The past couple of weeks have been…well, not busy. It was spent waiting for my alpha readers’ responses to Beloved Lady Mistress, and editing said manuscript. If not writing every day (as I have been for the last three months), I find it difficult to focus on writing anything at all. So not a lot of blog entries have been forthcoming. Apologies.

In any case, I’m back on the horse. Beloved Lady Mistress has been sent to Bella, and I’m beginning the third book of the Sanguire series, working title Defender of the Crown. I’ve given myself a deadline of August 1st, but I think I’ll be done long before that. (Watch. I’m jinxing myself here…) I’ve got about sixty thousand words collected from two previous manuscripts for this novel, as the plot is somewhat the same. I won’t be writing it as much as rewriting it. Hopefully that’ll save time.

I’m finished with the major edits to Broken Trails. I expect to have at least one more round with a second editor before calling it good. Yay!

I’ve dedicated the rest of this blog entry to our furkid, Tinker. We had her put to sleep yesterday. This is my blog, so I’m indulging the hel out of myself. Anyone not interested can go back to their regular web surfing now.

A Toy’s Lament

Yesterday at 1pm, we put our elderly furkid to sleep. The veterinarian showed up at our door so we wouldn’t have to traumatize her in the process.

I first met Tinker in June of 1994, though I didn’t know her name at the time. It was after midnight, and a warm evening. I’d finished my shift at work, and caught the bus to the poor part of town, preparing to paint or read until I was ready for sleep. We already owned a gray tabby male, Beamer, who was about six months old. He’d been growing like a weed since I’d rescued him — a scrawny, flea-ridden kitten on someone else’s doorstep. Arriving at our apartment, I unlocked and opened the door. Before I could step inside, a gray and white ball of fluff came zipping from the stairs. It skidded to a stop in front of me, legs splayed and green eyes wide, and asked, “Wanna play?”

First thought? Beamer the Ever-Growing had emulated an amoeba, and this thing had somehow split off from him.

I discovered her name the next morning when everyone else was awake. Tinker. (NOT Tinkerbell!) Apparently, our son had found her in the dumpster when he’d gone to take out the trash. My wife and I had been having an ongoing debate about animals in general at the time. She was of the opinion that it didn’t matter what she did or didn’t do, the kitten would be attracted to me and not her. Being the stubborn, contrary person I am, naturally I set about proving her wrong. (With her help, mind you!) I insisted she feed Tinker from a spoon in her lap, at least once a day for a month. If any treats were given to the cats, Tinker would only get one from her. Whenever Tinker came to me for anything, I always turned it into a wrestling match. It worked like a charm. My wife forever became ‘Mommy’, and I forever became ‘Toy’.

When she got older, the only one who could pick her up for any length of time was Mommy. Whenever I tried, she’d tolerate it for three to five minutes before demanding to be let down. (That holds true to this day.) “No offense, but you’re not Mom.” None taken, Tinker.

Tinker had an affinity for my shoe laces. I couldn’t keep my shoes tied at home for a good year or more. She enjoyed flirting with me, meowing for attention as she rolled onto her back and revealed her white fluffy belly. Boy, did I learn my lesson! Once my fingers found her undersides, the claws and teeth made their appearances. My wife would say that Tinker loved me, and I’d answer, “Yeah, for lunch.” Tinker would invariably let me know she’d be happy enough with a snack or dinner, too. Such is the life of Toy.

We lost her twice over the years. Once was only a month or so after she’d arrived. Did I mention we lived in the poor part of town? Our low income complex didn’t even have screens on the windows, and it was bitterly hot in August. My wife would close the windows when she went to bed, and I’d reopen them a couple of hours later when I got home from work. The house remained a furnace, but it could have been worse.

One night, I heard a sliding noise at the dining room window. I looked up from my project, and didn’t see a thing. I even went over to the window and glanced around outside, making certain it wasn’t someone attempting to break in — nothing. The next morning, I woke to discover Tinker was missing; she hadn’t shown up for breakfast, and all her hiding places had been checked. The noise I’d heard had to have been her falling out the window.

She wasn’t found that day, nor most the next. As twilight stole across the complex, our son looked out his second story window and spotted her. We owned a kettle barbecue. It was wrapped in a tarp and chained to the railing. Tinker had apparently crawled under the tarp in the hollow left between the three legs. BratBoy to the Rescue! I was more than happy to return from work that night to find my playmate waiting.

The second time was after we’d moved downtown. (1996?) Our ground floor apartment backed up against a tiny three foot alley, with a high-rise retirement building on the other side. We woke to find the window screen pushed out, and assumed that there’d been an animal that Tinker had been intent on hunting. Searching the alley found nothing — there wasn’t even anywhere a critter could hide. To one side was a parking lot and a busy street, to the other was a couple of old houses that had been converted to apartments for students. A busy street before us, and a large building behind… We were sure she was gone for good this time.

We’d put a bell on her collar, though for the life of me I can’t remember why now. I could have sworn I heard that damned bell when I called, but I couldn’t see where she might have gone. There were no other apartment or basement windows open. My step-son had been staying with us at the time. We found a beat up old storage shed behind one of the student apartment buildings. It was unlocked and open. We hovered outside a moment, wondering if anybody in the building would report us for trespassing, then he shoved inside and rooted around. Tinker was hiding behind an old mattress inside. Foop to the Rescue!

