Category Archives: About Us

Georgia and the Wayzgoose

Last week, in the midst of our bed-and-mattress madness, Eric and I took a little art break in Tacoma.

I grew up on the fringes of Tacoma, Washington, when downtown was a sad, seedy, and failing prospect. Twenty-five years ago, a branch of the University of Washington moved in and began rehabilitating the derelict warehouse district into a satellite campus. The city transformed the magnificent but down-on-its-luck Beaux Arts Union Station into a U.S. courthouse, added the Washington State History Museum next door, then Dale Chihuly’s Museum of Glass, a new Tacoma Art Museum down the block, and ran a light rail line down the middle of Pacific Avenue. Now, I love coming to downtown Tacoma. This once-sketchy part of the city is now bright and vibrant, and full of people enjoying themselves.

Tacoma's Union Station dome

Ghost signs are still visible on the warehouse buildings that make up the UW Tacoma campus (composite photo; click to see detail).

panorama

 

I’d have loved to live in this apartment building … back in my apartment days.

100-year-old apartment building

Our first stop was Wayzgoose, a letterpress art fair at a bookstore. The word wayzgoose has Dutch roots, and refers to a traditional holiday for printers and bookbinders. Remarkably, Eric and I share an esoteric interest in letterpress printing and typography. Whodathunk? We both enjoyed some letterpress experience in college art classes, and I worked for a printer while I pursued a fine arts degree. (I fondly remember the little Addressograph-Multigraph 1250 press whose care and feeding I was tasked with. In my mind, I remember it as a Disney cartoon, bouncing and chugging and spitting out return-address envelopes for a pair of doctors, while its rhythm seemed to repeat their names: Pogue-and-Duffy-Pogue-and-Duffy-Pogue-and-Duffy.) Anyway …

Eric and I hadn’t even gotten inside the bookstore when we discovered a booth selling (squeal!) entire sets of old lead typefaces! And—OMG—California job case drawers! Hog heaven! A California job case is a layout for organizing individual characters of type. I am old enough to have actually used this system a few times in my youth, although press-on type was all the rage at the time. I’ve always wanted a California job case! How geeky is that? Can you tell where the e’s go?

California job case

California job case layout

I think my fascination with typefaces goes back to my Brownie troop’s field trip to the Milwaukee Journal, waaay back in the dark ages. All I recall of that tour is watching cigarette-smoking men and banging away at the keyboards of their enormous, clattering Linotype machines, casting slugs of type out of hot lead. I loved how the pieces all fit together like a backwards puzzle to make up a newspaper page. (Funny how a random event in childhood can stick with you for the rest of your life.)

Linotype operators

[Source unknown]

Eric bought three sets: elegant 48 pt. Retro script, 12 pt. Bodoni Modern, and 8 pt. Stymie Light—a total of 13.4 pounds of lead. What are we going to do with them? Dunno … keep them until we have enough studio space for our own letterpress, I suppose. Someday soon, an art studio is in our future.

Eric's name in Retro Script

D'Arcy's name in Retro Script

Steamroller printing was a popular spectator event in the parking lot.

large-format printing with a steam roller

Inside the bookstore, several letterpress artists brought their adorable tabletop presses. This is what Eric and I need to buy. Who wouldn’t want one of these little beauties?

tabletop letter press

One of our favorite artists, Yoshiko Yamamoto of The Arts and Crafts Press, was there. (Her gorgeous Colvos Passage—Late Summer hangs in our library.) We didn’t buy another print, but we did get a couple of coffee mugs. Guess which is mine and which is Eric’s.

berry and oak coffee mugs

Hint: The female mug has fruit … the male mug has nuts.

Then we were off to the Tacoma Art Museum to catch an exhibit of Art of the American West and Still Life Art of New Mexico, both featuring paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the galleries, but I stood just outside the entrance to sneak a pic of this one. (Actually, mine came out blurry. This is from TAG’s website.)

yellow cactus

Georgia O’Keeffe – Yellow Cactus

Eric’s photography is undeniably influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe. We watched a short film about how she left New York and took up residence in the desert to pursue painting the way she wanted to, which just made me want to retire even more.

