Saturday, November 5, 2016

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Travels with Chloe is unfinished. I began it as a memorial to my cat, and patterned it after Steinbeck's Travels with Charley--where the book is more about Steinbeck's journey than Charley's (the dog who experienced the travels along with him).

If you'd like to browse or just get an idea of the stories, here is...

TABLE OF CONTENTS









 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

L.A. CAT - BIKER CHICK


"He's like this biker who rides in every now and then to date her, and she's like this cloistered Uptown Girl," my neighbor Bill joked one day when we were discussing Chloe's boyfriend. "He rides in on his Harley and says to her, 'Today I caught a rat...' and she goes, 'Ooooooh!'"

Almost from start of Life at Sargent Court, Chloe acquired a boyfriend. He looked like a male version of her, if she'd grown up poor and turning tricks on the East Side. I never knew his real name or if he'd ever belonged to anyone. He wasn't feral, but socialized with no other cats except Chloe; he was tolerated at Sargent Court because he only rarely turned up and didn't fight with the Sgt. Ct. cats, even though he'd never been fixed.

Chloe's boyfriend had her gray tiger stripes, white underside and raccoon tail. But his face was flattened and puffy. Like James Cagney.

When we lived in the blue building on the first floor, Chloe's Suitor would hop onto the north side window ledge and meow to her. Not a let's-get-it-on howl, but a persistent serenade. Chloe would sit atop the mahogany antique radio-console and just be with him. On the south side, I'd put out food for him at the front door.

It wasn't until our third move at Sargent Court -- upstairs in the peach building -- that Chloe actually seemed to look forward to his visits.

The getting-to-know-you process for cats can be slow, depending on their level of trust. The courtship of Chloe and Carlos (as I finally began to call him) was no Romeo and Juliet whirlwind (balcony proclamations of Love not excepted). In the sixth year, their romance seemed to bloom. Although Carlos continued to be neither punctual nor regular, he'd occasionally show up at night. He'd meow for Chloe and she'd run to the door. I'd let her out onto the open-air balcony that I now shared with my neighbor Suzie. Chloe would lie down opposite Carlos, very relaxed; and he with her. They'd sit that way for hours after I fed him.

I don't know why I never took a picture of them together. I didn't take any of Carlos by himself. Maybe it's because there are moments that overwhelm me to the point where I can't even reach for a camera. They are meant to be absorbed into my skin and soul. I live them in the present. Then they are gone.

While Chloe was dying -- now only a few weeks ago -- I forced myself to take pictures. I'm still using my old Nikon camera that my ex-husband gave me for my birthday in the 80's, and haven't had that film developed yet. She looked ridden with the effects of cancer, so I tried to get some angles where it didn't show the horror as much. But I had to have those final shots.

Likewise, nobody ever took a photo of the two of us together. Not in 14 years. I aimed the camera at a mirror and shot with her behind me before she passed away. I hope it comes out.

My issues with Suzie had subsided. Once a "friend," she dated an ex-boyfriend of mine (aka "The Jerk") after I'd broken up with him. In response, I wrote her an angry letter cutting off our friendship. But before I moved into the downstairs apartment in the peach building, I wrote her another letter, asking for forgiveness. She did forgive me. In fact, she came to my doorway the day I moved in and cried. "That guy didn't mean anything to me, Marlan!"

Suzie had moved on. She was involved with a guy she really liked. Water under the proverbial bridge. It was time for me to do the same. And thanks to her, I did.

She lived upstairs in a glamorous corner apartment whose walls of windows looked out onto a panoramic landscape of greenery, then stretched out into cascading layers of Los Angeles...skyscrapers....the Hollywood sign...even Santa Monica beach on a clear day. Like me, she'd attended USC and was a screenwriter. Unlike me, she had an East Coast pedigree and an Academy-Award winning cousin who lived in the Blue Building with his paramour [his story is in a previous post].

I lived in the downstairs apartment for three or four years. Then one day Bill, who was now the manager, called and said, "The guy upstairs from you is moving out. So you can move up there if you want." I declined. I'd had enough of moving. "Then the drug addict next door to you who has the wild screaming parties almost every night says he wants to move in there."

