Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.

-- Chili Davis

TIME MARCHES ON

What a drag it is getting old.

Our creaky cat Tut is 16 years old. That's 80-plus years in human years, and he's suddenly starting to show ... every ... single ... year ... of it.

It's like he's undergoing some sort of warped time-lapse photography experiment and aging in front of us every day and I don't like it one single bit.

Our little Abyssinian kitty was a fireball of a kitten when a friend who bred Abyssinian cats dropped him by the house when he was 6-months-old. Son Karl was in the second grade at the time and Lois and I wanted him to have a cat he could grow up with. And boy did they grow up together.

When they weren't reading books or watching TV together, they were chasing each other around the house and leaping tall coffee tables and living room couches in a single bound. Tut's 8-foot leap from the back of the couch through the kitchen door when he heard a piece of meat land on the floor is still the longest standing broad jump I've ever seen performed anywhere by a domestic cat.

And he was only 13 months old at the time.

Now Tut is 16 years old, stiff and creaky when he walks, always looks like he's trying to remember who you are, and asks me to help him up on the chair where he sleeps in the sun.

I can remember when he used to jump over that stupid chair!

At this rate I'm not sure he's going to make it through the rest of this year.

When I get home from work, Tut hobbles up and leans against my leg and waits for me to pet him.

I draped a soft fuzzy blanket over one end of the family room couch so Tut has a warm cave to crawl in and stay comfortable on cold days and nights. There's not much fat left on those old bones to help keep him warm.

The other night he forgot to wake up from his nap at dinnertime and come sit on the stool by the table and join us in dinner conversation. That's one of the high points of Tut's day and the first time he's missed it in years.

He was a very unhappy cat when he woke up later and discovered dinner was over. I guess I better go wake him up at dinnertime from now on.

What a drag it is getting old.

Dear Gary:

What will they think of next? I guess "someone," (and I accuse raccoons or squirrels) must have wanted a drink from something classier than the bird bath or a plant saucer.

Our rain gauge was missing and after two days I found it several feet along the fence from where it normally hangs, totally empty of course, carefully placed on its side between the upright slats! I suppose the sipping of rain water from a rain gauge must be like sipping Champagne for humans?

On another very sweet note, there's a golden-crowned sparrow singing his heart out at Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill.

What a glorious lift to the day!

Joanna in El Cerrito

Dear Joanna:

I'm guessing it was probably raccoons.

The power to control how much it rains is just too much for a raccoon to resist. Can you blame them?

What a beautiful voice to add to the cathedral chorus.

A FINAL NOTE

Blaze Hayes' letter in Thursday's column about her cat Orlie was such a nice tribute to him and her as well.

I am constantly in awe of the entries of your readers ... they entertain and educate. These animal lovers and observers are amazing in their tales ... and Ms. Hayes' account was especially touching.

Your column provides such a valuable place to share. (Marsha, Concord)

Find more Gary in his blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/garybogue; write Gary, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099; old columns at ContraCostaTimes.com, click on Columns; e-mail garybug@infionline.net.