Eric’s … or Georgia’s?

purple fowers

Georgia O’Keeffe – Flower of Life II … Eric Shellgren – Purple Clematis

Our next house will provide plenty of gallery space, which we don’t have in our bungalow. I’d really like a place to hang this 24×36 inch print, for instance.

white rose at sunset

Eric Shellgren – White Rose at Sunset

Okay, break’s over. Back to our mattress and bedframe quandary!

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A time-travel Christmas

Months ago when I was rummaging through random boxes, I found a whole bunch of photos taken by my dad, who was always interested in photography and often processed his own film in a little mysteriously lit room in the basement. Among the memorabilia was a yellowed envelope from Chas. Menger, Inc. Florists—my grandparents’ business. Written in faded pencil, in my dad’s hand,

House Pictures—Inside
N. 116 St.
Winter 1952

old envelope containing negatives

Inside were a handful of negatives and the promise of a virtual visit to my childhood home in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, on Milwaukee’s west side. I peered at them many times against the window and tried to make out details. At last I prevailed upon Eric to scan them and turn them into prints for me. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to December, 1952 …

My dad casts a long shadow in the afternoon sun. Our little rancher, built in 1949, wears a garland of icicles. But that’s not the neighborhood I remember! Most of the neighbors’ houses have not yet been built. An old apple orchard occupies the lot next door. When I zoom in on the photo, even though it’s pixilated, I can make out familiar details: the thermometer mounted on the kitchen’s picture window, the milk box on the back stoop, and a couple of saplings that became our elm and flowering crabapple trees. In a few years, my dad will build a garage where the Chevy is parked, and connect it to the house by a room that will become our new foyer. (Click on any of the old photos to enlarge them.)

ranch house in snow

Go in the back door and turn right into the kitchen, with its corner sink and the big picture window. Get a load of that trellis wallpaper! Notice the dark color of the ceiling. It’s a fashionable Chinese red. The cabinet frames are white, and the doors natural birch with beautiful grain. The countertop is gray pearlized Formica with aluminum trim. I love the corner sink with its triangular shelf full of plants. (Mom would park my high chair in front of the big window. On milk delivery day, she’d always say, “There’s the milkman!” So, “milkman” was my first word. I’m sure my dad was thrilled.)

kitchen with corenr sink

Follow me into the living room. There’s Mom, looking fetching in a glittery, striped sweater, posing with Lassie in front of the bricks-and-boards bookcase. (I would continue that tradition in college.) I wish I still had those black panthers … so 50s! And the peacock blue frisee couch (with matching club chair). Dig that wallpaper! Yipes—stripes on one wall, and coordinating 1940s gray and green floral on the accent wall … grounded by a gray carpet with sculpted acanthus leaves. Everything, as always, set off by lots of healthy plants.

livingroom with mom and dog

livingroom with mom and lassie

Finally, the master bedroom—a bamboo forest retreat! I should have grabbed that beautiful blond wood bedroom set (bed, night stand, chest of drawers, and dresser with huge mirror) instead of letting them sell it 30 years ago … sigh. Oh well … I don’t have room for it, anyway. Look at those nice hardwood floors—no dust bunnies! And the chenille bedspread.

bedroom with floral wallpaper

Perhaps this explains my present dining room wallpaper. It’s genetic, I tell you! I love this stuff! Although mine is more William Morris-y than 40s botanical. I feel inspired to buy some vintage wallpaper for our next house … be forewarned, Eric.

acanthus dining room wallpaper

On another night, the kitchen looks chaotic. Counters are covered in what appear to be groceries, and Mom and Lassie are busy making something intricate. Maybe they have company. If it’s Christmastime (something tied in ribbon is on the table), Mom is just a little bit pregnant with me. Mom, what the heck are you wearing? That leafy print is edging toward Midcentury Modern, and it certainly fits the décor. By the length of Mom’s hair and the radio on the counter, I know these photos were taken at a different time than the ones above, but if Pop says winter of ’52, he should know. What I don’t know is if some of them are in January or February, or December, nearly a year apart.

kitchen with mom and lassie

Hey, my aunt and uncle and their dog have stopped by for a play date! I wish I knew who the arm and the saddle shoes belong to … my mom and aunt, surely, but I wish I could see their faces. Pop is behind the camera, more interested in photographing the playing pups.

dogs playing in livingroom

The humans swap seats and the dogs snap to attention to focus on a treat. I assume it’s Mom who is offering it, so maybe the saddles belong to her. Besides, that’s not her arm in the other chair.

two dogs in the living room

Now it’s Christmas, and an eight-foot tree dominates one corner of the living room. That’s a lot of presents for just two people—maybe the whole family is getting together at our place on Christmas Eve (when we traditionally opened presents).

