Surprise 50th birthday party for Sharon’s sister Michelle. Canapés were planned. Canapés were delivered. Photos taken in a hurry during service so not exactly great quality but hopefully you get the idea.
Smoked salmon mousse on sweet potato crackers with fish roe.
Mini lobster rolls on mini croissants
Shrimp cocktails. Cocktail sauce mixed with mango chutney is the bomb.
Mini caprese skewers. Basil and red tomatoes were from the garden.
Mini ‘gyros’ meatballs on tzatziki with pita crisps.
Mini nachos with pulled chicken, corn relish, cheese, red and green salsa and sour cream.
Phyllo cups with brie and homemade raspberry habanero pepper jelly. Habaneros also from the garden.
Bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers. Jalapenos were from the garden too.
More of the smoked salmon mousse, this time on cucumber slices with chives.
Rosemary focaccia. So much olive oil… Rosemary from the garden too. We need a bigger garden.
Here’s the layout being attacked by the guests. There’s one snack in the bottom left that I don’t have a closeup of. They’re crispy wonton cups with a sausage, cheese and pepper filling.
We bought a duplex. The front unit was pretty nice. The back was not. We decided to live in the nice side for a couple months to get a head start on fixing up the other. Then we could move in and rent out the back to help afford it. This is how it’s going so far. We took possession at the end of August 2014 and I took the most recent photos mid December.
This is the first thing you saw when you came in. Off behind the wall is a living/dining room area. The kitchen was small and awkward and really didn’t fit in with the overall space so we decided to move it to the other side of the house.
And what it looks like after the cabinets are out. My friend Tom had a use for the cabinets so he came by to help remove them and take them away. After that, I managed to convince a bunch of other friends that demolishing houses was fun so they all came over and helped us rip the place up.
Before we go into the messy details, I think I’ll jump to the end. I know there are several schools of thought on this but I think most people like to see the results early so here’s the same view afterwards.
The entry railing is still temporary (see the 2×4?) but it’s basically complete at this point.
Looking back at entry way, before and after.
Here are a couple views of the living and dining room area. The kitchen is behind that section of wall with the hallway.
And here are a few views after as well as some kitchen detail shots.
So how did this go from the before to the after? A lot of work. Much of the main floor needed to be re-wired and a lot of plumbing had to move. Taking out the wall and all the flooring was only the start.
Kitchen was being rewired to it’s just easier to take off the walls.
I didn’t pay for a lot of labor but putting up drywall on the ceiling seemed like a good choice for subcontracting. Here are a couple progress shots.
While this is going on, I’m figuring out the wiring. A lot of re-wiring is detective work. To come up with this map I was disconnecting and shorting out wires and then using a continuity tester to see which was which.
And making a lot of trips into the attic. Late August, early September is about a zillion degrees up there so painters suit with nothing underneath is about the best you can do.
Just pretend it’s snow. Really hot, itchy snow that gets in every orifice and is hard to wash off. I spent a LOT of time up there. I had to install 12 pot lights, 3 regular lights, 2 in-ceiling speakers and fish about a dozen wires to wall switches and plugs.
After all that, the wiring is finally done and ready to be inspected.
Perhaps you’re wondering what Sharon was doing. Well, a LOT of painting for one thing. 26 gallons at final count. She also did a lot of work on the flooring, cleaning and was in charge of all planning, scheduling, shopping, and generally keeping our lives from completely falling apart while we spend an extra 40-50 hours per week working. We’ve discovered that her in management and me in labor works very well for both of our sanities.
The next few shots show the place after the drywall has gone up. They also show the scope of clutter we had to deal with whenever we did a big shopping run. We discovered that Home Depot would occasionally do an interest free deferment on a purchase if you hit a certain amount so we would take the massive shopping list and buy 3 or 4 thousand dollars worth of material in one shot.
Spare room ready for flooring but blocked by temporary tile storage.
Putting down cement backer-board.
1/4″ plywood underlayment.
Starting to tile the kitchen.
