The end of an era

We had Slow Top euthanized this morning, two weeks short of his seventeenth birthday.

Slow was from a litter of four kittens. His mother, a slim little cat belonging to Michael, got out for a “night on the town” back in Philadelphia. The kittens spent their first few weeks in the flat of our friend Trent. The four were given kitten-names of Magellan (first to circumnavigate the room), Spot & Stripe (two tabby cats that different only on a small part of the belly), and of course Slow Top. Slow was the smallest, and a week behind developmentally. Elizabeth gave him his most awesome kitten-name.

We knew Slow was the one for us as he sat, as a little 4 week old, and made hilarious snorting noises as he clumsily tried to clean his little paw. We took home Slow Top and Spot- who was later renamed Kiko. We took them home when they were perhaps a bit too young, which might explain why the imprinted on us so strongly. We would sadly lose Kiko too young, at age six to a vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma.

Slow always had weird medical issues. By 6 he was on multiple heart meds (ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers), and had been the subject of many a test. I remember when a new vet at Charles Bradley’s practice in Arlington Massachusetts met him for the first time and went “this is Slow Top? Wow. I have heard about him”. His little medical file was quite thick, even back then. Honestly, when he went on the heart meds so young, I steeled myself for him not making it to age ten.

He started in Philly, and came with us in our move up to Mystic street in Boston, there he battled royally with Basil for dominance of the house. He then went on to our first house on Locust street in Burlington, where he learned to love exploring the great outside. Then it was onwards and across the ocean and to New Zealand. I don’t think he liked his month in quarantine, or the first few months in a little flat on Cambridge Terrace with no outside access, but then he got to the farm. Yeah, he loved the farm. And when he arrived he was still young and healthy enough to go out and explore.

Quarantine 2003

Even as age took its toll, he remained alpha-cat. As he got weaker, he maintained position by fighting spirit at first (he and Jake had some good scraps when Jake first arrived), and later the other cats learned to treat him as the “respected elder” of the house. They probably took subtle, and not-so-subtle, cues from us that Slow was still in charge and should be treated with respect.

Stuck in apartment, playing with string 2003

I expect Slow’s death will really shake up social order among the cats. He was the hub, the one cat all the others got along with. Who will rise to dominance in his absence?

Slow began the slide into old age about three years ago. He weight started slipping, and his pharmacopia of drugs started increasing (heart, thyroid, arthritis, occasional liver meds, plus steroids to help with the guts). He most probably has Lymphoma, which is going to be the ultimate “cause” of his demise.

But through it all, and to the very end, he remained “Slow Top”. A special cat indeed, and a memorable one. The nose licking alone endeared him (or not!) in the minds of many a visitor, and he was nose licking to the last- though you had to present the nose at the end, as he lacked the strength to pin you down and mercilessly exfoliate your nostrils. He would still take any lap available, and would pick-pick-pick at your sleeve to get your attention if you dared to look elsewhere.

January 21, 2010

By Christmas we could see that his time was getting very short. The vet gave him “days” just before Christmas, but he rebounded a bit and managed another month. But we knew one day we would have to make the decision to end it (though I admit up to the end I hoped nature would give me the “easy way out” and that he would die quietly in his sleep). He was down to 3 kg, less than half his healthy adult weight (and to think he was once endearingly known as “meat cat”). For me, it was vitally important that he not suffer. I wanted to make sure he was still “Slow” up to the end, and not a husk of misery. That was a terrible lesson I learned with the last 12 hours of Flopette’s life two years ago.

Does this sadness within me come from an unknown evolutionary advantage of some long-past ancestor, or does it arise from something else? I don’t think that can be known.

Slow Top will be missed, and remembered (and remembered by people around the world- quite the accomplishment for a bog-standard little grey tabby. Heck, he even was the source of his own verb to “slow-topify a cat”. He was even on the front page of the Philadelphia Enquirer).

Slow was a cat that acted more like a dog, and thought he was a human. He was “special” in many ways. He had a good run, and now his body now rests in a sunny spot in the garden. RIP Slow.

Sparkly Jews!

Occasionally, the accent still trips me up. One of the questions in today’s 5 minute quiz featured a song with a gal whose “eyes sparkled like the Jew.”


Bemused by mental images of stereotypical JAPs dripping with bling and glittery mascara, I had to ask him to repeat it, like, three times before I figured out the word was “dew”.

This after not that long ago being informed that another co-worker’s favorite book was “June”. You know, by Frank Herbert.

Oy vey.

Camelid Season

The “festive season” saw a great deal of camelid-related activities.

We took the opportunity to take animals walkies on two occasions, once to Battle Hill Farm Forest Park on Boxing Day (the park is about 20 minutes from here- and a good choice as troublesome dogs are forbidden- and shot on site by the ranger!), and on New Year’s Day along the beach at QE Park at Mackay’s Crossing.

For the Boxing Day trip the extra excitement came form the fact that we tried on Hob’s saddle and bags- he did quite well, only occasionally forgetting he was extra-wide and scraping them on bushes and gates. Tam decided to experiment and hooked Opa’s lead to the back of Hob’s saddle, and he followed in train with narry a complaint (well, at the very end they got a bit stroppy when they were tired, could see the trailer, and wanted to eat grass and/or go home).

Scenery Hob and Opa WTF?  Sheep wonders, What the heck are those?

On New Years day we took 5 of our boys, including the llamas, and met up with a bunch of other camelid owner/breeders at the beach. Two other llamas were there, as were two baby (4 and 6 month) old Suris. Very cute little lads, and so tiny next to the llamas! It seems everyone enjoyed the beach walk very much. Next time I willl give more than 24 hours notice, and hopefully we will have plenty more people along. My goal is 20 camelids for the next beach walk.

Into the surf!

We have also had our final two cria for the “first wave.” Jasmine dropped a nice little fawn boy (Copperplate) on December 30th, and then Concetta gave us another boy (5 in a row!) on January 4th (Bookman). We now have about 6 weeks until our second wave of cria is due. If I weren’t still bottle-feeding Marlett, I could relax a bit…

Copperplate, in action Bookman

We also sent off three more boys as pets. Jasper, Gungnir and Clarent will now be living in the home-paddock of a 1200 acre S&B farm up in Taihape. I look forward to visiting them at some point in the future.

Transport is away