We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

On staying or going, and pets

A few days ago I asked for your questions. And boy did you ask. Lenore and TypO had some tough ones, so I’ll hold off on answering them.

Wendy asked a few questions:

Do you expect you’ll come back to the US when this assignment is over or will you look for another opportunity outside of the US?

How did you handle all of your pets when you left the country?

We have 3 dogs and I’ve always felt tied to the States by my dogs. Does that make sense?

The first question is easy, because we don’t know the answer. My contract here is for two years; we’re half-way through. But I have already been told I can renew for another two years, so this assignment is more indefinite.

Some days I really want to be back in the US, to settle into a community where we’ll live for more than a couple of years, where I can listen to a local NPR station and hike in the woods (though probably not at the same time). And some days I think I’m crazy to consider leaving. We’re in Egypt! It’s an amazing place. And our lifestyle here is good, helped by my 35-hour workweek (even less during Ramadan), generous vacation time, and full-time housekeeper/nanny.

And some days I am ready to move on, but to another country. I’ve been thinking a lot about different places in East Africa, though there aren’t as many opportunities for me in my field in sub-Saharan Africa. Or Europe, for that matter. We could probably move on to elsewhere in the Middle East, but I’m not sure of the appeal of that over Cairo.

What’s interesting is that about a year ago, I did a bloginterview with Mr. Four in which he said, “I think I’ll be glad to go home in two years.” Now, he’s settled in and really liking his job and our life here.

So, we don’t know. We’re keeping our options open right now.

Wendy also asked about our pets. I blogged about this a year ago, though much has changed since then.

When I accepted the job in Egypt, about 16 months ago, we had five animals, two cats and three dogs. Only two are still alive, the two younger dogs.

The Old Hound was sick and old and died peacefully after a life of adventure last July while we were still in the US. Iggy the diabetic cat came with us to Cairo but died from insulin shock about a month later. The Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty went to live with my mom, and she died last April after a very happy last few months.

Before I go any further, I do want to clarify that The Old Hound, Iggy, and the Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty were all quite senior. I think The Old Hound was the youngest, at about 14 years.

So that leaves Ms. Muddy Paws, who is living with my mom and whom I saw this summer, and Ms. Underfoot, who is living with another family in College Town. I love my girls, but they needed new homes even before we decided to move overseas as they just weren’t meshing with the boys. That sounds crass, but the situation was actually a bit dicey.

Of course, we’ve managed to acquire and lose a cat here. And of course now there’s the sweet if sicklyPuppy Four, who of late has been having seizures again.

Keep the questions coming, please. Wendy, I hope I answered yours.


17 September 2008 Posted by | home, iggy the cat, our life in egypt, pets | 2 Comments

Back in Cairo

We’re back from a fantastic vacation. I left off blogging right before our trip to St. Catherine’s Monastery, which was great. The church itself is awe-inspiring, really old and dramatic and lovely. And on a hot day, the mountains were a nice cool break from the beach. Though of course we dove into the pool about two minutes after getting back to our hotel.

I’ll blog more about our trip once I get the photos loaded (which will probably take forever, as always; it’s not the downloading but the organizing and uploading which kills me). But the rest of the week also included lots of snorkeling with some colorful fish along with some pool side adventures. The kids ended up playing with some new friends from the UK, Germany, and France (including the kids of someone prominent enough to have a Wikipedia entry, which of course I didn’t know but only suspected until I got home and googled him).

Today is Easter here in Egypt, for Coptic Christians. It’s also Easter for Ethiopian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Christians. So Happy Easter to you easterners.

Tomorrow, Monday, is Shem El Nessim, the Egyptian spring celebration. I’ll learn more about it and then pass along my wisdom to you. But it does mean I have tomorrow off, so I’ll go to the kennel and retrieve the pup, who, as the boys have been saying, has been on vacation with other dogs (okay, that’s what I told them). I hope he hasn’t been too traumatized by it all.

