Monday, October 22, 2007

No, he's not a clone!

Alex the wonder-cat

Oh dear. Well, we went into the Cornwall SPCA on Saturday, to check it out and see what dogs they had (because we are now officially looking for a dog.) What did we come out with? A three-legged cat named Alex. And worse still, he looks far too much like Zoë. I would just like to say that #1, we were NOT looking for another cat yet, and #2, we were DEFINITELY not looking for a Zoë clone. I hope my sweet girl would approve anyway, and realize that we could never replace her and weren't trying to. But Alex was crying out for a home.

The Cornwall SPCA had a fire a few months ago (No animals were hurt, thank God), so all of their cats are currently in cages in the foyer. Many lovely cats and cute kittens... Gordon and I visited with them all, and I made the inevitable crack about taking one home, knowing full well that Gordon is perfectly incapable of making such a decision without six weeks to consider the options exhaustively, thereafter publishing the results of his investigations complete with Cerlox binding and detailed footnotes. Said report would have a title like "Ascertaining the Correct Choice of Second Cat for the Knatolee-Gordon Household: A twelve-part study with pie charts and quantitative analyses." You think I'm kidding, don't you? Anyway, to my "Let's take home a cat" comment, Gordon just rolled his eyes.

Amongst the feline crowd, I noticed one cat that looked painfully like our Zoë, yet without the white chest and paws. And yes, skinnier. This thought blipped through my head: "Oh, I could never adopt a cat that looked so much like the dear one we just lost." But then the Zoë-clone turned around, and I saw that he was missing a hind leg!

(I should now let you know that I once bought a stuffed animal that was missing an eye, because I knew no one else would buy it, and I felt sorry for it. Fortunately I was still a child when I did this, so it's somewhat excusable! I have always had a soft spot for those who are different from the "norm.")

Suddenly my interest was piqued. What was this cat's story? I pointed the missing limb out to Gordon, and his eyes stopped rolling. His beard hairs stood on end. His little ears got all pointy (all right, perhaps some exaggeration here!)

I asked the attendant if I could see this three-legged curiosity, and hey, what was his story? She got the cat out of his cage and put him down, and he quickly started doing the rounds of the other cats, checking everybody out in a friendly fashion. I picked him up and he took that very well. The nice SPCA girl told me in September or thereabouts, the cat's leg had been caught in a leghold trap. By the time he was found, the wound was full of maggots, and his leg had to be amputated right up to the hipbone. Gordon and I cringed simultaneously. I asked Gordon if he want to hold this tripod-kitty. He said sure. I sat on the floor, continuing to chat with the friendly SPCA worker.

Then I looked up again a few minutes later, and my husband had a very strange look on his face. The amputee cat was completely relaxed in Gordon's arms, and Gordon himself looked like he was in a bit of a reverie. Or maybe like he'd had a few too many pints o' Guinness. It was a goofy, "I'm in love" kind of look. The "My, that was a really good Christmas dinner!" sort of glaze-eyed stare.

And then my huge shock: not fifteen minutes after picking Alex up for the first time, my completely non-compulsive husband, the one who avoids restaurant drive-thrus because it's too much pressure to make a snap decision about what to eat, THAT husband, said to me, in his always calm, ever-so-level-headed way:

"So. Do you want to take a cat home today?"

Uh, HELL YES! You see, as soon as I saw Alex's missing limb, I knew he was ours. I don't why, but I did. But you can't rush Gordon into these things. You have to let him think it over, make his own decision, weigh the options. I was figuring that Alex wasn't going anywhere fast, having been at the shelter for six weeks already. I'd give Gordon the weekend to think it over, while I proffered some subtle hints before bringing up the possibility that Alex might be a nice addition to our home.

Instead Gordon blew me away. He shocked the pants off me! (Not literally; that would have scared the cats!) We filled out the paperwork, and took the wonderful Alex home with us. As we were at the counter, Alex was lounging on his cage shelf, looking totally relaxed, paws crossed. The staff told us that they couldn't get over what a mellow, happy disposition he had for a cat that had suffered so horribly. You would never know what he'd been through were it not for the missing leg.

