Remembering Zoe

My cat Zoe passed away on Nov. 20th. It was unexpected and after nearly fifteen years together, I am left with a huge hole in my heart. Because it helps me to write, I want to share our story, even down to the painful part. If it’s too much for you to read, I understand. This post is really to help me in my healing and grieving process, so I don’t expect many to make it through the hard parts.

But let’s begin with some happy memories.

In 2005, I adopted a fuzzy black and white kitten from the Vanderburgh County Humane Society. I was twenty-one and it was my sophomore year of college. I really didn’t NEED a cat and I’d only gone to look, but you know how that goes. Zoe, who was named Josie at the time, stole my heart and I took her home that same day.

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She instantly bonded with my roommate’s cat Socks and they lived together for about a year until Sarah moved out. At one point, Zoe escaped and our neighbors found her outside our door, so they scooped her up and took her in until one of us got home. Neither of us had any idea she’d gotten outside, but I’m glad she was smart enough to stay close to home.

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As a kitten, she would often play fetch with twist ties off of bread – we’d play this game for hours while I was sitting at my computer working on homework. If I didn’t throw it right away, she’d let me know by trilling out a “brrrrr” sound until I caved. As she got older, she didn’t fetch as much, but a couple months ago, she got kind of lively in our old apartment and decided to do it one more time.

Zoe had many unique qualities about her. She was the most vocal cat I’ve ever met. Sometimes just looking at her prompted a conversation. She was also very loud and I once heard some neighbors talking outside who thought I had a baby, haha. Nope, just my cat talking in her baby sounding tone when she wanted attention.

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In 2006, I also adopted her little sister Lilly. They were best buds from the beginning and Lilly would often give Zoe baths. They almost always curled up together in bed for afternoon naps.

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At night, Zoe loved to get under the covers with me, often laying her head next to mine on the pillow and I’d wrap my arms around her. She loved to lick my face, purr and when she was little, she’d even sleep on top of my head on my pillow.

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She also HATED closed doors. This never changed and honestly got worse the older she got. She was able to open all the doors in my old apartment that didn’t require you to turn the handle and I’d close them all before work, then come home to find all of them wide open. In our Indianapolis apartment, the doors to the washer and dryer closet drove her nuts and she’d yowl at them every night until someone opened them for her. And if I went to the bathroom and closed the door before she was able to run in there with me, I often saw a little paw reach underneath trying to get in. And let’s not even talk about what happened if I shut her out of the bedroom, haha. She’d throw herself at the door and cry until I opened it and she could hop up in bed with me.

We moved so many times, the three of us. From Evansville to Bloomington so I could get my Master’s. Then from Bloomington to Greenwood for a job a few years later, Indianapolis when Adam and I got married and finally, back to Greenwood when we bought a home. She never had problems adjusting as long as I was there, even if it did take some getting used to when she had to share me with another person.

They’d even go home with me on the holidays. One trip in particular was an adventure – we were almost back to Bloomington when both cats busted out of their carriers and Zoe stepped on the window button, rolling it down as I was driving down the highway. I thought they were both going to go out the window and panicked, finally getting it rolled back up and stopping at a gas station to coral them back in the carrier. After that, we drove with the child locks on during long trips.

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There have been moments over the years when I thought they acted more like dogs than cats, including the times Zoe would play fetch and due to the fact that both my cats have almost always greeted me at the top of the stairs or the front door when I get home from work. Thursdays nights were always especially exciting for them because I worked really late and I’d often see one or both of them in the window watching for me to pull up in the parking lot, then they’d run to the door to see me as I got home.

This year, Zoe turned 14. In the spring, I had to take her to the vet because her joints were hurting her. They diagnosed her with arthritis, not too uncommon for a senior cat. Otherwise, she seemed healthy, active and I hoped for so much more time with her.

When we moved in the new house, she was nervous and didn’t come out of the bedroom closet too much. After a couple weeks, it seemed like she might warm up to things – she was coming downstairs at night, but she wasn’t really eating very well. Lilly had adjusted ok and I assumed Zoe probably would too, but she never really did.

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At the beginning of November, I noticed she had lost some weight – we’d been trying to get her down a few pounds to help her joints, but I could feel her spine and her collar was too loose. So I switched dry food. She ate it for a few days, then went back to not really eating much at all. So I tried wet food. The first round, she gobbled down and after that, only ate it a couple more times.

She was still drinking and acting normal, except for staying upstairs so I thought it was just stress related. But when I came home on Monday, Nov. 19th and saw her ears and skin were yellowish, I knew something was seriously wrong.

We spent most of that night at the emergency vet running tests and waiting while they dealt with other traumas that came in. Her blood results showed elevated liver levels and that her gallbladder levels were ten times the normal reading. White blood cells were lower, but not too low, however the vet said she couldn’t completely rule out an overall infection or cancer. Her kidneys, heart, lungs, red blood count were all fine.

