As much as we loved him, we could not let Kaboodle freeload off us. So we set him to work, splitting wood with his sharp claws. He did a good job.
To any newcomers, or any old-timers who need a review, I suggest that before you read this, you click either on the label, "Kaboodle," or "How the Kracker Cats Came to be."
I must wrap the Kaboodle intro section up, so that I can introduce the remainder of the original Kracker Cats. I have to leave to catch a plane to Fairbanks in less than an hour, so I will keep this very short.
In short, despite the great ignorance that I had in me toward cats, we made it through the winter, with all of us very much in love, even if there was a certain amount of strive and contention in our lives - because Kaboodle was that kind of cat - sweet, yet combative and contentious.
And, as I said, he played rough. So it happened that when spring finally came, I was out on the Iditarod Trail, following a specific musher with my airplane, the Running Dog, as he ran his dogs from Anchorage to Nome.
In the village of Kaltag, where the trail turns off the Yukon River and makes its way through a low range of mountains toward Unalakleet, at the edge of Norton Sound, I chatted with a vet as he gave the dog team I was following an exam.
I asked him about cats, and if they ever scratched him when he examined them.
One day, I stepped into the living room and found him like this. He had worked so hard to split that wood, I figured he deserved to chill out and relax.
"Oh, yes!" he said. "Frequently. Getting scratched by cats is part of being a vet."
So I took off my various coats and jackets, rolled up my woolen sleeves, and showed him the scars and scabs Kaboodle had left on my arm - not in meanness but in play.
His eyes went wide. "Wow!" he said. "You have an extraordinary cat!"
As the race moved toward the finish line, I grew every more sluggish and lethargic; my body and limbs seemed to be stiffen. Ordinary movement became more difficult. I chalked it up it to the physical demands placed upon even a photographer who follows this grueling race, even in a little airplane.
But when I got home and tried to catch up on my rest, it did no good.
The sluggishness grew worse, and I stiffened more. Pain set into my legs and joints and then grew to become unbearable. By late April, I could hardly walk, it hurt so bad. But the ice on the lake that I had parked the Running Dog was about to rot and melt, so I made a heroic effort. In great pain, I taxied the plane off the lake onto the shore, removed the skis and put my wheels back on.
This left me in such pain that Sunflower rushed me to Anchorage. The doctor looked me over, speculated that I had sarcoidosis - a disease that can kill and recently did kill the actor, Bernie Mac. The doctor subscribed Prednizone.
I got well again.
Later, I was reading something, somewhere, and I saw the words, "catscratch disease." I read the article. The symptoms were identical to what I had suffered, what the doctor diagnosed as sarcoidosis.