Alex has not disappointed us. He and Julius (our fluffy orange boy) are slowly getting to know each other, but things are going well. Two mellow cats seem to be a great combination! And Alex is a ray of sunshine in our lives. It's been a long time since we've had a youngster in the house. Alex, about a year old, is happy and curious and full of beans and incredibly sweet. He's a champion headbonker and very cuddly. Yesterday he made me cry by coming to lie on my chest for a long time, just like Zoë used to, until he got too blissed out and rolled off by accident! We're so lucky we found this guy.

And an interesting thing to note: Alex was brought to the shelter September 8th, which is not only the anniversary date for both my parents' deaths, but also the day I marked as Zoë's birthday. Even Gordon the practical noticed this coincidence.

Welcome, Alex. The boys finally outnumber the girls in this household!

My, what big claws you have!

I get around just fine on three!

Uh-oh, bologna tongue!

And Julius says, "I vant to be alone! Well, at least for a couple of hours."

Bath - the place, not the thing you soak in

Hmm.... I am going to have to break up the Bath section a bit.

We visited the World Heritage city of Bath, so named because of its ancient baths, well-enjoyed by the Romans. Well, I'm not sure if that's the exact reason or not; the Romans did build the "baths" but who knows what happened before them!

Jane Austen lived here, and she set Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in Bath.

But back to Phyllis, feigning shock at a naked ancient Roman (who is looking remarkably well-preserved, no? The Roman, I mean. Although Phyllis is also remarkably well-preserved!):

Here's the main bath. The statues around the top were added in the 1800's. The tourists are circa 2007:

The water is hot, healing and smelly.

Here's another shot, closer to the ground. The reddish line around the wall marks where the water level used to be:

Here's a section of Roman mosaic floor. I am a big fan of mosaics:

This is the Cross Bath, now a part of the Thermae Spa (where Phyllis and I indulged in a rooftop swim, followed by steam and foot baths!) I've heard various explanations for it being calling the Cross Bath (read some here). Our very knowledgeable volunteer guide said that there used to be a cross there, erected by an infertile Queen who got preggars after swimming in the water. Yes, I forget which Queen and am too lazy to look it up!

This is the entrance to the main baths, pictured at the start of this entry:

And now for Bath Abbey, (aka St. Peter's Abbey) really one of my favourite churches in England, architecturally-speaking. A splendid example of perpendicular gothic architecture (thank you, Wikipedia!)

Those are angels climbing up ladders to Heaven on either side of the main window/door:

Just a sampling of the spectacular stonework ceiling:

No, I can't remember whose memorial this is. Anyone? Anyone? ANYONE? Anyone at all?

Read more about the amazing Abbey here. I dare you to step into the Abbey and not be moved, religious or not (and I am NOT religious!)

And now to close this entry, photos of me and Phyllis with our favourite things.

For me, a good cuppa tea (oh Gordon, OF COURSE I love you more than tea. That goes without saying!):

For Phyllis, her own personal love monkey, Colin Firth. (Please wipe the drool off you chin, Phyllis.) Too bad the love is thus far unrequited. Colin, if you're reading this, do get in touch!

More tomorrow!

Friday, October 19, 2007


Okay, so the first picture isn't Edinburgh. It's Gordon sharing a meal with Zoë back around 2002. I am missing that cat like crazy.

So, back to the trip. I missed Scotland in my first post, even though that's where we started. I believe I mentioned accidentally erasing all my Scotland pics except for the end bit in Edinburgh, so you'll have to imagine Stirling and Glasgow, at least until Phyllis sends me HER photos! Here we are at Edinburgh Castle. Fortunately the cannon wasn't loaded!

Inside the castle, I finally saw a good use for guns:

Some bit of the Castle, dated 1615. I'm so damn helpful.

