Sunday 5 February 2017

I May Be Getting Old, But I am Not Too Old For An Adventure

Ciao raGatti! Mi dispiace... I haven't felt like writing for a while. It has been cold here in Casperia and when it's cold I just feel like curling up in a ball close to one of the warm termosifoni radiators or in front of the camino fireplace if my humans have a fire on. I love it when there is a roaring fire in the camino. Especially when my humans are cooking some sausages there...

I have been thinking a lot about age lately. I hear my humans and their friends discuss how old I am. They tell me that I was born on July 7, 2000, so I am almost 17 years old, as far as I can figure... But I also hear people talk about cat years. Are those different? Why should they be different from human years? Anyway, which ever way you want to calculate it, I have been feeling my age a bit lately. It may be the winter. It slows me down a bit. I am not as spry as I used to be but I can still jump from the toilet to the bathroom sink for a drink and I recently jumped from the kitchen counter to the floor which seemed to surprise and even frighten some people. Ha! Yes, there are days when my hips hurt and I take the stairs slowly but I am still a kitten at heart. I still like to play.

The other day I went for a walk with James, one of my humans. It was a warmish winter day here in Casperia and there was sun warming the stones of the piazza at the top of the town in front of the big church. When we moved here from Canada the bells of this church used to ring three times a day, more on Sundays. They would ring at seven in the morning, at noon and once again in the evening. 

Photo courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

How the dogs in the valley used to howl when they rang, especially in the morning. But the bells have been silent since the last big earthquake. They tell me that there are cracks in part of the roof of the church and that they stopped the bells from ringing because people were afraid that their vibration might cause more damage.  

Anyway, we went up to the piazza for a walk. The grey stone steps that lead to the piazza from the door of my house are always in shade and were very cold to my paws, but once we emerged on the piazza the stones there were a bit warmer, and it was good to feel the sun on my back.

My human picked me up and let me explore a stone wall just below the church bell tower while he did some exercises there. My humans are ageing too and seem to be making an effort to get out and go for a walk every day. I am constantly reminding them that a good stretch is good for them too.

I like to go out for a walk and I really like the piazza in front of the church when it is sunny. Every time I go up there I explore a little bit more. There are a number of stone streets and alleyways that connect with the piazza. I am always searching the plant pots to see if there is any green grass growing there. I loving eating grass. It helps my tummy if I have fur balls, but there is not a lot of grass around my part of the village. Miaow! That really is my one and only complaint about my life here. I miss being around grass.

So every time I go out for a walk and explore a new strada or vicolo I am on the look out for grass and every now and then I come across a blade or two and boy does that make me happy.

I climbed up some stone steps to explore a small stone landing in front of an old abandoned house. The landing was green with weeds and wild herbs but sadly, there was no grass... I did find something that interested me though... There was a big hole under the door to the old cantina... a hole big enough for me to crawl through. 

It was strange. I had been on that landing countless times before but had never noticed the hole before. Perhaps it had been blocked by something previously or perhaps I was too focussed on finding grass during my earlier visits to notice it. But there it was... an adventure waiting to be discovered. 

James had followed me up on to the landing, I guess, to see what I was doing. I looked up at him and he smiled back at me. I took that to mean, "Go ahead, Smokey. Go on and explore," so I slipped into the hole under the door and sniffed around the dark interior for about ten minutes. 

When I slipped through the hole under the old wooden door it took only a second for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Inside was not anything like the cantine I have been in before. Instead of an ordered pile of firewood and bottles smelling of red wine there was a jumble of collapsed beams, broken terracotta, and crumbling mortar. The room was a ruin. Over and above the smell of crumbled mortar and wormy beams was the unmistakable smell of cat. Though it was in no way a comfortable cantina, it was obviously a refuge for some lesser fortunate felines during inclement weather. As I gingerly made my way through the maze of rotten roof beams and fallen bricks, I thought I could hear something outside. Was it the wind? Lately, my hearing has not been the best. I continued exploring the ruined cantina, pushing through the cobwebs and every now and then being showered by a rain of crumbling mortar.