The drug addict had thrown a bucket of water on me one night when I was walking past his door. I'd called the cops and he told them he thought I was a burglar.

I moved upstairs. As before, Chloe adjusted pronto. She even enjoyed looking out at the spectacular view, mistress of all she could see. Suzie had a couple of rabbits in a cage that took up most of the balcony. The rest of the space was filled with her furniture, plants and junk. She had lived at Sargent Court years before I moved in, and there may have been a territorial "seniority" issue. Or it may have been, as my neighbor Sanda noted, Suzie was somebody who "likes to add things."

Suzie also possessed two tabby cats, brother and sister. These cats didn't like Choe at all and vice versa. Eventually, Suzie began to nag me about Carlos: "He's probably got fleas and a disease and he's not fixed and he probably sprays...You shouldn't feed strays..."

I didn't consider Carlos a "stray." This seemed to be Suzie's main concern: people and animals that weren't part of her "tribe."

It was somewhat of a relief when in my seventh or eighth year of living there, a quarreling young couple who some tenants liked to refer to behind their backs as "Trailer Park Trash," adopted Carlos. They immediately had him castrated, changed his name to "Mugsy" and made him an indoor cat.

"He sleeps a lot," they'd tell me whenever I'd inquire. I never told them how much I loved him or mentioned his "relationship" with Chloe. It wouldn't have been a consideration anyway. To them, I was the Old Maid Who Lived in the Shoe. A pre-menopausal failure. They were saving money to buy a house. She had a job at Trader Joe's. He was in The Industry. They were going somewhere. And they were taking Mugsy with them.

A year later, Mugsy died of cancer. Chloe never had another boyfriend. We lived like two nuns who liked men but had given ourselves up to God.




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*Note re Carlos not being fixed: I was afraid to touch him for years. After I was able to pet him, I still wasn't sure how hard he might fight if I tried to pick him up and put him in a cat carrier. And no, I had nobody would would agree to help me with this.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

L.A. CAT - THE WAR YEARS


I was taking a shower. Looking down, I saw what looked like the tail of a rat coming out from the edge of the shower curtain. Heart pounding, I drew back the curtain and there was a live gray lizard. I screamed and leaped out, leaving the reptile behind. Chloe must have brought it in and deposited it in the tub. Thank God for Cervantes, the maintenance man who lived in the peach apartment building behind my blue one at Sargent Court. He was there in a nanosecond.

Cervantes loved plants and animals. He would talk with the cats all day as he worked outdoors. He was in his late 50s with graying hair and a slight paunch under his cambric shirt. When he came to my rescue, it was with a broom to gently roll the lizard out the door while softly crooning, "It's okay, baby...okay, baby...okay..."

Another day not long after, I found bird claws embedded in the carpet.

Chloe's fascination with birds and lizards phased out after several months. But there were coyotes who wanted to hunt her. One horrible day, Glen and I found half a cat on the lawn--its brain streaming out of its head.

"I do hate coyotes," Glen said as he went to get a bucket. Nobody knew who it had belonged to or where it came from. After that, I prayed it would never happen to Chloe.

In the summer, when the coyotes would get so bad that we could hear them yipping away outside our windows, Cervantes would prowl the grounds like a night watchman with a baseball bat.

Like Chloe, Cervantes was one of a kind. One day he pointed to a Wandering Jew plant in the yard and said, "Me too. I am Jewish." His mother had been a beautiful Sephardic Jew. Cervantes was a multi-talented man who had been a chef in Mexico, and on occasion would stage mouth-watering barbecues under the spreading pomegranate tree. He had several children and grandchildren, all of whom lived in Mexico and would visit from time to time.

Whenever I needed help, I could depend on Cervantes. "How's the baby?" he'd ask whenever he saw me. "Baby okay?" Baby is fine, I'd answer. Always okay.

Chloe would let him pet her.

