Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Orange Cat Story

I am such a sucker for cats! That's why, when an orange and white tabby cat showed up on my patio a year ago, I took notice and began paying attention to his comings and goings.

This sweet orange kitty showed up at my back door in March 2016

He was there, hunkered down on the mat outside my sliding glass door every morning when I walked toward the kitchen to start the morning coffee. So patient and so sweet, he just sat there looking straight into my eyes. Now anyone who knows cats would agree that this is quite unusual that a strange cat would make and keep eye contact with a complete stranger human. This is how I knew that, in his own way, he was asking for help.

He was here at my back door every single morning

Nyla got to know the orange kitty through the glass and grew to recognize him.

So I began setting food and water out for him every morning. And every morning he was there, grateful for my care, sweet as he could be, letting me pet him and scratch his ears. He was dirty and thin, had ear mites and tape worms, yet he was wearing a collar with a city license tag. I tried calling that number many times and could never get anyone to answer the phone. So I gave up.

A month later, in April, I was gone for 12 days on my trip to Rome, Italy. I hated leaving him without any support, but what could I do? I was, at that point, merely feeding a cat that seemed to have lost his way. But I did worry about him the whole time I was gone.

When I returned from my trip, the cat was gone. I didn't know if he had just moved on or if he'd had an accident or died.

Orange kitty disappeared for months, but showed up again in October, this time
with stitches in his lip, but otherwise looking in better shape than before.

Then, several months later, just when I'd pretty much given up on him, he showed up again. It was now October and when I saw him on my patio my heart leaped a bit. He wasn't looking so thin, and the tape worms seemed to have been treated. He also had a fresh wound with stitches on his lip and several puncture wounds on his face of varying degrees of freshness. Clearly he'd gotten into it with another animal (raccoon? opossum? another cat?) We have plenty of feral animals and loose cats in the neighborhood.

The orange kitty stayed close to my patio and deck, and was very friendly,
gladly accepting my attention and the food/water I set out for him.

No matter the cause, I was happy to see him again, a bit disturbed about the stitches on his lip, but glad that he'd gotten treatment. I began feeding him again and he stuck around nearly 24/7. He stayed very close to me when I was outside in the yard, even coming from who-knows-where when he'd hear me outside. He responds quickly to my voice when I call him, too!

Always somewhere in my back yard.

He never let me out of his sight when I was near a window or door.

Early one morning I woke to find him here, on the table.

I bought him a little outdoor cat house, which he took to immediately.

 I bought him an insulated outdoor cat house so that he could
find shelter from the rain. He immediately took to it.

And I fed him regularly and gave him fresh water every day. I couldn't leave the food out after dark. Wild animals quickly discovered it and gobbled the food, dragged the empty bowl across the yard, and totally fouled the water every night. So the cat had to learn to eat during the day and to not despair, that fresh would be set out the next morning.

I set one of Nyla's cat toys outside....he played with it for a long time!

I noticed a new tag added to his collar, this one for a veterinarian that is just a couple of blocks away. I called the number and the gal on the other end immediately knew what cat I was calling about.

"Someone else just recently called us about the cat, too," she said. She gave me the owner's phone number and I could tell by the exchange number, that it was on my side of town. I called the number and introduced myself. I told her I wanted to come over there to talk about the cat.

In that conversation I asked her about the stitches, mentioned that they probably need to come out now that its been more than two weeks. Actually, I had no idea how long they'd been in before the cat showed up again on my patio. I learned from that conversation that the woman I was talking to was the daughter, staying there to care for her dad now that her mom had died. She told me that she didn't like how the cat meowed at the door all the time to be let out, so she had pretty much relegated it to the outdoors full time.

Poor guy! All he wants is love!
This information explained so much!! The cat was clearly in mourning and desperate for human love and attention that he was no longer getting at the house he used to call home.

I also asked about all of the scratches and wounds on his face, all of which seemed to be of different vintage; some were very fresh, some were scabbed over and healing. She said she feeds the cat in the garage, leaves the garage door partially open. So clearly the raccoons and/or opossums have discovered this food, and possibly even other cats. This is not fair to the cat and I told her my thoughts on this.

At that point I told her that I'd like to start caring for the cat full time. She seemed indifferent to this, saying she thought her sister might take the cat but she wasn't sure. She asked me to stop feeding him, so that he'd stop coming over to my house. But as I walked home, I made up my mind. I was going to take charge of this cat and claim him as my own. And I did.  I called the owner back and encouraged her to get the cat to the vet's to have the stitches removed, so she picked the cat up and brought him to the vet's, but the cat immediately returned to my house afterward.

