Meatball

We’re officially in Ecuador, but more on that later because we’re officially in Ecuador without Meatball.

Meatball has been with me since 2010 when I adopted her after she was abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Greenville, North Carolina. It was love at first sight! Well, for me, at least. 😂 Meatball took a little time to warm up to me, spending most of her first few weeks hiding under my bed. I remember inviting people over to see my new cat and having them lay on the floor with me to stare at her snoozin’ in the most unreachable spot. Which is actually how she got her name…

I had been testing out a few names. The guy that found her wanted to call her Wendy. Didn’t love that. I had been testing out Spaghetti, but when my friend, Andrew, came over to see her, he took one look at her chunks flubbed out under the bed and said, “She’s not a Spaghetti, she’s a Meatball!” And so, Meatball she became.

One of my first pictures of Meatball.

As you might imagine, we intended to bring Meatball with us to Ecuador, and we had been preparing to make sure she had all her necessary treatments, vaccines, and health checks. I intended on writing a post about “How to take your cat to Ecuador,” given all the hoops we were jumping through. On Monday, a week before we were flying, I took her to the vet for her final vaccine appointment and blood draw (poor kitty had thyroid problems and needed it checked). It was a tough appointment for her because of the blood draw, but the vet didn’t seem to think she would be anything other than a little more sleepy, which was accurate. We didn’t think anything of it. Later, in the middle of the night, I woke up to Meatball having a seizure at the end of the bed. I’ll spare the details, but it was violent and scary, and we had absolutely no clue what was going on. When it was over, we just had a feeling – this might be our last night with Meatball.

The next morning we took her to the vet as soon as they opened, but the vet couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her. I compared it to when your check engine light comes on, and you take it to the mechanic, and then it goes off again. Once you leave the shop, then it comes right back on. That’s what happened. We got home, Shane went to work, and she had another seizure. So, we made an appointment with an emergency clinic, but by the time we got there she had had another one and was basically unresponsive. So, we walked out of the clinic on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, 6 days before our move, without our Meatball.

Little sun kitty.

Needless to say, we never expected this scenario.

If anything, we were concerned about bringing her back to Munich from Ecuador, she was 16 years old, but we never expected to leave Germany without her. And to that end, yes. She was 16, but what could we do? We certainly weren’t going to abandon her in Germany.

So, our excitement for moving was quite muted, given the situation. Now that we’re here, it still doesn’t really feel real. It still feels like we’re on vacation, so of course, Meatball wouldn’t be with us!

But enough with the sad. I’m tired of crying. Instead, I’d like to tell you a few fun facts about Meatball that you probably didn’t know.

She couldn’t resist paper.

What. a. sucker!

I got a lot of enjoyment in setting “paper traps” for this cat. Once, in the Netherlands, we received an ungodly amount of paper shoved into an uncecessarily large Amazon box, so I made a paper trail starting at Meatball on our bed all the way to her blanket on the couch in the living room to see what she would do. That sucker TOOK THE BAIT and walked on the paper the entire way from one spot to the next. 😂

She was musically inclined.

Meatball was an underground rapper who went by Meatbeezy. She was also a Taylor Swift connoisseur. Her favorite song was ‘Wonderland,’ a bonus track on the 1989 album.

She loved selfies.

Comes with the celebrity, I guess.

She instantly loved Shane.

This was a point of contention in our house often ending with me pleading to her “but I adopted you! Love meeee!” Shane said it wasn’t his fault she loved him more. She was just looking for a strong male role model. 😐

She only tolerated two other animals in our time together: Heathclifford and Luna.

She tolerated them as long as they didn’t try to get on the bed. That was off-limits. Plus, Luna is a big ‘ole chicken-dog when it comes to cats. We always had to make sure that Meatball didn’t torment Luna by sitting directly in front of her food bowl or blocking the hallway.

An old kitty CAN learn new tricks!

She was hesitant at first, but once we got her going, that kitty loved to ramp! She would ramp in the morning, ramp for treats, ramp to look down over you and judge…

Finally, like most kitties…

She couldn’t get enough love.

If you were next to her on the couch…. pets. On the bed… pets. Looked at her for too long? … well, obviously you must want to give some pets. Naturally, we were happy to oblige.


It goes without saying, but we miss this little chunky snuggle-toothed squish face. Life won’t be the same without her. 💔

More about Ecuador, coming soon…

Adiós,

Whitney

Guess who’s back…

…back again! Meatball’s back. Tell a friend!

Seriously!

We didn’t see this one coming. Yesterday was day 12 of Miss Adventure Kitty’s disappearance, and while Shane and I hadn’t given up hope we were definitely coming to terms with the reality that she might not come home. I had already started whining to Shane about how I didn’t want to be a crazy cat lady without a cat. And I’m not sure how many know the story of Heathclifford, my sister’s cat. Long story short he was her best friend, wandered off, and never came home, so Sis and I had been lamenting over the fact that for two girls who love kitties so much we have the worst kitty luck.

