Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

We’ve had a mouse problem for a long time. When Bonkers The Cat was around and was still full of piss and vinegar, he did his part to keep the mouse population under control. Boo would play with the mice that Bonkers chased out of the corners, but I don’t think she ever went looking for mice and hasn’t lifted a finger (or toe, whatever) to catch any since the Bonkers left the scene more than a year ago.

So the mice have had free run of the place for months, and have staked their claim to every part of the house that they can colonize. Most recently, their efforts to take over the house have reached as far as the kitchen, where they are now into the many drawers under the kitchen counter, for reasons that are a little hard to explain. They were in the space under the sink before, because that’s where the kitchen trash can is and they could filch all sorts of goodies from it, but now they’re not satisfied with just grabbing the food and going.

It seems that now they’re wandering around in the drawers where My Darling B keeps the various implements of kitchen magic, and it causes her no small amount of distress when she reaches for a knife or a skewer and finds those disgusting little calling cards that mice leave behind wherever they go. She’s had to clean out two of the drawers at least twice in the past six months, and last night we took everything out of all the drawers so I could set out traps and start the chore of running every single one of the magical kitchen implements through the dishwasher to give them a two-hour-long power wash followed by twenty minutes of intense sterilizing heat.

Now I have to figure out how to mouse-proof as much of the kitchen as possible, as well as how to delete the mice. I’ve already got traps under the sink and I set out traps in the drawers overnight, but no luck so far. I think I can block off easy access to the space under the sink, but mice can be determined little buggers so I’ll have to keep setting traps for the foreseeable future.

As for long-term measures to rid our little red house of the infestation, I’ve proposed getting a more dedicated mouser to patrol the darkest corners. I swear I heard B say no to that proposal before, but when I brought it up last night she said that she thought I was opposed to getting another cat. I suppose I might have and don’t remember it, but if so, I don’t know why. If we’re going to have furry animals padding around the house, a kitten or two sounds better than allowing the mice to take over.

How Boo will react to the introduction of a kitten or two is more or less a foregone conclusion. She’s not whatever the cat equivalent of a people-person is. I think she tolerated Bonkers only because he was already established as the house cat when we adopted her as a kitten. When he eventuallyl grew so old and feeble that he couldn’t hold her back if she wanted to swat him off the top of the hill, she didn’t even bother pretending to tolerate him after that. Any other cat who wanders near our door gets hissed at, and she prowls back and forth growling with her puffed-up tail in the air for a half-hour afterwards. She’s not going to take it lightly if we introduce some young whipper-snapper to the house.

Luckily, I don’t care all that much about hurting Boo’s feelings because the way I see it, she’s falling down on the job. There are mice to be caught and the only cat on the premesis is totally unmotivated about catching them. More than a dereliction of duty, that seems like a betrayal of her species. And if Boo’s feelings get hurt, well, I’m not even her person. She comes to me when she wants to show somebody how she can claw the rug by the front door into a big jumbled ball, but when she wants to sit in a lap for hours, she goes to My Darling B, the woman who picked her out at the shelter and brought her to our home.

overrun | 7:00 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags: ,
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Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Bonk and BooWe adopted Bonkers and Boo from a shelter on Misawa Air Base in 2003, not at the same time but within a month or two of each other. Boo was just a kitten when we adopted her and we called her Chessie back then; she started playing hide and seek games with us almost right away and that’s how she became known as Boo.

Bonkers was about six years old and the oddest cat we’d ever met, really more of a dog than a cat. He was dog-friendly; everyone he met was instantly his friend. If you weren’t petting him, he would insist that you correct this oversight immediately by bonking his head against whatever part of you he could bonk into soonest. This was not the face-rubbing hello that almost all cats do – he head-butted you. Repeatedly, if you didn’t start petting him right away. And that’s how he became known as Bonkers.

That, and the fact that he was genuinely bonkers, as in crazy nutso weird. He used to bark like a dog, usually while standing at the back door looking at something in the yard. Not quite like a dog, but just enough that one of us would cock our heads and say, “What the hell was that?” when he started barking. He was a stray before the shelter brought him in; they found him wandering the streets, which made me think he might have been pining for the outdoors. If so, it didn’t take long before he got used to being indoors. He stopped barking within a year of his adoption and became a very contented house cat.

bonkyboyHe never stopped howling, though, another of his odd quirks. He would almost always howl after his belly was good and full, and he stood at the top of the basement stairs to do it. I assumed that was where he thought the acoustics were best. If he got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or use the litter box, usually both, he would announce to the whole house that he was up and about by howling, howling, howling on his way from the bedroom to the kitchen. I tried but never found a way to break him of that.

At the time we adopted him, he had deep black stripes and a bright golden undercoat that faded by the end of the first year he was with us. His belly remained orangish but he never regained the tiger-like appearance he had the first time we met him at the pound.

He and Boo made the trip from Japan in a mesh carry-on bag under the seat on the airplane, instead of stuffed into the cargo hold with the baggage. The last time we tried that, our cat got lost with our bags! The carry-on option sounded like a better idea, and it was, sorta. We didn’t lose the cats, but cat bladders aren’t made to hold it for twelve hours. Poor Bonky needed a sponge bath by the time we got to Los Angeles.

I had no idea what a fierce mouser he would be until we moved to our little red house, which has a ready supply of them. Boo will chase mice and on occasion trap and kill them, but Bonkers pounced like a predator, batted them around until they were deader than a doornail, then ate them whole and finished by parading up and down the floor, howling Who’s the baddest mouser? That’s right! I’m the baddest! Bring it! I had no idea that cats really ate mice. I thought maybe they just gnawed on them a bit, so the first time he trapped a mouse I took it away from him. After that he wouldn’t let me, gobbling them up almost as soon as he saw me coming. So there!

As he aged, he became one of the lappiest cats I’ve ever met. He might be curled up on the sofa, sound asleep when I tiptoed into the living room with a book and sat down in a chair to do a little reading, but as soon as I settled in, his lapdar would alert him to the nearby appearance of a lap, jolting him awake. He would jump down from the sofa, have a good, long stretch, then trot across the room to claim his rightful spot on my lap – after he gave it a good kneading and turned around a couple times to make sure the feng shui was right, and probably bonk my hand once or twice to make sure I knew it was time to pet him.

Bonkers the Pirate CatHe was part of our household almost exactly eleven years, and we’ve never had a pet that so easily and completely made himself at home in our hearts. He was, no question, the greatest cat ever.

bonky boy | 9:04 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, O'Folks
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Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Found it! I snapped this photo of Bonkers in 2003. It’s always been one of my favorites and I thought I had it saved somewhere online but couldn’t find it, so I had to go digging through the collection of CD-ROMs that My Darling B won’t let me throw away. And finding Easter eggs like this one is probably why.

His Royal Highness Bonkers

I just love this photo. From the regal way he’s posed, he looks like something the ancient people of the desert would have worshipped. Yes, he has purple toenails. We used to cap their claws with a product called, if memory serves, Soft Paws.

But he wasn’t always so regal and well-composed. Here’s one of his more relaxed moments:

Tim rubbing Bonkers tummy

Bonkers | 9:05 pm CST
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Good night, Bonky-boy


Alas, Bonkers | 4:00 pm CST
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

In his old age and declining health, Bonkers has become rather sloppy, not that he seems to care much. For one thing, he has trouble drinking, or swallowing, I’m not sure which, so he has to dunk the right half of his face in the water bowl to get water into his mouth, then lift his head and tip it back the way a bird does so he can swallow. I guess he can only get a little down at a time this way, because he has to do it over and over and over, water running out his mouth and down his neck as he does. Makes a huge mess around the bowl, and then again in whatever part of the house he wanders off to before he gives his head a good shake.

He got up at around oh-dark-thirty last night to satisfy his thirst, and he didn’t shake off until he crawled back into bed and was standing about six inches from my face. Gah.

shake shake shake it | 6:26 am CST
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Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Bonkers is eating again. From Wednesday morning until Sunday night he wasn’t, not a good situation for him to be in when whatever medical condition he’s been afflicted with has already caused him to waste away to skin and bones. On Monday morning he was finally hungry enough to eat a few bites, but I called the vet anyway and he prescribed an appetite stimulant. The stuff comes in tiny little pills that we had to split into eight pieces. Eight. By the time I’d carefully cut one pill in half, then in half again, and then in half again, what I had was essentially crumbs, but when we popped one of these crumbs into Bonk and rubbed it down his throat, wow. One o’clock in the morning he was in my face, crying for food. I stumbled to the kitchen with him racing back and forth between my feet. What’s taking you so long, man? Are you still trying to find your way through the living room? Why can’t you see in the dark, anyway? C’mon! I’m hungry! C’mon!

He gobbled up a couple mouthfuls of wet food, then drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank. I guess the pills made him thirsty, too. I stayed up about twenty minutes with him, just to make sure his stomach wasn’t going to react badly after going empty for five days, but he seemed just fine, so I turned out the lights and headed back to bed.

