a healthy asl cat roams about again

snooze  buddies lucy and max

Lucy has been home now for some few weeks and she’s really beginning to come back around to her old self. We’ve been giving her her medications as a liquid that we can load up into a simple syringe and then squirt into her mouth. If you think that pilling a cat is easy, then you’ve not really tried. So we had the compounding lab that supplies our vet give us her medications in solution. It’s considerably easier and faster to give her a squirt of liquid rather than try to get her mouth open and then somehow drop the pill in.

the can that saved a cat

This was the first food I was able to get Lucy to eat after her near-death experience earlier in February. It’s pure fish in brine. It’s great as far as protein is concerned, not so great due to all the salt. But it got her started eating again, and after a time she started to eat other more conventional canned cat foods.

my picky eater

You’re looking at her current stock of food (above). Before she got so ill she used to eat dry food and then all the Fancy Feast flavors. Since coming back from her illness she’s started eating just the regular salmon Fancy Feast, and has now moved on to the Elegant Medleys, all of them salmon based. The Florentine version seems to be her favorite; I can’t get the Florentine version out of the can fast enough for her. With the return of her appetite has been a surge of her eating, at times three to four cans/day. I don’t mind as her weight dropped to 7.9 pounds from a pre-sickness weight of around 11 1/2 pounds. For a time she was gaunt, looking like she did when she first came into the house in 2008.

Hopefully I can get her back up and “running.” I’m going to be on a three-week business trip starting next week, and I need to get her straightened out as best I can.

A New Way of Photographing

All photos were taken with the Olympus E-M10 and then pulled over, via WiFi and Olympus’ OI.Share. Post processing was done with Pixelmator on an iPad Air 2. I then pushed the final image off my camera roll and up to Flickr via Pixelmator. I would have written the complete blog post on the iPad as well, but I can’t seem to be able to link back with the same ease using the iPad as I can using a regular browser (Firfox in this case) on Window 8.1. But I’m working on learning how. The ability to just move photos off the E-M10 directly to the iPad wirelessly is so sweet and easy compared to the elaborate workflow of using Adobe Lightroom. I have the iOS WordPress app installed. I just need to better understand how to use it. Then I can leave the big Samsung Windows machine behind.

Simplification and traveling light while photographing. That’s one of my top goals for 2015.

Posted in Cats, Photography | Leave a comment

we can’t run to mars from our problems on earth

KSR_RedMarsKim Stanley Robinson, the science fiction author of the Mars trilogy “Red Mars,” “Green Mars,” and “Blue Mars,” was interviewed on 6 March of this year by Blog Picture Science. In that interview Robinson discusses what has transpired in robotic planetary exploration over the last 20+ years since the first novel came out in 1992, and how that has re-shaped his thinking about the key assumption in his novels, that assumption being that it would be fairly straightforward to terraform Mars.

Now, he believes it’s going to be a lot harder and take a lot longer to accomplish.

His reasons for this change in thinking are based on:

  1. “There’s much less nitrogen on Mars than there should be if there had been an ordinary distribution through the solar system in the original planetary accretion.This is still mysterious but it apparently exists and we really need nitrogen, so that’s one problem.”
  2. “Another problem is there could be indigenous bacterial life down in the basement regolith which is to say a kilometer underground or 100 meters underground and that’s going to be very hard to disprove. So when we go there we may be intruding on alien life.”
  3. “And lastly the surface is covered by perchlorates which are poisonous to humans in the parts per billion range and the Viking lander didn’t reveal that. It has since been revealed by our subsequent landers. Now those perchorates could be changed into something more benign to humans by introducing a surface bacteria of our own to eat them and process them because they’re basically salts. But that would take a long time. So these are new stoppers that I didn’t know about when I wrote my books.”

In case you’re curious where you’ve heard about perchlorates, they’re used in high-performance solid rocket motors as well as explosives. In 2013 the EPA started to regulate perchlorate in drinking water due to its adverse effects on the thyroid gland in pregnant women and young children here on Earth.

