Saturday, December 22, 2012

Part 2: My cat used to nap in a tree!

I have never met a cat with so much personality and problems as Roy.  He almost died the first month I adopted him from a humane society at about 3 years old.  He was lethargic and looking pathetic, so I took him to the vet.  Turns out he had a urinary tract infection and another day without treatment would have killed him. It was becoming a chronic problem, but then I realized his special diet due to allergies was actually causing it.  


Roy was a super odd cat, as he was allergic to most meat.  I tried all the specialty diets, but Roy refused to eat them all.  So I special ordered a vegan cat food with taurine just in case.  When it arrived, Roy was so tired of all his food options that he tore into the partially opened box and into the bag of food.  I guess he approved!  He ate this until his last year of life, when he suddenly decided he didn’t like it.  Luckily more options were available that he could eat at that time.


Roy hated other cats. I remember after getting approved to adopt Roy, I got him out of his cage and for the first time he could see the other cats around him and he hissed.  In my head I thought, “uh, oh”, but I had already fallen in love. I think he needed to be the focus of everyone’s attention and other cats compromised that.  My poor cat Loki was sometimes bullied, but they found a way to live with each other.  They never became friends though.  Loki became depressed when Roy passed away which took me by surprise.  


Roy also demanded to get his way.  He was a challenge to love at times, due to his showing anger at you with peeing on stuff.  It was a constant struggle to figure out ways to stop it.  There were even a few times he peed on me as well!  Luckily the last few years of his life this stopped, but it was the only thing about him that made me want to scream and cry.


One thing Roy was great at was getting in trouble.  I think it was mostly because he was such a curious cat. He even managed to get a thorn stuck in his eyeball!  I was so worried about him and had to take him to a specialist for surgery to remove it.  It cost about a grand, which I did not have, so luckily my parents were able to help me out and knew how much Roy meant to me.  

But no amount of trouble, or pee or attitude outweighed the laughs and love I got from Roy.  I have never met a cat so needing of attention.  He would often lie on my left shoulder and would just purr.  And it had to be my left shoulder.  If I tried to put him on my right shoulder, he would switch over right away.  The right shoulder just would not do.  He would also sometimes sit on my left side, kind of like a koala bear.  I would hold him there, and he would hold onto me and it was just adorable.  I could tell if Roy was extra happy I was home because when I picked him up, instead of just being on my shoulder, he would wrap himself around the back of my neck.  I really miss that.

Whenever I got home, Roy was at the door greeting me with a loud meow.  He was quite vocal!  I remember a time he saw another cat out of the window and screamed really loud like a little girl.  He meowed when he wanted to go outside, or when he wanted in, or when he wanted more food or water, or in the car, or when he wanted attention or when he wanted to tell Loki to go away or when he wanted to tell me something I could not understand.  


Recently I was in the vet office with Loki.  A women came in with her cat in a carrier and he was meowing over and over again, just like Roy used to do.  I smiled with fondness thinking about Roy and asked the woman about her cat.  I told her how I know it is annoying now, but won’t seem so thinking back on it. I never thought I would miss that about Roy!  


For a short period of time, I found myself living at my parent’s house.  One day I came home from work and as I walked towards the yard, I heard Roy’s distant meow but I could not figure out where it was coming from.  I looked all a round and kept hearing him meow.  I then heard some branches move, and looked up across the street to my neighbor’s yard and found Roy starting to climb down the tree.  Turns out, this was his hang out in the neighborhood.  After that, I would often come home and find him nestled up the tree napping.  What a wacko!  I loved it!


Another unique characteristic of Roy is his love for corn.  A friend had taught me how awesome eating corn raw is.  So I was partaking in the great treat and Roy was frantic to get at it.  Frantic!  He was swiping at the cob of corn and meowing like crazy.  I handed it over to him and he went to town.  He could eat a whole cob of corn within 15 minutes.  It became my party trick.  I would get the corn out and show him, and he would get so excited.  I would start to peel back the corn stalk and he’d rub against the corn, cause he loved it so much.  After he was done loving on it, he would start to dig in.  By the time he was done, the corn was mostly gone and his mouth and feet were wet from the juice of the corn kernels popping open from his bites.  It was a precious sight.  

