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Yang_April

The last time I mentioned Yang on this blog, I talked about the unexpected success of getting him to wear a harness so he could be a balcony cat on the 16th floor of our condo. He had a fantastic spring out there with us, full of cool breezes and irresistible puddles of sunshine, a combination that enabled some of the most peaceful and satisfying naps of his life.

It’s taken me a long time to work up to writing this post. Yang died on May 19 after a short bout with cancer.

He was happy enough, but we knew he was slowing down. He had become so docile that, as you can see in the photo above, we would often let him wonder around on the patio without his harness.

Like all good animal emergencies, Yang’s problems started the very day I left town for a business trip to San Antonio. A mere two hours after I had landed, the husband called to tell me that he had found blood in the litter box and had already made an appointment with the vet. I stumbled through the better part of 24 hours, not knowing if I would still have a cat when I flew home.

Cancer. Probably. In his intestines. The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy, which was a patently ridiculous notion given his age — he was nearly 18 (for all we know he was ALREADY 18, since we had made an educated guess when Yang and his brother showed up and simply let them share my June birthday). To be clear, the vet didn’t push this option, but instead offered a couple of palliative treatments that cleared up the blood problem and seemed to perk him up a little.

So, I came home to help run a cat hospice.

He was a great patient. He decided that his usual diet wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and would only eat Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats, with minuscule doses of Pepcid AC. I figured it wasn’t the worse thing in the world, giving a dying cat whatever he wanted.

He had a pretty good two weeks. He ate, he drank water from the bathtub faucet, he chased sun around the condo, he moseyed out onto the balcony when he got the chance.

That final Sunday, though. Wow. He got 100 percent worse in a matter of hours. You know that horrible feeling, when you’re taking care of an old animal, or one that’s simply too sick to go on, that you won’t know when it’s time to let go? We totally knew it was time to let go.

As the day wore on, he lost most of his ability to walk. His balance was off, and his back legs just weren’t working right. He somehow was still able to get to the litter box, but he had no interest in food or water. He spent part of the night with me on the bed — I didn’t want him to wake up unable to move and scared to be alone, but that didn’t fly for long. Independent cat demanded to get down around 1 a.m., and he spend the rest of the night sleeping in the hallway. He was limp and non-responsive when I woke up a few hours later, and I was shocked to find that he was still breathing. He stirred as we started making breakfast, and he actually drank some water that I offered — I knew he needed to be hydrated to make it easier for the vet to find a vein. (I may be a complete emotional wreck on occasion, but I’m still the girl you want on your side to think clearly during bad times.)

We called in a euthanasia specialist (apparently a thing in large cities, thank goodness) so we wouldn’t have to subject him to a car ride. Dr. Katie Billmaier with Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice was a blessing that day. She came through the front door and immediately began doting on Yang. Part vet, part social worker, she let us tell her stories about him and completely control the timeline. It was all very gentle and very peaceful.

Like his brother before him, Yang was dutifully driven to the crematorium by the two people who had cared for him since he and his brother showed up on the carport of our rental house in Mobile, Ala., in 1996. We wrapped him in a pillowcase that my grandmother had embroidered (it matched the one that Yin was cremated with) and outfitted him with Greenies, a spoonful of catnip and a couple of toys.

Thus ends the saga of Yin and Yang, two Very Good Cats.

The condo is unbearably quiet at times, although it’s not so much the sounds of Yang that I’m missing (he was notoriously opposed to noise), but simply his presence. You spend 17 years with a furry little beastie, you expect him to be in one of his spots.

We’re cat-free for the moment. After caring for a quiet, older cat for so long, I don’t know that we have the patience or time to return to the hijinks of younger cats.

Mostly, though, I get the feeling that these guys might just be irreplaceable. R.I.P., Yin and Yang.