Unbeknownst to me, James had started to panic when I did not come out right away. Apparently, he had gotten down on his hands and knees and peered into the hole and noticed that the floor of the cantina had collapsed. At that point, he had run back to the house to grab a packet of my favourite cat snacks, Felix Party Mix and when he got back he knelt beside the hole calling me and shaking the package.

Usually if either of my humans did something like this I would come running, but as I mentioned earlier, my hearing is not as good as it used to be and I had travelled quite far into the cantina. I continued to explore. In my place, two grey cats, probably the regular occupants of the cantina, turned up looking for treats. This caused James to panic even further. He was worried about me being surprised by the arrival of these two strange cats who, no doubt, had sharper claws than I do these days. 

James sprinkled the treats far away from the cantina door to distract the new arrivals then ran back to the house and apparently brought back two hammers and a pair of pliers with the intention of breaking down the door to rescue me... But just as he was about to launch his assault on the ancient portal I stuck my head out of the hole and climbed out into the sunshine. I was finished with my adventure. 

James knelt and laid down the tools beside the hole and pulled off his blue scarf and gently brushed away the grey powdery mortar dust that covered my head. He then me up and gently examined me to make sure that I had not been injured in any way while I had been inside the ruined cantina. I was fine of course. I may be almost 17 years old and perhaps am not as nimble as I used to be, but I can still look after myself.

I looked up at James' worried face and blinked a couple of times to reassure him. "Let's go home, Smokey," he said. He picked up the tools and the two us ambled back down the cobbled steps to the house.

When we got inside, I got lots of pats and ten of my favourite snacks. I had had a wonderful adventure. I had gone exploring... done something new, something that broke our winter humdrum routine and at the same time I think I may have frightened James badly.  

James lifted me up to the kitchen sink which is my favourite place to have a cool drink of water. I had a long drink, washing the taste of the cantina dust from my mouth. Then I got down off the counter and jumped into my favourite chair in front of the fireplace and had a nap. I can't wait for Spring to come. I may be almost 17 years old but I am not too old for new adventures.  

Statemi bene raGatti. I will write again when I have some new adventure or news to share.

Sunday 30 October 2016



Ciao RaGatti! I wanted to write and post this as soon as possible to let you all know that I and my humans are okay. If you have been following the news at all in the last couple of days you will know that there have been a number of earthquakes in central Italy where we live. There were two large shocks a couple of days ago. The second was stronger... I hear that there was a lot of damage in towns further away from us though luckily no damage here... 
But today... This morning at 7:41 we awoke to the house―to the entire town where we live―rocking. It felt a lot like the entire house we live in was going for a ride on one of those rattly blue Cotral buses my humans take me on when we go to the train station to head to Orvieto... but it was strangely less noisy.

My humans jumped out of bed and walked nervously around the house. We have a visitor from Canada named Fern visiting us. My humans and I went up to her room to see how she was. I walked over to the window and looked outside. It was a beautiful sunny morning outside. 

Nothing looked any different than before. After a few moments, my humans and Fern went downstairs for their coffee and to fill my food bowls. It seemed like everything was okay. That our day would continue like all those others... Breakfast, a brushing, a walk outside on Via Latini and a nap on the chesterfield while my humans watched Italian TV. But this was not to be. 

This morning's earthquake was a lot stronger than the others I have felt since moving here from Vancouver... a lot stronger... And it wasn't long before there was knock on the door and my humans were packing me in my carry case and we were all heading out the door and down the stairs to to the piazzale just outside Casperia's main gates.

Cicciopalla follows Fern down to the piazzale

As we came out of the Porta Romana I noticed my friend Cicciopalla―Casperia's parking lot cat―walking among the crowd. His tail was down... not a good sign. I tried to get his attention but I don't think he saw me.