There are some pretty clever products out there for spacing and leveling tiles. Works really well especially when you’re using larger tiles.
Kitchen tiles finished.
We chose a nice grey laminate for the bedrooms. As with anything, floor prep is key. 1/4″ plywood and cork underlay and this stuff went in great. Looks fantastic and feels solid as a rock.
Used a really nice engineered bamboo for the main area. It’s durable, beautiful and environmentally friendly.
At this point we took a breather and went to Barbados, a vacation we had planned before purchasing the house. It wasn’t an ideal time but it was a nice break. While we were doing this:
The kitchen people came and installed the cabinets. It was then that I realized that I had put the row of recessed lighting too close to the cabinets on one wall so I had to move them. Pain in the ass. I didn’t want to make a huge mess on already finished surfaces so I made a tent with drop sheets so that I could drywall to my hearts content.
Bica doing what she does best.
Got them all moved and now the first views start to come in.
Countertop and sink installed, time to plumb it up.
Purty backsplash. My friend Cedric came and helped out with this bit.
Working on the under cabinet lights. I wanted the wires hidden so I had to fish them through behind the cabinets and trim. I fished strings through and made loops that I could use to pull wires along. You pull along one string to get it out the hole, then tie the end to the next string to pull it to the next hole while keeping the connector sticking out the first one. Lather rinse repeat.
Here’s the stove backsplash going up and the range hood being installed.
Here’s a nice view of the entry way tiles. Cedric helped with those too. He’s a good worker. I should hire him for beer again some time. 😀
A lot of other things happened although not quite so dramatic as the main area. Sharon did a minor makeover of this bathroom with paint, curtains, new medicine cabinet, etc.
Sorry about the distortion. Tried panorama mode to get a wider shot.
I replaced all the doors on the main floor and the two main floor bedrooms got new floors, paint, baseboards, lighting, switches, cover plates and closet doors.
Thanks for looking. We’ve still got a few things to do on the main floor but it’s pretty much done. Stay tuned for the next phase which takes place in the basement. Since this is a bungalow, we have about the same square footage to work with directly below this.
It only took about a month. They had just returned from a vacation in France and had visited us in Ottawa the month before. Dad was slowing down a bit, a result of a long onset of Parkinson’s, but they were enjoying their retirement, traveling all over, visiting friends, seeing new places. They were at Joel and Vicky’s place on the weekend, playing with the grandchildren when Doctor Joel noticed Dad’s eyes were a bit yellow. He insisted they not wait until Monday and went to the hospital to get checked out right away. A poke, a prod, a scan or two. That’s all it took to hand down a death sentence. Cancer. Not one of the “nice” ones where you cut it out or zap it or get chemo and maybe live another 5 years or even go into remission. Nope. Stage 4 pancreatic with spots on the liver showing that it was already running rampant inside him, destroying his organs, killing him quietly as a thief in the night. No symptoms until it’s too late.
Cancer kills, it’s true, but so do heart attacks, car accidents and bears. It isn’t so much the dying as the reducing. It reduces us and shrinks us and turns us into something we wouldn’t recognize, robbing us of our dignity, taking away from us everything that made us who we were, long before it finishes the job and puts us out of our misery. My father was a strong, proud man. Generous to a fault and as kind as anyone you could ever meet and he didn’t deserve to go the way he did. Almost all of us know of someone who went like this so there’s no need for details but I can tell you my fiery burning hatred of cancer knows no bounds. I’m so grateful for the medical technology and hospital staff who were at least able to make his passing somewhat more comfortable.
That was about a month ago. Incredibly fast by most standards but it still seemed like an awfully long time. I don’t really want to think about it too much and would rather remember who he was before that rotten day. I can’t imagine how he must have felt, getting a diagnosis like that. It just reinforces my dream of making to my 70s or 80s before dying in a tragic nude hang-gliding accident. That’s a much better story don’t you think?
