Sophie the Black Cat

Opinion—Pets speak, but we have to understand their language (part two)

Opinion

Read part one.

Although I have had many dozens of pets throughout my life, I never made it a practice to take my pets to the veterinarian for a regular checkup. My attitude was, “It’s a dog!” or “It’s a cat!” or “It’s a bird!” If it gets sick and dies, I’ll get another one.

Even though I loved all of my pets, I never had any one of them long enough to get emotionally attached to them, probably because I was too involved in doing people things— working, traveling, partying, going to concerts, eating out….

It wasn’t until Thanksgiving Day 2006 when something happened.

Jim and I had been together since May 26, 1994, and I had been without a pet of any kind since April 15, 1993, when I left Penney & Sugar behind in Texas and went off to do a little bit of euthanasia on myself.

On November 23, 2006, a stray black cat showed up at our house out in the boondocks. I gave it food and water. It ate, drank, and left. I never expected to see it again, figuring it was just passing through.

Sophie the Black CatOn Christmas Eve 2006, it showed up again. I’m thinking, “Hmmmm. A cat that knows human holidays….” I gave it food and water (picture at left). It ate, drank, and stayed….

Jim had grown up with cats. I had cats, but they were outdoor cats, so I would only see them when their hunting expedition had been unsuccessful on any night and they came home for food.

We both got emotionally attached to that little black cat. We named her Sophie and tried to make an indoor cat out of her. When dusk arrived each evening, though, Sophie would howl like a coyote until we let her out.

Sophie on fenceI think what I liked most about Sophie is that she would follow us around, just like a dog, and I always had been pretty much a dog person. When I was in the gardens, she was right there with me. She would follow us down the street to the mailbox and to the upper part of the lot to pull weeds. She was comfortable in the house…. until the sun went down.

Sophie the Black CatWhen we decided to move out of the boondocks and into a condominium in an East San Diego County suburb, we took Sophie with us. She used to follow us around on the walkways, and while we were in the hot tub or swimming pool, she was in the trees checking out everything to make sure we were safe.Sophie the Black Cat

We had been in our condominium for only five months when I got a phone call at 6:00 on the morning of September 20, 2007. It was a neighbor a street over calling to tell me that she had found Sophie’s body in the street, had moved the body up to a curb, and had placed a towel over the body. I thanked her for her compassion, jumped in the car, and went to get Sophie.

Sophie graveI uncovered Sophie to make sure it was her. I never should have done that—it’s an image that is with me to this day. Her little body, including her head, was smashed flat. I spent a couple of minutes crying before I put her in the car, took her to our old home in the boondocks, which we had not sold yet, and buried her, still crying. I marked her grave with a little cat face and whiskers made out of little stones (picture above).

I cried for several hours, and when Jim got up, I told him what had happened. We hugged each other, and cried together.

I told Jim that I wanted to go to the animal shelter and get a cat, an indoor cat, because I didn’t ever want to see a pet’s body again that had been crushed and killed by a car.

We got Zoey the Cool Cat on September 21, 2007. We saw her on September 20, but she wasn’t available for adoption until September 21, and they would not put her on hold. It was first come, first serve. We got to the animal shelter 15 minutes before they opened on September 21 so that we would first in line and could get Zoey.

Zoey was her name when we adopted her, but after just a few hours in our home, I snapped this picture of her:

She looks a little relaxed, probably happy to be out of that animal shelter. I thought it so cool the way she just took over my office chair. I pictured her daydreaming, “I like this place. It’s cool. I’ll stay.” That was when I added “the Cool Cat” to her name. I always referred to her as Zoey the Cool Cat, never just Zoey. Jim and other people would shorten her name to just Zoey, but never me.

I thought there only was going to be a part 2, but after writing about Sophie and seeing her pictures again, I need to take a break. I have tears in my eyes, heartbroken about how these two cats left us. I’ll finish this tomorrow with part 3 about why Zoey the Cool Cat’s death is completely my fault. She should have been able to live several more years if not for my own ignorance, stupidity, and stubbornness.

Rest in peace my two precious little ones.Sophie the Black Cat

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Zoey the Cool Cat in her new sack

Opinion—Pets speak, but we have to understand their language (part one)

Opinion

I feel very guilty about the death of Zoey the Cool Cat.

Let me explain.

I grew up in Brigham City, Utah, and Kingsville, Texas, both agricultural rural areas then, and now.

Because of their rural nature, I had many “pets” during my youth, everything from ducks, dogs, ponies, and horses in Utah to fish, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, opossums, raccoons, birds, cows, pigs, horses, a 7-foot blue indigo snake, and even a monkey. Sadly, though, I never had any of those creatures for longer than a couple of years. It’s the nature of a farm and youth ignorance.

Texas A&M UniversityWhen I went off to college at Texas A&M University, the only pets I had were those at the animal shelter and those belonging to friends. I missed having a companion and promised myself that I would have a pet when I graduated.

