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Winston and I on this first day and his last day
Winston and I on his first day in our family and on his last day.

We Say Goodbye to a Good Kitty 😿

In 2009, my boyfriend-at-the-time Jason decided we needed a cat now. Both of us are cat people. He'd be without a cat since moving to Washington State for graduate school, leaving behind his cat Cassidy with his parents, and I'd been without one since I'd graduated college and didn't have $200 to pay a pet deposit and had to find a new home for Ethan.

Specifically, this bug hit on a Saturday at a stoplight on N 85th St in Greenwood. Jason asked me where the nearest shelter was, and I told Jason we'd have to ask our landlady. He didn't think we needed to. However, we were socially friendly with her, and she was already our friend on Facebook, so unless Jason was never going to post a photo of this cat…

I texted our landlady, and we quickly worked out a small pet deposit and got her okay. We drove directly to a no-kill pet shelter.

Growing up on a ranch, I'd had lots of cats, but this was the first time I'd ever picked out a cat. Ethan had been an orphan kitten, discovered by some neighbors, and given to me to bottle feed and rehabilitate. Other cats were strays, who took shelter in our tree during a storm, or kittens someone stuck in a box on the side of a country road on a 105℉ day, and the kittens from moms we didn't get fixed soon enough.

Jason and I knew we wanted to get an adult cat. One of those cats less likely to be adopted. We also knew this cat would be indoors-only, and it had to be okay with being home alone while we worked.

We browsed the cats at the shelter. I was most concerned about which cat liked us the best, and I considered every cat. Unbeknownst to me, Jason had a more specific want: a gray cat with some white that looked identical to Cassidy.

In a small cage in the back — the surly old cats — was Winston. That wasn't his name then. It was something awful like Mittens. He was exactly what Jason wanted: gray with white. Winston had been horribly declawed on all four paws, and Jason and I agreed that our second-story apartment would be safe for him. He also had heavily-matted fur.

We took him to a "get to know you" room. There Winston explored the place and wasn't shy about adventure. This additionally won over Jason. I kept asking, "Do you think he likes me?" This little cutie was getting a new home.

Before we took Winston home, we had the shelter volunteer cut out and brush those mats. Jason didn't want him to hate us. And we were sure Winston's mats were the reason he hadn't been adopted out yet. There was little to no information about his past beyond the markers on his body.

After stopping at a pet store, we headed home, and I may have been too excited. Winston was exploring, but nervous, and Jason and I spent a lot of time trying to get Winston to pose for a photo with me. For all his life, Winston tilted his head down instead of up for photos, determined to never get internet famous.

We went back and forth on a name, liking a "W" sound, and we settled on Winston Zeddemore Sellers McGillivray, namesake the best Ghostbuster. When Winston went Facebook official, our landlady texted me, "Did you get a cat and then ask me for permission?" I told her the chain of events, but I don't think she ever believed me.

This little cutie became the center of our lives. I fed Winston every morning before I put my shoes on to leave for work, and on more than one occasion, he tricked us into double meals acting like he hadn't gotten dinner yet when Jason and my schedules didn't overlap. Winston always ran to the door when he heard Jason or me coming down the apartment building hallway, but never strangers.

Winston kept being curious. One time he darted out the door and down the hallway — a hallway that had parts open to the outside, blocked enough to stop humans, but large enough for cats. I stuck my head out the door, using my mom voice, "Winston, get back here," and he turned right around.

Winston's favorite place was your lap if you didn't move. Don't shuffle forward to get your water, or he was gone with a dirty look and upset noise. Winston most loved it when Jason didn't move, playing video games for hours, especially during a depression where Winston was his constant companion. Bonus points if you'd covered yourself with his favorite purple blanket.

I accidentally brought home fleas from office dogs twice, and poor Winston got them. He welted up at every bite and started obsessively pulling out all his tummy hair. The first time, we discovered them at night and decided to bathe him just to kill some of the fleas. Our bathtub had a glass door, and Jason was supposed to hold him as I washed. But Winston screamed, Jason let go, and I got bit. Winston hated water, so much so, we gave him "kitty soup" — meaning we put extra water on top of his nightly wet food — because we never once saw him drink water from his bowl.