We continued down to the olive tree near the Conad Supermarket entrance. I recognized my friends Maria and AnneMarie right away. They greeted me with a cheery smile but I could tell they were worried.

Soon more friends arrived. Helen and Ritchie with Dennis in his carrying case.

Everyone gathered around the benches near the olive tree. It was warm and sunny outside and my carrying case was set on a stone wall in the sunshine... 

...where I would be far enough away from the many dogs which accompanied their humans down to the square. 

Truth to tell, many of the dogs I saw looked just as nervous and preoccupied as their humans.

It seemed like my humans had expected that our time down in the piazzale would be shorter than it was turning out to be. The hours dragged on. 

More friends arrived. I hadn't seen Stefano and his son Federico for quite a while. It was nice to get a pat and a scratch from Stefano.

At one point there everyone gathered close to listen to a tall dark haired man talk to the crowd. It was the mayor I think. After that some people went off in different directions... to eat I think. My humans and I waited for some more. 

After a few hours in my carrying case I was ready for something to drink and eat. How I wished I could stretch my legs and tail?

"You okay in there Smokey?" one of my humans asked. I looked up at him with my best game face but I could see he was worried. "Let's go Smokes," he said, and lifted my gabbia up over a fence. The zipper to my carrying case purred open and I was invited out onto the bright concrete patio where a bowl of food and a glass of water was waiting for me.

"Ciao, Smokey!" It was Stefano's son, Federico smiling down on me. "Miao, Fede!" The water was nice and cool on my tongue after all the time in the gabbia.

I decided to take a stroll around the patio. The concrete, despite being in the sun, was cool. 

I could see in the distance the same mountain I can see from the windows of our house―Soratte. My humans are always talking about that mountain and the view. The view of the valley was indeed beautiful, but I was more interested in what I could see of Casperia. I lay down on my back and rolled around on the concrete, observing the town where we live from different angles. 

It felt great to roll around on the concrete―to be out in the sun. I got up and walked around exploring this new environment. One of my humans always shadowing me.

It was obvious that my humans were concerned that I might stray outside this safe zone so to put their minds at ease I went and lay down for a nap beside the wall. I actually fell asleep.

When I woke up there was one of my humans looking down at me. "Time to go, Smokey," he said. Time to go? Were we going home?

Apparently not. I was bundled back into my carrying case and taken to a waiting car. We were all being taken for a ride to a house in the country... for a lunch at Giles and Fiona's house. Giles and Fiona are friends from England. They live part time in a beautiful house in the country outside Casperia. When the zipper of my gabbia purred open this time I found myself in a beautiful green world. I was surrounded by trees and grass. I haven't seen this much green since I moved to Italy from Vancouver. It was wonderful.

While my humans and their friends enjoyed a fine pasta lunch I explored the beautiful green of the grounds around Giles and Fiona's house. I was in heaven. I haven't eaten that much grass since I don't know when. My bowl and a new glass of water was laid out for me in the shade. After feeding for a bit I settled down in a warm leather jacket that one of my humans laid on the edge of Fiona and Giles' terrazza for me. 

I was in heaven.

I know that this was a hard day for my humans, but thanks to the kindness of Fiona and Giles, not only were my humans comforted and fed, I had one of the best days of my life here in Italy.

There is a wonderful soft green world outside Casperia's grey stone walls... And I have a feeling that, even if there are no more tremors strong enough to require us leaving the town again, I will have many more chances to enjoy Casperia's green countryside again.

In the meantime Ragatti, stay safe. Be well... statemi bene! And thank you Giles and Fiona from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget your kindness and hospitality. Grazie infinite. The blessings of this grateful cat are being showered upon you.


Monday 11 July 2016

So It's Summer... Again! Porca Miseria!

Where is Richard ??? Where have you been?

Ciao raGatti! Tutto bene? Qui fa caldissimo e non mi piace afatto. I have to say that summer is my least favourite season. First of all because here in central Italy it gets very very hot and that is hard on a furry fellow like me. And truth be told, I think it is hard on my human family and their friends... I know we cats sleep a lot, but when it gets hot like this my human friends seem to stay at home more and don't come to visit...