Oh, Butters! Forever in our hearts.

I digress… Back to Meat Beazy.

Last night shortly after Shane and I went to bed my Netherlands phone rang. I would just like to point out that I have been self-diagnosed with RGTS (Reverse Grandma Technology Syndrome). AKA: I don’t know how to use this piece of sh*t prepaid phone we bought for over here. Great with iPhones, terrible with basic ones. Anyway, it rang & I made Shane answer it and it turns out it was our neighbor about 4 doors down. She said that they heard a cat in their garden (“It [the cat] is very loud!” … yup. sounds like her!) and brought her inside. Would we want to come down and see if it’s her.

YES!

Out the door we go, trying not to get our hopes up too much after the other grey cat incident, but sure enough it was her! She was meowing like crazy, but as soon as Shane picked her up she stopped and she was happy. Turns out, when I put a flyer into their mailbox shortly after she disappeared they kept it, and then when they found this random cat in their garden they knew it was her.

So, she’s HOME!! She seems to be uninjured. Only a little skinny, sneezy (someone has developed some allergies) and a small cut on her face, but overall just fine. A lot of the websites said that at about day 10 cats really start starving and come out to look for home/food so we figure that must have been the case. And since she was about 4 doors down it seems that we had been looking in the right area the whole time.

I think she will be staying away from the windows from now on, and we sure will remember to close them.

Tot ziens!

Whitney

You call this a pizza?

So Whitney pointed out something to me the other day: our past two blog posts have been rather depressing; a stolen bike and a lost cat. 

If you would just happen to read those two posts, you would think we are not enjoying life in Groningen. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Life is good. So, with that in mind, I’ll keep this post a little more upbeat (see dog photo below…). I’ll just highlight quickly where we stand with the cat.

Just a normal day at the grocery store.

We still haven’t been able to find her. This is despite hanging flyers, putting notes in nearby mailboxes, posting her on every website and database we can find, and searching numerous times a day and night. We have even gone to the extreme of placing her pet carrier, favorite blanket, my shirt, food, and treats outside to see if we can “lure” her in. After leaving all of this out overnight, we were sure that a cat was making use of it. To check, I was able to borrow a webcam from work and we proceeded to hang said camera out the window and film overnight. Ultimately, this meant 3 days of 8+ hours of videos for Whitney to watch while I went to work. The result: Whitney can tell you in depth what all the cats of the neighborhood do during the night. However, still no Meatball. On the plus side, we just ran into our landlord, the owner of the flower shop, and he is going to try to get the mailman to slip flyers into every house along with the mail (and bribe him with free flowers). So who knows, there is still hope!

Now, on to more cheerful (or at least not so depressing) things! As I mentioned previously, we are really enjoying life here in Groningen. Almost daily, I think we both have moments where we have to kind of step back and take in the fact that we are really living in Europe. For the most part, things aren’t that different. Having been here for six weeks now, even those differences start to be commonplace. Hopping on the bike and riding to work, even in rain, is just a given now. If anything, it’s a relaxing end to the day. In fact, biking is so second nature now, Whitney and I rode 6km (a little under 4 miles) each way to attend a cookout with my fellow lab members. I can guarantee that would have never happened in the United States. We would have certainly jumped in a car and made the 5-10 minute drive. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. You just ride along, talking as you would in a car, getting a little exercise along the way. As I said in a previous post, why biking is not more common in the United States is quite baffling.

Sitting by the canals, one of our new favorite hobbies.

If you have been following along with the World Cup, you’ll know that The Netherlands team made it pretty far this year. In the previous World Cup (2010), they made it to the final but ultimately lost to Spain.   In 2010, their best player was hurt right before the tournament started and was not 100% for any of the games. This year, he was ready to go so expectations were pretty high. This was one of the things that excited me most about the time that we moved. I think the World Cup is amazing as is, but to be in a country were football/futbol (soccer is American) is king was very exciting. To be in a country that could potentially win it all was even cooler. On days that The Netherlands played, the city went crazy. With each win, the celebrations only got bigger and louder. By the time they had made it to the semifinals, city center had turned into one giant party. There was a large screen set up with 4000-5000 people watching (they capped the number of people allowed in the fenced in area – we didn’t get there early enough to get it) and then each bar/pub put TVs and chairs outside. This meant that the streets were packed with people drinking and cheering along. It was quite a sight to see. On days the team won, people would stay out celebrating until 6-7am. We know this because we saw all of them coming home from the pubs as we were searching for the cat.   Despite all of this, they fell short, losing in the semifinals to Argentina on penalty kicks. They played in the 3rd place game last night, beating Brazil. However, I don’t think anyone here watched. It was an all or nothing kind of year.

Outside of the Dutch team making it pretty far, the World Cup made work pretty fun for me. The research group that I work in is very international and multicultural. I do not exaggerate when I say that we have people from all over the world. Each day at lunch, the conversation always centered on that day’s games as individuals would be pitted against one another. A couple of fellow PhD students are from Germany and made sure to point out to me the fact that the United States and Germany were playing. Of course, it was hard to miss, as I made sure to wear my USA shirt each game day.