Christmas tree in corner of living room

I’m ridiculously sentimental about my Wauwatosa childhood. We moved across the country to Tacoma, Washington, when I was 10, and extended family and “home” seemed to vanish. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see how many items in these photos I still have. Click on the photo to see some of them.

1. Kitchen table and chairs (in the attic).
2. Channel-back chair (in the attic).
3. Black electric clock.
4. Little treasure chest (for cards, I think).
5. Blue and white vase (hand-painted by my great aunt Amelia).
6. Footstool with needle-point top by my grandmother (my laptop rests on it daily).
7. White china lamp (in the attic).
8. Pictures frames (need to use them!)
9. Mom’s Steiff bear.

I can’t quickly put my hands on a vintage photo of the front of the house, but this is what it looks like today. It’s a sweet little house, and I’m glad to see it’s cared for.

our home in Wauwatosa, WI

To all my blog friends, may your holidays be merry and bright! Be sure to take some photos that your family can puzzle over 60 years down the road.

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The kitten project, part 2

As National Cat Day comes to a close, I want to update you on our kitten project. Also, this is a rare opportunity to point out that occasionally we actually do complete something.

We captured Ditto a few weeks after Dot and Dash. Spaying, neutering, and vaccinating three kittens wasn’t cheap. The next time we do this, we’ll seek out a budget spay/neuter clinic. We could have saved more money by skipping the vaccines and boosters, but we wanted to give these little ones the best possible start in life. As outdoor cats, they will face challenging times ahead, even if they have a 24-hour buffet bar.

From left: Dash, Dot, and Ditto.

Three tabby kittens

As much as I hated to think of them going back to being porch cats, these kitties were not destined to become indoor pets. They stayed with us for seven weeks, and during that time, despite interacting with us daily (and enjoying first-class hospitality, I might add) none of them showed the slightest desire to be our buds. They allowed me to touch them only when my finger was coated with Fancy Feast. When I bent my face down close to the cage, Dash stretched upwards to put his sweet little face up to mine … and spat at me. I got his unambiguous message.

One night we decided we’d let them explore the living room, knowing that we could lure them back into their cage with food. We closed off the other rooms and let them out. They promptly disappeared under the furniture like hamsters. Dot and Dash refused to return to the cage until the next day. Three days later, we forcibly prodded Ditto out from the lining of our box spring and threw a blanket over her. So ended the run-of-the-house experiment.

We could have let Dot and Dash go a few weeks ago, but once we caught Ditto, we wanted to make sure they bonded as a family again. I don’t know if that was important to the kittens, but it felt important to us. Then, with Ditto’s spay stitches removed, it was time to set them free.

Kittens' gage is open

The hadn’t seen the outdoors since the beginning of September. Summer had turned decidedly fall, and they shivered—with cold, or anxiety? Dot made her break first.

Dot leaves the cage

Ditto ran to catch up with her sister.

Ditto leaves the cage

Dash thought about it for a bit … then he was gone, slipping between the porch rails.

Dash leaves the cage

They beat a trail back to their former lair under the house next door. We hope they will move into the cozy kitty chalet that Eric built. If they don’t, surely someone else will.

A-frame cat shelter

I was going to write this post the same day we let them go, but I was so sad, I couldn’t do it. I feel better now that we routinely see the trio cavorting on our porch and sleeping on the swing. They seem happy, although they’re as skittish as ever. The mere appearance of our faces in the window sends them skedaddling for cover.

Duke was upset the day after the kittens were gone. He hung his head and led me to the spot where their cage used to stand in the dining room. I assured him I knew the kittens were gone, and that it was okay. We miss their antics (especially the wrestling matches accompanied by growls and squeals), their rapt expressions as we talked to them, and the thuds during the night as they tossed toys around.

Dash, Dot, and Ditto … be careful out there. Holler if you need anything.