Four o’clock in the morning he was in my face again. Holy shit! What did you shove down my throat, anyway? You wouldn’t believe how hungry I am! Get up and feed me! Get up! Let’s go! C’mon! Feed me! And so on. I couldn’t say no. I mean, we did stick that stuff in him, so I was sort of obligated to feed him. And it was a relief to see him eating again, but this time I didn’t stay up with him, figuring that my alarm was going to start bleeping in an hour anyway, so if he barfed, I’d find out about it soon enough. Nice surprise, though: He didn’t barf.

Bonkers update | 9:30 pm CST
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Friday, June 13th, 2014

Bonkers paused from drinking just long enough to let go the most comically loud fart I’ve ever heard him make. It was so classically gassy that I looked up from what I was doing, expecting to see a flabby old man standing there. Nope. Just Bonkers.

gas gas gas | 6:22 am CST
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Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

So on my way to bed last night I stopped by the bathroom to have a bedtime piddle, and on the way out I noticed the puddle under the door to the closet where we hide the litter pan. If I hadn’t noticed it, I would have gone to bed blissfully unaware of yet another of Bonkers’ increasingly frequent transgressions. But I noticed it, so I went to bed with the lingering memory of cat pee dripping from my fingers. Yuck.

Then, at three o’clock this morning, I woke up to the hork-hork-hork of Boo yakking up a hairball somewhere on B’s side of the bed. Grabbing my phone off the bedside bookcase, I levered myself out of bed with a sigh and gingerly crept around from my side of the bed, carefully scanning the floor with the light from my phone’s screen, hoping against hope that I found it with my eyes first and not my toes. Which I did, thank goodness. After cleaning up that mess, I went back to bed with yet another lingering memory I could have done without.

But it wasn’t over. Apparently awakened by all the activity, Bonkers dropped off the bed, positioned himself by the door and began to whine for his breakfast. For real.

lingering | 6:26 am CST
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Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Bonkers updateBonkers has an icky eye. Well, more icky than usual. He got that big black pupil about two years ago. Then the eyeball slowly sank back into his skull and finally, for about the past year, some kind of horribly sticky black goo that we have to remove with a damp rag has been globbing up in the corner of it. But until last week, that was about as icky as it got.

The ick got ickier at about the same his drinking problem got worse. He’s had a drinking problem for as long as he’s had the icky eye. Poor guy’s falling apart all over. His problem is that he can’t swallow very easily, so to drink, he has to submerge most of his face in his water bowl until he’s got some water in his mouth, then lift his chin up in the air and let the water slide down his throat. Just lately he’s started drinking a lot more than usual, which means most of his face is dripping wet most of the time. And that means he drips all over the place. You can tell where he’s been by following the trail. Or by just stepping in the puddles. That’s how I do it.

That and the fact that the icky eye seemed to be getting goopier made us think that maybe it was time to take him back to the vet again to see if there wasn’t something they could do to help make him feel at least a little better. Last time they weren’t interested much in doing anything other than sending us to the university for an MRI or whatever lab experiments were on special that month, but surely they could see the poor guy could use some antibiotics to make him more comfortable. And I was worried that all that drinking and peeing could mean he might have diabetes. Surely they would be able to test for that.

As it turned out, we met a vet who was considerably more interested in Bonkers’ condition, although not quite enough to read the poor fellah’s chart before he came in to see us. He came up to speed quickly enough after I gave him a quick recap of events, though, and did a quick test to confirm that the cause of Bonk’s icky eye was the result of an ulcerated cornea. Which is just medical-speak for “icky eye.” He gave us a very small tube of something outrageously expensive and told us to give his eye a shot of that four times a day.

They had to spirit him away to the back room to figure out why he was drinking and peeing all the time. Turns out the old guy’s not just falling apart on the outside, his insides are falling apart, too. Specifically, his kidneys. So now we’ve got to get him some medicine for that and put him on a low-protein diet, which is a shame because we finally found a brand of canned cat food he likes but it’s all tuna and salmon, pretty much solid protein. I sure hope that’s not what screwed up his kidneys in the first place.

And that’s all the Bonkers News there is for now. He’s already feeling better now that his eye’s not gooping all over his face. I’m not surprised. That would’ve made me feel a little low, too. More updates as they’re available, of course.

Bonkers update | 8:57 pm CST
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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

4:30 am:

Huk. Huh-YUCK! Hork. Hack. HACK! HAAACK! HAAACK! HAAACK! YAK! huh-YAK! urp. yuck.

Tell me again: Why do we have cats?

yak | 6:12 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo
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Monday, March 17th, 2014

He’s his own best meme.


bonke | 8:51 pm CST
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Saturday, January 4th, 2014

For two hours this morning I played tag with Bonkers the cat, who thinks I have been put on this earth for just two reasons: To feed him, and to provide him with a warm lap that he may curl up on for hours and hours. Whoops! Three things: And, to scratch his ears. He probably thinks all the other things I do with him – bathe him, squirt him in the face with the spray bottle, take him to the vet to have a thermometer inserted in his anus – are the result of some perverted corruption of the physical laws of the universe that he hasn’t figured out yet.

Another speed bump in his understanding of the big picture is the concept of the weekend. I don’t expect that he’ll ever figure this out, but I do expect him to realize that, when I don’t get out of bed promptly at five in the morning, he should keep his mouth shut about it. Sometimes he does. This morning, he didn’t.

I’m not a total asshole about this. I realize that his brain, already the size of a walnut, was probably damaged when his head collapsed two years ago. Even so, he’s retained enough useful brain cells to know when it’s five o’clock, the time I usually get out of bed and, shortly after that, put food in his dish. So whenever I feel I might get a good trade-off, a little peace and quiet in exchange for tramping to the kitchen in the dark, I get out of bed at five on weekends, spoon a lump of brown cat chow into his bowl and go back to bed. Sometimes that works. This morning, it didn’t.

For reasons that The Google is unable or unwilling to reveal to me, Bonk needs to tell the world when he’s done eating by parading through the house, howling loudly. Usually takes about thirty seconds, then he’s done. I give him a pass on that. It’s his nature. Then he licks his paws until they’re soaking wet because he’s still drooling from the food. He’s had trouble swallowing since The Great Head Collapsing Of 2013. He apparenly doesn’t like having paws that are soaking wet because he continues to lick them until they’re as near to dry as he can make them, which takes fifteen to twenty minutes. In warm weather, he’ll do this in the hallway, but in the winter he’ll park his butt next to the hot air register right next to my side of the bed to noisily lick himself. On mornings when I can’t ignore that, I urge him to find another place to do that by zapping him with the spray bottle I keep by my nightstand to communicate my desires.

After paw-cleaning time, he either settles down and has a nap, or he decides he’s hungry again. If he decides he’s hungry again, he’ll ask for more not with a full-blown meow or by talking like a cat at all, but by saying, “heh” very quietly, waiting about thirty seconds, then repeating “heh” again and waiting another thirty seconds before saying “heh” yet again, and so on. He does that maybe a half-dozen times before adding a sad little whine to it that dips at the end, “Hehhh.” There are some mornings when I can ignore the “heh” and keep on dozing, but the “Hehhh” is just whiny and pathetic enough that I can’t snooze through it. And he seems to know that. He will keep on whining until I either feed him or drop a piano on his head. Or squirt him in the face. Today, I squirted him in the face. Always takes him by surprise the first time. He fully expects that, when I swing my legs over the side of the bed, I’m getting up in order to feed him again, so he comes trotting up to sit at my feet. He doesn’t even seem to notice that I have the spray bottle in my hand until he gets a face full of cold water.

After he slinks off to his hiding place, I have maybe twenty or thirty minutes to doze until he feels bold enough to come out and say “heh” again. I don’t get why he thinks he’s going to get away with that after he’s been warned, but in all the variations of this game, he has never quit after the first shot in the face. When I roll out of bed the second time, though, he’s not stupid enough to come trotting up to my feet. He usually backs off to a corner where he thinks I can’t see him. Sometimes this even works, but this morning there was just enough pre-dawn light to see him cowering there, and he got shot right between the eyes again, sending him out of the room at a trot.

When Boo and I play this game, by the way, she always retreats silently to the darkest corner of the room and tucks her chin into her chest to hide the white bib of fur on her neck. The rest of her pelt is a uniform color of gray that blends in perfectly with even the pre-dawn light, making her nearly invisible and frustrating all my attempts to target her until I started keeping my smartphone on my bedstand to use as an alarm clock. The first time I swept the room with the light from its screen and stopped with it pointing it straight at her, she was so surprised that I had enough time to get off two or three quick squirts that nailed her before she sprang out of the room. They can find me when I’m lost, they can find my cat when it’s hiding in the dark – is there nothing a smart phone can’t do? I’ll let you know when I find out.

The third time Bonkers comes back to say “heh” again, he hardly enters the room. This morning he sat about two steps inside the doorway to whine, and when I climbed out of bed he ran off to his hiding spot, under the stool in the hallway. I say it’s a hiding spot because I believe he has the mistaken impression that I can’t see him when he’s sitting there. Either that, or he thinks it will magically protect him. Whatever his belief, it’s wrong. I don’t even have to aim much, I just indiscriminately spray two or three shots under the stool and he comes bolting out.

