits to the V-E-T, especially from the last few. Due to the hours of our V-E-T, we have had to make a special trip back home to pick up Smudge and take him for his last few appointments. We also had to have his Grandma take him for his surgery day. Because of all this, Smudge now runs and hides whenever the door is opened. He did this to us on Friday. He did not come out for almost twenty minutes, and then he had the audacity to blame me for not telling him that I was home.

Smudge told Dolce something this weekend, and it has her dancing and prancing around. She has been pestering me all weekend about it. I told her she had to wait to share it with her blogging friends. To find out, you have to come back later.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekend Update

Everyone in the house is getting ready for Christmas. Dolce is checking on the tree everyday. My wife thinks that she needs to ensure that everything is where is it supposed to be. I told her not to let Dolce and Bella watch "How the Grinch stole Christmas" but she did not listen to me. Magoo is being normally grumpy self. I can hear him caterwauling in the background every night when I talked to my wife on the phone.

Smudge has been at the V-E-T's since Tuesday. They started him on the SubQ fluids to see if his levels would go down. I was very upset on Tuesday after hearing from my wife how forelorn and subdued Smudge was in his cage. But he appears to have regained his spunk. I think it was due to the fact that he got a roommate who going through the same thing he is, but she is a lot older, 17 years old in fact. From what my wife tells me they talk to each other so I will chalk some of Smudge's depression due to the fact that he was lonely.

The V-E-T technicians at Dr. Nick's have discovered what a charmer SMudge can be once he gets to know someone. My Wife says that they come in to the holding area and talk and coo to him. He responds with his sweet little chrip and perks up when ever he hears his name. They even call him Smudgie Bear.

He is coming home, so I will get to spend some time with him on a short turnaround. But then I will be home for a long stretch, so I can build up my snuggle quotient with him.

I took the picture above right before I left. Just in case...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A cat I want to meet

I shed my first uncontrollable tears for Smudge last night. Although we had not given up fighting for him, it now seems that Smudge has given up fighting for Smudge. We had hoped that the encouraging numbers had indicated that Smudge's renal crash was over. It wasn't. We will try to get his appetite stimulated and start the sub-q fluids without waiting for the surgery. It is now up to Smudge.

C.D. Smith

Being a man, there are somethings that I just find really funny. Not to say that women can't find the same things funny as men do, but I have noticed certain distinct differences bewteen my sense of humour and my wife's. So based on this, let me tell you about a cat I would like to have.

His name is Stinky Pete. Besides the obvious reason why he would be called Stinky Pete, I just think the name rolls off the tongue and inspires a smile whenever you say it.Say it with me: Stinky Pete. Stinky Pete. Stinky Pete. I bet right now you have a smile on your face. It's one of the gifts that Stinky Pete has, he can make anyone smile.

Now, it wouldn't be Stinky Pete's fault that he is stinky. I would have changed his food several times trying to make him less aromatic, but for whatever reason it never would have helped. Also, there would be no underlying serious health issue causing his problem. This is important as I would have to explain this fact to any family or friends who came over for a visit. It also would not be an external smell issue. There would be no dingleberries hanging from his butt or his furry back legs.

I think it would be imperative that Stinky Pete was either a medium haired or long haired cat. People would need to check out his furry bum to see what was the cause of the nasty smell eminating from his body. He couldn't be a single solid colour either. He would definitely have to be at least half white. I see him as either a tabby and white or a grey and white bicoloured cat. The white is important once again to show everyone how meticulous Pete kept his coat looking.

So let's get back to Stinky Pete.

Even as a kitten, Stinky Pete would have issues. He would love to walk along the head of the bed next to our pillows when we went to bed for the night. Without fail, as Pete would waddle past with his little kitten stride, we would hear the faintest little poof of gas coming from his bum. Shortly thereafter, we would be coughing and gasping and laughing with our hands held up to our mouths and noses at the smell that assaulted our senses. We would tell each other that Pete's problem gas would disappear once he grew up and he was off the kitten food.

As Pete grew up, his problem with pooting or fluffing, as we started calling it, would not go away. He would not seem to care one bit. I think he would actually enjoy it. He would make the effort to be the friendliest cat you ever saw. Just so that unsuspecting guest would invite him up onto their laps and provide him the opportunity to really crack one off nearby. Pete would approach people who were sitting down by stretching himself up from the floor with his two front paws on their legs. He would then wave his right paw at them like a dog would who wanted to play "Shake a Paw." Thoroughly entraced by this friendly cat who played "Shake a Paw" just like a dog, the person would give the offered paw a gentle shake, all the while laughing at how funny Pete was. Funny; that was until the smell of one of Pete's poots reached their noses. Soon everyone would comment how Pete would poot, fart, fluff one off as soon as you shook his gently offered paw.

