Sir Milo

Oh, this is a tough one.

Sir Milo Sidney died at home on January 7, 2016, lovingly surrounded by his mamma, dad, and brother RJ. He was 17 years old.

I adopted Milo when I was 20. 20! A young, dumb college kid with roommates and a crappy Chevy Corsica decides to adopt a cat. This is where our story begins.

Milo and me

I went to Animal Allies in Duluth to see the kitties they had. I found Milo. Actually, his name was Sidney and his nickname was “Smudge” for the little faded grey splotch on the left side of his neck.

He was about two years old, a stray who had been in a foster home once or twice. How someone could foster this guy and send him back to the shelter? I do not know. But their loss was my gain. As I was scanning the cages in the small corner of the room, I felt a soft little tap on my shoulder. A white cat with grey spots was beckoning. I looked around at the other cats, but after that tap….I knew who wanted me to take him home.

Milo lived with me in Duluth and moved with me to Alexandria, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and to his last home in Richfield. He also had a couple-month visit to my parents’ in North Branch while I was traveling after college. He was quite the moving buddy, although car rides were not his strong suit. Once, in the 10-15 minute drive from my apartment in St. Paul to DT’s apartment in Minneapolis, Milo pooped, peed, and vomited. We called it the trifecta of bodily functions. At least it was in DT’s car.

In the course of over 15 years with Milo, we have thousands of memories. Right now it’s both painful and a blessing to have so much to look back on. Here are some of our adventures:

The lifelong diet: I can’t remember how much Milo weighed when I got him – he was average size and weight. After some time together, though….he got a little big. I think portion control was hard for me to impose on him in those early days. My bff/then-roommate Nancy was going shopping one day and I asked her to pick up cat food for me. She came home and sheepishly-apologetically, yet firmly, said “I bought him diet food.” That was that, Milo was on a diet.

Milo on the floor

The teeth (or lack thereof): In 2004, his vet discovered Milo had gum disease and needed to have 10 teeth pulled. He spent the rest of his life gumming food with one fang. Not that it at all hindered his food intake (see “The lifelong diet,” above). Little one-fang wonder.

The chirping: One of Milo’s sounds was chirping like a bird. It was a quick little squeaky trill, and it usually meant he was happy or simply demanding that you pay attention to him immediately. I imagine him stomping his paws if he was demanding attention immediately. My Chirpy Bird.

The bath: I had to give Milo a bath once in our life together. It was a complete nightmare for both of us. My apartment in Alexandria had an enormous, ancient, industrial-looking heater in the living room. While I was away for the weekend, Milo jumped behind it and rolled around in all the dirt and dust and grime. My white cat with grey spots was now all grey. The bath was at least an hour-long affair and in the end, I was more soaked than he was.

The ceiling: I lived in a duplex for a couple of years in Duluth with my dear friend Gretta and her kitty Hansel. We lived on the top floor of an A-frame style house. One night we realized Milo wasn’t around and went looking through the apartment for him. In closets, under beds and couches, behind shelves, every place we could think a cat would hide and hang out. We couldn’t find him anywhere. After a while we opened our front door to the stairway/hallway and there he was. We didn’t think much about it, other than he must have run out the door at some point. Later that week I brought our rent checks to our landlady, who lived across the street from us. She started laughing and said she couldn’t believe our curious cat. I had no idea what she was talking about, but apparently, Milo had snuck into the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink, which led to a crawl space on the side of the house. As he was nosing around, he crashed through the bathroom ceiling of our downstairs neighbor. Rather than return the strange cat in his bathroom to the upstairs tenants and obvious owners, our neighbor just tossed him into the hallway. Weird, but so was Milo falling through the ceiling.

Milo in suitcase

The first impression: Also in the Duluth duplex….Gretta’s parents came to visit, I think it was the first time they had seen our new place. It was also their first time meeting Milo. While Gretta was showing them around, Milo found a bug on the floor and started toying with it. After his fun, he ate it. A few minutes later we were all visiting in the living room, Milo in the middle of the floor. He started to retch and gag and heave, then he threw up. He got up and moved to the other side of the room and threw up again. Then moved to another corner and threw up one more time. Poor Gretta’s mom….she had to leave the room! So nice to meet you, Milo.

The candle: Also in the Duluth duplex….Gretta and I often burned candles in our apartment. One morning I noticed Milo had no whiskers on one side, and the little ends that were left were brown and smelled like burnt hair. He’d gotten too close to the fire and singed his whiskers off. He was a bit asymmetrical and imbalanced until they grew back. Also, he never much cared about candles after that.

