Archive for October, 2004

Thoughts about an old friend…

I took CHARLIE to the Vet clinic for a booster shot and general follow up checkup Friday. Doctor King gave his shoulder a thorough examination, and she gave me the go-ahead to give CHARLIE free run of the house. Her only stipulation was that he be kept from jumping on (and off…) of elevated surfaces such as the kitchen table and counters that might re-injure his shoulder. So it’s been so funny to hear CHARLIE running “Boogity boogity boogity” throughout the house– and to hear him stealthily exploring every corner he can get into, sniffing and snuffing around everything as he expands his knowledge of the confines of his new home.

It’s a sheer joy for me to have CHARLIE around. He’s such a sweet little guy– and so much fun. He’s full of that kitten energy that has him in perpetual motion when he’s awake– and he’s absolutely adorable when he finally burns through that energy and crashes for a long nap. He can really fall asleep in some hilarious positions. Having him here has sort of jump-started my memories of CHARLIE’S predecessor BUTCH, though. But– not thoughts about her last year or so when she was so sick, old and in constant pain from her arthritis. No, I’ve been remembering things about her from when she first came to live with me. Things from those early days after she walked into my house one fine afternoon and said to me with her eyes “I’m going to be living my retirement years here with you, just so you know….!”

BUTCH immediately started sleeping on my bed. She took to the upstairs area of my house from the start. It was her favorite area, and the place she spent most of her time. I bought her one of those cat beds to sleep in, but she wanted to sleep in the bed with me, and who was I to argue…? She quickly developed a funny bed-time ritual that happened every night without fail. I would start each night before falling asleep with some reading– maybe a comic book, maybe a novel. But I really didn’t get all that much reading done, because after only a few minutes of laying in the bed, I could feel BUTCH walking up my leg on her way to my chest. She would force her head under whatever I happened to be looking at, and nudge it aside and settle in right in front of my face– staring right into my eyes with her big, soulful peepers. This made me more than a little nervous when she first did it, because I didn’t know her personality fully, and I was afraid she was setting me up for a good slashing with her claws or something. But she would just lay there and look into my eyes. I could stare back at her for as long as I liked– she never averted her gaze. I think she was bonding with me in her own way. She was perhaps letting me know that we were stuck with each other. Whatever her reasons for doing this, I soon got over my nervousness and started to look forward to it, actually. It was very sweet. And she would lay there like this until I started moving to turn off the light to go to sleep. Then she would pad past my head, over my shoulder and onto the pillows I lay my head on. She would curl up around my head and bump hers into mine– purring like crazy the whole time– over and over until I stopped chuckling about what she was doing (it seemed so odd, but so very funny) and fell asleep. I never did feel her getting off the pillow. Her purring always put me to sleep so deeply I never noticed.

Eventually, BUTCH added beard grooming to this ritual. I wore a short cropped beard for years, and after a nice long period of gazing into each others eyes, she would scoot her way forward and begin to lick my chin whiskers. She was almost obsessive about his once she started. It would go on for so long, that her sandpaper-like tongue would begin to hurt my chin….! I think she would happily have licked until my chin was bald if I had let her. But once it began to hurt, I would gently move her away from my face, and she’d settle back onto my chest until I was ready to go to sleep. This was our ritual for a long time– until her arthritis got to the point that it was too painful for her to lay on my chest anymore. I missed our little “sessions” from the moment they ended.

I still miss them.


CATWOMAN and CHARLIE the Cat….boy…..

It’s been a week since my last post– and I’m sorry for that. Between spending time with young CHARLIE (who’s settled in nicely, but needs lots of attention) and working on the next issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, it’s been almost impossible to find time to do any extra sketching.

So for this post, I’m just going to offer another of the sketches I did at the BALTIMORE COMICON last month– I recently stumbled on this on the web. I hope the person I did it for doesn’t mind me sharing it here with you. It’s a sketch in ink and grey marker of CATWOMAN.

And– as I promised a while back, I’m putting up some pictures I took of CHARLIE recently. He’s not all that cooperative a photo subject, I have to say. I took probably a dozen or more shots, and these were the only ones that were decent enough to share. He’s stubborn about not looking into the camera. At all other times, he’s constantly staring at me– whether it’s to stalk me and jump at my face, or just laying there and looking at me like I’m some kind of creature he’s never seen before. I thought that the common wisdom was that cats didn’t usually look you in the eyes because they view that as a sign of aggression. With CHARLIE, it’s like he’s got to be looking at my eyes, and have me looking into his at all times when we’re together. Even when he’s playing with one of the tons of toys I’ve gotten him, the whole time he’s doing his level best to shred them, he’s looking at me….! Kind of odd.

