About a decade and a half ago, a kitten told me I belonged to him, and I believed him.
I was visiting my mother, brother, and sister in Guerneville. This was some number of weeks after they had found and rescued the runt of a feral litter of kittens from certain death and nursed him back to health.
“You have to see this guy,” mom wrote, “His paws are gigantic.”
When I arrived, I had only a few minutes to say hello to people before this tiny creature peeked out at me from under a chair. He looked like he’d been put together by a committee. Of toddlers. Giant, crazy hairy ears. Huge, slightly wild eyes. Large, mittened paws with extra toes on each one. A tail that looked like an extra fuzzy bottlebrush held straight in the air. He was a cocky little fucker, even then.
I was informed that if I sat quietly, he’d come to me, so I did, and he cautiously crept over to make my acquaintance. This was a time in his young life where he was not sure whether people were monsters or trees, and so over the course of the evening, he alternated between treating me as both, occasionally taking breaks from climbing up me or running away from me to take treats from my hand.
He could not have been more adorable.
Some hours later, my mother and I sat down to watch a movie. And Thumper walked up, jumped into my lap, trilled at me, and then curled up and went to sleep, my heart wrapped up in his huge paws.
Eventually, I took him home with me, despite my mother’s rather astute observation that I am allergic to cats and would probably end up in the hospital. He’s been my home ever since.
Rest in peace, Thumper.
This is Thumper:
He has been my best buddy for fifteen years. In the last few days of those fifteen years, I have watched Thumper go from older, but still moderately spry, to weak and wobbly. Or rather, it feels that way; it’s entirely possible that this has been creeping up and I’ve been willfully ignoring that motion in the corner of my eye. I don’t know.
Our last trip to the vet left me feeling optimistic. She couldn’t believe how old he was. His teeth, ears, coat, weight—everything suggested that he was several years younger than he is.
Now he sits in front of me, swaying back and forth as he tries to maintain balance and not have his paws slip out from under him.
Now he’s lost significant weight, and the joke that he’s really all just fur and fluff is becoming less of a joke and more of a truth.
Now he doesn’t jump down from things so much as fall as strategically as he can, and it really makes a difference to him when I help him up to or down from my bed, which is less than two feet off the ground.
Now he feels almost impossibly fragile when I pick him up.
And I am fucking wrecked over it.
I know that one of the things we sign up for when we bring home our four-legged friends is a life span that is far shorter than
ours. I get that, intellectually. I understand that we don’t get to have them forever, no matter how well bonded we are. But that doesn’t make the thought of losing the best friend I have had for almost 15 years any easier, as it turns out. That doesn’t make me feel any less like my world is going to fall apart a little bit when it is time for him to go.
Note: if any of you feel the need to tell me how lucky I am to have gotten so much time with him already, please shove it somewhere dark and mildly uncomfortable, okay?
Thumper is the closest thing to one of Philip Pullman’s dæmons I will ever find in this world. While he may not be the metaphorical embodiment of any soul I may or may not have, he still knows me better than any creature on this earth and has been there for me through more heartbreak, tragedy, loss, depression, loves, victories, and achievements than anybody else in my life.
He knows when I am hurting, or sad. He knows when to walk up to me and shove his head against my side until I drag him onto my lap, or when to rest a giant mitten paw on my leg to tell me he’s right here. He knows when I need him to butt his head against my chin and purr for me, endlessly. He knows that when he walks up to me and yells at me that I know exactly what he is yelling about even if I pretend not to. He knows that if he catches my eyes, we will spend minutes just gazing at each other. He knows that if I walk through or out of a room, and I see him reach out for me with one of his massive paws, I will be unable to resist giving him the cuddles he is requesting. I know that when I put my face in his face, I will be rewarded with a kiss or nuzzle to my forehead. I know I can bury my face in his big white soft belly and all he will do is purr.
In human years, Thumper is about 80 years old. I don’t know how much more time I have with him. Might be a while, yet. Hell, we’ve been expecting each Christmas to be my friend’s cat Elliot’s last Christmas for years, but he has clearly made a deal with Death or made friends with a voodoo priest because that fucking cat is apparently not going anywhere until he is damn good and ready. So it’s possible that I have years left with my cranky old beast of a cat.
I have spent the last 15 years telling him he has to live forever, like I was casting a spell on him through sheer force of love and will. But I’m no magician.
I’m pretty sure Thumper got all the magic.
