Saturday, July 16, 2005

I miss Sunny every time I go into the kitchen. It was so sudden. A few days ago she was chipper and bright and now she is gone. I suppose I should be glad it was so quick for her, not lingering through a long decline like so many of the others. It just happened so fast I didn't have time to prepare myself mentally, I guess.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.

I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.

Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*

I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.
It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.

I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.

Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*

I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gone

Sunspot was gone when I went downstairs at eight-thirty this morning.

She was semi-stretched out under the telephone table--virtually in the same spot where we had lain together Monday night whle she was going through her ordeal with the blood clot. She was already cool to the touch and stiffening.

I can't say this was unexpected. Monday night had put a tremendous strain on her. Still, I had hoped that after coming so close to death and survivng, she would be with us for some months to come.

I hope she didn't suffer. I hope she hadn't sought out that spot where I had comforted her on Monday seeking comfort this morning. I had gone downstairs to get a cold drink about four-thirty this morning and she had been sleeping curled on the floor. I had petted her had said something to her. She hadn't been in any distress then. I have to wonder why she went to that particular spot--maybe she sensed that was where her death had begun...

She had seemed so well, so content, yesterday. In the car, coming home from the vet's office, she was purring, sitting beside me on the armrest and looking at the world going by with interest. When we got home, I fed her some baby food chicken and then she spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening sleeping. She got up while I was cooking supper about ten pm. She wasn't interested in eating but did go over to the water fountain. Afterwards, she went and lay on the carpet between the woodstove and the sofa, before moving over near the telephone table later. If she seemed restless, it wasn't enough to do more than raise subconscious concerns in my mind.

Dots thinks that she may have thrown another clot that went straight to her brain. I hope so--I hope it was quick for her.

I have to take comfort that she had a nice last day and that she went quickly, without a long, painful decline. She kept her faculties and was very much her own cat right until the end. She was never demonstrative nor did she actively seek out attention, but she was appreciative. She was with us for only two years, and our relationship didn't always go smoothly, but I came to appreciate her quiet strength and dignity and her understated affection. Someone else had named her and raised her from a kitten; someone else had enjoyed her youth and maturity--only to abandon her to the animal shelter when she was sixteen years old. I regret that I didn't go downstairs last night and spend time with her, but I was so tired and sore. She knew--in the end--that this was her home. She knew she was loved.

Inseparable from the fire
its light
takes precedence over it ..
In the huge gap
between the flash
and the thunderstroke
spring has come in
or a deep snow fallen...
in an eternity
the heat will not overtake the light.


from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower
by William Carlos Williams

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sunspot

I have never seen an animal come so close to death and then come back.

Last night, about ten-twenty, I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for myself after a long day of cleaning house. Sunspot was sitting on the counter near the telephone, having turned her nose up at a small piece of hamburger I had offered her. Her appetite had been slack all day but most of the cats weren't eating very hearty due to the hot weather.

In an instant, as if hit by lightening, Sunny was sprawled on the floor, eyes wide and staring, claws dug into the carpet. She was breathing shallowly and fast.

I ran into the laundry room and got a soft blanket to place under her and moved her near the telephone stand, positioning her on her side. She mouth was open, gasping for air as her sides worked rapidly. Her back legs were limp and cooling. I didn't know what happened but I knew it was some sort of cardiac/circulatory accident. Cats don't have heart attacks as such but she was showing symptoms very similar to those Rosie did as she went into heart failure during her last moments.

I lay down beside her, trying to speak comfortingly to her, stroking her and telling her it was alright--she could leave if she wanted to, that she was a good kitty. Every now and then, Sunny would give a deep gasp and I would think, "That's it--it's over," but she kept breathing, struggling for air. After about a half-hour, I called the emergency vet number and talked with Dots. She agreed that it sounded like heart failure. She was going to be at the clinic in a half-hour to handle an emergency case from Ninilchik and said that Sunny would probably pass before then but that she would be there if I wanted to bring her in.

Okay--I had that option. Did I want to stress Sunny with that final car trip? Would she linger on for hours, struggling for breath, until she was too exhausted? I hate these decisions. I hate having to say to a veterinarian--make my cat dead, please. Was she suffering? I looked into her eyes. So far, she hadn't made a sound, but I noticed her pupils were less dilated, her eyes moving, following the motions of the other cats as they passed through her field of view. She looked at me with awareness. Her mind was still there--still intact. Are you ready to go? I wondered. Do you need to be released?