My dad was a pretty neat guy. I think you grow up thinking your family is normal or average and it takes years and a lot of reflection before you start to notice the strange and unique things about your upbringing. It’s not always easy to sum someone up in one word but if I had to, I might describe my dad as ‘busy’. He was always doing something. He was a maker, a builder, a fixer, a tinkerer, a designer, a hacker, or any other number of things that describe someone who likes to do things with his hands. He built a boat. Most people never build anything and he didn’t just build a wee row boat. No, he built a 34 foot ferro-cement sailboat, a “floating red sidewalk” as the joke went, big enough to sail the whole family around the Great Lakes every summer and even down to the Bahamas and back one year. No half measures. Go big or go home. All around the house you see evidence of his creativity. Home made furniture. “Buying furniture? Pfft…that’s a suckers game. I can build something way better.” And he could. Joel and I had the coolest beds growing up, designed and built by him with hidden storage, multiple levels, desks. His grandchildren still play with a home made toy garage that he built for me. I don’t even know for sure what all he built since we just took all this stuff for granted. The coffee tables that he used to build with a super clever padded foot rest are still to this day one of my favorite things. Everyone puts their feet up on the table, why not design the table around it? Genius!
As long as I can remember he was always doing something. Out in the garage fixing cars or welding parts for the boat. Down at the shipyard working on the boat. Cleaning the boat. Stocking the boat. Man, he loved that boat. He worked so hard on it, not just for himself but for us. I don’t know if I ever really thanked him as much as I should have for giving us that experience. I’ve been sailing since I was 5 years old and I owe it all to him. We had the best summer vacations, mostly sailing with the occasional road trip thrown in. It’s funny but I was often jealous of friends because they got to stay in town for the summer because their parents weren’t teachers who could travel that much. Stupid right? I had no idea how good I had it. I remember thinking a few years back that if I had ever had kids I would always feel bad that I couldn’t provide the same quality of childhood that my parents gave us.
He was a good guy. People liked him. I remember an ex girlfriend once describing him as having ‘smiling eyes’. He always seemed to make friends wherever he went. My mother and he seemed to be able to keep friends too, over long periods of time and long distances. Even 30 years later, they are still friends with people that we met, sometimes only briefly, during our cruise to the Bahamas. He wasn’t a push-over or a complete pussy-cat by any means though. He was stubborn and when he was in charge, there was no confusion about it. On the boat, he was the captain and everyone had best step to it when the captain started giving orders. Things needed to be ship-shape, stowed away, battened down and seaworthy. Even at home he liked things clean and orderly. Unfortunately, with children who are sometimes less than tidy and who had a threshold for dirt and disorder much higher than his, it sometimes drove him a little bit crazy. Joel and I used to joke about it being “Dad’s time of the month” when he would suddenly not be able to take it any more and finally snap. “Okay, Joel, you clean your room, this garbage needs to go out, Kris, your room is disgusting and the lawn needs mowing, Joy, this carpet is a mess and you’ve got books and papers all over the couch again…”, he would bark, running through the huge list in his head of all the messes his filthy offspring had produced. We would roll our eyes and mutter and complain but there was no arguing with him so we would get down to it and get the job done, calming him down until the next time our messiness would overwhelm him.
I have a million stories and no time to write them all but I can share a few that kind of illustrate his character. Like that time I smashed his car up. I was 17 and cut someone off and got the rear end of our super sexy 1975 Mercury Meteor all banged up. I’m kidding about the sexy part. It was an enormous green land boat that went through gas like an Irishman goes through Guinness but it got us around and I got plenty of play in the back seat so it was way better than walking. In any event, it wasn’t a write-off and it needed to be fixed but would my dad go to a body shop? Oh heck no. “You smashed it, you’re gonna help fix it.” The drivers side rear quarter panel was crunched up pretty good and we weren’t able to hammer it out so Dad, hacker that he was, got out the sheet metal, bondo and pop-rivet gun. We cut and banged and bent and riveted and sanded and spray painted the holy heck out of that car until we got it looking sort of like new. Well, not really. It was actually pretty ugly but that was okay because Dad didn’t care about that sort of thing NEARLY as much as a teenage boy did. I’m sure he got a great deal of pleasure knowing that my punishment was enhanced by the embarrassment of having to drive around in Frankencar. It was a teaching moment and a lesson I’ll never forget. Working beside my dad, learning that everything can be fixed and that doing things for yourself was its own reward.