This does not even begin to describe how amazing Roy was and how much I loved him.  I could tell you more stories about him breaking into people’s apartments to eat their food, or other trouble he got into, but people who met Roy even for a moment knew he was a special character.  I am not sure how I will go on without his love.  It kept me really strong.  But obviously I will.  I will never forget him, and his memories will always bring me joy.  If you have any to share, I would love to hear it.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Part 1: The end of a life


I am not even sure how to begin to talk about Roy. I will say that losing him has been impossible. Roy was euthanized a little over a week ago. It was the single most difficult decision in my life. He was not the classic case of not eating, immobile, or hiding. The day it happened he asked to go outside and enjoyed the sun, tried to spray on some bushes, and thought about sneaking in an open window. He had moments where he would purr madly on my shoulder or forcefully meow asking for something. 

Unfortunately most of his time he was in discomfort, constantly moving about trying to find a position he could find comfort in. He was on pain meds, first once a day, then all the time. He would sometimes stare off in the distance, dead in his eyes, but awake. I need to say these things to remind myself of their truth, because once you follow through on that decision, every part of you just wants them back in your arms. So you question your decision and forget the reality of the situation. 

Almost a year ago, I noticed Roy was losing a lot of weight and spent a considerable amount of time in a bookshelf cubbyhole near a heating vent. A vet eventually diagnosed him with an abdominal mass. Surgery was not an option, so I started Roy on steroids. Luckily the steroids seemed to keep the growth at bay and he gained his weight and strength. He was doing great for a really long time! Obviously the growth was not an aggressive type. 

About 6 months later, Roy started to have completely different symptoms related to his throat. His high pitched and loud meows went really quite and weak, he had some weird swallowing and things I now can’t remember. The vet thought he may have voice box cancer, but a definite diagnosis would require a surgery that could potentially kill him, so obviously not worth it. I just monitored him and tried my best to keep him comfortable. 

Eventually I noticed that Roy was fighting with me about taking his medications. He had never done that before. In the morning he knew I would medicate him before I left and he started to run away from me. It was heart breaking. He was also acting in discomfort often and started to frequent the cubbyhole in the bookshelf again. I made the tough decision to stop his oral medications, since I realized they were probably causing him considerable pain when he swallowed. 

At first the lack of medications made him come alive! He was playing again and being frisky and causing trouble, just like the good old days. He was always very affectionate, but he wanted to be held even more and cuddled up more than ever. It was great, until I noticed the shaking in his front arms while standing. Then, losing balance of his back legs on occasion. Not falling or anything, but he was off. With time, he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable just sitting around. He shifted his weight often. It was obvious he had trouble finding comfort.

It is hard because you always wonder what you could have done differently to keep your baby alive. Or to make sure they had the best life possible. Or be in the least amount of pain. There are no right or wrong answers, but there are always those lingering questions.  I know I made the best decisions I could have given the information I had in front on me.  I know that I loved Roy more than imaginable, and the last thing I wanted was for him to be gone, just as he is now. But the only thing I know for sure is I miss him tremendously. 

The day it happened, I had a vet come to the house. Roy hated to travel and the vet office, so I didn’t want to put him through that. It was more expensive but definitely worth it. He was able to die on his favorite chair with the comforts of his life around him. My cat Loki was able to come into the room and see the body afterwards, to allow his own processing of what happened. Roy and Loki were not really friends. In fact, Roy kind of bullied him. A part of me expected Loki to be excited, since he could finally get a lot of attention. But I think Loki is depressed. The loss of Roy has affected him more than I expected.

I chose a private cremation and I still have no idea what to do with the ashes. It is amazing how such a big personality could fit into such a small container. I created a memorial where he died of sympathy cards, his collar, flowers and the ashes. Most of me still can’t accept what happened, but it will hit me in waves. This usually happens unexpectedly and at inconvenient times. Even while watching the new movie “Lincoln”, a wave of sadness hit me. President Lincoln laid down next to his son and this made me tear up thinking of all the times I laid next to Roy with such affection. Just watching Juncos feed on the sidewalk, I was reminded of life and death and started to cry for Roy. Being able to leave water glasses out, or the toilet seat up or clothes on the floor without the worry of Roy tipping it over, or drinking from it, or peeing on it- has all made me cry.  

