ACHILLES
11 March 1985 - 9 Sept. 2001
[Achilles]
Achilles
Brother to Zorro. He was born in my bedroom. Although a tuxedo cat like Zorro, Achilles had a "smoke" coat, so even his black hairs had white roots. This gave him a permanently unkempt look. You could think of him as the disreputable brother who stays out drinking all night and comes home with his tuxedo hopelessly askew and wrinkled. In the one photo, he exchanges secrets with a Balinese flying cat. In the other, he's flattening out my unfortunate spider-plants.

After Zorro died, Achilles finally reigned as the alpha male. He was a little on the irrascible side, but very affectionate. He loved being right in my face when he wasn't in my lap. He was the first to greet me when I came in the door, demanding his breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. He was getting hard of hearing and occasionally seemed somewhat confused. This may account for his disappearance. I let him outside in the early hours of a sunny afternoon (he loved basking in the heat) and a couple of hours later, I grew worried about his absence. My lifemate and I searched and searched for him, to no avail.

I miss him every day, deeply and profoundly. I would give anything to know what actually happened to him. He was 17 1/2 years old when I lost him, and it was still too soon.
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HUBBLE
(approx. 1986-87 to 13 March 2000)
Hubble doing bobcat imitation
Hubble was a loveably cantankerous old cat. I adopted him when his family reluctantly had to give him up. He was full of personality, and gave new meaning to the word "stubborn". He was single-minded to the extreme. But he was very affectionate, a giver of head-butts. He had beautiful blue eyes and a bobbed tail. I suspect he had a lot of Turkish Angora in him, as they have blue eyes and sometimes have bobbed tails. He had never been an outside cat before, so getting the chance to explore my yard was a real treat for him. I think having access to the outside world for the last few years of his life was his greatest joy.

He had some health problems, but what finally got him was progressive kidney failure. He was put to sleep 13 March 2000 and buried alongside Zorro and Tigerlily.
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SASSY
(born: approx. 1992)
lost: 29 June 2001
Sassy in grass
A tabby-tortie mix who lived up to her name. She had been my vet's "house" cat, but she was giving them fits with her behavior. She was tearing open bags of food and climbing the cages to steal food from the cats at the clinic. And besides, poor girl, she was the cat they would grab whenever they needed to demonstrate to someone how to give a pill to a cat! She must have had a thousand pills put down her throat.

I think she was simply bored. Sassy had a tremendous amount of energy and needed a way to expend it. She was very happy with a bigger playground and other cats to play with. She would spend the morning and early afternoon romping outside, and had a particular oak tree where she camped out. It will always be "Sassy's tree".

When the weather was bad, she'd rocket around the tops of the bookshelves and other shelving in my office, making silly noises. She had a funny habit of turning her head around almost upside down to look at things.

One morning she went outside with the rest of the cats, for the several daylight hours in which I allow the Horde outside. But when early afternoon rolled around and I called all the cats inside, she didn't show up. She never strayed very far, so it worried me deeply that she would just disappear. In my isolated, rural setting that usually means a predator got lucky.

I deeply miss the Sassosaurus.

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TIGERLILY
(circa 1984 - Feb. 2000) Tigerlily
I only had Tigerlily about 3 years, but she hooked her claws deep into my heart. She would sit and stare at me with her enormous green eyes and it felt as though she was drinking my soul.

She was a feisty old girl, a calico Dominatrix. Her companion, Owl, outweighed her by 10 lbs., but she had him thoroughly under her control. When I brought Tigerlily and Owl into the Moggy Horde, the other cats quickly learned that the best way to deal with Ms. Lily was to stay out of reach of her short temper and quick, sharp claws. She would reach out and whap me if she was displeased, or would reach out and hook me with a claw when she wanted attention.

She survived breast cancer only to succumb at the end to lymphoma. Though she was down to skin and bones, she was full of spirit to the end. I miss her very much.

Her previous human slave was the late novelist, Jo Clayton. Jo named her Tigerlily because she had the same colors as the flower of that name.
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ZORRO
11 March 85 - 3 Feb. 99
Zorro
Zorro
Zorro
He was born in my bedroom. His mother, Bast, was a stray we'd taken in shortly before moving to Wrightwood in the San Gabriel mountains. She was some sort of black Siamese, but with a smoky coat -- black hair with white roots. Bast was a very smart cat with definite ideas about things. We moved in the middle of winter, in the cold and snow, and that's just when Bast decided to go into heat.

