Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Tag: cat

Kevin

We buried Kevin today.

A freight train hits you just as hard, whether you’re blindsided by it or you saw it coming from miles away. Kevin is the third old cat that Gwen and I have had to euthanize, after Oscar and Squeaker. In Kevin’s case, we had a better sense that he had little time left, but being mentally prepared doesn’t lessen the impact.

Kevin came into Gwen’s life as a young, scrawny tomcat in 1994, not long after she moved to Austin. Gwen already had Oscar and didn’t want another cat, but he kept hanging around in her garden until she took him in. After Oscar established that she was the boss, the two of them were buddies forever. Once a part of Gwen’s household, Kevin filled out to a majestic 17 lb.

Every cat has his or her own personality, and, apart from his fear of small children, Kevin’s was always unceasingly sweet and happy. He would start purring the moment anyone picked him up.

Four years ago, Kevin lost his best buddy Oscar, and it was clear that he was lonely. When we got a pair of kittens two and a half years ago, one of the two, Bubka, decided that Kevin was her new best friend, and so happily he had another excellent cuddlebuddy in his later years.

We’re not sure how old Kevin was—we estimate he lived to be 19. Old age was not easy on him. He developed an allergy that could only be treated with prednisone (though for a full year the previous vet insisted it was behavioral). He became completely deaf and his vision deteriorated. He suffered a herniated disk in his spine that left his hind legs wobbly. He was recently diagnosed with intestinal cancer. But his sweet disposition remained unchanged. It seemed that he never stopped enjoying life.

This morning he was too wobbly to even sit up, and was not purring. He was clearly having intestinal distress. His condition improved a little as the day went on, but we knew it was time. He spent the day lying on the back porch with Gwen, with friends dropping in to say goodbye.

(Gwen here.) One of Kevin’s nicknames was “Kev-Dog”—after his entirely endearing trait of simply following me around the house like a good dog so he could always be in on the action. His favorite thing was to enjoy a good book with me, stretched out on my legs on the couch. And sleeping all night as near to my head as I would allow. He was loved by many, and his sweet nature won over more than a few cat-dislikers. He had a bad spell once that involved a urinary catheter and a move from the vet to an emergency hospital—when we saw the vet after a miserable long wait, she looked at him and said “This must be Kevin,” and he started purring loudly. He was that kind of guy.

A word of grateful thanks to our excellent vets at Austin Vet Hospital (especially Dr. Besch) and their caring staff. They looked out for him in a way that I would wish for animal friend.

Kevin & Oscar

Kevin & Bubka

My gripes about translation memory

I recently tweeted that I was experimenting with OmegaT, a translation-memory tool. When asked by one of its proponents how I liked it, I responded

@brandelune do not like omegaT. really only works with plain text. ugly. burdened w/ typical java on mac shortcomings. not customizable.

That barely begins to cover what I don’t like about OmegaT. I’ve been thinking about what I would like in a translation tool for a while now. My desires break down into two categories: the translation-memory engine, and the environment presented to the translator.
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Squeaker

I buried Squeaker today.

When people ask me how she came into my life, I would say “she came with the house.” It sounds glib, but it’s true.

When Jenny and I bought the house on Avenue G at the beginning of 1997, Squeaker was already living there as a street cat. She had been looked after by the previous occupants. When we showed up, she initially kept her distance (hanging out at a neighbor’s place instead), but after a few months, she warmed up to us. When the first freeze of the winter came at the end of ’97, Jenny and I agreed to let Squeaker spend the night indoors, just for that one night. Apart from a couple of forays into the back yard, she never went outdoors again.

Squeaker was already an adult when we took her in—our best estimate is that she was born in 1990. She was compact, stout, and stiff-legged, never jumping but frequently clambering up onto whatever surface she wanted to occupy. She enjoyed surprisingly forceful head-butts, and never played with toys when anyone was watching.

A lot happened to me over the intervening years—one marriage ended, another begun. I broke my pelvis. I sold the house on Avenue G and bought the one I live in now with Gwen. Squeaker was with me through all of that.

She was not unmarked by time. In 2004, she developed a growth on one foot that ultimately required two toes to be amputated. That growth re-appeared on her foot, but never obviously went beyond that.

Over the past few months, her stiffness of leg turned into painful arthritis. She developed hyperthyroidism, meaning her pulse was always racing, she was constantly hungry, and losing weight. I put her on a painkiller for the arthritis. She still seemed to be generally happy, but I realized she was in the endgame.

Over just the past few days, she declined precipitously. She lost her appetite and even had trouble drinking water. Her meow, which had always been stentorian and scratchy, became pathetic and weak. She smelled awful. It was time. I had the vet make a housecall to euthanize her. If anything, I should have done it a few days earlier. Her last day was peaceful.

Gwen and I went through this about a year and a half ago with the cat she’d had for even longer, Oscar. It doesn’t get easier with practice.

Oscar: 1991–2007

Oscar

We put Oscar in the earth today.

Despite the name, Oscar was a girl, and every inch a princess. Gwen tells the story of when she first got her. Gwen was living in Minneapolis, and the mother cat’s owners (who called Oscar “Whiner”), brought her over to Gwen’s place. Oscar was the runt of the litter, but as soon as she was released in Gwen’s apartment, she walked around the room, sniffed everything, jumped up on a table, knocked something over, and then came over to Gwen, got up on her hind legs, and gave Gwen an affectionate head-butt. This was her most endearing habit, and often used in the years that followed to defuse anger at, say, knocking something over. In that moment, Oscar became Gwen’s cat.

A year or so later, Gwen moved to Austin, and moved around in Austin quite a bit after that. Oscar was her one constant companion. She added another cat, Kevin, to her household, and when Gwen and I got together, we wound up with three cats between us. Hence the king-sized bed.

Oscar had been a svelte 17 pounds in her prime, but once she hit a certain age, she started losing weight, and her kidneys started shutting down. Ironically, the weight loss made it easier for Oscar to get into trouble, which she did, jumping up to places she couldn’t reach when she was heavier but younger. She often found ways of getting into trouble specifically to push our buttons, to let us know it was time for a snack or something. As infuriating as she could be in these moments, she always made us laugh (either at her or ourselves) because her needling was so transparent, and yet so effective.

Over the past four days or so, she lost interest in eating (apart from barbecued chicken from Hoover’s) and became much quieter. Gwen took her to the vet and found that her blood urea nitrogen level (an indicator of kidney function) was off the scale. The vet said Oscar had “days or weeks.”

With much grief and second-guessing, we made the decision to euthanize her, and this afternoon, after a snack of barbecued chicken, the vet came over and ended her life. We are both wrecked.

It’s a hell of a thing, having pets. You take them in as cute companions, knowing in the back of your mind that some day, a day like this will arrive. And when it happens, you’re completely unprepared.

(from Gwen) It’s impossible to sum up a life together in a few paragraphs. Oscar has slept by my side (or, more often, on my pillow) for 16 years. She’s made me laugh, pissed me off, purred in my ear at 5 a.m., and today licked my tears while we were hanging out together for her last few hours. I hope I can always remember the smell of her head, in the sweet soft spot between her ears that tickled my nose at the beginning of endearing-for-life head-butt. And I hope her cat friend Kevin, who has always been “Kevin and Oscar” will find some way to be Kevin. Rest well, Oscar. Piggy. Pig Pig. Muffin. Pig-a-Muff. Muffy. Muff Muff. Schmooky. Schmook.

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