black cloud · cats · personal crisis · prayer · thanks

I would like to tell you about a little beige kitty named Dante

gotta check out these booksI adopted Dante and his brother Chaucer when they were about eight weeks old. On a rainy night right before Halloween 2003. From a farm, during which visit someone (not me) had to shoot a possum that got into the barn.

Dante and Chaucer were part of a litter of five boys: a big gray kitten, two orange kittens, a brown/gray striped kitten, and a kitten so light beige he was champagne-colored. When the striped kitten immediately laid belly-up on my foot I knew he was my Chaucer (I had that name picked out years ago), but it took a bit to decide which of the other kittens I would take. Then I realized the little champagne-colored kitten was being pushed away from the food by the bigger kittens. So I decided that he would be mine, too. He needed a name to match Chaucer so I named him Dante.

IMG_4267He grew up from a tiny one-pound fluff ball into a rather round-in-the-middle cat, with dainty, turned-in front paws and a slim tail. His coat darkened to a solid beige color with darker stripes on his legs, tail, and tabby “M” on his forehead. He had the softest fur to snuggle. He loved having “brain” and chin scritches. Lots of them.

He loved his toys, usually the ones his brother was playing with first, with emphasis on the cheapest things around: cardboard boxes and milk jug rings. He had special dislike for the “kitty in the mirror” who frequently talked smack and needed correcting. Dante and Chaucer frequently napped in a little kitty pile, the way that sibs often do, and they loved all the soft furnishings, especially my bed (even under the covers).

IMG_1047He was the one who would give me kisses when I held him. Even if he was also gifted with the nickname “Hissy Pants” since he would be the first to hiss when annoyed, particularly as he aged. (He also got called Baby Kitty, since he liked to be held burp-a-baby style.) He had this weird meow that sounded like “moo” so sometimes I would moo back.

Dante both equally loved and hated the “got your tail” game, which involved me touching the very tip of his tail. He would growl and pull his tail away….then start purring and lay his tail back over my hand to do it all over again. He had the best purr and was a champion snuggler. But he didn’t like my friends or family that much. He always had to let you know it was his house. Unless you were the piano tuner, electricians, plumber, or cable persons – those guys were always presented with his tummy to rub.

IMG_1971Did I mentioned he had the softest fur? He hated having it brushed, with any kind of brush. He yowled so loud I worried the neighbors would think I was murdering someone. Unless I was trying to trim his claws – then it sounded like I was being murdered.

He wasn’t very fond of cat treats or even his food (though he was usually first in line come mealtimes) but he loved people food. Especially cheese – the sharper and greasier the better. He could hear me open the deli drawer in the refrigerator – even if he were sound asleep in the basement – and come running to wind around my ankles and beg for cheese. I only ever gave him small crumbs, though. Cheese isn’t the best food item for cats. To offset his gourmet tastes Dante would drink water out of the bathtub after I finished showering.

IMG_1544He loved to sit on a chair by my desk and look out the window, chattering at the birds in the backyard. I suspect he chose this spot because it just happened to be over the furnace grate in that room because he also liked to sit with his face over the grate in the bathroom when the furnace was running. He loathed car rides, which is unsurprising being an indoor cat. Unfortunately that is where this story ends – a car ride to the vet.

Friday night I came home from work to find that Dante had started having diarrhea. Everywhere. So I took him in to the emergency vet and they started treating him for a bacterial overgrowth in the gut. But when his blood work came back in the morning the blood chemistry showed renal failure and a further workup showed that it was likely due to his age.

IMG_1580In other words, untreatable.

With this news, the fact that his diarrhea wasn’t responding to medication, and he was refusing to eat or drink, I had to decide to put him to sleep. I have never sobbed harder in my life. I had hoped for a few more years with my crotchety old geezer before saying good-bye or to be able to let go slowly. I had not anticipated such a short illness of less than a whole day. The vet’s office was wonderful. They let me sit in the exam room with Dante as long as I wanted, rocking him in my arms, crying, and watching the snow falling outside the window with him one last time. I said “I’m sorry” and “Mama loves you” too many times to count, I kissed his tabby “M” over and over. When I was ready, the vet came and gave him a sedative and the euthanasia solution through his IV while I held him. My Baby Kitty was gone in less than a minute. They let me stay in the room and hold him as long as I needed. Until I felt ready to lay him down and kiss him good-bye.