We had been lying on the floor together for an hour. The rapid breathing had passed and Sunny no longer had to gasp open-mouthed for air. Her back feet were less cold than they had been and she even raised her head a bit and looked around. The phone rang--it was Dots, checking to see what was going on while she waiting for her emergency case to arrive. As I spoke with her, Sunny stood up and moved a few steps away before lying down again. She looked almost normal--just weak. Whatever it was had passed for now. Dots agreed and suggested that I dose Sunny with a children's aspirin, if it didn't stress her too much. I told her I would check in with her in the morning and went to tend Sunny.

She took the aspirin fairly easily. I washed it down with a spritz of water from a syringe.

She was too weak to jump up to her usual resting place, so I settled her underneath a chair in a quiet location and watched her for a while. She seemed settled, so I took my long-delayed supper and went upstairs for a bit. When I came back down, she had moved to the foot of the cat tree, ignoring the fresh sheepskin and clean woolen blanket I had made available to her. Strong-willed as always. So, she was apparently moving around alright under her own power. I went back upstairs for a while. When I checked her again, she was on the second shelf of the cat tree. By morning, she was up in her favorite spot in the window.

So, I took her in to see Dots this morning. Her blood pressure was good and there didn't appear to be any enlargement of the heart. Dots couldn't hear her heart very well as she wouldn't quit purring. Dots thinks that she "threw a clot" that blocked the femoral arteries and caused a drop in blood pressure and all the symptoms that I observed. Such events are usually fatal but somehow the clot dislodged or dissolved and Sunny bounced back. I have never seen an animal so obviously dying turn around so dramatically, but Sunny seems to be feeling pretty chipper today. She is tired and a little weak from the ordeal but she was alert and interested during our car trip and when we got home, she jumped up on a chair and then onto the desk to eat.

This is the first salvo of her last battle. She will be nineteen if she lives until October and she won't survive for more than another year or so. She is very lucky and very strong--I hope her recovery means she will be with us for some time yet to come.

Friday, July 8, 2005

New Cat

She's about six years old with a shaggy white coat and blue eyes. She's deaf. And her name is Frannie...

Oh, wait--that's my *old* cat named Frannie. But that old Frannie was anxious and aggressive and so stressed-out that she pulled her fur out. Even after four years with us, she would flinch when we made a motion to pet her. The new Frannie lies peacefully at the foot of the bed and looks at me with such affection and tranquility in her eyes--it can't be the same cat.

But it is. At our wits'-end in trying to treat her aggression with Clarence, the vet suggested that we try putting her on Prozac. It has been just a week and already it is like having a whole new cat. Well, not entirely new. The old Frannie is still there personality-wise but it feels like the fear that must have been a part of her life since her youngest days has receded.

We are her fourth or fifth home--she passed through a lot of fear and neglect before she was even a year old. The world can be a confusing, frightening place for a deaf cat, especially one who is growing up on the street, and Frannie came to us with a whole complex of psychological baggage. She was destructive, aggressive (stalking poor shy Clarence to distraction,) and self-mutilating. But we could also see that she loved us and was very devoted to us. Even when she was being corrected by a well-aimed squirt of the water bottle (from chasing Clarence,) her response was not to run away from us but toward us. (As long as it got her away from Clarence, that was fine with us. When she was sitting beside us, she wasn't stalking him.) I told Denny one night that I had the feeling that if we were living out in the woods in a tent with all our cats, Frannie is one that wouldn't wander off. We are probably the only love she has ever known.

It was heart-breaking that she was socially crippled with her fear-driven behavior. I couldn't give her up--not after all she has been through--but she was just too disruptive to our household. After Clarence's second vet visit in a month to treat Frannie-inflicted wounds, we knew we had to do something.

So it filled my heart with warmth when I woke up the other morning to find Frannie looking peacefully out at the world that has so often in the past been a source of fear for her. I am going to keep her away from Clarence for a while longer--hoping to break her habit of chasing him--but I am optimistic that we have found some relief for her from her inner demons.

Like I said, it's like having a whole new cat. Or re-discovering the better side of an old one.