On Tuesday, Mr. Four starts his new job!

And since Thursday is the Egyptian Labor Day, I only have two days of work this week. Not bad for the first week back after a vacation.

We did get some sad news tonight: our old cat, the Jekyll/Hyde kitty, who has been living with my mom since last summer, died yesterday. By all accounts, she had become mostly a Hyde kitty and had left her biting, grouchy ways behind, and my mom, previously an avowed cat-disliker, really fell for her. My poor mom–over the past few years, she’s taken in three pets from my sister and me and overseen the death of two (who were old; my mom is not a pet serial killer).

A year ago Mr. Four and I had had five pets, three dogs and two cats. Both cats and one dog died from July to yesterday. They were all old and sick, but still.

The other two dogs are with other folks now (including one with my mom) and seemingly in good health for now.

We’ve also managed to lose a cat (and I don’t mean through death) here in Egypt. Maybe we’re bad news for animals.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ll even tell the boys about the Jekyll/Hyde kitty. Of course they both know her and remember her well. But Bug in particular has been extra attentive to death issues lately. When we went to St. Catherine’s, Giggle and Bug expressed an interest in playing with Moses (probably because I described him as an original super hero). We said they couldn’t play with Moses (or “Noses,” according to Bug), because he wasn’t there, he died a long time ago. So all day we heard “Noses died.” This is the same as happened after Iggy the cat died here in Egypt. And the same with after the Hound died last summer. Any advice on this one, folks?

Meantime, I have apparently resumed my night owl ways now that I’m back in Cairo. More soon, I promise. Now I need to go to bed and sleep off this vacation.

27 April 2008 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle, holidays, iggy the cat, our life in egypt, pets, tourism | 4 Comments


The newest member of the Family Four:

Our kitty was a stray. She found her way to a friend’s apartment sometime in September, and she (the cat) was injured and very sick. Our friend nursed her back to health, but then her husband really objected to keeping the cat. She mentioned this to Mr. Four, who said no before he even told me about it.

A couple of weeks later, she called the house, and I answered. She was desperate. A friend was willing to take her in, but the friend was out of town, so could we take her for a few days? We have relied heavily on the kindess of strangers and friends to help out with our animals in the past, so of course I said yes. Knowing full well we might keep her.

We decided to keep her before we had a name. The boys, especially Bug, kept calling her “Iggy,” the name of our cat now dead. So we’d say, “That’s not Iggy,” and Bug would say, “Iggy’s dead.” So we came up with a name in a hurry. Here I’ll call her Kitty.


She was very much a vampire kitty at first, hiding during the day, venturing out only at night. Even now she prefers to avoid a lot of time with the boys, but she’s gaining weight, her coat is looking fluffy and pretty, and she’s settled right into the family.

29 November 2007 Posted by | family, iggy the cat | 1 Comment

Goodbye Iggy

Iggy the cat died yesterday. He had a vet appointment in the morning, and the doctor said the infections in his foot were finally healing. But it was his diabetes that did him in. He went into insulin shock in the afternoon (perhaps brought on, in part, by the stress of the doctor’s appointment). Despite many phone consultations with the vet, we couldn’t save him.

The boys have known the cat was sick. In the midst of Iggy’s shock, the boys and I said goodbye to him and went to meet some friends at a nearby playground. Mr. Four stayed home, joining us later with the news.

Poor kitty–he had a rough last few weeks. (Though he was very well traveled.)

And poor boys, especially Giggle. I don’t know that he was particularly attached to the cat, but with all the loss he’s experienced in his life over the past year, it’s doubly sad for him to lose a pet. For the past few weeks, he’s been saying that “Iggy’s sick.” After we told him the news today, he said, “Iggy’s okay.”

And poor Bug has now lost two pets in the course of a few months (our old hound died in early summer, before Giggle arrived in the US).