The temperature on my 16th birthday

It wouldn't be so bad, but also at this time, both of my humans, in turn, go back to Canada for a month at a time and a month, especially when it is an oppressively hot month, feels like a very long time. You know me, I like being social. I love when friends come over for a visit... Why just the other day, July 7th to be exact, was my 16th birthday and the people I call "Team Smokey", the friends... well they are not really friends... I consider Uncle Ritchie, Auntie Helen and Auntie Maria to be my family,.. Anyway, these three special humans, who looked after me in the past when both my humans have been away, came over to celebrate my birthday.

Ritchie, Helen and Maria enjoying an Aperitivo. Aperitivo is Italian for Dreamies or Catisfactions... for humans, that is...

It was great, not only because was I surrounded by my favourite people, but also because I had some feline visitors as well... Dennis, who lives with Helen and Ritchie came along, and Binduu, my new neighbour who lives with Sara and Paolo and their son Luca and another female cat name Runa, came along as well.

Dennis rests on the cool stones of Via Latini while Binduu sits on his front porch

Having all these visitors over meant a lot to me, especially because I have been missing Richard, who left for Canada five days before my birthday. It would have been great if Richard had been here to celebrate with us. 

It was a great party. Helen and Ritchie brought me a present... Not the bottle, that was wine for the humans at dinner... No my present was a package of cat treats... 

Me one the cool steps of Gianluca's apartment, my Dreamies and the wine.

I thought that seeing we were celebrating my "Sweet Sixteen" that I would be given 16 cat treats but that was not to be... Just as well. With all this heat and humidity I don't really have a huge appetite. 

Me and my Birthday Bowl of Ham with Dennis waiting patiently for his share.

Even the ham that James bought me for my birthday, usually a big favourite of mine, I ended up sharing with Dennis and Binduu. Both Dennis and Binduu were born here in Italy so I suppose the hot weather doesn't affect their appetite the way it affects mine.

Yes, it was a wonderful party... When my human family came inside the house for dinner I went upstairs and lay down on the cool floor listening to their voices... feeling how lucky I am to have a home and a family when so many of my furry friends struggle to find shelter and enough to eat and drink.

You who know me know that I have always loved water. When I was a kitten in Vancouver I used to jump into the emptying bathtub and play in the water. And I have always drunk a lot of water,,, but these days... and perhaps it is not just because of the heat, but because of my age, I find I am often thirsty. Thankfully my humans not only keep my Martini glass full of water by my food, they also keep my favourite watering can full of fresh water beside the front door.

But the best water, as far as I am concerned, is cool running water, fresh from the tap. I don't know how many times during the day, and sometimes in the middle of the night, that I feel the need for a cool drink. My humans are very patient with me, and one or the other will get up and walk with me to the upstairs sink and turn on the tap for me. As I am getting older, sometimes it is a bit uncomfortable to hold my head in the position necessary to reach the water and sometimes one or the other of my humans will hold their cupped hand under the water to make a small bowl. I love liking the cool water from their fingers. I wonder if my tongue tickles them... 

Sleepy me, just after my last drink before bed

Anyway, it is late. I should take my human to bed. I love it at night because it is cooler... cool enough to snuggle up to my human and give him a kiss, or a couple of kisses... 

Sometimes, even when the light is out, I just lay for a while on his shoulder or his tummy and stare at his furry face and wonder what he's thinking...

I know we are going to survive this heat... We have each other... and this time of separation will be over soon and we will be a family again... As I said, I know I am lucky. I have a house, a family, food and drink when I want, and I have friends... lots of wonderful friends... both here and in Canada... and sometimes those friends come to visit... That makes me really happy... 

So before we drop off to sleep I will leave you with this... Do good... Be good... When you see a cat or dog in need of a pat, or some food or water, do what you can... We cats remember... You will not go unrewarded...

