Sanctuary 2.0: Zorro the Wonder Cat

On June 2, 2016, I went to a local animal shelter and brought home what was supposed to be a barn cat. I lived in a house that was built into the side of a mountain where mice and other small critters were common invaders, so I thought it would be good to have an outdoor cat to help keep them under control.


Within three hours, the cat ran away and I was crushed. It was out there in unfamiliar territory populated by bobcats and foxes and other potential cat-eaters. There was little to no water anywhere. I was sure I had sentenced it to death. But still hopeful, I sent an email to the neighborhood asking people to keep an eye out. About a week later, one neighbor reported having seen the cat beneath his porch, but he was unable to catch it. A week after that, another neighbor reported having seen the cat at the bottom of the mountain where my dirt road met up with the main canyon road, and where there was a stream with fresh water. Both neighbors who lived at that intersection began to see the cat repeatedly, so I got a humane animal trap and filled it first with Fancy Feast and later with some really stinky canned mackerel. I checked that cage twice a day on the way to and from work. Sometimes the food would be gone but the trap still untriggered, as if something larger, like the mountain lion also living in that area, had stuck its paw in and swiped it. Continue reading →

Two Days Shy of 13 Weeks In the Mountains: The Dead Season

Skeletons and carcasses surround us. No, not the spandex, rubber, and cake makeup kinds. Real ones. The dead season is here and while as a city-dweller I was largely insulated from it, I can’t help but pay attention out here.

The flies staked out the entryways the last few weeks, desperate to get into the warmth. They drove my partner crazy and even though I told him they would be gone very soon, he bought some flypaper anyways. He never had the chance to hang it. They are all dead now.
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The two aspens that preside over our front steps have been stripped bare. The glory of autumn is very short and limited in the mountains. Our canyon displays a range of golds, but none of the crimson and brick and auburn and merlot of an autumn in the Adirondacks or the Catskills. And now, even the mustard and the saffron and the dandelion are gone. Continue reading →

Week Three in the Mountains: Things That Go Grrr in the Night…and in the Daytime

So in my last installment of life at the Sanctuary, I wrote about how wonderful it is to no longer have to worry about noises from neighbors bothering me or my terrible singing bothering them. All the noise pollution of city life is a thing of the past. But that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of noises up here. Plenty of scary, misleading buzzes, grunts, rumbles, and knocks. Insects, gusts of wind, and birds masquerading as wild beasts beating and clawing at the door. And the coffee maker. You’d be surprised at how easily, with the right acoustics, coffee brewing in the same coffee maker you’ve had for years can be mistaken for the grumblings of a ravenous, evil, monster in the woods.

The gastro-intestinal workings of my animals are the worst offenders. Allie Brosh’s dogs best exemplify what happens to my dog each time we move, which is unfortunate for him because we’ve moved six times since I adopted him. You would think by now he would have figured out it’s all going to be OK, but I guess dogs aren’t known for their reasoning skills. Well, there he was one night shortly after we moved in, suffering the ill effects of his anxiety while I sat above on the back deck. Dusk had fallen and while Trotsky was still visible, the depths of the woods behind him were not.  And suddenly, there it was. A low grumbling. Not even a few days in and a bear was about to come roaring out of the woods to devour my dog, diarrhea and all. I yelled for Trotsky to run toward me but the only response I got was the half-embarrassed, half-annoyed look that all dogs give you when they are hunched up, paws together, butt out, taking care of business and they see that you are watching them. And that’s when I realized that the terrible bear growl was just Trotsky’s drawn-out fart. Continue reading →

Week One in the Mountains: Fearsome Creatures


Yes, my mailbox is really in this shed a mile and a half from the house.


Close up of the warning sign. I don’t check the mail after dark.

Despite the warnings at my mailbox about being in bear country, the most fearsome creatures I’ve had to deal with so far are an army of ants and Hector Cat. Hector Cat has been channeling the skills he acquired during his time as an alley cat on the mean streets of Cambridge, Mass. He has always loved being outdoors and hasn’t been very happy living the last 13 months in a place with no outdoor space. Now he is determined to become lord and master of his 35 acres.

Have you seen this video of the cat and the mountain lion? This took place very close to where I live now. Am I afraid? Absolutely not. Not with Hector Cat on guard. Continue reading →