Dash, Dot, and Ditto

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The kitten project

Reading this blog, you might think all we do is renovate our house. Sawing, sanding, painting, visualizing, shelling out money. Yeah … it feels like that. Obviously, if we were that dedicated, we’d have finished the kitchen six months ago. Sometimes we get sucked in by a different kind of rehabilitation project. Something a little softer and furrier.

Along with being parents of a boxer and six cats, we also feed numerous neighborhood stray cats. They live tough lives, but one thing they don’t need to worry about is where to find food and water. I don’t know why there are so many cats in this neighborhood. Do the tenants of nearby houses and apartments “forget” their cats when they move? Do people come here to dump unwanted cats? Or do all the unneutered pets just keep providing the neighborhood with more offspring?

Occasionally we pitch in and neuter a needy cat. (We can’t afford to do them all.) For instance, several years ago a friendly young marmalade cat decided he liked hanging out at our house. He showed up daily, lounged on the counters, slept in my chair … and began marking his new territory.

Marmalade cat

“Oscar,” we said, “If you’re going to move in, you’ll need a simple outpatient procedure.” One hundred fifty dollars later, Oscar was neutered and vaccinated. A few days later I was chatting with a friend down the block. “Have you seen that little orange cat who runs around here?” I asked. “Yeah,” she replied, “He belongs to my mom’s roommate. Someone neutered him!” She must have read the look on my face. “Was it—you?”  (Oscar’s—actually Oliver’s—owner wanted to neuter him anyway, but was too down on his luck to pay us back. He moved away a week later and we never saw Oscar/Oliver again.) Since then, we’ve been careful to interview the cats thoroughly to ensure that they are truly homeless.

We acquired Checkers and Lacy the same way. Adopting a cat is easy around here. Just step out on the porch and make a friend.

Checkers and Lacy

A few weeks ago, I was amazed to glance out the window and see three tiny tabby kittens frolicking on our porch. “We have kittens!” I cried. And a very young tuxedo mama cat, already back in heat. Soon thereafter, mama and one kitten ceased coming around. We were determined to trap the remaining two kittens before they disappeared, too.

Two tabby kittens on the porch

tabby kitten Dot

We baited our live trap and waited. It didn’t take long to hear a loud bang and commotion. Rats! We’d caught the wrong cat! The next day we saw our own Fred (below) dining on the bait with his front paws carefully placed on the far side of the trigger plate. He exited just as carefully. (Fred is one smart cat, and not about to let someone else eat the yummy Fancy Feast.) We decided not to risk traumatizing innocent cats with the snap trap.

Headshot of tuxedo cat

Instead, we set up our large wire crate on the porch, with a string attached to the door and run through the window to inside. We set the food and water bowls in the crate.

crate and string trap

We let the kittens eat there a few times so they got accustomed to the set-up … then, Eric pulled the string and—bingo—we had us a couple of kittens! And they were NOT PLEASED.

In fact, the poor little things were terrified. But awfully dang cute.

kittens climbing the cage

The female (we assumed) had a little black spot on her nose. The male had a tabby streak on his nose. So, because we’re writers, we named them Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett—Dot and Dash.

These kittens hated us. (It’s really hard to use “kittens” and “hate” in the same sentence.) But these kids were WILD, and they wanted nothing to do with humans. We estimated they were about 12 weeks old, which may be too old to be tamed. Their first week with us produced nothing but soft hisses and baleful looks from the back of the cage. Eventually Eric was able to place his hand next to Dash, the braver of the two, and even touch his back a little. But that ended when Eric tried to pick Dash up and all hell broke loose. Dash retreated to the sleeping box and has not come out to greet us again.

Our other cats pay little attention to the youngsters, but Uncle Duke is fascinated. He lays by their cage and is front and center whenever we interact with them. Duke formed a strong bond with Lacy and Checkers just this way.