People would not believe that a cat would do that, so they would insist on pulling his paw just to prove that they were right and that everyone else must be delusional.

It would make Pete famous. The song "Smelly Cat" from Friends would be dedicated to him and he would have his picture taken with the entire cast. It would not be like they would be doing anything meaningful anyways. But his fifteen minutes of fame would end when he would appear on the Larry King Show. Larry would insist on seeing Pete's trick instead of taking my word for it. Pete would oblige and rip one right into Larry's face. Unfortunately, Larry King would not survive the encounter as the horrible stench causes him to have a massive coronary on a National television broadcast.

Stinky Pete lives to the ripe, and I do mean ripe, old age of 19 years. We would bury him in the backyard right next to the compost heap with a little tombstone that reads "Stinky Pete, Wanna Pull My Paw?."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tabbies in Trees Tuesday

I first want to thank everyone for their well wishes regarding Smudge. As I write this, he is in for surgery. We won't know anything until 2:00pm MST. Once we know, I will post the news, good or bad. UPDATE: 12:00pm Smudge's surgery was cancelled. His levels are right back up and he has lost another 11 percent of his weight. Dr. Nick does not think that Smudge would survive the procedure. He has advised us to start looking at managing the remainder of Smudge's days as best we can. Who knows, Smudge might even surprise us.

Constantly writing about Smudge and his critical health issues is as depressing to me as it is to the readers of this blog. So in order to remind everyone that there are three other cats in our household who have been doing their darnest to bring levity and laughter to our lives, I present to you Tabbies in Trees:

Our Christmas tree went up last week to get everyone used to it. We always hope the novelty of the tree will wear off before the ornaments actually put on it. Every year, the cats lull us into thinking that is it now safe to begin the decorating. Now in previous years, we have tried to have a natural tree which by its sappy nature has a built in defense mechanism against overly inquisitive cats. This year, my wife wanted an easy to maintain artificial tree, a rotating artificial tree.

Can you see where this is going?

Now Bella being the oldest girl-cat in the house took it apon herself to begin the required exploration and investigation of the tree. Not too much of an issue as it was not rotating at this point in time.

This require some sniffing of the stand, chewing of the plastic leaves, and climbing up the center of the tree. We did not witness this, but one of the benefits of having four different coloured cats is that you do not need CSI to figure out whose fur you found on the branches five feet of the floor.

Dolce is a sponge. She learns very well from her siblings. She saw Bella pawing at the branches; she pawed at the branches. She saw Bella chewing on the plastic, she chewed on the plastic. She saw Bella climbing up the center of the tree, she climbed up the center of the tree. Just a second though, wasn't the tree stationary when Bella climbed it? That was one detail Dolce chose to overlook.

This is Dolce on one of her passes as she sat on the branches of the tree as it rotated around. Kind of like her own Christmas themed carousel. In our moment of worry and fear, these two took it apon themselves to bring a smile to our faces.

I shudder to think what will happen once there are ornaments on those branches.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Midnight Monday

I left home yesterday knowing that I would not be home for Smudge's surgery tomorrow. It weighed heavily on my mind as I said goodbye to each of my fur-children. I have always been a believer in the philosophy of "Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best". That being said, since I will not be home for Smudge's surgery, I said my goodbyes to my beloved friend yesterday. I still have plenty of hope that he will come through the surgery fine, but I did not want to leave him without saying what I needed to.

I told him that I loved him and that we would see each other again, either in this world or the next. I am getting tired of writing so much sad stuff on this blog, but I could think of nothing better than what I wrote for Skeezix's contest. So here is Smudge's Tale of Devotion once again.

It is said that when you have a multi-pet household you need to be extra careful not to show favoritism to one animal over another. Just like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from feelings of jealousy and abandonment. With that said, I love all of my cats equally in their own special way. But my cats, free of human feelings of equality and justice, have no such limitations on who they love more. My oldest cat, Magoo, definitely loves my wife more than he loves me. Bella is pretty much equally indifferent to both of us, although she does enjoy her morning makeup sessions with my wife. Dolce leans more towards me, but in her own fiercely independent way. The last member of our household, Smudge, loves my wife and his grandma, but there is no mistaking who he holds in highest regard. Smudge is my cat and I want to tell you about Smudge’s two paws.

Although he has four paws, Smudge’s two front paws speak for him. His left paw says “I really do” and his right paw says “I love you.” It has taken me more than eight years to figure this out, and it required nearly losing him to kidney failure to finally grasp what he was trying to say.

Smudge first tried to tell me this as a kitten when he would fall asleep on my chest as we lay on the couch and watched the television on lazy Sunday afternoons. He would curl up in a warm comfortable ball for several minutes and then suddenly stretch out his paws. First the right paw, “I love you.”; then the left paw, “I really do.” Without understanding what he was saying, I responded instinctively with a loving massage on the back of his neck. To him, this was cat for “I do/am too.” Smudge and I have repeated this conversation more than three hundred times without realizing it.

