Shattered

20170217230352

I could barely see anything through the stinging haze of my tears, as I slid into the passenger seat of my vehicle. The radio turned on as the engine started, and I didn’t think it was possible to cry any harder than I already was. Slaughter’s “Fly to the Angels” filled my ears, and I switched it off with a trembling hand. How apropos. Now sitting in the shadow of my vet’s office, only moments before, I sent my beloved cat Ozzy to fly to the angels.

Ozzy had been chronically ill 11 of his 14 years. Through it all he stayed the same gentle soul everyone loved; from several medical interventions peppered throughout the years, to his strict medication and prescription food regimen, he was always a happy guy.

Nothing got my boy down. That’s why it was strange in the weeks leading up to his death, that he fought me when I tried to medicate him. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he was done with it all. He just looked at me with his usual expression, always appearing to smile.

When he showed signs of illness soon after, I didn’t think much about it. Surely it was another setback and he would bounce back from the vet, as good as he could possibly be. As my better half secured him in his carrier for the trip to the doc, I assured my boy he would be home soon. Little did I know one of the last things I told my baby was a lie.

The baby vet called with a diagnosis that I was not expecting. I say baby vet because she was new, and not one of the two senior vets that I normally dealt with. Ozzy had end stage renal failure, with maybe a week left. My heart broke in a million pieces. Is this really the end? Despair turned to anger when baby vet said that his kidney values were normal in December, but now (June) they were awful. Did he get into anything he shouldn’t have? It took every ounce of strength not to scream, “Are you kidding me?” into the phone. Eleven years of enemas, xrays, MRIs, hospitalizations, prescription food, and medication from various places. Again, are you kidding me? Most likely several years of meds took their toll on his kidneys. It was a double-edged sword, if it weren’t for them he would have been euthanized at age 3 at the suggestion of our prior vet. He made it to 14, much longer than was expected.

IMG_20141218_071254332

We were given the option to bring him home (our regular vet would later tell us that was not possible), or give him another day of fluids to see how he responded. We made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

When the techs brought him to us, one glance at him told us it was time. He looked so tired, he’d had enough, and he had been trying to tell me. It was heart wrenching. My boy needed the gift of peace, but it was painful. I told him how much I loved him, and what a good boy he was, and how I tried for so long to keep this day from coming. I begged his forgiveness, his fur damp with my salty tears. I told him I wanted to stay with him until the end, but I was a coward and could not. (It’s the same with humans, I don’t get the point of viewings. I want to remember the person alive, not dead in a box).

Fortunately my petsitter and dear friend held him as he took his last breath while I sobbed outside the building. She told me he was at peace, and had closed his green eyes. I will be forever grateful to her for staying with him. All I could say between heaving sobs was, “my baby is gone.”

I have to believe that a Rainbow Bridge does exist. I told Ozzy when I get there I will look for him first. My boy was deservedly at rest, but where did that leave me? Shattered.

20170217230634

Welcome Vlad

img_20160818_200127116

First Night at Home

People often ask me why I don’t have a black cat. As much as I love Halloween and Salem, Massachusetts, you would think one of my kitties would be a traditional Halloween cat. It just didn’t work out that way.  Until recently, the right black cat never crossed my path.

You may have read my post about adopting Barnabas Collins. When we adopted him, I was actively searching for a black cat, but not just any black cat. Since I’ve wanted one for a long time, and we had only one spot left for a new addition, he or she had to be a perfect fit.

Keeping that in mind, I didn’t adopt the first black cat that I saw. One kitty at age 10 was a bit older than I wanted. (This cat was later adopted). Another was great until he started biting. One boy just didn’t like other cats, and still one more was a little shy. He was friendly, but our existing menagerie at home may have been too much for him.

I had been checking Petfinder weekly to see the available black cats and had gone to the shelter that evening to see a four year old female who was no longer available when we got there.

When we were in the room of cats up for adoption, I recognized another cat from the website trying to get our attention. As much as he wanted to get out, he was the shy cat once we got to meet him. I saw a black cat not on the website, in cage #9, Bubba. He was stretched out in the front of his cage and squeaked out a sound when I said hello.

