The Duke Diaries – Life Without Duke

Ted The Alarm Clock

Today is three months since our Sweet Dukie left us. Ted has really stepped up his game as Alpha. Cecilia, while I believe she could absolutely fill the role, just won’t. Ted is the new Alarm Clock – man he makes so much NOISE – and he has no concept of the 9 minute snooze. He makes little chortling noises “mmm, mmm, grunt grunt mmm mmm, grunt grunt,” usually accompanied by some sort of physical abuse. If I don’t respond rapidly enough in his furry little mind, he stands on my pillow and whacks me in the head. On occasion he will lay on my head and knead my scalp. Honestly, it feels really good, so sometimes I pretend to be asleep just to see if I’m gonna get a kitty paw scalp massage. 

He’s a pretty good food reminder – but usually only when he’s hungry. Duke would start “reminding” me at least an hour before meal time, usually with a death stare. Ted is much more vocal. He trots out, happy as a clam (he’s ALWAYS happy as a clam) and says, “Meow.”  I say, “Are you ready for dinner?” and he says, “Meow.” We chat back and forth discussing menu selection and I ask him to go get his sister… we go through a whole vocal routine which he fully participates in.

Cecilia is another story. I got them new beds: round, with high sides, fluffy, fuzzy, soft, cheap Amazon delights. They LOVE those damn beds. Cecila only gets out of hers when she gets too hot. This morning I had to coax her out to get her breakfast. She loves to prop her head against one side and stretch a leg out so its hanging off another edge. She’s happy as a… cat in a fluffy bed!

My heart still aches for Duke. I keep his yellow flower shrine going. I talk to him a little. He still watches over things for me. It makes me reflect often on loss and grief. A distant friend lost her husband 7 months ago. I think of her so very, very, often yet do not reach out as frequently as I would like. At least three people I know have lost pets in the time since I lost Duke. I think of them too. A couple very close to me suffered a miscarriage earlier this year.  My grandmother and grandfather lost their daughter a month ago.  Through their grief they are packing up their home in Arizona to move to Florida and they are planning to stay with me for a spell while we locate a new home for them. Hmmm, my Spidey Senses are tingling. Perhaps a new Blog Category: Stories of a Sicilian Grandmother? Hahahaha. Stay tuned.

Today I send out love to all of those who have lost. Right after I lost Duke, my friend sent me this TedTalk by Nora McIlnery. I love her message and I’d like to share it with you here. It’s for those who have lost, for those being supportive of those who have lost, and for people who know someone who have lost (aka this is for EVERYONE). It’s totally worth 15 minutes of your day.

Sending out love and light to all,

Erin

The Duke Diaries – Goodbye

Our Sweet Dukie crossed the rainbow bridge on April 10, 2019. I’d venture to say he was with us for exactly 10 years. He walked into our lives and into our hearts in April of 2009. That scruffy beggar cat became my greeter, my guardian, my alarm clock, my companion, my confidant, and the audience for all of my private singing and dancing one-man-shows.

Duke was the best thing that came out of Texas. We went there under less than desirable circumstances. Duke chose to spend his life with us. He brought us immense joy every day of his life. I am eternally grateful for that.

Duke was cared for by an amazing team of people. Jerry and I were both with him in his final moments. As a token of his Texas beginnings we left him with a yellow rose. It gives me a sense of peace that I can find him in every yellow rose I see from this day forward. Our vet tech created his paw print and presented it with tears. He was loved by everyone who met him.

A dear friend shared with me the belief that souls are “promoted” when they pass on from this life. Duke was SO promoted. Always the Alpha, I know his spirit is starting on amazing new things. I know he’ll always be watching me; forever my guardian.

The pain in my heart is real. It ranges from a dull ache to the stab of dagger. Simultaneously I feel a radiation of peace and relief that he is no longer suffering. He is free. He absolutely left a mark on my heart – a mark the size of Texas.

I love you Duke.

Duke and Me
March 25, 2019

The Duke Diaries – Simon

When you’re facing a loss, especially of a loved one, there’s a part of your brain that returns to the past. I found Simon as a kitten in the Fashion District of downtown Los Angeles and he only liked me. He tolerated some women and I do have photographic evidence of him on my sister’s lap. He didn’t like men and he would go through comical pains to avoid my step-son at all costs. His favorite “Erin Nook” is pictured below and he nestled in there every time I flopped on my bed to study, or read, or watch TV.

Simon in his favorite Erin Nook c 1995

Simon had tetralogy of fallot which is an uncommon and devastating heart birth defect and I was told cats born with it typically don’t live more than 6 months. Simon was with me for ten years. When it was time for Simon to cross the rainbow bridge, he had lost several teeth, he wasn’t eating, and his foot pads and nose had taken on a blue hue because of the lack of oxygen circulating through his system. He was not going to get better.

My fingers stick to the keys as I try to find eloquent words to describe playing God. Ultimately I don’t feel worthy of making these kinds of decisions. I do however, feel it’s my duty as their Guardian to provide my fur babies with the highest quality of life, and with as little suffering as humanely possible. As the vet administered the sleeping portion of the euthanasia to Simon, she told me I could put him in my lap. There’s NOTHING Simon hated more than being put anywhere involuntarily. He’d get up and move, even if he came back to the exact same space you just put him. So I didn’t put him in my lap, but I caressed him and talked to him.