On Mars, perchlorate concentrations in the Martian soil are estimated at between 0.5 and 1%. That may seem small, but perchlorate adverse effects on humans can be caused by concentrations in the parts per billion range. With all the fine dust on the surface of Mars, there’s no way it wouldn’t get into a Martian habitat and slowly poison the inhabitants. Any permanent one-way colonization effort to Mars would be a trip of death, something that the Mars One effort may not have even considered. Or perhaps they did get the perchlorate memo; contracts to develop the 2018 robotic lander have run out and as of February 2015 were not renewed. This could be as simple as a plain old lack of money, but that lack could have been triggered by someone bright enough to really appreciate the issues Robinson has pointed out.

Further into the interview, Robinson states “[W]e have to make a reconciliation on this planet (Earth) there is no planet ‘B’… the terriforming of [Mars] is too long, it’s really thousands of years and we only have decades to get it together here… [Mars terraforming] can only follow on the first great project, which is sustainability here (on Earth).”

I think we’ve got our work cut out for us right here on this planet. But before you think I’m down on the whole idea of Mars, Know that I’m not. The following video, “Voyager,” came from Robinson’s website. It’s a bit about how we might colonize our own solar system, our own bit of space with all our planets. But we have to make our civilization sustainable on our original world, to preserve this unique planet called Earth. Only then will we have a chance to make it sustainable everywhere else.

Posted in Space | Leave a comment

cats and roses

a cat and her cat

Lucy’s been back home for over a week now and is eating steadily. Her weight dropped three pounds during her sickness, from 11 down to 8. I remember that was her weight when she first arrived back in 2008. I’m hoping to get her to eat more and get the weight back on. Otherwise she’s perky and energetic (when she’s not napping around the house like the other two cats).

Evening rose

The rose was taken at dusk tonight. My wife wanted oven-baked wings so I took her to a local spot that fixes them the way she likes them. The roses just happen to grow right next to the wing place. She was happy with the wings, and when she’s happy I’m happy. And why not? She’s been through a lot lately. In a way, my wife and my cat have been paralleling each other, fighting illnesses and getting excellent medical attention.

The photos were taken with the Olympus E-M10 and the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and pulled directly off the E-M10 with the Olympus Android app to my smartphone. I then pushed them up to Flickr off the smartphone. The only problem with doing it that way is I can’t add Flickr tags and a title before the upload like I can from a desktop browser (Linux, Mac, or Windows). But I’m going that route simply because I need to break out of the post-processing rut I’ve gotten into over the years. I’m almost a slave to Lightroom and I needn’t be. The Olympus OM-D’s have built-in “art” filters that can give a nice effect when combined with some halfway decent composition. The Lucy photo at top was made with the black-and-white grainy filter, while the rose was made with the pale and light color filter, which I have come to like these days. The processors in the OM-D cameras are now fast enough that using them is no longer a liability when it comes to shot-to-shot timings. There is no noticeable delay using these filters, unlike when I use equivalent filters on my E-P2 (which I still own).

I’m headed to Japan in two weeks on a three week business trip. I’m taking one of my E-M5s and the E-M10, along with the Olympus 18mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8, and the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4. I’ll throw in the chargers, some batteries, and some extra cards, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll do some post processing on my iPad Air 2. I’m going there to take a lot of photographs during my off hours, and I’m accepting the results that come out of both cameras. I’m concentrating “capturing the moment” and “telling a story”, not on some fancy Lightroom settings.

Wish me luck.

Posted in Cats, Japan, Lucy, Olympus, Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

lucy update

still hanging in there
It’s been a week since I last wrote about Lucy’s health. She shows good signs of thriving. I’m cautiously optimistic that she may pull completely out of her current state of ill health and be a normal cat yet again, at least for a while longer. Whether that’s measured in months or years is unknown at this time. All of her troubles have given me a crash course about cats, especially their health and biology. It’s a tough way to learn more than just how to feed and water your animal…

She’s been the beneficiary of some top-notch veterinary science through my local vet (Williamsburg Veterinary Clinic), which is appropriate given how she’s the official ASL Cat Mascot. First that science kept her alive and got her through the worst part of this whole episode. Lucy’s to the point where she’s now reacting to me like she normally did, following me around and giving me meows modulated with her motorboat purrs. She’s not back up to eating full meals in one sitting (she’s almost free-feeding, eating a bit, then resting, then eating more), and that worries me, but I have the following (possible) diagnoses from the vet as to why this may be and what’s really going on.