Like most cats, Chloe was a shrewd judge of people. If a visitor was loud, they never saw her. Parties could happen in my apartment and she would stay invisible until the last guest was gone. When I first moved in and the ex-boyfriend stopped by one night (to bring me something I'd left at his place), he reached for her saying: "Gimme that little cat body...". She slipped out of his grasp and jumped out the window.

I was always afraid of losing Chloe. When we first moved to Sargent Court, she fought a cat who belonged to a neighbor down the street. The interloper tore a small hole in her belly. The vet drained the abscess and put a bonnet on her. For a couple weeks, she was confined to the couch, looking like a sulky Flying Nun. Like most cats, she finally figured out a way to slip out and bite her stitches. "She did most of my job for me," said the vet.

Then the Bad Cat returned and bit the hell out of Cecil, our neighbors' calico. That was the last straw. We warned the Bad Cat's owner that if she didn't confine her feline, we'd report her to Animal Control. And that was that.

The hillside on which we lived was covered with ice plants and thick brush. It would be years before the Fire Department would ding the owner for the fire hazard. What it meant for me was a nightly search to find Chloe, flashlight in hand...calling "Here kittykittykitty..." I'd go in circles 'round and 'round until I'd finally spot a pair of green eyes glowing between the leaves.

The "Chinese" Caucasian film director and others of her ilk in the apartments were probably giggling and imitating me to each other--as they imitated Glen--but I didn't care how big a fool they thought I was. Only keeping Chloe with me mattered.

Two years after we moved into the blue building, the water heater broke again. This time Cervantes was nowhere to be found and a couple of tenants tried to fix the dripping with a screwdriver, which resulted in water shooting out and hitting the movie poster on the opposite wall. The poster was from the Denver International Film Festival where a movie I'd made had played.

Deja vu all over again. My stuff on the lawn. Firemen. Except now the manager tells me that I should move into the vacant apartment in the rear peach building. It would solve my current dilemma. I've been locked in battle with my hulking upstairs neighbor.

An academy-award winning film director, this guy would often pace the floor all night long. Six foot six and over 200 lbs., his footsteps would shake my whole apartment. I'd begged him and his fiancee to move into that vacant apartment behind us, but they said they liked their view.

I was falling apart at work from sleep deprivation. My lawyer-boss suggested I file a complaint against the manager for failing to provide peaceful enjoyment of the property. When I told him, "My neighbor says he's too big and heavy to walk softly," he replied: "Elephants weigh tons and they can step softly."

Weeks ago, the manager offered me the peach apartment. I resisted because I'd found out that my ex-boyfriend (aka "The Jerk") had started dating my neighbor Suzie who lived upstairs from that apartment.

Initially, Suzie had been my morning hiking partner. She loved to "girl talk" as we walked, telling me details about her last breakup. I would interject from time to time with an anecdote about The Jerk.

One day she cut me off with "sounds like a real loser."

So imagine my surprise when one day two years later, she tells me they've been dating. They met when she found him practicing with his fishing rod on the lawn, and was about to throw him out when he said, "I'm friends with Marlan."

I didn't want to be anywhere near either of them, but with my apartment sinking like Atlantis, the manager told me: "You've got no choice."

One time my Tai Chi Si Fu drafted my Chinese horoscope for me. It involves sticks and predicts your life, decade by decade. My life would be fate-appointed, it said. Until late middle age.

With so much out of my control, I could only hope Chloe would stay constant. And she did. Up until two weeks ago, when neither of us could pretend anymore that she could fight off her cancer.

Our move to the peach building went smoothly. I was afraid Chloe might continue to pop in and out of the broken screen in that first apartment, and surprise whoever moved in next. But she never looked back. As far as she was concerned, the moment we moved into the peach apartment, we were home. Again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

L.A. CAT: THE FLOOD


When I first saw Sargent Court, it was 4:00 a.m. My then-boyfriend lived half a block up the street. We met while I was living in Topanga, licking my wounds over my divorce. Then he asked me to house sit for him while he went to Europe for three weeks.

His landlady lived and managed the Sargent Court Apartments. On the way to the airport at 4:00 a.m., he stopped off to leave his rent check at her door. When we pulled up, he said: "Come on, you've got to see this." In the pre-dawn light that September morning, the massive flowering grounds mystified me. I thought we were in front of a hospital or mental institution. I didn't understand that they were apartments until the day I needed them.