If we continue to play this game, he will always run to his hiding place, so it’s not much fun for me any more. I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to him to find another hidey-hole, but it doesn’t. He must think there’s some powerful juju there and it’s gonna kick in at any moment, even though he gets sprayed every time he goes there to hide out. I didn’t continue the game past the third squirting this morning because by then it was seven o’clock, time for me to get up and make coffee, but not to feed Bonkers. He had to wait until the coffee was on.

tag | 8:24 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks, sleeplessness
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Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Bonkers was circling my feet while I tried to make coffee without tripping over him. Trouble was, we were clean out of canned cat food. Still had some dry kibble, but he’s had trouble eating that stuff ever since his brain thing. His lips don’t work right any more so he has to kind of mash his face into the pile of kibble while he works it with his tongue to get any of it into his mouth. It’s a little painful to watch. But, he was obviously very hungry and wasn’t going to stop trying to trip me, so I dumped a scoop of kibble into his dish, which he ravenously devoured. I have every confidence he’ll be horking up every speck of it within fifteen minutes of swallowing the last little bit.

hork hork hork | 7:10 am CST
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Friday, November 29th, 2013

bonkers gets blow-driedSeeing as how everybody else in my unit took the day off today, and I didn’t want to be all alone at work, I decided to take the day off and be all alone at home. I’ll try to explain later how that makes sense, sort of.

I’m not totally alone; at least I’ve got The Bonk to keep me company, although if he keeps on following me to every room in the house, including the bathroom, begging me for food, I’ll probably have to lock him in a kitty kennel and dangle it from a rope over the shark pool. I didn’t tell you we had a shark pool? Must’ve slipped my mind.

Bonk got an emergency cat bath yesterday morning when he climbed up into my lap and began trying to clean off a paw covered in some kind of oatmealy-looking but otherwise unidentified substance that he slopped on a corner of my laptop keyboard. Before he made an even bigger mess of my computer, I scooped him right up, carried him to the bathroom, plopped him in the tub and hosed him down under the shower. No, he was not at all happy about that.

Washing The Bonk is surprisingly easy. It’s getting him dry afterwards that’s impressively difficult. After I extract him dripping from the tub, his cue that the ordeal is just about over, all he wants to do is go hide in a corner somewhere to attempt to lick himself dry, which might work on a summer day but would definitely not work in the middle of winter. To get him at least damp-dry, I have to pin him down between my legs and swaddle him in two or three towels, hoping that they’ll soak up most of the drippy stuff before he slithers away.

My Darling B somehow got hold of him yesterday as he was wandering around in the living room looking for a private place and, with the blower dryer on its gentlest setting, managed to get him almost completely dry. It would’ve never occurred to me that he would sit still for that.

home alone | 9:17 am CST
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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Bonkers is helping me write blog posts this morning. In a way.

Bonkers the cat

blogging with bonkers | 10:03 am CST
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

image of Bonkers the catTime for a Bonkers Update.

Bonkers is doing pretty darned well for a cat with an indeterminate amount of brain damage caused by an unknown agent. He eats nothing but canned food and he gets almost all the lap time he wants (sometimes he wants it when I’m still doing chores, so no joy then).

He still annoys the hell out of me when he wakes up at all hours of the night to groom himself for thirty or forty minutes. His brain explosion seems to have damaged the neurons that moderate grooming. He does it obsessively now, practically whenever he’s awake, and sometimes he wakes up just to do it. And he’s really noisy about it.

And because he has trouble swallowing, he makes on hell of a mess in the kitchen when he eats, scattering crumbs all over the floor around his dish, then slobbering water in a trail from the water dish to wherever he parks himself to groom for a half-hour or so. But we remind ourselves he can’t help it, break out the mop and trail along behind him.

Bonkity-bonk-bonk | 6:16 am CST
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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The cats got junk food last night. They were sooo happy.

I usually buy cat food at Mad Cat or at the co-op where I can get cat food made from meat and not that crappy cereal that gets dressed up and sold as gourmet cat food. Cats are made to eat meat, not cereal. I have seen our cats swallow mice whole. They’re carnivores. Feeding cereal to cats cannot be good for them.

But yesterday it was raining during my lunch break so I couldn’t get to the store to buy cat food and by quitting time I clean forgot that we were completely out of canned food so I drove straight home without a stop at the co-op. Dammit.

Bonkers has a real hard time eating solid food these days. He can do it, but I don’t like to put him through that. For one thing, he makes a gawdawful mess. He doesn’t seem to have any feeling on one side of his mouth and I don’t think he can work his lips on that side very well, so to get food into his mouth he has to scoop it up with his tongue and throw his head back, scattering about half the kibble that was on his tongue all over the place. To make up for this loss, he scoops up as much as he can by mashing his face into the bowl. Kind of banging it into the bowl, actually. Looks like it hurts.

Soft food is easy for him to lap up, though, so I try to have plenty of cans on hand all the time, and that’s where I fell down on the job last night. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching him bang his face into his bowl, so I ran down to Copp’s, the chain grocery store down by the highway, to get some emergency back-up soft food. Copp’s is a big-box store, almost as big as Wal-Mart. The aisles are each a quarter-mile long, and you can find forty-two dozen different kinds of Cap’n Crunch in the breakfast cereal aisle, but how many brands of cat food do they offer? Two. Little Friskies and 9 Lives. Crap and more crap. Thanks for that, Copp’s.

Oops, three. They also had Fancy Feast. I’m pretty sure that’s a brand of either 9 Lives or Little Friskies, though. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all the same crap owned by the same company.

So anyway, I bought two cans of the crap food and spooned some out for the Bonk when I got home and he gobbled it up like it was the best thing ever. Of course. My Darling B pointed out that it’s probably the cat equivalent of buying him a bag of Bugles. Mmmm! Bugles! Thank you! Thank you for Bugles! I know it’s crap and it’s not even good for me but I LOVE BUGLES! Nom nom nom nom!

junk food | 5:28 am CST
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Monday, June 24th, 2013

bonkbumpBonkers is curled up for a nap on the sofa. Boo is, too, but she’s not as easy to see. Not at first, anyway.

boobump | 6:34 pm CST
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Not sure what this proves: Our cats figured out somehow that I’m the one who feeds them. They jump on my head to wake me up in the morning. They follow me around the kitchen when they’re hungry. Yet, even though they’re smart enough to figure that out, they haven’t twigged to the fact that I hold a grudge and I’m not above a little vengeance now and then. I’m no Einstein, but even I know better than to piss off the person who feeds me. I think I learned that before I could speak.

proof | 4:28 am CST
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Monday, June 17th, 2013

The cats came so close to realizing their nefarious plan.

For weeks, they’ve been waking me up a little earlier each day by standing at the foot of our bed mewling, or jumping on my head, and I’ve been obliging them by getting up and feeding them, thinking that with a little food in their bellies they’d leave me alone and I could go get a little more sleep.

Only I don’t get more sleep. If I wake up after four or five o’clock in the morning, I’m up for the rest of the day. Well, until, say, eight o’clock that night, anyway. So this has been a game of diminishing returns, and this morning it diminished even further: Damn cats woke me up at four o’clock.

I didn’t get up because I knew it was pointless. I could have fed them, but I wouldn’t have been able to get back to sleep, so I laid there for maybe twenty minutes before I got out of bed to make some coffee and gobble down a bowl of oatmeal. And ignore the cats. They tried everything they could think of to get my attention, even that thing where they wind around my legs and sit down right in front of me while I’m walking across the dining room, but I managed not only to ignore them but also to avoid concussion after tripping over one of them and falling on my face.

They’re more than a little puzzled by this, wandering around in a bit of a daze. He didn’t feed us. That never happened before. And occasionally they get tangled up with each other, resulting in a swatting match that’s oddly satisfying to watch. But they still haven’t been fed, and won’t be until I’m ready to leave for work. And that’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

cat plan | 5:33 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Bonkers was – it’s another post about my cat, folks. Spare yourselves. Turn the channel now.

(Does anybody still say “turn the channel” anymore? I haven’t been paying attention. It used to make sense when there was a dial on the front of the television that you had to grab and twist, but even though I still say it, it’s been at least thirty years since I’ve turned an actual dial to another channel. I feel as though I’m already one of those fogeys that kids snicker at.)

Bonkers was making lots of licky-slurpy noises this morning, and he was camped out right next to my head. Right. Next. To. My. Head.

He stopped for about thirty seconds after I gave him a quick poke with my elbow, but then started licking again. Noisily. And he smelled like cat spit.

I poked him again. Again, thirty seconds of quiet before SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.




This went on for far too long before I finally gave up, rolled to the edge of the bed and shut off my alarm clock, resigned to getting up early because I sure wasn’t going to get anything like satisfying, restful sleep while Mister Puddles washed himself.

And, of course, he jumped down off the bed and left the room as I was getting up.

I’m going to boil and eat that cat one day.

slurpy | 6:28 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Bonkers got a bath last night. We don’t usually bathe The Bonk – actually, we have historically avoided bathing either of the cats. We’ve bathed Bonk twice before, if memory serves, and I’m pretty sure we’ve never bathed Boo. I feel confident in saying that she would not allow it.