  1. Cardiomegaly with no no evidence of congestive heart failure, and
  2. Cat pancreatitis (ran some panels and waiting for full results).

Based on what I’ve read the pancreatitis makes the most sense and can cause a lot of other problems in cats, including heart (#1 above). She showed the symptoms for #2, and I have to believe this is the problem. Pancreatitis in humans is bad enough, causing great abdominal pain and killing the appetite, but for a little cat it has got to be even worse. I’ve been giving her foods that are pure, or nearly pure, protein, such as the Goya mackerel and Purina’s Beyond Wild Salmon Recipe which is grain free. The problem with the Goya is it’s packed in brine, but I can wash off the excess salt before giving it to her. The key right now for feeding is no carbs, very little fat, just mostly protein. I’m in the process of following up on a suggestion by one of the tech vets to feed her roasted chicken. This is just pure chicken that’s been roasted with the fat cooked out a bit.

So far she’s been pulling through like a trouper. Since getting back home a week ago she’s back to exploring the house. She’s cleaning herself, leaping about her cat tree, scratching on her cat tree posts, and doing all the typical cat-isms you’d expect from a normal healthy cat. Today she was following me around like the old times, talking to me up a storm. She’d follow me to some spot where I’d be working, then sit somewhere nearby while I did some sort of chore. I’d move on and she’d be my little shadow. She’s been leaping up in my lap when I sit, and batting at my hands playfully. It’s the old Lucy that I haven’t seen since December. I didn’t realize how much she’d changed over that short period, and how much I dearly missed that part of her personality.

The problem with owning a pet for many of us is we love it when they’re healthy, but don’t know squat what to do when they become greatly ill. Having a pet is like being married, or having children. You’re committed to them in sickness and health, for better or worse… And so I take care of her needs when she’s ill, just like I’d take care of my wife and my children. As long as I’m able, anyone in my household will always be under my unconditional protection, even the little four-footers.

Posted in Cats, Lucy | 1 Comment


peeking outI thought that by today I might have good news about Lucy the ASL Cat. She came home from the vet’s this past Monday and as usual refused to eat. So I stopped by a local Publix grocery on the way home from work and picked up a can of Goya brand mackerel. Once in a food dish she tore into it like she was famished (and point of fact she was). She ate a large helping at every meal until yesterday, when she started to slide back into lethargy and not eating.

So Judy took her back to the vet’s this afternoon. And while she was there Lucy had another throwing-up session, except this time it was clear with a little bile in it. All the fish she’d eaten was apparently farther down her GI tract.

I drove straight from the office after leaving work a bit early to the vet’s. I met my wife there and then with Lucy, and finally the vet. While my wife and I were alone in the visitation room waiting for the vet, Lucy was brought back in to us. At first she was quiet, but then she began to move around the room, checking things out. She seemed to rally quite a bit and was soon walking and jumped up on the bench, moving from one end of the room to the other, and even rolling over playfully on the floor. She was her regular kittenish self (she’s always been the most playful of the three cats).

While she was active I took a number of photos and posted them on my Flickr stream. I intended to post them here, but instead I picked these two photos of Lucy to show her at her best. They were taken by me as soon as I got home from our wedding anniversary cruise back in September 2014. I’ll always have all the photos of Lucy, and I’ll cherish them all. My only regret is that I never seemed to have taken enough of her. But that doesn’t mean I can’t remember all the other little Lucy incidents and stories.

coyYou can see just how cute and playful she could be in the second photo. And for whatever reason, the light coming into the room that day seemed to fill the air around her with a glowing energy. Almost angelic.

a bag full of cuteLucy was always claiming any box or bag on the floor as her own. She’d jump in and roll around to make some noise, then poke her head out to see if I was paying attention. Then she’d give me those big round cat eyes for a moment and then shoot out like she was jet propelled. None of the other cats would do that except Lucy. And every time she did it I’d laugh. I think that’s what she wanted to hear, my laughter.