Boxer Duke lays by the cage

If they won’t be handled, how did we get these uncooperative guests to the vet? Easy! We swapped out their sleeping box for a cat carrier a few days before their appointment. They loved hiding in it, so they were packed and ready to go at appointment time. Just as we’d suspected, Dash is male and Dot is female. They were a little overwhelmed and not feeling so good after their vet visit and day surgeries.

two tabby kittens in a cat carrier

They bounced back quickly and are now more active than ever. It’s sleep all day and party all night. We manage to sleep through the banging around, and when we get up in the morning, the cage is trashed and they’re exhausted. Hard to think that these little angels would draw blood if I got too close.

two sleeping tabby kittens

In the two and one-half weeks they’ve been with us, we’ve made only small progress in taming them. Both will lick wet food off my extended fingertip (as long as I stay outside the cage), and Dot is easily coaxed into playing with dangly toys. But they still won’t allow us to touch them and they skitter away when we approach the cage door. I’m unsure what their fate will be. We already have six cats, and we can’t take in any more. Our vet tech has shown some interest in adopting one or both, but I’m not holding my breath. They will need a lot of patient work to become domesticated. The Humane Society doesn’t accept feral cats. I suppose we’ll return them to the porch and freedom, but that’ll make us a little sad.

Meanwhile, who should show up out on the porch? Kitten No. 3 is back! We’ve named him/her Ditto, because soon we will do this all over again.

Tabby kitten No. 3

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In a cottage by the sea …

Sometimes you just gotta get away. After busting our butts getting the cabinet bases and sink in place, then working like demons to clean the house for its 100th birthday party, we were beat. Time to pack the car and take Duke on a road trip to the beach! No work, no remodeling, no schedules, and no pressure!

I love the drive out to the Washington coast and the transition from hectic city life to quiet small towns, from strip malls and traffic jams to forests and lumber mills. Along Highway 109 north of Ocean Shores, there’s even a stretch of enchanted forest—the kind where trees turn into creatures if you wander in far enough to lose sight of the road. I’m sure of it! What is it about this forest that I find so compelling, even though we live in a state where forests are as plentiful as lakes in Minnesota? Maybe it’s because when I look through these trees, I know the light I see is the sky over the Pacific. [Photo: NatGeo]

coast forest and mist

On the edge of this enchanted forest lies the fairy-tale village of Seabrook, a planned community of Nantucket-style houses transplanted to a left-coast hillside. This year, Sunset Magazine has chosen Seabrook for its annual Idea Town showcase. (We passed on the $17 tickets to tour the model homes.)

Seabrook main intersection

Seabrook houses

I love exploring this neighborhood of beautifully detailed homes that we can’t afford. A couple of Christmases ago we drove through on a soggy afternoon and peered into yellow windows to watch families gather around their holiday feasts. I felt like I was pressing my nose against a Norman Rockwell painting. Am I envious? You betcha … but even if we could afford it, would we live here? I don’t think so. Too perfect. Nothing needs renovating!

This is not where Marian the librarian works … it’s just a single family home.

large house looks like old library

Although the upscale vacation houses are tempting, we don’t stay in Seabrook. We continue another mile up the road to much humbler Pacific Beach.

view of Pacific Beach, WA

Several times we’ve rented this little Bohemian cottage, the Periwinkle. It’s beginning to feel like our own. (I wish!)

Periwinkle cottage

Periwinkle living room

Look—you can see a slice of ocean from our deck!

ocean view for Periwinkle deck

I like the artwork throughout this colorful little house. Paintings are by Barbara O’Keefe.

Sculpture and two paintings

The Washington coast isn’t like California, where the girls all get so tan, or the Jersey shore with its Situation, or South Beach with its pastel Art Deco hotels.  It’s a wilder scene, often windy or shrouded in fog, and seldom warm enough for sunbathing. The surfers here wear wetsuits.

The trees tell a tale of punishing storms.

beach staircase and trees in fog

I like the sense of mystery the fog provides. It doesn’t stop anyone from having fun. It doesn’t matter that you can’t see your kite. You know it’s there.

flying kite in fog

Like most dogs, Duke loves the beach. As soon as he hits the hard wet sand, he stops, drops, and rolls until he grinds the sand deep into his coat. His goal is to come home smelling like the ocean.

Duke rolling in sand

Naturally, the sun came out on the day we left for home. I am so ready to go back … but that probably won’t happen until next summer. Now it’s time to pick up our tools and brushes and get back to work on the kitchen. If I want to remember Pacific Beach, I’ll just take a little whiff of Duke.

flowering plant in sand

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Remembering Rosencrantz

Rosencrantz

On February 11 we lost our beloved Maine coon, Rosencrantz. Rosey was a big cat who lived a big life. Fourteen years is a reasonable old age for a cat, but it seems our animal friends always leave us far too soon.

