March musings

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The rains have finally arrived in Northern California. I know we need the water, but man, I don’t know how I ever lived in the Pacific Northwest! I truly hate the dark skies and cold water dripping down from above. Add the omnipresent darkness of current events and it’s really hard to find stuff to write about that isn’t just ALL CAPS PSYCHOTIC RANTING. But lord knows there’s enough of that on the internet already, so I’ll confine myself to random tidbits from my life.

Wildflower is looming large on the horizon. Thankfully, a good-sized number of folks from my tri club are doing it, so there is a training plan to follow and group workouts I can join when I need company/ass kicking. Especially for getting out on the bike when it’s cloudy and cold:

(Photo by Charlie Keen. I’m in the back on the left. I think you can see my arm… )

But little by little I’m finding my mojo again. It’s been a LONG time coming. I’ve been getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get on the bike trainer or go to the pool, which I never managed to do consistently before. On Friday, I made it for my pre-work, outdoor swim in the actual rain. (I was feeling like such a badass about this, until the aquacize ladies rolled in and showed me what hardcore really was. It’s one thing to do an activity where you’re largely under heated water during a cold drizzle. It’s another thing altogether when you’re treading water with your full torso out there. Mad respect, ladies!)

Yesterday, I went out to do a long, hilly bike ride. Originally, Todd was going to join me, but he had some work stuff and his back had been twingy, so he stayed home. I decided to ride out near where I worked and tackle a climb that I’d bailed on the only other time I’d attempted it – Patterson Pass. I figured it would be a good confidence builder, assuming I could do it, and a chance to bump down to a shorter distance if I failed.

Patterson is a long, somewhat relentless climb. It seems like it goes on forever. I generally like climbs like this for training because they build mental strength, along with the physical.

And, of course, there was a ridiculous little steep section before the last part of the climb where I had to stop and take a wheezing/panting/recovery break…

But, I made it to the top and the view was AMAZING:

It was crazy to look down on all of those windmills, completely the opposite of the view I usually have. That climb was followed by many miles of screaming fast/slightly terrifying descents and then some lovely riding through the country. I was feeling so good that I decided to take on a second climb that had eluded me – the road up to Del Valle regional park.

My brother and I have ridden part of it as part of lunchtime and weekend rides, but we’ve never made it all the way to the top. Usually, it’s a million degrees and we have time/fitness constraints, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never finished it. It’s another long, relentless climb with about a million switchbacks that seem to go on forever. It was the end of my ride and I was tired, but I put my head down and basically willed my legs to get me there. All in all, it was 40 miles of confidence boost. I was tired, but also really proud of myself.

Aside from all of that craziness, life has been work stuff and random adventures with this guy:

And this one…

Even when the weather is bumming me out, I know I’m so deeply blessed to be able to do this crazy athletic stuff and have such wonderful people (and dogs) in my life.

Farewell, big dog

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So, one of the last actions of the asshole year 2017 was to take our beloved big dog Wally from us. Wally was 12, so we’d been steeling ourselves for his passing, but you’re never really prepared for them to go. I am grateful that if he had to die, it was at least in one of his favorite places – his “grandma” Susan’s house.

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Wally was a very special dog and just about everyone who spent any amount of time with him probably has a story. He was mischievous, shockingly stealthy when it came to stealing food off the counter, but a genuinely sweet and gentle dog. He loved to snuggle close to you and one of his true joys was sleeping on the bed. He always felt like he had to ask permission, which usually came from resting his chin at the foot of the bed and staring at you with his sad eyes.

Susan rescued Wally after he turned up on her friends’ property outside of Salem. When we later met these friends, they said it took them a few days to get Wally to come to them. Given how friendly Wally is, this spoke volumes of how scared he must have been. We were living in Portland at the time and had been considering getting a second dog to keep Smokey Joe company. Susan called us to tell us she had a “fat lab” for us to come meet. (It turns out that Susan meant giant dog, because Wally was definitely not fat – just ginormous.)