I had come directly from work; when the vet’s office called me I flew out of the office mid-day, afraid he would pass before I got to him. My boss said to me later, “You’re acting like a person died,” and I told him that “animal” had been by my side longer than any man ever had. I sat on the floor next to the oxygen chamber, in my long, black, floral dress, weeping as Simon left me. I left his carrier behind. I sat in my car and sobbed. Gasping, heaving sobs. For a long time. Eventually a woman tapped on my window and I rolled it down. She said she was sorry for my loss, and then she spoke words I have never forgotten,

“They will not leave you until you’re ready.”

I don’t think I will ever be ready to let Duke go. His recent labs are not good and the vet said we should love him and be thankful for every day he’s with us. Duke’s not ready to leave me either. He’s yelling at me right now for a little more breakfast. So I’m wiping away the tears and popping open a can of Fancy Feast – this week’s favorite.

Hummus Magic

Ok, here’s my story about hummus. I hate beans. Lima beans, refried beans, garbanzo beans, and whatever beans are used for baked beans. Yuck. All of it. Note it’s not a flavor issue, it’s a texture thing. They are grainy. Like eating sand. I love green beans and I like peas. I can tolerate black beans if they are mixed in something, and even then I’m like the Princess and the Bean because my palate just finds the grit.

So, hummus. I always wanted to like hummus. But even pulverized, those damn chickpeas were still grainy. Every now and then I would order a vegetarian sandwich with hummus as a spread, thinking I could just ignore the beach inside, but nope. Ick.

Until last week.

I went to #Myapapaya. For some reason I was craving hummus. I don’t know what’s in chickpeas that I was actually craving, but I really wanted it. I got a salad (or bowl) with hummus, falafel, eggplant, and some kind of pickled something else. It was one of the most amazing things I have eaten for lunch in forever. The hummus was thin, lining the bottom of the bowl, with a heavy drizzle of olive oil on top. It was like eating velvet. The falafel were crispy and yes, there was a little grit there, but I’ve always been able to get past the grit when it’s fried. The other flavors complemented everything. I straight up wanted to lick the bowl, but I was on a business lunch, so I felt that would be frowned upon. I texted my sister to tell her I had taken ill; I had ordered hummus voluntarily and I liked it.

Today, the craving hit again. I originally planned to drive straight to Myapapaya but I decided to try to save a buck, go home and make my own.

I’m a good cook. Just last night Jerry ordered dinner out and complained about it and to my full enjoyment proceeded to go on about how spoiled he is by my cooking. But today, the hummus magic wasn’t there.

First I skinned a can of chickpeas. Fortunately my bestie was available to yack on the phone, so those 23 minutes flew by (I’ve learned that the hummus peeling gets faster with experience). Then I busted out the Vitamix, followed a recipe, and blended away. Then tragedy struck. I took off the lid, did something… I don’t know what… then put the tamper stick in and put the lid on (wrong order). As a result, the Vitamix ate the tamper stick.

I proceeded to push the hummus through a strainer because I had just spent 20 minutes peeling grit beans. I’m thankful they were big chunks of plastic and I’m the only one who is going to eat this dip, so I risked the plastic. Blender cleaned, hummus back in, I added too much liquid and made a hummus milkshake. Yes, I do like it thin (I think that’s Lebanese style?) but the end result was a little too thin. It was however, grit free. Yaaasssss!

Vitamix Demolished Tamper Stick

I still need a new recipe. I learned that I don’t really like tahini. The recipe I used had too much. It also needed more lemon and more garlic. It’s not awful, and I put it in the refrigerator because I believe it will firm up overnight. We shall see.

I’m secretly hoping I get to go back to Myapapaya on Sunday before going to see #MiamiCityBallet at #BrowardCenter. Get my hummus fix. So save me my loyal readers. Hit me with your best hummus recipes.

The Duke Diaries – The Purr Pack

The Purr Pack helping Mama UNpack in Texas

 

By the time we met Duke he was 18 months old and he had cultivated a successful survival routine. In addition to his impeccable human manipulation skills, he was an accomplished hunter. Even though he enjoyed hunting, he really enjoyed air conditioning. As the months passed, Duke began spending more nights with Jerry and so a litter box became necessary to prevent his little bladder from bursting. During one of my visits to Texas, I set up a nice little station, but the poor little guy had no idea what it was or what he was supposed to do with it so he cried the next morning to go outside to relieve himself. All it took was one quick training session which did involve me scratching at the litter (clean litter) he knew what to do.

The downside to Duke’s brilliance and his increasing dependence on Jerry was that he would alert the entire complex to Jerry’s absence. After spending a weekend with me in California to help pack up the house, Jerry returned to Texas and a neighbor said, “So, you were gone this weekend?”

“What do you mean? How did you know I was gone?”

Apparently, Duke had climbed the tree next to our bathroom window and he CRIED and CRIED and CRIED all weekend. Had he simply gone to the back door, I would have understood. That was where he came in and out, and where we left food and water. But the bathroom window was around the corner of the building. Yes, we were on the second floor, so I suppose that it only made sense that the cat would climb the adjacent tree to try to get our attention. Until this point, Duke hadn’t officially been adopted. He came and went as he pleased and his schedule was erratic. It became pretty clear after this that we were his primary humans.

After I relocated to Texas and we moved into our house, we decided Duke should come too. I pulled in next to the Firebird, loaded him in the Highlander, and off we went.  There was a short detour to the vet for shots, his microchip, and neutering. I wasn’t sure if he would adapt to being an indoor only cat. But he recovered in the new house and has never tried to leave us (on purpose anyway). We figure he was like, “Damn, there’s air conditioning, food that someone else kills and serves to me, there’s other cats to boss around, and a BED. Yeah, I think I’ll just stay here.”

Just like that, the Purr Pack was born.