Speaking of my work, things are going great! I am still very happy with my decision to pursue a PhD and really enjoy being back in the field of evolution/behavioral biology. It seems my Tanzania trip is moving forward as planned. As I had mentioned previously, I am tagging along with some individuals from Switzerland. At this point, they are finalizing the paperwork and permits and will nail down a date as soon as that is finished. I’ll do another post later with more information about the research and the trip.

Now being that I have spent the majority of this post talking about myself, I feel I should take some time to mention my other half (she gets mad when I say roommate – I can’t figure out why?).

Aside from watching hours of cat videos and feeding the neighborhood cats treats (seriously, she has a string of cats following her is she walks around outside), Whitney has had a couple more job interviews, the last of which seemed to go really well. Unfortunately, July is a big holiday/vacation month here so it seems the people in charge of hiring are out until August. However, we are hopeful this one will work out. From the sounds of it, the interview went about as well as she could have hoped. Our fingers remain crossed! Outside of this possibility, the university provides some ‘partner support’, which will basically allow her to have access to internal job postings. To get access, Whitney will have to meet and interview with some HR reps that work with my group. Of course, the person in charge of this is on holiday until August. Seems the job hunt is on hold for the rest of the month.

So, with all of that, I think I’ll call this post finished. All in all, things are still going great here. We are getting settled more and more each day. I would even venture to guess that things are more or less normal now. We even ordered some pizza the other night and had it delivered. A word of warning though: it’s very true about Americans having everything bigger/larger. Our “medium” pizza turned out to be much less than we expected (aka a personal pizza). There are just some things that we will never adjust to…

“Medium” = SMALL

Until next time,

Shane

Nether-kitty

Reeeeunitedd and it feels so gooooooood!

We officially have a Nether-kitty!!

…and yes. That’s her strapped to my bike.

So, let it be known that if you ever decide to move out of the country, and you want to take your pet it’s a pain in the ass. And expensive. And 100% worth it. I’ll start at the beginning…

When we first found out that we were moving we starting looking into what it was going to take to get Meat Beazy (that’s her rap name) over to The Netherlands. From what we could tell, we needed three main things.

1. Microchip

2. Rabies shot at least 21 days prior to her flight

3. Health Certificate signed off by a certified vet within 10 days of her flight.

No big deal right? Wrong. Mostly wrong because apparently there are two types of microchips. One kind is only used in the U.S., and the other is international. Naturally, when I took the cat to the humane society in Pittsburgh unbeknownst to me they gave her the wrong kind of microchip (has to be ISO compatible aka 15 digits, if you’re wondering). The rabies shot comes after the microchip, and we were on our way in plenty of time for her to fly the Friday after us.

I think most everyone knows, but we left Pittsburgh and spent about a month at home with family before we moved. During that time we made an appointment with the local vet for the health certificate, and that’s when I found out the humane society gave her the wrong type of microchip. Not only did the vet have to give her a new one (yep, she has 2), but they had to issue a new rabies shot. This meant she had to wait another 21 days before she was eligible to enter the country. We also found out that her health certificate had to be signed off by the state vet which was new information to us.

Since she couldn’t come with us when we originally planned Meatball got to live with Grandma for a few weeks!

Finally, after my darling mommy ran back and forth between local and state vets, she was on our way to us! Charlotte to Atlanta to Amsterdam.

When she arrived in Amsterdam she went to the “Animal Hotel” and waited for me to pick her up. So, naive me, I’m thinking ‘oh! I’ll train down, find cargo, in and out and on my way back home in 30 min tops’. HAH. No. Finding cargo was the easy part. Luckily, it was only a 10-12 minute walk from the airport terminal/train station. I say luckily because I ended up making that walk 6 times. I show up at cargo, and first, they say “we have a cat here??” uh. You better have a cat here. Once they find her they tell me I have to come back in an hour and a half. The vet has to inspect her before they can release her. So off I go. Back to the terminal to kill some time.

Ok, so BACK to cargo I go. She passes all the vet inspections (and the whole time I’m thinking what’s the point of having the health certificate??). They hand me a stack of papers and tell me I have to go back to the terminal to Customs to get them to sign off. Bring the papers back then I can have her. All in all, I think I probably walked about 4 miles back and forth, and if anyone needs any tips on Schiphol I’ve got ya covered.

After all this I finally got my kitty! A 2 hour train trip and a bike ride later she is here! Poor cat, I did manage to knock her off the back of the bike in my first attempt to strap her down with bungee cords. She was just dangling there off the side of the bike giving me a look like ‘really?’. After a slight adjustment, we biked on home with no problems.

Overall, she seems like she survived just fine. She’s already found all the windows and her cardboard bowl and is resisting my love like usual. And just a heads up, since this was such a fun experience Shane says we’re not moving back to the U.S. until Meatball goes to the big catnip field in the sky… so it might be a while.

Tot Ziens!

Whitney