A week later after his return, he suddenly needed to be "alone" blah blah. It coincided with my news that I needed to get out of Topanga because my roommate Rainbow was on the warpath. She had drawn battle lines after I took her to my fave Chinese restaurant and the food made her sick. "You know I only eat raw food!" she screamed. She'd asked to go. I took her. She asked for a salad and they said they didn't have salad.

So I called him and said I needed to talk. We had an awkward dinner. Then I dropped the bomb. He smoked for a while. Then said, "Well, maybe you could live in the apartments. Up on the hill."

We went up the block to see the place again that evening. Fog lay in thick drifting white mists on the grand lawn. It was late. We stood at the hill's edge looking out at the view in silence. I knew it was over.

When I first moved into my apartment, my neighbor Glen gave me the rundown while he weeded his roses: "Don't be surprised if one day, you wake up and find the cat doing the backstroke. It means your water heater broke."

A few weeks later, Chloe woke me up early and when my feet hit the carpet, they sunk into water.

We were outside with a lot of my stuff on the lawn, watching firemen vacuum out the water. They left industrial fans to dry the place out. When Glen heard about the fans, he said, "Oh goodie, cats just love big noisy machines."

I'd been sitting in a daze at a picnic table when Glen sat down next to me, saying: "First, the manager needs to get you a hotel room until your place is dry...Then you need to be financially compensated for hardship."

At that moment, I saw my now-ex-lover saunter across the sidewalk where my furniture was spread out, and firemen were coming and going out of my place. Very happy to see him, I ran up and said, "My water heater broke!" He frowned and said, "Better get someone to vacuum that out. I need to talk to my landlady about my view. She's planning to build a fire escape for the upstairs apartment right in front of my picture window." He lived on the lowest floor of a duplex. His unit was ensconced into a hillside. Then he slid back down the steps to the street, calling over his shoulder: "Put in a good word for me!"

Then the manager appeared and gave me the keys to the place over my ex's apartment, which was empty.

I lugged the essentials to the quaint house. The first essential was Chloe. I put her inside, locked the door and went back for more. When I got back, I couldn't find her. Now I saw that a window was open in the kitchen, large enough for a scared cat to jump through. Hyperventilating and crying, I called The Ex and left a message on his machine that (a) I was going to be living upstairs for four days and (b) I think my cat ran away, so please keep an eye out.

After I had spread my sleeping bag on the hardwood floor, turned on the lamp (the electricity was still on), Chloe came down the stairs. The place was built like a townhouse with an upstairs and she'd been exploring. Relief! It felt right to see her tripping along down the steps, ready to keep me company in this new space.

Chloe didn't care where she was as long as she was with me.

And no, The Jerk (henceforth to be known as) never came up to say hello or ask after the cat. In fact, the following year, when we "got together" again for an ill-fated affair and he saw Chloe, he said: "Oh, I thought you lost her."

Those four days in that empty house with the single lamp and cuddling in the sleeping bag were like camping out. But I didn't care where I was, as long as I was with Chloe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

L.A. CAT: EDEN

This is hard. It's now eight days since Chloe left her body, and I want so much to give the blow-by-blow on her final hours that morning. But the purpose of this blog is to celebrate her life as well as mourn her death. So this post is Part I about her life at Sargent Court in Los Angeles, where we lived for 10 years until 2004.

As I mentioned, Chloe and I fled Topanga Canyon where I'd been living while sorting out my divorce. We did a reverse Adam & Eve and ended up in "Eden" (aka "Elysian Park"). At one time that whole area used to be called "Edendale."

The apartments on Sargent Court were composed of two buildings designed in 1947 in an outré villas style--one blue and one peach--perched on a hill, boasting palatial gardens and a 180 degree view of Los Angeles. Directly below were the Echo Park barrios and Latino shopping. Directly across the narrow street from us was the arboretum of Elysian Park with hiking trails that went for miles and picnic areas and glamorous date palms looming in a row along the strip of road that led to the Police Academy in one direction and Dodgers Stadium in the other.