He may not have had claws, but he'd bite your arm enough he might as well have. Winston would also do the same if you got near his tail with a snarling hiss. The vet refused to check his temperature on routine checkups. Yes, his chart said: "bad cat." And if you picked him up and held him near your face, Winston would straight up smack you with a strong, but clawless, paw.

Winston's favorite toys were crinkle balls, crinkle paper, and the laser. He loved my grandma's holiday trees, where he could bat the ornaments and then dive into crumpled wrapping paper. Jason made Winston forts in our living room out of brown kraft packing paper. Clawless he was, Winston still stretched his paws in the handles of comic book boxes, and he rubbed the suede off the finished edges of my couch.

Winston's second favorite place was the second story balcony, which was maybe two by three feet, but it was his kingdom. Open that door, and he was out there. We accidentally locked him out there one Emerald City Comic Con, thinking someone else got him inside.

Another time, Jason shouted, "Oh my god, Winston has a bird!" The little monster had pounced on a starling that landed on the balcony, and he broke its neck. He brought the dead bird inside proudly to show off his kill. Jason asked me if we should let him eat it, shouldn't we let him eat his kill? No, I told him. Then I made Jason get a plastic bag, so I could take the bird out of Winston's mouth and throw it away. Winston got extra treats.

Birds weren't his only victims. Winston would hop up on the kitchen counter or get on the coffee table to snatch people food. He tried tofu and broccoli, and he ripped a few cheese and meat sticks directly from Jason's hand. We went through two glass butter dishes. Winston loved butter. When I posted the broken glass mess on social media, my boss-at-the-time realized it wasn't his wife's toast buttering that made weird marks in the butter, but his cat also loved butter. Jason and I searched high and low for a metal butter dish that wasn't see-through.

Winston was mostly a single cat. He obsessively followed around the dogs I babysat (who didn't care about him) and my mom's white German Shepard, who was many times larger than him and would've had him for lunch. Winston didn't know what to make of rabbits, and Jason tried to convince me Winston had made friends with a stray cat, who lived on the other side of a window.

He did live for a bit with my cat Zeta. They'd fight. Then be okay, and then Winston would push Zeta onto her back and "hump her missionary style," as Jason says. Both the cats were fixed, so your guess is as good as mine.

Speaking of humping, it wasn't just Zeta. Winston also humped my cow stuffie — which was put out of reach — and people's feet under the bed covers. My foot was too often his victim. One Christmas trip, my sleeping grandpa's feet were assaulted by Winston, and the entire family, except grandpa, got a good laugh the next morning.

In early 2012, Jason and I broke up and moved a mile apart from each other. We decided to time-share Winston every two weeks, and it worked well for my traveling work-life and Jason's finishing grad school. We also still shared a car.

Winston loved traveling in cars. Sometimes, he got motion sick, but would always stare out the window. Even long-distance — Winston came to every family gathering within driving distance — his favorite place was still Jason's lap, and those two had many solo father-son road trips. Winston never impeded Jason's driving.

2014 saw Winston's life change again. Jason moved halfway across the state for a new job. There was no way we could split him anymore. So I said goodbye to Winston, Jason, and the car (Bucky). That's when Winston got his first sister Zeta, because, as my partner Jacob claims, I cannot function without a cat.

Of course, then Zeta and Winston spent over two months together when Jason's new job required training the Bay Area. Winston and Zeta's greatest caper was breaking into my compost bucket and pulling out chicken breast to fight over under my bed.

Jason frequently updated me on Winston's well-being. He was always an excellent excuse to make sure Jason was still alive in rural Washington State. I got pictures and often took care of Winston when Jason flew to visit his family, go on a work trip, and went on vacation. When I got Hermione, Winston's second sister, in summer 2016, Winston started spending time at our friend Lewis' instead as too many asshole cats.

I got an emergency call one night. Winston had swallowed a human pain pill and started vomiting everywhere. Jason rushed him to the vet, got his stomach pumped, and with some rest and fluids, he survived to snarl at another vet tech.