Rosey came to live with me and my former husband in August of 1999. He simply showed up on our back stoop, an adorable kitten of about six or seven months. (Click on any photo to enlarge.) 

Rosey at six months

Rosey at six months

He wasn’t a bit afraid of our boxer, Paisley, which totally confounded her. She didn’t know what to make of a cat who wouldn’t run away.

Paisley and Rosey meet

Paisley and Rosey meet

 We discovered that this little kitten had made a nest in long grass beneath one of our rose bushes, so we named “her” Rosey. (Rosey was so furry that we missed some important evidence.) Our vet informed us “Congratulations–it’s a boy!” But the name Rosey stuck. As he grew, his name grew, too. “Rosencrantz” matched his stature and bearing, but he was always Rosey to his friends.

Rosey quickly bonded to us and to his new boxer buddy. Paisley and Rosey became fast friends, often cuddling together in bed. During his fourteen years, Rosey befriended three boxers (and taught them all to love cats), but I think Paisley was his favorite.

Rosey and Paisley

Rosey and Paisley share the bed

Rosey and Dodger

Rosey and Dodger share the couch

Rosey and Duke continue the tradition

Rosey and Duke continue the tradition

Wrestling

Paisley and Rosey wrestling

A cushy home life wasn’t enough for this cat. Within a few months, he’d gone out and gotten himself a job at the union hall office across the street. For reasons we’ll never know, Rosey decided he was part of the office staff. For thirteen years, Monday through Friday, Rosey steadfastly reported for work at the International Union of Operating Engineers, Seattle Local 286. He’d wait until one of his staff got out of the car, then trot excitedly with them to the door, tail held high in glee. Like clockwork, he always came home for lunch and snack breaks, then walked back to work. He spent hours helping Terry, the attorney, by holding down papers on his desk or keeping his chair warm while Terry patiently sat elsewhere.

Legal assistant

Legal assistant

When some of the staffers stepped outside for smoke breaks or to chat in the sun, Rosey facilitated the meetings, proudly strutting amongst his staff and looking very much in charge. When Terry retired, Rosey took a new position in lobby and parking lot security, but his union loyalty never waned.

Rosey meeting

Meeting time

Weekends and holidays were disappointing, as the office was closed. Rosey still showed up promptly, only to sit forlornly in the parking lot, waiting for his peeps … until he’d give up and wander home.  

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

One day I discovered a new tag on Rosey’s collar. His union buddies had given him a small enameled charm with the union number and logo on it. A journeyman at last! Rosey proudly wore his union tag for the rest of his life.

Adjacent to the union office is a warehouse where a local vocational college runs an HVAC training program. In the summer when the roll-up doors stood open, Rosey often pulled a double shift, working in the office during the day, then helping the instructors teach evening classes. Many times I’d catch a glimpse of his backside as he scampered up the stairs to the classroom. Everyone knew him and he basked in their attention. That union tag on his collar earned him a lot of respect.

When he was a youngster, Rosey was fond of riding in the car. I’d take him for short hops, like to the grocery store a few blocks away. People stared in amazement at the car with two boxers in the back seat and a large cat on the dashboard. One day a loud motorcycle frightened him, and Rosey decided car rides were no longer for him. However, he didn’t lose his sense of adventure or curiosity about cars. More than once, one of his coworkers discovered they had an extra passenger on their trip home. Thankfully, they always turned around and brought him back. And then there was the day that Eric and I hauled a trailer-load of belongings to a storage unit about a mile away. When we peeled the tarp off the load, we were horrified to find a slightly disoriented Rosencrantz blinking in the sun!

And more than once, Rosey spent all weekend at work because the staff locked the doors on Friday night, not knowing he was sleeping in some quiet corner. Eventually they added his name to the in/out board just to make sure he clocked out on time.

About a decade ago I became serious about gardening and landscaping. It was Rosey who taught me that gardens aren’t just for humans—they’re also for cats. He enjoyed his mini-jungles and he helped us care for them. Whenever Eric and I worked in the yard, Rosey was always there, supervising and keeping us company, and greeting passers-by. He knew more people in the neighborhood than we did.