Purty, no?

Scotland is my husband's homeland. He's a murderous, blood-thirsty Campbell. Well, he was born in Toronto, but his parents came to Canada from Glasgow in the 1950s. Me, I have Irish and English blood (although my surname is evidently Cornish.) This was my first visit to Scotland, and I just loved it. It's a shame my photos of Glencoe and the Highlands were deleted, because that was my favourite part of the trip!

There is a cemetery at the Castle for soldiers' dogs (mascots):

Here is a gate at the Castle. Oh, I am so informative today.

Here's Phyllis in the Castle jail, where she belongs...

And here's a sign I saw back in York. I am ALWAYS ready for a CUPPA!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On a brighter note...

Rather than overload you (and put you to sleep) with an overly-long slide show of my vacation, I'll break it up and give you a few pics a day. How's that? :) What, you're already asleep? Wake up, damn it!

I'm not presently at my funniest, owing to jetlag, a cold from hell, and my deceased cat, but I'll see what I can do.

Today we have York, founded AD 71, which was not where we started (York, I mean. I was born after AD 71, believe it or not.) We started in Scotland, but I managed, near the end of that segment, to erase all the photos on my camera. It probably would have been wise to read the manual on my new camera before I started fooling around with it while bored on a train. Duh!

This is the River Ouse in York, England, from Skeldergate Bridge. Beautiful! But it floods, sometimes badly.

Here we have a part of the absolutely incredible York Minster, probably my favourite church in all of the UK (though I am extremely fond of Bath Abbey.) It is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, and made my friend Phyllis cry when she first went inside. This was my third visit and I remain impressed by it.

The round window is the famed "Rose window" which suffered in the tragic fire of 1984 but has been restored. The poor Minster has suffered several fires over the years.

Moving on, here is just some of the beautiful stained glass inside the Minster. Wikipedia says that York Minster has "the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world." I can believe it!

A section of ceiling...

And now we're out of the Minster and at an ancient city gate. This is Micklegate Bar. They used to stick severed heads on top of it. Fortunately that tradition has died out.

This is Clifford's Tower, another interesting bit of York (oh hell, all of York is interesting!) It was part of York Castle. In 1190, 150 Jews were trapped there by a raging mob bent on murder. Rather than submit to that, the group committed suicide. Details vary slightly on this. some say they slit their throats, some say they set the tower on fire (there was definitely a fire, regardless.) Whatever happened, it's a sad story. You can read about it on Wikipedia, if you click on the Clifford's Tower link at the start of this paragraph.

And now for something completely different (and definitely not kosher!) Who knew that LARD was something worth advertising at a pork butcher?

And finally, off we went to Bath. Which I will cover another day, when you have recovered from your York visit! We were both knitting scarves on the way to Bath.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My sweet Zoë

Our Zoë, the best stripey-cat in the world. September 1997 - September 30, 2007

Well, I had a good time in jolly olde England and lovely Scotland, and I will write more on that later, but first the sad news. My sweet Zoë-kitty died on September 30, the day I arrived in Scotland. She was only ten years old and it was a total shock for all of us, including the vet.

The Wednesday before I left, Zoë was fine. The next day, I knew something was wrong because she wasn't eating and she was very sluggish. But every time I stroked her, she purred.

We started looking for a vet, as we didn't have one here, having just moved. Gordon managed to get an appointment for the next day, Friday. We took her in and while the vet thought she was a bit dehydrated, he didn't think she was seriously ill. However, he wanted to hospitalize her and give he some IV fluids and so on, and keep an eye on her.

We called twice on Saturday to talk to the vet. He said Zoë was responding well to the fluids and antibiotics, but that she had a ways to go. He had done various tests on her and found that some of her liver enzymes were a bit elevated, but they were the liver enzymes that are less serious when elevated (apparently there are two kinds they measure.) He thought she might be fighting an infection, as her white blood cell count was a bit off. He was going to continue treating her but overall, she was perkier and doing better. He said he would call Gordon Sunday morning. Zoë was sitting up and taking an interest in her surroundings, and the vet tech actually asked the vet if she should give Zoë a bit of food, as she was looking so much better. The vet told her to hold off for a bit.

