Aby-a-Day – 11 May: Remembering Gun-Hee (Friday Flashback)

Lorelai has been with us for a week now, and it’s like she’s always been here. She’s feisty, trusting, playful, curious and just…perfect. Jacoby growls at her, she doesn’t care. She pushes Angel and Jake away from their leftovers if she’s still hungry. She holds her own with Alfred even though he’s nearly 10 times her size. She’s had no litter box issues, no eating problems…nothing. She just integrated herself right into the cat family.

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Kind of like another Aby kitten I know. Gun-Hee was a lot like Rory. Jake, Freddy and Logan were somehow not as easy. They all had giardia as kittens, and, I don’t know. It just felt like it took a lot more work managing those three as kittens compared to Rory and Gun-Hee.

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We got Gun-Hee on 15 December 2006, the day before he turned three months old.

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We tried to keep him separated from Tessie, Kylie and Patrick when we first brought him home. That lasted about five minutes. He would have none of it. The older cats were…not the most welcoming at first.

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Gun-hee didn’t care.

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He just stood his ground.

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For some reason, Patrick was his particular favourite. Patrick was still missing Harri, who had died four months earlier.

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Gun-Hee eventually wore him down.

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He loved Patrick.

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Kylie was the closest to him in age (she was only 17 months older than him), so they also became friends rather quickly.

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Tessie was a little slower to thaw.

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But Gun-Hee eventually melted her, too.

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He also loved the floor-to-ceiling cat tree in my old apartment.

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He loved being on the top, epsecially.

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Rory takes on that same floor-to-ceiling cat tree and, if she falls off, she just climbs back up. As I am typing this, she’s at the very top of it, trying to touch the ceiling. Gun-Hee was like that, too.

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Another thing they have in common is shoulder-riding. Neither Jake, Angel, Freddy or even Logan have ever been able to stay on a shoulder. Jake is particularly bad at it; I say it’s like he has magnets on his feet that are the opposite of the ones on people’s shoulders and he just can’t stay on. It’s nice to have a shoulder-riding kitten again.

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And Gun-Hee could be cuddly, too. Just like Rory. It’s a little eerie how much she reminds me of him.

Aby-a-Day – 4 June: “Snazzy” (Saturday Photo Hunt)

This week’s Photo Hunt subject is “Snazzy.”

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I have this very snazzy, super deluxe, floor-to-ceiling cat tree from Drs. Foster and Smith. I had it in the kitchen of my old apartment in Somerville, and Harri, Patrick, Tessie, Kylie and Gun-Hee all loved it.

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Patrick especially loved it.

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I mean, he really loved it.

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I got it in 2005 as a replacement for the older, blue one I’d brought with me from Atlanta, which was getting a little ragged. Patrick couldn’t wait for us to unpack it.

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He even helped to assemble it.

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He could not even wait for it to be put together before he was climbing on it!

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Sadly, it wasn’t tall enough for the very high ceilings in the old condo, so when I moved out of my apartment in March 2009, the awesome tree went into storage.

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When I got Angel in 2008, I wasn’t spending much time at my old apartment although I still kept it for a few months after I married. I’m not sure if she has ever seen this cat tree (but she really loved the floor-to-ceiling cat tree my mom has at her house, and wasted no time climbing it). I know Jacoby never has, since it was put into storage before he was even born!

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But on Monday, it was packed up to go to Sweden.

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It was pretty amazing to watch the mover pack it up in paper.

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We decided not to take it apart, except for the very top, spring-loaded part.

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He was so fast! I couldn’t imagine wrapping up a cat tree in moving paper…but then, he’s a professional.

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So, here’s my snazzy cat tree, all packed up and ready to go. Next stop, Sweden!

Aby-a-Day – October 6: Christmas Déjà vu (Cartoon Tuesday)

Björn found another holiday cartoon I drew while clearing the basement storage for the imminent arrival of all my crap. This one was a quick sketch I drew, without pencil, for his then-girlfriend Titti back in 1997 when I was living in San Francisco with my two Siamese Harri and Patrick.

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A quick sketch like that? Of course I didn’t remember it after 18 years. But when he showed it to me on Sunday when he discovered it I was instantly struck with the similarity of this little scribble of Patrick and Harri to this cartoon I did in 2013 starring, of course, Jacoby and Angel:

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I mean, okay, the joke is different…but the basic dynamic is very similar. I’m also amused that Harri seems to have transitioned from being the “goofball” (aka Jake) character into being the “intelligent straight-man” (aka Angel) character with the introduction of Patrick, who was younger, rather than Sigrid, who – like Angel – was older than Harri. Or, the girlcat is always smarter…when there is no girlcat, the older cat is smarter.