Roy was an awesome cat. He had such a demanding presence and got into trouble a lot. But no matter how much he pissed me off, I loved him unconditionally. I would often tell him the most mushy crap imaginable while holding him over my left should listening to his purrs placed perfectly over my ear. I will miss him forever, but my life has also gained instrumentally from having him in my life. No matter how difficult the euthanasia decision was, or how hard this grieving has and will be; I will never regret the love I shared with him. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes- Veganized

This holiday season I am finding myself unable to find creativity in the kitchen.  Mostly this is due to my cat being very sick and towards the end of his life.  It has been a very tough month.  So instead of sharing new recipes, I want to once again share my classic recipes that are sure to please.  I plan to make most of these recipes myself for my family this year.  Be thankful of your friends and family (especially the furry and fluffy ones) and enjoy the recipes!

Traditional Stuffing

3 1/2 cups Bread Crumbs
1 cup Vegetable Broth
1/4 cup Earth Balance
6 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
2 tsp Sage, rubbed
1 tsp Marjoram
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Melt the margarine over medium high heat in a skillet and add the onion and celery. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. In a medium sized pan, heat the vegetable broth until boiling. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, herbs, salt and cooked celery and onion. Stir all of this to combine thoroughly. Slowly add the vegetable broth, stirring occasionally to cover all the bread crumbs. Place stuffing in a greased 9-inch square pan bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes.
*To make your own bread crumbs, cut a loaf of bread in cubes. Place on a large cookie sheet and bake at 300°F for about 20-30 minutes, using a spatula about every 5 minutes to move around the bread so it will dry out evenly.

Miso-Maple Tofu

1 1/2 blocks Tofu*
1 cup Walnuts
2 Tb Miso
1 Tb Maple Syrup
1 Tb Sesame Oil
2 Tb Tamari

Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slabs. Combine the sesame oil and tamari. Coat the tofu in the oil/tamari combination and place on baking sheet. If any oil/tamari is left, pour over top of tofu. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, flip tofu and bake an addition 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, miso and maple syrup until it is a paste-like consistency. Spread the paste evenly over the baked tofu. Bake an addition 15 minutes.

"Buttermilk" Biscuits

4 cups Unbleached White Flour
1 Tb. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Tb. Sugar
1 cup Soy Margarine
2 cups Soymilk + 1 Tb. Lemon Juice

Combine the soymilk and lemon juice and let stand a few minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut the soy margarine into the flour mixture until pea sizes or smaller. Pour the soymilk mixture and blend until combined. Place dough on a floured work surface and knead a couple times. Spread the dough out to about 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes. Makes about 20 biscuits.

Pumpkin Pie

1 - 15 oz can of Pumpkin Puree
1 - 12.3 oz package of Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (Firm)
3/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp ground Cloves
1 prepared Pie Shell or Flaky Pie Crust (below)

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until creamy.  Spread into a pie shell.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.  Allow to sit a couple hours before serving.

Flaky Pie Crust

1 ½ cups Unbleached White Flour
½ cup Soy Margarine (Cold)
½ tsp Sea Salt
4-6 Tb Ice Water

Place flour and salt in medium-size bowl. Break up margarine and cut into flour with a pastry cutter until there are pea-sized pieces of dough. Slowly add ice water and blend with fork. Do not overwork; blend until just mixed and dough holds together. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to be slightly larger than your pie pan. Place in pie pan and form dough as desired. Add pie filling to the crust and bake according to pie instructions. Makes one 9-inch pie crust. 
Other Thanksgiving Recipes

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gray Whales in Depoe Bay

Gray Whale McFlurry flukes in Depoe Bay, OR
This summer I got to play with whales- Gray whales to be specific. Although most of their adventures took place under water, I learned a lot about them and got to know quite a few individuals, not only by their looks, but their inner beauty as well; or at least character traits. 

Carrie Newell is a marine biologist from Depoe Bay, Oregon who was nice enough to give me an internship this summer and teach me about the whales and identifying individuals. She has been doing this for about 20 years.  I had such a great time! I definitely recommend taking a whale-watching trip with her through Carrie’s Whale Research EcoExcursions if you get a chance! 

Gray whales have two blowholes unlike toothed whales with one.

Gray whales are known for their impressive migration every year from feeding grounds in Alaska, to their breeding and calving grounds in Baja, Mexico. But not all these whales make it all the way back up to Alaska, allowing them to cut their trip (and energy resources) down considerably. You see there are some gray whales that stay around the Pacific Northwest coastline from spring until fall, feeding close to the shoreline on mysid shrimp (which Carrie discovered). These whales are what are known as resident gray whales. These are the whales I got to know this summer. Here are highlights of a few of them.