In the last few weeks I have been asked a number of times in a number of ways, where the hell I have been and why I have not been blogging. My answer has been simple: I’m taking a break.
The thing is, I didn’t take this break intentionally. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was on blogging vacation (mmmm, vacation), and I didn’t hang up my blogger hat (now you have to wonder if I actually have a hat for blogging) with the idea that I wouldn’t be wearing it any time soon.
The fact is, after the dustup from the last two posts, I’m on the emotionally exhausted side. The rather extensive group of people who felt that my post was necessary have thanked me for “taking that bullet” (their words), but the thing about bullets—even figurative bullets—it takes some time to recover from them.
Please don’t mistake this for whining—I knew what I was doing when I wrote and published the first of the last two posts. I accepted that fact when I hit “publish” and as I became more and more exhausted by some of the responses I had to actively and consciously own it.
I’m not done here. I still have a wealth of opinions (popular and not-so-popular) and probably some new flowcharts to make. I have guest posts I still haven’t put together and published from my friends Allegra and Sasha. I’ll be back, but probably not in a Schwarzenegger-y sort of way.
So…yeah. I don’t know how to end this post gracefully, so I’m just gonna leave you with a picture of my cat.
I suppose it’s time for my increasingly traditional annual retrospective.
If 2013 were a cartoon animal, it would be the Cat in the Hat, balancing too much shit and ultimately failing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, many, many good things happened in 2013.
- I went to Puerto Vallarta, my first vacation in six years.
- My friends generously helped me get Iago, my beloved motorcycle back on the road.
- With some overlap, my friends also helped me raise significant funds for the organization for which I work.
- I moved into a fantastic apartment in SF (with laundry AND a dishwasher AND hardwood floors AND natural light AND off-street parking).
- I met Allie Brosh.
- I got three raises (which add up to, in just a little over a year, a 29% raise from my first salary here).
- Luke and Marisa got married.
- Jay and Jenneviere got married.
- What I am hoping is becoming a Christmas tradition of spending one of the most annoying days of the year with my friends Lisa, Matt, and Elaine.
- I have met some new people and made some new friends, at least two of whom are definitely keepers (and one I just fucking love so much I gave her, as somebody pointed out when I mentioned the book signing, an original Allie Brosh drawing).
- I beat my all time best bowling score. Which isn’t amazing, but I’m still pretty pleased with myself. (Current best: 157.)
- I learned some new things about who I am and how my brain works that explains A LOT about me and is helping me to make sense of my life and who I am.
But 2013 also slipped on a gigantic pile of shit, twisted its ankle, and landed on its face in yet another gigantic pile of shit with its mouth wide fucking open, for me and for people I love.
Losing Sparkly Devil broke more hearts than mine, and I think some part of me is always going to be wondering when we are going to go get our next cocktail and talk about everything. I still make notes in my head for things I want to chat with her about. Apparently it’s going to be a while, so I should start writing them down.
- I have watched my friends lose people, family members, partners to death, relationship failure, and drama. Broken hearts everywhere.
- There are friends who have been too far away for me to give them the kind of support I wanted to give.
- I am having to face the fact that my beloved constant companion, my purrbucket, my cuddly, affectionate, loving, and deeply annoying cat Thumper is officially old. He still looks great in a bowtie, though.
I don’t do the resolution thing, really. I know what I want to accomplish in the next year. I don’t know how I am going to do all of it, yet, but I’ll figure it out.
Happy New Year.
He doesn’t wake you up at 5am…because he can wake you up at 4:30.
When he throws up, he never uses the floor—when your clothes are available.
His kibble is larger than the average kibble—because he’ll eat too fast and boot it immediately if it’s any smaller.
He thinks—and poops—outside the box.
He has the closest thing to opposable thumbs that a cat can have—but he cries pitifully in front of slightly open doors.
He’s not afraid to tell you that you have been neglecting him for at least ten minutes.
He is…the most annoying cat in the world.
Well, SCOTUS is drunk.
No, really. Obviously drunk.
Those of us who are not just keeping track of the Prop 8 decisions may have noticed the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the funny idea that racism just isn’t an issue anymore. I guess nobody has stopped and frisked Clarence Thomas recently.
So, folks are dismayed and disappointed all over the internet, in my office, and probably in Dolores Park, too. But that’s probably because it’s raining, and Dolores Park in the rain is dismaying and disappointing. And of course everybody is worried about Prop 8–regardless of what the preferred outcome might be.