Still…interesting to see an embryonic idea become a full-fledged cartoon years later…even if it was a complete accident!

Aby-a-Day – April 24: Kylie’s 10th Birthday (Friday Flashback)

Today is a very special day – it’s Kylie’s 10th birthday!

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Of course, we don’t know her exact birthday, but we got her on June 20, and she was about 7 or 8 weeks old. So, counting back, we decided that her birthday was April 24.

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My husband wanted a tiny girl kitten. I found a Craigslist post for free kittens in Quincy, and when I emailed the man, he said he had mostly white kittens and one grey tabby. My husband kind of wanted a tabby, but by the time we got to the house, only the white kittens were left. We saw them running around, and then heard a tiny “mew” from a side table behind us. The tiny mew came from a tiny, white kitten with two grey stripes on her head. And that was that.

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Kylie was tiny when we got her, too.

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She was literally the same size as a Beanie Baby cat! We got to meet her mother, who was a very petite, slender all-white shorthair with odd-coloured eyes, one green and one blue. Her name was Mary Jane, and she was so pretty. To this day, I wish I’d taken a camera along and gotten a photo of her.

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At the time, I had my two Siamese, Harri, aged 14, and Patrick, aged 11. We had just gotten Tessie a month before, and she was meant to be Kylie’s mother figure and playmate, since the boys were a little old to be much fun for an active, lively kitten. This is one of Kylie’s first encounters with Tessie…it got better.

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Kylie was a very lively kitten.

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She was the type who would play with anything.

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Anything!

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A piece of plastic foil wrapping paper was an awesome toy. I think she played with this for days.

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Despite being 14 years older than Kylie, Harri really loved her. He always loved other cats and kittens; even though he was an only cat until he was 3, Harri was the most welcoming, friendly cat I’ve ever known – he never minded having other cats around him.

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Kylie looked up to Tessie as her role model.

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“This is how you lie on a hot day, Kylie.” “Okay, Tessie, am I doing it right?”

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Like I said…Kylie was tiny. Look at her compared to Tessie in this photo!

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She was tough, though. She could hold her own against Tessie, despite the size difference.

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Tessie was so patient with her. Of course, Tessie had one litter of kittens before I adopted her, so she knew how to handle Kylie.

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Kylie and Tessie were almost always together. Even today they still sleep together.

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Kylie was also fond of Patrick.

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They would play together. At the time, Patrick was our largest cat; he was a bit chunky at 13-14lbs. It was comical to watch Kylie and Patrick play together because of their size difference.

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Patrick was always the last cat to accept a newcomer. I guess Kylie won him over.

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Trick even shared the cave at the top of the cat tree with her!

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This photo of the four of them sleeping together on my bed in my old apartment was my Christmas card in 2005.

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Kylie loved to play and cuddle with stuffed kittens. This was one of her most favourite “dollies.”

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Harri died in August of 2006, and then that following December, Gun-Hee joined the family. Kylie was only a year older than Gun-Hee, so they were pretty close.

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She took on the role that Tessie had taken with her.

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You would find them together a lot.

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They used to play together all the time.

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They had projects, like trying to open the dishwasher. Gun-Hee was the brains and Kylie was the muscles of the operation.

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They hung out together.

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She helped him celebrate his first birthday. She was really sad when Gun-Hee died and she mourned him. She didn’t eat treats for a week.

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She was quick to accept Jacoby, too. I think she was happy to have another Aby to play with.

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Kylie and Jake have always gotten along.

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She was one of the first to not hiss at him and let him play with her, actually.

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They like to go out to the park together, too…although Kylie isn’t as brave around dogs as Jake is.

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But since Kylie is four years older than Jake, their bond isn’t quite the same as the one she and Gun-Hee’ shared.

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They share a love of high places.

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This is also a common sight at our house: Jake cuddling with Tessie and Kylie.

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Angel always seems to be the odd cat out. Of all the cats, Kylie and Angel probably interact the least. I think that’s more Angel’s doing than Kylie’s, though.

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I had Kylie’s DNA tested at UC Davis. We think her father was a tabby Maine Coon. Since her mother was a white shorthair, those dominant traits covered up anything her father was carrying. I know that she does carry the genes for long hair, dilute, and tabby, and that her ancestors originated in England rather than the Middle East or Asia. Underneath her dominant white, she is probably a non-dilute tabby, and she may actually be a torbie (UCD doesn’t have a test for sex-linked red). While Kylie is small like her mother, she is built like a Maine Coon, with a long tail, lanky legs and a boxy muzzle. She’s just a miniature shorthaired version.