I think the one disservice we did Tinker was to inhibit her connection to other cats. She was past two years old when we picked up a kitten. Tinker didn’t have a maternal bone in her body, and was used to playing rough. (I have the scars to prove it.) We were concerned that she’d kill the kitten. So every time she looked to be targeting the newcomer, we’d interfere and chase her off. Ever since then, she was positive she wasn’t allowed to put her paws on another cat in the house. With three younger cats around, she was bullied quite a bit by them. She wouldn’t defend herself, preferring to turn and run from a confrontation. I’m sure that when we weren’t there, the pride dynamics changed a bit. When we were in residence, however, it didn’t take long for them to revert to ‘pick on Tinker for fun and profit’. My wife and I have vowed to never interfere between siblings again unless there’s bloodshed.

That didn’t changed Tinker’s opinion of the other cats, however. She was always the first to come running when someone got inadvertently stepped on, yowling in pain. Despite her acquired fear of going outside, she even burst out the front door of our house to collect a stray. My furkid, Amber, had seen something while we lived in a duplex in 2004. I was at my desk when BANG! the front screen door burst open. (Again, it was summer… What’s with all the cats making a break for it in summer, anyway?) I was the only Human in the house, but everyone came running to see what had happened.

Amber stood on the bottom step, peering over her shoulder at me. I think she was as startled as the rest of us… (laugh) She’s the skittish type, and I knew if I rushed out she’d freak and run away. Tinker stood between us. She glanced back at me, and I swear she thought the same thing. Tinker turned, ran out the front door, and herded Amber back inside, growling and hissing at her. I immediately closed the door, and looked for a hook/eye latch to install, thanking Tinker profusely.

Over the last seventeen years, we’ve gone through a number of cats. (We move a lot.) Beamer ended up with friends in the neighborhood. The kitten we’d pushed Tinker away from went to the Humane Society. The one thing I’d always insisted on was Tinker staying with us. My wife was willing to make the sacrifices I made, but Tinker was special to her and I couldn’t let it happen.

We’d only had Tinker three or four months when we received word about our daughter. Robin died in September, and it was a horrible time for our family. I worked nights, slept late into the morning, and my wife was home alone with our son for hours on end. Tinker helped her through that — someone to love her unconditionally, someone to be there to care for that didn’t make a lot of demands, someone who could accept the tears without judgement, someone my wife didn’t need to be strong for.

That’s why I always insisted that Tinker stay with us, though it hurt to give up our other furkids due to circumstances beyond our control.

Yesterday at 1pm, we put our elderly furkid to sleep.

A few weeks ago, Tinker stumbled and fell trying to walk across the room. She appeared dizzy and out of it, wouldn’t look at us, wouldn’t talk to us. Initially, I thought it was a bout of vertigo. We comforted her, and Mommy got a blanket out and held for about ten minutes before Tinker wanted down. We vowed to keep an eye on her… thinking it was a possible ear infection.

The next week, it happened again. Then last Tuesday. She’d lost a lot of weight over the last few months. (She was a porky cat with a definite round bulge of belly.) We thought it was from the senior food to which we’d switched all the cats. She’d still drink and eat, still play like a kitten upon occasion, still act her irascible self. But she limped a little, was stiff when she got up probably from arthritis in her shoulder. She slept a lot, and was less inclined to take crap from her siblings.

This wasn’t vertigo. She was really not here when it happened. So I went online to my Facebook page to ask for assistance. Multiple people responded. To those of you who did, thank you. You helped us make a difficult decision that might not have been made at all without your words.

Due to my work schedule, we delayed the inevitable. It was a pretty good week for Tinker. She was spoiled and pampered by both Mommy and Toy — a whole can of tuna all to herself, sardines on two separate nights, a jar of turkey baby food to nibble from over the week. Her favorite toys were dug out of the toy bin, the ones that kept her occupied while Toy was at work or ignoring her on the computer. Even her fleece blanket was washed and de-furred.

Yesterday at 1pm, we put our elderly furkid to sleep. We wrapped her in her binkie and held her while she slept, knowing she’d never wake up. I think she was aware of what was going on to some extent — I think she was tired, in pain, and something was seriously wrong with her. Because she was Mommy’s emotional security blanket she didn’t want to go, but she was worn out and exhausted.

I’m told we did the right thing. Even the veterinarian that came to the house said so. Ultimately, Tinker was seventeen years old — whatever was causing her seizures would only get worse, and we certainly didn’t have the funds to fix it. Even if we had, what would have resulted? Toy would have a reason for existence for another year, two? Maybe even three? And Tinker deserved so much more.

Good bye, Tinker. Mommy loves you. Toy loves you. We’ll see you soon. In the meantime, you’ll find a whole horde of new friends to play with… Blaze is up there, Sparky, Taffy, Precious… all the furkids that Mommy and Toy have had the pleasure of knowing over the years. They’ll tell you wild stories, show you the best mouse holes, and there will be butterflies galore to keep you busy until we can meet again.

And I expect you to flirt with me, be coy, roll over and show me that white belly of yours when we do.

If you have questions or suggestions for me, let me know! The comment form below will require a valid email address to ensure you’re a real person. (I don’t collect the addresses or do anything with them, so you won’t be getting future spam from me.) If that’s not to your taste, you can email me — the link is up above on the right.