But The Bonk needed bathing. The poor old fart’s getting pretty drooly in his old age, so when he grooms himself these days he ends up coated in an extra-thick layer of his own slime. The resulting smell is, ah, shall we say ‘potent.’ If you’ve never been exposed to the repellent odor of cat spit, consider yourself lucky. There’s no scent quite like it.

So I filled up a bucket with warm water, then scooped Bonk up off the floor, carried him to the bathtub and dropped him in it. Then I ladled warm water over him with a big plastic beer cup until he looked like a drowned rat. Cats are hilarious-looking when they’re wet. You’ve just got to get a cat so you can see that at least once in your life.

And then I soaped him up with cat shampoo. This is really a thing. I don’t know what makes it different from the shampoo that I use, other than the outrageous price. I’d be willing to bet there’s no difference at all. It’s probably just baby shampoo in a smaller bottle.

He put up with the whole ordeal like a champ. No, actually, he put up with being bathed. He did not put up with being toweled off. I wrapped him up in a great big bath towel after squeegeeing as much of the water off him as possible. He put up with about ten seconds of that before squirming free and making a beeline for the door. I managed to catch him before he got away and towel him off for about ten seconds more before he got away again. I let him stamp around the living room trying to get the water and the stink off him before I wrapped him up once more and got him about as dry as he was going to let me.

stinky kitty | 2:41 am CST
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Saturday, March 23rd, 2013



if {system-time = x:00 and bladder = full}
wake; do {void-bladder}
while cats=[tripping-hazard]
get [the-food]; feed [the-cats]
return [the-food]
return {sleep}
else {sleep}


Wait, what? No, that can’t happen. I was on autopilot. I must’ve put the cat food back.

Yeah. It’s got to be in the fridge, I just don’t remember it. Yeah. I don’t remember putting it back at all. Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit! Well, I’m not getting up again. I’m staying right here in my nice, warm bed. The cats got what they wanted and, if they’re as smart as they act sometimes, they’ll figure out there’s an open can of cat food on the counter top and take care of the problem for me. I’m not getting out of bed. [Monologue edited for brevity; it goes on for almost an hour. -ed.]

LATER, WHILE I’M MAKING COFFEE: What’s that can of cat food doing there?

error | 9:48 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, sleeplessness | Tags:
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Let’s see, how does this work? Oh, yeah: Wake up too early, make coffee, cat on my lap, type up some drivel.

Mmmm, coffee. Gone back to making it drip. Still like my coffee gadgets, but drip is the way to go. That’s my official word on that. Take it to the bank. Tell ’em I said so.

Man, this granola is the best thing ever. I buy it in the bulk food section of the co-op. Supposed to be good for you. They sell lots of locally-produced, organically-grown food, but this looks like the kind of stuff that comes from a 55-gallon barrel shipped from China by container ship. Don’t care. Has a nutty, vanilla flavor that is now permanently associated in my brain with granola. All other granola tastes like gravel.

Cat is purring like a diesel engine. He can keep it going for hours, but if he starts to fade all I have to do is stroke his chin and he cranks the volume up to eleven again. He won’t purr for nothing. Got to give him a chin-rub, or at the very least let him climb in my lap. Did you know cats are the reason laps were invented? It’s true. If you have a lap, you need a cat.

wakey-wakey part mcmlxiv | 5:02 am CST
Category: Bonkers, coffee, daily drivel, food & drink, sleeplessness | Tags: ,
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Thursday, March 21st, 2013

And now, because I like it, and because Bonkers just now struck a similarly evocative pose:

chat noir | 8:42 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, entertainment | Tags:
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Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Among the things I will not be doing this morning is shoveling the driveway, even though I set my alarm clock to go bleepity-bleep-bleep a half-hour earlier than usual because the all-knowing National Weather Service said there was supposed to be somewhere between five and twelve inches of snow on the ground this morning. The driveway’s on the ground. So is our car. And when our car is separated from the driveway by twelve inches of snow, it doesn’t take us to work in the morning.

That’s why I gave myself an extra half-hour to shovel it all off this morning. It was a brilliant plan, except that, when I peered blearily out the window at the driveway this morning, there was no more snow on it or the rest of the ground than there was when I went to bed last night. Relieved, I went back to bed, reset my clock and burrowed into the bedcovers, where I laid for five blissful minutes until the cats began to dance on my head.

forecast | 5:30 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, sleeplessness, work | Tags: , , ,
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Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Bonk found the sunny spot in the kitchen.

nap | 9:51 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks | Tags:
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Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

I was awake much of the night.

First, it was because I had to pee. I can usually do that in my sleep: Get out of bed, totter in the direction of the bathroom, pull down my pants, squat (so I don’t have to turn the lights on), fall asleep as I get the deed done, and some time afterward wake up and totter back toward the bedroom. Sometimes I wake up only for the part that requires me to get out of bed, and do the rest on autopilot. This time, though, I went back to bed fully realizing that I was wide awake, but I was determined to crawl back under the covers and shut my eyes anyway. Didn’t work, because …

Bonkers the pirate cat heard me get up, followed me into the bathroom (maybe the little perv wanted to watch, I dunno), then followed me back to the bedroom and jumped into bed with us. But apparently not to sleep. Almost immediately, he began a cat bath that went on for the better part of an hour and was so noisily wet that I wanted to kick him, and would have if My Darling B hadn’t been lying between me and the Bonk. Alternatively, I’d have happily helped him out with his bath by hosing him down, but there’s no hose handily available in the bedroom. I’ll have to look into getting that fixed one of these days, I suppose.

wakey wakey part xvi | 9:34 am CST
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Sunday, December 30th, 2012

A Bonkers Update:

B gave Bonkers a bath today, his first in seven or eight years. The boys gave him a bath shortly after we brought him home from the pet shelter in Misawa. I can’t remember why he needed a bath then. B gave him a bath today because he’s gone a little off. The old boy has some trouble swallowing these days so he gets to eat soft canned food all the time now, which not incidentally makes it easier for me to give him his medicine. All I have to do is crush the tablets with a spoon and mix them up with the brown goo he loves to eat so much.

He may have trouble eating and seeing, but he hasn’t given up grooming himself. Trouble is, he likes to groom himself immediately after eating, and because he has trouble swallowing he usually has quite a bit of food in his mouth still, so he ends up smelling a lot like cat food and, after a couple days, like cat food gone bad. Hence, the bath.

B was prepared for him to put up a struggle but he gave up without a fight, let her put him in a big plastic bucket and soap him up, then rinse him off. He seemed resigned to getting it over with, but he seemed to know when it was done and didn’t want put up with a lot of fussing as we tried to towel him all over. He just wanted to go hide in a corner and lick himself some. B still made him sit in her lap anyway while she brushed him and patted him dry.

He’s all nice and fluffy and clean now and smells not at all like a dish of tuna that’s been sitting out for too long.

Bonkers update | 3:38 pm CST
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Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Bonkers the pirate catThe end of my thumb is bloody gash after Bonkers slashed it open the other night, so I have to type very gingerly right now. Just FYI, in case I suddenly run out of the room to apply a bandage or something.

The old boy is crazy about a cat treat called Pounce. He’s already learned where we keep it, so whenever we go anywhere near that cabinet he trots over right quick and sits looking up at us with great big eyes. Well, one eye is always big, but we can still tell when he gets great big eyes by the way he uses the other one.

So I was making him dance for his treats by dangling them over his head. When his targeting computer came on, which I could tell from the way the pupil dilated all the way open in his good eye, I’d drop the treat and he’d bat it out of the air as it fell, then chase it across the room. Fun!

The last one I gave him, though, I waited a little too long before deciding to drop it. He didn’t want to wait, so he jumped up and tried to bat it out of my hand. He usually pulls his punches, but he also gets a little crazy where food’s involved so he didn’t bother to retract his claws. One of them was sharp as a flensing knife, and he was about as careful with it as any other teenager would have been.

I spent the next ten minutes trying to get the bleeding to stop, and the ten minutes after that trying to find a Band-Aid but, as usual, the only ones we had were big enough to cover a cannonball wound. Cutting one of those in half worked.

gashed | 5:32 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Monday, November 19th, 2012

Bonkers is still plugging along in spite of whatever’s wrong inside his head, but the going’s starting to get a little rough. The poor guy has been having trouble swallowing for a while, occasionally leaving little puddles of drool around the water bowl and food dishes, but the problem, whatever it is, has been getting worse in the past week or so. He seems to be losing muscle control and can choke down solid food only with a lot of effort.

I’ve stopped leaving kibble for him because he makes such a mess of it. He has to scoop up the kibble with his jaw, then lift his head and snap at it, getting most of the kibble down his throat but throwing quite a lot of it around the room. Most of it stays in the corner of the dining room where the cat dishes are, but I’ve found bits of spittle-soaked kibble as far away as the bedroom floor beside Bonk’s cat bed.

He has a much easier time with soft canned food, so we’ve made the switch. That’s all he gets now, unless he decides to raid Boo’s dish after he’s done with his own food and still feels a bit peckish, which is just about all the time.