So, to everybody who is bummed out about bad SCOTUS decisions, look at this fucking cat.
This fucking cat is the cutest. He just wants to take his fucking giant, fluffy, polydactyl paw and rub it all over his fucking adorable face for you. This fucking cat is working it so hard to make you feel better about today. And today’s a fucking bummer. I mean, the fucking VRA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Seriously, go fucking print that shit out. THERE. You just wasted some fucking paper.
So check it out. This cat’s name is fucking Thumper. He has a fucking RABBIT’S name. How fucking cute is that? He has fucking thumbs on his great big mitteny fuckng paws. His feet are practially fucking snowshoes. I have a fucking SNOWCAT. Thumper just wants to love you. When he rolls over and shows you his fluffy white belly, he wants you to fucking pet it. That fucking belly is not a fucking trap, and it’s so fucking soft you won’t be able to stop petting it. You would feel so much fucking better right now if you just cuddled up and listened to his fucking amazing purr, which gets louder and louder the more you pet him.
This fucking video has music, so if you are at work, wear some fucking headphones. And when you are feeling all pissed off about SCOTUS? Look at this fucking cat.
I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.
Anybody who knows me personally figures out pretty quickly that I adore animals. It’s not a walk home from the BART station unless I have stopped to pet and talk to every neighborhood dog and cat I can reach. Even the dog who so vigilantly and vocally guards the erstwhile itinerant squat and crackhouse around the corner from my humble abode gets a thumbs up and encouragement from me—I’m not offended, he’s just doing his job, and a damn fine one.
Animals tend to enjoy my company as well, and it is very rare for a wee beastie to reject my advances (and that usually only lasts for a day at the most). The number of times I have heard, “Whoa, wait a sec, s/he doesn’t let anybody else do that but me” is sufficient to make me think it’s a bit of a thing.
So when, in the days just before the wedding of one of my dearest friends, I had the opportunity to visit the Earthfire Institute and hang out with some beasts who were not especially tame but were deemed unfit (for reasons of health/fitness, usually) to be released back to the wild, I could not have been more excited. Excited enough, in fact, that I was one of three people awake early enough for the morning session (note: excited enough and not so painfully hungover that a morning was required to recover) at the Institute.
My friends Kelly, Ken, and I were warmly received by Susan and Jean, who gave us some quick background on the Institute, introduced us to their dog, Boychuk, and then took us into a brand new enclosure area. There they informed us we were going to meet some wolves.
“Don’t make eye contact,” they admonished gently, “and don’t let them sneak up behind you. These wolves have been around people, but they aren’t tame.”
Being a person of both wit and intelligence, I was sufficiently cowed by that spare warning that it took some effort to remain relaxed and breathing slowly; I did not want the wolves to be put off by tension or anxiety.
They let the wolves in. One male (Wamaka), large and confident, and one female (can’t remember which one she was), diminutive and skittish. Each tried their hand (paw?) at sneaking up behind me, the female several times. Each time I whirled around, looking just to the side of their beautiful faces, wishing I could meet their intelligent, lovely eyes without it being a sign of aggression. Their paws danced on the ground as they nipped in to smell the new humans in their midst, and their tails wagged and brushed my leg and side as they explored and examined the situation.
I left my hand down for them to smell and snuck scritches in when they got close enough. The female rarely got close enough for me to touch her; I was only allowed to get that good spot behind her ears once. Wamaka, however, began spending longer and longer at my side, allowing me to bury my fingers in his thick silvery fur, to feel the muscles shift under fur and skin as he moved, to let me feel just how soft his ears really were. He took to leaning up against me so I could get that spot between his shoulders as I tried not to let him unbalance me. He played with me a little; we were both cautious about that, for I did not want to inadvertently threaten him and he was still unsure of me. I suspect, given a day or so, we might have been running about the enclosure like two pups, but we didn’t have a day.
When we were informed that the wolves were going to go back to their homes outside the enclosure, he was leaning up against me again, so I leaned down and, with the abandon I usually show when faced with a large, particularly friendly dog, put my arms around this wolf and scritched him all over, as if he’d just triumphantly returned a frisbee to me. He huffed in my face, sneezed (but not in my face, for Wamaka is a polite wolf), and ran off with the the female and the two humans who cared for and fed him.