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Our early years with Wally were… challenging. The first year we had him, I wanted to give him back on numerous occasions. He was boisterous and out of control and none of the training techniques that had worked so well on people-pleasing Smokey Joe seemed to work.

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One of my favorite “early Wally” stories was when a friend came to visit us. Somehow, Wally had gotten upstairs and shaken her suitcase all over the landing (and broken the zipper on it). Then, the morning when she had to leave for an early flight, Todd had prepped coffee for her. She told us later that while she was drinking said coffee, she looked over and there was Wally – happily chewing on her toothbrush between his two front paws. This pretty much sums up what we were dealing with.

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Another favorite story from those early days was from a camping trip we took in 2007. We’d had him for not quite a year and we’d met up with a group of friends at a campground that had a special section for tents. We had the two campsites on the lower level and a family had one of the sites on the upper level. They had a few kids in the mix, two girls probably 11 or 12 and a younger boy, maybe 5 or 6. The girls had been super into the dogs, so as we were loading up the car, the dogs were tied up and the girls were petting and fussing over them, with the little boy hanging back a little unsure. On my next trip to the car, there’s my rambunctious big dog, sitting patiently, while the little boy is giving him a full body hug. I’ll never forget it, it was so sweet. Wally clearly had kids in his previous life.

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Wally stole all manner of food off the counter – steaks, bread dough, entire sticks of butter. For a dog as big as he was, it was shocking how quietly he could jump onto the counter – once literally right behind me. We visited a friends cabin (who had good dogs) and he broke into countless bags of treats and food. We had to come up with various protocols of closed doors, baby gates and childproof locks on cabinets to keep him out of the garbage, right up to the end.

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Wally generally wasn’t great with other dogs. I don’t think he’d ever lived with other dogs before because he was completely clueless about reading dog body language. He and Smokey Joe would get into various skirmishes because of it. So, when we wanted to adopt Austin, we were really worried that he wouldn’t accept the new arrival. But upon Austin’s initial tail wagging greeting, I think he genuinely enjoyed his new brother. The two of them lived together for three years with no fights and even ate out of food dishes side by side. It makes me happy that he was finally able to have a buddy.

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It’s pretty amazing how much you can miss a big quiet dog who spent the majority of his time sleeping, but we really do. I’m so grateful for the years we had with him and I’m glad we stuck it out. RIP, Sir Wallace. You are loved.

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It’s complicated

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On one hand, 2017 was a real trash heap of a year. I’m typically pretty good at managing my media intake so that I don’t become overwhelmed with current events and political rhetoric, but that was pretty much impossible. The stakes are too high and the current administration’s strategy seems to be to carpet bomb the populace with terribleness, so that we can’t possibly keep up. UGH!

Not to mention, it seemed like everyone I knew was having terrible things happen. Beloved pets died (more on this in a bit… ), job losses, family member illnesses, and just random terrible things happening to people I care about, etc. Perhaps it’s confirmation bias due to the aforementioned political situation, but it sure seemed to be everywhere.

But I also had some really great moments in 2017. I tried to start writing a post on this blog so many times, but it just seemed so frivolous and dumb in the wake of all that was going on. So, I’m just going to say fuck you 2017, you can’t take all of my joy. Here’s a list of some of my personal highlights from this year:

Finally got back to triathlon
In April, I did the sprint distance at HITS Napa, which was freezing cold (like, for real, not just by my wussy California standards… ) I couldn’t feel my feet until mile 2 of the three mile run. But I ran every step and finished with a smile on my face:

I also joined a tri club and toed the line of the Oakland Triathlon Olympic distance. I was way undertrained, but it was so much fun to race in my city with a bunch of new friends (plus one of my rad Seattle book group ladies!) Definitely looking forward to coming back next year with some actual consistent training!