The neighbors: My apartment building in St. Paul was very cat friendly. A couple who lived there had a little grey kitty named Noodle. We often joked that Milo had a crush on her. These were the days when Milo loovvvved to dart out the door and escape into the hallway, he was such a monster. He actually was pretty fast, bounding up and down past the other apartments. One day he got underfoot as I opened my door and he ran out. I trolled the hallways on both floors looking for him, and arrived at Noodle’s apartment. They’d left their door open and there was Milo, camped out on their couch like he moved in three minutes ago. He was right at home and looked at me as if to say “What are you doing here and what do you want?”

Milo in the buggy

The window: Milo stayed at DT’s apartment in Minneapolis quite a bit. At that time, DT had a cat named Lester who was older (about the same age difference as Milo and RJ). It was nice for the kitties to keep each other company. The apartment was garden level, and during the summer DT installed a window air conditioner in the bedroom. The a/c didn’t cover the entire width of the window, so some insulation filler was used to cover the extra space. One morning DT came home to find the added barrier had been pushed through, open to the outside. Lester was on the bed right underneath the window, his big owl eyes wide. Milo was nowhere to be found in the apartment. A brisk walk around the block to hunt for that bad, bad cat….there he was, perched on the neighbor’s front porch. Who knows how long he had been out that night. BAD cat! He could be so damn naughty. (See so many stories, above.)

The plastic bags: I think a lot of cats have a thing for plastic bags, but Milo was especially obnoxious with them. He’d lick them, roll around in them, get inside them, then lick some more, then roll around again….over and over and over. And he’d just FIND them, even when we thought they were safely out of his reach. Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? Cats in plastic bags is right up there.

The friends: Milo was friends with everyone. (See also “The neighbors,” above.) Family, friends, strangers, plumbers, contractors, adults, kids, people who are very allergic to cats, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits….he did not discriminate. Milo was a social butterfly and absolutely insisted that you accept his friendship.

The persistence: Milo needed, nay, required human contact pretty much all the time. It wasn’t enough to just sit next to you, no no. On you, all over you, in-your-face was his end game and he didn’t often take no for an answer. He’d just keep trying until you lost your will. I caved sooner than most in our house, and sometimes begrudgingly. Once he was in my arms or in my lap, though….it made me so happy. Milo always knew what I wanted (him). And oh, the snuggling. Milo was the best snuggler. Something I miss so fiercely right now is holding him during a nap. When he woke up he would strrrrrretttttch way out and reach his front paws to touch my face.

Milo and flipflops

When I talked to my dad after he died, one of the things he said to me was “You did everything right.” This, along with so much that long last week, just broke my heart.

Not only did I worry about Milo and the situation at hand, I worried about the decisions I made, or would have to make. I worried about his comfort. I worried about him suffering. I worried about how long to let things go before I had to make a decision. I worried about being selfish in wanting more time. I worried about his quality of life. I worried about the future….what if he did get better, then what? I worried about borrowed time. I worried about doing absolutely everything in my power to do right by Milo. I worried that I didn’t always know what that meant, or when the lines blurred between what was right by him, or what was right by me. I worried about staying objective and seeing his condition as it really was, without letting all the emotions take over. I worried, I worried, I worried.

So, to get to the end of it all, and look back….I don’t know if I did everything right, but God I hope so. It’s just a comfort to hear someone say it. In my time as Milo’s mamma, this ending was so, so important to get right.

His ending was at home, with DT and I right next to him. Holding his little paws, dabbing his lips with water, scratching his head, stroking his back. Talking to him and telling him “I love you” again and again and again. I’m so thankful we were there and he wasn’t alone. I’m so thankful we could comfort him and that he knew we right beside him.

I wouldn’t wish this hurt on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my life with Milo for anything. I am so blessed to have had him, to have had his friendship and trust and loyalty all those many years. I didn’t always deserve it, but he never kept score and never held a grudge. I was always his mamma and that was all he asked for, all he required. So simple – just, be mine and make sure I am always yours.

Thank you, sweet sweet Milo for tapping me on the shoulder that day over 15 years ago. You knew even before I did that we were meant to be. I am the luckiest to be yours. Rest in peace – I love you so much.

Your mamma always xxxxoooo

Milo's 16th birthday

Milo’s 16th birthday, 10/31/14.