Blanco doing his best fluking behavior.

Blanco was one of my favorites, mostly because he put on a good show and was a lady’s man. He always had a new girl he was chasing around. He was very white in his coloring, which made him stand out easily. But he seemed incapable of a good fluke. Poor guy.

Lucky flukes and shows off all the white markings on the side from killer whale tooth marks.

Lucky got his name due to all the scars he has on his body from killer whale tooth marks. He is lucky to be alive. He is a younger whale, probably born this year. Transient killer whales target calves and try and separate them from their mothers. It is obvious the killer whales got a hold of Lucky, but somehow his mother was able to fight them off.  

Flipper demonstrates "skarking", a feeding behavior.

Flipper is a whale that showed up later in the summer and has stayed around for a while. He gets his name from distinctive marks on both sides of his body that looks like a dolphin head. He tends to be fairly active and was recently seen courting a female whale named Comet.

Aurora swims by.  You can see the witch face marking right before her dorsal hump.

Aurora was the first whale that I had the honor to name. I found her to be a really beautiful whale and wanted her to have a nice name. She has a lot of unique marking on her body, including one that looks like a witch face. But her name comes from marking on her sides that reminded me of the aurora borealis. 

Fishbone swims by and you can clearly see on his dorsal hump where he gets his name.

Fishbone appeared for a few days and was even seen courting with Aurora one day. I felt so honored for the two whales I named to be crushing on each other. His name was an obvious one. The best experience on the water I had was watching him play in the seaweed. I got to see his little flipper and he even opened his mouth above water, allow us all on the boat to see his baleen filled mouth. What a treat!

Fishbone plays in some seaweeds.  You can see his flipper sticking out to the left.

You may be wondering why I share all this with you, besides the fact that whales are so cool! I think it is important to learn about the creatures of the world so we can gain better respect for them; understand the ecosystems that surround us; allow us to protect them in the future. Gray whales were once hunted to near extinction. Luckily their numbers have been increasing to healthy population levels (but not other whales species), however, they will never be fully safe in the industrial world we have created. Over-fishing is occurring right now. Ecosystems the gray whale relies on for food is being disturbed. Plastic bags are being found in stranded whale stomachs. Noise is polluting the oceans. We have a lot to overcome in protecting whales and the oceans, but I do believe the first step is education and respect.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Goodbye to Ana and Devi

Ana and Devi did not really come into my life by choice.  I love rats.  But their lives are so short and the heart brake so huge.  I also could not give them as much time as I would like, since I have two cats to care for as well.  But then there was a situation I could not look away from.  I knew that if I did not take these rats, they would die.  They were just a month old.

Ana was named after Anatidae, the family order for ducks, which I love to observe in the wild. Ana was much more shy and would assume your finger was a food offering if you offered it through the cage walls.  She loved her back massages.  I could see the content in her facial expression.  She also loved to explore and took really good care of her sister.   

Devi was named in honor of Amrita Devi, a woman in 1730 who lead her village to their deaths by hugging trees to protect them.  Without the forest, they had no livelihood and in the end the forest was saved. Devi was social and loved people and often greeted them with kisses.  She loved playing hide-and-seek where she would hide behind something on the couch, run out, and then I would attack her with my hand.  Repeat.  Damn she was cute!

Their health problems stated with Devi having respiratory issues at just one year old.  We found the best vet with an expertise in rats.  A few months ago Devi’s respiratory issues got really bad and I had to take her back to the vet.  Ana and Devi traveled together, so when I got to the vet and found blood in the carrier, I discovered Ana had bumblefoot. The vet looked them both over and prescribed medications for them both. The meds helped Devi a lot, but Ana’s bumblefoot was improving but not resolved.  I had to take her back to the vet and then discovered she had mammary tumors as well (almost always benign). If it had just been one, we could have done surgery, but there was a lot of them, so we decided to focus on slowly the tumors’ growth.   Last week, I went to check on the rats in the morning and found Ana dead.  It happened fast and unexpectedly.  I was confused and really sad.

