Thursday, May 29, 2008

Three Cats Met Along the Way: Salt Lake City

Quiggy in the window.

Quiggy is a window cat. She can spend hours sitting in the window, contemplating the world beyond the reach of an indoor cat, which is what she is. "She really likes looking out the window, any window," Thos explains. "She is definitely interested in what is going on out there. She has made it out a couple of times, but only a few steps before I caught her and brought her back in.

"When I come home from work, I can see her, in the window, looking out at me. It feels good. When I open the door, she comes running to greet me. At first, she was the only one who did that. Now all three do."

When Thos first saw Quiggy in a cage at the Human Society shelter, he did not intend to adopt her. He did intend to adopt her cagemate, plus another cat, a Russian Blue, but his mom came to the shelter with him and when she picked up the Russian Blue, it attacked her face.

Quiggy's cage mate, the one Thos intended to adopt, was a very gentle calico. Thos feared the Russian Blue would treat her unkindly. Plus, he saw that the two cage mates were good friends. So that is how he came to adopt Quiggy.

Thos admires Annabelle, the third of the three cats who have come to him since Melee.

Melee was the first cat to take possession of Thos once he was grown and on his own and he loved her greatly - especially her tail. She was an orange cat with hair of modest length, but her tail was covered with fur that was thick and pouffy. Thos loved that tail, and he was amused by her love of water.

When he put water in her dish, she would follow him around so that she would be ready to start drinking the moment he sat the dish down. Even after her thirst was slated, she would continue to adore her water. Thos was touched when she laid her head down beside her dish and there fell asleep.

Melee was about five months old when Thos got her. He wanted to do the responsible thing and so, when she reached nine months, he took her to the vet to get spayed. The month was May, the year, 2003. After he dropped her off, he left and went to work.

A few hours later, Thos got a call from the vet's office. They had put her under and all had seemed well, but then she had suffered cardiac arrest. She was still alive. Thos rushed to the vet and found her unconscious, hooked to a machine. The vet told him that she would probably not recover and that if she did, she would be brain-damaged.

He sat there with her from some time, then called his mother - my sister. He was presented with a piece of paper and asked to sign it, to give the vet permission to euthanize her. He signed it. "It was probably the hardest thing that I had ever done," Thos remembers.

For a period of time, it was hard to think about getting another cat - none could ever replace Melee - but three more cats have since come to Thos, including Quiggy, seen above.

Sava - ready to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. (click on pictures to see larger versions).

This is Sava, the calico Thos first found in the cage with Quiggy. He was drawn to her immediately, because he had always loved Calicos and the way they looked. Plus, she was a bit of an older cat who had wound up at the Human Society at an early age. After she gave birth to a litter of her own and raised all of her kittens, the society lent her out three times to be a foster mom to orphaned litters, and then they spayed her.

After what he had suffered with Melee, Thos preferred to get a cat that had already been spayed, rather than run the risk of falling in love and losing another cat in the same manner. When he saw Sava, he put his hand to her cage and she rubbed it. Soon, she was in his arms. She latched herself to his shoulder and would not let go. There were other calicos at the shelter, but it was obvious - this was the one who would go home with Thos.

Yet, when he got her home, she was frightened. She dashed here, and dashed there, trying to hide. She looked spooked.

When he is alone with them, Thos most often speaks to his cats in French. "Ca va," he kept saying, in soothing tones. Ca va - "it's okay." Slowly, she calmed down - but only for Thos. When visitors came, she became frightened and often hid. Thos has now had her for about three years. Only recently has Sava accepted strangers, but now she has and she can be very loving toward them.

"She is a really sweet, gentle, loving, cat," Thos says. "But she is definitely the dominant cat of the house."

Annabelle, the Make-Out Cat.

Originally, Annabelle lived with Thos's stepsister, but just before the step-sister gave birth to her first baby, Annabelle was transferred to the care of Thos's mom, my little sister. In the simplest terms, Annabelle and Thos's stepdad never hit it off, and so she was temporarily transferred to Thos's care. Thos quickly became attached to her and so, before anyone could come and claim her, he adopted her as his own and she adopted him as her own.

Annabelle is exceptionally outgoing and friendly - towards anyone. "My family calls her the make-out cat," Thos relates. "Because whenever anyone comes over and sits on the couch, she is all over them. She wants to get in their face, and put her nose all over their face - her nose is always wet."

Thos often finds her sprawled out in weird and twisted positions. Lately, when a visitor comes and sits at the table, Annabelle has taken to climbing onto a shoulder, where she falls asleep. She stays there, sleeping, until finally she wakes up to find her guest walking about the house. Then Annabelle jumps down.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Two cats met along the way, sort of - Salt Lake City

I don't know why it would flee - not from me! It led me to this position in front of the next door neighbor house.