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Priscilla

One of our chickens, Priscilla the Plymouth Rock, died over the weekend. DT and I were out of town and came home Monday night to find her lying on the floor of the chicken coop. We don’t know what happened – there didn’t appear to be any trauma or distress. She just died.

I feel terrible that it happened while we were gone and to have found her like that. I hope she didn’t suffer. I wish I knew the cause.

I know that in the grand scheme of life losses, it’s a chicken. But she was our chicken, our pet, part of our lives, and I’m still very sad. It’s so different without her and it’s amazing what a gaping hole can be left by a yard bird (my dad’s term of endearment for them). I feel like a crazy crying chicken lady.

Chickens eating mozzarella

The girls devouring a ball of fresh mozzarella – Gertrude, Deborah, and Priscilla.

I wrote about our chickens before – all three have/had such unique personalities, and Priscilla’s was really one of a kind. As far as chickens go. DT and I thought of her as the dim younger sister, always one step behind, trying to keep up, a bit slow on the uptake. The exception for this reputation was her figuring out how to weasel through the fence barricade we set up so they stay confined to the back of the yard. Gertrude and Deborah would be so mad and flustered (pace-pace-pace, back and forth-back and forth along the fence) to see Priscilla liberated on the other side.

And was she ever chatty. She looooooved to squawk and we were so entertained by her. I always enjoyed our talks. The yard is much quieter now.

I found this photo in a post from a backyard chicken group I follow and saved it on my desktop months ago. This, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulates our funny Priscilla (and looks a whole lot like her):

Priscilla's mantra

Anyway. Again – perspective. But I’m sad and doing some grieving and adjusting to the change that is life without her. I just wanted to acknowledge and pay a small tribute for her being her. I’m thankful to have had sweet, strange, clucky little Priscilla in my life, however short our time was and no matter how silly it is. I won’t ever forget her and I know our family won’t either.

Rest in peace, Priscilla.


Now, About Those Chickens….

It is shameful that I wrote about our little chicken friends nearly a year ago after their arrival and have had zero follow-up since.  What a terrible chicken mamma I am!

So it’s high time I tell you a little more about the birdies.

chickens 1

First of all, they survived one of the most God-awful winters known to the entire state of Minnesota, poor babies.  Of course, our first cold season with them would turn out to be so immensely wretched.  They avoided snow like the plague, so didn’t come out of their coop and run for about five months.  I know they weren’t too happy, but they did just fine.

My dad helped to engineer a heat lamp using a 150-watt lightbulb covered with a clay pot to serve as a source of warmth inside their coop.  Here they are, basking in the glow:

chickens - lamp in coop

How round and plump they look!

I would often see them huddled up around the pot too, I’m sure that must have felt sooooo good to their little bodies.  They are THRILLED that summer [unofficially] is here and they have the run of the yard again.  And that it’s above 12 degrees.

chickens 2

Second, we’ve learned so much about chickens, and each of them has such a distinct personality.  It’s been fun getting to know them – as much as you can know a chicken, I guess!

DT and I consider Gertrude to be kind of like the older, protective sister.  She’s the first one out of the coop when we open the door each morning, and the first to check out any kind of food situation.  She’s also very observant and watchful when they are all out in the yard for any looming creatures, whether it’s a hawk soaring high above, a smaller bird swooping through, or a squirrel skittering about.

Gertie on the roof

It turns out Gertrude does not like when overly-curious dogs come to meet her! So….the garage roof was a better place to hang out that afternoon.

We think Deborah is certifiably nuts.  She’s just a little bit off her rocker, but that only adds to her character.  She had a couple of broody bouts last summer where she just sat and sat and sat and sat and sat in the nesting box, waiting to lay an egg (or sit on one[s] that had already been laid).  DT would don gloves, pull her out of the box (never without a few pecks), and bring her into the backyard to try and “reset” her little brain.  It took some time, but eventually the broodiness broke and she’d come running out with the other two.

Debbie

Gertie and Deb

Priscilla is a little squawker.  I love talking to her, she’s so chatty and responsive.  We’ve discovered she is the calmest and most docile of the three.  They all love to sunbathe, but Priscilla is usually the first to plop down, close her eyes, and soak up the rays – and isn’t in any hurry to move.  She looks like a little turkey.  We have been thankful for her mild nature as we treat a case of leg mites.  Yes, leg mites.  We are treating our chicken for leg mites.  Picture this scene:  DT chases after Priscilla, grabs and holds her (she’s noisy but mostly agreeable), while I apply a petroleum jelly-coated paper towel (cocoa butter-scented, just to further paint the picture) to her legs.

chickens sunbathing 1

Urban life with chickens, man.