Celebrated 20(!!!) years of marriage
Since I still feel like I’m in my 20’s… maybe early 30’s, this was a crazy milestone. But we went to New Orleans to celebrate and had the best time. We stayed in a gorgeous bed and breakfast, ate and drank ALL OF THE THINGS and generally just fully enjoyed our first, but hopefully not last, time visiting that wonderful city.

Went to freakin’ Japan!!!

I need to write some retroactive posts for this trip because it was AMAZING. Seriously, find a way to go visit because it is worth it. We joined up with Erik and Nerissa for this trip, which made it even more fun.

Got to see Hamilton

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Christmas present from Erik & Nerissa. It was fantastic. See it if you can.

A few random travel adventures
A Las Vegas trip with Erik & Todd, work trips to Boston and Napa (I know, rough life!) Plus, we got up to Oregon to celebrate my parents 50th anniversary and down to visit Heidi and the fam in LA. So many fun excursions, so little time…

And more!
Plus, as I scrolled through my Instagram to remind myself of what else happened this year, there were so many great photos of culinary excursions, wine tastings and general life awesomeness. Even though two good local friends moved away, one went to her dream job and the other to a pretty perfect fit for her hobbies and well-being. I look forward to adding both of them to the random travel adventures category in the near future.

So, let’s all cross our fingers that 2018 is all of the good stuff for the majority of the population and let all of the bad stuff rain down on a certain administration.

Home makeover

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The movers showed up as promised on Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind as they unloaded furniture and box after box and hauled all of it into the house. Before we knew it, the truck had pulled away and we were surrounded by all of our crap beloved possessions. Poor Austin was not happy with the drought-proof yard of gravel, so we decided to do a little yard upgrade as our first order of business. We went to Home Depot and got a roll of dog-friendly fake grass. He seemed to approve of his new “lawn”:

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T also hung some lights that I’d picked up on clearance at Target. Our little backyard is a really great space to hang out. I really love it.

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The rest of the week was spent trying to work while unpacking and getting settled in. By the time the weekend rolled around, we decided to take a little break. A while back, we’d put ourself on the waiting list for the wine club of a winery that we’d enjoyed during our trip for Vineman. They called to let us know that we were in on the Thursday before we moved down, so we made an appointment to come pick up our selections in person.

It was a beautiful day. We got coffee and window-shopped in Healdsburg, had a fabulous tasting and bought a bunch of wine:

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It was a great way to spend our first official California Saturday. It was Halloween and we settled in for a quiet evening at home, but were surprised to hear trick or treaters on the street! T made a dash out to the Walgreens for candy and I put out the Halloween decorations that I happened to have unpacked recently. It was definitely impromptu:

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But I have big plans for next year!

The next day was spent giving our house a little makeover. The paint colors were a little too neutral for our taste, so we got clearance from the landlord to add a little pizazz. (Probably more than she was expecting, but we can always paint it back when we leave… ) Here’s the bedroom before:

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And here’s the after:

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It’s a very similar color to our Seattle bedroom and I LOVE it.

The kitchen was a little more challenging. Here’s the before:

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We’d always wanted a red kitchen and this kitchen was a perfect candidate. The problem was that we picked the wrong red initially. It was way too orangey and bright, so we had to repaint it. (Which was tough, because the wet paint looked a lot like the dry first coat, so you had to remember where you’d painted. And apply a lot of touch ups the next day.) But the end result was very cool:

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And I forgot to take before pictures of the paint, but here’s one of the chandelier when T took it out of the box. God bless IKEA…

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But here’s the end result (of both chandelier and painting) Here’s the “closed” position:

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And the alternate “open” position. Isn’t it cool?

