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2015 – Rex still looking regal at his advanced age

Rex is gone and I miss him.  It’s quite something how this cat worked his way into the fabric of our lives and into our hearts.  He became part of the family and seemed like he would always be there.  I feel his loss and wanted to write to ease that loss and because his life is worth remembering.  If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be writing a eulogy for my cat, I would have laughed at that idea.  I only really knew about dogs and honestly would have said I “hated cats”.  Rex changed that so read on and indulge me.

He entered our lives almost 18 years ago in the spring of 1999.  He showed up in our yard and Elissa walled off a corner to “protect” him from the dog.  He was this large but thin cat with ticks on his face –  and he was friendly.  This was unexpected for me as I always thought of cats as aloof and standoffish.  Naturally, the kids were excited and wanted to keep him and we adults resisted as we weren’t cat people and didn’t really want one.  Eventually they prevailed and since we couldn’t find his home we suddenly were a cat family.  The kids were young at the time – Samantha pushing 4, Cameron was 5, and Elissa was almost 8.  Cameron decided he should be called T-Rex which soon became just Rex.  There had to be some adjustments in the household including Max our dog having to negotiate how to interact with a cat.  A few scratches on the nose convinced him that a slow approach was best.

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1999 with Max, they were good friends

Rex really worked his way into our hearts.  He was big furry friendly cat who tolerated gracefully being constantly picked up, worn as a scarf, and moved around.  Rex grew to be best friends with Max the dog and they would often sleep next to each other.  Rex would sometimes walk by Max and swat his nose to get him do something.  He was perfect for a family with young kids as he seemed to enjoy the constant interaction with and attention from them.  He always wanted to see what was going on around the house and would follow people around.  Rex was friendly with visitors and curious as to who was coming in the house.  Only a large gathering would send him off for a quiet corner.

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2001 – Rex was handled a lot when he was young.

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2001 – A 15 lb cat is hard to pick up

Rex loved the outdoors even in the winter.  His thick fur coat made him pretty tolerant of the cold weather and snow.  Only the deepest snow slowed him down from his excursions.  He would roam the neighborhood and sometimes come back with signs of battles.  Debbie called him the “wooly bully” based on the claw or bite marks we would find.  We needed to keep him in at night to keep him out of trouble. He was also a good hunter and often find something to eat or just bring back and show off.

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2013 – Even the snow is worth exploring when you the fur for it

When we moved in 2004 to our old house in Slingerlands Rex did a good job patrolling at night for mice.  We would sometimes find a half a mouse or just a tail to know he had been on the hunt.  Maybe even worse was when he occasionally brought a live mouse up to our room in the middle of the night and chased it around.  He loved the yard, the barns, and the woods in the back to explore and hunt.  He went about his business deliberately, in kind of a stroll and sometimes a trot but he didn’t often run.

He grew older, as did all of us, and when Max died in 2007 we could see Rex missed his friend.  But life continues, the kids moved through elementary, middle, and high school and Rex was a constant throughout.  He was always there when a stressed kid or parent needed a non-judgmental friend.  By the time Elissa went off the college in 2009 Rex was solidly a senior cat.   His world took on a new dimension on Thanksgiving 2012 when two young cats came to live with us.

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2014 – Rex willingly shares the Christmas tree with Bella

Tyler a gregarious 2-year-old male and Bella a shy 1-year-old female.  Rex accepted them with without drama and Tyler in particular became his friend.  They would often sleep near each other and liked to play sometimes.  Young Tyler would encourage geriatric, and by now arthritic, Rex into chasing him around the house.  Tyler seemed to let himself be caught and they would sometimes wrestle with each other with Bella watching from a safe distance away.  If it got too noisy she would go right into the middle of them and push them apart.  They always deferred to her will in these matters.

