WHISKERS ON WHEELS – chapter 1

I had never seen Jim cry before. We were together 14 years and I had never seen him cry. I was taking my afternoon nap when the front door rattled with a knock from the outside. The door always rattled when someone knocked or walked into the house. The glass slats of the door’s jalousie window, loosened with age, replaced the doorbell which had quit signaling arrivals years ago.

Jim opened the door to Dr. Peterlin, my doctor. I liked the mannerly man. He was a kind and gentle person who always treated me well, although, over the years I had always seen him in his office. That was such an exciting place. Everybody always fussed over me and made me feel like I was the center of attention. After my visits I was ceremoniously offered one of my favorite treats.

But, I sensed that something was awry. Jim was crying, Dr. Peterlin was very somber and he brought one of the nice ladies from his office with him. I tried to get up from my nap to greet them but realized I could not move. Although it had been amputated at the hip last year to stop the spread of cancer, my leg hurt badly and I could not breathe. Those of us belonging to the genus ‘Felis silvestris catus’ have a gut feeling about this type of situation. We call it ‘the bottom of the ninth’.

But there are no regrets. My life has been such a wonderful adventure. I’ve seen all 48 continental states, moused in almost all of them, spent several of my 9 lives evading careless drivers in parking lots, and eaten some of the most bizarre human food at places called ‘truck stops’.

I was born in a place they called Pennsylvania. Jim’s friend, Larry, my other human, had decided to quit driving truck after just a year on the road. He said he was like a fish out of water driving a truck and wanted to go back to his roots, farming. He had a really neat house on 5 acres of land.

Luckily for me, Larry got lonely on his little farm and decided to adopt an animal. He always had dogs before, but this time chose to have a cat as a companion. The first time I laid my eyes on him was at the SPCA shelter in Danville, Pennsylvania. My siblings and our mother had been dropped there by a nice old lady. She confided that her mean husband wanted to drown us in a burlap sack, but, she managed to steal away with us early in the morning and save us from a horrible death.

Momma was adopted immediately by a farmer who needed a good mouser for his barn. I didn’t tell him that Momma saw a mouse once and screamed like her tail was afire. We were put into a large cage with about a dozen other young ones like us and that is where I was when Larry came to see us. I was sure he would overlook me, just a scrawny, orange alley cat with no heritage to boast about. The attendant pointed out a beautiful, sleek Persian and something he called Maine coon with gorgeous long hair.

They all made a fuss over Larry, climbed up his legs, tried to lick his face and in general acted like truck stop whores, a sub-species of humans which I learned about later. They were often likened to a species of reptile, the lizard. But, Larry spotted me sitting in a corner minding my own business, came over and picked me up. Now, at that point in my life, I wasn’t too enthused about human beings. They smelled strange, talked funny and didn’t have any fur. What weird creatures I thought them to be. So, I did my feline best to be unattractive and remote.

My evasive tactic didn’t work. He chose me, signed the papers, paid a lot of money and we headed to Gonsar Place. That’s what he called his house. It was my job to be a ‘pet’.

I napped on the front seat as he drove us home. Had to relieve myself and found a quiet little corner under the seat. At the shelter they had introduced me to a thing called a litter box, but, I really had to go and there wasn’t anything to scratch and dig around in his truck. Later I learned I had committed the greatest faux pas for someone of my species, but my new human didn’t admonish me.

He did most of the talking on the way to Gonsar Place. I yawned and meowed a few times just to let him know I was being tolerant but not at all interested in a life with a human hundreds of miles from nowhere and living away from my real family being forced to do whatever it is that ‘pets’ do. I was not a happy feline.

“Well, here we are,” he announced proudly as we turned down the lane to the house.

I looked up, yawned and curled back into my favorite napping position. When the truck came to a stop I felt a tug on my tail. Then came a full-fledged violation of feline independence as he gathered me up into his arms and headed toward the house. I decided then that this human had much to learn about cats. But for now all I could do was look around at my new home.