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The house has all of these cool little details that I just love. Like the STAINED GLASS WINDOW in our living room:

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And the pretty frosted glass window on the bathroom door:

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And the embossed flower on the closet doors in the bedroom:

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I just love it here. I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed California until we came back. Even our slightly ghetto neighborhood is so friendly and welcoming. (I think I’ve met more neighbors in my first weeks here than we did in three years at our last place.) The light is golden and warm and we have such beautiful sunsets:

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Especially now that the house is under control, it’s really starting to feel like home.

 

Fireworks

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It’s been quite the summer so far, (more on that in another blog post), so I’ve been excited to have a 4th of July visit from Erik & Nerissa on the calendar. Erik’s birthday is at the very end of June, a few days earlier than their arrival, so we prepared a little mini-birthday celebration – cupcakes and Goldschläger (long story). We opted to divide the cupcakes into quarters, so we had Erik hold his candle while we sang Happy Birthday…

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It may have been Erik’s birthday, but Nerissa brought us a present from her recent business trip to Japan – exotic KitKat bars. (Green tea and red bean flavors, in case you can’t tell.) I actually wish they sold these in the states, they were delicious.

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I’d originally worried that we were going to have our typical gray and rainy 4th of July weather, but we actually had the opposite extreme – temps in the 90’s. Here the dogs demonstrate our primary coping mechanisms… Option one, hang out in front of the fan:

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Or Option Two, hang out under the shady tree in the backyard:

FrogDogVoila, Option Two!

LawnGroupWe finally got to take them to Essex/Delancey:

CocktailEssexWhat a nice-looking group:

EssexGroupErik showing off his fruity cocktail:

ErikCocktailOn the night of the fourth, we opted to stay home. It was lovely. We grilled, drank wine, watched the fireworks from our back porch and stayed up late playing Mexican Dominos. #murica

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We stayed up way too late, but it was lots of fun!

MexicanDominos1We wrapped up the visit with a delicious dim sum brunch at Din Tai Fung. (Pro tip, if you go mid-morning on a holiday Sunday, there’s no wait!) We stuffed ourselves with dumplings and then wandered around Capitol Hill. It was the perfect end to a lovely visit.

Endless summer

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Seattle continues to have the most awesome summer weather ever. We’ve broken records for most days over 80 degrees in the history of ever. I’m definitely in the minority of people who are happy about that, but given what the rest of the year’s weather is likely to be, I’m enjoying every second of it. Unfortunately, this leads to blog neglect, so I’ll share some snapshots of our summer adventures.

T did an open-water swim race at Lake Meridian. I’ve done this race twice as part of my Ironman training, so it was weird to watch it from the comfort of a camp chair. Here he is suiting up and getting ready to go:

PreLakeMeridianTOff into the wild blue yonder:

LakeMeridianTAnd they’re off!

LakeMeridianTstartHe did very well, beating my previous best time by ten minutes (bastard!) Plus, he got some valuable race experience and I got a lot of time to read my book in the sunshine. 🙂

We continue to be entertained by these two bozos:

SummerSleepyPups AustinBoneSleepAustin got a new toy eggplant and he’s obsessed with it. Such a silly puppy…

SummerPupsAustinvEggplantWe’ve been enjoying our summer cocktail of bourbon lemonade. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly we went through this Costco-sized bottle of Maker’s Mark:

SummerCocktailWe balanced it out with our veggie box bounty and, of course, the occasional treat:

IceCreamWe also got to attend a fun Pink Martini concert at the zoo:

PinkMartiniCourtesy of our friends’ adopting this little nugget:

NewBirdT’s training has reached the point where you’re on the cusp of various injuries and battling all sorts of aches and pains. We did a century (100 mile) bike ride down in Portland where he had such severe lower back pain beforehand, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it four blocks. But he rallied and did the whole route and was looking pretty spry at the end. Then threw his back out adjusting the bike in the back of the Element. So, it’s been lots of physical therapy with Dr. Austin (in addition to his real PT, of course.)

