Oct 30, 2012

Mr Nipples Goes to the Vet...

In the previous post I mentioned how we had put a fresh collar and tag on Nipples after his three-day jaunt.  It's not that we didn't keep a collar on him before; it's just that he had gone thru an entire arsenal of collars and tags, and the spare one I had for him had been sent with the movers, and on the day we moved into our house, we had neither gotten our stuff from the movers nor plunked down the money for a new collar and tag.  And come to think of it, had he lost his then-current collar and tag in the move, or had we for some reason decided that it would be not-risky-at-all to move him across the friggin' country without his identification information?  Because good grief, that was a dumb idea.

I digress...

Here's the thing: they make breakaway collars for cats for safety reasons.  I totally get that, and as one with a cat who spends most of his time outdoors, I'm all for safety mechanisms to prevent him from getting hung up on bushes and branches and such.  The thing is, I've also watched him deftly slip his little hind paw underneath the collar and snap it right off.  The next consideration, then, is a teeny dog collar (because you can't get non-breakaway ones for cats), which if you think about all the stray bushes and branches, is a potentially-massive safety hazard.  And if you believe all the marketing and advertisements for pet safety equipment, can really induce guilt in a nervous-type like myself. 

So for the time being, we put the new breakaway collar and tag on the cat.  And, true to form, within several weeks that collar disappeared as well.  I sighed and thought about the spare collar in the drawer, which I fully intended to put on him just as soon as I remembered it when he was actually in the house, blah blah blah...when suddenly he went missing again.

This time it wasn't quite so dramatic.  While walking the dogs one morning, he didn't come up meowing behind us as he normally does, and I thought about how I hadn't seen him since the day before.  So I filed it in the back of my mind for the time being and went about the day. But as is common when I haven't seen the cat in a while, I kept checking outside for him everytime I walked by a window, and thought about setting a deadline for myself to start posting on our neighborhood forums to see if anyone had seen him lately.

It was either that same day or the next that I got a call from my friend Fazzi, whom you may remember used to own Nipples, and she was letting me know that he was at the vet's office just down the road from us.  It turned out that a well-meaning neighbor from a half-mile or so away had found him and become concerned that he was lost. Since he didn't have any ID they couldn't call us to check up on him, so they took him to the vet, who read his microchip and called Fazzi, whose info was still on the microchip.  Then Fazzi called us with the vet info so that we could go spring him loose.  And despite my sometimes-curmudgeonly attitude about technology and such, this is why microchips, Facebook, and cell phones are good.

Well, after some finagling, and promising the vet that Nipples was current on all his things, and wrestling him into his much-maligned carrier, we brought him home again.  We had the talk with the vet's office about his collar and they recommended putting a dab of superglue on the breakaway mechanism. And we thought hey, that's worth a shot, but we only had Elmer's glue so it had to do the job.  Except Elmer's glue is definitely not superglue, so it worked for like three days before Nipples came sauntering home, collarless, and looking rather pleased that he had caused us to go through our entire collar supply yet again. 

The Cat Daddy then offered some perspective on the matter.  He pointed out that Pim had a non-breakaway collar for the entire time we had him, and was outside and in trees and woods, and never had a problem with getting hung up (wild animals eating him, yes; branches, no).  He pointed out that, despite the terrible thought of getting hung up on shrubberies and tree branches, we had never actually heard or read about such a thing actually happening to a cat, or whether breakaway collars were invented because of a true threat or because someone thought "Hey what if this happens," and then made collars to break on purpose and pocketed millions of dollars from people's fears (If you have read or know about a cat dying because its collar got hung up on a branch PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME because I'd rather not be informed in this case).  He reiterated that the breakaway collars were just not cutting the mustard in our case. He was right.

And when all was said and done the following things were true:

1) Nipples became the proud wearer of a 10" non-breakaway dog collar, which he has yet to lose or wriggle out of, and doesn't have a bell, which I think makes him happy. I used to cut the bells off his cat collars, so the dog collar even saved us a step.

2) We updated our info with the microchip company so if and when someone mistakes him for a lost cat and takes him to the vet they will be able to call us directly.

We sure learned a lot from Nipples' trip to the vet.  For his part, Nipples cussed us out a little and ate a second helping of dinner that night.  But as always, we were glad to have him home...

Oct 11, 2012

Mr Nipples Goes to Washington...


Look at how sweet he is.  Under his seemingly unassuming exterior lies a big case of bada$$ery.  He is the most interesting cat in the world (click here for the backstory to the backstory).