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She also does a mean Hello Kitty impersonation!

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It’s hard to believe she’s 10 years old. Happy birthday, Kylie!

Aby-a-Day – June 13: The cats who came before – Part 4 (Friday Flashback)

Originally there were only going to be two parts to this series…but it turned out to be four parts! This is about the crossover between the Siamese regime and the Abyssinian era and who from my old life knew the cats I have today.

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I met my future husband in 2003. Before he met me, he’d never really known any cats. In fact, he told me he didn’t like cats. I asked him why, and he responded, “Well, they don’t love you. They aren’t loyal. They don’t greet you at the door when you come home, you can’t play with them or take them to the park…” “Ah,” I said. “You haven’t met my cats.” And, sure enough, he saw the error of his assumptions. So much so that he decided he wanted his very own kitten to raise himself and be “his” cat. This was in 2005, when Harri was 14 and Patrick was 11; of course, those two old bachelors would be no match for a hyper young cat.

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So I adopted Tessie. Her registered name is Bes Butterfly; Tessie fit the sounds well enough and also evoked the previous year’s World Series victory. I found her on the Retired Friends list (the same place I’d found Patrick eight years before) and fell in love with her photos and her description. She’d also had her own litter of kittens, so she knew how to handle them. I’d originally been looking for a Siamese, and then branched out to Burmese and eventually found Tessie under Asians.

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Tessie fit right in.

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Tessie was 12 years younger than Harri, but they formed an almost instant bond.

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I always said it was because they were both born in the Year of the Goat, and had many qualities in common. But whatever the reason, they became fast friends.

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Tessie adored Harri.

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And the feeling was mutual.

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They often slept cuddled together.

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Tessie’s relationship with Patrick was more complicated. I think Patrick was a little jealous of Tess’ friendship with Harri.

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However, they did get along. These two photos were taken not long after Harri died. Both Tessie and Patrick loved Harri, so I think they bonded for a while.

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But at best they were more roommates than actual friends.

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Sometimes, Patrick would pretend Tessie wasn’t even there.

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Tessie has always been our nurse cat. That may have been why she was so drawn to Harri; he was in pain from his arthritis and also on daily medication for his thyroid. When Patrick came home after yet another dental procedure, Tessie would look after him.

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And then, in June 2005, Kylie the kitten arrived on the scene.

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Tessie was cast in the big sister/auntie role to deflect Kylie’s attention from the older boys. Turns out, that was a good call!

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Kylie idolised Tessie and did everything she did. She was like Tessie’s little white shadow.

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Harri always loved other cats, especially kittens. He would run up and greet them, and seemed taken aback when they would hiss in his face.

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He watched over Kylie like an uncle.

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Harri really loved Kylie, but as she got older and he got more frail, she started avoiding him, and would hiss at him when he got too close. I think that really hurt his feelings.

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Patrick and Kylie had an odd relationship.

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For one, he was just so much bigger than she was! I don’t think he really knew how to deal with her.

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Harri died in August 2006. This photo was probably the last “portrait” of Harri, Patrick, Tessie and Kylie together. It was taken in

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In December 2006, I got my very first Abyssinian…Gun-Hee!

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Patrick took to Gun-Hee right away – this photo was taken the day after we brought Gun-Hee home. Like Tessie and Harri, Gun-Hee and Patrick were 12 years apart and were both born in the Year of the Dog. Say what you will about astrology, I’ve always wondered what it was that caused the two cats born under the same Chinese zodiac animal to become bonded not once, but twice.

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Patrick became closer to Gun-Hee than he ever did to Tessie or Kylie.

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And apparently Gun-Hee felt the same way.

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Of course, Gun-Hee got along with everyone.

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He and Patrick just had an especially close friendship.

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Patrick was crushed when Gun-Hee died, only two years after he’d lost Harri.

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But for those two years, we had a happy family. After Gun-Hee’s death, as I said last week, Patrick just went into a decline. At the same time, I discovered Angel being fostered by Purebreds Plus, whose headquarters are in Vacaville, CA, only about 20 miles from where I grew up. We needed another Aby to fill the hole Gun-hee left, and Angel needed a home. At the same time, Patrick needed some boycat buddies. So…Patrick went back home to California, and Angel came to Boston. A year later, Jacoby happened…and the rest is history!

Aby-a-Day – June 6: The cats who came before – Part 3 (Friday Flashback)

1997 was a pretty big year for me.

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Harri turned 6, and Sigrid turned 9. Harri was a little too playful for our older lady.