¶ ¶ ¶ 

This post is written in the memory of Scout, a thirteen year-old tabby cat in Vancouver who recently crossed over the Rainbow Bridge... and for Gracie... Scoutie's bereaved human.

Saturday 6 February 2016


Ciao raGatti. Tutto bene? Spero di sì. I am really excited to introduce this post which features the story of three very special friends, two of them human, and one, a tabby cat like me. The tabby cat is my neighbour Dennis, and the two humans are my very good friends Helen and Ritchie Dakin.


If you have been following this blog, you have already read about Helen and Ritchie. These amazing humans have been living in Casperia for almost as long as I have and they look after me from time to time when my humans are away. They also introduced me to Dreamies!

As far as I know, they are from a place near Cambridge in England. I am sad to say that I don't know exactly where that is. I know that it is not anywhere near Vancouver. I am told it is closer to Italy where we live, but on a big island, perhaps in the Mediterranean. That might not be right. The only thing I know is that wherever Cambridge, England is, that it must be a wonderful place because really nice people come from there. That is my experience anyway. Come to think of it, another good friend who lives here in Casperia, Maria, was born in England too... but I don't think she is from Cambridge.

Anyway, before they moved here permanently, Ritchie and Helen had been coming to this hill town for a number of years. Apparently their first visit to Casperia was on a yoga retreat, which I understand is a special holiday where humans try to become as flexible as felines, perhaps to help them keep themselves clean as a cat can...

Whatever the reason—it might have been the stringozzi—Helen and Ritchie, like my humans, fell in love with this part of Italy, and have been permanent residents here from November of 2014. Dennis came into their lives a number of weeks later.

Smokey: Helen, this wasn't the first time you have shared your home with a cat, was it?

Helen: You are right Smokey. Before we came to live here in Casperia we shared our house with a female cat named Molly. She turned up one day when we were out BBQing in the back yard and slowly she adopted us, and we her.

Molly, a.k.a. Mollie moo

Smokey: I understand that you had originally planned to bring Molly with you, but somehow that did not work out. What happened?

Ritchie: Well Smokey, when you came over on that long flight from Canada, you were lucky to be able to come over in the cabin with Richard and James. Unfortunately, we were not allowed that option. The airline we were flying on promised that Molly would be safe at the airport in England and in the hold on the much shorter flight that she would make from London to Rome but they told us that they could not guarantee how she would be handled in Rome... We loved Molly and did not want to leave here in England but we also did not want to risk her being mishandled or injured upon arrival. We decided that it would be best to put her up for adoption. So we came without her. 

Smokey: That must have been very hard on you both... 

Helen: Yes, it was, but luckily Molly found a wonderful new home with a very nice lady who loves and cares for her. Molly even has her own room. We are in contact with Molly's new human from time to time and get reports and pictures. 

Smokey: That is wonderful to hear.

Helen: Yes, she seems very well situated. She even has her own room and own bed.

Smokey: Miaow! That's great! So... how long was it after you came here to Casperia that Dennis came into your life?

Ritchie: We arrived in early November and we first heard about Dennis through our mutual friend Maria in the week leading up to Christmas of 2014, so we had only been moved here about a month and a half.

Helen: As you know, Smokey, Maria shares her house with a number of cats, most of them who are former strays or who had been abandoned: Lupa, Giorgio, Sleepy, Marzia, Romulo and Chicco. Six cats is a lot for one house and when Dennis turned up, wanting in too, poor Maria was very torn. Her heart went out to this handsome friendly tabby... 

Ritchie: But I think she didn't feel it would be the ideal situation for all concerned if she took him in.

Smokey: I remember this... Right... It was just before Christmas and things were getting cold here in Casperia... I remember Richard and James talking to Maria and her asking them to put the word out about this handsome tabby who had turned up a her door needing a home. 

Helen: We went down for a visit. Maria was feeding the new pussycat but he was sleeping outside her house in a clay igloo-like shelter.