"A calico cat!" I shouted at my nephew-in-law, Steve Cook, as he drove down a street in Salt Lake City. "On a porch! Stop!"
He applied the brakes and I jumped out and as I did, I spotted a second cat, black and white, in the front yard of the same house, giving company to a girl in her early teens. Through her wide glasses, she looked at me quizzically, slightly worried, as I approached.

"Is it all right if I photograph your kitties?" I asked.

Her eyes brightened and her face lit up. "Sure!" she said.

Before I could bring my camera to my eye, the black and white dashed off. I raised my camera and shot. I was disgusted with myself. I had a wide-angle lens on the camera and I needed a telephoto, but I had left all my other lenses in my sister's house.

So I followed the fleeing cat and shot a couple of frames with the wide angle. The scaredy-cat led me to a position in front of the next door neighbor's house, then disappeared, so I turned back, in the hope that I might get a better photo of the calico cat on the porch. She had now been joined by two women, who must have emerged from the house as I pursued the black and white cat.

"Who's that?" the older of the two women asked.

"I must photograph kitties wherever I go," I answered. "Is the calico shy, too?"

"No," she said. I saw the calico studying me with a friendly look in her eye. I could see she was thinking of coming over to meet me.

"Kitty," the woman said, "go in the house!"

I couldn't believe it! Here was this beautiful calico cat right in front of me, friendly, wanting to come and meet me, eager to pose, and the woman had ordered it into the house! Worse yet, it obeyed; it trotted toward the open door.

I shot one frame and then it pranced to the door, stepped inside and disappeared within. I hoped that I might convince the lady to bring it back out so that I could have a real photo session with it.

"Really," I told her. "I'm a photographer from Alaska and I travel a lot and wherever I go, I try to photograph a cat!"

"Well, you've got one," she said, in a cold, unfriendly, intimidating tone.

I was about to try to explain to her that this one frame did not really count, that it would not be that great, that, to photograph the calico properly, to do justice to her beauty, I needed to spend a bit of time with the cat. I wanted to tell her about Tryskuit and Nabysko and how, when they had been small girls, they had given their wandering daddy this assignment: to photograph cats wherever I go, to find out the stories of those cats and then to bring the photos and the stories back to them.

I took this assignment from my daughters seriously and even though they are now grown, I still do.

I wanted to tell her these things, but there was something about her posture, her demeanor, that told me that she was done with me, that she did not want to hear, that she had no curiosity or desire to learn why a scruffy, upper middle-aged man with a beard and a camera would want to photograph her cats. She viewed gentle me as a threat and just wanted me to go away, right now.

I could see that the situation was hopeless. I thanked her for her help, returned to the car and then Steve drove us away.

The altogether too obedient Calico cat heads toward the open door to enter the house.

The following images were shot May 23:

Fritz: Demonspawn

When my nephew, Thos, was a Mormon missionary in France, his forlorn, lonely, companions would frequently pull out their wallets and show pictures of the girlfriends they had left behind to anyone sympathetic enough to listen. Thos would pull out his wallet, but instead of a girl friend, he would show a picture of his sister's cat, "Demon Spawn" Fritz. Thos would boast about how Fritz would attack and shred the hands, arms, and, if they wore no shoes, feet of anyone foolish enough to draw too near. 

Even so, Thos's sister, Khena, loved Fritz and kept him safe and secure. In a few years, he settled down and became as gentle as a pussycat... sort of... he still has his moments. He recently attacked Khena's new husband, Vivek. When Vivek's parents came from India to visit, Fritz attacked his Mom, who makes the best coffee in the world (which, I should add, just in case his bishop reads this, Thos, being one of the few among us who has remained within the fold, would never drink).  

Last night, we all had dinner at the Red Iquana. Khena pulled out her phone and boasted about Fritz.

Griffin: Gentle As A Summer's Mist

My niece, Amber, then pulled out her phone to show us all pictures of Griffen. Griffin is so sweet and gentle, she would never hurt anyone, not even a mouse. Unless she were hungry, of course. Well, she might just bat it around for fun. Cats do this, you know.

No need for pictures in a wallet

Khena shows her sister, Shaela, the jpeg of Fritz.  Shaela is also my niece.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Remember Martigne? The calico who four days ago chased the laser mouse about the empty room in the Anchorage apartment about to be vacated by her people, Toast Ed and Prickly Pear Blossom Kracker?

Immediately after she moved into our house, I took her into the bedroom that she now shares with her people and opened the door to her travel kennel. She stepped cautiously out, then dashed beneath the bed. There she has since stayed, although Blossom does report that when it is just the three of them, sleeping, she has come out, a time or two.