I kept that promise. In April 1978, I got two Beagle puppies, Union and Pacific, named after my infatuation with the Union Pacific Railroad. That was the same time that I got the first job that I truly enjoyed, working for Grocer’s Supply International in Houston. My job was to represent the company at national and international food and export conventions. I was going to be doing a lot of traveling, for days and weeks at a time. I gave Union and Pacific to a friend, who promised I would get them back when I “settled down.”

I never settled down.

I thought I had settled down in April 1983 when I moved from Houston back to College Station, hoping to get a job with Texas A&M University. When I finally got that job in June 1984, I was taking weekends off and traveling here and there to concerts. Saw everyone except The Beatles and The Who.

It wasn’t until October 1987, after I had seen all the major groups that I wanted to see (and that were still groups—that’s why I never saw The Beatles and The Who), I got two dogs. One was a rescue dog from the neighbors of friends in Houston. It was a female dachshund named “Puppy Doggy.” Those people in Houston were immigrants from China. They had a momma dachshund and her puppies tied up behind the washer and dryer in the garage. They were planning on eating them for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Eventually the SPCA got involved and took the dogs from them; I got one of them.

Puppy Doggy was only with me for a few short months. Since she was supposed to be a meal, apparently one can fatten up dogs by neutering them way too early, feeding them a lot, and not letting them exercise. Unfortunately, one of the problems with neutering a dog too early is that they can become incontinent. Puppy Doggy became incontinent at about six months of age. It was too much for me to handle, so I donated her to the Texas A&M University Veterinary School so that they could give her the love and care she needed while doing critical but compassionate research on incontinence. I visited Puppy Doggy every month for several years until she died. She was only four years old, but her horrible start in life didn’t bode well for a long life.

Immediately after letting Puppy Doggy go to the vet school, I got two dogs, a long-haired dachshund, Penney, and a chow chow/basenji mix, Sugar.

Penney and Sugar

I had both dogs until April 15, 1993, when I abandoned my life in Texas, intent on going to sleep permanently in Canada by the end of April (see A suicide journey ends in failure). I confided in only one person, Eric. He had been a close friend, roommate, and employee until, searching for his own life, he joined the United States Army. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, just 90 miles away. He came and got Penney and Sugar, promising to find them good homes since he couldn’t have pets on the army base. I found out several years later that his girlfriend took both dogs. He did marry that girlfriend and they had both dogs for many years.

Because my own life was in turmoil, I did not get another pet. I didn’t even consider such until 2003 or so when my life settled down. A big part of that settling was due to my husband, Jim. We have been together since May 26, 1994, but from 1994 to 2003 I was either traveling for work or starting my own companies. Both took too much time from me. Then a stray black cat visited our house on Thanksgiving day in 2006 (see Cats—How it started).

Tomorrow I’ll explain why I feel so guilty about how and why Zoey the Cool Cat died.

Rest in peace, Zoey the Cool Cat. I loved you dearly, and you’ll always be a part of my heart and life. I’m so sorry that I didn’t take better care of you.

Olivia on the bed

New member of the family

With the moving on of our beloved Zoey the Cool Cat, a hole was left in our hearts. That hole never will be completely filled, but we partially filled it yesterday when Olivia joined our family.

Olivia under the bed

Olivia was abandoned in a box at the front door of the El Cajon Animal Shelter the night of June 2-3.

El Cajon Animal Shelter

From the looks of her tummy, I believe she just had kittens. I guess the previous owners didn’t understand spaying. They probably sold the kittens and then dumped this little one.

Interestingly, they apparently left a note with Olivia telling her name and how old she was. As of June 11, 2019, she was 1 year 6 months 3 weeks old, so I have pegged her birthday as November 21, 2017.

We got home with her at 11:33 a.m. She proceeded to explore the house for about 20 minutes before finding the one bed that she could crawl under, and there she stayed for about four hours.

Olivia under the bed

I coaxed her out with some wet food, and ever since she’s been running from room to room; exploring all the window sills; grooming; and watching the rabbits (second picture below), ground squirrels, and birds.

Olivia on a window sill

Olivia on a window sill watching a rabbit

She has lots of spring in her back legs, being able to leap a tall building with a single bound, and I do believe she is the fastest cat in the world. It’s about 40 yards from the front door through the living room through the dining room down the hallway and into, her choice, one of the two bedrooms or the office. She does that 40-yard dash in 3.1415926 seconds.

Olivia is a Domestic Short Hair, and judging from her cute little black nose and goatee, and her spikey-looking fur (it’s actually quite soft), I believe she is into goth metal music. That’s not The Beatles….

Olivia's black nose and goatee

She has discovered the catio, is eating/peeing/pooping, and generally just a lot of fun to watch, hold, and love.

