Life Lists

Isabel caught a lizard this morning.

Another species crossed off her life list. She’s hit most of the new species around here: the mouse, the rat, several birds, including a humming bird.

She really wants a gopher or a quail, but I can tell she’s a bit boggled on how to go about it.

It’s funny — I know immediately when she’s captured something and brought it into the house. She has a certain bright meow. A trill of triumph, alerting us to her prize. She’s always so proud, submitting her contribution to the household.

She has a gentle mouth, so usually what she brings in is alive and unharmed. This can be both a good and bad thing. I’m always relieved to see the birds fly away again. I’m not so pleased to see the mouse or rat take off across the floor.

This morning, I went dashing in trepidation (this is difficult to do and takes much practice) in response to her trill of triumph. My heart sank to see Isabel digging around in the basket by the fireplace that has my movie-watching blanket in it. Yes, the cozy soft blanket I bought myself from Bath & Bodyworks one Christmas, which was a huge indulgence since that kind of behavior is strictly against Christmas-shopping rules. I just knew there was a rodent in my blanket.

I was already figuring what else I could wash with it on this non-laundry weekend.

David got his rodent-capturing gloves and, following my suggestion, simply carried the whole basket outside, so that we could maybe skip the whole process of sliding around whatever heavy piece of furniture the rodent had dived under. Isabel immediately dived into the corner of the fireplace, where the basket had been.

And there was our lizard. A New Mexico Whiptail. Widespread and abundant. Don’t tell Isabel.

David had predicted she’d catch one, once the weather cooled a bit. You can see this is probably the one she earlier pulled the tail off of — the blobby-looking tissue is his tail growing back.

David caught the lizard and we dutifully documented it. Isabel is happy now, preening on the patio like the queen she is. Terribly pleased with herself.

Coincidentally, I hit my own version of a 10K day: sometime last night I received my 10,000th page load on this blog. Hardly the big time, but I feel good about the accomplishment.

And I didn’t even have to rip anyone’s tail off. Mostly.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

I’ve never had a cat before who curls her toes.

Isabel curls even her back toes, when she’s especially deliciously at rest. If you pet her in this mode, she’ll purr and flex her toes, then curl them tighter.

She makes it look enviable.

I’ve always been a good sleeper. David says that if the house burned down, he’d have to carry me out over his shoulder. Indeed, when I was a girl, the house across the way, outside my bedroom windown, burned down, complete with excited neighbors and screaming fire engines.

I slept through it all.

But in the last few years, I’ve developed this weird sleep thing. I’m actually not sure when it started. At first it felt like a kind of anxiety. I would worry at night about where my rings were. Why my rings, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even wake up, really — just fret in this kind of limbo state about them. And no, they’re not incredibly valuable rings, nor have I ever lost them. I have lost other jewelry, and it bothered me greatly, so I suspect that’s where the fear comes from.

The point is, though, that it doesn’t matter what the object is, it’s the emotion that troubles my sleep.

I put it down to stress, though it doesn’t always seem to happen when I feel most stressed. It waxes and wanes, occurs in little clusters. Over time, the object of my concern has changed. (Possibly because I keep telling myself to quit thinking about the damn rings.) It some ways, it has expanded to involve some incredibly important object that I’ve left in a hotel room drawer (yeah — there’s my business traveler anxiety) and, since last fall, a cat that I’ve contrived to forget about and leave to die somewhere.

I can even see it: a grey, tiger-striped short haired cat. Unlike one I’ve ever owned.

Once I found myself up and out of bed in a hotel room in San Francisco, rummaging through the bedside table drawer, looking for the thing. Which sometimes feels like a puzzle box. Interestingly, when I have the thing about the cat, I connect it back to that hotel room in San Francisco, as if the cat is still there, dying and alone.

Yes, I’m probably crazy.

In fact, I spent time thinking about this. I’m a writer. I tend to be dreamy, to read in omens and signs. Who is this cat? What does the puzzle-box mean? Is it some deep meaning about my inner self? Some part of me neglected, locked away? Am I really a were-cat and I’m going to Fight Clubs at night while I think I’m sleeping?

Hey, crazy, but also imaginative!

It happened again a couple of weeks ago and, for the first time, David was there to witness the whole thing. I had been asleep for about half-an-hour and he was still lying awake. (Recall I’m the girl who’s out the moment her head hits the pillow.) I sat bolt upright, thinking the grey tiger cat was out being chased by coyotes. I’m always deeply confused in these moments, if you hadn’t gotten that already. Not sure where I am, even who I am.

I was struggling to remember how many cats we have and why I thought there was one missing, when David stroked my back and said everything is okay.

“I thought we had a kitty outside,” I tried to explain.

“Both kitties are happily walking around inside,” he told me. And he rubbed my back until I laid back down and, of course, went instantly back to sleep.

In the morning he told me that he’d been listening to my breathing and that I’d been really deeply asleep and then stopped breathing. He was on the verge of waking me up when I sat up.

So, now I’m thinking it’s some kind of sleep apnea. Which means the waking up is a healthy thing and the formless (and formed) anxiety might be related to that.

Now I’m just watching it for that. Fortunately, I’m not one of those several or hundreds of times a night people.

Eh, I’d probably just sleep through it.


Isabel models her new collar for you.

As requested: this is the radio fence report.