IMG_5410I have never felt so selfish. I felt so guilty, wondering if I missed something that would have had me taking him for a checkup earlier, that maybe it could have been caught and treated and I would still have my baby for a little while longer.

I came home, laid down on the floor, and sobbed. I held Chaucer until he protested I was squeezing him too tight. I watched as so many friends commented on my post containing the final picture of my Dante, taken just before the vet delivered the bad news. I have never been so grateful for my friends. Even complete strangers came across the post on Instagram or Twitter and offered their condolences. I will never be able to thank everyone enough.

IMG_7434I never had a pet before I adopted my boys. I had fish as a child, but a tank of guppies is nothing compared to a cat. I did not know it was possible to love them this much. I felt ready to break for a few hours. But I made it through the first day of missing him. I called when I got out of the shower “Where’s my Dante kitty?” before I remembered he wasn’t here. I almost cried at the grocery store when I remembered I wouldn’t need as much cat litter. I cried when I got Dante’s collar and tags out of my purse, to hang them on a frame with his picture, and Chaucer came running, crying, when he heard the tags jingle; Chaucer sniffed all around the collar and tags and let out the saddest meow that had me scooping him up to cuddle immediately. I am crying now typing this.

IMG_7955I am writing all this because I don’t want to forget my Dante-kitteh. My sweet, grumpy dude mooing his way around the house. I am so grateful for the social media era, that I took so many pictures. There are times today when I’ve done nothing but sit and stare at my last picture of him. There is no way out of this but through.

Rest In Peace, Dante. Mama loved you so much she had to let you go so you wouldn’t hurt anymore. I hope I gave you the best life a cat could possibly have, with all the love and snuggles you wanted. Chaucer has only just started to realize that you aren’t hiding somewhere in the house, that you’re gone. If you’re watching over us, please help him understand. Love you, Baby Kitty. Always.

In memoriam, Dante Ward, September 1 (?), 2003 – February 17, 2018

black cloud · cats · movie star drool

Oh, what a long day

I was awake far too early for a Saturday – 7:30am. Yuck. Still this did not help the general craziness of the morning because we went to the vetrinarian for our yearly check-ups.

This was not fun. Chaucer and Dante howled all the way to the vet, from the minute they got put in the carriers. I had to make a side trip to pick up some breakfast and make a deposit at the bank; the howling was so awful the bank teller asked if my child was OK (yes, the fur-baby is fine, just mad). When we arrived at the vet, I realized that someone furry had peed in the car; luckily I have a thing for extra napkins so that soaked up most of what leaked out of the carrier. Still, ewwww. The kitty-boys have gained weight this year (again) – one pound each – bringing Chaucer to 14 pounds and Dante to 18 pounds. My kitties are spoiled. The vet and I talked about trying a different diet formulation next time I need to buy cat food.

Back in the car the cats didn’t utter one peep (smelled a little, since Dante not only peed on the carrier but also himself). They didn’t even start crying when the interior of the car got cold – my driver-side window went down when I stopped at the mailbox to send something, made a clunking noise, and then refused to go back up (#@yqe*rt&w$eti&t aka black cloud). Did I mention that it was snowing and blowing today? Fun. Thankfully, I was able to get the car into my go-to mechanics at Boubin Muffler and they got the window back up (changed the oil, too, but I’m going to need to replace the window motor in the door).

I knitted a lot on my scarf today. I’m almost ready to start the last skein (finally); that scarf is really taking me a long time and I don’t know why. It’s just plain knitting (it is a lot of yardage, though).