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So I added Patrick, to be Harri’s friend and wrassle partner. And then, a month later, I moved into my own apartment with all three Siamese. Sigrid, however, was in love with my ex-boyfriend, and became depressed. So, she ended up going back to live with him. I was sad and I missed her terribly…but she was so much happier with him (and, I think, without the two boisterous boys).

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Harri and Patrick became fast friends. They didn’t seem to miss Sigrid at all, even if I did. A year later, we all moved all the way across the country from San Francisco to Atlanta.

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It was a pretty huge move, but my boys took it in stride.

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The house we lived in had a deck, which both Harri and Patrick enjoyed to its fullest.

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Atlanta and I did not agree, so after almost two years, we all moved again, to Boston. Harri and I flew first; my ex brought Patrick a week later.

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Harri always loved hotel rooms.

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My new apartment was on the third floor of a typical Sommerville triple-decker, and it had a sunroof over the landing. I made this into a sort of patio for the boys to enjoy.

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Harri and Patrick were the best of friends. Harri was still bonded to me, but Patrick was bonded to Harri. He actually got more upset if Harri was gone overnight than if I was.

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This is one of my favourite photos of Harri. I took this at the vet.

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And this is one of my favourite photos of Patrick. Patrick was actually a registered TICA Siamese and his name was Sugarhills Twinkletoes. I got him from a breeder of Devon Rexes and Sphynxes; Patrick was their “pet” but he was twice the size of the dainty Rexes and delicate Spynxes and played too roughly with them. I found him on the Retired Friends website. Yes, in 1997 I found a cat on the internet! In 2005, I would find Tessie on the same website.

I had to rename Patrick; there was no way I was going to have a cat called “Twinkie.” But his nickname was “Tricky,” which sounds similar. He never had a problem with the name change. He was named after Patrick Roy…but his full name was Patrick Tinglatårna (Twinkletoes, in Swedish).

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Patrick had bad teeth. Really bad teeth. He had about half of them removed over the course of his life. One of these was a canine so he ended up with this sort of sneer when his lip would get caught on the tooth that was left.

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Harri and Patrick at the vet. When I lived in Somerville, I went to Porter Square Veterinary, which was about five blocks from my apartment. I used to walk with both boys – in their bags – for appointments.

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They always did everything together.

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Except when Harri had to go in the back for bloodwork. Harri had hypothyroid starting when he turned 13, and had to get bloodwork done every 6 months.

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Patrick was quite a character, though. He was always doing really goofy things.

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Like this.

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Or sitting in front of the fan and meowing into it to hear the sound of his voice.

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He also loved cereal. Not the milk…the actual cereal.

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Even though Harri had Patrick, he was always my boy.

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I still took him out and about, albeit not as much as when we were active in the SCA. But he did go to Boston Common.

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On his 10th birthday, we went to Long Island.

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Sun, sand and surf. Except it was April, and still kind of chilly.

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That was a fun weekend, though.

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Harri may have been 10, but he still loved to explore.

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He was the only cat I’ve ever had that I trusted to be off-leash. He would panic if I was out of his sight, so I knew he’d never wander off. (Patrick, on the other hand…yeah, not so much.)

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Although there was this one time when we had a blizzard in Boston…

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Harri wanted nothing – I mean, nothing to do with the snow. He took one look at it and ran back up three flights of stairs. But Patrick had to check it out.

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I’m not sure if he regretted his decision or not…but he did make the best of it.

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Harri also really loved Christmas. It may have been because of his trips to see Santa, but I have a video of him trying to open his own presents, and one year he tried really hard to pull down his stocking. And he knew which one was his.

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Harri loved to sit near the tree, and watch the lights. Patrick…well, Patrick liked to sit next to Harri.

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Harri and Patrick were the best of friends for 9 years. This photo was taken the Sunday before Harri died.

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Poor Harri had such bad arthritis in his last couple of years. I gave him Cosequin, but he was still in pain. He was my loyal protector right to the end, though. These two photos were taken just before we went to the vet for the last time.

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After Harri died, Patrick was so bereft. Gun-Hee’s arrival four months later helped a lot (as you will see next week), but Patrick was always kind of lost after Harri left us.

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After Gun-Hee died, Patrick really got depressed. He never really bonded with any of the girls, despite having known them longer than he knew Gun-Hee. It turns out, Patrick really preferred to be around boycats. So, I took Patrick to live with my mom, and my sister’s two boys, Madison and Baxter.

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This is Patrick and Madison the weekend I brought Patrick to my mom’s house. The same weekend, and he’s already sharing a bed!

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Patrick and Madison became fast friends. I wonder if Madison being a bluepoint and white Siamese mix had anything to do with it?

