A Natural Death

When our Other Gray Kitty began a perceptible decline in health, we didn’t take any expensive and stressful (for the cat) steps to explore the cause of his gradual weight loss.

We have had many cats move in with us over the years, some by invitation, others just appeared at the back door looking for a handout and some love. None has ever been turned away unless they failed to peacefully share our space with the existing tribe. In exchange for room and board, each has sacrificed his/her right to procreation (in this totalitarian dictatorship, social programs are not generational). Veterinary care is unfairly distributed, not by right but by value to the tribe. Naturally, injuries are treated, vaccines administered, and nutritious food provided to all, but beyond that, my finite resources are allocated judiciously to provide the best care for the greatest number (nine at one point). This is an explanation of what follows.

From previous mountain bike adventure stories Xangans may remember how Gray Kitty and Other Gray Kitty were found frolicking in the brush, just off Highway 38, by our cycling group on a sunset ride. They were not named because we hoped to find permanent homes for the little rascals. They weren’t particularly good-looking cats and they were just past the oh-my-dog! adorable stage, so they never left us and their no-names stuck.

About 15 years later, Gray Kitty was getting a bit deaf or dim-witted and walked under the wheel of my SUV as I was creeping into the garage. Who knows, maybe he simply wanted to avoid a natural death. (some might argue that death by car IS a natural death for cats) The loss was mourned as he had been my best gopher henchman.

Other Gray Kitty, wasn’t as prescient and continued his cat life, but as he grew more senile, he flaunted his remaining 8 lives. I say 8 because I ran over him once when he was young but, miraculously, he was uninjured. More recently he liked to sit at the end of the driveway and call the coyotes from the field across street. Coyotes in these parts are well-fed (lots of stray cats and cheeky, small dogs) so they turned their noses up at the smell of this stringy, bag of bones.

So, to make a long story short, and a natural death is nothing if not a long story, over a period of a couple of years, Other grew increasingly feeble. Until at last, he was too weak to navigate, eat, use the litter box, and finally, he gave up purring when groomed. Believing that a peaceful death at home would be his choice, we made him comfortable in the middle of the kitchen floor (his favorite place) and waited for the final breath. The first night of his expected demise, he woke me every hour or two, plaintively asking for water. I would hold his head over the dish for him to lap a few drops and then he would calmly go back to sleep. By the second day we were certain he wouldn’t last the day, but by evening he still lay sprawled, head resting on chin, breathing regularly. Today is day three and his breathing is still regular and not labored. The ants are circling and I’m keeping them at bay with soapy water. At least I have a clean floor.

I’ve never been overly fond of Other; he’s a narcissistic tabby with few, if any, lovable qualities. So, his arrival at the end of the road isn’t a sad thing for me but it does bring to my consciousness of what lies ahead.

My mom, dementia plagued, lies peacefully in her bed or her recliner. Her appetite is good, her bowel movements regular, her breathing is not labored, though she rarely purrs. Unlike Other, she had redeeming qualities too numerous to mention…and she could catch gophers.

A Trip to the Spa

I may have mentioned my dentist in previous posts but she really is a remarkable woman and bears a second visit.

When my sister, Babs, first started seeing her, I thought she (my sister) was crazy, that is until she came home with a beautiful new smile. The “Queen of Teeth” had replaced all of her graying, oddly positioned, front teeth with lovely, even, white crowns. Suddenly the thousands of dollars she had shelled out seemed like a reasonable price to pay for such an attractive smile. I quickly made an appointment.

“The Queen” is a little sprite of a woman, barely five feet tall in her platform heels. Spiky blonde hair adds an inch or two but she still has to lower the chair to its lowest limit when she works on upper teeth. Proportionally tiny hands enable her to almost get both hands into my mouth at the same time. This is a very desirable trait in both dentists and gynecologists.

Her office is tastefully appointed, with massaging chairs and the kindest, prettiest support staff imaginable. If one is on time for one’s appointment, there is never a wait. Soothing classical music wafts through the treatment cubicle and there’s a flat-screen TV for the patient’s viewing pleasure. Like flying business class, a “stewardess” offers the patient a variety of liquid refreshment that includes smoothies, coffee drinks, tea, juice, or bottled water. Cozy polar fleece lap blankets are stacked within arm’s reach to ensure your comfort.

I’ve never availed myself of the juice bar but today I heard another patient ask for an iced mocha latte. I had once mentioned that my previous dentist would greet me with a glass of sherry after I confessed to bolting down a shot of tequila in the parking lot to calm my nerves before a root canal. Nobody seemed to jump on that idea; but today, when I mentioned that I’d considered taking one of the leftover Valium tablets she had prescribed for my six-crowns-at-one-time visit, she offered to get one for me from her supply. I admitted that something medicinal to take the edge off sounded fun. Since I was going to work while she made the crown, we agreed that a half of one was probably about right.