So she outlined a treatment plan for us, starting with something basic. A nutrient shot under the skin, plus three days of medicine to stimulate her appetite. They gave her one dose there and I brought her home around 12:30 a.m. I decided that we’d sleep in the guest bedroom with the door shut and brought food and water in in hopes she’d eat. She didn’t, never leaving the bed. And that night, she curled up on top of my head, just like when she was a kitten.

We only got about four hours of sleep and when Adam got up for work, I decided to give her some privacy in case she wanted to eat without me. I got up to get ready for work a few hours later, but she still wouldn’t eat and by this point wasn’t drinking. When I opened the bedroom door, she gave a little “brrrr”, jumped out of bed and headed for our bedroom closet, where she laid down on the floor with her head down.

I had a bad feeling when I saw this. I went ahead to work for about an hour and was texting Adam about her behavior. He said he thought I should try to get her to a vet instead of waiting for the medicine to work. So I called Lilly’s regular vet, but they didn’t do feeding tubes. My friend Rachael recommended the Franklin Animal Clinic and they were able to get her in by noon, so I ran back home and got her there as fast as I could.

She was considerably weaker by this point and her little head could barely stay up in her carrier and she was breathing weird when I left. That night, the vet called me to say he was really concerned about her. They had her in an oxygen cage because her breathing was shallow and were giving her fluids, but he was hesitant to put in a feeding tube because he didn’t feel she was strong enough for anesthesia.

They did manage to biopsy her liver, which was enlarged and based on that, he felt like something else might be going on that was causing problems. I kept my phone on all night in case something happened, but it was while I was on my way to work on Wednesday morning that I got the call.

She made it through the night, but her heart rate was very low and she could barely breathe. I asked if I could come be with her and the tech told me she wasn’t sure she’d make it until I got there and she was right.

I think I’ll keep what happened over the next couple hours to myself, as memories just for me, because if you’re not crying by this point, you definitely would be if I went into detail about the time I had with her just after her passing.

I decided to bring her home to bury her in our new backyard and once Adam got home from work, we both did it together. I think in the spring, I’ll get a stone cat figurine to put out under the tree to memorialize her in some way.

My heart hurts. I miss our early morning cuddle sessions and the house is extremely quiet without her. Lilly helps. She’s just a different cat, but I’m glad I have her there to love on while I get through the mourning period.

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pictures of us over the past 14+ years. Zoe, you were the best cat ever. I’m gonna miss you dearly and if there’s a pet heaven, I hope you’re running free up there with my buddy Wolf.

 

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Highway 1: L.A. to San Francisco

Called one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, Highway 1 spans several states and follows the coast from Washington all the way down to southern California. When driving this route, experts suggest taking days or even weeks to take in the beauty – and I can see why.

It’s been on my road trip bucket list for years and while we didn’t drive the WHOLE thing, we did take in quite a bit of it all the way from California up through Oregon. There were so many places we could have pulled over along the way, but didn’t, instead choosing to just enjoy the drive, take in Big Sur, then headed to San Francisco for a few days.

On the way out of Los Angeles, we drove through Malibu where I tried to stop to see the Cohen house from the television show The O.C. The home that was used, along with Marissa Cooper’s house and an adjacent neighboring house with the famous pool house from the show were in the path of the wildfires last summer. Online blogs reported the home was undamaged, however after making my way up the winding road into the community, you’re met by a gate at the bottom of the driveway and you can’t see anything once you get up there. It is visible from farther down the street, just no up close views. Sadly, the home with the pool house burned, so that’s no longer there.

Adam and I split up the drive that day; I took the first couple of hours and he took the rest. Highway 1 does take about twice as long as catching the 101, so take that into account when planning your trip.

The road is also very winding – I would not enjoy driving it at night. On one side, you have the mountain and the other a sharp drop off into the ocean. I can see where it would be very dark at night, and there are some construction zones following the mudslides from a few years ago, so plan accordingly.

It took us nearly all day to get to Big Sur, which was the highlight of the drive for the day. We pulled off at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and hiked the short trail to the overlook for McWay Falls.

The view was stunning. It was golden hour and pictures just really don’t do it justice.

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Note: there is no beach access, so don’t plan to swim here!

From there, we kept driving up Highway 1 toward Carmel-by-the-Sea for the night. On the way, I had to stop at Bixby Bridge, which some people probably recognize from the opening credits of Big Little Lies. In fact, residents in the area are pretty annoyed by tourists stopping to take photos because it’s clogging up the traffic and some are even doing dangerous things like hanging off the side of the bridge for an Instagram shot.

Please don’t be like these people! There is a designated viewing area – park there and don’t trample down the embankment or hang off the side of the bridge.