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I have rarely met two people so dedicated to the animals they serve as Susan and Jean (and Jean might as well be half-animal himself, for the way he communicates and bonds with the beasties there, from fox to bear to wild cat), and the few hours I was there fundamentally realigned how I felt about the world around me. I recommend a visit to their website, and think it would be rad if you could make a donation to them so that they can keep doing what they do. And if you ever find yourself heading to Idaho, it’s definitely worth a visit, or more.
This is the general progression for any time I catsit for longer than a few days.
For the record, I did not actually find any cat journals. All cat journal entries are 57% fictional.
Some number of days ago, I took this photo of my cat:
But then I couldn’t decide whether he was plotting or pouting. So I made these:
And now…now I just don’t trust my cat anymore. Let’s not forget: he’s got thumbs. There’s no telling what he could do if he set his nut-sized brain to it.
I’m sure y’all remember Moto, by now.
This handsome fellow is Nijinsky. Nijinsky is Moto’s long-suffering-yet-charmingly-(mostofthetime)-neurotic older brother.
Nij: Ummmm….whatcha doin’?
Nij: Soooo…. *headbutts my knee*
Me: Just a sec, buddy.
Nij: No. Right now. *paw on my leg*
Me: Nijinsky. Can’t you—
Nij: But I love you. So much. Right NOW. *nose on my nose*
Me: NIJINSKY I HAVE TO PROTECT THE WAGON FROM THESE BANDI—Well, fuck it. Now I’m dead.
Nij: *purr* *gentle headbutt*
Remember Otto? As it turns out, he’s much better with paint than he is with unfamiliar musical instruments—as my beloved friends Sasha and Nate discovered while painting their imminent baby’s room this week (“Imminent Baby” is now my Britney Spears cover band name). He likes to help. And by “help,” I mean, “‘help’”. Sasha submitted this for your perusal and enjoyment, Gentle Readers.
So with no more ado, Conversations Sasha Gets To Have With Otto, and don’t forget—Otto speaks in all caps. It’s a thing.
Sasha: Hey, Otto. What are you up to?
Sasha: Wait, what’s that on your whiskers?
Sasha: Your whiskers are green and blue. And you have paint on your face.
Sasha: Oh, no, have you been in the baby’s room?
Sasha: Dammit, cat! I’m eight months pregnant. Don’t make me chase you. Oh, shit. Stay out of there!
Otto: *running away* HELPIIIING!
WP note: It’s true. He was definitely HELPING. I visited the apartment last night, and Otto had at least two different colors on his neck and whiskers. Good thing everything goes with black.
This is Thumper:
You may not realize this, but Thumper is actually my cat, whereas Moto, Otto, and Nutz all belong in various San Francisco apartments to which the unwitting residents have given me keys.
WP: Hey Thump, you okay there, buddy?
Thumper: I’m fine. *moves a little closer*
Thumper: It’s cool, everything’s cool. *moves a little closer*
Thumper: I’M TOTALLY FINE OVER HERE, EVERYTHING’S FINE. *pause* FINE. *rolls closer*
WP: Hey little man. You can come all the way over here.
Thumper: You know, that chair does look comfortable. But it’s not because I’m scared. And I’m gonna just curl right up on you. Because…because you’re warm. Okay?
WP: Look buddy—
Thumper: Shut UP. I’m FINE. I’m not even LOOKING AT YOU.
WP: *pets the cat reassuringly*
Thumper: OH THANK GOD WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG? *PURRPURRPURRPURR*
This is Otto (and my guitar):
(Otto speaks in all caps.)
Otto: WHAT IS THAT?
WP: It’s a guitar. You have seen these before.
Otto: YEAH BUT WHAT IS THAT?
WP: It’s a guitar, Otto.
Otto: DO I EAT IT?
WP: You can try.
Otto: OKAY. BUT WHAT IS IT?
WP: It’s a— Okay. Listen. *strums guitar*
Otto: OMG WTF WHAT IS THAT YOU SAID I COULD EAT IT.
And then he ran into the hallway and yelled at me from behind the door for five minutes before he forgot what had happened. The photo was taken at his second attempt to determine the nature of the guitar.
I’m sure nobody’s forgotten Moto, King of Pants.
It usually goes something like this:
Moto: *stands and hooks claws into jeans* *stretches* Heeeeeeeeeeeeeyyy.
WP: Oh, hey.
WP: Yeah, you said that already.
Moto: Heeeeeyyy. I’m on your paaaaants.