It was difficult to get a good pose, since her luxuriant ruff blocks it pretty well. For a radio collar with little shocker-nodes on the inside, it’s reasonably small and lightweight.
This was taken right after a nap, when she first moved out to the patio, so when I tried to pose her, she simply collapsed into belly-rub mode.
As you can see, the collar itself poses no trauma. It’s bigger and heavier than her old, typically kitty-thin collar, but she took the change in stride. The radio fence instructions have all kinds of suggestions on habituation and training, most of which I skipped.
Isabel is a smart cat.
And I’m a lazy woman.
Anyway, the collar was fine off the bat, so I just went with it.
For those who’ve been off reading books instead of keeping up with inane blogs (we won’t discuss Sunday/NFL activities), yesterday we installed the radio fence around the house, to keep Isabel from running off into the desert. I had to mail-order it, to get the lower-power cat version. To keep Isabel, who loves to push her boundaries from being munched by a coyote, bobcat or mountain lion, we’re letting her out only in the bright light of day and only into this circumscribed area, so she can always be found at dusk. Or should some clock-shifter predator wander by.
So, yeah, it’s a PITA. It takes time. But there’s enough wire in the initial kit to make a nice big loop around the house, plugged into a receiver in the garage. You bury the wire 1-3 inches deep. Which isn’t that difficult, unless you’re digging around cholla. (Our neighbor told us about a guy who ran into a cholla without a shirt on and he had to be taken to the emergency room to be treated for shock, because of the pain.) We got part of it buried before the cocktail bell was rung and we were forced to stop for the day.
But I tested it. First on me. Now get this, there’s five levels: the first is sound only, then the next four play a sound as the cat gets near the wire, then administers a little shock of greater levels. So Level 2 is suggested for timid cats, 3 for timid to average, 4 for stubborn and 5 for insanely difficult. Okay, I forget how they described the type of cat requiring a 4 or 5 shock, because I debated between 2 and 3.
No setting for intelligent cats. (No remarks from the peanut gallery, Kev.) So I picked 3.
What you do is hold the collar in the bracket they provide and walk along with the collar at cat-neck height. (Yes, you look like Quasimodo.) As you approach the wire, you can hear the beep and determine that it’s working. No shock because the bracket they provide protects you. That’s right: they fully expect you’ll strap this onto your beloved kitty — of course beloved, because you’re not going to invest the time and money into this project if not — and never feel the shock yourself!
No no no no no.
So I took it off the handy bracket, held it in my hand at Level 3 and the damn shock nearly made my hand numb.
Level 2 it was.
So we try it on Isabel. I should add the caveat that I’ve now skipped the two weeks of training they explain in great detail. Where they think you’re going to put your cat into a harness, walk her up near the wire and then, when you hear the beeping, yell “run away run away!” and run with your cat back to the house.
I kid you not.
Since I couldn’t envision doing this without using Monty Python voices and making pointy killer bunny teeth with my index fingers while I ran, which would mean I’d drop Isabel’s leash, which, oh yeah, doesn’t exist, I skipped that whole section and went for the “tie-out option.” This is where you tie your cat out and let her find the wire herself. Except with us there’s no tie-part. Just Isabel and the desert.
We watched her on her evening constitutional. She walked up to the wire, where we’d left off with the onerous burying, wondering why we’d been messing with it, looked around for that beeping noise, stepped on the wire and wandered off.
Okay, the collar was too loose.
Hey, those prong-thingies looked uncomfortable!
But I tightened it up — after testing it on my hand again, ow — and went for trial 2.
{Overnight intermission for cat to stop being paranoid about why I’m following her around.}
Isabel walks up to the wire, intent on a distant juniper stand with enticing baby quail noises. What’s that sound? She looks around for the beeping. Sees the red wire. Hmm. She bends to sniff the wire and snaps back! Just like her nose was shocked. She sniffs again. Same thing! Isable shakes her head, sniffs again, shocked, and leaps over the wire to escape it.
Yeah. Not quite what we hoped for.
But it is working. She’s been staying closer to the house and not messing with the wire. The collar was bugging her some — hey, little prongs in your neck — so I might rotate it with the other.

In the meanwhile, there’s lizard-hunting, except when they run under the yucca, which poke you in the face most uncomfortably.
I’m going to call it a provisional success.
Any questions? Feedback? Bets on how long it will take us to finish burying the wire?
Winner gets a free stay in our guest room!

Settling In

Yes, we are.
To answer all who’ve been asking.
There’s been particular concern over the kitties. It’s true: kitties have a major rep for hysterics over this kind of thing.
Not ours.
Yes, the three-day stop-over at my mother’s was traumatic. Ted and Isabel stayed at her house in Denver from Thursday to Sunday morning. A plan intended to avoid the more intense kitty trauma of having to See Furniture Being Moved. But they hated being separated from us and were apparently convinced we’d abandoned them forever.
But within hours of arriving here, they’d already established patterns. Teddy has her morning nap room and evening nap room. And Isabel is LOVING the secret garden. Here she is, crashed out after a morning of leaping after bugs and spinning among the flowers as the hummingbirds dart overhead.
We have been similarly finding our patterns. Cocktails on the patio watching the sunset is a no-brainer. We’ve managed to have five meals at home in a row — that were not pre-prepared in any way.
And the food is so good.
If you haven’t lived in a rural, dare I say, underserved, community, you don’t know what I mean. I remember when my writer/photographer friend, RoseMarie moved from New York, she had a fit because she couldn’t get lettuce that wasn’t wilted. She even bullied the Safeway produce manager into telling her when the produce truck would arrive, so she could be there to get her lettuce fresh off the truck. “It ARRIVED wilted!” she wailed to me.
You get inured over time. Accustomed to making do. To buying one of the two varieties available. You don’t expect much. No one up the highway from you expects more, so the good stuff never comes into towns like that.
Not so here. Last night I made Shrimp Newburg. The shrimp were succulent and tasty. The skim milk was organic, fresh and came in an adorable bottle. They have spelt sandwich bread! Am I sounding silly?
That’s the thing about low expectations: it makes the new world that much brighter and tastier.
Having a wonderful time — Wish you were here!