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Our hotel for the night was the Carmel Mission Inn. Hotels along this route are pricey, so factor that into your budget. I booked through Orbitz, so it was about half the price as what their web site says.

For dinner, we walked to a pizza place right behind the hotel called Allegro Pizzeria and got carryout. The pizza was New York style, pretty delicious and hit the spot after a long day on the road. I didn’t take any photos of it because I was too hungry, haha.

On day 4, we headed to San Francisco, which was another two hours or so. We left Highway 1 for this portion of the trip, stopping at Google Heaquarters in Palo Alto. I would have loved to have gone to Shark Fin Cove, but it was a more efficient route to jump on the 101 again, but if you aren’t detouring to San Francisco, consider adding it to your list of things to see.

Here are a few photos from Google. There’s a gift shop and the andriod statue garden, but if you want a tour of the place, you have to know someone who works there. We did walk around outside, but there’s not a lot to see on the campus.

We also went to Facebook but there were zero parking spots there, so no photos with the famous thumbs up sign by the road 🙁

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Farewell to the Mockingjay

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Movie Review: Mockingjay, Part 2
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson.
Rated: PG-13

When we last saw Katniss Everdeen, she was grappling with the physical and emotional effects of nearly being strangled to death by Peeta Mellark, who didn’t exactly greet her with hugs and kisses after his rescue from the Capitol. During his capture, President Snow had been dosing him with tracker jacket venom and while he once looked at Katniss with love, now he’s now been conditioned to to perceive her as a threat. Hence the assassination attempt.

The fourth and final installment in the Hunger Games movie saga (based on the best-selling young adult series by Suzanne Collins) picks up right where part 1 left off. Katniss is still bruised and battered and the Rebels are doing all they can to recondition Peeta so they can use him on their side in the fight for freedom from Snow’s reign.

Much like its predecessor, the first hour or so of the movie is painfully slow. Too much time is spent on both characters getting well enough to fight on the front lines and the scenes are loaded with dialog. There is very little action and the film gets bogged down by uneven pacing.

Fortunately, the movie is well made and well cast, which helps make up for the the plodding first half. Jennifer Lawrence gives a mostly emotionless, yet realistic performance of a war weary soldier who has had to turn off feelings in order to see the battle through. Jena Malone isn’t given much screen time, but her zany character portrayal of Johanna Mason is fun to watch. We also get one last performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his final role as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Things finally ramp up in the second half, when Katniss, who is still at odds with the Rebel’s leader President Coin, decides to go rogue. Coin wants her more for propaganda pieces rather than as a weapon out on the battlefield, but being the strong-willed heroine everyone looks up to, she eventually joins the fight and leads a team through the Capitol that includes Gale and Peeta. Their mission: kill President Snow.

After a sequence of harrowing attacks brought on by the game makers and the loss of several on her team,  Katniss and Gale finally make it to the President’s mansion, just as the Rebels are making their final assault on the Capitol. The events that unfold thereafter cause Katniss to re-evaluate what she’s fighting for and ultimately leads her to a decision that may be surprising for those who haven’t read the books.

Like the three movies before it, Mockingjay Part 2 has many important political messages about tyrannical oppression, government overreach, poverty and starvation of the common people.  Though futuristic, many of us watching the movie will see some of the same issues present in our society today. Neither the books nor the movies offer a real solution to the problems the people of Panem face – their purpose is to serve as more of an awareness piece on what can happen when you live in a society where the government has all the control.

The ending isn’t perfect, but every story has to come to a conclusion at some point and while there are some bright spots at the end for our girl on fire, she’s still left to wrestle with how to shape the future generations and deal with life after the revolution.

 

A Look Back at the X-Files, Season 4

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Season four of the X-files focused pretty heavily on the alien conspiracy plot and mid-way through, Agent Scully was diagnosed with cancer as a result of her abduction. As I’ve said before, I don’t think the alien plot is the most interesting part about the X-Files, so while the episodes in this season are still very good, it slowed down my re-watch of the season, putting me a little bit behind where I need to be in order to get every episode watched by revival time.

Season four also contains Home, one of the most controversial episode of the series. Even though I’ve seen it multiple times, it still leaves me with an unsettled feeling. Another prime example of how excellent writing holds up over time.

Other standout episodes include Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (where we get a fascinating theory about who the cigarette smoking man really is), Never Again (a man’s tattoo comes to life and murders people who get to close to him), Kaddish, Small Potatoes (a baby is born with a tail and the mother thinks the father is Luke Skywalker) and the shocking cliffhanger season finale, Gethsemane.

Onward to season 5 – that one should be especially memorable for me since it was the first season that I remember watching when the show was on the air. And with only 20 episodes, it shouldn’t take as long to watch as season 4.

Happy re-watching!