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2014 – 17 year old Rex vs 3 year old Bella (nobody was hurt)

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2014 – Tyler and Rex definitely liked to chase each other periodically

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2016 – Rex and Tyler were definitely friends

Rex became more of a creature of habit.  When we are out he would usually be waiting by the door upon our return.  It was always nice to have his quiet feline greeting.  He would sit in the kitchen right at 6PM for his dinner of canned food that got introduced along with the new cats.  He would climb up on the couch for his evening ritual of sitting with us for TV.  He seemed to enjoy that best and would patiently wait for us to arrive in the living room.  He was always very interested in what kind of snack might arrive during the evening.  I liked to say his favorite sound was the rattle of dishes.  It was a battle to keep him away from cups and glasses on coffee table.  He loved to clean the bowls that had rice pudding or ice cream.

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2013 – “Do you have something for me?” 

Samantha went off to college in 2013 when Rex was 16 ½ years old.  She worried each time she left that something would happen to Rex when she was gone but he soldiered on doing the things he liked.   November of 2014 brought the first brush with his mortality.  He appeared to have a stroke and we thought this might be the end for him.   His right side was weak and he couldn’t walk properly.  He wasn’t done on this earth because in about 4 days he presented himself by the door on a sunny day to go outside.  He made a remarkable recovery and within a month or so you wouldn’t know it had ever happened.  Soon he was back to chasing Tyler around the house.  His chasing days were mostly over when he developed a balance problem in the spring of 2015.  Arthritis and a balance issue meant Rex was resigned to a careful leisurely walk but he still spent many of his days outside still prowling the yard and visiting the stream down the hill for a drink.  He found a new friend that year in Oscar the big old russian blue cat with the missing fang who lived nearby

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2015 – Oscar started coming over looking for new companions

Oscar lost his long time canine companion and seemed to seeking company and started spending more and more time at our house.  He would often sit nearby when Rex was outside.  There was never any drama with the two of them and I felt that Rex was safer at his age with a big cat like Oscar around.  They seemed to quietly enjoy each others company.

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2016 – Oscar spent almost all summer around the yard with Rex

 

Rex was still here this year when Cameron returned home from his final semester at Oswego and Samantha came back from her 6 months in Europe.  His spent his final spring, summer, and fall being outside almost every day.  Even on the hottest days he would be relaxing in his favorite shady locations.  He seemed to doing reasonably well at his early October checkup but in November he started to eat less and was losing weight.  Ultimately it was probably cancer that took him down at close to 20 years old.  He spent his last days laying under the Christmas tree and on the couch in his favorite spot.

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December 2016 – Rex in his last days, he was almost 20

It was hard to see him decline and still harder to let him go.  Fortunately, it happened pretty quickly so he didn’t seem to seem to suffer too much.  We kept him company right to the end so he wouldn’t be alone in his last days and time of need.

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December 8, 2016 – Rex’s last day, getting some fresh air

That was the story of a cat.  I already miss him a lot.  I will miss him hogging the space between our pillows in bed.  I’ll miss his insistence on being petted at night before going to sleep.  I’ll even miss being woken in the middle of the night by him pulling my hair looking for attention.  I’ll miss how the kids showered him with love and affection.  I’ll miss him his evening presence on the couch next to us.

We were lucky he chose our yard to walk into almost 18 years ago.  Rex was intertwined with the fabric of our lives and we could never have imagined how he would enrich us by being part of our family.  He was a great cat and I can’t have this, but I want him back.

The Journey – Friday July 27 and Saturday July 28 2012:

It finally happened – our trip to India. Last spring I would not have expected to be doing this but a lot happened since that time. I signed up for the University at Albany Weekend MBA program and part of that is a course in International Business. The destination for this year is India. Our group consisted of 23 students, one spouse (mine!), the program director Don Purdy, our class professor Dr. Sanjay Putrevu, and the university Vice Provost of International Education Dr. Ray Bromley.

The cohort started the long journey to India when we boarded the bus around 4PM on Friday July 27 in the Colonial Quad parking lot. We flew on Qatar Airways starting at 11:40PM traveling about 6900 miles and landing on Saturday evening about 12 hours later in Doha Qatar with a local time around 6:40PM. It was a relief to get off the flight after trying fitfully to sleep in the tight spaces of economy class. Qatar Airways did a good job getting us there with a wide variety of flight entertainment. The movies and episodes of “New Girl” definitely helped the time pass and I would fly them again. We arrived to Doha and stepped into 97 degree heat as we walked down the air stairs to a shuttle bus back to the terminal. Doha was a interesting sight flying in over the Persian Gulf and I would have loved to do a stopover on the way home but that wasn’t going to happen on this trip. We made our connection without any issue and set off our final leg to Chennai at 8:05PM. This flight was about 2000 miles and we arrived on time at 3:20AM. We all had our Indian visas in order which made that process smooth although waiting for the luggage is no fun after such a long trip.