Unless, of course, I’m trying to take his picture.

OK– that’s it for now. Gotta get back to the FOUR.


The Blue Snake Express

When we lived in Germany, my brother and I had some big, stuffed animals that we liked to play with all the time. Our parents indulged us in just about every and any toy we ever wanted. We had SO MANY toys that now, if in mint condition, would bring a small King’s ransom on eBay. Alas, we weren’t very careful with them (as most kids are not) and we put them through lots of abuse.

One of the stuffed toys we had that got probably more abuse than any other toy we had combined was a huge (at least to we small kids) blue stuffed snake. One of my brother’s favorite games was to sit at the end with the head– to help keep him stable while sitting on the snake– and have me grab the other end and whisk him up and down the hallways in our apartment. The apartment had hardwood floors in every room (which was absolutely great for kids wanting to play with toys that rolled and needed to be set up like little plastic army men) except for the kitchen (of course)– and this made for the perfect conditions to blast down the hallway and into various bedrooms at top speed. We would careen into rooms, taking crazy U-Turns and head back out and down the hallway into the living room… only to turn zag back around and do it all over again. Sometimes Matt would fall off as we took one of those ultra-sharp turns, but that was just part of the fun. He’d play up the “crash” angle and go rolling into whatever was handy to make it look more “dangerous”. It was tons of fun.

Unfortunately, Matt wasn’t big enough or strong enough to reciprocate. Every time I would sit on the snake, he’d pull and pull with all his might, but even on the well waxed hardwood floors, he couldn’t budge me without me using my hands to push us along. And that just wasn’t the same.

Somehow, that Big Blue Stuffed Snake never came apart in all that. He must have enjoyed it as well.

I’ve got CHARLIE home with me now. He’s a spunky little fella, as I knew he would be. Unfortunately, I have to keep him confined to an empty bedroom for the next five weeks to give his broken shoulder time to completely heal. He keeps bolting out of the room each time I open the door. It’s going to be difficult and heart breaking to do this to him– but it’s for the best. I let him wander around at times as long as I’m watching him and supervising his movements so he doesn’t jump up and down on anything which would aggravate his injury. I’ll post some pictures soon.


Charlie’s Story


I have to apologize for not posting very much lately. I’ve been so overwhelmed by my deadlines that it’s been impossible to fit in any extras into my schedule. But this is something I wanted to tell anyone who cares….

I got a call late last week from a friend named Gelenora. She is a part time vet-tech who used to take care of my late lamented cat Butch when I would go on trips out of town. She is skilled in giving shots to animals, so she could easily give Butch the insulin injections she needed for her diabetes– as well as feed her and take care of any other needs. Glenora’s a wonderful person with one of the kindest hearts and love for animals I’ve ever met. She was calling to tell me about a little kitten they had at the clinic where she works. A man brought this kitten in to drop off because he “didn’t want it anymore…”. It was malnourished and sickly– and when the folks at the clinic told the man that they weren’t a shelter, and that he’d need to get treatment for the kitten to get him healthy before he dropped it off at ANY shelter (which they would have been happy to do– but he’d have to pay for it, natch), he promptly left and tossed the kitten into the wooded area behind the clinic and drove away. Fortunately, one of the clinic staff saw this, and Gelenora rushed outside– and after about 5 minutes of calling, the little kitten made his way to Gelnora’s arms. She called ME when they had gotten him nursed back to health. She really wanted me to meet this kitten. Glenora knew how attached I had been to Butch and how crushed I was when I had to put her to sleep back in April. And she knew that now that Butch was gone that I wanted to take some time and concentrate on work, travel and leisure for a while before I even THOUGHT about getting another pet. But she also thought that this little kitten was something special and she knew he needed a really good home. She couldn’t take him home herself because she’s already got 11 animals– and she couldn’t find anywhere else that she thought would make an appropriate home for the kitten that came to be named “Charlie” by the attending Veterinarian at the clinic.

That’s when she called me.