This morning, for instance, Boo followed me to the kitchen and tangled herself up in my feet while I was trying to wash out the coffee carafe and grind the beans, so I measured out a little kibble for her to get her out of my hair. After ten minutes or so, Bonkers came out to be fed, too. He doesn’t do the feet-tangly-up thing, he just sits in his corner and glowers at me. Food. Now.

I spooned out some soft food for him after putting the kettle on to boil, set it down in his spot, then switched on the radio and stood by the sink to listen to the morning news. Gradually, I became aware that Boo was staring at me. It’s a little unnerving to have a cat stare at me, so I stared back at her to make her look away. It turned out she wasn’t staring, really. She was giving me the most quizzical look. Then, when the question had clearly been posed, she glanced down at her dry kibble, then back at me. What the hell? So I gave her a little dab of wet food, too, just so she wouldn’t feel cheated. She was happy with that.

After she was done, Bonkers came over to see if she left any in her dish but, finding none, he gamely tried to snatch up what little kibble was left. Most of it ended up on the floor.

spittle | 6:39 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel | Tags: , ,
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Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Bonkers sucked all the heat out of his cat bed heater. I’m not sure how he did that. From what little I know about electricity and stuff, the juice is supposed to keep coming out of the wall socket for as long as I have the thing plugged in, but Bonkers seems to have violated the laws of physics, or overdrawn his electron account. The thing was nice and warm for a month or two, then it went stone cold.

Twice. He sucked the life out of the first one we got him and I wasn’t happy that he went back to sleeping on my head, so we got him another one and in just a couple months he killed that, too. Two heating pads were enough to get him almost all the way through the winter, though, with just a few weeks of chilly evenings when he would sneak into the bedroom early and curl up on Boo’s bed, which went on being warm. Sometimes she’d let him sleep on it all night but sometimes she wouldn’t. She probably knew he’d steal all heat from hers, too, if she didn’t chase him out of it.

When winter weather returned and Our Humble O’Bode began to get a little frosty around the edges at night, Bonk climbed right back into bed with us, having no warm bed of his own, and could not be persuaded to sleep anywhere else, not with a polite nudging, not by not-so-politely shoving him, not by picking him up and dropping him at the foot of the bed. He’d wait until we were settled and starting to drift off to sleep again, then tiptoe his way back up to his favorite spot between our shoulders and wedge himself there, stealing all the goddamn covers.

Until Tuesday when the new cat bed heater that I ordered after spending too many sleepless nights was waiting under the mailbox when we pulled into the driveway after work. I got a tingly feeling all over from opening that box. It was just like early Christmas. Couldn’t even wait until after dinner to unpack it and stuff it into Bonk’s cat bed. I wanted that thing toasty warm before the house started to cool off.

Worked like a charm. He was a little upset at first when I picked him up and plopped him in his cat bed. I suppose he assumed that, because it was not Boo’s bed, it was not going to be as warm as he expected it to be, but he caught on almost right away that things were different and was curled up like a big rollie-pollie soon enough. I made sure I got the king-sized bed warmer this time, big enough for a dog, really, so it should take him at least six months of round-the-clock cat naps to suck the life out of this one.

OMFG more drivel about cats? | 1:04 pm CST
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Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Bonkers wanted up in my lap. I was blogging. I said no.

He sat and pouted for a while until he fell asleep sitting up. When he jerked himself awake, he sauntered off toward the dining room, probably to slop water from his bowl all over the floor. He’s getting good at that.

Several minutes passed in near-silence as I tapped at the keys of my laptop. Then, from the dining room came the sounds of a cat getting into trouble. He might have been on the table, trying to get the lid off the butter dish, or he might have been scrounging through the basket of empty bottles, trying to get at a rinsed-out tin of cat food that still whiffed faintly of whatever that nasty brown stuff is they make cat food out of. Either way, he was clearly up to no good.

I jumped out of my seat and made it to the dining room in three giant steps. Bonkers was hiding under the table when I got there. As I stepped to one side to get a look at him, he ran to the other side of the table. He was definitely hiding something he shouldn’t have had, but if I moved, he shifted to a spot under a chair or the far corner of the table where I couldn’t see him. I started pulling the chairs out from under the table and finally he ran into the living room with me in hot pursuit.

That’s when I saw the mouse’s tail. He very definitely had a mouse’s tail dangling from his muzzle. I ran back to the kitchen to grab a mason jar that was sitting on the counter and came back to the living room with it. Sooner or later he’d drop the mouse, and I needed something to trap the little monster. If I didn’t, the damn thing would disappear into the woodwork.

No such luck. For the mouse, that is. When Bonk dropped it and I took a step forward with the overturned mason jar in hand, he deftly snatched it up again and took a step or two away from me. “C’mon, drop it,” I urged him. He turned his head away, ignoring me. He began to gnash on it.

“Aggh! Mouse getting eaten! Mouse getting eaten!”

I’d been shouting mostly out of shock to nobody in particular, but the alarm brought My Darling B out of the spare room where she was watching cat videos on the internet to witness the carnage. She clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a scream when she saw Bonkers choking the thing down.

Two bites, three, maybe four more and it was gone. He swallowed the damn thing whole, licked his chops, then paraded around the room meowing loudly. “That’s right! I’m the cat! I’m the big, bad mouse-catcher! Suck it, mousies! I’m gonna getcha!” And so on.

Mouse is a dish that’s best eaten live.

mouse is a dish that’s best eaten live | 12:42 pm CST
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Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Okay, I’m up too early on a Saturday, but how else am I going to experience the maximum wonderfulness that is the weekend? A guy’s got to start early or he’s going to miss something.

And I owe my early rising once again to the cats, of course. The oldest one parked his fat blob of a butt right between my shoulder blades. Took him about ten minutes to do it, not because he’s a fat blob but because he’s always taken that long to find just the right position that will satisfy his feline needs, one of which must be to make sure I’m awake by the time he finally settles in and goes to sleep. Maybe there’s some kind of somnambulistic transfer going on there. I should contact the AMA and ask them to do a study.

He starts by slowly making his way to the upper end of the cleft in the bed covers between My Darling B’s shoulders and mine. I emphasize slowly. He moves like he’s stalking something. It’s very unnerving. Sometimes he’ll wait until I’m fast asleep and don’t even realize he’s there, but sometimes he can’t wait and begins his creepy crawl as I’m just beginning to doze. When I’m in between the land of the living and the near-death of sleep, nothing’s more unnerving than the realization that something is softly creeping toward my head. No matter how many times he’s done it already, I’ll still jerk awake the next time. He seems to take no small amount of pride in that. The little bastard’s probably keeping track on a scoreboard in his secret lair. “Scared the Human Awake for 1,736 days straight!”

When he finally arrives at the end of his slow-motion journey he picks his spot with great care, turning round and round, trying it with his nose in B’s face, then in mine. Or maybe he wants to park himself butt-first in my face tonight. It’s all relative, and every angle has to be evaluated. Sometimes he gets distracted by the need to noisily wash his face for way too long. That goes especially well for him when he can slop some drool on my forehead. I’ll bet the squishy old fur ball’s got a scoreboard for that, too. This stage of the process is done when he dumps all fourteen pounds of himself very suddenly on me. Ever been on a plane when the overhead compartment popped open and a carry-on bag fell into your lap? Me neither, but I imagine it’s kind of like that.

His collapse against my shoulders accomplishes two things: Wakes me up one more time with a firm punch, and steals even more of the bed covers than he already has up to then, exposing me to the chill of the night. This part’s actually not so bad, because it gives me a chance to give back a little of what I’ve been getting by grabbing the edge of the quilt and, with a quick jerk, launching him in B’s general direction. If he’s good with that, I can get back to sleep right away. If he’s not, he starts circling again, kneading his spot back into compliance, slobbering on his paws some more and, with a final flourish, punching me between the shoulders.

Sometimes this goes on all night, and then sometimes, like this morning, I just chuck it, get out of bed and spend way too much time wondering why we even have cats.

cat bed | 7:45 am CST
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Friday, October 12th, 2012

I don’t know how many times I played this scenario out in my head: I set the coffee cup on the arm of the sofa, I sit down on the edge of the sofa, I prop the laptop on my knees, I begin to settle back, making myself comfortable, the cat decides to make himself comfortable by climbing into my lap, I try to shoo him off, my elbow jogs the arm of the sofa, the coffee cup tips and falls, and coffee, cat, computer and cup go every which way.

As I’ve seen these events play out over and over in the part of my brain that’s always cooking up worst-case scenarios, I’ve done everything I can think of to avoid this catastrophe (sorry, unavoidable pun) and, until this morning, was entirely successful. When it finally went wrong, though, it went wrong exactly the way I thought it would. I’m not sure whether to be impressed with how totally right I was, or depressed because the universe would screw with me like that.

catastrophe | 11:55 am CST
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Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Can you find Bonkers the Cat in this photo of my basement lair?

image of man cave

I bought a new camera a few weeks ago because I lost my old camera. Just lost it. I was taking photos while I was brewing beer or hammering on some wood or something, so between photos I put it somewhere very safe, and it is in such a completely safe place that I’m sure it will still be in good working order when I remember where that safe place is.