Self sufficiency. It’s part of the Mennonite creed that he grew up with and a large part of what he passed down to me. When I’m doing renovations, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc., people sometimes ask me, “Where did you learn to do that?” The answer, to some extent, is always, “My dad.” Not to say that he taught me all these things directly or specifically, but he taught me the life philosophy of learning. Of figuring it out. Of trying something to see if it works. Of taking something apart and putting it back together. Of all the things I got from my dad, that has to stand out as the thing that has taken me furthest. Duct tape. WD-40. If it don’t work, use a bigger hammer. If it breaks it needed replacing anyway.
When I look through pictures of him, it always seems like he’s surrounded by family and friends. I think that was the most important thing in his life and I believe that much of his hard work was an expression of his love. I think some of us grow up thinking our fathers are tough taskmasters, long on discipline, short on praise and perhaps not appreciate the love behind that desire for their children to have strong values and discipline. When I was 18 he drove me to Waterloo to school. We stayed in the Heidelburg in a little Mennonite town just outside Waterloo. We sat in a little German pub and shared our first beer together and bonded, perhaps for the first time, as men. I’ll never forget the moment he dropped me off at my residence because that was the first time I ever remember seeing my father cry. I’m sitting here unable to find the words for what changed for me at that moment but somehow I knew that our relationship would never be the same and I knew how much he truly loved me. I hope that he knew how much I loved him. I hope he knew how much of him lives on in me. I hope he’s proud of me.
I lost my father-in-law Ron this weekend. He’d been fighting cancer for a year or so but when it finally decided to take him, it seemed to whisk him away as quickly as a gust of wind takes a leaf. I first met him early in my relationship with his daughter Sharon, and was immediately charmed by his warm Trini accent and generous nature. Ron was an exercise in contrasts. He had the appearance of a little old man, a look he seemed to have had, to some degree, his whole life. And yet physically, he had a quiet strength, endurance and stoicism that would shame many physically larger men, myself included. He loved people and loved his family more than anyone I know making it hard to find a photo of him by himself.
Always a good sport, he was even willing to risk life and limb tearing around with me on the back of my motorcycle.
One of my favorite memories of him is from some years ago when it was time for the fence at the house where Sharon and I lived to be replaced. It was spring and Ron and Olivia were up for one of their frequent visits so Ron was going to help me put in the new posts and build the fence. I rented a post hole digger thinking it wouldn’t be too bad of a job and off to work we went. Ron would have been in his mid to late 60s at the time and I assumed he would be simply providing a pair of extra hands when I needed them.
As anyone who does this type of work knows, these jobs often take a turn for the worse and become much more difficult than originally forecast. It had been a wet spring and the back yard was clay. We fought this beast of a two man post auger, wrestling it as it tried to spin us around in circles, caught in the sticky clay, catching rocks, mud piling up around us. The clay would stick to the soles of our boots, building up in layers until we were walking around like the Frankenstein monster on heavy 6 inch platforms, giving up on scraping them because they would simply build up again a few minutes later. We kept at it and finished the job many hours later before going into the house to get cleaned up. I was wiped out, popping some pills for my aching muscles when Sharon asked Ron if he wanted an Advil. “What for?”, he replied, seeming genuinely puzzled that there would be anything out of the ordinary that might need relief. To this day I’m still embarrassed that a little old guy like Ron worked me into the ground.
Ron always had a great sense of humor and loved to tell a good story. He had this whole dirty old man thing going on that I don’t think many of us could pull off without coming across as perverts. With Ron though, it was just a charming part of his personality. Whenever Olivia was around he was quick to cop a feel, never caring who saw, much to the embarrassment of his daughters when their high school friends were visiting. My inbox was always full of racy jokes and saucy pictures that he loved to forward to all his friends and I was always careful to look over my shoulder before opening an email from him at work. He had a little code word, “Summertime”, that he used to let me know that he had spotted a scantily clad young lady that he wanted to point out. He talked of ‘turtle skirts’ which, as he would laughingly explain, “are so short that if they bend over you’ll see their snapper”.
