Friday, September 19, 2008

Billy the Cat Finally Runs Out of Lives

Billy, the persevering 18 year old cat of the Blume's died today (September 19th). She was given about a month to live by the vet in August of 2006, but managed to overcome the naysayers and last two more years than expected. Finally in her last week, she was unable to eat, and slowly wasted away. She was best known for her sneakiness, though had grown rather less sneaky in the past year. Her well honed sneaking skills included stealing socks, depositing them in odd places at odd times of the night while making demented cat noises and jumping up onto kitchen counters to eat tomatoes. Deaf and blind, she was still able to smell, and even managed to kill a rabbit in her last month of life.
Billy had always seemed to have a survivor knack. She had been picked up at a pet store in Albany, California in 1990 as a follow up to Cathead the cat, who met her demise in Boston and is interred at Walden Pond, Massachusetts. Billy's tail looked as if it might have been severed in an accident, though it could also have been a birth defect. It was oddly krinkly and referred to as a "Cheetoh" tail by N. Why "Cheetos" you may ask. It felt like several cheetos crudely glued together and looked as much in an X-ray once taken for tumorous reasons. In any case, W & N believed that it might have been cut off by a sliding van door, because Billy reacted pretty strongly to the sound of a sliding van door on Irwin Ct, leaving tread marks up and down N's arms and chest and face. N was just happy Billy didn't manage to hook her sharp little claws in an eye or two while strongly reacting to closing of a VW bus door. But the point was, she had survived it.
Later the same year that Billy was acquired, she managed to get lost in the roof while the chimney was being repaired. She emerged from the attic with a broken hind leg, N thought the vets in Oakland weren't up to snuff when they said using pins wouldn't work, they would simply put the ball back in the socket and it would work again naturally. N called UC Davis veterinarian school experts to see if they could somehow rebuild her. Davis vets concurred with Oakland vets reporting that pins would hamper her growth plates, Billy being the ripe young age of 6 months. The surgery did work, and she was soon able to leap up on counters again.
Later she was attacked by some kind of animal and bitten in the eye. She again managed to survive, though lost sight in the bitten eye. Her most recent brush with death was in the driveway of the Blume home on Oak St. N yelled desparately to W, who was backing down the driveway, to stop as Billy was cutely sitting just behind the front passenger wheel to keep cool. W didn't hear N's yelling and did not stop. Billy jumped clear just in the knick of time. Despite these handicaps, she was still able to jump up on counters up to the last month of her life. Her predilection for ice cream, tomatoes and cantaloupe were well known.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mt Elbert - 14,433 feet - Highpoint #3

W reached the highest point in Colorado and second highest in the contiguous US, taking a 9 mile solo hike while M rested in the car with altitude sickness. W had wanted to climb Mt Elbert while doing a college visit to Colorado College with M, but had decided with some disappointment that the climb probably wouldn't happen because 1) it looked like a lot of snow, and 2) M was not enthusiastic with very sore calves from a recent cross country race. Despite this, W decided to at least check out the trailhead before heading down to Colorado Springs. The trailhead could be accessed by driving up a 4WD road that was full of huge rocks. At this point, in addition to M's sore calves, M appeared to be showing some minor altitude sickness, with headache and some fatigue, making it certain that he did not want to hike. W left M to sleep in the car and headed up the trail with a cell phone so that he could keep in contact with M. It was very late for a peak attempt, as it was already about 9:30, so nobody was on the trail. W did not take his trekking poles, as he didn't actually intend to climb the mountain at this point. The trail started at 10400 feet and wound up through an amber grove of aspen, just beginning to turn yellow in anticipation of autumn. Intending to turn around, W hiked about 45 minutes up the trail, but always the next ridge beckoned and he couldn't seem to stop himself. W decided, ok, he would just hike to get above treeline so that he could see the mountains. Of course, when he reached treeline, he saw that there was a small promontory just a little further. So on it went to the promontory, which was apparently at 12600 feet. At this point, W checked his map and noted that it was only 1.5 miles to the summit. This didn't seem very far, and W could see many hikers ahead of him, slowly trudging to the summit, so he checked in with M, who was feeling tired but otherwise ok, and told him he was going to go a little further. Feeling very energetic, W overtook several groups of hikers, including a couple with whom he had conversed with at the motel earlier the same day at 6:00 a.m. At 13700 feet W felt a little dizzy and briefly considered turning around, but after a minute rest felt better again and continued upwards. The trail had surprisingly little snow, and soon the summit was attained. The peak was crowded with perhaps 15 people and one dog. At 14,433 feet, W was quite certain that he had the honor of meeting the highest dog in the contiguous United States, as there was little chance that any dog was presently atop Mt Whitney. W texted M that he was at the top, and feeling guilty, decided to really hurry his way down. Half running and half walking W raced down, noting at around 11000 feet that his legs were turning to rubber. Two days later, the effects of the rapid descent can still be felt, as W has great difficulty going up/down stairs.