Olivia eating

Her black and white seems to go well with the colors of the bedspread quilt.

Olivia on the bed

Jackson Galaxy (“My Cat From Hell”) says that a grooming cat is a happy and healthy cat. Let’s go with that.

Olivia grooming

We have two months to get acquainted. After that, we cannot return her to the animal shelter and get our adoption fee back. I hope she decides to stay.

Olivia

Picture of the Moment—Post-dashcam days

Picture of the Moment

I went by this car on fire before the police, fire trucks, and ambulances got there. There’s no additional information online so I presume everyone involved is okay. In pre-dashcam days I would have stopped to take a picture. I always felt guilty about stopping to take pictures of accidents and such. I like post-dashcam days better.

Vehicle on fire

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Nature’s Geometry: Flora—Who is Russel Ray?

Since January 28, 2019, I have been doing the final editing and design layout on a 350-page book titled Spiny Succulents: Euphorbias, cacti, and other sculptural succulents, and (mostly) spiny xerophytic plants. I finished it yesterday. It will be on sale in late October or early November, and is the fourth book by the author, Jeff Moore, on cacti and succulents. As with his first three books, there are lots of beautiful pictures, over 1,340 of them.

Seeing how easy it is to publish a book in today’s world—one can even get an ISBN for as low as $4.95—encouraged me to do what I have always wanted to do: write a book. I actually have two books in mind, Nature’s Geometry: Flora and Nature’s Geometry: Fauna. They basically will be picture books, with a little writing thrown in for good measure, and will allow me to combine a lifelong love of photography, nature, writing, and mathematics. My first task, then, was to ask myself, “Who is Russel and why does he get to write these two books?” In other words, “About the Author.” I sat down last night while watching the movie “Silent Hill” and wrote about Russel (that’s me!), a long diatribe that obviously will be edited for brevity for the final book. Following is what I came up with, still in first person:My Heartleaf Ivy

I was born in 1955 in Kingsville, Texas. After my dad died in 1961, mom moved us to northern Utah where her family was from. It was in Brigham City, Utah, where I became fascinated by nature. Our neighbor next door was Mrs. Larson, my first grade teacher. She had beautiful plants in her yard, and one day she gave me a “heartleaf ivy,” Philodendron cordatum. That started my fascination with plants.

My paternal grandmother adopted me in December 1965 and took me home to Kingsville. In September 1966, the principal of the grade school was going around to home rooms and asking for volunteers to learn photography. The school provided Nikon cameras, a darkroom, supplies for the darkroom, adult supervisors for the darkroom, and, most importantly, free entry to all school events, including football, baseball, basketball, and tennis (my four favorite sports). I was an easy sell, and that was my start in photography.

In September 1968, my first class in eighth grade was botany. My teacher, Mrs. Bajza, presented a slide show of many beautiful plants, all growing in her gardens. When I got home that afternoon, I asked my grandmother if I could have a small garden in her yard. I was Cooling condenserexpecting a loud and definitive, “NO!”. However, granddad and I had installed central heating and cooling earlier that year, and grandma gave me the 100-ft square section where the cooling condenser was located. If you’re familiar with cooling condensers, nothing had been growing around ours for about six months because of the hot air blowing from that condenser. I was depressed and went over to visit my best friend, Richard. He and his parents listened to me complain and invited me to go with them to the Rio Grande Valley the coming weekend to visit nurseries, which turned out to be specialized cactus and succulent nurseries. I was mesmerized. Richard’s parents allowed me to pick out plants that I liked and they bought them for me. I created a rock wall surrounding the cooling condenser to force the hot air up, allowing me to plant my cacti & succulents on the other side of the rock wall, protected from the hot condenser wind. Eventually the plants grew and bloomed, and that was the start of my fascination with cacti & succulents.

My math addiction came about because I had been good with numbers from a very early age. I was quite adept using a slide rule when I was in first grade.

Slide rule

In twelfth grade, I won a math competition in South Texas for my presentation, “Tips & Tricks To Help You With Math.” That allowed me to go to a statewide competition a few weeks later, where I came in second. First place was taken by a girl in twelfth grade in Dallas for her presentation, “Fibonacci Numbers & Nature.” Her presentation resulted in me combining my three loves of math, nature, and photography.

This book will explore nature’s geometry using math, specifically the golden ratio created by the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, but also the golden angle, the reverse golden angle, the golden rectangle, and the golden spiral, all derived from the Fibonacci number sequence.

Throughout these pages are pictures, most of them my pictures of plants in my collection, showing how the Fibonacci number sequence expressed itself in our cacti & succulents as the number of ribs on a gymnocalycium, the number of spines in a cactus areole, and, of course, the spirals prominently displayed in many species, most notably in the center of the sunflower (Helianthus) and the spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla).

Sunflower

Aloe polyphylla - Spiral Aloe

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post