Because Jason observed Winston so carefully, he noticed when Winston started acting odd, and with another vet trip, Winston was diagnosed with mild kidney disease. The vet said she'd never seen it caught this early in a cat. Our kitty soup routine had saved him from permanent kidney damage, and he went on a special wet food, kitty soup-style diet.

On this diet, Winston lost his roundness and became a sleek elderly kitty. He even stopped pulling all the hair from his belly. Jason and Winston then moved to Portland, and when Jason spent a couple months in Japan last summer, a friend stayed at Jason's place to watch him. Jason's biggest worry wasn't the language, culture, or getting along with his Japanese coworkers but leaving his elderly cat.

In late October, Jason bought a house. Finally, Winston had a giant place to roam, a window across from a park to patrol the neighborhood dogs, and a fenced backyard for him to explore under Jason's supervision. Jacob and I helped out with the move, and Winston kept us up all night, playing, meowing for food, and humping my foot. During the move, I mostly hung with Winston and made sure he was safe. We were back there in early November for Jason's housewarming party (which included visits from both his grandmothers), and then Winston came to Thanksgiving at my house — what would be his last road trip.

Before Thanksgiving, Winston started having issues eating. The vet said he had an ulcer on his tongue. After Thanksgiving, it got worse. It wasn't an ulcer. It was cancer and rapidly covered half his tongue. Poor baby stunned the vet with how fast it grew and how big it was. Cats' tongues are so small that cutting it out was a no-go, and it likely had spread to his lymph nodes. Winston could barely eat anything but turkey cold cuts, hand-fed to him by Jason, and he was on constant pain meds. The meds made him thirsty enough that we finally saw him drink from a water bowl.

On December 3rd, Winston spent his last day, lounging in front of the fire with Jason, Jacob, and I at his beck-and-call. He went outside for one final patrol around sunset.

Winston was a good cat. He stole my food, humped my foot, and smacked me. Winston also cuddled with me, came running when I was crying, and was ready for adventure. I love and miss his cute face. And I know Jason misses him very much.

Winston painting as a regal kitten
Fitting, Jason's brother commissioned this pet portrait of Winston for Christmas.

Bookworm corner 📚

I finished my reading challenge. I read 122 books, after pledging 100, and read about the same amount of pages as the previous year. I have not put my best of books list together, but in my writing, you'll find my best and worst comic books, and best of the decade comic books.

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1) by Seanan McGuire 3/5 stars
Fun and silly, a supernatural romp through the rooftops of New York City as McGuire's heroine approaches her life, not as a monster hunter, but a monster zoologist. Only sometimes a hunter.

Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers by Leslie F. Halleck 5/5 stars
If you are doing any kind of grow lights — whether houseplants or veggies — Halleck's book is a must-read. She walks through the science and some math, explains different types of light rating, different light configurations, and then goes over specific plants. I found the text pretty accessible to all knowledge levels.

Inked by Karen Chance, Eileen Wilks, Marjorie M. Liu, and Yasmine Galenorn 2/5 stars
A supernatural anthology of novellas set in the various worlds created by each author, and it was a mixed bag. I mostly read it for Liu's Iron Hunt world novella, which was pretty good, but not her best.

Ironheart, Vol. 1: Those With Courage by Eve L. Ewing, Kevin Libranda, Luciano Vecchio, and G Geoffo 4/5 stars
Marvel finally hired a black woman to write a black woman character. Riri is Ironheart, like Iron Man, but not a playboy and younger. This is a cute introduction to her.

Jim Henson's Labyrinth Artist Tribute by Sierra Hahn (Editor) 4/5 stars
This book feels light and missing points of view; for example, there were no explicit queer perspectives. But has some beautiful tribute art.

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry 4/5 stars
Harris-Perry looks at how stereotypes and media portrayals of black women affect the lives, health, and inner worlds of real black American women. Powerful for empathy and understanding.

The Spider (Elemental Assassin #10) by Jennifer Estep 3/5 stars
This story is a flashback to the first time Gin falls in love — and the first time she majorly messes up an assassination — but it was way too easy to find the red flags as it was told from current Gin's point-of-view.