The husband and I attended the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival over the weekend, and it was complete sensory overload. Starting with a rosé tasting at 10 a.m. (which, to be honest, turned into more of a rosé imbibing), the day was filled with everything from gumbo (straight outta New Orleans) to caramel cake and sparkling wine to bourbon (a lot of bourbon, in fact, for a WINE festival).

pieshop

So, too much to cover at once, but one of the more memorable items was a cherry-habanero pie from the Pie Shop in Atlanta.

You read that right: cherry-habanero. A little sweet, a lot spicy. I’ve either got to learn to make it or include a separate category for pie purchases in my monthly budget.

Holy mother of pastries, you can get an annual pie subscription, too.

Dear Yellow Pages:

So, wow. You followed me all the way to Atlanta. Not to be mean, but I thought we were done. I mean, I’ve been chucking you (and some other phone book that looked a lot like you, but was even less valuable) straight into the recycling bin for YEARS.

We haven’t had a real relationship since high-speed Internet became a reasonably basic service.

Come on. I didn’t even hook up my landline this time around, yet I came home one day to discover that you had arrived in the mail. It seems a tad desperate, don’t you think?

Oh, you say. But what if the Internet goes down? For DAYS. Then I’m going to sorry, right? When I need a big printout of indexed phone numbers and can’t get online to find them?

We’ve discussed this, and I remain unconcerned by your argument. If the Internet at my home and office goes down for days, there’s every chance that the power is also off, and I’ll have more pressing problems than finding the number for my hair salon.

Also? I rent now, so flipping through your many pages to find a roofer? Not a thing for me.

I feel I should also mention the fact that every contractor I’ve used in the past couple of years — including a tile guy, a painter and lawn care service — has exclusively used a cell phone for contact, meaning they’re not even LISTED in you.

If the Internet ever falls and the landline comes back to life, we’ll talk. In the meantime, please stop following me.

Old cat, new tricks

Lest we enjoy the cityscape without him, Yang now enjoys full balcony privileges thanks to his new Kitty Holster.

We’re 15 floors up in our new place, and I was pretty paranoid that he could fall off, seemingly crazy reasoning that was reinforced when our cat-sitter told us about another cat who fell from a balcony on a lower floor and broke his leg.

Thus, the harnessing of Yang.

I honestly didn’t think this was going to work. I mean, who puts a harness and a leash on a 17-year-old cat?

But we had to try. Every time we sat outside on the balcony, we faced a sad cat peering through the blinds, not understanding that we were outside and not just in another room. There are chairs out there, after all, and sometimes we were eating and drinking, all signs of normality, not kitty danger.

I expected either hysterics or complete collapse when we strapped Yang into the getup. Nope. He let me secure the Velcro and snap on the leash, and then he walked straight to the balcony door, all, yeah, this is what I wear when I go out on the balcony. LIKE A BOSS.

He gets tired of balcony time after a few minutes, but he’s happy to be part of the action. I don’t think he’ll be walking to the park, despite the many suggestions of friends and family, but he is certainly going to enjoy quite a few sunsets this spring, complete with cool breezes.

One of the best things about this move: I FINALLY got rid of the landline. 

I know, right? Why was that anachronism still hanging around, ringing every night at 6 p.m.? 

One word: bundling. 

The cable company had cleverly rolled Internet, phone and cable TV into one package when we moved in some seven years ago. Fair enough: The price for all three together was cheaper than buying Internet and cable separately. Our surfing and TV habits were totally subsidizing the phone line. 

The pricing strategy remained unchanged over the years, but having a home phone became nearly intolerable at times.

Have you ever noticed that hardly anyone with a cell phone actually has the ringer on? No one wants to hear the phone ring. Do we miss calls this way? Yes. Do we care that we miss calls? Sure. And by sure, I mean absolutely not. We look down at some point, realize we missed a call and call back. And by call back, I mean we send a text. Because 2014 means never having to talk on the phone.