What a brilliant idea! I will never go through the tedious process of a crown again without mother’s little helper. Instead of lying there longing for relief from the drilling and sucking and cramped jaw, I nearly napped in utter relaxation. At one point, I vaguely remember she, of the diminutive mitts, inserted her entire hand into my mouth to fit the crown and then invited her assistant to join her by using both of her hands to run the floss between the adjacent teeth while she held the crown in place. I think the stretch marks around my mouth will be temporary.

I’m thinking that woman who ordered the fancy coffee drink would have kicked herself had she learned there were even better options not shown on the menu.

What to Do First?

Today is the second week of my new four-day workweek and I’m paralyzed with indecision of how to spend my extra day of freedom.

A bike ride is tantalizing but the garden beckons. The house is a mess but I know if I spend Friday cleaning, it will be dirty again by Sunday (more accurately, Friday night). I absolutely MUST wash Mum’s hair and clean her house, but it can wait until I’m too tired to do anything more strenuous. And then Molly and Sadie are lobbying hard for a walk in the wash on this cool, overcast, snake-free morning.

Speaking of snakes, we stumbled upon two of them on our hike last weekend. Walking in a group of four women, up a familiar trail, nobody was paying much attention to the surroundings. Three of us AND my two dogs were already past a gopher snake stretched half-way across the trail, before MFN Tara pointed him out to us. Later, Tara spotted another beautiful specimen slithering across the driveway, in the parking lot. Again, Molly and Sadie were not at all interested, making me wonder if their anti-rattlesnake training had been effective.

And here I sit, squandering my Friday off!

Toss the Floss

Every once in a while, I come across information that I wholeheartedly embrace simply because it espouses a “truth” I want to believe. I don’t think I’m unusual in this. But before you blow this off as just another political rant, let me explain.

I have always hated flossing the way some people hate exercising. I will sit at the computer, head bobbing towards the keyboard as I doze off in my chair, long past my target bedtime, just because I’m procrastinating.

I know I must floss, my dentist tells me so. Her adorable hygienist points out the places I’m missing when she scrapes and polishes the coffee stains off with a rabid passion, and gently asks me if I’m flossing regularly.  Before I spent my nieces’ inheritance on my for-display-only, front choppers, I admit I was not conscientious. But now that I have a significant investment at risk I am devoted to the practice.


So imagine my delight when I read that there is no evidence to prove that flossing has any benefit AND it may even be DANGEROUS to some people. https://apnews.com/f7e66079d9ba4b4985d7af350619a9e3

That article, coupled with a recent discovery that the Glide dental tape I like is coated with a chemical (also used in most packaging, non-stick cookware, and practically everything you have in your house) is a known carcinogen, may just free me to slip drowsily into bed without the onerous task of flossing. I just hope I don’t read anything disparaging about G.U.M. rubber tooth picks because I love sitting at the computer picking my teeth.

I leave you with that appetizing visual image.


Living Among the Great Unwashed

Listening to David Sedaris’ description of his life in Tokyo, (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1044355.When_You_Are_Engulfed_in_Flames?ac=1&from_search=true)   I came to the conclusion that I could fit in seamlessly into Tokyoian society, at least on a very superficial level.

The living habits of that city are not all that dissimilar from those of my Dutch ancestors in the Mid-west. For instance, we were taught to remove our shoes outside the door. We didn’t have the sanitary, little slippers in a basket, in various sizes for guests as they do in Japan; socks were considered sufficient. In my thrifty family, those socks might be darned toe and heel, but they were always clean.

When I moved to California, I found that people looked at me oddly when I removed my shoes before entering. And eventually, someone explained that the oils from one’s foot dirtied a carpet worse than a street-soiled shoe. In southern California, people commonly wear sandals without socks. I don’t know whether shoes or feet contribute more to to dirty carpets but when in Rome… I still remove my shoes in my own home which results in socks covered in pet hair.

One of the habits of my fellow Californians that puzzles me is (well okay, I’ll be honest, ANNOYS me), is how they feel entitled, when in a public place, to leave a mess for someone else to clean up. I’ve seen adults make a huge, wet mess of a lavatory faucet and mirror and walk away. Do they assume the restroom attendant will pop in behind them to spare the next person having to wallow in their swamp? Hello, it’s Costco, dimwit, not the Ritz-Carlton.