She rarely purred, but early on the morning of March 11th, she woke me in bed with her face right in mine, purring up a storm. After a few groggy seconds, I realized what it meant. I'd already prepared a birthing box for her -- a large cardboard box with an opening cut in one side, towels inside. I followed Bast as she ran downstairs and told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted the box upstairs and in the bedroom. I carried it up and sat outside the opening while she curled up inside.

After a while, when nothing happened, I decided to venture downstairs to make some toast. Bast followed me down and scolded me until I returned to my post guarding the box. And I remained there the rest of the morning as she gave birth to three black and white tuxedo boy-kittens and one calico girl-kitten. Two of the boys had Bast's smoky coat and irregular tuxedo markings.

But Zorro was the perfect, quintessential tuxedo with a pure black and white coat. He was always elegant, always dressed for dinner, his manners impeccable. If he begged, he did it with patient reserve. Sometimes he would sit at one of the unused chairs of the dinner table, a guest waiting to be served. But he would never demand or be rude.

He was named Zorro because at the time, Peter (my late husband) and I were working for family that owned the rights to the character of Zorro. They'd hired us to create a newspaper adventure comic strip of Zorro. We had spent a lot of time researching old California for this project, so the literary Zorro was very big in our lives. Our Zorro lived up to the name with style.

When they were younger, Zorro and Achilles fought for dominance. After one encounter, Zorro returned with a puncture wound through the top of his right eyelid and into the eye, possibly from the tip of a Joshua Tree spine. It was a terrible mess. Amazingly, the eye healed with no trouble, but Zorro was never able to fully open that eyelid again. It left him with a permanent droopy lid that created a rakish "wink" that added to Zorro's debonair appearance. It was a delightful counterpoint to his otherwise earnest, somber face.

From early on, Zorro was the Lord of the Manor, the undisputed alpha male of the ever-changing Moggy Horde. He never had to do much to hold his position. He would occasionally deliver a whap or two, but he mostly used the power of the Evil Eye. More times than I can count, I watched him come up to a cat, simply stand or sit there and give The Eye. Just a stare, nothing more, but that was all it took. The other cat would move away as though jolted. This power never left him. Right up to the very end, I watched Tribble and other cats lower their heads in submission, waiting for Zorro to grace them with a lick and let them go with his lordly permission.

When we lived in Wrightwood, I saw Zorro do the Dance of Death with a rattlesnake -- circling the coiled snake, darting in and out in a heart-stopping performance. We shot the snake, but I'm sure Zorro could have taken him. He was an excellent hunter. Once he brought home a jackrabbit as large as himself. When Peter would go out on the deck with the rifle to shoot jays off the fruit trees, Zorro would instantly be right at his feet, primed and ready, knowing what the rifle meant. At the sound of the shot, Zorro would race down to the orchard and fetch the downed bird.

He was the most dog-like cat I've ever had. He always answered to his name. He'd go on walks for miles with us, trotting at our heels. He was calm, good-natured, friendly, wonderful with people. He liked everyone and everyone loved him.

He had a charmed life, until the end. Several years back, it looked as though he had developed intestinal cancer. He had gotten thinner and thinner and the vet felt lumps in his abdomen. She did surgery and found that something had punctured his stomach valve. He was slowly starving to death because he couldn't get food down. She repaired it and he recovered beautifully.

Later, he developed diabetes. It was mild, responded well to a single shot of insulin once a day, and again he made a superb recover. But finally I noticed he was again not doing well, and something in his throat was bothering him. This turned out to be the huge tumor on his larynx, discovered too late. A specialist in Sacramento tried to operate, but found it was too far advanced and nothing could be done.

He was given 2-4 weeks and did pretty well, considering. He was still able to eat, though he was terribly underweight. In the end, I called for the vet because the tumor was affecting his breathing, and was frequently causing him to have a gagging reaction. He'd put his paws up to his mouth, trying to get out the foreign object. His quality of life was declining. He was still, as always, a happy, affectionate cat, but I wanted him to go before the discomfort turning to suffering.

On his final day, I stayed home to be with him. He had chicken from my lunch and a taste of gopher (courtesy of Sly, who caught it). He walked in the sunshine and smelled the wind, then napped at my side. The vet was kind enough to come all the way to my house, with her assistant. She had made the first exam and diagnosis, and had referred me to the specialist. She had become very fond of Zorro. Randy, my lifemate, came home from work early so he could be with me. I held Zorro in my lap as they gave the shots and he slipped away peacefully. I cried. The vet cried. Randy cried.

My eldest, my firstborn, my unique and wonderful Zorro is buried near a cherry tree, within sight of my bedroom window. I will miss him terribly.
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