I gave him a dose of Advantage II flea medicine and began letting him in for short periods during the day, and began treatments for his ear mites. I continued to feed him regularly, moving his food and water inside, right next to the sliding glass door.

When I had to go out of town for a couple of days, I put food and water outside for him first thing in the morning and hoped he'd be okay until I got home, knowing he'd probably have to go a day or two without once the wild critters cleared out the bowls. But I also learned from my neighbor that another lady on our street was feeding him, too. So I didn't worry as much.

OG's first experience indoors. He seemed right at home. I took his collar
off, so that he could enjoy the peace and quiet without tags constantly jingling.
The collar had also rubbed away the fur around his neck and the collar itself was filthy.
OG's first experience sleeping on one of my chairs.

He slept for a really long time in that chair! So sweet! He even snores sometimes.

He was definitely sticking around, spending his days mostly on my patio or deck, coming inside and sitting with me in the living room. As the weather got cooler, I began leaving the sliding glass door ajar just enough for him to squeeze through, and he could come and go as he wanted. He began to voluntarily spend more and more time inside with me. I started calling him the Orange Guy, and a friend shortened that to OG. His new name!

Snuggling with his new mommy in the recliner and in front of the TV.

Then in late December, heartened by his desire to adopt me, I made the decision to begin acclimating the cat to being more of an indoor cat. I started enclosing him in the laundry room each night. He had access to food, water, and a litter pan. I was happy to learn that he did indeed know how to use cat litter. This gave my other cat Nyla some breathing room and stress-free access to me in the bed at night.

His first real test - and mine, too - was when I was gone overnight to run a race in late January. It would be for less than 24 hours, but would restrict him more than I assumed he was used to. But he was fine! He didn't destroy anything, used the kitty litter and was happy to see me when I returned.

He's never far from the back door, spending his outdoor time on the
patio or deck or in the flower beds nearby. But always within sight or
earshot of the back door.
Over the next few months we developed a routine. He stays in the laundry room overnight. I let him into the house as soon as I wake up. Then we sometimes crawl into bed together for some bonding time before I get up for good to get breakfast and get dressed. This is one snuggle puss of a cat!

OG is a great lap cat!!

I began leaving him in the house for longer and longer periods as I ran errands, went shopping or worked our play rehearsals. But I still didn't feel ready to leave him inside the house proper overnight as I traveled for various races. I put him into the laundry room with the door open to the garage while I was away on these trips.
Squeezed in next to me...his favorite spot! other cat, Nyla, had a chance to get to know OG through the sliding glass door in the early days of his coming around. So when I started letting him into the house, she wasn't totally freaked out. In fact, she was pretty much indifferent to him, and he to her. Once in a while, if they happen to make eye contact or he walks by her too closely, Nyla will hiss at him, but never gets aggressive. And this boy...he is totally passive toward her. What is also so amazing is that they leave each other's food bowls alone. I feed Nyla a special grain-free food and give OG Purina One.

The two cats in bed with me recently:

So here I am today, the mom to two cats - Nyla and OG. Our new resident - OG - has settled in as if he's always lived here. He is very clingy, squeezing in next to me in my favorite chair and staying with me for as long as I let him. He's a real sweetheart! Nyla joins us in the living room in the evenings, lolling on the floor near my chair. It's like a Rockwell painting!

Relaxing in the shade on the deck while I work in the yard.
He doesn't let me out of his sight.

I am so happy that OG decided to adopt me! He is one of the sweetest, most 
affectionate cats I've ever owned.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring is Trying to "Spring"

Despite a warmer-than-usual winter, it seems that my garden is having a hard time getting its "bloom" on. Looking back on my previous years' blog entries, things seem to be about 2 weeks delayed.

This time last year I had open blooms on my Magnolia. Today, there are plenty of buds - probably the most it's ever had - but they are still at least 1-2 weeks from opening fully.

The Society Garlic is looking very lush but it did have a major set-back in January when it got hit very hard by a prolonged freeze. Today it has sent up its first couple of blooms.

Last year I neglected to cut back my roses. Their blooming suffered for it. This year I got out there and cut then all back at least 1/3 to 1/2. I'm being rewarded nicely for that prickly effort!