PTAustinOver Labor Day weekend, I had him do another long swim to make sure his lower back wouldn’t seize up. We headed over to Seward Park, so he could do a long swim but still be close to shore in case something happened. Plus, there was a path along the shore, so I could keep an eye on him. Here he is heading out, so hardcore!

TswimSewardParkI think we’re both looking forward to the race getting here already.

White weekend

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Life is slowly returning to normal. The boy had a follow-up with the cardiologist and it sounds like he will make a full recovery. There was no damage to the heart muscle and no expected change of his life expectancy, at least from this. Which is a huge relief, of course.

We had a nice Saturday evening hanging out with M & J. T even bonded with his nemesis Mushroom:

GrumpyCatTWhen we went to leave, we were greeted with this surprise sight:

SnowT drove home and I took pictures/cowered in the passenger seat:

DriveHomeWhen we got home, we got to introduce our Texas dog to his first Seattle snow. You can tell he’s a lab by his initial reaction (MUST EAT ALL THE SNOW!!!):

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But he and Wally also had fun romping around in it.DogSnowChaseThe next morning we woke up to a winter wonderland:

SnowyYard2 SnowyYard SnowyHouseT’s “special” tiny snowman:

SnowmanI walked over to the supermarket to pick up some breakfast supplies. Green Lake was so beautiful in the snow:

SnowMontage SnowLake SnowDucksWhen I got back, the boys greeted me with some more snowy hijinks:

BoysChasingI love this shot of Austin’s ears. He looks like Dumbo!

AustinSnowEarsBest of all, the snow started melting in the afternoon, saving me a trip down to my office to get my laptop. Instead, we spent a nice cozy evening watching movies. I like snow just fine when it only lasts for one day.

 

 

 

 

This weekend has gone to the dogs

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Susan came up for an impromptu visit to meet her new “grandpuppy”. She arrived on Thursday night after enjoying the delightful rush hour traffic. 😉 And just like that our house was full of dogs. Young Austin got to meet his doggie uncle Blue. They hit it off right away:

BlueMeetAustinThere was lots of licking and wrangling:

BlueAustin3 BlueAustin2I think that after dealing with the puppy all week, Wally was convinced that all of the dogs were staying and he was not having it. At one point, he went to sulk in the corner:

WallySulkThe next day, T and I had to go to work, so Susan hung out with the dogs and went and got her hair cut at the salon that did mine. The end result was super cute:

SusanNewDoI think Austin likes his grandma:

SusanAustinSnuggleOr maybe he just likes snuggling with people:

AustinToddLapThe next day, we went for the world’s wettest run around Green lake and hung around the house. Austin was happy to help Susan with her foam rolling:

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M, J & Rowan came over for diner and to meet the dog pack. Little Austin LOVED baby Rowan. I tried to get a picture of all of the dogs swirling around her, but this was the best I got. I love Wally’s crazy face in this shot and the fact that Austin is kissing her face while she tries to wave him off. TOO MUCH CUTENESS!!!

RowanMeetsDogsT and I are doing another Whole30 this month, so we couldn’t partake in the wine drinking, but we had a delicious dinner and a wonderful time hanging out. M was kind enough to text me from Costco about a really attractive dog bed and grab it for me. The dogs seemed to approve:

NewBedThe next day, we went out to breakfast and ran a few errands. Susan bought everyone new toys, so much of the day was spent watching the dogs:

BlueAustin4Austin really enjoys wrestling with big Blue:

BlueAustinPlayThey also enjoyed chasing each other around the backyard, but only if I wasn’t trying to photograph them. I did get a nice shot of them hanging out in the shrubbery together: 

BoysShrubsI think young Austin is going to miss all of his dog friends. But snuggling with his dad should make up for some of it:

BoysSnuggleAs will the new bed:

WhatAs you can see, we’re very much enjoying the new addition to the household. He’s a very good dog and is fitting in very nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the pack

