Baby, the Old Lady Cat

We have two old lady cats at our house, both about 14 years old. One, Puss Puss, got the following review from the vet at her visit last spring: "Doesn't look a day over 3!"

But Baby, who is actually a little younger, is starting to show signs of her age. A cat who used to go in and out all the time, she rarely ventures out the door now, and when she did the other day, she couldn't seem to figure out how to get back in again, as if the timing of coming to the door had gotten beyond her.

I remember watching Nicky, our Old Man Cat, begin to fade. Even when the vet said nothing was the matter with him, I could see him thinning out, not so much literally as energetically.

Now Baby is the cat who over the years has created a number of headaches with her indoor behaviors. We've purchased feline Valium and Feliway (the pheromone stuff you plug into the wall) and moved a litter box into the master bedroom, which is probably what solved some of the problems in the end.

She's a little old lady cat, eight pounds of possessive purrs. She sleeps as close as she can get to me, drinks my water, walks around my head when I'm sitting on the sofa and is sure she can help with my knitting.

As she sat in my lap yesterday, I noticed some unaccustomed matting of her fur. I wondered if she had injured herself and tried to gently comb the area.

Baby felt it only appropriate to put her teeth on me in response.


I never found an injury and in fact noted there were quite a few areas of concern; I realized she must not be grooming herself as well as she used to do. Really, I can't remember seeing her do much grooming recently.

This afternoon I consulted Google and concluded that this must be part of the aging process. Matted fur feels uncomfortable, so we're going to have to help her with her grooming. She's not going to love that, I fear.

Readers, if you have experience grooming older cats or can recommend a grooming tool, I would appreciate your wisdom.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Chez Songbird

This Dog Belongs to Puss Puss

Tonight I took Sam out for a walk, but he really didn't want to leave our street. We ambled rather aimlessly to the dead end, then came back on the opposite side.

Soon I noticed Puss Puss keeping an eye on us from a neighbor's yard. She looked rather like she wanted to join us, but first a car left our street and then another arrived, and you don't get to be a 14-year-old Lady Cat Who Goes Outside without understanding to keep out of the traffic.

But it subsided, and she came across the curb and began to pad toward us.

Sam, busy sniffing messages on the neighbor cat's shrubs, did not notice her. When she seemed hesitant to come all the way, I turned him toward home, where Puss Puss met us in the driveway. She walked right over to Sam, which is unusual, and they sniffed each other, nearly touching noses, which is highly unusual. Then she walked under him–he is a big fellow, after all–and to my amazement, she rubbed her head against his front leg.

Yes, I believe she claimed him as her very own.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Interim Ministry, Knit Without Ceasing

In Which Our Heroine Blocks a Sweater

I've had the pieces of LP's "Christmas" sweater carefully tucked away in a see-through zipper bag acquired on a trip to the Gulf Coast of those holidays ago. I began the project early last summer, knowing that given my hands I might not be able to get it done if I waited until fall. She didn't like her most recent Christmas sweater; it's in my bottom drawer, and I still feel tempted to weep when I see it there, knowing how much effort went into it. But I understand the problem she had with it. And I think perhaps I should have blocked it.

I had never made a sweater for a young lady before. Oh, years ago, I made a sweater for myself, but I did not have the same standards for fit that certain middle school girls do, and I don't think I had ever heard of blocking, that means for making your knitting look the way it really ought to look. To block a sweater, you soak the pieces in a warm water bath, gently squeeze out the water, and then dry the pieces flat before assembling. For some reason this sounded daunting to me. What if I ruined the hand-washable wool! (By hand-squeezing it. Yes. I know it sounds silly.)

A great deal of effort goes into a sweater. This sweater, a tunic, has five pieces: a front, a back, two sleeves and an i-cord belt sort of thing. Blocking allows the knitter to be sure the pieces really match up in length and breadth, to encourage the yarn in a certain direction. The tunic has darts, and I am using blocking to encourage those little tucks in the pattern to NOT look like little holes!

Which is to say, I'm finally blocking it. The dining room table cleared off, the weather dry and cool, enough towels clean that half a dozen can be spared, the pieces lie flat and drying gently. Influenced by Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World to practice reverence as a kind of focused attention, I blocked both a scarf and the sweater at lunchtime yesterday. (So far, so good, though the darts continue to be a problem and that piece may be going back into the water.)

In the past, I've blocked socks on the dining room table, and I've walked off and left them there, because my cats just didn't go into that room, a favorite of the dogs. So it took me by surprise when Baby followed me in on an inspection tour and, before I realized what she meant to do, took a walk across the pieces.

When did the dining room become a cat-friendly zone?

Well, Sam does not chase cats (much), and the cats have grown bolder and bolder in the months since Molly died.

As I look back over the past year at 1FP, I see us making similar efforts and living through our own changes. We've tried things that felt new and perhaps challenging. We've gone back to the drawing board. And we've learned that without some people in the church family, the dynamics change in unexpected ways, ways that open possibilities for some of us while reminding others of their losses.

LP will, I hope, wear this sweater, and I will move on to other projects. I'm finishing a necktie, and have two pairs of socks on the needles. 1FP will continue into the next phase of a transition when I go, and this is the hard part of Interim Ministry. The reports I get on how their sweater looks will be second hand, at best. But if the process has been reverent, and it has for me, I must let them wear it and trust the fit.