Tonight, she got out, came to the bedroom door, peeked out and saw Jim. The two studied each other, hissed a bit - but not badly. Then she went back in and Jim dashed out here to his office. I suspect that when I get back from Wainwright, she will have advanced into the house.

In the evening, little Wry Kracker joined Jim Slim Many Toes and I in my office, where many fish hang out.

Following four days of furious blogging, I must now take a break. It is nearing midnight and in just a few hours, at 4:00 AM, I must drive to Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage to catch the 6:00 AM flight to Barrow. From there, I will catch a 12:30 Frontier Flying Service flight to the village of Wainwright, where I will attend the funeral of a true, wonderful, gentleman, one of the finest men that I have ever known.

He was short and slight of build, but you could drop him into any group of men anywhere, and he would inevitably be the toughest, smartest, most observant, keen-eyed member of the group. Yet there was no arrogance in him. I never saw a macho display come from him. I never saw him seek to intimidate nor to belittle. He was IƱupiat Eskimo, a whaling captain, and every spring it was a given that a bowhead whale would come to his village through him and his crew, Iceberg 14.

He took me into his crew and his home and with his late wife and wonderful children, treated me like family. And that is how I will feel when I step into the Alak High School gym - the only room in the village large enough to even have a hope of holding all those who come to pay their respects - that I have come to attend the burial of special family member.

Ben Ahmaogak. How I love you! I hate to see you go.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wry in the midst of cats

I really do not like the structure of this Google blog. This is a photographically oriented blog and I would like to separate the words from each day with photographs inbetween. But this does not allow me to do that. So, all the photos get pushed to the bottom, where none can be seen without scrolling down below however many days worth of blog text one has entered. There must be a solution. I will look for it another day, but not tonight. Tonight I am too tired. Tonight, I met the big deadline that I had referred to, with seven minutes to spare. Now I am exhausted, even as I was before I began. Too exhausted to seek out the solution. So any reader will have to go down south to find today's photo entry.

(5/27) As you can see, I did solve the problem described above, and the solution was quite simple. I still don't care for this blog structure, however. It is not going to work for the real blog, come fall. Even so, as time allows, I will still learn more about working with blogspot, and see what I can do.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Okay, I am too exhausted, too lazy, to write anything today. So I will just drop in a few of the day's cat pictures. You will see that one of the Kracker cats is very big. He doesn't look like a cat. He looks like a dog. He looks like a St. Bernard. Maybe he is a St. Bernard. I am too tired to tell the difference:

In the morning, I find baby Wry Kracker lying beside his uncle, Rye Kracker, as Jim Slim Many Toes pads by.

Chicago, the calico, (yes, she was named for the Cubs) and Royce.

This is Pistol - my little Pistol-Yero!

Jim wonders how it is that Muzzy looks so much like a dog. Pistol says, "to hell with it all." Pistol is like that. He swears a lot.

My true buddy - Jim Slim Many Toes.

Jim is a housecat, but he likes to go outside, so sometimes I chaperone him. He does not want back in. He is taunting the cats who are still inside.

Our beloved Pistol-Yero!

Toast Ed has treasured this stick since he was a toddler. Muzzy, the biggest Kracker Cat ever, takes it away from him.

Muzzy runs with the stick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Well, hell.

This is not the real blog...

...the real blog will follow, hopefully next fall.

There was a time, not quite two decades ago, when I, Grahamn Kracker, a photographer and writer who roams the far north, still believed myself to be a true despiser of cats.

Now, I cherish cats. If I am home, hardly a day passes without one of the cats who lives here wandering in front of my camera lens. Over the years, I have written many stories about the cats who live here - humorous stories, annoying stories and sometimes, tragic, heartbreaking stories. When they were small, I made up bedtime stories about cats for my two daughters, Tyskuit and Nabysko.

When I travel, I photograph all cats who I am fortunate enough to meet and I learn what I can of their stories. I have photographed and written about cats from all regions of Alaska - from the Aleutian Islands to the Arctic Coast, from up and down the Yukon River, the Kuskokwim, from within the Brooks Mountain Range and the rainforests of Southeast.

In addition, I have documented cats in 24 other states, the District of Columbia, various Canadian provinces, England, Russia and India.

So, when I make this blog for real, I will share these photos and stories with all those fortunate or unfortunate enough to stumble upon my blog. I would like to start this blog - right now! - but I have taken on a big project that will keep me ruthlessly busy until fall, so I do not have time.

Still, I feel a need to make the idea of such a blog real, so what you see here is just the idea. The real blog will follow, come fall, either here or in another location. And it will be a blog the likes of which no one has ever seen before.

In the meantime, as time and cats allow, I will post a few current pictures now and then, plus a relevant word or two.