I finished John Adams last night; it really is a remarkably well-put together mini-series. I’ve been having a chuckle at the number of actors playing “Americans” who hail from the British Isles (Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin, Rufus Sewell as Alexander Hamilton, and Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, to name a few); it does make sense since at the time all our “Americans” were British subjects and more likely to sound like the mother country than the current accents we all have. The acting is quite well done; Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney especially give very moving performances as the two lead actors (Linney also reminds us how tough Abigail Adams was for her time, holding her household and family together sometimes through sheer will and faith). Sarah Polley gave a beautiful performance as Nabby, particularly the scene where Nabby tells her father she is dying (Abigail “Nabby” Adams Smith died of breast cancer at age 48, having previously survived a primitive mastectomy to attempt a cure). Tom Hollander also appears, for less than ten minutes, as King George III and does a marvelous job of looking both unbalanced and regal at the same time; I think it was the eyes. I’ve not read the biography John Adams by David McCullough but I understand from a few sites that the mini-series’ creators shifted some scenes and dates. The production worked well from a purely entertainment point of view, so for that I give it five stars, but I think the producers should have tried for more historical accuracy as to correct persons, places, and dates.

I’ve now got Guns, Germs, and Steel in the player. I quite liked the book by Jared Diamond, so I think I’ll like this National Geographic presentation.

Current book-in-progress: Death Comes for the Archbishop, an ARC for First Look, and I just got Drood
Current knitted item: I will finish that scarf!
Current movie obsession: I recently received DVDs of two Royal Ballet productions – The Sleeping Beauty with Viviana Durante and Zoltan Solymozi and Mayerling with Irek Mukhamedov and Viviana Durante; I’ve had these on VHS since high school and haven’t been able to watch them due to the age of the tape – eeeeee, ballet, fun!
Current iTunes loop: old “All Songs Considered” podcasts (last week iTunes just downloaded like 80 old podcasts, sweet)

black cloud · random


I had a Monday yesterday. For example, I got a parking ticket ten minutes after I put fifteen minutes of money in the meter. How does that stuff happen?

I think people suck. This is nothing new for me, but right now I think one person sucks on an entirely different level. The problem is that I’m not sure who this person is, except that he/she has done something way wrong (i.e. illegal) and I really dislike whoever he/she is right now. He/she will not be a happy camper when I’m finished (and I’m really leaning toward this sucky person being a “he” right now, based on said illegal activity).

I think Tim Daggett is not very bright. He keeps mentioning that Shawn Johnson’s coach, Liang Chow, once coached gymnastics at an Iowa university before opening his own gym. Great, but there’s one problem. Tim keeps saying the university is Iowa State – wrong! Chow coached at the University of Iowa which makes him a Hawkeye not a Cyclone. Get the facts right. Grrrr.

However – WAY TO GO SHAWN!!!!!! That’s how we do things in Iowa. Number 1!!!

Current book-in-progress: The Time-Traveler’s Wife, The Gargoyle (which is really, really good, I was surprised), How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, and Feather Man
Current knitted item: seams…but I started a pretty top for myself
Current movie obsession: The Olympics are on! GO USA!
Current iTunes loop: Filmspotting

black cloud

The Joys of Homeownership

It’s really cold in Iowa.

How do I know this?

Because my furnace totally crapped out some time earlier today (maybe last night, who knows). It’s about 50 degrees in my house and about 10 degrees outside (that’s Fahrenheit to anyone not in the US). My fireplace works but it really just heats the living room.

The first repair company I called doesn’t have parts for my furnace. Oh, and my furnace is out of warranty. Laaaaa! Just my luck. So if the second company doesn’t have any parts I guess I get to buy a new furnace. Shitty.

Current book-in-progress: This is going to be a free-for-all night, also known as grab some tea and as many books as are at hand because the house is freezing
Current knitted item: My red scarf when I can feel my hands again
Current movie obsession: Northanger Abbey (yes, I realize the Oscars are on Sunday, but it would help if they would release all the movies more than one week prior to the ceremony)
Current iTunes loop: Chill tracks shuffle on iTunes (John Mayer, Amy Winehouse, Jewel, etc)

black cloud · random · rant

If I went crazy no one would blame me.

And if you do, I’ll kick your butt. I mean it, I’ll be crazy.

Insurance adjusters (particularly the one I’m dealing with) are scum. This one also happens to be stupid. And selectively vision-challenged. And rude. And not particularly interested in maintaining good relations with clients. AAA is going to get an earful.

I’m about to be screwed 110 different ways over this car accident (and also, by extension, my parents as well because they are nice people who try to help out thier kids). I love it. I get plowed into at a red light and I’m the one who’s going to take it up the rear, if you get my drift.

IRB is officially pissing me off. Usually it’s only informal irritation.