Feeling like things were under control, I left on my trip Saturday night. Sunday night I was at my husband's cousin's house in Scotland, reading an email from Gordon saying that Zoë had taken a turn for the worse when the phone rang. It was Gordon with news I did not want to hear: Zoë died suddenly around lunchtime on Sunday. Her lungs had filled with fluid and she had frothy blood in her mouth, and she succumbed very quickly. Gordon had been getting ready to go see her at the vet's but it was already too late.

We both miss her like crazy. Zoë came to us as a tiny kitten, sent to me from near Seattle by my friend Deb, who had taken her in as a sickly little stray. She was very young, and had ringworm and an eye infection and God knows what else. She was also malnourished, and she nearly died of bacterial enteritis while in Deb's care. When Deb said she was looking for a home for Zoë, I knew this was the cat for me. My mother had died a month earlier and I think Gordon took pity on me: he agreed to adopt this little mess of a kitten. I always said that Zoë was my mother reincarnated! She could be quite the little monkey.

When Zoë was well enough to travel, she started her cross-continental journey. Boy, did she have spirit! Such a survivor. Deb sent some notes along with Zoë for the journey to Toronto, in particular:

"She is very sweet, loves to cuddle, and LOUDLY!"

Ah, and that never changed. She spent a large chunk of her life on my chest or lap. Almost every night for the past ten years, she slept tucked in behind my knees.

Zoë's journey to Canada was accomplished with the help of several wonderful people, who took her on the various legs of her trip through North America until she was finally brought to the Toronto airport by the boss of Jude Fine, a senior dog rescue worker (who sadly predeceased Zoë a couple of years back.) Gordon went to get our "itty bitty kitty" at the airport. He took the travel crate into the men's room, and opened it to find the tiniest kitten he had ever seen, with a "skunk" toy that was as big as she was!

I could go on and on about her, but suffice to say, we bonded immediately. She had to be quarantined because of her ringworm, so I would spent many hours in that room with her, lying on the loveseat, watching TV with her. She would curl up on my chest with her nose to my chin, purring like a little motorboat. Occasionally she would suckle my fingers, she was that young. She gave me and Gordon ringworm, but I didn't care. It was worth the itching. I had to bath her regularly, which was no fun for either of us, but she took it like a trooper.

I was completely smitten with this tiny creature. I called her "Zoë" because it is a Greek name that means "life". And Zoë was determined to live!

She gave us so many years of kitty love, and now she is gone and it's just killing me. I used to think I was a "dog" person who liked cats, but now I know that's not true. I fall equally hard for dogs or cats, and my heart is broken over the loss of Zoë. I had so hoped to have her for another ten years. The vet thinks she had a tumour of some kind, either on her heart or lungs, but we declined a postmortem. The vet was very upset about it all; he didn't see it coming, she went downhill that fast. I had occasionally worried about Zoë over the years, wondering how her rough start would affect her lifespan. I'm just glad that we had her for as long as we did. She had such a great personality, and she was so sweet and cuddly and just... Zoë.

We both miss her so much. Wherever her little spirit is, I hope she knows how much we loved her. She brought us a lot of happiness over the years.

Me with Zoë in October 1997, soon after her arrival. That's her "skunky" toy behind me.

Me with my sweet little stripey-monster, just last month before the move. She really seemed to like our new house!

Zoë usually preferred to sprawl on me, so Gordon as always honoured when she snoozed on his lap. This was last December, not long before we lost Mashka (grey kitty.) In the past 14 months, we have lost a dog and two cats. It has been a bit rough.

Here's to Zoë, the "itty bitty kitty" who stole my heart, then broke it.