I reluctantly agreed to go in to meet Charlie– even though I still felt that I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of another companion animal. But meeting Charlie changed my mind immediately. He’s such a warm, friendly and goofy little guy that he melted my heart at once. He loves to be held for as long as you’ll hold him. He’s not afraid of anything and he’s as sweet as can be– as well as being a bit clumsy and silly. He’s into being held upside down and he lays upside down in his little cat bed and looks out at you with an upside down head. I couldn’t take him right away and asked the folks at the clinic if they could hold onto him until after this coming weekend. I had to go out of town last weekend, and am visiting my folks THIS weekend– so they agreed. Unfortunately, Charlie was let out to have the run of the clinic one day and got into the cage of a dog that was in for treatment who had just been fed. The dog chomped down on Charlie and broke his shoulder as well as puncturing him to two places. Fortunately, he’s healing nicely– but it means I might not get to take him home this coming Monday– not until the Vets are sure he’s healed enough to leave the clinic.

This little fella’s already used up two of his nine lives. I hope I’ll be able to help him conserve the last seven. I can’t wait to get him here. I’ve been in a great mood ever since I agreed to adopt him– although I also have feelings of guilt about taking on a new friend so soon after losing Butch. It’s dredged up a lot of buried grief that I’ve been feeling about the terrible deterioration of her health the last year of her life. Even after 6 months, I’m still torn up over how bad she had gotten with her arthritis, kidney disease and diabetes. But I’m also looking forward to this young, vital little guy named Charlie– who is really the opposite of what Butch was in age, temperment and appearance. It’s going to be great– I’m sure of it.

And just so there’s actually art to go with this blog entry– here’s something under the catagory of “probably never seen before”. It’s a prize piece I did for a WIZARD MAGAZINE contest several years ago. I used to do free prize material for them all the time. This is just one example.

OK– it’s back to work.


My brother and I had a couple of hamsters as pets when we lived in Germany. They were our first mammalian pets up to that point. Like most kids, I had owned a few goldfish earlier in life– but they always died soon after I acquired them. I guess maybe I’m not a fish person… I dunno. But LIKE most kids, we wanted some furry, warm blooded pets. Our own little friends that would be there for us to say “GOOD MORNING!” to first thing each day. And so, first came ARCHIE– who soon had the longer name ARCHIE BULGY BEAR (’cause he had really fat cheeks). And I’ve always had a penchant for screwing up words and names into stupid nicknames– so he was soon called “ARCHIE BARGY BEAR”. Maybe one hamster wasn’t enough for us– or maybe we each had to have our own little guy– but soon another another addition was made to the hamster clan– this one named FRISKY… because he was particularly wiggly and interested in moving and getting out of his cage. The hamster duo was a lot of fun to play with and brought many hours of enjoyment to my brother and me each day. They lived in separate cages and never met, however. At least not at first. That was a good thing, as it turned out.

I had the brilliant idea that it would be great to take them outside and give them a taste of fresh air and sunshine. I thought it would be fun to see them frolic in the grass out in front of the apartment building. My parents were rather dubious about this– fearing that what eventually came to pass was a distinct possibility– but I was very persuasive, and so they relented. So, one fine bright morning, we took ARCHIE and FRISKY out front, put them down in the grass on either side of the walk leading to the street– and let them go. They immediately spun toward each other, glowered, and charged to meet on the walk for a good old fashioned knock down, drag-out throw-down. I was completely shocked that these little cuddly, (seemingly) innocuous, furry creatures would go at each other like a couple of diminutive buzz saws. There was much growling and biting– and in my stunned disbelief, I instinctively put my hand in between them to break up the melee.

That was a mistake.

They had thick fur to help deflect the gnashing, gnarling teeth they were utilizing and so didn’t really do too much damage to each other– but all I had was my tender little 9 year old flesh. I got a huge gash on my thumb from ONE of them… I’m not sure who did it…. but it was a good, deep cut. It immediately started to bleed profusely, which alarmed my parents. They snatched each combatant up by their respective tails and hustled us all back inside. ARCHIE and FRISKY went back to the safety of their cages, and my folks tended to my wound. We NEVER let the two little rodents get anywhere near each other after that.

Hamsters don’t have very long lives, and ARCHIE BARGY BEAR died several months later. Don’t know why– maybe it was just his time. But FRISKY…. he managed to escape from his cage for a while after ARCHIE had passed on and make his way into the walls of the apartment– and eventually down to the basement storage area where we eventually recaptured him. I think I had a hand in his escape– but that’s kind of fuzzy in my memory. FRISKY died, I think, of a broken heart not long after being caught. I guess he tasted freedom and couldn’t stomach that little cage anymore. Running on the wheel couldn’t compare to running free in our building.

I still thing about those two little hamsters from time to time, so I thought I’d share.