And poor Mr. Four, who has had Iggy since he was a tiny, starving kitten (at some point after being nursed back to healthy, Iggy declared he would never go hungry again and thus started the incessant fod consumption that likely led to his weight gain and eventual diabetes; Iggy topped out around 19-20 pounds).

Iggy was a great cat. We will miss him and his ankle-batting and mewing for food and rolling, otter like, onto his back. Goodbye Iggy.

16 September 2007 Posted by | giggle, iggy the cat | 5 Comments

Whither the menagerie?

A few months ago, we had a house full of animals. To answer a comment, here are their various fates.

The Old Hound
A legend in his own time, the old hound is now in that great woodsy romp-land in the sky. He retired into town with us a few years ago and had a month long wilderness adventure shortly after. Then the next summer there was the cancer scare. This past spring, he deteroriated quickly, and by June, he could barely stand on his own. He was a good dog, and we miss him.

Ms. Muddy Paws
This girl was with me a long time, really since a few months after Mr. Four and I started dating way back when. She wasn’t doing very well with the boys, first Bug and then both Bug and Giggle. She went to live with her big fan, my mother, so we’re hearing regular updates of her neighborhood adventures.

The Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty
My mom wanted a mouser and, since Ms. Muddy Paws was already loaded up, what’s one more? The Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty has since entranced my mother with her own brand of quirky affection. No word yet on her mousing.

Ms. Underfoot
My doggy soulmate, the dog we always thought needed to be around kids. Man, was I wrong. She never could give up being number one. This was the toughest one for me. In fact, the move here probably made this easier, as I had known for a while Ms. Underfoot probably needed a new home. And she has a wonderful family, a young couple with a house next to a huge field, near acres of woods where they walk regularly. She’s thriving, but I miss her terribly.

Iggy the Diabetic Cat
You’ll recall the good news was that Iggy’s limping was not related to his diabetes. The bad news is that his body, apparently, is too weak to fight the infections in his pads. He just came back from a doctor’s visit, and three of his four feet are bandaged up. He may have surgery on one pad this weekend. Poor Iggy–I hope he’s not too miserable. The boys, to their credit, have been very gentle with him.

So that’s how we went from five animals to one in a very short time. I know all the reasons we found new homes for them, but I still feel terrible. I’m trying to keep in mind my mother’s warning before we left: “Don’t take in any more animals in Egypt!”

Did I mention this is a country of stray cats? They are everywhere. But I am trying to be strong in the face of all that mewing.

10 September 2007 Posted by | getting there, iggy the cat | 1 Comment

Good news!

So we thought Iggy’s insulin was messed up and his whole system was out of whack. (Iggy is the cat.) Turns out he had some problems with his nails (likely as a result of being in the carrier during our travels), which we’re remedying with some antibiotics, foot cream, and twice-daily foot soaks. Heh, he won’t like that. But I’m so glad his diabetes isn’t the problem.

Hurray for the (alleged) best vet in all of Egypt! (Mr. Four says he’s actually pretty nice.) Hurray for vet visits and medicine that only cost $10!

Oh, by the way, Mr. Four maintains he never thought the diabetes was the problem.

29 August 2007 Posted by | iggy the cat | Comments Off on Good news!

Help me, oh internets

What do you know about insulin? Iggy the cat, who is diabetic, has been doing just fine til the last day or so. He’s limping again, a symptom of diabetes, which tends to interfere somehow with the hip joint. We saw the limping first last spring, before we had his diabetes well regulated.

He missed a few insulin injections and his schedule is way off from our travels, but he’s been back on a consistent schedule for quite a few days. So why are we seeing the limping now? Is it a leftover symptom from the missed doses? Or … could it be that his insulin somehow spoiled on the trip over?

If he’s still limping tomorrow, I’m going to try to find a vet who will see us soon. Fortunately, we have some contact information for a couple of local vets, courtesy of my employer. In the meantime, if you have any insight into Iggy’s state, please do share.

18 August 2007 Posted by | iggy the cat | 1 Comment