In the sumac tree

In the sumac tree

Rosey in the Japanese maple

Rosey in the Japanese maple

In the catnip pot

In the catnip pot

Besides being a natural supervisor, Rosey was the feline patriarch of the neighborhood. Imposing in size, but never aggressive with other cats, he simply commanded respect. He was King Coon, a kind and benevolent ruler. The other six cats in his household never crossed him. He could shut them down with a mere scowl. He also used that scowl to stop traffic as he sat squarely in the middle of the street.

One of his favorite games was leading me on a merry chase down the street on summer nights, trotting two paces in front of me until he finally allowed me to “catch” him and carry him home. He’d growl menacingly as we neared the door, sometimes boxing my ears or biting my arm, trying to startle me into letting go. Nice try, Rosencrantz. He never bit hard enough to hurt. It was all for show. He knew it, and he knew I knew it.

Rosey was never one to hide his feelings. If we didn’t let him have his way, he told us exactly how he felt with a salty vocabulary of huffs and hisses. That cat could curse like a longshoreman! And grooming? Maine coons need to be brushed, but brushing Rosey was like grooming a wolverine. During the summer he matted up something fierce, so a few times I had him shaved. As long as he kept his leonine mane, bushy britches, and fabulous tail, he seemed to take it in stride.

Rosey's haircut

Rosey’s haircut

As Rosey hit middle age, he developed high blood pressure and for the rest of his life took daily medication (just like his parents). We didn’t realize that high blood pressure in cats can cause blindness. But before long we did notice that the reflective inner surface of his right eye had changed … and it wasn’t long before he was blind in that eye. He seemed to adjust fine to monovision, but soon something else developed. Rosey had glaucoma, and it could not be controlled. He was grumpy with a migraine-like headache from the ocular pressure. The only solution was to remove his painful eye. Although the surgery seemed drastic and disfiguring, as he healed and his hair grew back in he gained a jaunty, pirate air. And best of all, he immediately regained his old personality.

Healing from eye surgery

Healing from eye surgery

Just a couple of weeks ago, Rosey once more became grumpy and stopped eating. Tests confirmed pancreatitis, which has a poor prognosis. The news got worse: an ultrasound revealed tumors throughout his abdomen—aggressive pancreatic cancer. There was nothing that could be done. We were devastated. It was Wednesday. Only a week before, I thought Rosey was a healthy cat. I made arrangements for our vet to come to our house on Friday and put him to sleep. We needed a little time to come to grips with this news.

The next day I bundled Rosey in a towel and took him across the street to say goodbye to his union hall friends. They were wondering what was wrong because Rosey never missed work. I left him there to visit as long as he wanted. He stayed for half an hour, then one of his coworkers walked him home.

Rosey and Liz

Rosey and Liz

When Friday dawned, Rosey was lying under the bed. I sat down to work at my desk by the dining room window. I glanced across the street and was shocked to see that Rosey had slipped out the dog door and was resolutely walking to work! He was determined to say goodbye on his own terms. He stayed all morning and took his time walking home in the sunshine. Eric and I decided this was not his day to die. Instead, I took him the vet to have 750 ml of fluid (the equivalent of a bottle of wine!) drawn from his abdomen. We knew he’d only be with us for a few more days, but I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.

Rosey's last day at work

Rosey’s last day at work

That last brave visit to his office took all the strength Rosey had left. He deteriorated rapidly over the weekend. Monday morning, though, I found him once again lying by the back door, thinking about going to work. I carried him to a kitty bed on the window seat where he could rest and gaze across the street at his beloved office. He could no longer walk. Our vet arrived, and we said our final goodbyes as she sent our amazing cat off on his next adventure.

After 13 years of watching Rosey hold court at the union hall, I still expect to see him in the parking lot, keeping an eye on his business and his house, ready to come flying home if I wave at him. I miss his warm, woolly body curled in the crook of my arm at night, his Harley-Davidson purr and his squeaky-toy meow, and his unvarnished opinions. I’ll always admire his unfailing sense of purpose, the loyalty he showed his friends and family, and how he lived life his way, right up to the end.

Rosey at 14

Rosey at 14

I like to think he is taking a summer stroll with his old friends Paisley and Dodger, just as he often accompanied us on neighborhood walks. We’ll miss you dearly, Rosencrantz Coon. You will always be in our hearts. Happy travels, little friend.

Two friends

Two friends

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