The ladies always loved him. He was a great dancer and any time there was a wedding or concert, he seemed to have no shortage of women waiting for him to sweep them around the floor. His niece Ashleigh‘s wedding was full of her tall, statuesque model friends and he had a blast dancing around with them, cheek to chest.
The best, however, was watching him and Olivia dance. They moved with the grace and style that only two people who have been dancing together their whole lives possess. Everyone would watch them when they were gliding around the floor and for all his joking, you knew he only ever had eyes for her. Even this year, when sickness had taken away so much of his strength, he still managed to take to the floor with Olivia at his niece Christina’s wedding.
There are so many things I admired about Ron. His dedication to his business, never letting a customer down even if it meant answering the phone and doing tech support when he was on holiday or golfing. His dogged determination to solve problems when he was working on a cash register. As a programmer myself, that kind of tenacity in fixing things is the main quality I strive for in my professional life and he was the type that never gave up no matter what. I hear that even when he was in the hospital, they wheeled him down to the lobby so that they could put a cash register on his lap for him to fix. That’s just the kind of guy he was, doing support for his clients, even when he was so sick himself.
I wish I had known him longer. Like everyone he met, I know that my life is better for having known him as long as I did. Wherever he is, I hope there’s dancing and golfing and sailing and liming and love. Requiescat in pace Ron.
Our en-suite was only a two piece with a toilet and sink so we decided to redo it and add a stand up shower. Don’t have a before picture but it really wasn’t much to look at. In this shot, I’ve taken the walls and subfloor off and redone the plumbing and electrical. We needed a new exhaust fan, plug and light fixtures and I added a pot light over the shower as well as an extra rough-in for a lighted mirror. The toilet flange needed to be shifted to make room for the shower and unfortunately was right beside a joist which was awkward but nothing a saw and some steel mending plates couldn’t solve.
I used PEX for the supply lines and after having used it, I’ll never use copper again. So easy to work with. The air vent in this picture will be shifted to the left so as not to be in traffic.
Flooring back in and drywall up. I made a custom nook for shampoo and stuff in the wall.
Drywall finished and painted. Shower membrane is on the wall and the floor tiles are in place. We went with 2 foot square tiles which leaves very few grout lines.
Starting to come together now. Cabinets, mirror and light fixtures up. Tiles and shower base installed.
Really close now. Grouting and caulking all done, toilet installed, countertop in place. Still need to install the sink and faucet as well as the shower hardware.
And voila. All done. Shower and sink hardware all in place. Towel rack and toilet paper holder installed. Not too shabby.
Late 2012 our main floor tenants gave notice so we decided to take the month of December to do a renovation. The place was pretty dated and definitely needed a facelift if we were going to try to charge more rent. We don’t have ‘before’ pics of all of it but hopefully you’ll get the idea.The kitchen had old cream cabinets and peel-and-stick tiles.The dining room and bedroom off the kitchen were tired with worn out floors, drywall damage and bad paint. There were noise issues with the shared wall in the dining room (you could hear the neighbors clearly). Plus the tenants cat had been pissing in the corner (see the removed drywall) which ruined the flooring and wall there. The single thermostat in the house was in the bedroom which caused problems because that room would tend to be warmer causing the rest of the house to be too cold.The bathroom was also quite tired. We had replaced the shower/tub earlier in the year but the rest of it needed updating too.The rest of the house needed paint and the basement needed new carpet. We don’t have before pictures but it was pretty gross. Washing the walls was disgusting and when we pulled up the old carpet, there was a massive quantity of dirt underneath it.