I'd been letting my back corner bed get a little out of hand, so this spring I've been working on getting it under control. With coordination with my yard care person, I'm letting the bed recede back to its original boundaries. Our grass variety here in south Texas - St. Augustine - is already filling in the space nicely. I trimmed back the pomegranate and the fringe tree - pruned them hard - and they're shaping up very nicely.

The peach-colored Yarrow is in bloom, and the white-colored Yarrow is just starting to bloom.

I cut the Althea back pretty hard, as well, and it's starting to leaf out. It probably should have been cut back a little more, but too will set its buds on this new growth.

It will be a couple of months before the day lilies begin to bloom. In the meantime, I really do need to work on that last bed in the back, the one under the bedroom window. Someone give me a push!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Hot and Humid Dallas Race

I completed my 100 Half Marathons goal a couple of weeks ago. But wait! Why am I still at race #98? Long story short....Every other running club I belong to accepts race distances between 13.1 and under 26.2 for purposes of counting half marathons. But there's this one club that doesn't. The 50 States Half Marathon Club only counts races that are exactly 13.1 miles. So my 25k and 30k races don't count toward earning the 100 Half Marathons award. This is making for a bit of confusion among my running friends who are on all of these different running club pages on Facebook. I post my successful completion of 100 half marathons, but then I post a particular race as being something less than #100 and therein lies the confusion.'s been a bit confusing for me too.

So having celebrated race #100 in Little Rock a couple of weeks ago, here I am taking three steps back to say that this weekend's race in Dallas was race #98. Wait....what??!

I chose two fairly local half marathons held within two weeks of each other to knock out these last two annoying races plus the Go! St. Louis race, to reach the 100 half marathon mark (again!) for the 50 States Half Marathon Club. this would let me get two of these done with minimal expense and easy travel. This past weekend was the Dallas Rock n' Roll half marathon. I could drive there in a morning, and I had enough Hyatt points to get a free room at the Hyatt that was right next to the start and finish lines.

It's a beautiful Hyatt with wonderful amenities - including a Starbucks - and gorgeously furnished rooms. I was thrilled to be staying here. The valet parking was a bit of a mess, however, when I pulled up, since it was just a little after noontime and they were trying to get check-out guests cleared out even as early arrivals like me were trying to check in.
Inscription over the entry to Dallas Morning News. Struck
me as appropriate in today's political climate.

My room was ready and I was happy about that. I dropped my bag off in the room then walked the couple of blocks to the convention center to pick up my race packet.

Entry to the race expo

Packet pickup. Not as crowded as they predicted.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped to take photos of a couple of Dallas landmarks.

Very impressive bronze statues in Pioneer Park downtown

Iconic Dallas

There was a 50 States club dinner that night but I just wasn't feeling up to it. Even though it was an easy 1/2 mile walk to the restaurant, the group was going to be fairly large and I just hate being in a big group at a restaurant. What should be a relaxed affair usually ends up being stressful for me as service is usually very slow and what should be an hour dinner almost always ends up being a 2-3 hour affair. To me, that's okay if I don't have to be up early the next morning for a race. So I got room service for dinner and spent a restful evening staying rested and hydrated and getting ready for what would prove to be a very warm race the next day.

I was up the next morning at 6:30 and had my Cheerios and banana as I got ready for the race. The start time for the race was 8:00 AM but Rock n' Roll races use a wave start that for me usually means anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes' delay for my crossing the start line. So I was in no hurry to get to the start line. I left the hotel at 8:00 AM, walked the couple of blocks to the start line and then had about a 15 minute wait as my corral shuffled its way toward the start line.

It was a pleasant 65 degrees but I knew that this wouldn't last long. As the sun got higher in the sky, I knew it was going to get quite warm. I realized too late that I should have brought my hydration belt and a bottle of Gatorade. For some reason, the fluid stations were farther apart than is typical for most races. The first station was at mile 2, the next was at mile 5, a full 3 miles later. Couple this with the fact that the stations from mile 7 and beyond had run out of Gatorade. This did not bode well for me, being so far back in the pack. Add to this the fact that the race route was really awful, going through some of the worst sections of downtown Dallas and was totally devoid of any shade or greenery or trees. But then, that's least favorite - and ugliest - city in Texas.

Somewhere along the race route, before it got too hot

By mile 11 I began to feel the effects of the heat and the lack of sports drink at the water stations. I made sure I was drinking plenty of water but knew this wasn't helping me. The last two miles were almost dangerous for me. I could tell that I was becoming overheated.  As I've neared my 7th decade of life I've noticed that I don't handle heat as well as I used to.