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I went back to visit Tricky in June, 2010. He’d been living with my mom for almost two years at that point, and he was so happy. He died that November, on Thanksgiving weekend, a month after his 16th birthday. He was luckier than Harri; he may have had bad teeth, but he didn’t have the hypothyroid problems or the crippling arthritis that Harri did. My mom said he was fine up until his last week, when his liver and kidneys just suddenly gave out.

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Harri and Patrick are together again, now, forever. I got these urns made by Alex in Welderland, and they helped me so much. They have hooks to hold their tags, and their names are on the backs. Harri’s has a candleholder, and Patrick’s urn has a crooked smile and stripes on the tail.

I miss those two boys so much…but it was because Harri – my bonded heart cat – left me that I finally got my first Abyssinian.

Aby-a-Day – May 30: The cats who came before – Part 2 (Friday Flashback)

Originally, there were only going to be two parts to this series…but it turned out, I had so many photos of Harri, I need to break it out into two parts. So now, instead of being part two of two, this is part two of three.

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Harri (Harakka Talonväkiliäinen) was my first cat as an adult. I was 26, and finished with university and in an apartment that could support a cat. He was actually my birthday present, but I didn’t get him until 20 June. I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism at that time, and I actually picked Harri up on the way to June Crown. He spent the weekend camping and it wasn’t until four days later that he finally got to his new home. I was actually his second person. We got him from a man who’d had him two weeks. He’d gotten Harri from the son of the breeder, who lived “in Redding…or Red Bluff. One of those” and hadn’t paid extra to get his papers. I asked why he was getting rid of him and the man told me, “Well, he cries all the time. And I have white carpets, so I can’t leave him alone in the house while I’m at work. I have to keep him in the garage. Well…duh, he’s a Siamese kitten, that’s what they do! I paid the man $100 and took “Siamy” off to the event.

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To say he loved the SCA would be an understatement.

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He embraced it.

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He was squired to a knight, Count Sir Brion Thornbird at his second event. Sir Brion later said that Harri was his most active squire.

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Harri fit right in, drinking from tankards (in fact, throughout Harri’s life, he wouldn’t drink water from bowls; he had to have his water in a cup. People don’t drink from bowls, so neither would he)…

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…hanging out in the Royal Pavillion impressing the ladies…

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…and just generally being the mascot of the West Kingdom for a couple of years. I never left him home alone, so he went to every event that I did.

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He even had his own little pavilion.

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After a while, though, he outgrew it, and that style of pavilion didn’t really fit his Viking persona, so…

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…he upgraded to a genuine Viking A-Frame. He also had a miniature rope bed with a futon mattress, a steel raised firepit, and, of course, his own heraldic banner.

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Of course, no matter what tent he himself had, he still crashed in my tent, too.

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Harri was my best buddy, very much the same way Jacoby is now.

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He was even “Best Cat” at my first wedding!

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Harri was one of the bravest cats I have ever known. For some reason I never figured out, he hated dogs. He considered them the ultimate evil. He would insert himself physically between me and any dog, and he would attack if the dog came too close. We used to go for walks in Golden Gate Park, and when we’d encounter a dog, I’d tighten Harri’s leash. “Oh, don’t worry,” the dog owner would invariably say. “He likes cats!” “That’s great,” I’d respond. “HE hates dogs.”

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Harri was a great cat. He and Sgt. Pepper actually met once (the crossover between my childhood cats and my adult cats) and I know I have those photos, but I haven’t been able to locate them yet. He did have a lot of energy and, as an only cat, he used to stage running attacks on my ankles. This started to get a bit painful, so when he was three, I adopted a friend for him.

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At the time, I was working for a weekly newspaper taking classified ads over the phone. I happened to take a call from a man who needed to rehome a redpoint Siamese cat because his son was suddenly allergic. We got to talking and…well, let’s just say that ad never made it into the newspaper. Sigrid was six years old, a retired CFA Grand Champion. I can’t remember the cattery name but her call name was Sugar…which I promptly changed to Sigrid.

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Harri loved her right from the start. She was such a wonderful, beautiful cat…and I have so few photos of her.

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The SFSPCA would have photos with Santa every Christmas. These are some of the only photos I have left of her now.

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I had Harri and Sigrid together for three years, during which time I moved from Chico to Sacramento to San Francisco. But then Harri was still an active 6 year old who weighed 12 lbs, and Sigrid was an elderly 9 year old who weighed 8 lbs. It was clear that Harri needed a more energetic pal to roughhouse with. And that’s when I adopted Patrick.

More about Harri and Patrick next week.