Flying into Doha Qatar Airport

In the luggage area we met Sundari Ramakrishnan the Assistant Dean from The National Management School who would be our trusted guide, friend, and facilitator during the visit. She expertly navigated us out into the Chennai night to our waiting bus. I had heard from some people that there might be a smell to India that might be offensive to our delicate noses but I didn’t find that to be the case. There was a different scent to be sure but nothing bothersome for the vast majority of the trip.

The trip to our hotel was fairly short but it gave us our first look at Chennai and India. The traffic signals and signs seem to be optional and there was a buzz of activity even at 4AM. We saw signs of construction everywhere and arrived 30 minutes later at the Raj Park Hotel on TTK Road. This is a reasonably good hotel in a combination residential and commercial area of the city. We gathered in the restaurant for some quick coffee, tea, and a quick schedule review. We were introduced to our other host Dr. Sankaran Raghunathan the Dean of NMS who outlined our upcoming day.

Debbie and I went to our room and found it to be more than acceptable and began the task of unpacking and organizing our things in the room. When we got done it was nearly 7AM and after some discussion decided to go to the restaurant for the start of breakfast. Many of the others had a similar idea and we enjoyed our first Indian breakfast. We were to be regrouping at 1PM for lunch so we headed back to to the room for some much needed sleep.

Day One – Sunday July 29

We had a good lunch from the buffet and Sundari and Sankaram met us to take us shopping. Some of the other students were changing money and I decided I would go to an ATM just down and across the street. I noticed a woman on the other side as I was preparing to cross. She was accompanied by a monkey on a leash and an young girl of perhaps eight or nine years old. I noticed her say something to the girl and gesture in my direction as she spotted me. I figured I was going to be asked for money. The girl followed me to ATM with her hand out saying “money…. money”. I went inside withdrew my 10,000 rupes or about 161 dollars. I later learned that in that area of the world the multiplier of lakh is commonly used and means ten thousand so I guess I withdraw 1 lakh of rupees. Gautam Chatterji, one of our students who is originally from India, came to the ATM as I was doing withdrawal and he quite handily was able to brush aside her solicitaions as we returned to the hotel.

We headed to the shopping district of T.Nager. This a very busy shopping area of Chennai especially on a Sunday afternoon. We went down one side of the street which had various shops which were generally were discounters rather than higher end. The sidewalk along the street was crowded with various informal structures housing primative versions of something like mall kiosiks or magazine vendors. This left a fairly narrow area between the real stores and squatter’s stores for people to pass through. This was perhaps 6 feet wide for all the people walking along. If you didn’t want to go there your other choice was to go in the street. This meant moving along with traffic and around motorcycles, autorickshaws, cars, and other obstructions lining the curb. The traffic would moving around you with the sound of horns honking all around as it passed. Sundari could see Debbie’s discomfort with this and grabbed her hand guiding her along. Regarding hand holding it was commonplace to see several men walking along holding hands. Its not that they were gay but just and accepted and routine practice while walking with your friend in India.

The market had various things such as hard goods like a stainless steel store and there were people cutting and weaving flowers into various arrangements or strings to be tied into the hair. You could smaller the flowers and also various spices. It didn’t smell like home but was pleasant. There were some places where the store owner has successfully kept the squatters stores away from the front of the property. Sankaran said that the squatters shops along the curb were illegal but various things including low level corruption made it difficult for them to be removed.

The Crowded T.Nagar Market

Flower Vendor in the Market

As we walked along we noticed that the sidewalk was often in dire need of repair and there was a lot of trash that needs to be picked up. During our week we found this was a common theme throughout the city. We also visited a busy very crowded discount store that had shopping on multiple levels. It did have air conditioning but as you went up it got hotter and hotter. The Sundari Silks store was higher end and a more relaxed atmosphere. Many of our group bought a like to ties, scarves, and other items and prices that were very reasonable by U.S. standards.