Another thing we were taught as children is that our freedom ends where our neighbors’ sensibilities begin. In other words, don’t speak loudly in public where you may annoy someone else; don’t drive your car in a way that shows disregard for another’s safety; don’t allow your dogs to bark incessantly; keep the exterior of your house tidy; spay and neuter your pets; and generally be considerate of others, even those you don’t really understand.

So, I go through life wiping down faucets, picking up trash, adopting discarded animals, and generally trying to be the change I wish to see in my fellow man, all the while shaking my head and grumbling under my breath, “What slobs!”

I Love To Go A-Wandering

A View of Joint Point North in Winter Attire

The girls and I went tramping between rain storms yesterday to do some reconnaissance on one of my favorite trails. The pictured hill is the climax to a most thrilling downhill trail that we call The Motorcycle Trails. Testimony to its e-ticket reputation is the fact that my palms are sweating just writing about it.

Considering the surprises we found on our wash trails, I thought it prudent to look this trail over at walking speed, because once you point your wheel down this hill, there’s no turning back. I’m happy to report that the trail is in spectacular condition, no ruts, no rocks, no impediment to pure downhill fun. (Oh, rats, now I have to use the bathroom. This is the natural sequence after the sweaty palms. I’ll be right back.)

So, my plan for this afternoon’s ride is to shuttle my bike and Sadie up to the college, where I can pick up a climbable trail that will take me to the top of this hill. I’ll have to pedal back up to the car, so it won’t be all fun and games. I think I’ll wear the Go-Pro camera, just in case it gets interesting.

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And here’s some music to get stuck in your head for your own happy wanderings.

Riding After the Storm

It seems like it’s been raining for weeks but in reality it’s only been raining on weekends for weeks. So, for three weekends in a row, I’ve been off the bike.

Four weeks of rest takes a noticeable toll on one’s fitness level and technical skill level. However, the sandy trails are compacted into a downhiller’s dream, allowing speed and cornering that inspire confidence…even recklessness. The wash trails are made even more technical by newly exposed rocks, recent abundant growth in foliage, and ruts that used to be trail.

Sadie sits at the edge of a new obstacle in the trail.

One of our favorite trails had completely disappeared, eaten up by a newly formed channel.

Sally and Mango scout ahead, looking for the remnants of the trail.

Decades of topsoil, washed away in one storm.

There’s a stretch of our route that takes us briefly to Hwy 38, where we are forced to ride on the side of the road through a narrow gash cut through the hillside. It’s only a few hundred feet, but the traffic is fast and heavy, especially on a three-day weekend when the ski resorts are open. We leash the dogs and pedal as fast as we can, hoping that the oncoming drivers will have more concern for the dogs than they might for two stupid women riding bikes on the narrow shoulder. Leading up to this sprint, is a steep, rutted bank that takes everything we’ve got to pedal up.

I had Sadie on the leash because of the proximity to the traffic, as I labored up the squishy, rain-softened hill. Near the top, a rock-strewn rut opened up and I downshifted to my lowest gear to try to stay above it on the off cambered slope. Just before the summit, I stalled. Clipping out of my pedal with great alacrity, I caught myself before falling into the rut, but the front of the bike wheelied off the ground and we began falling back down the embankment. I hopped on one leg in a fruitless attempt to stop my descent with Sadie doing her best to stay out of my way. When my third hop planted my foot in the rut, my leg buckled and the bike landed uphill from me.

Sadie stood as far away as her leash would allow, puzzling at the unfamiliar expletives that poured out of my mouth. It must have seemed like a strange place to take a break but she didn’t question my reasoning for lying with my feet uphill from my body and my traitorous bike lying inertly on top of me. Sally kindly asked if I needed help rising and took me at my word that I could extricate myself as soon as I could assess if there was any damage. As is normal in slow tip over crashes, the pain soon subsided and we were on our way.

Mtn Bike Crash Cartoon

Returning that same way, I released Sadie’s leash as soon as we approached the rut, allowing her to drop behind as I rode down the steep bank. We continued a couple of hundred yards away from the highway and then I stopped to remove Sadie’s leash. We waited for Sally to catch up. We waited, and waited, and finally, Sally rode into view, wet dirt clinging to one side of her jacket. She had been pulled off balance by Mango trying to avoid the rut, which pulled her front tire into it. Over the bars she went, in the same place I’d gone down.

A crash that results from having too much fun, also known as riding too fast for one’s skill level or trail conditions, confers bragging rights. But stupid crashes are demoralizing and confidence shattering. Thankfully, neither of us incurred injuries that will make these tumbles memorable to our geriatric brains.

Bragging Rights
Bragging Rights Crash