I may very well be heading into the ultimate end state for Lucy, where I have to put her to sleep. I want to give her every chance to come out of this and live with us a few more years. She rallied well today and so I gave permission to the vet to have her scoped next Monday just to see what might be wrong and if it’s fixable. But I have to be prepared for the worst. Animals don’t live forever, any more than humans do.

I never thought I’d be this attached to a cat the way I’m attached to Lucy. I have no idea how old she really is. She became our third household cat in 2008 during a very hot August. Our next door neighbors had left for a vacation and asked if I’d feed and water two strays that had appeared on their doorstep. One of them was Lucy. So every morning and evening I’d go over with food and water for both. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, and Lucy wasn’t dumb, so she started to follow me back to my house. I started to feed and water her at my front door. Then one day, not long after she started to follow me home, I opened the front door and stared down at Lucy. She stared back up, gave me a perfunctory meow, and walked in the front door to live with us.

And here, I believe, lies a small problem with how I relate to Lucy. In spite of her kittenish behaviors and her thin body when she first arrived, Lucy may be a lot older than I think. She was already fixed and had a flea collar on her. My theory about Lucy is that she was left behind with one of the many houses in my neighborhood that got hit with foreclosure. When the owners left one of the houses behind, they left Lucy as well. Lucy could very well be a senior cat; I just don’t know. Regardless she’s had seven wonderful years in this household, and I’ve been blessed with seven wonderful years of her presence.

Once in the front door I gave her another dish of water and some of the cat food we fed our other two cats. And that started a seven year love affair between a cat and a human. Lucy really did love me. She’d come up in my lap, no matter where I sat, and purr like a motorboat. I’d give her rubs and she’d purr even louder. After a time she’d leave, check out the house (we laughingly called her out guard cat) and come back for another rub session.

As our “relationship” progressed she’d meet me at the garage door when I’d come home. At night, when it was proper time for bed, she’d come get me, purring all the while, and herd me back to bed. Then she’d jump up on top of me, walk up my chest, then drop down sphinx-like to stare into my face. That was my cue to give her more head and ear rubs. Finally I’d gently move her off, turn off the bedside lamp, and slowly go to sleep. Lucy would curl up beside me and go to sleep herself. In the morning my personal purring alarm clock would wake me, and the day would start anew.

The house is empty right now and lonely without her, in spite of having my wife, the two Labs, and the other cats with me. Lucy was my cat and she loved me with a fierceness I’ve only seen in one other animal, my long-since deceased black Lab Katie. And I have to now admit, I love that little cat back just a fiercely.

I didn’t realize until I started to write this post just what period in my life Lucy was around for. 2008, the year Lucy arrived, was the year I changed jobs for the company that would eventually lay me off in 2013. It was the same year my wife had to have her artificial knee replaced with a second operation because they’d botched the first operation. 2011 was the year I blew out my left knee and the start of a year of constant and increasing pain. 2012 was the year I got my left knee partially replaced, and 2013 was the year I was laid off. And Lucy was there to witness it all, and a lot more. When I had my knee surgery Lucy was my constant companion while I was down and out on my back. Lucy was especially attentive as only a cat can be. When I started to travel for weeks at a time, loyal Lucy was always there to greet me to give me ankle rubs and purr a hearty welcome. Only Ruby the Lab was as attentive (and she still is).

I’m going to show this last photo, because it’s of Lucy in the vet’s office. She’d walked over to me and settled on my left leg, just like old times. I lost it badly at that point, and I’m still losing it when I see this photo. My wife took it for me.

sitting and sharing

And for those who think I live under a rock, I’m aware of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. A child of the 60’s, I was fortunate to see The Original Series when it was first broadcast. I was mesmerized by the Vulcan as well as the series. To drive home Vulcan superiority, here’s a photo of Spock with a cat. This is a scene from the last episode of season 2, “Assignment: Earth.” It was the last TOS series I remember before the horrible third season started with “Spock’s Brain.” After “Spock’s Brain” I never watched another episode of TOS until it hit re-runs. I’ll always have the first two seasons, especially episodes like this one. With a Cat.


Posted in Cats, Lucy, Space | Leave a comment