It proved to be somewhat interesting at first glance. There were several structures that appeared to present good mousing opportunities although I had no intention of being just a common mouser. Nevertheless, the singing of birds spiked my curiosity and the country smells excited me. I tried to be subdued and reserved like I was in the cage at the shelter, but my immaturity and naiveté allowed a feeling that I had not experienced since being nurtured by my momma. I learned later that humans call this phenomenon a purr. It’s an uncontrollable betrayal of our desire to remain aloof.

“Welcome to your new home, Rocky.”

Closing the door behind him, Larry put me down on the floor allowing me to believe that I had escaped his grasp. I quickly realized there was no escape from this building he referred to as home. However, there was much to explore and I immediately became fascinated by the sights, the smells and all the great nooks and crannies that provided opportunities for exploring. He called me Rocky and I was just fine with that name. Thank God he didn’t choose Puss or Fluffy or Caesar. Rocky. Yes, that’s a fitting name for a wild and ferocious feline. I was determined to become king of my new domain.

Rocky’s new home in Pennsylvania

gonsar 1gonsar 2

an apple a day?

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A few weeks back I lamented EXCUSE ME FOR LIVING about the complexities of navigating the health care system as a senior citizen.  Much of it was written tongue-in-cheek; however, the discouraging reality of Medicare is that 1) many doctors are too busy keeping up with government paperwork to read the latest research articles concerning nutrition and alternative care, and 2) they are held to unforgiving guidelines by insurance companies and the feds.  Quite often the last person to whom we should talk about healthy diet and non-pharmaceutical treatments is our M.D.  They are locked into a health care system which advocates the old-age trinity of drugs – Lopressor, Lipitor, and Metformin to address issues that are often the results of lifestyle choices and can be changed by lifestyle choices.

But, ultimately, it is our choice.  Most of us, especially the septuagenarians amongst us, have learned our bodies intimately over the years and we know good health versus pharmaceutically sustained health.  They are not synonymous and, as I stated in a previous post, merely having a pulse and a brain wave is not the goal of living a long life.

I often use my mother as an example.  She had a few of the usual older age health issues including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  Medications were prescribed which in short time produced side effects.  More medications were prescribed for the side effects.  When Mom died she was taking 15 different prescriptions, her health quality was abysmal, and she certainly did not enjoy her “golden years”.  Mom was not a fighter.  She was taught as a young girl to trust her doctor as a god and to adhere to whatever treatment he prescribed.

I am a fighter and a rebel.  I believe there are many other men and women who find themselves in the same situation which I am in.  I strive to be more than just data and statistics in some insurance company’s actuarial department, more than just a nameless body who floats into the doctor’s office for scheduled maintenance.

Sometimes the mind awakens in the morning saying, “Giddyap”, but the body says, “Whoa boy, slow down.”  Those mornings are difficult and it’s all relative to what I remember as good health when my body and mind were young and frisky.  Accepting the limitations of aging is not a surrender, but rather a compromise.  “Okay, old age, I cannot do a marathon anymore but sure as hell I can still walk a few miles.”  Like many things in life, I want my senior years to be about quality, not quantity.

This is the journey on which I want to take GABBY’S PLACE.  I have recently taken a personal health assessment after years of traditional medical care for the few health issues which plague me today and my inventory is disturbing.  Increasing pharmaceutical usage is not the route I want to take.  A recent blood profile was seen by my medical doctor as dangerously out of line with government guidelines and subsequently viewed by an experienced nutritionist as nearly perfect.  “Just a few tweaks,” she said.

I am not a doctor nor a health professional, but I do have an unsettling attitude about what our health care system has done to the people who trust it much as my mother did.  What I write in the future on GABBY’S are just the ramblings of an old man disgusted with the results of a health care system which cost a fortune when I was  a working man and equally miffed about Medicare, the system for which I paid with each payroll deduction forcibly taken from my paycheck over a lifetime of working.