Our move has gone quite well by most any standard.  Other than the normal trauma of uprooting, relocating, and resettling, we have very little to complain about.  Situated several miles outside the beltway of DC, our little town is fairly new in the grand scheme of things, and is entirely suburban, green, and quiet.  Our little neighborhood within the town is into all things "natural," which in modern suburban terms means that we have nicely-groomed bits of nature scattered along our paved walkways (which I used to mock, but now that I'm better acquainted with Lyme Disease, I'm kind of in favor of paving paradise to put up a parking lot between me & the ticks), a nature center with small animals inside (including a corn snake) and fountained, algae-filled pond out front, clearly labeled with a "DO NOT TOUCH OR CONSUME THIS WATER" sign, and to their credit they did leave a good amount of woodlands in place when building in the area.  That, or they put in the woodlands when they were turning farms into subdivisions around 10 years ago.  Or some combination of both; I'm not really clear on the history of Ashburn yet. Anyway, on top of all that LOTS of the people are runners here.  Half of me fits in perfectly. The other half good-naturedly mocks our semi-green, natural-esque ways. 

My cat, however, has found his utopia with this move.

His first impression of Virginia was not good at all.  We stayed in an extended-stay hotel for our first several weeks here, where Nipples was kept inside and spent his days sullenly plotting his next escape attempt.  He destroyed one carrier, broke out of another one, and very-nearly forced us to buy a crate on the order of padlocked steel bars before we figured out how to keep him in his brand-new hard-sided carrier.  I became the cat-catcher, hunting him down and carrying him back to our room for the majority of the times he succeeded in leaving our room, and found myself preparing my story before going out in public--"No sir, it really was my cat who gave me these marks."

Eventually we arrived in our house and unwisely succumbed to cat-parent-guilt, letting him out the first day.  He promptly disappeared for three days, and we grew worried that he had:

a)  Ditched us to head back to Wyoming
b)  Met an untimely demise, similar to his predecessor
c)  Wandered too far too soon and gotten disoriented

So I called the local animal shelter and posted on our HOA forums.  Within a day we had a call that Nipples was in fact just a few streets over. Our neighborhood is arranged with great walking paths and greenways between the streets (perfect for wandering kitties and people), but not knowing how close he actually was, the Cat Daddy drove the long way to the area where he'd been sighted and found him sauntering down the sidewalk.  When called, Nipples walked right over for hello-pats and followed the Cat Daddy back to the car.  Upon entering the house he descended upon his food dish, devouring two helpings of kitty food and growling softly to make sure we didn't take it away.  We put a fresh collar on him with our new address, and all was well with the world. 

After that he was a little more tentative in his wanderings and did a much better job of orienting himself to his surroundings and finding his way back home to check in as he gradually increased his wandering radius.  He also realized that he had adoring neighbors, as well as ample small wildlife to hunt, right nearby. 

And that's when he decided to take the world--or at least our neighborhood--by storm... 

Oct 2, 2012

In This Moment...

I feel like right now, in this moment, is the tricky part of moving.  The hardest work is over. We are reasonably settled in the house.  If you walked in you'd think "Gosh, not much on your walls, Skerrib" but overall it looks & feels lived-in.  His Highness is well-settled into school, learning and enjoying himself for the most part, except for the complaint that school is boring.  I would expect no less from a five-year-old boy.  We are meeting people, and I think I'm doing a particularly good job of reaching out socially, talking with people I meet, and even spontaneously walking over to hang out with the neighbors in their driveway (heavens!!).  We've visited five churches, and while nothing has offended us terribly, neither has anything jumped out and said, "This is your new church home."  It rarely does though, so that's OK.

The tricky part of moving, to me, is the element of time.  We are doing healthy and good things to get established, but we can't manufacture that home-y feeling.  I haven't lost my humors, which is huge, but I'm a little down at not knowing many people.  Still, to me that's not something to be forced.

To me this is the nuts & bolts that make up life.  I'm a little down now because it's still the beginning.  I miss sitting with my next-door neighbor while our kids destroy the place.  I miss walking with Roots through her Maynard neighborhood, and running across the street to my friend's house in Lompoc (though they are in Hawaii now, which if I were dropping in over there would be awesome). I miss our busy Phoenix neighborhood, running the bridle paths at 5:30 am, waving to neighbors out walking along the way.  My frame of reference is all the places I've lived before; the memories of social structure I had in those places, and the remaining pieces I still have with me in the form of friends and acquaintances (hello, Facebook. I'm glad you're here).

So I take small, daily, healthy steps. I will keep chatting with the other moms at kindergarten drop-off. We will help our friends move this weekend. I will get back onto a good exercise plan, now that my (maybe) Lyme is being treated. And by God, I am determined that I will succeed in leaving the children home with Daddy and have two hours by myself one day.  We may visit another church this week, or go back to the one whose regular pastor was on vacation when we were there. Or we might skip and take a day trip 'cuz of Columbus Day weekend (as the Cat Daddy said "Thank God he discovered some islands in the Caribbean"). A play date next week, and so on beyond that. 

Eventually these little things will add up to deeper connections. We won't necessarily notice it in the moment, but we will begin to find our favorite places and people.  We will begin to belong.  It has happened every time.  I have found God and friends in every place; I just have to remember that in this moment...