I went without a camera for a month or two because it took that long to get over how stupid I felt about losing my camera, but then one day while I was shopping for toilet paper or shoes or something completely unrelated to cameras, I wandered past the electronics section of our local Shopko store and I bought a camera. And it sucked. But the suckiness of the camera was Fuji’s fault, not Shopko’s. I took the crappy Fuji camera back and bought a Sony Cybershot, which was coincidentally the name of the camera that’s in a very safe place. And I like it a lot.

One of the things my Sony Cybershot can to is take panoramic photos. I can stand in the middle of my basement lair, for instance, and slowly turn in a circle after I click the shutter. The computer brain of the camera can remember everything it sees and somehow pieces it together into a nearly seamless photo of everything I pointed it at. You can see a few of the places where it had to sort of fudge things together. There’s a very obvious break in the florescent light on the left, for instance, but I’m really amazed at how good the rest of it looks.

lair | 6:12 am CST
Category: Bonkers, books, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, O'Folks, play, typewriters | Tags:
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Apparently I missed all the fun last night. I hit the hay at about half past nine, but B stayed up late and not only got to see everything, she was right in the middle of it! That’ll teach me to go to bed just because I’m exhausted.

While B was sitting up late, working on a project, she slowly became aware that Bonkers the Cat was making mouse-hunting noises. When she finally went to investigate, sure enough, she found him playing cat-and-mouse with a real live mouse. She went away for a couple minutes to find a jar or plastic take-out box to catch the mouse in so she could release it later, but when she came back she found only Bonkers sitting in the middle of the living room floor with the tail of a mouse hanging from his muzzle.

“Did you eat it?” she squeaked at him. “Aghhh! Spit it out! Spit it out! Yuck!” And so on.

Bonkers was not only completely oblivious to her squeamish reaction, he also appeared to be trying to swallow the mouse, and eventually succeeded, prompting a lot more yelling and squealing from the aforementioned squeamish B, who not only continued to make a lot of noise about it, she said she even jumped around in circles a little bit. I, somehow, managed to sleep through the whole thing.

la-la-lah | 9:28 pm CST
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Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Adventures in Plumbing!“Is blood supposed to be coming out of the faucet?” My Darling B asked yesterday when she went to wash her hands in the bathroom sink. The short answer was yes, blood was supposed to come out of the faucet. I was so desperate to get a plumber here to work on the water heater that I accepted an offer from Cthulu in exchange for my eternal fealty. Plumbing emergencies will make a guy do some weird shit. Cthulu’s a pretty good plumber, by the way. Shows up on time, gets the job done right, is actually very personable and professional, the cats liked him. Prices are a little steep. And there’s that blood from the faucets thing. But still, thumbs up.

It was the water heater this time. Last week Friday I noticed a puddle of water creeping out from under it, and by Saturday morning the puddle had gotten much wider until, on Sunday, it was snaking its way across the floor to a drain on the other side of the room. I called a plumber first thing Monday morning, the same guys who installed the water heater about four years ago, and they said they would stop by some time between one and two o’clock that afternoon, but when two-thirty came and there was still no plumber I gave them another call and they said they would have to reschedule, so I dumped them and called another plumber. Not Cthulu, although the guy who showed up was dressed in a green uniform. Didn’t have an octopus face or anything. His name was Pat. He hummed while he worked.

Pat took a long look at the water heater and figured that the tank had cracked along the seam. He says that happens a lot to new water heaters these days. You’re lucky to get ten years out of them, he says, so cracking after just four years isn’t all that strange. The good news was it was still under warranty, so all we’d have to pay for was the labor and whatever pipes and valves he had to replace. He said he could do it right away and I said go ahead, so he called the shop to order a new heater, then set to work sawing off pipes to disconnect the old heater while the water drained from the bottom.

About fifteen minutes later, another guy, I never did get his name, pulled into the driveway with a new water heater boxed up in the back of a pickup truck. He and Pat got it ready, hauled the old water heater up out of the basement and took the new water heater down. While they were cleaning up and packing the old water heater away on the bed of the pickup truck, I noticed that the screen door was propped open. “Has that door been open long?” I asked Pat, who said it had, then caught himself. “Oh, shoot,” he said, “the cats.” I wasn’t too worried that Boo had gotten out. She dived under the sofa when the big strange men showed up and hadn’t come out. I couldn’t find Bonkers anywhere, though, and he definitely would have taken advantage of an open door. I started a search of the front yard, calling his name and kissing the air. Didn’t have to search far or call his name more than once before he answered with a thin “meaow.” Couldn’t see him, though, so I called his name again. “Meeaow.” When I finally zeroed in on him, I found him cowering behind the wheel of Pat’s van. Ten feet from the front door was as far as he got before he chickened out on his quest to see the world.

It took Pat a couple more hours to hook up the new water heater to the water and gas lines and fire it up. And it burns with the fires of hell, cranking out water hot enough to take even B by surprise, and she can stand water a lot hotter than I can. Her hands are usually bright red after she washes them under the tap, but yesterday she jumped back and yelped when she opened the faucet the way she usually did and got live steam, or something close to it. I checked the thermostat on the heater and even turned it down a notch, but it was set just one notch above “hot” with several more notches above that. I’d hate to see what comes out of the faucets when it’s turned up all the way. Maybe blood.

bloody | 6:52 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, Bonkers, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode
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Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Bonker’s medical condition has deteriorated to the point that he has a lot of trouble swallowing. He’s not as miserably sick as he was when the symptoms first began to manifest themselves. He still likes to sit in my lap. he still has his purr. But there’s a big knot of something bulging from the roof of his mouth and it’s big enough that it interferes with swallowing. To drink water, he has to dunk his snout in it and snorkle it up, instead of lapping daintily the way cats usually do. I think it’s also paralyzing the right side of his face so that he can’t close his lips all the way. He leaves trails of dribbled water all over the floor as he walks away from the dish. We keep a mop handy to clean up after him.

dribble | 6:04 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel | Tags:
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Monday, May 7th, 2012

image of Bonkers the catBonkers got his purr back this morning. Actually, he did more than just purr, he went full-goose bozo on me, rubbing his ears against the edge of the table and sticking his hinder up in the air, begging me to pat it, so I did. Even so, I had to pick him up and put him in my lap after he tried to jump up but lost his nerve and just sat there beside me, crying pathetically. Still, it was good to see him more like his old self again.

Bonk’s got something wrong in his head, but we don’t know what. The veterinarians we took him to didn’t know, either. “This is probably something neurological,“ more than one of them said, looking at his blown eye and the way he walked in circles and wobbled when he stood still. Thank you, Captain Obvious. We kept taking him back until finally they did what we in layman’s terms would describe as “tests” where, instead of merely frowning at him and throwing out several opinions, they took his blood and examined it for signs of infection, such as the very scarily-named feline leukemia, or dysfunction, such as diabetes.

Finding none of that, the last vet we took him to said we could shlep him down to the UW vet clinic, where a couple dozen student vets would take turns scanning his brain with the million-dollar equipment they have, then poking and prodding him for a while before showing us the pretty color print-outs that might or might not give some clue as to what’s going on in there. The pretty color print-outs would tell us that a) we would have to fork over several thousand dollars to a cat surgeon, who might or might not be able to cut his head open and fix what had gone wrong, or that b) the problem in Bonker’s head was not fixable. There was also the not at all slim possibility that c) they would find nothing wrong in his head and suggest another round of tests to look for something else.

We were not at all receptive to the idea of turning Bonk into a lab experiment for the benefit of student vets, and paying them for the privilege to boot. He’s sixteen or seventeen years old, which has got to be something like ninety-nine in cat years, a time in his life when our prime concern ought to be maintaining a modicum of dignity for the venerable old guy. I know it’s what I’d want, and I figure he’s earned it. So we said no thank you to a), the brain scan and the cutting his head open.

When we told the vet that there would be no brain scanning, she prescribed some steroids we could shove down his throat to reduce the swelling that was presumably taking place in his head, making him act like he feels loggy all the time. He slept all the time, even more than usual for a cat, and when he got up he could hardly cross the room without stopping to rest for a while. He didn’t meet us at the door when we came home, and he stopped purring. He still wanted to sit in a lap, he just didn’t have the will or the strength to do it.

We were really afraid the steroid they’d prescribed, Prednisolone, had triggered the symptoms in the first place. A little googling turns up all kinds of scary side effects, and a cat we had before had died when the vet prescribed a related steroid, Prednisone, at a stupidly high concentration for way too long. But at this point, Bonk needs relief and the steroid seems to be helping. He’s curled up in my lap as I type these words, happily chasing mice in his dreams, something he was too zonked out to do a week ago.

wonky-bonky | 8:30 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks | Tags: ,
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Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Boo has apparently come to the conclusion that we should not sleep in on Saturdays.

Every weekday morning, I get out of bed at five o’clock, start the coffee pot, take a shower, eat breakfast. She doesn’t pay any attention at all to me then, but on Saturday mornings, starting as early as six o’clock, she gets out of her cozy little cat’s nest and paces around our bed, mewing plaintively.

When that doesn’t get us out of bed, she claws at the sides of the box spring a couple times, a noise that sounds like the snare drum section of a marching band.