For the kitchen we tiled the floor and refaced the cabinets. By buying new doors and gluing veneer on the outside, we were able to make it look like new without actually replacing the cabinets. A new light fixture, new laminate counter tops, sink and faucet along with new stainless appliances and range hood completed the look.The dining room and bedroom got new floors, paint and trim. The thermostat was moved to the kitchen and the dining room wall was removed, more soundproofing insulation was added and heavier grade drywall put back up. The bedroom got a new light fixture to replace the old ceiling fan.The bathroom got a new vanity with a granite top, new lighting and ceiling fan, a new medicine cabinet, new toilet, towel bars and toilet paper holders as well as fresh paint.The basement got new carpet, light fixture and fresh paint throughout.And finally, the living room was also painted and given a new light fixture. It and the bathroom were the only floors in the house that were not refinished. Its hardwood had been refinished a few years back and was still good and the bathroom was tile which was also in good shape. It was a pretty tough month for us. We were both working full time and probably put another 40 hours a week during December working on the house. In the end we were able to increase the rent by 25% which means the renovation will pay for itself in 2-3 years. I expect that we’ve also increased the overall value of the house substantially as well.
So early this year we decided to redo our kitchen. The current kitchen was liveable but not really that great and we had wanted to fix it up for a while.
You can see that it’s pretty big but doesn’t have a big working area because of the eating area at the end by the fridge. We didn’t use it for eating and had put a few storage items there along with microwave, coffee maker, etc.
It seemed that the best plan would be to take out the wall to the dining room to make it more open and also to remove the partial walls/builtin pantry at the other entrance by the stove. So with that plan in mind, we started smashing up the place. We took down most of the cabinets and started smashing the drywall. The wall on the right between the kitchen and living room is both load bearing and mechanical (heating/plumbing/electrical) so we couldn’t take it out.
We left the stove and sink in place and kept the fridge hooked up as well. We had people coming to watch the Superbowl so we wanted at least some form of working area.
Most of the drywall is taken out. Electrical wires that were in the dividing wall are now hanging from the ceiling.
This is the kitchen we used to serve dinner and snacks to our friends on Superbowl Sunday. You can see the beginnings of Sharon’s makeshift kitchen in the dining room. We’re already starting to do a lot of crock pot cooking.
Superbowl over now so no more beating around the bush. The rest of the floor, walls and cabinets are gone although the stove is still usable. Most of the re-wiring is done at this point and so is the plumbing. I had to run a bigger 6 gauge cable for the new stove since it required 50 amp service and the old cable was only rated to 40. 6 gauge cable is seriously thick and stiff. Anyone who said you can’t push on a rope had never worked with this stuff before. I drilled holes through the basement joists and pushed it all the way through to the breaker box. In this picture at the top right you can also see our new ventilation duct. Our stove is huge and required 1200 CFM of ventilation so we had to put in 10″ ductwork. The old duct was just flexible tubing running out into the garage but there was no way to do that in our space so I ran it straight up into the attic through the bathroom closet. The added advantage is that the blower can go in the attic for decreased noise.
Here’s Sharon’s temporary kitchen. It’s a real credit to her organization and planning skills that we actually ate out less during the reno than we normally do. She would cook up a bunch of crock pot recipes on the weekend that we could eat all week and also plan simple meals that could be made on the barbecue. Dishes got washed in the laundry tub in the basement. Through out this renovation, we probably missed the dishwasher most of all.
Work progressed. Wiring and plumbing done so now I can close up the drywall and build a box for the range hood.
Then it’s time to get all the surfaces prepped. Might as well put up the new light fixture as well. We’re still using our old stove. It got moved around a lot but always kept finding its way back.
I don’t have any photos of the tiling going in but it was relatively straight forward. We used the Shluter-Ditra underlayment which seemed to work really well. At this point, things start to go really fast. The cabinet people installed the cabinets in 2 days and the stove and hood fan were delivered at the same time. In this picture we’ve started tiling the backsplash a bit and are still waiting on some cabinet doors. The countertop is in and my undercabinet lights are up. I put them on a motion sensor with a dimmer so when you walk into the kitchen, the lights come up and a few minutes after you leave the fade away. It’s great for midnight snacks.