Smokey: How did you feel when you first met him?  

Helen: Well of course we loved him the first moment we set eyes on him. Poor lad... He was a handsome tabby indeed but he was doing poorly. He was thin and starving. His coat was full of burrs and he sure had fleas... We had to have a talk, Ritchie and I, but it didn't take us long to decide to take him home. That was Christmas Eve 2014. People say that giving Dennis a home was his Christmas present but it felt to us that he was our Christmas present.

Ritchie: The funny thing Smokey was that despite Dennis being thrilled at having a proper forever home, he still was very much an outdoor cat. We tried hard to keep him inside the house for the first while to get used to living with us, but he escaped a number of times...

Helen: Yes, bless him. He found a way to actually open a window and escaped through the window a couple of times. Of course, the first time this happened we were very worried, but the funny thing is that he would always end up back at Maria's place. He would miaow at her door in the morning, she would let him, feed him something, and give us a call. "Come and get your little man. He's here," she'd say and we would trot down to get him. 

Smokey: But he obviously settled down...

Ritchie: Yes, but he still likes to roam...

Helen: And wake me up very early in the morning to ask to be let out.

Smokey: You mentioned that Dennis was in poor health at the beginning. I have a great Vet, Doctor Rob Spooner, back in Vancouver, but I remember that I did not like being put in a carry case, nor did I like the car ride.

Ritchie: Sort of ironic Smokey, given the distance you had to travel in that carry case to come to your new life here in Italy.

Smokey: Miao, Ritchie!

Ritchie: Ha ha! But no, you are right, Smokey. We had to take Dennis to the vet a number of times. The way he was gorging when we took him in, we suspected he had worms.

Helen: That was soon confirmed when we checked his box, poor thing. And it took a while, but he has a clean bill of health now, and doesn't seem to mind the trips in the car.

Smokey: So Dennis, it has been a little more than a year that you have been living here with Helen and Ritchie. How is life with the Dakins?

Dennis: Well Smokey, you know Ritchie and Helen almost as well as I do, so you know what type of people they are. 

Smokey: Are you blushing Helen?

Dennis: Seriously! I remember very little of my life before Helen and Ritchie.  I know I had a home and food but somehow that was all taken away from me. I remember being on my own, struggling to find food and a warm place to sleep and finding Maria's house and her cats... At first I really wanted to stay there. Maria is such a nice lady... But being invited to share Helen and Ritchie's wonderful home with its big fireplace and comfy, dry, warm places to sleep, and a window and balcony to watch the birds, a huge cantina to play in and a back door onto the stone town walls... But that is just the home. Helen and Ritchie are my angels. They literally saved my life. Being invited into their house with all their love and care... Did you see my toys? It was like being rescued from a horrible nightmare. My life right now is a beautiful dream.

I get wonderful food pretty well any time I want it. I don't gobble like I used to now... I know there will always be food in my bowl and a treat or two when I get home from my walks outside.

Smokey: A treat or two or three, all the way to ten... I hear you taught Ritchie how to count.

Ritchie: Ha ha, Smokey.

Dennis: This thing is Smokey, Ritchie, and Helen taught me how to count... But not just from one to ten when I get my Dreamies. I mean I have learned that I can count on people... I mean these two people. You know what I am talking about. I know that this is my forever home and that Ritchie and Helen are my forever people... and that if they have to go away for some reason that there are other kind people, dependable people, who will come and feed me and brush me, look after my lettiere, and keep me company. People like Maria and your humans. 

No, I have to say that life here is very very good. I am a very lucky cat. We should all be so lucky.

Smokey: Well that really sums it all up nicely. Anything anyone else would like to add?

Ritchie: About England being in the Mediterranean, Smokey... and that thing about Yoga...

Smokey: I got that wrong, didn't I? 

Ritchie: Yes, Smokey, but we can discuss that some other time.

Smokey: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, everyone. Ciao for now!