When I first asked the manager if she allowed animals, she'd replied, "Only cats." So the place had its share of felines and what my neighbor Glen called "kitty politics."

The rent was outrageously cheap and the apartments rented to artists at varying ranks of success. I felt immediately at home. My apartment had a big hole in its screen door that Chloe would jump through to get in and out. The apartments were so remote that the common belief among tenants was that no crime could ever occur there.

We lived in a first floor studio with a wall of windows that looked out at a jumble of tropical plants that the live-in maintenance man and avid gardener, Cervantes, tended. "I am making a jungle for you," he said. I was nursing a broken heart and for weeks, lay on the carpet unable to do more than cry, with Chloe on my stomach giving off soothing purrs.

Chloe enjoyed leaping out of the windows which had no screens. And one day she popped into a neighbor's window, squeaking her "good morning" meows and alarming the neighbor. "What's wrong with her?" the neighbor asked. "I couldn't figure out what she wanted." She had no cat. In fact, she was a dog person.

It's safe to say we were not comprehended by most of our neighbors. But we comprehended each other and that was enough.

After I began working again, I came home one day to Glen's scolding. He accosted me, saying: "Your cat has been causing trouble!" He had six cats of his own in his studio apartment and would never allow any of them out. I'd left Chloe outside while I was gone, confident that she wouldn't leave me. She had a sharp intelligence that made it easy for us to reach an understanding about this.

"What did she do?" I asked. Glen explained that she had been "tormenting" a neighbor's cat by hiding in the daisy bush that grew in the planter in front of our apartment and was in full yellow bloom...and she'd wait for this cat to walk by and then jump out at him, scaring him.

"It's not very ladylike," Glen said.

"She wants to be Queen of the Hill," Glenn huffed as he walked away. "But she's not going to be Queen of the Hill." No, I thought, because you've got dibs on that.

Chloe's "victim" was Oscar who was slightly brain damaged from a botched operation and slow. The next day, I saw Chloe jump into the planter and hide in the daisies when Oscar came along. He paused and looked straight at her. She looked at him through the flowers. Then she jumped and he drew back a few steps. It was very playful.

For a cat who didn't like other cats, she was starting to make playmates.

Oscar's human Robert was a gorgeous hunk who was a trainer at a gym by day and avant-garde musician at night. The first time we talked and he told me about Oscar, he said, "Oscar was the first person I met when I came to Sargent Court" (he'd belonged to a tenant who then moved out and left him). I laughed and said, "Person!"

Now, 14 years later, I don't think it's so funny.

There was a calico that roamed the estate who belonged to a married couple. Her name was Cecil. I knew that if Chloe hadn't been there, Cecil and I would have been best friends. She was always appearing when I was reading at the picnic table under the pomegranate tree, and asking to be loved. Once or twice, I caught Chloe glaring from afar.

But Chloe and Cecil developed an uneasy rapport. One lazy warm afternoon, Cecil climbed on top of a stack of lumber and fell asleep in the shade. I saw Chloe come along, stand in front of Cecil looking up at her. Then she stretched out a tentative paw, as if to poke Cecil awake.

Cecil opened her eyes and stared down as if to say, "Don't even think about it." Chloe withdrew her paw. And they stayed that way for a while.

Just as there were cat lovers in the building, there were those who were less fond. I was invited to a Christmas party given by the neighbor who had the biggest and nicest apartment with the best view. She was an up and coming film director, and many of her film friends were installed in the apartments. Glen was not one of them.

At some point, the guests got onto the subject of Glen and his cats. The hostess made fun of the way he would come home every night and yell out (the guests joined her in imitation): "KITTIES, DADDY'S HOME!"

Months later, I was talking with this filmmaker outside her apartment where she was gardening and suddenly she said, "Chloe's sitting on a zinnia." I turned to look and thought it was cute. Chloe stood up and where her ass had been, the flower popped back up as fresh as ever.