The volunteers were taking the shy cat away from the acquaintance room, and 10 minutes before closing, they asked if we wanted to see anyone else. I saw the only black cat that was listed on Petfinder, but I remembered Bubba in cage #9.

Within those last 10 minutes, we fell in love with Bubba. He was going to be my spooky kitty. He was eager to jump in our laps for petting, rewarding us with purrs. He even gave me kisses on my fingers. We couldn’t take him home that night because he wasn’t yet neutered or vaccinated. He had been at the shelter about a month recovering from an upper respiratory infection. He was two years old, brought to the shelter because his owner had too many cats. I noticed that they let him go outside and that he never had any veterinary care. His luck was about to change. My cats are strictly indoor and have pet insurance.

Two days later I had my Halloween kitty. Unlike Barnabas, Bubba was parasite-free. I thought I would have a bunch of great names for my black cat when I finally found him or her but I didn’t have any until it came to me on the drive home from the shelter following our initial meeting. Since our other cat had a vampire name, I renamed Bubba Vlad. I guess I could have gone with Bram, but Vlad sounds more bad ass. Of course, he is anything but a bad ass. He’s a 10 pound gentleman. I hope we have many more years together.

img_20160828_221600487

Handsome Guy

Welcome Barnabas Collins

IMG_20160803_181144995

After losing two cats exactly a year apart, on June 2, we added a new kitty to our family. Meet petite, one year old, Barnabas Collins, also known as Barney. He’s an orange and white tabby, named after the fictional vampire on the television series Dark Shadows. I’ve never seen the show, but the name sounds cool.

We decided to adopt two more cats into our household. These are not replacements, mind you, as like humans, each cat is an individual. Since my husband has never had a say in any of the cats we acquired, I told him I thought he should pick out one of them. (I had my heart set on a black cat, more on that in a future post).

Of course I wanted to adopt from the shelter where I volunteer, so when we were approved I started checking out the black cats. There were two in the PetSmart where I volunteer, but neither were the right fit. The shelter also has an adoption center in another local PetSmart, so we stopped one afternoon when they were closed. They had one black cat that I wanted to come back and see. In the cage below him was a small orange and white tabby. Hubby talked to him through the Plexiglas and the little furball rolled over to show his belly.

We returned the next night to visit the black cat named Dodger. While I spoke with him, the orange and white ball named Trapper was grabbing at me from his cage below. I ignored him, wanting a black cat for so long. Dodger was a great cat with people, but not a huge fan of other cats. He wouldn’t mesh with our two other cats and two small dogs at home. (I am happy to report that he was later adopted).

IMG_20160803_183743091

Hubby wanted to see Trapper, and while I chatted with the other volunteers, he made a new friend. I didn’t interact much with the furry little guy, but he had fallen asleep in his new daddy’s hands. I thought I would find my black cat before hubby found his cat, but it didn’t work out that way. In fact, this cat was exactly what I didn’t want. I didn’t want another orange cat (our Tiger is orange), but at least he has four white paws and socks, and white from chin to belly. I like big cats, and he weighed in at a whopping 7.9 pounds at his well vet visit. I’m used to 12 and 14 pound cats, when they got down to Barnabas’s weight they died. He’s not a kitten, but I would have preferred an older cat. The shelter said he was 1 to 2 years old, but the vet believes he is closer to a year old. This means he gets into stuff. Confined to one room in the beginning, he spent his days knocking the phone off the hook and pulling books off the shelves. Our resident cats are believed to be around 8 and 9, estimates since they were also adopted from the shelter. I hope he doesn’t annoy them. As much as I didn’t want him, I love him. He has me wrapped around his little paw already, and I don’t regret a thing about adopting him.

The spare room that was the sick ward when our beloved Ozzy suffered setbacks now has renewed life to it. We’re no longer keeping watch over our handsome Russian Blue/tabby, praying he will recover from his latest tummy trouble. He is at peace, leaving us at age 14, after 11 years of chronic illness. Now there’s a young man to explore all the room’s corners, and play with the toys that now cover the floor.

Trapper was renamed Barnabas Collins by my hubby and is now a member of the family. His introduction to the rest of the gang was delayed because he came with an intestinal parasite, causing the need for isolation until it was resolved. I’m happy to report he is integrating with the others just fine.