I watched some movies this weekend because that’s all I could concentrate on. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix released so yay. Watched a 1982 production of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon starring Jennifer Penny and Anthony Dowell (now Sir Anthony). Manon is not generally a ballet that I like, there’s far too much exposition between the major points of action, but the redeeming quality of this performance is to watch Anthony Dowell dance; he has the most beautiful ballet line, Royal Ballet trained all the way, and such beautiful control in the adagio. Unfortunately, he’s been retired for the last 20 years, so I have to watch on DVD. Sigh. I also slogged through The Squid and the Whale which is a short movie, but absolutely excruciating in the way that the film is so truthful. Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels are excellent and the actors playing the kids are very good as well. A well-made movie.

Current book-in-progress: Middlemarch
Current knitted item: Christmas sock #2 is mostly done
Current movie obsession: Harry Potter #5

black cloud · too much work


Anymore these days, when I get really stressed out it all goes to my stomach. It gets upset, doesn’t want to digest anything, etc. etc. The worst part is that it will growl for food then pretend there’s no room for food because of all the acid reflux. Prevacid is wonderful.

I’m stressed because we’re starting a new clinical trial Monday. And I have to consent every admit to both units because the trial is at the unit level, but the patients have to consent so we can access their medical record. And I have to keep all the product stocked on both units. And answer all the questions. And do all the ICU unit surveillance (which really ought to be done by the medical staff). And do whatever random crap the boss asks for. Sigh. It really stinks because there are three RAs and I feel like everything gets dumped on me because the other two have a tendency to mess stuff up (which brings up the other question of why they’re still working for us, but don’t get me started). The clinical trial really is a good thing because we’re trying to do good things for patients but it is very labor intensive. All my labor. No one else’s.

And…I’m stressed because I got rear-ended two days ago, right when we were finishing the inservices for the clinical trial. If you haven’t heard this story, truth can be stranger than fiction. The guy who rear-ended me was driving a big, old pickup, so lots of damage to my car, minimal damage to his, and he plowed into me at a red light. I couldn’t even accelerate to get out of the way. The cop was going to cite him and let him go until I pointed out the guy had been driving about 20mph in a 40mph zone without headlights before he hit me (this was about 6pm, so it was dark out). So the cop asked me to wait in my car and went to talk to him again. Then another cop showed up and they gave the guy a sobriety test. Then an ambulance showed up and took the guy to the hospital (I was thinking, “Damn, that guy got wasted pretty fast”).

This is when it starts getting really weird.

I realized that both cops left in the ambulance with the two paramedics. WTF? Then this other woman got out of the front seat of the second squad car – she had witnessed the guy side-swiping a vehicle up the road and the cops brought her down to my accident to identify the offending vehicle. So the cops left us there at the scene of an accident. By ourselves. After about 5 minutes a third cop showed up to sort us out. Then he realized that my ID, registration, and insurance had gone off to the hospital with my responding officer and the guy’s paperwork was left in the squad car (brilliant). So I got sent on my way (1 hour late for my shift at the bookstore) with assurances that my paperwork would be returned to me shortly.


At 9:30pm I had to call dispatch and remind them to send my identification (I mean, what the hell was going on?). So my responding officer showed up right before we closed. Turns out the guy who hit me had a stroke while the cops were administering the sobriety test – holy crap. When I pointed out that he had left two women alone at an accident scene with two empty squad cars (one unlocked and running), he was completely dismissive of my concerns that something could have happened – we had adequate warmth and he didn’t think it was neccessary to tell us both officers were leaving and another squad car was on the way. So long story short, I got really pissed off and compained to his watch commander. Now, Sgt. Clarahan was understanding of my concerns, which mostly centered around his having abandonded the victim and witness of an accident scene with no information whatsoever and then being rude when compained to; so we worked that out without having to go up the food chain.

So…gah! My car, the new car I’ve only had for maybe six months (that we got a really great deal on), has about $3000 damage. Luckily, none to the frame. I’ll let the insurance companies duke it out.

Current book-in-progress: I finished Why We Read What We Read so just Middlemarch and Idylls of the King
Current knitted item: I went back to the blue sock because I don’t have to concentrate on it (I turned the heel last night).
Current movie obsession: Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead