night


I was going to try to write some holiday-appropriate words to accompany this animated image of our Christmas tree. But it’s 3:20 on Christmas Eve’s eve morning as I write this and I’ve been up since 2:41 and I’m just not feeling very jolly.

I was brought from my sleep because our dog Shadow uncharacteristically unsilented the night with a couple of adamant barks at the aforementioned ungodly hour and minute. I did not hesitate to get up and go to her.

Every day I wrestle with a decision regarding Shadow whose inevitability will one day pin me to the mat — and sooner rather than later. She was eight weeks young when we found each other on the grass beside Balboa Lake in the Sepulveda basin. She is now eight months into our seventeenth year together and honestly, I don’t know if we have eight more days together.

Her hearing is severely diminished. She no longer walks, and can barely even sit up on her front two legs, much less stand on all four. As such I have become her dutiful attendant, shuttling her out into the backyard several times during the day and night where I’ll hold her upright with one arm cradling her belly and the other lifting her tail until she’s finished. If I get lucky she’ll poop, too. But I don’t get lucky often in that regard. Mostly when it comes to No. 2 she does that where she lays, and I pick up after her and then carry her out to for her to empty her bladder. This has been going on for a few months now.

She isn’t in any pain, at least not the obvious variety. But so long gone from those days a few years ago when she’d accompany me  on two- or three-mile exploratory walks high and low around the neighborhood, Shadow clearly despises her condition. Who wouldn’t? Some might say that in prolonging her frustration and deterioration, I should despise it more.

For whatever it’s worth, my rationale is that she’s still pretty much in control of her bladder and she eats most meals. If –or I should say: when — either of those tentative positives go negative… well, then it will be time to say goodbye.

When I awoke to her barks I knew almost immediately that it wasn’t in alarm to anything going on outside because our other dog Ranger wasn’t accompanying it with any whimpers or frantic activity. When I got downstairs to her corner of the foyer next to the Christmas tree, whose lights were off, she lifted her head and looked at me. In nothing but my boxer briefs and flip flops I carried her outside into the 39-degree chill, cradled her belly and lifted her tail and minor miracle of minor miracles she both pooped and peed.

I have this little routine after she’s finished where I lift her back up in my arms and hold her close as I look up to the sky bracketed between our two backyard palm trees and I tell her what a good girl she is and that I love her. I prolonged that moment this time.

Back inside I returned her to the foyer, but still she fussed. Thinking she might be thirsty I moved her closer to her water bowl, but that wasn’t it. I sat and petted her, and she calmed a little, but I still sensed her stress. I’d accidentally left the tree’s lights on all night last night so I turned them back on to see if that might be what she wanted, and went and sat on the couch. Whether that was the solution or not, she relaxed. With the tree twinkling I set up the cam and recorded a few seconds of video. Before I finished she was asleep.

The tree is far brighter and more festive than the above too-dark animation of it, which I almost didn’t post. But actually, the clip works for me on a symbolic level. This holiday season has been dimmed by a decision I’m still not yet ready to make, but it still shines.

Well that was a long night. I got home later yesterday than I have been these past couple that Susan’s been away on biz in Denver. Whereas the last time she was out of town, her stubborn Bink decided coming in at night wasn’t something he was obliged to do (and thus left me stressed out and severely sleep-deprived over several days), this time Bink was the picture of perfection; coming in when called, or just being there in his usual spot on the bed when I arrived. Hallelujah!

Rolling in around 8 p.m. last night, I was very pleasantly surprised to find Bink was once again on the bed and making my life easier for what would be the last night before Susan gets home. Jig came inside shortly thereafter, but Pepper and Pumpkin were nowhere to be seen.

After a few more consternated minutes of calling for them, I adjourned inside to feed the dogs and two cats present and accounted for, then I went back outside for another round of repeatedly calling out “Pepper!” and “Pumpkin!” over and over and over.

Finally, near 9 p.m. Pepper appeared and we went inside to grub him up.

But still no Pumpkin. And now my consternation transformed into increasing worry. See, our beloved orange feline isn’t the brightest cat in the cradle. He exhibits definitively dopey behavior pretty regularly, and can go from serene to startled on a moment’s notice — usually by his own tail. Worse, he has a history of also getting himself into predicaments. There was the time in 2004 when he treed himself across the street, and then a year or so later he seemingly vanished without a trace until Susan’s sharp ears picked up his signature near-silent mewing and we traced it to the house next door coming from a crawlspace entrance that had been open long enough for him to enter and get under the neighbor’s house where he went exploring long enough for the access panel to be closed back up, trapping him.

Needless to say I checked the area trees and fine tuned my ears for any distress calls. And I looked everywhere. I did a perimeter check around the house a dozen times. I went up and down the street calling out “Pumpkin!” repeatedly with little regard for how foolish it might look/sound.

Nothing.

Finally at 10:30 I called off the search. Leaving the backdoor open and the screendoor latched I put a circle of love around him so that he’d be safe wherever he was and tried to get some sleep. I suppose technically I got some, but I was also up and looking at even the slightest hint of a meow or a push of the screen or Ranger reacting to something going on outside.

Exhausted I ignored my two alarms that would usually have me up by 5 a.m. and didn’t rise until 6. An initial glance through the screendoor into the backyard showed it devoid of Pumpkin, but after grabbing a cup of coffee I turned around filled with a horrible sense of helplessness… and there was Pumpkin sitting there, finally at the end of his all-nighter.

I don’t know where he was or what prevented him from coming in, say, about nine hours earlier, but as I ushered him in any frustration was swept away by the relief that he was safe and home. And now he’s curled up on the pillow in the study as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

The wonderful bastard.

I can only guess that Susan’s cat Bink (that’s him peeking out from under the covers in this blog’s banner) was making a statement by staying out these past three night that he didn’t like it — didn’t like it at all — that his momma was out of town.

See Bink can be notoriously stubborn, but lately he and Susan have worked out a system when it comes to dinner time, where she confines the dogs in the study with treats and then she walks out to the side gate and calls him  to come inside and damn if he doesn’t get his mosey on.

I tried that Friday night and nothing. I even tried to mimic the pitch of Susan’s voice and the words she uses (“Bink! C’mon buddy! C’mon Dude!”) and I swear I heard Bink snicker from his favored spot near the trash cans. I was so distraught and preoccupied with his failure to come in out of the dark that I ended up pretty much up all night — which was good because at 3 a.m. there was Bink by the backdoor screen finally fucking ready to come in.

Of course, my frustrations gave way to relief and I welcomed the bastard with grateful hugs and his very late dinner.

Saturday was pretty much a wash from the lack of sleep. I didn’t get grocery shopping done, I didn’t get to the driving range. About the only thing I’d eventually accomplished was laundry and vacuuming. After the animals’ breakfast Bink went outside and I hoped we wouldn’t have a repeat of Friday, but we did.

This time I managed some fitful beligerent sleep until I awoke with a start at 2 a.m. The only time one should awake with a start at 2 a.m. is if they’ve just won the lottery and they need to pinch themselves to make sure it isn’st a dream. Me, I came out of night-night wondering if Bink was at the backdoor.

Nope, he wasn’t.

Neither was I going back to slumberville, which was a good thing because when Bink finally sidled up to the rear portal screen at 4 a.m. there I was to once again stow the anger and just be damn glad he was safe and sound.

Since I was up to greet Sunday’s gray dawning I decided to make the best of the sleep deprivation and get my ass out onto some fairways and greens for some real world swings of my clubs (part of the final preps for my first venture in 2.5 years onto a PGA championship-level course next week when I travel to Savannah).

Before leaving I’d also decided to prevent a three-peat of Bink’s bullshit, I’d close him up in the bedroom after breakfast, but wouldn’t you know the cantankerous conspiratorial cat escaped before containment commenced. Curses!

And now it’s Monday morning. I snoozed until about midnight when I awoke with what’s become a familiar start but there was no Bink when I checked the backdoor — and at least this time there was no insomnia and I was able to re-slumber the rest of the night away, or at least until 4:45 whenI woke again and there was still no Bink.

Hopefully he will make an appearance before I have to leave for work and I can give him a begrudging hug and tell him his momma will be home today and he can go back to not being a pain in my ass.

UPDATE (7:12 a.m.): The prodigal cat returns. As I was prepping breakfast for the rest of the cooperative crew of catz ‘n dawgz in the kitchen there was Bink at the backdoor demanding to be let in and fed. Yay! Happy ending. And here’s his “Forget the stress I put you through, where’s my breakfast!?” look:

Post RIDE-Arc ride, rolling back home solo I had to stop at the bright lifelessness of Chris Burden’s “Urban Lights” installation outside the L.A. County Museum of Art (click to humongify).

It may seem odd to some, but those late hours are some of the most enjoyable to be on a bike in the city.