IMG_20160806_154546527

Black Cat Appreciation Day

Black_cat_on_window

Black Cat Appreciation Day was August 17. While we should be thankful for all our feline companions, cats born with a black coat can have a more difficult life.

For some reason, black cats are the hardest to place with people looking to add a new family member to their home. No one is sure why that is, but it seems to be true in shelters across the country. Perhaps their coats aren’t perceived as pretty as other colors. They don’t stand out as well in their shelter enclosures or online photos in comparison to their more colorful peers. Maybe their ebony fur combined with cats’ natural sneaky nature make them unappealing. Is it because of superstition, such as not allowing one to cross your path? Black cats became synonymous with witches during the Salem Witch Trials in America, with some people believing that the malevolent ladies can take this animal form to move from place to place unnoticed.

Not all countries have an aversion to black cats. They are considered good luck in places such as Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. The Egyptians idolized all cats, and harming one was a serious infraction.

Max - Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Max – Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Did you know that black cats are often the friendliest cats? Maybe they are grateful to be received into a loving home. Orange colored male cats are also said to be friendly, although my Tiger is an exception. I love him, but he is a bit of a jerk, in particular when it’s near feeding time. I adopted him from the shelter and I know he is grateful in his own way.

Many kitties born the darkest color can be found in shelters and rescues across the country waiting for pet parents to give them a good home. Some adoption centers will run specials on black cats, either reducing their adoption fee or eliminating it. If you’re interested in adding a black cat to your home, be sure it’s not right before Halloween. Many shelters and rescues will not adopt a black cat out at that time due to fear. There are some disturbed people that don’t have these cats’ best interests in mind, and to protect them, shelter workers will not allow them to be adopted at this time. It’s the best solution for everyone involved.

I have always wanted a black cat, an onyx colored friend I could give a fun name related to my favorite holiday, Halloween. Most of the cats who have come into my life have been tabbies, with a tortoiseshell and dilute calico in the mix. I have never been owned by a solid colored cat, but that’s just how it worked out. I wouldn’t resist a homeless kitty based on coat color. If you’re not considering adopting a black cat, you may be missing out on a best friend. Just as humans promote the black cat with an appreciation day, black cats appreciate the chance to be placed in a loving home. Please don’t overlook them when considering a new companion for your family.

kitty

Remembering Annie 1998-2015

IMG_20150218_064250413 When I wrote “To Annie, With Love,” in April, I expected her to live into her twenties. She was always a healthy cat, never having issues. I had no clue we would have to make a painful decision two months later. Annie hadn’t been eating very much, she weighed just over 7 pounds when she died, down from the 14 pounds she weighed as a young cat. In addition to the appetite reduction, we noticed she was no longer jumping into her bed on top of the fridge. That was her favorite place in the house. From that vantage point she was free from the harassment of two dogs and three other cats. She was the queen of the house and her throne was perched atop a white Whirlpool. Our girl appeared to have difficulty getting comfortable. I pet her head to hear purring. One thing about Annie was that you could pet her for only seconds before she tried to bite. This reaction was so different that I knew something was wrong. I assumed it was arthritis, and the vet would prescribe a med to make her feel better. I held onto that assumption as I pushed her into the carrier, telling her not to worry, she would be home soon. My husband drove her to the vet while I stayed home. He called to say she was spending the night, as she was dehydrated. He wasn’t back from the vet yet when the office called. They asked me if I wanted her put down. I was dumbstruck. What were they talking about? Annie’s belly was distended, filled with fluid. In their experience, in cats of the age of 17, it was either stomach cancer, or a heart or liver issue. More tests could be run to discover the cause, but the outcome would be the same. Once the fluid was drained, it would return in 24-48 hours to require more draining. It was five minutes before the office closed. I wasn’t going to let them kill her before I could talk to my husband. I managed to tell the vet to keep her comfortable, I would speak with another vet who was on in the morning about her prognosis. I hung up the phone and lost my mind, my worst fear realized. I gave my husband the diagnosis through sobs when he returned. We held out hope that somehow she was wrong, that a more seasoned vet on duty in the morning would have a different opinion. The second vet agreed with the first. Annie was not going to get better. We told our vet we would euthanize her, but we wanted to visit to say our goodbyes. Later that day we went to the veterinary office. Annie was brought out to us, her eyes dilated from the pain medicine. We took turns holding her, telling her how much we loved her, and if there was anything we could do to keep her with us, we would have done it. We took a lot of photos that afternoon. IMG_20150602_162546383_HDR I wished I were strong enough to stay with her until the end, to hold her as she left for the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t do it, I was a coward. I couldn’t let my last memory of Annie be her lying dead on a steel table. Maybe that’s why I don’t like viewings, I prefer to remember people alive. Handing her over to the vet tech for the last time was gut wrenching. I knew she would be surrounded by people we knew, and our favorite vet in the office promised to perform the procedure. She had been the third vet involved and came to speak with us. She agreed we were making the best decision for Annie. It’s a month today that our girl has been gone. Annie’s homecoming was bittersweet, I couldn’t wait for her to be home, even if it was not in the same form. The house didn’t feel right without her. Her urn sits in her bed above the fridge, returned to her rightful place. Her food dish, a straw, and foil ball surround her. IMG_20150615_213719511 This was the first time I ever had to go through this. Previous pets belonged to my parents, and they dealt with the end of life decisions. In a way I was relieved it happened the way it did, so fast, so unexpected. There was no lengthy illness, no period of time where we wondered what day we would give her peace. I love and miss you, Annie.

