This Week in Elder News: 24 May 2008
Routine and Old Age

Holiday Repeat: Memorial Day 2008

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The revolution of Earth notwithstanding, Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of the summer season in the U.S. which for me means a lot of time on my deck, often working there all day. So I must now confront the conundrum of Ollie the cat's understandable desire, as a feline, to be out there among the birds and bees and flowers. Here is the difficulty, as published last fall under the title, How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges.]

category_bug_oliver This tale of Ollie the cat begins in mid-2006, when he and his housemate, Ronni, moved from Greenwich Village to a new home in Portland, Maine.

The Maine apartment is much bigger than their New York City home – specifically, much longer with lots of room for a young cat to gallop from one end to the other (when he is not snoozing).


For an entire year, Ollie the cat lived inside this house and took pleasure, when windows were open, in ka-ka-ka-ing at the birds and squirrels who hang out on the electric lines in front of the house.


During that first year, Ronni did not allow Ollie on the deck because cats are known to get distracted while stalking birds and bees and butterflies. Who knows, he might forget himself and take a flying leap off the second-floor deck.


It was a distraction when Ronni, on a beautiful day, took lunch or dinner among her flowers and plants or read a book lying on the chaise longue, purchased just for that purpose, while Ollie screamed through the screen door demanding to join her. But Ronni has lived with cats all her life and knows their wandering ways. So Ollie was deprived of the one thing he wanted most – to be outdoors.


It wasn’t easy keeping Ollie in the house. Cats are born experts at whisking between human feet when they want to get somewhere they are not allowed. Especially when Ronni was carrying dirty clothes through the kitchen door and back hall to the laundry room or was hauling the big watering can to the deck, Ollie sometimes escaped, but not for long. Ronni is practiced at catching errant cats.


Still, it was tiring for Ronni to keep constant watch on Ollie when doors were opened and closed and she did feel sorry for the little fellow who desperately wanted to frolic in the fresh air and take in the heady aromas that only cats and dogs can smell. And so, when the snows had melted and spring arrived, Ronni relented.


At first, she stayed with Ollie when he played on the deck so she would be there to grab him if his interest in a bug took him too close to the edge. But humans – or, at least, Ronni – are more easily bored with bug stalking than cats and in time, Ollie was allowed on the deck alone.

In fact, when Ollie altered their morning routine by yelling to have the kitchen door opened before breakfast and even, sometimes, before sunrise, Ronni left all the doors open on good weather days so Ollie could come and go at his whim. And all was well - or close enough, if you don’t count regurgitated dead bugs on the rug.


When it wasn’t raining, Ollie spent most of his summer days on the deck chasing bugs or snoozing on his favorite outdoor chair. It was his habit to check in with Ronni at her desk a couple of times in the afternoon or, on hot, humid days, to loll around indoors stretched out on the cool porcelain of the bathtub. And on a few occasions, he spent the night sleeping on the chaise. Ronni tried that one time herself and understood the attraction on a summer night.


Ollie likes to eat at about 5:30PM and if Ronni hasn’t filled his bowl by then, he tracks her down and taps her on the arm in a certain way that means, “Hey, it’s dinner time. You don’t expect me to eat those leftover crumbs from breakfast, do you?”

Several days ago, Ronni looked up from her laptop and realized it was an hour past Ollie’s dinner time. He had not reminded her and she had not seen him since early afternoon. Where could he be? She checked the deck. No Ollie.


Ronni called his name from the kitchen - he usually comes – but no Ollie. She checked behind the sofa…


No Ollie. She checked his cupboard hidey-hole…


No Ollie. She checked the guest room closet…


Still no Ollie. She looked under the bed. There were some lost cat toys, but…


…no cat. She hadn’t done laundry that day, but just in case, she checked the washer and dryer…


They were empty - of a cat, anyway. She checked behind Ollie’s favorite deck chair where garden equipment is kept.


No Ollie. The cat was gone, gone, gone. How could that be? wondered Ronni. Then it struck her in all its horror - perhaps Ollie had fallen off the deck. You see, there is a six-inch lip of flooring beyond the fence of the deck. Ronni could never watch when Ollie patrolled out there.


Heart pounding, Ronni grabbed a flashlight – dusk was settling in – and ran downstairs to the small back yard. She looked behind every bush and flower and weed. With great relief, Ronni found no dead or injured cat. She looked up at her deck – it was a long way down.


Back upstairs and again on the deck, Ronni pondered this mystery of the disappearing cat and softly called his name. Was that a meow she heard? She called again. Yes, yes, it WAS a meow. But where was it coming from? The adjoining laundry room? No cat there.

Ronni called to Ollie again from the deck. There was no doubt this time; it was Ollie’s voice – coming from the yard.

Ronni raced downstairs to find Ollie peering out from under some plants behind the birdbath.


Even after several hours on the loose, Ollie wasn’t ready to come home and he nearly evaded Ronni's grasp. But cats sometimes forget humans are bigger and stronger than they are.

He yowled as Ronni caught him by the tail, but what’s a little pain, thought Ronni, compared to being squashed beneath a car’s tire or torn apart by the rumscullion cats who prowl the yard at night. Nevertheless, he fought her all the way upstairs.

How did Ollie get to the yard? Did he fall by accident and just happen not to hurt himself? Did he forget where he was and leap after a bug? Or did he carefully calculate the distance and deliberately jump to the ground from the second floor?

We will never know. But two mornings after Ollie’s escape, Ronni woke to a dream image of him sailing off the deck with all the magnificent grace of feline gazelle.