Devi was devastated.  I held her as much as possible.  She would sit in her cage starring off and didn't really nest anymore.  She was obviously depressed.  Almost instantly her respiratory problem got worse again.  I started her on antibiotics, the same ones that helped her before.  They did not help.  She was hardly eating; only a bite of her favorite banana or avocado.  I gave her treats of tofutti and almond ice cream, which she enjoyed.

One night I spent a long time holding her and she didn’t move much and sometimes would move in a way that made me feel she was uncomfortable.  She was grinding her teeth more, a sign of possible discomfort.  Her breathing was really labored.  The next day I made a vet appointment after anguishing over all the possibilities for her comfort. I knew that euthanasia was a real possibility, but also wanted to see if there was any other option.  The vet agreed that she seemed in pain and that she was not going to get better since the antibiotics were not helping.  Most likely her lungs were too damaged since she had the respiratory illness so long and there was a real threat of her going into respiratory distress, a very torturous way to die.  We decided upon humane euthanasia.  I knew it was the right decision. She went peacefully and in my arms knowing how much she was loved.  Hopefully she is now with her sister.  They passed away a week from each other just shy of two years old.

Most people would not understand the loss of a pet rat.  They do not realize what amazing characters these little creatures have and the love and understanding that can pass between a rat and a human.  Rats are so positive, yet impressive fighters.  Study after study has demonstrated their ability to care for others and their remarkable intelligence. They have such individual personalities and an amazing way to win you over with their charm.  I miss Ana and Devi with all my heart.  Deciding to adopt them was such a great decision. Even though I hurt so much right now and miss their little faces, I am so happy to have had them in my life.  The heart break is worth it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Brownie Cups and a Wedding!

Last week my younger sister, Laura, got married! It was very unconventional and perfect. There was no planned location until the day before. I got ordained online about a month prior, but prepared nothing to say. I just knew I had to make sure they both said their "I do's". It was very small and located essentially between a hotel and walmart. But you would never know that since we were along a walkway next to a river. There was a western grebe in the distance along with lots of cormorants and other birds. I had my eye out for a vagrant ribbon seal who was spotted in the area a week prior, but no luck.

The groom prepared a funny thing for me to say at the beginning, then they whispered vows to each other (which was my favorite part and so cute!) and then on the fly I made up "do you take..." stuff and declared them married. Laura was radiant and beautiful and she is about 6 months pregnant. Right before the wedding I got to feel the baby kick, which was so exciting! After nuptials, everyone went out to dinner, which I think was a first for my dad in almost 20 years.

After dinner, I shared these brownie cups with everyone. Laura hates cake, but loves brownies. And since we didn't have plates or a knife, I knew cupcake version of brownies would be perfect! Here is what I did.

Brownie Cups

1/2 cup Soy Margarine, melted
1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1/2 cup Silken Tofu, blended
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Unbleached White Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place baking cups into 12 muffin cups; set aside. Combine the melted margarine and cocoa. Add the sugar, silken tofu and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Add chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Drop by the rounded tablespoon into the baking cups until dough is evenly distributed. Bakes for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

News and Opinions- a long overdue update

I just realized it is now March and this is my first blog post of the year. What?! To be honest, I haven't been creatively cooking as much and when I do, I forget to write anything down. My life has been filled with school, applying for graduate school and doing an amazing internship with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for the northern Oregon coast.

I've also had sad news to deal with. My cat Roy was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. I thought he wasn't going to be around much longer, but luckily the steroids he was prescribed are working miracles with him and he is doing great! So, we focus on that. Yesterday I found him on the neighbor's roof, and today we were playing chase with crumpled up paper I threw outside to distract him from attacking my other cat, Loki. I should probably go outside and pick that paper up soon. He hasn't learned fetch yet.

Anyway, I have been busy. I've been contemplating switching my blogging over to my AnimalKind blog and just write about whatever, and include recipes when I have time, post my favorite nature photos that I took, talk about animal rights, share my path to becoming a marine biologist and other wildlife adventures. What do people think?

In other news, this summer I was honored by being asked to write a guest blog post for "Stop Chasing Skinny". The response was very supportive. Today I was alerted to an obnoxious comment posted by someone who obviously just wanted to feel powerful, or whatever they get from it. So I wanted to share the link so people have a chance to read my story, and respond to the negative comment if they would like to. It is titled, "Fat Acceptance Saved My Life".