This ends Part I of Sargent Court and Chloe.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

TWO FOR THE ROAD

I met Chloe when she was about 6 mos. old. My roommate had gotten her from the Pound in Topanga Canyon to chase away our mice. My roommate insisted Chloe be confined to our tiny kitchen because she didn't want cat hairs in her mouth when she did yoga on the living room carpet.

The only entrance to that house was through the kitchen. That night when I came home, Chloe was the first thing I saw--pacing like a trapped tiger, squeaking her funky meow.

My roommate, whose name was Rainbow, had been resisting getting a cat because she said, "The mice aren't bad and cats in this canyon are coyote fodder." Then one day I walked into the kitchen and Rainbow yelled, "A mouse bit my toe!" Later that evening, Chloe was there to greet me. I squatted down to pet her and after a few strokes, she hid under my dress. "Mama!" my roommate laughed.

Chloe slept in a basket. Every morning when I entered the kitchen, she'd jump out and stretch so I could pet and fuss over her. Although my other roommates called her my "daughter," she still officially belonged to Rainbow.

My most vivid memory of that time is the night all my roommates were out, and I made a complicated soup (Rainbow owned the house but not an oven because she ate only raw food). Chloe sat on the counter intently watching my every move, keeping me company. I talked to her, sang to her. And she squeaked back.

One day I was outside doing Tai Chi in the front yard and Chloe was in front of me squeaking an insistent squeak, very annoyed at being ignored. As I finished the form, I stood quietly with my eyes closed...and she jumped straight onto my chest! I flung her off with a cry and she never tried it again.

Fourteen years later, the arthritis in her hind legs would make it impossible for her to perform any more grand leaps, and I would make steps next to our bed so she could easily climb into it.

How I moved to Topanga is detailed in my first novel, One Divorcing Woman's Roadmap for the Karmically Challenged. I was going through a divorce when I landed in Topanga, and when it was time for me to leave, after my car was packed, Rainbow said:

"You can take the cat with you."

Because Chloe was "skittish" with everyone but me. I was happy that I could take her, but that was a stressful move. I had numerous personal problems and was almost at the end of my tether.

Not having a cat carrier, I threw Chloe into the car with all the rest of my stuff and started off for the hour ride to L.A. where I'd rented an apartment. Chloe was screaming and howling. When she ended up at my left foot next to the brake, I pulled into a small business compound on Topanga Canyon Road and stopped -- headlights shining on the door of an artist's studio.

"That's it!" I said. "You are out of here."

Next to the artist's studio was the Chill Out Cafe where stray cats were often left. I felt certain they'd find her a home. As I opened my car door, the artist came out of his studio and shouted, "Can I help you?"

"Do you want a cat?" I asked. Chloe was meowing like crazy inside the car.

"No ma'am I do NOT," he answered with a slight warning in his voice.

I got back in, drove away and said to Chloe, "Okay, but you'd better behave."

And she did.

For 14 years, she was everything I'd ever wanted in a companion, and when it came time to move to Kansas, she made the drive without a single tranquilizer. And when it came time to move to Missouri, she was the best passenger ever. And when I had to move back to Kansas, ditto. Our drive to San Francisco in '06 was fraught with danger and problems. But Chloe was serene throughout.

As L. Frank Baum almost wrote about Toto and Dorothy: Chloe didn't care where she was as long as she was with me. At one point we even faced tornadoes...but I'll blog that in another post.

During the time of her cancer, Chloe grew even more loving and attentive, as if she knew how short and precious our time suddenly was. When I touched her, I felt her love in every part of my body, but particularly in my chest where the heart chakra is. The pain was so intense, I felt like the Tin Man when he says, "Now I know I have a heart because it's breaking."

Chloe was one of a kind. We lived 10 years on Sargent Court in Los Angeles. Fate decreed that we change apartments in the complex three times. She settled into each move with no period of adjustment.

Rainbow was told by the Pound people that Chloe didn't like "other cats." I imagined Rainbow checking out cages full of frisky cats, passing cage after cage until she came to this beautiful cat with the gray and white stripes and the calico face...in solitary confinement.