Now we’re finally almost finished. We still haven’t grouted the tiles on the sink side of the kitchen and there are a couple pieces of floor trim that need to be done but we’ve been cooking and entertaining here for several months and still love it every day.
The sink is huge. You could practically wash a whole cow in it.
Now you see why we needed a ridiculous hood fan. To go with our ridiculous stove. The delivery guys couldn’t believe that they were taking a stove that size to a little townhouse. Ultimately we wanted two ovens though and there was no easy way to fit them into the space without taking up too much room. All things considered, it didn’t cost that much more than wall ovens and a gas range anyway.
Lots of big drawers for pots and pans.
Plenty of prep space on the counters.
The little handles beside the stove and sink are little pull-out vertical pantries. We use them for spices, oils, cleaning supplies, etc. Super practical.
Sharon and I would like to send some special thanks to Nathalie at MR Kitchens who helped us design the layout. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted but she was the one who knew all the details and products that could make the space fit together. She took really good care of us. The second person we’d like to acknowledge is Jeremy from Universal Appliances. He helped us pick out appliances out and got us the best deals. When things went horribly wrong with the first stove being dead on arrival, he took extra special care, dealt with GE and the repair people and generally made the whole experience as stress free as possible.
14 years ago Sharon picked up a tiny, scruffy little farm cat on the same day as she picked up the most scared, shy puppy in a litter of barn mutts. I imagine that when she named them Casey and Finnigan she was expecting something like Mr. Dressup even though it actually turned out more like the Odd Couple. I met Finny when he was already 9 years old so much of what I know of him is second hand but I’ll tell some of it anyway since it’s a bit the story of who he was.
Finny was a big cat. Usually twenty two pounds or so. Sharon didn’t really believe the vet when she was told that this tiny kitten in her hand would grow up to be so enormous but the vet was right. True, he was overweight but even if he hadn’t been, he would still have been a big cat: standing on his hind legs he could easily reach the door knob. He was probably taken from his mother too early because early on, he seemed to think Casey was his mother, nursing on her until her nipples were raw. They were friends then, chasing each other around the house. Casey, with her puppy teeth, accidentally caught Finnigan by the tail a couple times, resulting in trips to the vet for stitches and bandages but otherwise, they were happy together.
I don’t really know when it happened but at some point, Casey’s insecurity and jealousy made her so protective that she wouldn’t really allow him to be too affectionate without being chased away. Perhaps he would have been a different cat if it weren’t for Casey but we’ll never know. When I met him, he was a friendly, good natured fellow who liked to be around people but was content to just sit nearby. I always tried to get him to sit on my lap and cuddle like other cats do but he really just didn’t like that very much.
For a big, strong, fully clawed animal, Finny was probably the most gentle cat I’ve ever known. He didn’t like being picked up very much but other than squirming a bit, he never scratched or bit or got angry. He would lie down for long tummy rubs and even though he didn’t care for being brushed very much, would tolerate it with nothing more than a bit of whining. Even at the vet, he never put up any fight no matter what needed to be done to him. When our young Labrador Retriever Bica joined us after Casey left, he not only tolerated her but even loved her, often holding her head and licking her as if to say, “You’re so dirty, I don’t even know where to start cleaning you.” He had a remarkable tolerance for and even grew to like Gus, Bica’s big goofy Lab friend from down the street, who loves cats and would often lick him from head to toe until he was soaked with dog slobber. Bica and Finnigan were so cute together but they always were aware of the paparazzi so whenever the camera came out, they seemed to know to stop all the embarrassing cuddling. Here’s one of the few images I was stealthy enough to capture.
Finnigan loved food, as you can see by his impressive girth, often begging for treats and sitting by the cookie jar like a dog, looking for a handout. During the last month, however, he didn’t seem to be eating quite so much. “Probably just his teeth bothering him,” we thought since he had broken one of his fangs a while back. We gave him a bit of wet food to entice him and after a bit, his appetite seemed to come back. But still, he wasn’t really begging for food much anymore and it didn’t seem like I needed to fill his dish quite as often.
