Another day

People keep on reaching out to me about Werner, which I greatly appreciate. I feel like I had gotten most of my grieving out of my system during the two months leading up to his death, though. Ever since I buried him yesterday I’ve felt, for the most part, fine. A certain clarity, a fog has lifted, and all that. I think my worry about Werner had been weighing me down greatly and now that he’s resting forever and at peace, everything is fine. Or at least better.

I’m still sad about his absence, and when I think about his final moments or look at any of the mementos I tear up a bit. But they’re mostly tears of joy, I think.

Fiona’s also gotten a lot happier too. I think she was spending a lot of time worrying about him and trying to take care of him, and it was wearing on her. Today she was extremely cuddly and affectionate with me for the first time since… well, since Werner got sick, I think. And she had a lot more energy for playing than in recent memory, too.

Today I stopped by his little grave and said some words to him, and Fiona came over too and sniffed a bit and rolled around. I think she can maybe smell him in there. Of course I’m going to visit him every day or so in order to water the hydrangeas, and I’ll probably be saying hi to him each time for a while, but as with all things that’ll probably fade. But I had put a Werner pin on the fence behind him, just a little reminder of him to see each time, at least until a raccoon steals it for being too shiny.

(Okay, thinking about visiting him makes me cry too.)

I’m already thinking of adopting another cat, mostly for Fiona’s sake. A nearby pet shelter has a bunch of viable candidates, so I’ve emailed them asking when it would be a good time to come meet them and explaining what I’m looking for and why. Wasabi and Mitch both seem like very good choices, but I’ll ultimately be letting the cat choose me, as what happened with Fiona originally. (She wasn’t even on my list of candidates when I went to the shelter!)

I guess I should share the story about how Fiona chose me. I’ve told it many times to many people, but I’ve never put it on my own blog where it belongs.

So. Werner and I had just moved to Seattle. At our previous home in San Francisco he had a huge balcony with a great view of a yard that kept him entertained all day, but my new condo had basically no view and not a lot of light, and I was working very long hours at Amazon, so he was home alone a lot. When I originally adopted him it was with the understanding that he needed to be away from other cats for a while (because in his previous home he was very overwhelmed by the presence of way too many other animals and he had some pretty severe neuroses around food availability and so on), but in our new home he was way too lonely and he was going bonkers with boredom and isolation. So it was time to get a friend for him.

I went to a nearby shelter, with a list of candidate cats from their website and a vague notion of what I was looking for in another cat. I told the person there that I had an older cat who was very lonely and needed someone who would be friends with him even though he probably wouldn’t appreciate them at first, and the person said, “I think I might have the right cat for you.”

She took me into a room where there were around a dozen cats lazing about (including most of the candidates I’d picked out), and one annoying cat who had no concept of personal space.

I went to all of the candidates and tried to play with them, but they were all just sleeping and uninterested in playing. And this annoying little mongrel kept on following me around.

Finally I got the attention of one of the candidates, who started to play with the string I was dangling… and then the mongrel started to play too, and the cat I was trying to woo got angry and hissed at her, and the mongrel paid no mind and just kept on trying to play with both of us.

“I want that one,” I said, and the shelter employee said, “I thought you might.”

I learned a bit about her (named “Candy” by the shelter, because she was “so sweet,” ugh). She was a stray who had been recently rescued, and had clearly given birth to a litter of kittens, but nobody knew where the kittens were. So she was sad about her missing kittens and trying to be a mother to all the other cats, whether they wanted it or not. Sounded perfect for a crotchety old cat who needed companionship but didn’t think he wanted it, right?

Anyway. I took her home, and tried to keep her in my home office as a quarantine measure, as the office had a glass door that the cats could see each other through and they could get used to each others' scent in a measured way. But of course, she would have nothing of it, and managed to escape.

Then Werner wandered in, and he was incredibly suspicious. He could clearly smell that something was up, and I think he heard her mew a couple times, which piqued his interest… and ire. He’s looking around the office, agitated, annoyed, and I’m trying to console him. Then he turns around to leave, and starts to walk out the door… and freezes in his tracks, when he sees this interloper appear.

He puffs up, hisses, starts screaming at her, angry that his space is being invaded.

She walks up to him while he’s screaming his little head off, nuzzles at him, then keeps on walking through the door as if nothing had happened.

Werner gets this confused look on his face, like, what the hell just happened?!

Within two days they were cuddling like they were best friends.

Anyway. With her being so adventurous and feisty, I named her after two particular Fionas1: the ones from Adventure Time2 and Burn Notice, two television shows I was enjoying at the time.

Not everything was smooth sailing with Fiona’s integration into the household, of course. When I first adopted Werner, his neurosis around food availability led him to gobble up everything he could (and then barf it up) and it took a while to get him to realize that he didn’t need to do that; when Fiona entered the scene, that tendency returned, and I had to go back to free-feeding with a gravity feeder, which had the side effect of giving Fiona (who was a scrawny street urchin) way too much food, and she gained a lot of weight pretty quickly.

Also, it took a long time for Werner to get patient with her. Often I’d come home and she’d have new scratches on her face, probably because she was trying to mother him and he wanted nothing to do with her at the moment. It also took a few months before he’d stop growling at her whenever she tried to join us in bed. And he never did completely accept her motherly caretaking; after a while he mostly tolerated her bathing him, but he’d still sometimes swat at her if he wasn’t in the mood. (But at least he stopped drawing blood and hissing.)

Now that Werner is gone I can finally control her food intake… for now. But also not having another cat around has seriously diminished her appetite as well. She probably had similar food-availability concerns as Werner, and those were playing off each other for years. So that might be a reason not to adopt another cat right away… but I also want to get one while she’s still feeling motherly towards others, to improve the chances of her bonding with someone else. I worry that nine years of inertia might not be enough to maintain that; after all, nine years of being strictly indoors made no difference as soon as she had an outside to escape to again!

But in the meantime she seems to still be mothering me, so maybe I don’t have to worry.

It’s a bit poetic that Fiona is now around the same age that Werner was when she came into our lives. I hope whoever comes in next can bring her the same comfort that she brought to Werner.

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  1. People have generally assumed I named her after Shrek’s partner, for some reason, or less commonly, the original codename of Kindle (which I’d worked on), but nope. Well, the Kindle one sort of was in my mind since I’d moved back to Seattle ostensibly to work at Amazon again, but that was just happenstance. 

  2. At one point her full name was Fiona Rainicorn because she made sounds similar to Lady in the Adventure Time pilot and is also very patchwork-looking, but that didn’t stick. 

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