Dear Flick…

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When our school secretary lured me into the principal’s office one day in 2009, scooped you up from behind the desk, and placed your little kitten body in my hands, I knew I’d just been handed a lifetime commitment.


You were a little dumpster kitten, found scavenging behind the cafeteria, and called for a few brief hours “Panther” in honor of the school mascot.  I knew better.

You were put into my hands on September 11th, a barely tended wound of a date on the American psyche, so I set out to find the name of a life lost to give to you. There were a few I found on the memorial website and tried out on you.  The one that stuck, that came to fit you, was of a man named Carl M. Flickinger.

Just over six years later, when I held you in my hands for the last time, and the vet did what she had to do, and your seemingly robust, but secretly frail body breathed its last, your life, like your namesake’s had been cut short, but my commitment remained.

It’s the human burden to see ahead, to understand what is coming, to know that each furry friend we bring into our lives will break our heart. I knew you would do that to me, and I took on that future pain and loss, knowing I would get years of joy beforehand. Well, they weren’t enough years, but you were a joy.  You were funny and cute, and you pumped new energy into the cat community in my house, to the occasional annoyance of Kali, Ivy, Perch, and Morph.




You went through the rituals that all well cared for cats go through: strange people poking you in strange places, needles that would keep you healthy, always with dignity and not much in the way of fear or fuss.


When the inevitable Cone of Shame had to be worn (garnering you the temporary nickname ‘lampy’)  you took full advantage of the fact at the food bowl.


This September 11th is, was, would have been, your seventh ‘gotcha day.’ I thought we would have many more years together, years more of attention seeking while I try to read, years more of your ineffective attempts at smothering me in my sleep, but it was not to be.  Six years was all we got.  It’s not fair, like life isn’t fair, but this is even more unfair because you were so young, and until the last few weeks so vigorous.

I regret I didn’t realize earlier that you were not feeling well.  I regret my first clue of your illness was picking you up off the TV stand, dropping you to the floor and your not landing on your feet.  I regret that it took me days of you laying in the same spot for it to finally dawn on me that something was really wrong.  But what I don’t regret is taking on that burden and responsibility.  I know I gave you a happy, lazy spoiled cat life when you could have been a desperate stray struggling to survive and dying a lot younger than you did.

For the rest of my life September 11th was bound to be a somber day, but now the sadness is more personal for me, and I hope I have some small insight into what many families go through every day on this date.

So this is your ‘Gotcha Day’ Flick.  I love and miss you, buddy.


Dear Flick…

Throwback Thursday: Bring More Water than you Need!

I originally posted this on Facebook August 3 2013, pretty much the day it happened.  I’ve proofread it since then, and added some pictures.  Anything in italic is added content.

Ever heard the phrase “An adventure is something horrible that happens to someone else?” Well, my story isn’t exact that as Hershey and I both got back ok, but let me start with the moral of this story: Always bring more water on a hike than you think you need.
This morning Hershey had a very bad time at the dog park, two fights in about ten minutes. I figured it was because she hadn’t gotten much exercise this week, and it being cooler weather (It turned out it really wasn’t that much cooler) I decided to take her for a nice long hike. I wanted to go someplace I’d never been so after looking on line I found an interesting trail called San Joaquin Gorge up near Auberry. After dropping Graham off with dog park friends Karen and Robin, Hershey and I drove up to the foothills. The Google Maps turn by turn directions worked flawlessly, delivering us to a parking lot near the trail head. We made our way down the path with a quart of water to share and a soda for myself. My recollections being that the feds are pretty good about facilities along their trails. The problem was, my recollections have mostly been shaped by the National Parks or Forest Service, this was a Department of the Interior area and not very well provisioned. How not very well?  There were only outhouses and water at the trail head, nowhere else along the 7+ mile trail.

So I had a quart of water for two of us and a soda for myself and also no cell reception! It was a great hike at first, the gorge is beautiful and and foot bridge across it is really elegant.

Hike 3Hike 4Hike 6Hike 7Hike 9

There was a fire higher up in the mountains so the whole place smelled like a cookout. Hershey was having a great time sniffing rocks and the astonishing amounts of animal poop on the trail.
I started feeling poorly on the other side of the gorge from where we had started. The uphills were more and more trying. I’d stop to rest for a while and move on. It flattened out eventually and we sat for a bit and took a rest, going through the water pretty quickly, but not totally. It was then I drank the soda and ate some cashews, and it was also then I started feeling dizzy when I stood up. We walked (uphill of course) for about 30 minutes more and after taking a wrong turn got back on the trail and headed down the way we’d came. It was mostly downhill, should be easy.
Eh, not really. This was the time it was evident that Hershey wasn’t having a great time. She would go ahead of me as far as her 26 ft. extend-i-leash would allow, always stopped in the shade (mostly oak trees). At times she had her tail tucked between her legs and was running ahead to either get the sun off her back or her feet off the hot ground. Sometimes she would seek out the deepest shade she could find and we’d take a break. At this point I was more worried about her than myself. I gave her most of the rest of the water.
Quickly after that I started feeling pretty poorly myself. We got back to the bridge but I’d taken a wrong turn somehow and came out on a trail more to the east of it than the one I started out on. I swear I was following the same trail I went up on! Once across the bridge (stopping in the middle to enjoy some shade and to briefly entertain the notion of jumping 100 feet to the beautiful water below) was when things got ugly for me.