We returned to the hotel and shared our first of many dinners at the Raj Park Hotel restaurant. They did a good job of preparing many Indian dishes for the group and kept us well supplied with bottled water.

Day 2 Monday July 30:

This day we started by taking our bus to the National Management School. We traveled south along the beach area and saw one of the poorest areas of Chennai. The beach had various fishing and other structures scattered along it and west of the road there was a crowned area of buildings and squatters huts. This area had also suffered serious damage in the Tsunami of 2004. The general area between the beach and the St. Thomas Basilica had many thousands of poor residents and we passed as they were going about the daily business of getting ready for the day. I saw a man wrapped in a towel brushing his teeth along side the road. It was an interesting juxtaposition of an ordinary task of most people in a very poor setting. There were school children in very tidy and clean uniforms although often barefoot. Most of the places people were living were very primitive and would hardly seem to keep out the weather. Here as in most other places the sidewalk was crumbling or non existent and covered with litter.

The Poor Area Across from the Beach

We continued inland and past the Siruseri IT Estate which has many computer related business including the massive facility that housed Tata Consultancy Services. It is the size of several stadiums and is a very modern facility. We arrived at NMS which is housed in a modern office complex and is modestly sized but very professional. We has several hours together where Dean Raghunathan led an informative discussion told us about some of the history and key issues about doing business in India. We learned the existing universities are non profits licensed by state or federal government and the many colleges seen throughout the area can not issue a degree unless in cooperation with a university. The UAlbany group was introduced to students from NMS who would be spending the rest of the week with us. They included two undergraduates Brittany Garza and Carly Moore from Grand Valley State University in Michigan who were doing a five week program and internship with NMS.

The Massive Tata Consultancy Building

We left NMS and took our lunch in a restaurant serving a traditional southern India lunch eaten with your hand and from a banana leaf. It was quite good and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I know that Debbie, Cathy Fiato and I needed some instruction from the NMS student at our table as to the proper way to assemble and eat the various foods on the leaf.

Lunch on a Banana Leaf

After lunch we took a tour around the city. Our NMS guides showed us around Chennai both the good and bad, functional and dysfunctional. We saw the new government buildings for the state of Tamil Nadu. They sit empty having been built by a previous administration under an opposing political party and the current government moved all the workers back to the previous site at Fort Saint George. This modern and massive complex sits empty while the politicians try to figure out what to do with it. The new government also wants to make its mark on Chennai and has construction of a new metro rail system underway.

We visited the Chennai Central Station a bustling hub of activity that was a contrast to the modern but empty state government complex. It was a facility the looked fairly old but with more modern items like LED platform signs. There were many passengers some freight waiting to be loaded. The train I saw had many more cars then the typical Amtrak train. We left the station and went to the museum at Fort St. George. It contains relics from the era British of rule and that building dates back to 1795. There is room containing various large paintings and it struck me how in the US that area would be air conditioned to help preserve them from the humidity. There is an imposing statue of Lord Cornwallis standing next to the stairs inside the entrance. Leaving the fort we traveled along the beach to the Saint Thomas Basilica. The apostle Thomas traveled there and was ultimately martyred and his tomb and some of his remains are there. We visited on the day of a birthday celebration for the bishop and watch a procession into the church. It was catholic with an Indian flavor. The grounds and church building were well maintained but walking up the hill from the beach was a contrast as it contained the all too present rubble and trash.

Inside the Chennai Central Station

Lord Cornwallis Guarding the Stairs at the Fort George Museum

The Bishop’s Birthday Celebration

Our day concluded with a buffet dinner and presentation on Indian dance. The two young women, Naveena Mezhiselvan and Nithya Ravikumar were students from NMS and now appeared in red sari’s. They showed some traditional and more contemporary Bollywood style dances and invited us to learn. They did a great job with all of this and we appreciated them sharing their dancing talents with us.

Indian Dance Demonstration