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After writing so many pet obituary posts this year, I’m excited to write a “welcome to the family” post. Introducing Austin (formerly known as Lucky) a new arrival to the Pacific Northwest from a high-kill shelter in Texas. We’ve been going through the adoption process for about three weeks, so were very excited to meet him. As you can see, it was pretty much love at first sight:

NewPalsI was very worried about how Wally would take to him, but it’s like they’ve been best friends forever:

Wrestlin BuddiesAustin loves the yard:

WheeLoves getting attention:

AustinTAnd pretty much everyone and everything. He’s made himself right at home and we couldn’t be happier with him:

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Good-bye, Georgie boy

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It’s been a tough year for pets and it saddens me to write yet another pet obituary post, but we had to say good-bye to another member of the Dragonfire family this week. Our kitty Georgie had been a member of our family since the early days of our marriage and he was definitely my favorite cat.

We adopted him in the Fall of 1997 as a tiny kitten. T was working in downtown San Francisco, where the local Humane Society brilliantly brings “highly adoptable” pets to office building lobbies. So, I get this call from T asking me what I thought about adopting a kitten (it may have been something closer to “the cutest kitten in the world!”) We were planning to go up to Oregon for the holidays, so I needed him to confirm he was old enough to fly, if it came to that. He happily complied and I came home to this little bundle of ridiculousness.

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We drove him up to Oregon for Christmas, where he made a spectacle of himself:

GeorgieXmas2 GeorgieXmas1And I have to share my favorite picture of baby George:

BabyGeorgie2He was a pretty rambunctious kitten. (Is there any other kind?) Guests in our home would be treated to punctured air mattresses and Georgie “sharing” his favorite toys in the middle of the night. When we could close off the guests, he’d rattle their doors. On the first Thanksgiving after T and I got married, (where we were hosting two sets of parents) he licked the pumpkin pie. Since I didn’t have the time or supplies to make another one, I had to scoop out a big hole around the cat licked part and fill it with whipped cream. He was a naughty but super sweet kitty.

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GeorgieCartAt first, it was just George and Dewdrop. Dewdrop wanted nothing to do with George, despite his overtures of friendship. It wasn’t until Godiva joined the family two years later that he had a buddy. They were pretty cute together:

GeorgieGodiva GeorgeGodiva2And they kept that up over the years:

GeorgieGodivaNow2 GeorgieGodivaNowThroughout our time with him, George was good at rolling with the punches. He drove from the Pacific Northwest to California multiple times and then to New York and back. He lived in eight different houses/apartments in his sixteen years of life. Not even two silly dogs bothered him.

GeorgieWally IMG_1443 IMG_1060But in the last couple of weeks, he’d been losing weight and just wasn’t his usual perky self. We took him to the doctor to run some tests and learned that he had a tumor on his adrenal gland and some sort of blockage near his bile duct. Both things would require invasive, high-risk surgery to address, so we opted to enjoy his company as long as we could. Basically, as long as he was still eating voraciously, we were doing okay. Then on Wednesday night, when T was out of town on a business trip, he stopped eating with the same amount of enthusiasm and spent a lot of time laying in the bathroom, so I knew we were close. We scheduled an appointment to put him to sleep on Friday.

He was still not really eating on Thursday and very listless. When I came home from work, he didn’t greet me at the door like he usually did and I was really worried about him. I petted him and gave him some tuna, which he actually ate. Then I had to go pick T up from the airport. When we came home, he spent a little time petting George and then we chilled out in the living room for a little while. I went in to take a bath an hour later and he was curled up in a ball, sleeping next to the toilet. When I reached down to pet him, I realized that he had gone. He looked very peaceful and I was grateful that he’d gone out on his own terms, even though it was so sad to lose him.

The next morning, we buried him in the backyard that he’d loved prowling around so much:

IMG_8234I’ll miss hanging out in the backyard with him. And his predilection for chilling out in cardboard boxes:

georgie_01He was an awesome cat and we were lucky to have so many good years with him.