Hike 5
So, so tempting

It was a lot of up hill. It was a lot of trail with a pretty brisk tumble down the hill and into the gorge on one side. It was me feeling increasingly fatigued, resting, and feeling horribly dizzy after getting up from resting. Fun Fact: being dizzy a foot away from a steep tumble makes you more dizzy! There were a couple of times after the many rests I had that if the dizziness had been much worse I might have blacked out.
I wasn’t immediately worried about Hershey anymore, she was a trooper, I was worried about myself. There had only been one other car in the lot when we got there and I’d encountered a guy on a bike headed back that way shortly after we started. I had no cell reception the entire time I was there, and If I couldn’t get myself back up to the parking lot…
I took many rests and several times sprawled on the trail while Hershey made a beeline for the deepest shade again. I was good and ready to plead for help if anyone came along, no one did. The rest of the county being wiser than me apparently. Eventually we made it back to the parking lot, to the water, where I drank a half quart immediately, only to have my kidneys almost literally scream at me. Hershey was happy to drink from the muddy puddle at the base of the spigot and I was too tired to stop her. Let’s hope we don’t pay for that later… (There were no ill effects!)
Walking across the parking lot to the car was almost as hard as making it up those hills. I got us both in and ran the A/C for a while, still sitting in the lot. The outside temperature on the dash read 100. It could have been reading it off the pavement, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been the actual temp. We soaked in the blessed cool of greenhouse gas powered A/C for a while and I drove back to town.
When I went to get Graham and told my story, my friends plied me with ice water, cold packs and a Slurpee, all of which I took gratefully . So I made it back to town, neither Hershey or I much the worst for wear. She is now sacked out on the couch and I would like to restate the moral of this story: Take more water than you think you need!!

Throwback Thursday: Bring More Water than you Need!

BlogPaws 2016: Days Two & Three

The main thing to know about BlogPaws wasn’t really the workshops I went to or the speakers I heard. The real story is that Marsha rocked it!

For a dog who’s fate was supposed to be to guard an empty house she handled the conference better than I could have hoped.  The first day really was the first day she knew there were so many other people and other critters in the world.

Unlike Graham, who’s reactions to the world are first and foremost ruled by fear and aggression, Marsha’s take on life is one of cautious optimism.  She’s unsure at first, about a new person, new dog, or new balloon animal, but on repeat meetings she much more enthusiastic.

Continue reading “BlogPaws 2016: Days Two & Three”

BlogPaws 2016: Days Two & Three

Blog Paws 2016: Day One

I’m an early riser.  Even when I’m not coordinating primates I can’t seem to get off the school year schedule. So going to bed near 11 and waking up near 4 wasn’t that much of surprise to me, even on vacation.

The trouble is, the conference isn’t scheduled for insane people like me.  Registration begins at 9 am, and the sessions don’t start until noon. So I had a few hours to kill.

The first was slain attempting to get back to sleep and then making coffee.

Continue reading “Blog Paws 2016: Day One”

Blog Paws 2016: Day One

BlogPaws 2016: Day Zero (& Day -1)

I had planned to drive from Fresno to Phoenix for BlogPaws 2016 in one day.  It’d only be 10 hours!  It’d only be 600+ miles!  Sure, that would be easy.  Then after telling a few people about my plan (OK, telling my mother) I began to think about wisdom of said plan.  Then after Palm Springs broke its own temperature record, hitting 122 on Monday, it suddenly didn’t seem like the wisest idea to be driving a 16 year old car through the desert during the hottest part of the day.

So after some hemming and hawing and waiting until practically the last minute, I booked a room at the Red Roof Inn in Palm Desert and high tailed it out of Fresno at 5 pm on Tuesday.  I was a bit pressed for time as I had to claim the room by midnight.  There was some wiggle room, an hour or so, so it didn’t seem like it would be that much of a challenge…  But you know the saying “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

I am the J.J. Abrams of selfies.

Continue reading “BlogPaws 2016: Day Zero (& Day -1)”

BlogPaws 2016: Day Zero (& Day -1)

Caturday: The Cattery Pt. 3

Read Part Two here!

In Central California, during the summer, Mother Nature leans hard on the thermostat and then brings out the blow torches.  Typical high temperatures run in the 90’s or low 100’s, with occasional runs of 110+ days I like to refer to as ‘facemelters.’

For legal reasons please do not imagine the melting Nazi from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Thank you.

Continue reading “Caturday: The Cattery Pt. 3”