The last mile was across a causeway with absolutely no shade. It seemed to go on forever. Finally, I was across that causeway, making the turn onto Reunion Blvd, and then making the last turn to the finish line. I was in a total brain fog by that point, totally unaware of my surroundings and being driven only by that most primitive, reptilian part of the brain that controls survival. I knew that I was very close to heat exhaustion.

Race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

It was all I could do to stay on my feet. I could feel the bile in the back of my throat as the early signals of nausea began to creep up my esophagus. I was beyond able to take in any fluids and declined the offers of finisher snacks and beverages from the volunteers as I made my way through the finisher chute. I began to feel the characteristic abdominal cramps of heat exhaustion and stumbled my way toward the bank of porta-potties. But it was so hot inside that porta-can that I couldn't bear to stay long enough to let my bowels reveal their intentions. I knew at that moment that my best bet was to head to the hotel as quickly as I could.

Finisher medal...replica of the Reunion Tower globe

I was so out of it when this was taken...I barely remember

So I gave up trying and struggled to make my way the two blocks back to the hotel. I got into the lobby and dropped into the nearest chair in the lobby and put my head back and closed my eyes. I felt like I could stay there forever. But forced myself back onto my feet and toward the elevators, the lure of my room and the bed the only things pulling me along.

This was by far the worst I've ever felt after a race. Yes, I've had a couple of episodes of A-Fib that have slowed me down, but I've quickly recovered once I stopped moving and got off my feet. This was different. My heart rate was fine, no signs of PAC's or A-fib. That's how I knew this was heat-related. The coolness of the room and the bed felt so good! I laid there for more than 30 minutes, occasionally sipping water and nibbling on a granola bar. Thankfully I had a 2 PM checkout, a benefit of being a Hyatt loyalty member.

Finally, I pulled myself together, got into the shower, then dressed, packed, and went down to the lobby to check out and retrieve my car from valet.

As I drove home, I had plenty of time to further recover as I sat in my comfortable A/C cooled SUV. Driving home from any city in Texas on a late Sunday afternoon is always a challenge. Traffic is always bumper-to-bumper the closer I get to Houston. This day was no exception. I stopped in Fairfield for gas and a McDonald's meal, the salty french fries the most perfect race recovery food for me.

Finally I was pulling into my neighborhood. It was almost 6:30 PM and I was more than ready to be done with this day. But I was just so happy to have this race done.

So race #98 - or race #101, depending on who's counting - is done. Race #99/#102 will be the HEB Alamo Half Marathon in San Antonio. It promises to have way more fluid stations and if I'm lucky it will be cloudy/raining that weekend.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My 100th Half Marathon!

100 Half Marathons!! I knew that this milestone was looming on the horizon several months back. But the problem was that race cancellations - either by me or by the race organizer - were making the actual 100th half marathon a moving target. So when friends started asking me what race would be my 100th, I honestly could not answer that question until it happened.

I wanted the Chevron Houston event in January to be my 100th. After all, it's where I got my start running. But this plan started to fall apart last fall. I cancelled my plans to run a race in Savannah so that I could work the sound booth for our play production. I reneged on the Galveston Santa Hustle in December because of brutal weather. I decided to change registration from the half to the full for the Texas Metalsaw race on New Year's day. Then the Mississippi Blues event was cancelled in early January due to an ice storm. The target kept moving farther and farther away as races were falling off of my calendar.

Finally the dust settled and I could see that a small little late-February race that I'd registered for in the Houston area might end up being my 100th. I wasn't thrilled with that prospect.  I knew no one doing that race, it's very small, and the thought of doing this little race, crossing the finish line, and then just driving home to an empty house just wasn't doing it for me. So I made the decision not to do this race, even though I'd registered for it.

The next race after that was Little Rock where I'd registered for the full marathon. There were dozens of running friends planning to be at that race. I gave it some thought and concluded that the best thing to do was to change my registration to the half so that this event could be my 100th half marathon. Perfect! I had just 2 days remaining to make that change before the deadline. Phew! Then I posted at the 100 Half Marathons Club Facebook page that this would be my 100th.

Even though I would not be finishing this goal in my home town, at least I'll be finishing it at a large and very well done race event with lots of excitement and lots of running friends.

View from the sound booth....rehearsals

My original plan was to drive to Little Rock. But I was in rehearsals for our next play, which would open the weekend after the race, so I felt that flying to Little Rock would be the better way to go. This way I could fly out Friday afternoon, after rehearsal, and fly home Sunday night after the race, and not be absent from the sound booth.

rehearsal in the morning, Little Rock race expo in the afternoon!