But I digress. I was savvy enough to put our home phone number on the Do Not Call list. Unfortunately, this list doesn’t apply to callers with whom I have a “business relationship,” or those representing a charitable organization. So, at 6 p.m. sharp every night, the phone would ring and some form of “unknown caller” would show up on the caller ID. The unknown caller may have been one of our credit card companies trying to “upgrade” us on something. More likely, however, it was some organization selling magazines or otherwise trying to collect money for the firemen, the police or some sort of children in peril. (I’m not a monster – most of these telemarketing shops take way too much profit out of what they collect. If I want to donate to the police department, I’ll speed my way to a ticket.)

Why did I leave the ringer on, you ask? Well, sometimes I didn’t. But the husband’s parents used that number occasionally, and if I turned the ringer off I never remembered to turn it back on. Thus, the nightly fast-walk to the phone for the one-in-a-million chance that the ringing indicated a call we actually were willing to take.

All that is over now. The home phones are packed in a box, awaiting dropoff at the thrift store. The new cable company offered an Internet/TV package at a fair price, no phone required. 

The silence is beautiful. I haven’t heard a phone ring outside the office in nearly four weeks. If my phone buzzes, it’s almost always someone I want to talk to. My only cellular pest is the Red Cross; I made the mistake of giving them my number about five years ago only to discover that they will bother you literally EVERY DAY until you schedule another donation. I always DO schedule another donation, but their efforts are so irritating that I’ve considered changing blood donation entities.

Again, digression. The landline is dead. Long live the silence.

So … it’s been awhile. I’m back in Atlanta, this time with the husband and the cat, and I’ve returned to the job that I loved but had to leave last year to return to Alabama.

Everything is pretty awesome, overall.

We’re renting a two-bedroom condo in a very walkable part of the city. I can’t walk to work, mind you, but I can walk to a huge park in addition to several grocery stores, museums and restaurants. We have so many entertainment options that I barely know where to begin.

It’s the life-changing adventure that I wanted last year, but I guess I was too early.

Best news: Yang, pictured above, settled right into his city digs. I was afraid he would be too high up to really see anything, but it turns out that he likes to watch the cars driving around below. At night, he perches on his cat condo and watches the city lights, near and far.

Snowmageddon arrived on the third day I was here; like any survivor of multiple hurricanes, however, I was prepared. I stocked up on groceries well before the snow started falling and kicked back to watch the traffic build (I didn’t start work until this week). The husband faced a two-hour commute instead of his usual half hour, but once he was home we unpacked, caught up on “Justified” episodes and drank a lot of coffee (me)/hot chocolate (him). We attempted a romantic walk in the snow, but our trek was foiled when the snow quickly turned to slippery ice. That’s just how snow rolls in the South.

I feel like I’ve finally found  my home planet — not Atlanta itself, per se, but an escape from Suburbia.

This is huge. This is FUN.

It’s been about two months since I pretty much gave up artificial sweeteners. I say “pretty much” because I’ll sometimes find a packet hiding behind another pantry inhabitant, and I promised to quit after all of the packets are gone. These packets are, obviously, not gone.

Do I miss my little yellow packets? A little. They gave me free license to make coffee, tea and oatmeal obscenely sweet, without caloric consequence.

I’m glad I tapered off instead of going cold turkey. By the time I really cut myself off, I was accustomed to oatmeal flavored only with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins and cups of coffee and tea sweetened with only a teaspoon or so of sugar.

I haven’t gained any weight from using sugar instead of sweetener. I figure as long as I don’t try to make foods taste as sweet as artificial sweeteners do, I’m good in the calorie department. I can afford the 15 to 30 calories that real sugar adds to a cup of coffee or tea, especially considering I’ve cut back on coffee and tea consumption in general.

An unexpected side effect: My usual cravings for holiday sweets are non-existent. Of course, this may have more to do with the fact that I’m too busy to even THINK about making cookies, much less figuring out how to make eggnog that doesn’t suck.

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