As he grew up, Smudge has tried to teach me his two paw communication in other ways. At night, once everyone is settled in bed and the television is off and then only sound is the other cats and my wife snoring, Smudge will stretch out beside me. Shortly thereafter I will feel a little cat paw on my face. It is usually his right paw that pulls the blankets from around my face and then softly lands on my cheek. When the world is silent and dark, Smudge quietly says, “I love you.” Regularly he even adds, “I really do.”

Sometimes Smudge does not wait until everything is quiet to say those beloved three words to me. He has interrupted my reading of a book by rubbing his cheek forcefully against my hand. I think that means “I want you to talk to me.” If I ignore him, he uses his left paw to pull the book away. “I really do.” He says.

There are times when Smudge just needs to tell me how much he cares. He will hop up onto my lap and start kneading, first his right paw, then his left paw. I love you; I really do. He must think that I am a little slow, for he will continue to tell me that over and over again. I always give him the human equivalent and tell him that I love him too, but I don’t think he cares until I massage the back of his neck. Then and only then does he accept that “I do too.”

It was during one of our “I love you”, “I really do”, “I do too” sessions that I noticed how skinny he had become. Where there once was strong muscular shoulders, I now felt the bony ridges of his shoulder blades and spine. Luckily, his annual vet appointment was coming up quickly on the calendar. We would find out why he was losing weight and we would get him fixed up good as new. But Smudge was fated to never be good as new; he was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. It was a condition we can only manage, never cure or fix.

We left him at the vet for treatment, but made a point of visiting him the next day. He looked terrified and small with the IV hanging from his left arm. His eyes said to me “I’m scared.” I lovingly massaged the back of his neck and told him “I am too.” As he lay in his cage and I tried to reassure him that everything was going to be alright, Smudge placed his right paw on top of my left hand. “I love you.” Once again I told him, “I do too.”

It was then that I realized what he had been trying to tell me all those years. After all those Sunday afternoons; after all those middle of the night reminders; after all that kneading on my lap; I finally understood. It took seeing him in cage at a vet’s office with an IV stuck in his arm and feeling his soft paw being placed on top of my hand to open my eyes to what he had been saying. When he was at the scariest moment of his life and he was all alone, he made the effort to tell me “I love you.”

When faced with his kind, gentle spirit; I know that I am not as noble of a creature as he is, but he doesn’t seem to care. Each night since he has been home, Smudge has said goodnight with his two paws. “I love you.” “I really do.” Somehow my response “I do too”, which appears to mean the world to him, does not match or even come close to depth of emotion Smudge shares.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dolce's One Year Gotcha Anniversary

It is hard to believe but it has been one year since Dolce crossed the threshold of our doorway. She gone from a precocious kitten to a precocious adult. My wife calls her Little Miss Bum on Fire.

We still get woken up in the middle of the night from her yelling at socks and other unmentionables that she has dragged out of the laundry to play with. But she has learned much from her brothers and sister. She know sleeps on the bed at our feet like Smudge and Magoo. She knows how to ask to go outside to play in the snow and she knows to stand at the door to be let in. She tries constantly to get Smudge to join her in a game of Chase and Pounce, which I am happy to say he still loves to do. Dolce's little kitten body may be long gone, but her little kitten heart still beats to the same mischevious drum.

PS. Smudge is going for surgery on Tuesday. So please cross all your paws and set your purrers on high for him.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not a good weekend

Sometimes nothing goes right. Everyone out there who is having a hard go of it right now can understand what I am saying.

First of all, I am back in travelling mode so I'm not home as much as I would like, especially with my Smudge being so sick. Normally, this doesn't bother me or my wife. We took it as part of the career I chose. But weekends like this one, make me wonder if it was the right choice.

I arrived back home, barely off the plane, to get a phone call from my Dad to let me know that my uncle had suddenly passed away. I didn't even have enough time to decompress from the work week before getting hit with this brick between the eyes. The only thing that stops me from going over the edge is the fact that my wife and I had gone to see him several times in the last two months.

Then we finally managed to meet with Smudge's vet. For everyone who has had a CRF cat knows that the news is not good. Even though his numbers came back good, Dr. Nick gave us the worst case scenario, which is that, without surgery, Smudge has about 6 months left. If we go ahead with the surgery, we might be able to stretch that to 24 months. But even the surgery has risks. There is a chance that Smudge might not survive the surgery.

** Update: There was a question of why Smudge needed surgery for CRF. He has a urolith (stone) that is blocking part of his ureter on the right hand kidney. If they remove the stone, the excess pressure being caused on his kidney would be relieved and no further damage would be caused. If they leave it, it could move back into the kidney and do even more damage.

Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a really big fricking train, and some joker has superglued your shoes to the tracks.