Monday, February 26, 2007

On average he was perfect, but he sure wasn't average.

We often like to claim that our lake winds are perfect...
on average.

That was the case Sunday, when we went sailing during a weather window that followed Friday and Saturday's fierce gusts. Carol Anne skippered Black Magic, with me in middle, "Tadpole" on jib trim, and "Cornhusker" on bow. Initially winds were very light and variable, switching between the west and northwest, so we mostly had a close reach ... switching between a light beat and even occasional downwind bits and bits of no wind and bits with no wind on the surface and a bit of wind further aloft and bits where what little wind was present seemed more vertical than horizontal and other bits of wind where the incense (lime flavored) stick that Tadpole had lit, the Windex, and the tape streaming from the shrouds all had their own different interpretations of the wind. Oh well. I think sometimes we outran the wind, thanks to the boat's efficient shape and the momentum of our heavy keel.

As we approached Horse Island, we could see patches of wind ahead; eventually we and they met and we had on-and-off again winds, but generally much better sailing than we'd had during the first hour and a half of our sail. We passed to the west of Rattlesnake Island and beyond, perhaps a third of the way toward Rock Canyon, then headed south. Winds became stronger, again on and off, and then in a partial lull we had some major wind shifts.

But, then as we headed south past Horse Island and down the last mile and a half toward the marina, we were hit by a wall of wind that increased from 10 to 15 to around 20 knots steady, with gusts of 30 to 40 knots. We de-powered the boat to limit heel, though perhaps feathering too much at times, then dropped the jib as we approached the Elephant and the marina. This made the motion of the boat more comfortable and reduced heeling, though at the cost of somewhat greater tacking angles and more leeway, especially when the boat was pinched to far up into the wind.

After dropping the main a bit early, running it back up and then down again, we shot into the dock on a mostly downwind approach. In the strong winds and tight quarters, and with somewhat limited steerage, we didn't have room to head upwind right before entering the slip. Though we came in a little hot, we had fenders placed for just such an occasion; we let them, rather than human body parts, absorb the excess energy of our approach with no ill effects upon boat or crew. After tying up, we called the local weather information line and found out the winds at the state park office had varied from 6 to 41 mph during the past 20 minutes. Interesting sailing.

The sail had followed a weekend with some marked ups and downs.

Friday afternoon we'd journeyed south to the lake. Originally our plan had been to have Carol Anne and part of our crew take out some New Mexico State University students on a boat while Tadpole and I took a safe boating class hosted by the state park. Tadpole needed to take the class because of a new state law that mandates boater safety training for anyone born after January 1 of 1989 and I needed to take the class as a pre-requisite for perhaps becoming a volunteer instructor. With the weather forecast causing cancellation of the NMSU on-the-water class, Carol Anne also joined us for Saturday's class.

With us on the journey south on Friday were our two cats, Dulce and Tres. Tres was on prescription medication and diet because of a thyroid imbalance, weight loss, and apparent food allergies. He had lost weight, especially in the past couple of weeks. He had only recently received a blood test to check for a kidney problem and his weigh-in last week showed an alarming enough loss that we'd scheduled the next available appointment that Carol Anne could bring him to, for Tuesday, the 27th. Tres would never make that appointment.

Tres wound up having to ride next to Tadpole after having to relieve himself in his cat carrier, and therefore wound up walking across the lawn to the doublewide trailer we'd rented in Truth or Consequences. There, he ate heartily of his dinner and seemed to be more his old self for a while, but then he tired rapidly and had difficulty moving. While Tad cooked our chicken dinner, I gave Tres a long petting session, for which he showed gentle appreciation. After dinner, Tres joined Tad in the back bedroom, cuddling up nestled against Tadpole.

Tad later reported that Tres arose late in the night as a bit of outside light was just beginning in the predawn morning, purred slightly when petted, and stepped off the futon bed they'd shared. He then made a faint meow and was heard from no more. Shortly after, when we all woke, we saw that he'd died.

Losing Tres was hard for us in part because we'd never known a cat quite like Tres.

Tres was many things, but none of them were standard-issue feline. Tres was our "flower child" cat in contrast to Dulce, the practical cat. We'd gotten Tres as a young cat, perhaps 8 months old, still full of teenage catling awkwardness and Dulce had eventually figured out that this was a kitten who needed her help and guidance. Later, Tres overcame most of his clumsiness and invented all sorts of acrobatic tricks, perchang on top of open doors, or riding on our backs and shoulders. Often he would run full tilt through the house, then charge vertically up a wall and do a backflip or some other gold-medal acrobatic stunt. In addition, Tres was the "rubber cat", capable of stretching to great lengths. He'd never jump when he could simply stretch or ooze up or down or across between furniture.

Tres was also the computer cat, learning quickly that he could get all sorts of attention by pressing on one or more keys when Carol Anne, Tad, or I were using the computer. Besides the usual "cat-like typing" he even learned to shut the computer down. Even when he wasn't in sight, sometimes too late we'd see a paw reach up out of nowhere, then gently curve down and stroke a key or two to some dramatic result.

More than anything else, Tres was the most empathic, doglike, and loyal cat we'd ever known. Often he'd follow us around the house; we learned to watch our steps or else we knew we'd soon be saying, "Excuse me, Tres!" It was not very hard to get him to come when called. He seemed not the least whit concerned about maintaining traditional cat standards of dignity or aloofness. When I sat at our dining table, Tres would take the next chair; the chair between mine and Tad's became his. He would then reach out a paw to touch my knee while his tail twitched across Tad's lap. Tres enjoyed using his large vocabulary of strange meows, chirs, squeaks, and other odd sounds whenever near his humans. And, whenever someone in our family was down in the dumps, Tres could be counted upon to sense distress and offer to help by clinging, snuggling, and purring.

His good behavior extended into the vet's office, where he was always a gentle, well-behaved patient. For much of his life, he was known to others as the "Ghost Cat" because of his bashfulness among strangers, especially adults, but he always enjoyed the company of children and even enjoyed a bit of rough-housing with young people. After getting on thyroid medication, he became more mellow and much more friendly with visitors in our homes. We often thought he'd have made a good therapy cat for people in distress. Tres also seemed very much socially motivated; attention was far more important than food or treats.

Today, Monday, I took his body to the pet crematory. Left to us will be the ashes, pictures, and memories.

Excuse us, Tres. Our ten years together passed far too quickly. You were the most loving cat we'd ever known, and you did your bit to make life better for us and bring a smile to our faces. If there's a better place for felines, you're probably now helping run the place and providing comfort to those in need.


At 4:14 PM, March 03, 2007, Anonymous Tres' Grandma said...

A beautiful tribute to Tres! We were probably the ones who dubbed him "the ghost cat." The first time we cat-sat, we didn't see him for the first few days. We think he was behind the washer/dryer. But food and water disappeared during the night, so we knew he wasn't starving. But the most startling thing was one day we heard scrambling and scratching behind the bookshelves around the fireplace. He had managed to get the cabinet doors open and climb up behind the shelves! My first thought was--are we going to have to take out the shelves and fireplace to get him? No, he managed to get out and repeated this several times. We had to "Tres-proof" our house more than we ever had to childproof it! What he could do with his paws! And once he got over his shyness, I really enjoyed his companionship.


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