At Sargent Court, my neighbor Sanda had her own cat who also didn't like other cats. We used to cat-sit for each other. The first time Sanda ever cat-sat for Chloe, she told me afterward:

"She is one of a kind. All the rest are just cats."

Friday, April 11, 2008

SAY GOOD NIGHT, CHLOE


The night before the appointment, I lie with Chloe on my stomach, trying to memorize every curve and marking. I look into her green eyes which appear cloudy and unfocused at times (probably due to the pain) and think: "Tomorrow at this time, she won't be here. This is the last time we can do this."

She has stopped purring and lost six lbs. since the vet diagnosed her inoperable tumor under her tongue at the end of January. Now it's the second week in April and the two of us are exhausted from fighting it.


In the past month, I've made and canceled the appointment twice. But this last one has to be the one.

Chloe lies quietly submissive in our bed. She can still come and sit on my lap when I'm at the computer. She can still sleep at night with her paws wrapped tightly around my arm or her head pressed against mine. But there is no more wish to eat or drink. No energy or will to go outside or look out the window.

I've been syringe-feeding her (12 ML) since the diagnosis. She's unable to use her tongue to lap up food and drink.

On the wall is a Christmas card my friend Tom in Los Angeles sent, wishing me and "the Squeaker" a happy new year. When I lived in L.A., Tom used to come over for a "Reiki Exchange," since we are both practitioners of that Japanese hands-on healing technique. He got a kick out of Chloe because she was one of those "talking" cats. Instead of meowing, she actually tried to talk and it would come out in various squeaks.

But as the cancer progressed, she lost the squeak to an actual meow (if stressed to the max). And finally silence. That was one of the hardest things for me. Knowing that she could no longer speak. Like a stroke victim.

Like humans with cancer, Chloe underwent some physical desecration. She could no longer groom herself and the black goo that sometimes drooled from her mouth coated the white chest fur under it. That fur fell out, piece by piece, revealing pink skin which soon was covered with downy new white fur growth.

She lost so much weight that I could feel her vertebrae and her little ferret face now looked like a kitty skull. To tell the truth, I was almost afraid to take her to the vet for the final shot because he might think, "Why didn't she just put this cat to sleep when I told her there was no hope?"

Typing this, I wonder if I should bother to go on with these details. They can be found in other, probably more helpful blogs. They can be depressing or scary if you have a cat with cancer and are trying to gain hope. Or they may confirm what the human wants to know: "Is the fur falling out part of the process? Will Essiac (the herb mixture I used and which some claim has helped their cats) cure my cat's disease?"

Fur falling out is a definite yes in this type of cancer. Even without chemo. About Essiac, I can't really say. It came highly recommended to me by someone who had much more success at keeping cancer cats alive. I suspect it did help give Chloe a quality of life for a couple months that she otherwise might not have enjoyed.

Essentially, I administered a combo of Essiac, raw protein diet, changed her kitty litter to non-toxic pine and gave her "Greens" (a combo of green antioxidants) mixed in water.

On a website, I'd read about a cat whose cancer went into complete remission and his human gave a long, expensive list of stuff that was used in bringing this about. It warned YOU MUST DO EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST. So maybe I failed due to lack of funds. Or maybe it was Chloe's time. She was 14 years old.

For years, I watched friend after friend lose their aging cats to illness. And inevitably, each blamed themselves. Yes, I've had a hard time not blaming myself for her toxic living conditions. Moving into a moldy old building in San Francisco where we were the only non-smokers, with no view at any window, and very little light...and the cheap kitty litter and cat food...all because of my own economic hardship...

Who am I to deserve a cat like this? How could she end up with such a bad caretaker?

Those were my thoughts. And in my defense, I cite this anecdote:

I have an uncle and aunt who dread Death. They have fought the very thought of it their whole lives. One day they were visiting a friend who was a nurse. This nurse told me afterward that my uncle shared with her his outrage at the fact that his wife's mother had died in a New York hospital. He was planning to sue the administration for malpractice -- blaming the inept nurses.

"How old was your mother-in-law?" asked his friend.

"86 years old!" my uncle yelled. "But that had nothing to do with it!"

More in the next post...(it will get worse and then it will get better...)