To Ozzy, with Love

When we moved into our house with our cranky tabby Annie, it wasn’t long before I wanted to add a second cat to the family. By then Annie was three, and her personality was set. We thought bringing home a kitten would bring out her softer side, assuming she had one. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out that Annie had the maternal instincts of Joan Crawford.

We acquired Ozzy in much the same way we did Annie. It was another unplanned litter, this time the mother cat belonging to someone working temporarily in my office. This person lived on the street behind our house, and one day brought over two kittens for me to choose from. Their mother was a Russian Blue, and their father a tabby. Both kittens were male, with handsome dark gray coats, one solid and the other with marble stripes. I sat on the floor, the solid boy aloof while the other was more curious, climbing on my lap. He was adorable and I was smitten. I chose the tabby-striped kitten, and because the owner had more kittens at home that looked like him, we put a drop of nail polish on his body to be sure I would get the right little guy when they were old enough to go to new homes.

Ozzy as a Kitten

Ozzy as a Kitten

When that day finally arrived, Annie was less than thrilled. She showed him no kindness, the only thing she wanted to show him was the door. She puffed up to twice her size and must have resembled a tiger to tiny Ozzy, who tried his best to puff up and look formidable. Their meeting can be compared to the scene in Jaws when Quint crushes the beer can and Hooper responds by crushing the paper cup. They hissed and cursed each other and with one quick swipe from the aggressive female, Ozzy was down the stairs.

I guess Annie didn’t expect her kid brother to ever grow. Eventually his 18 pounds eclipsed her 14 pounds, and her bullying wasn’t as effective. To this day he will instigate her into a reaction by getting close to her, almost purring, “I’m not touching you.”

Ozzy was a happy, robust cat until he was about three years old. He was having difficulty using the litterbox and appeared to be in distress. The vet took x-rays and saw that he was backed up. The vet performed a procedure to unclog him, but the issue became a chronic condition. He was going to the vet weekly, still unable to use the litterbox with any regularity. Ozzy was finally diagnosed with chronic constipation due to a low-functioning colon. This vet put him on two medications, a stool softener and a motility drug for his colon. We had hope that this would put an end to the problem, but unfortunately, it didn’t. We tried other ideas suggested by our vet, but nothing worked. When holistic methods failed, our vet told us there was nothing that could be done for him. Without saying it, the vet indicated that euthanasia was looking like our only option.

We sought a second opinion with another practice who is now our current vet. They kept our kitty on the same two medications, but added a low residue prescription food. He now had a food that produced less waste, a med to soften what waste he did produce, and other med to help him pass the waste. This combination saved his life, and we follow this regimen 10 years later.

All was well with Ozzy for quite a long time until one day I received a phone call from my mom, who was babysitting our animals. She was very upset, our laidback, loveable boy was howling at her whenever she went near him. Something was very wrong.

Back to the vet we went for more tests. It wasn’t until he had an MRI did we uncover the newest issue—inflammatory bowel disease. We were devastated, this guy has gone through so much, and now another medical problem. We were prescribed prednisone for this condition, which he continues to take.