WP: *scoops Moto up* Not anymore, jerk.
Moto: *puts nose on my glasses* *purrs* I love you.
Moto: *full force headbutt* I love you.
WP: That’s n—
WP: *tries to spit out newly acquired fur* Okay—headbutt—I’m gonna—headbutt—put you—headbutt—down now.
Moto: PURR *hugs my hand*
WP: *ices face*
My cat worships at the base of the heater.
“I love you,” I imagine him whispering tenderly,
Reaching a paw out to touch the tile on which
purring only for the flame that is just—
to my relief—
out of his reach.
“I love you,” he says, “but Heater, oh beloved Heater—
can you do something about
this dry food situation?”
The heater sighs regretfully, and creaks its sad reply:
Remember Moto Nimitz, bathroom companion?
Moto decided to help me with my post-shower routine today.
Moto: Hey, you’re wet.
WP: Hey yeah, I am.
Moto: I can pull your towel down.
WP: Hey, now. I wasn’t done with that.
Moto: Yes you were.
WP: Fine. I’ll just put my pants on.
Moto: Those are pants! I want to be in your pants.
WP: Moto, not again.
Moto: PAAAAAAANTS! I’m IN THEM!
WP: GODDAMN IT MOTO.
Moto: PAAAAANTS! Oooooh, whuzzat?
WP: NOT YOURS. *reaches down to remove cat from pants*
Moto: PAAAA–HEY. Not cool, pants monkey. Now this is happening. *pounces on foot*
WP, with pants still down and cat attacking foot: I—agh…NO—MOTO!
…and that’s the story of how I ended up half-naked on the floor of my friends’ bedroom with my pants around my ankles, a cat nuzzling my ear, and a sincere appreciation for the fact that cats use neither cameras nor social media.
This is the most recent conversation I had with Nutz:
Nutz: Hey, you are just sitting there.
Me: Working. I’m working, Nutz.
Nutz: Hey, my paw’s on your leg now. Cuz you are just sitting there.
Me: Nutz. I’m working. These cases aren’t going to read themselves.
Nutz: Hey, both of my front paws are on your leg, now.
Me: Okay, I can put my arm over you to type.
Nutz: What if my front paws were on your other leg, and I was, like, standing on your lap?
Me: I can still see over you.
Nutz: And what if I were to lean into your chest and rub my head on your chin?
Me: I—Nutz, goddamn it.
Nutz: And what if I were to flip over onto my back in your arms and put my paw on your cheek?
Me: OHFORFUCKSSAKE. *cuddles cat, then removes him from lap and goes back to work*
2 minutes later…
Nutz: Hey, you are just sitting there.
This is Moto Nimitz:
This is my most recent conversation with Moto, who managed to get the door open to the bathroom while I was inside:
Moto: Hey, there you are.
Whiskeypants: Uh. Yeah.
Moto: Hey. Hey. Hey.
Moto: Hey, watcha doin? You peeing? Is that what you’re doing?
W: Yeah, seems like it.
Moto: Can I touch that?
Moto: What about this? And are those pants? I want to be in your pants.
Moto: Paaaants! I’m in them!
W: Moto. Moto, stop. Moto. MOTO THAT TICKLES.
Moto: Paaaants! Captive audience! Paaaaants!
W: Cat. I need to leave the room. And walk. *falls over*
Monday: Cat is miserable and scratching his fur off. Poor guy.
Thursday: Cat is infested and leaving flea parts and flecks of blood everywhere. Poor me.
Sunday: What is most likely to eradicate fleas and leave you and your pet alive? Must research.
Wednesday: I have begun the process of wiping them out. Tons of laundry, vacuuming, chemicals. My cat thinks that I am trying to kill him. A flea dip results in yowling and screaming for help. The neighbors do not come, and little Kitty Genovese must endure his bath. I keep telling him that it’s for the best.
Saturday: He’s not talking to me. I have changed his scent, replaced his collar, and he still itches.
Sunday: All is quiet.
Monday: More action must be taken. I thought them merely tiny groups of fleas. They were actually trained soldiers practicing guerrilla maneuvers on the part of a much larger organization.
Monday night: It’s cool. I can handle this. I am bigger than them, and I have a vacuum cleaner.
Tuesday: There are more than I thought. And they might have guns.
Wednesday: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
I think they might be mobilizing, so I am doing this today. We can’t let tOH GOD THEY ARE ON MEEEEEEE