Third, oh how they love FOOD.  They eat and eat and eat!  Bottomless pits, and they aren’t particularly picky.  Some of their absolute favorite foods:  saltines, seeds and ribs from bell peppers, watermelon, corn on the cob, strawberry tops, apples, scrambled eggs (Cannibalism?  Hmm), bread crusts with peanut butter, grilled cheese, bacon (Uh – is that wrong?  Piggy farm friends?), pizza crusts, waffles….the list goes on and on.  And yes, ice cream!  Girls after my own heart.

chickens - ice cream

chickens - saltines

Lastly, watching chickens run is pretty much the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.  As I said to DT last weekend, chickens running will never not be funny.  If one of the girls takes off, the other two quickly notice and break into a lumbering, tipsy tear across the yard.  It’s hilarious.  They definitely travel in a pack.  They groom themselves obsessively, poop constantly (and without any shame or self awareness), and find enormous pleasure in rolling around in the dirt.

chickens - back step

Kitties and birdies living peacefully. Indifferently may be the more accurate description.

Regarding egg production….people always ask how many eggs we get each day.  Our answer varies, but we can safely say on average, two daily.  At least one, maybe even three.  They continued to lay throughout the miserable winter, but the eggs would often freeze and crack, so we had to throw many of them out.  There were a few dry spells where it was simply too cold and not enough daylight to produce.  Lately they’ve been going crazy – two or three without fail, so we’ve been handing out eggs to our family and neighbors so our basement fridge doesn’t burst.

So, that’s the scoop on the girls!  It’s been a fun adventure for all of us, we’ve learned a ton in the near-year they’ve lived here.  I’ve said it a thousand times….they are strrrrrraaaaange little creatures!  But we love having them around.  Hanging out with them on the patio is our new favorite summer pastime.

beggars

Beggars at the back door.

Cluckety-cluck!


Feline Fridays

Hey, Friday Saturday!  Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

It’s been such a goofy week….into work Monday, out of work Tuesday/Wednesday, back to work Thursday/yesterday, leave town Tuesday, back home Wednesday, way too much food Tuesday/Wednesday, reintroducing appropriate portion control (and food that is not made entirely of sugar and fat) Thursday/yesterday….and here we are, the weekend.  Exhausting!

RJ and me, 1

I think I may spend a lot of time in my PJs this weekend with this big fella.  Just because I can. 🙂

RJ and me, 2

I hope these post-holiday (/pre-other holiday!) days are relaxing for you too!


Feline Fridays

Hi!

Christmas is next week – next week! – ….are you ready?

I’m juuust about.  After a big wrapping session I’ll be set.

Milo, sink 1

It’s the last weekend with the kids before Christmas, so we’ve got a list of festive flicks to view and an early holiday celebration tomorrow with them and DT’s mom.  All shall be good.

Milo, sink 5

Milo, sink 3

Oh, and in case it’s not obvious, Milo approves of the new sink….

Milo, sink 4

(Because, naturally, that was of utmost concern when we were choosing a sink.)

Have a fantastic weekend, friends!


Feline Fridays

Good day!

Another week gone by….crazy.  Where has this year gone??

Milo, RJ drinking water 1

Not too much shakin’ this weekend, just some good-old-festive-holiday-fun for DT and me.  I love good-old-festive-holiday-fun!

And the kitties love water, so there’s that.

Milo, RJ drinking water 2

Milo, RJ drinking water 3

Happy weekend! 🙂


Feline Fridays

Hello holy Friday cold snap!

It is zero degrees here.  Zero.  0.

I have no words.

Milo, wire 1

I can think of no better way to spend this ungodly frigid weekend than watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas this evening (holiday movies, you guys!) and tomorrow….baking boatloads of Christmas treats with my mum (it’s our annual holiday baking weekend, yippee!).  The best laid plans, I tell you.

Milo, wire 2

Milo, wire 3

DT and my dad had a little television/audio wiring project going on last night….naturally, Milo had to insert himself and assist roll around.

Milo, wires 4

Dad and Milo wiring 1

Milo, wires 5

Dad, Milo wiring 3

Cats and wires, cats and wires.  Not helpful at all, but at least they have a marvelous time!

Milo, wires 6

Whatever you’re up to….stay warm and enjoy! 🙂