That doesn’t work, either. It’s annoying as hell, but at six o’clock on Saturday morning it would take a lot more noise than a dozen snare drums could generate to get us out of bed. When Boo realizes this, she jumps up on the bed and begins pacing back and forth, resuming her plaintive mew.

For her troubles, we usually roll over and go back to sleep, which she interprets as fifty percent success, so she redoubles her efforts by leaping from one side of the mattress to the other, landing on top of us if she can manage it. When she escalates to tactics like this, we become moving targets and I sleep with one hand shielding the family jewels, so she has to pick her targets carefully, typically aiming for the head.

This morning, she discarded with the leaping back and forth and went straight to planting her butt right beside my face and crying. Wailing, really. I tried to calm her with a little ear-rubbing, but she wasn’t having any of that. She just kept wailing. Strangling her might have made her stop, but nothing’s 100%, and besides I was wide awake by then, so I gave up and rolled out of bed.

Boo followed me across the living room, rubbing up against my legs, deliriously happy with herself and, after she’d escorted me to the kitchen and everybody was where they were supposed to be at that hour of the morning, she went back to bed. What a little shit.

wakey-wakey | 7:53 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel | Tags:
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Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

image of the BonkNobody’s really sure what’s wrong with the Bonk. His right eyeball has a pupil blow open so wide you could literally drive a Mack truck through it, if it were a smallish Mack truck and you used “literally” to mean “figuratively.”

Nobody knows why his pupil’s blown like that. The vet through it was neurological and recommended that we take him to an ophthalmologist for a thorough examination. Not an ophthalmologist that works on people, one that works on cats. A cat ophthalmologist. These really exist. My Darling B spoke to her and everything. Not that she could say what was wrong, but now we can say Bonk’s had his head examined by two specialists.

The ophthalmologist suggested Bonk could have anything from old age to a sinus infection to cancer. They always throw cancer in there, just so you don’t get your hopes up, I guess. The don’t want to say, “I couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so don’t worry,” and then get sued when your pet dies of cancer three weeks later. So he’s either just getting old, or has an ordinary infection that could be cured by a round of antibiotics, or he has a brain tumor that’s crushing his optic nerve and will soon grow so large as to turn him into a dribbling vegetable. Thanks, medical science.

But, and I cannot too hastily add this, he seems to be just fine, other than that freakily wide-open eye. He has a hearty appetite, he keeps himself groomed, he’s as lappy as ever, and he jumps up into the window to watch the dog walkers pass by the house. Still the Bonk, but with one weird old shitty eye that nobody can explain. Yeah.

blown | 9:45 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Monday, March 5th, 2012

The old Bonkity-bonk-bonk ain’t doing so well these days. A couple weeks ago he came down with what seemed to be an ordinary head cold, but when he couldn’t shake it, we took him to the vet. She gave him some low-grade antibiotics that seemed to help him shake the cold at first, but then it returned with a vengeance, so back to the vet he went. She doubled down on the antibiotics the second time and threw in some steroids for good measure, and, once again, the old Bonk rallied and seemed to be his old self again, until his eye blew open. Specifically, his right eye. The pupil won’t open and close the way it’s supposed to. A lot of the time it just won’t close at all. He washes off the right side of his face a lot, as if he’s trying to clear his vision, and every so often he’ll be walking across the floor as normal as can be until he stops suddenly and shies away from nothing at all, ducks his head, turns, and then keeps going as if he hadn’t done anything disturbingly weird. And just lately he’s been drooling a lot. A whole lot. “I think he had a stroke,” My Darling B said, and watching him slobber all over himself tonight I couldn’t find any reason to disagree with her. She’s taking him to a specialist in the morning who’s suppose to have the kind o’ learnin’ that enables vets like him to gaze into a Bonk’s very soul through his eyeball and tell us what’s wrong with him. My guess is, he’ll look deep down in there and see that he’ll want to run a lot of tests that will not incidentally cost a butt-ton of moola. That’s what the last specialist did, anyway. I’m thinking we could buy a couple dozen cans of Tiki Cat and make him a lot happier.

bonk | 10:52 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I think My Darling B and I may have crossed the line and become Old People. Not just older people, but certifiably Old People, as in crotchety old, cane-waving, get-off-my-lawn Old People. The evidence is mounting, and seemingly irrefutable. See if you don’t agree:

We both wear glasses now. I’ve been wearing glasses for dozens of years, and My Darling B has had a pair ever since about 2005, but she only recently starting wearing hers while driving and discovered, to her surprise, all the things she could’ve been seeing! The other night during dinner at a local restaurant, she amazed herself once again by putting them on and found she was able to read the labels of all the liquor bottles over the bar, about twenty feet away.

We talk to our cats as if they are children. They come to the door to meet us after work and we call their names and coo over them and make woojy-woojy noises. We never ever talk to them, we sing to them, usually repeating their names or the same phrase several times as if that’ll make them smile or laugh. This probably seems normal to some pet owners and by itself isn’t necessarily a warning of impending fossilization, but in combination with other signs it’s very definitely one of the warning signs that we are Old People.

We groan when getting up out of our chairs, or out of bed, and especially when we have been sitting on the floor and lever ourselves, slowly, to a standing position. The groans are louder the longer we have been sitting. We do not groan occasionally but EVERY TIME, like it’s hard work. And it is.

This evening, My Darling B referred to cancer as “The Cancer,” as in, My best friend, Myrtle, she has The Cancer, poor dear. If that’s not a dead giveaway, I don’t know what is.

aging | 6:58 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, damn kids!, My Darling B, O'Folks | Tags:
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Friday, November 5th, 2010

Finally, a chance to sit and dork around with a keyboard for a while and bang out something that isn’t an e-mail about education requirements for physical therapists. Let’s just see what comes out, shall we?

I would have been at this a half-hour sooner if I hadn’t run to the corner mega-grocery to buy a tin of cat food, something I wouldn’t ordinarily done after I’d already put the car away, hung up my jacket and warmed up a pair of slippers. It was either that or shove a pill down Bonkers’ throat, though, and I hate doing that almost as much as he hates getting it done to him. That he’s gotten way too old for that kind of shit just makes it an order of magnitude worse, so rather than put him through that I shod myself once again, cranked up the O-Mobile and motored down the road to Copp’s to see what they had in the way of wet cat food.

And the answer is: Not much. To be more emphatic about it, what they have to offer is pathetic. Their selection of corn chips will make me dizzy enough to fall over and gasp for air, but as far as cat food goes they had Little Friskies, 9 Lives and I forget what the third one was. I started to read the labels so I wouldn’t buy anything with a lot of crap in it, but it was all crap, ingredients with Klingon names so long they had to print them in 0.0075-point font to get it all to fit on the back of the can, so I gave up and bought just one of the smallest tins on the shelf and promised myself I wouldn’t feed them the whole thing.

We spoil them with a dab of wet food just once a day because I can break open a capsule of Bonkers’ arthritis medicine and sprinkle the little grainy bits on the food, then mash it all together with a spoon so he doesn’t know it’s there, not that he would care. I could blow my nose on it and he’d still gobble it down. Boo gets a dab of wet food, too, because it just wouldn’t be fair to lavish such extravagance on Bonkers without treating Boo to a little of it, too.

Before I went to the store, My Darling B thought that maybe she could get Bonkers to take his medicine mixed with a teaspoon or two of fish broth. It should have worked. When she made chicken broth a week or two ago she gave him just a dollop of that and he lapped it up like a wino sucking the last drops of Thunderbird from a bottle, but as it turned out fish broth just isn’t his thing. He acted as though he couldn’t even smell it, screwing up his face at B as if to ask, “What the hell’s with this empty bowl here, you obnoxious tease?”

They were both just fine with the crap food I brought home from Copp’s, though. Both cats wolfed it down. That’s not a mixed metaphor, it just looks like one. After he was properly fed, Bonkers curled up in my lap after dinner, happy as a pig in mud, and was soon snoring loudly.

On a not unrelated note, we finally had dinner at Graze, the new brewpub on cap square. One of Madison’s best-known chefs, Tori Miller, moved his flagship restaurant, L’Etoile, two blocks south on Pinckney Street and paired it with a brewpub he named Graze. L’Etoile is an upscale restaurant; hayseeds like us can afford to eat there about once a year, twice if we come into a windfall. Graze is an upscale pub; the fare is high-priced, but not out of our range. I had a burger, B had the fish fry, both were wonderful. Hope we can go back soon.

Fine Dining | 8:37 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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Friday, September 24th, 2010

image of sleeping cat owner

Our cats sleep with us. We don’t have a lot of choice in the matter, as anyone who has cats will tell you. I suppose we could put them out at night, but what’s the point of having cats if you’re going to kick them out of the house after lights out, effectively telling them they’re welcome to stay when you’re not around, but not when you want to get some sleep, the one thing cats love to do more than practically anything else?

Cats sleep a lot, and they find their own places to sleep. You can buy very cozy cat beds from your favorite pet store, and you can use all the coercion that cat experts give you to get your cats to sleep where you want them to, but in the end your cats will be the ones who decide where they will sleep. You can’t watch them all the time.