And that is the tale of how Ollie the cat lost his outdoor deck privileges. Ronni is certain she lost a few weeks off the end of her life due to stress and fear.

When she recovered, she was angry with Ollie. So angry, in fact, she is publishing this formerly secret, inelegant photo of him in the chair where he will undoubtedly spend more time now that he has lost his deck privileges.


[New postings begin again tomorrow at The Elder Storytelling Place.]


Such a funny story, even the second time around. I probably said it last time but -- LOVE your little porch!

I thought I'd read this before, but enjoyed the mystery of it again just as much. I still think Ollie is one of the handsomest cats I've ever seen. If only he weren't such a rambler!!!!!

This is the first time I've read this story and my heart was in my mouth. I can so appreciate your feelings (and actions) as i get paranoid whenever my cats go outside. In fact I'll think of any excuses to keep them in. We have a large garden but it is not cat-escape-proof and would be extremely difficult - not to mention incredibly expensive - to fence in securely.

I remember this story of Ollie's adventure. I'll bet he dreams about it still.

I never had cats but my daughter had three. I cat sat one of them many times when my daughter (as yet unmarried) lived with her brother in California. During one of my daughter's rambles we moved and the cat, Chelsea, got away. Since we had moved to another town the area was unfamiliar to the cat. She was gone for days and my heart pounded the whole time. I knew I would never be forgiven for losing Chelsea. You can imagine my relief when a very tired cat arrived back on my doorstep.

We've dealt with the Outside problem by fencing in a huge area with deer fence. It is a plastic black fence that disappears against the trees and is about seven feet tall. You have to stake it down very securely along the ground every eight inches or so or pile rocks along the edge. Where you can see it it isn't very attractive but it is a lot nicer than a dead cat. We came to this solution after losing a cat we really loved on the road last spring. The cats love it and they are outside all day long until suppertime. They are very happy and have lots to do all the tine.
Now we have added to it and they can wander next door to visti my inlaws and they can be with us when we have dinner on their deck. Then we walk home together inside the fence.
It would be possible for you to run something like that around your porch. It is flexible so the cats cannot climb it unless you have a real Houdini. You might not like the way it looks but Ollie would love to be on the deck. We just tack it to the trees with electrical staples and we have built four gates where we want to be able to go out easily.
Everybody is happy with it.

I loved reading this story of Ollie's adventures a second time around. I understand Ollie wants to be out on the deck among the plants and wildlife and fresh air...but what to do??? Please keep us posted.

Took care of his little red wagon!
Now where did that expression come from? Nothing like a heart stopping adventure. What tyrants our pets become and they don't even know it...I think.

Oh, Ollie, you DID pose somewhat inelegantly when we weren't looking. I know you must have enjoyed your freedom, but did you think about how your momma felt when you were gone?

Has momma thought about putting screening on the porch so you can't get off?

Loved the mystery the first time, and couldn't wait for the closing shot the second time! While I am hoping for a third time, why do the intervening months go so quickly?

It's BLACKMAIL I tell you!!

I am innocent.

All lies.

Bum rap.

I am contacting the "Innocence Project" and Allan Dershowitz, to spring me.


This was my first time to read this story and it was great. The shot of Ollie in the chair was priceless..

Glad I'm finally able to read all my favorite blogs again.

My best,
Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

My first read of this story of Ollie and I loved every bit of it. Great photos (and your home is so delightful) to go with the script.
Shiva Lullaby is quite taken with Ollie and wants to meet him. I have reminded her that Ollie is a good 2900 miles away and that she has Boots, Pilgrim, and Onyx for male feline companionship here.

You are lucky he hasn't managed to slip between your feet while you're going on the porch...
I remember this post from the last time you posted it, and having been there, recognise every bit of the place ;)

As a cat lover and owner, I understood and enjoyed this story so much. I also appreciated your pictures and like knowing where you write and now where you lounge in the nice weather. Thanks!

Loved the photos of your beautiful porch. Perhaps you can try a little cat harness and leash so Ollie can still enjoy some fresh air and bugs. Better than nothing. As to our own cats, they are quicksilver past my legs as I go out the door.

Whew. Glad this story had a happy ending!

Oh, delightful. And when are you publishing this as a children's book?

Once upon a time we had a dog called Muzziwoo...the Bar Mitzvah Dog. When students came for their lessons and while they were waiting their turn-Muzi would insist that they pet and rub him in all the right places. God forbid someone should do the same to me....I am glad Ollie is found and has gone to the "naughty chair"!!! Ronni - loved your story and place and the pictures of the plant room remind me of our flower/plant room where Muzi got her rubs and the children got their Bar Mitzvah prep.

Ah yes, the custom made bookcases. I'm still jealous and they are still beautiful.

Do love that photo of Ollie, especially the "what the heck are you doing" look on his face. My sister has a photo of her dog sitting like that. Being a dog she did not care one bit that she was getting her picture taken.

I LOVE your apartment and enjoy looking at the photos of it. I also enjoyed reading the Ollie story again. I know how you feel because I have a cat, too.

I had a friend once who warned, "Never trust anyone who doesn't like cats."

I have found that to be sage advice.

I spent more money than many would think reasonable to have a "cat proof" fence made to replace the chain link around our backyard.

Its cat proof for four of my five cats. My youngest simply leaps a full five feet into the air and sails over the top and into coyote country.


This is such an enjoyable post (is post the right word?)! I've gotten pleasure from just scanning down the photographs, which really are the story. The washer and dryer photos are particularly effective.

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