Strangers In Paradise XXV Vol. 1: The Chase by Terry Moore 3/5 stars
A nostalgic read because I loved the original SIP and have read all Moore's other books (which take place in the same world), this was only okay. Volume 2 still sits in my to-read pile.

The Wild Storm: Michael Cray Vol. 2 by Bryan Hill and N. Steven Harris 2/5 stars
This wasn't as great at the first volume and rather unsatisfying as Cray goes after the evil versions of John Constantine and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman).

Things I wrote recently

On Patron:

Reviews on my comics blog:

Green thumb update

My houseplant collection has swelled to over 150 plants. I know. You don't have to say anything. This is in part because Jacob started collecting plants as well, but this plant daddy takes care of all of them. (Okay, he has a couple he's babying, and officially in charge of those.)

We had a terrible no good attack of thrips. We're still battling a minor breakout on a couple plants. My oxalis triangularis flowered, and the thrips loved it. Jacob ordered 3,000 lacewing eggs, but sadly, the post office killed the first batch — shipped in 1,000 spaced over weeks — but the second batch worked. The third is coming this week. Please send as promised and knock on my door, post office!

In the next coming weeks, I'm going to be planning my garden so I can get it started earlier than last year. This year, I need to plant a bunch of tomatoes as I'm almost out of canned ones.

We're also planning to redo the yard, including removing the six trees on my postage stamp yard. (Whoever made that decision should stop making landscaping decisions forever.) No more cherry blossoms, but also no more allergies and trees that have something that prevents them from actually fruiting. The major issue is the trees started massively shading my garden, and 2019 gardening was a struggle. I know I'll cry when they're removed.

I found my tulip bulbs! Is it too late to plant them?

My sansevieria broke
Left: My sansevieria leaf snapped when no longer supported by the wall.
Right: I cut up the leaf to make new sansevieria plants! Totipotency rules.

Other things

[GENDER] The Decade of Enduring Male Fragility by Jennifer Wright — Oof, I felt this one.

[CULTURE] “OK boomer” isn’t just about the past. It’s about our apocalyptic future. by Aja Romano — If you've been curious about this phrase, this is a good primer on the depth of meaning.

[CLIMATE] Climate change is about how we treat each other by Eric Holthaus — Everything ties back to how we think about each other and sharing this planet and its resources.

[CLIMATE] Stop Mocking Vegans by Farhad Manjoo — As a vegetarian, your meat jokes are old. I've eaten the cows, sheep, and chickens I've raised. Checkmate.

[MENTAL HEALTH] I Used Social Media to Make Everyone Think I Was Doing Okay and It Nearly Killed Me by Shannon Marie Donnelly — TW: talk of suicide, my friend Shannon's personal struggle with how her social media looked and how she felt on the inside.

[LINGUISTICS] The Surprising Origins of the Phrase 'You Guys' by Allan Metcalf — As someone who hates this phrased when used a gender neutral group address, this was fascinating. "In the fires they burned effigies of the Pope, Guy Fawkes and other archenemies of the moment. They referred to the effigies of Fawkes as 'guys.' And then some people began to use 'guys' to refer to actual people: men of the lowest and most depraved kind. This was early in the 18th century, more than 200 years ago."

[STAR TREK] Deep Space Nine Is TV’s Most Revolutionary Depiction of Black Fatherhood by Angelica Jade Bastién — You know I love Star Trek, but I also deeply love Captain Benjamin Sisko. The best part of What We Left Behind, the DS9 documentary, was Cirroc Lofton talking about his relationship with Avery Brooks.

[TV] 20 Years Later, and the Women of Angel Still Deserve More by Lindsay King-Miller — I love the show Angel, but I'm still bitter about how the women were treated. (And how Gunn was treated, but race and Whedon shows is a whole entire book literally.)

[BAKING] I made Baby Yoda cookies!

Baby Yoda cookies

Have a wonderful start to your 2020!


Erica McGillivray

Copyright © 2020 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

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