About a week ago, he pretty much stopped eating. Every morning and evening, I’d check his bowl and it would still be full. Starting to worry we’d give him wet food which he seemed to like but would only eat a little bit before stopping. Starting to worry, I weighed him and found that he was ‘only’ 18 pounds. Hard to tell with a big fluffy cat but you could feel his bones under his fur and to put it in perspective, it would be like me suddenly losing 30-40 pounds off of my 210 pound frame. We took him to the vet to see if there was anything wrong with him and after a full battery of tests, we found…nothing. Our cat is dying but there’s nothing wrong with him that shows up in blood or urine tests. His heart and lungs sounded fine and other than a tiny bit of fever that was gone the next day, he seemed as healthy as can be. Perhaps it was cancer, perhaps his heart was failing, without running xrays and ultrasounds and scans, there was no way to tell. At 14 years of age with a failing body, the vet warned us that just trying to sedate him to do the tests would likely kill him since his breathing was already becoming so labored. We bought him every kind of treat and luxury cat food we could find and put them out like a buffet for him but he wouldn’t even sniff them. Other than urinating once, he hadn’t gone to the bathroom in over a week.
Thursday and Friday we got him some hydration injections from the vet and we had him on antibiotics just in case but by Saturday night we knew. He had been hiding under the bed in the spare room all evening, something he never did, and when I went to check on him, he wasn’t moving. Thinking, “oh no, the poor little guy is dead,” I reached under to pull him out and heard him make a little squeak. As I pulled him out, he struggled and cried a bit and when I put him on the bed, he just lay there and panted. Up until then, he had still looked normal but now, his eyes were sunken and dull. He was suffering and we knew we could either let him slowly die overnight by himself or take him to the vet and make sure he didn’t have to starve or suffocate or die of thirst or whatever it was that nature had in store for him.
Thank heaven for the 24 hour Ottawa Animal Hospital. They let us do the right thing by him and were so kind when we carried him in, giving us a private room to be with him while we waited for a vet. I set him down on the floor and he tried to explore a bit but he couldn’t even walk properly anymore so we just put him on the couch and petted and talked to him while he purred away. Still purring, even though he was so sick. They gave us a blanket and we held him on our laps, the only time in his life he ever sat on our laps without struggling to get away, and we talked to him and stroked him while the vet gave him a sedative to make him sleep. He slept almost instantly and when the vet gave him the second injection to stop his heart, he was gone in just a few seconds. When the vet took him away, wrapped in his blanket, he didn’t even look dead and I thought for a second, “wait….why are we letting them take Finny away?” We stumbled out of the vet, eyes blinded with tears and made our way back home, wishing we could have done more, more tests, more treatments, save him somehow. It was just selfishness though. We knew he would have hated being poked and prodded and living his last days in a cage at the vet.
I cried last night and I’m crying now but this morning when I woke up I knew we did the right thing. He got to go to sleep peacefully with his family rather than slowly dying in pain and hunger. After so many times being woken up at six in the morning because he wanted to be fed, I know that this cat who loved to eat wouldn’t want to live in a world without food.
I’m going to try this gallery thing again. This time I actually annotated the pictures so hopefully it’s somewhat better. I swear WordPress has the worst UI ever. It’s just painful to add a bunch of pictures. The gallery UI isn’t much better. Once you start you can click on the lower pictures to go to the next ones but I couldn’t get it to show bigger pics so you have to click to zoom in. Also, the title of the picture sort of gets blended in at the top so it’s not really obvious. Bleah.
On Friday we went to our friends who just got a puppy who has the same father as Bica. Sadie’s mother was a yellow and her father was a chocolate. The strange genetic experiment that is the Labrador Retriever causes this combination to result in a litter of yellow, chocolate and black labs believe it or not so neither of Sadie’s parents shared her color. I wonder if that results in some interesting conversations in the dog world? “I saw you behind the shed with that black lab from across the street you slut!”
Saturday morning was swimming time and I think the pictures speak for themselves.