Friday's plan went like clockwork. Rehearsal was done by noon, I drove home, made myself lunch, then left for the airport mid afternoon for my 4:15 PM flight. I was on the ground in Little Rock by 5:30 and to the hotel soon after. The packet pickup expo was still open, so I walked the pleasant distance to the convention center to get my packet and check out the vendors a little bit.

Packet pick up at the expo

Heifer International is one of the sponsors of this race. They had a large display booth at the expo, and two adorable pigmy goat babies that were getting lots of love and attention!

Adorable baby goat!

The next morning - Saturday - I got showered and dressed and out the door of the hotel so that I could watch the 5K race run by. I had camera ready, searching the faces of the runners for any friends. I did manage to pick one out of the crowd, but didn't see any others, though I knew they were out there.

A son cheering his mom on in the 5K on Saturday

Arkansas History Museum...a great way to spend an hour or so...

Once the runners passed by, I walked back to the convention center with its attached Marriott Hotel with Starbucks to get my much-anticipated cappuccino then went back through the expo again, taking more time to look at the merchandise and visit the many booths promoting half marathons in other parts of the state and the country. Back out and wandering about, I walked over to the Arkansas History Museum, a living museum preserving a small group of original buildings and dwellings. Here I spent a very nice hour visiting with the docents and learning about the history of these buildings and their original occupants.

I was just a block away from the restaurant I'd picked out for our post-race lunch, so I stopped in to check it out in person. It was smaller and a bit more rustic than it appeared on their website, but our group was small, so hopefully this will work out. Next door was Andina Cafe, so I stepped inside, checked out their menu, and decided to stay for lunch.

Back to the hotel, lay out my things for the race tomorrow and relax before meeting up with our 50 States club for dinner at Dizzy's. I wanted to get there early, eat, and get out fairly early. Fortunately the restaurant owner decided that, with our large group, they would just set up a pasta and salad bar and let us eat as we arrived. Easier for us, easier for his kitchen and waitstaff.

Race day morning I was out the door and walking the short 3 blocks to the start line. The corrals were arranged in a very weird way that pedestrian traffic was severely impeded along the sidewalks. I worked my way along with thousands of others toward the back corrals, getting into my corral just moments before the start gun went off. They cleared us through the corrals and to the start line fairly quickly given the size of this race, and once over the start line I could settle into my pace. It was overcast and in the high 40's with light rain the entire time I was out there. I wore capris, a long sleeve shirt, and my favorite cheap Russell Athletic windbreaker jacket with ample pockets. It kept me warm and dry, and I had the hood up over my running hat for most of the way.

Race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

The route was similar to the route when I did this race back in 2012, but there were some changes in the early miles (going in the opposite direction in North Little Rock, which actually worked out better) and then some differences in the middle miles, once back across the river and past the Bill Clinton Library. it still went past the Governor's Mansion (but no governor greeting the runners this time) and then spent more distance near the capitol building which was much better than last time.

Nearing the finish line

Finisher! My 100th half marathon!

Across the finish line, finisher medal collected, I made a beeline down the stairs in the convention center to check out the post-race feed. I didn't take the pasta, but I grabbed some other snack foods, sat and drank a beer, then walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up and go to lunch at Blue Canoe Brewing.

Finisher...100 half marathons!

Celebrating at Blue Canoe Brewing

We had a nice little turn-out, just right for how small the venue was. Good running friend Colleen went above and beyond to bring a festive feel to the post-race lunch, as we celebrated my finishing my 100th half marathon. She made posters and signs, and brought me a little bundt cake for later. She and I will be doing Go! St. Louis Half Marathon together next month. It will be her 100th half, and will be my 100th half according to the Fifty States Half Marathon club criteria, which does not accept distances longer than 13.1 miles, such as my two 25K races and one 30K race.

Delicious little bundt cake and a cappuccino at the airport

I returned to the hotel, packed my things, including all of the posters except the largest, and then took Uber to the airport. I arrived plenty early, enough time to get a celebratory Starbucks and enjoy my little bundt cake.  It was a very quick but very enjoyable half marathon weekend!

I bought a really great beer glass at the expo, so when I got home I poured myself a beer and kicked back to enjoy it!

A really great beer glass!

Next up: Our play performance weekend and then on to Dallas the following weekend to run half marathon #101/#98.