Ozzy is a lovable lap cat. He is laid back, and never put up a fuss through any of the procedures he endured. From blood draws, enemas, x-rays, and MRIs, he took it all in stride, his sweet personality never changing. It’s a shame such a sweet cat had to suffer so much.

Ozzy has lived with chronic constipation and inflammatory bowel disease for years. He also suffers from arthritis for which we give a supplement, and occasional bouts of vertigo. We had no idea cats could have vertigo, and we were certain that trip to the vet would uncover something horrible like a brain tumor.

Ozzy will turn 14 on December 18, 2015. We have had 11 more years with him than we had expected. His food and medications to keep him with us may cost the equivalent of a car payment, but our little man is more than worth it. I know one day his conditions are likely to take their toll on him, and he may get other problems due to all the long-term medications. We will lose him one day, we’ve come close several times, and we will be devastated. Every day he is still with us as a blessing. I love you, Ozzy.

Ozzy-2015

Ozzy-2015

To Annie, with Love

She wasn’t the cutest kitten I’ve ever seen. In fact, she was quite plain. It was when a little brown tabby ran across the floor did I realize my fiancé had no idea what I meant by a calico cat. I expressed interest in a male calico which I found out doesn’t exist. All calicos are female and I wanted a male, so I got neither. What I got was a female brown tabby.

Annie - 1998

Annie – 1998

It was 1998 when we moved into our apartment. We knew animals were prohibited in our lease, but I couldn’t stand being without a pet. My cat Mitzi stayed with my parents and I missed her. My fiancé and I agreed to get a cat with the caveat that if it were discovered and posed a problem, we would move (cat included) to more animal-friendly lodgings.

How would we acquire a kitten? I wanted to adopt, but that would require telling a falsehood on the application, something I didn’t want to do. Our landlord had a no-pet clause in the lease and there was no way around that.

My fiancé was quite pleased with himself, as he never had a cat before. Someone he knew from work’s cat had a litter of kittens. When he went to see them, there was only one left. If he didn’t take her for free, they would have kept her, but she would have been an indoor/outdoor cat in Philadelphia. That thought is alarming. We keep our cats strictly inside. Not wanting that to happen, my husband-to-be brought home the little brown ball.

She was cute for a brown cat, but not what I had in mind. We named her Annie, but we had no way of knowing that would be short for Annie Christ, a moniker later given to her by my brother.

We had her vetted to discover that she had ear mites. Have you ever given ear drops to a mountain lion? I think administering them to a feisty, biting, clawing kitten is a close second. We could have used falconer’s gloves for the task, she was such a bad patient.

Finally mite free, Annie was spayed and declawed. (Did you know that declawing is akin to amputating up to and including the first joint of human fingers? It’s a surgery we no longer put our cats through).

Annie enjoyed biting our ankles, hiding inside our recliner, and stealing food. She ate strawberry shortcake, Doritos, and once made off with a ham slice as big as her body. You would think we never fed her, but she enjoyed her cat food, weighing 14 pounds in her heyday.

Any paranoia we had about her discovery was unfounded. The no-pet policy was more of a suggestion. It turned out that many people in the complex had cats, management included. As long as kitty wasn’t seen, heard, or smelled, a blind eye was turned to the animal.

Annie was with us the three years we lived there, even tagging along with us to my parents’ house for a long 4th of July weekend when our air conditioner broke, leaving our upstairs unit sweltering. Annie repaid her grandparents’ kindness by peeing on their bathroom floor. I think they were glad to see us go.

Our girl was the last and most precious item we moved from the apartment to our house. Annie is the original grumpy cat. Not only does she look miserable, she is miserable. She cares for us in her own way, but she was never warm and fuzzy. You can pet her for about two seconds before she tries to bite you. We say we coexist and feed her to keep her from killing us in our sleep.

We have been in our house 15 years and during that time Annie hasn’t exactly welcomed 2 dogs and 3 more cats. She tolerates them, but that’s about it. The others know she is the boss, even the cats with claws are afraid of her. If it’s true that only the good die young, she should live forever, and I hope she does. I love you, Annie.

Annie - 2015

Annie – 2015