During the day, when you’re not around, they’ll sleep on the clothes you laid out for dinner in the evening, or on your good jacket, the one you left out to sew up a tear. And no cats on earth can resist curling up in laundry baskets heaped with freshly-washed clothes and left sitting in the middle of the living room floor to be folded later. Cat lovers learn early on to put away all their clothes if they don’t want to come back to find them covered in cat hair.

At night, cats will sleep where they feel most comfortable. During the summer in our house, they will find the coolest spot, usually on a floor or by an open window, because we don’t run the air conditioning all night. In the winter they will curl up in bed with us because the thermostat is set to lower the temps while we’re curled up under a big, thick down comforter.

Until a few nights ago we didn’t have a huge problem with any of this. A few minor quibbles, yes. Most notably, when I get a couple of full-grown cats curled up on either side of me, they hold down the quilt like a couple of sand bags, effectively pinning me to the mattress so completely that I wake up several times in the night with pressure sores. Worming out from under the covers to re-pile them at the foot of the bed so I can turn over is a bit of a pain, but not a huge problem.

But each of us has our own fussy peculiarities about what can take place in our bed. Breakfast in bed, for instance, is not something either one of us goes in for. I used to prepare a breakfast in bed for My Darling B on Mother’s Day and she ooo’d and aah’d appreciatively the first few times I did it but eventually came clean and confessed to me what I already knew, that there wasn’t any easy way to eat breakfast in bed without spilling the orange juice all over the eggs and getting crumbs on the sheets, and that she would rather just eat it at the table. No breakfast in bed has since become one of our rules.

A rule that we didn’t realize we would ever have to communicate to our cats, until very early in the morning a couple nights ago. One of the cats not only brought B a gift of a mouse as breakfast in bed, she plopped it right on the pillow next to B’s head where it scurried across her face and dove three feet from the edge to the safety of the floor. I don’t know what woke me up more abruptly, the way she honked like an air horn on a semi tractor or the jolt I got when she sprang out of bed.

We suspect Boo would’ve given her gift to B, while I would have been the lucky recipient of a gift from Bonkers. B’s normally a heavy sleeper but now she wakes and scans her horizon whenever she feels the bump of a cat jumping onto the bed, and as extra insurance she clicks on her bedside lamp to scan the floor before swinging her feet down if she has to make a trip to the WC.

Breakfast In Bed with Boo and B | 11:32 am CST
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Monday, September 13th, 2010

image of Bonkers the cat

Bonkers the cat was at the clinic all day today. He started acting funny last night after dinner, keeping to himself and favoring his left rear leg on the few occasions when he got up to walk a few steps across the floor. Otherwise he mostly sat or sprawled in an out of the way corner or under a desk, eyes half closed, and hardly responded to anyone or anything. Not even Boo could get a rise out of him when she got right in his face, sniffing at his nose. That all by itself was weird enough behavior to make us worry.

So I stopped by the vet’s on the way home this morning and they agreed to see Bonkers at ten. Getting him into a carrier was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Every time I coaxed him into standing up he would flinch in pain and sit right back down again, and he howled when I tried to pick him up, but that only made me more determined to get him to a doctor, so I gritted my teeth, scooped him up as gently as I knew how, and slipped him into the box. The vet carefully squeezed every inch of him until he got to the base of the tail, when Bonkers howled again and wouldn’t let the vet look much closer.

And that’s how I came to leave him at the vet’s all day. They kept him so they could give him a good looking over after administering a mild sedative, and snapped a few x-ray pictures while they had him, too. They were supposed to call me back between noon and one to let me know what was going on, but I didn’t hear from them until I finally caved in to my own impatience and called at three. It turned out the doctor turned to the one page in Bonkers’s file that had an old phone number from back when we moved here in 2005.

The prognosis: Bonkers is old. We’re not sure how old, but fourteen at least, possibly as old as eighteen. Old enough to have arthritis, anyway. The vet figures he was goofing around, acting younger than his age, and his arthritic joints gave him a jabbing reminder that he’s not the kitten he used to be. He got a shot for pain and a bottle of meds for us to sprinkle on his wet food to stave off the worst symptoms. Now there’s an up side to getting old: Bonkers gets wet food every day from here on in.

Bad Joints | 6:48 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, damn kids!, O'Folks
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Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Damn my creaky knees. I used to sit cross-legged all the time and now I can’t do it for more than thirty or forty minutes, and even keeping it that short they’re so stiff that as I uncurl them I have to fight the urge to groan, “Oil can! Oil can!” like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz. I never feel old until my knees remind me just how long they’ve been bending and unbending under my weight.

And yet somehow I can’t relax with a book or the newspaper unless I curl my legs up under me. Even though I know it won’t last, I don’t feel as though I’m comfortable unless I’m sitting cross-legged.

I was sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the Sunday paper this afternoon. Bonkers was quietly curled up in my lap. After I finished the section I was looking at I felt like shutting my eyes for maybe a half-hour, so I got up slowly enough that Bonkers wouldn’t be too freaked out, and so I could unfold my rusty old knees. Then I hobbled over to the recliner and stretched out to rest my eyes.

But I didn’t close them right off the bat. Bonkers, never one to miss out on a warm lap when one’s available, was watching me from the sofa to see what I was up to, and when he saw me take a seat in the recliner he jumped down, crossed the living room floor and popped up on the arm rest before tentatively reaching out with a paw to test the waters, so to speak. I patted a thigh so he would know he had an invitation to nap with me and he settled in, sort of.

First, he had to lick his paws, every single digit, one at a time. When he does his paws he also likes to wash his ears because they sort of go together in the feline scheme of things, I guess.

Once everything was washed he tried to fold his legs up under himself, but he’s an older cat just like me and maybe his knees were bothering him after his nap on the sofa because he couldn’t get comfortable with his legs under him. He had to roll over and stretch his legs out over the top of one of my legs. That bugged him because one of his hind legs kept slipping a little further than he wanted it to. He’d pull it back to where he wanted it but it would slip as soon as he started to doze off and he’d jerk awake, pull his paw back to where he wanted it, doze off, slip, jerk awake, et cetera. This went on until he was too tired to jerk awake. Took about ten minutes. That’s about two hours in cat years.

When he was settled in, cleaned off, semi-sleeping and had stopped jerking, I myself began to finally drift off until he started snoring. Usually a quiet, soothing sound akin to a baby’s sigh, his snoring today had the volume and rattle of a tubercular asthmatic. I’ve never heard him snore so loudly before, and it was impossible to ignore. I laid there, wide awake with my eyes closed, stubbornly insisting on getting a few winks until the clock on the wall went bong at the half-hour, then sat up and said to hell with it. There would be no proper nap this afternoon.

creaky | 10:07 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, damn kids!, O'Folks
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Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I woke at about four o’clock this morning and was at a complete loss to explain the reason for it. I hadn’t had a dream about a bear chasing and eating me, I didn’t have a cramp in my calf strong enough to bend steel, I hadn’t tried to swallow my tongue while snoring. With an hour to go until the alarm clock started having a bleeping fit, I had no idea what had brought me wide-awake … until I heard the sound of a cat moistly cleaning itself. It sounded as if it were inches from my ear.

I sat up in bed. It was inches from my ear! At some time during the night, one of our cats had wormed its way between us and all the way up to a point between our shoulder blades.

Both the cats like to sleep on our bed during the winter months, then go find cooler places to sleep during the warmer seasons. We don’t mind except in a few cases, like when they try to sleep on top of us. That earns either one of them a quick ejection from their comfy spot to the end of the bed or onto the floor. Nobody and nothing gets to sleep on top of me.

And both the cats have tried to mosey on up to the pillow more than once. B thinks that’s kind of cute, but I’m a little funny about having a cat on my pillow. It’s not that I’m worried about them sucking my soul out through my nose. It’s that I don’t want cat hair on my pillow, and keeping cats off it seems to be the easiest and most sure way to guarantee that. Plus, whenever they’re walking on my pillow I’m reminded that, no matter how much time they spend licking their own toes clean, they use the same dainty toes to walk on kitty litter, and that’s something I don’t want to put my head on. Ever.

And I don’t want to wake up at four o’clock in the morning to the sound of a cat licking itself. It’s a great time-saver they’re self-cleaning, and I say this as a guy with enough experience washing dogs that I will pay someone else to do it if I ever have one again. That doesn’t mean I like being in the same room with a cat that’s cleaning itself. It’s such a noisy process. And I don’t want to think about what they’re licking.

So the cat that woke me up this morning – judging from his size and weight, I think it was Bonkers – was rudely grappled and shoved more than halfway down the length of the bed to a less warm spot just behind my knees. And then I rolled myself up in the quilts and tried to go back to sleep, unsuccessfully. Why do we keep cats again?

sleeping arrangements | 7:20 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, sleeplessness
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Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

lappy catsOur cats are both “lappy,” Bonkers more so than Boo.
Bonkers almost always sits in my lap, Boo in B’s lap.

When I was too busy to share a lap the other night, though, Bonkers jumped up in B’s lap after he thought he’d waited long enough.

Then Boo, green-eyed monster that she can be, jumped up on top of Bonkers to claim what lap she could.
Didn’t seem to bother Bonkers much.

lappy | 9:58 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks | Tags:
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