We’ve rearranged the living room a bit. We’re using the fireplace now, so I moved some of the furniture so it faces – or is at least angled toward – the fireplace and the warmth and the ever-changing collage of glowing embers and dancing flames.
Scratchy likes this time of year, and he especially loves this loveseat because it’s closest to the warmth. Perfect spot for napping.
And his companion? That’s Zulu, a wild African Dog, adopted from the local zoo. Usually he hangs out in Julia’s room, but this evening he was snoozing on the couch. Scratchy thought about reminding Zulu that cozy spots by the fire do, by long tradition, belong to cats, not dogs…but Zulu’s teeth showed occasionally while he snored, so Scratchy, whose teeth are certainly sharp but nowhere near as big, decided that sharing was much nicer than bleeding.
After Softie passed away I firmly said I don’t want any more pets. Ever. I realize that’s a pretty normal emotional response after a pet dies. I’ve gone through it enough times, also, to know that the feeling subsides and pet people tend to stay pet people despite the periods of heartache.
Right now we’re focusing on bringing Scratchy’s weight down. It’s easier to regulate how much he eats when he’s the only one we have to feed. We only feed him twice a day now, and have learned to tell him no when he tries to beg for snacks. The kids encourage him to exercise with a flashlight – he chases the beam around the floor, and especially up and down stairs. So far he doesn’t suspect that this is for his own good.
He also has occasional weigh-ins on the Wii board. These are usually rather dangerous affairs for whichever kid (usually Alex) has to hold Scratchy, because while he’s very affectionate, he doesn’t like to be picked up.
Anyway, like all people trying to shed some pounds, he has had his ups and downs. We were pretty pleased when he lost a pound – only the kids wanted to reward him with a couple of cat treats, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of rationing his food…
Most recently he’s put some weight back on, so either someone’s been slipping him some extra kibble or the flashlight batteries have died and no one’s replaced them.
Scratchy has become a bit more sociable recently. Before, he would race out of the room and hide if anyone came to visit. Even family and friends who are here on a relatively regular basis would send him hissing and running up the stairs to hid under a bed. But we’ve noticed a change. He isn’t as quick to run away, and he doesn’t hiss so much. He even lets people – OTHER people – pet him.
I’m wondering if he misses his sister.
If, maybe, he needs some sort of interaction with other living creatures, and with Softie gone, he is gravitating toward these tall, non-feline beings that visit.
Or maybe she’d been telling him people were out to get him and he’s realizing that she was just messing with his head. Sisters do that.
Anyway, when he’s not begging for food or chasing balls of light, Scratchy does his best to cover all the chairs with white hair.
After a rather sudden and fast-moving illness, Softie is gone.
She passed away Tuesday night, in our living room/basement. The kids were asleep. I think Alex suspected, though.
I sat with her. First I held her, but when that seemed too uncomfortable for her, I laid her down on the carpet and stayed down there with her.
She rested her head in my left hand, while I petted her non-stop with my right hand.
And all the while I looked into those eyes of hers.
I told her over and over that I was sorry, so sorry, and that it was okay…I’m here…I love you….
She looked at me but sometimes it was as if she was looking through me, and that is the image, one of them, that has stayed with me, haunting me, squeezing my heart inside my chest and forcing new tears to my eyes.
Sometimes it seemed to me she looked at me with reproach. Why couldn’t I do more for her? Why wasn’t I saving her? That’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. So sorry.
Bill and I were both sitting with her when she exhaled for the last time. Scratchy was nearby. He knew something was wrong.
I wrapped Softie in one of Julia’s old baby blankets. It has tiny rose buds along the binding and I’ve always liked it. Then I put Softie in a plastic box – no lid – and tucked the ends of the blanket around her. She’d have looked like she was sleeping, only we couldn’t figure out how to close her eyes. So…she was resting. Bill put the box in the downstairs fridge.
Two days later Bill and the kids dug a hole near the garage. There’s a really pretty blue hydrangea growing there, so we thought it was the perfect spot.
When I got home from work, they showed me the hole (very deep – the kids stood in it to show just how deep), and I brought Softie up from the refrigerator, and we held her funeral.
The kids – no, all of us – picked flowers from everywhere in the yard and placed them in the cinder block that Bill had placed on top of the dirt so no animals would try to dig her up.
Julia played her recorder.
We cried some more.
And then we went inside. Alex changed into his baseball uniform, and we headed to his game.
Life goes on, of course.
But frequently, still, I see her eyes from that final night, and something squeezes my heart. Hard.
And that’s about all I want to write about this right now.
A week or two ago I pulled out all the bins of fabric from their bins and shelves and reorganized it. Rather than just organize by color, which is my usual method, this time I sorted first by type of fabric. So now I’ve got all the cottons and cotton/poly blends together, all the stretchy fabrics together, all the fancy (sheers, shiny, lacy) together, all the sturdy fabric together, all the super heavy duty (upholstery, etc) together, and – in its own huge Rubbermaid bin – denim.
It’s such a nice feeling to get that done and to go downstairs to my corner of the basement and see the neatly divided stacks and bins of fabric, just ready and waiting.
I also have bins with all the little bits and pieces that are too small to fold and really organize. For years I’d insisted (to myself) that they, too, needed to be part of my whole sort-by-color operation, but I’ve changed, apparently. I’ve become less rigid. I’ve gotten sick of all those scraps mixed in with the larger pieces. It’s annoying to see a pattern and think That’s Perfect! only to pull it from the mess and discover it’s a sort of triangular piece roughly 4” on a side with a weird little bite-like scoop cut out of one point and pretty much useless for the purpose I’d had in mind.
Done with that.
Anyway, while I was clearing everything out of the bins at the start of this project, I also pulled down the huge piece of gray fake fur that the cats like to snooze on, way up on top of all the shelves. I knew it had to be coated in cat fur, and at the very least I could run it through the dryer to clean it up a bit. As I tugged, a whole pet store’s worth of cat toys came flying down, pelting me on the head and shoulders.
THAT’S where they all were! I saw some I hadn’t seen in years. It never occurred to me that our little hunters would drag their rattling prey way up to their comfy aerie….well, now I know.
Yesterday morning, Julia yelled for me – there was something I HAD to see!!!! I brought my camera – a habit I’ve neglected of late – and there was Softie, in one of my nicely fluffed and reorganized bins. (Quilting cottons, by the way.)
Apparently I don’t have as many medium shades of fabric as I do lights and darks, so Softie made herself a little nest.
She’s staring at the desk lamp off to the right. I switched it on so I could take the pictures in this post.
Other than that little turn of her head, she didn’t move. Or get out of the bin.
Clearly I need more fabric, if only to keep the cats out of the bins.
I was working the latter half of a double when Bill texted me to say that Scratchy’s tube was out.
No one took it out, mind you. At least, none of us humans. We were all at work or at school, so somehow…the tube came out. It had been stitched in place where it went in through his throat, mind you. Stitched in place; it wasn’t just free-floating like some sort of flexible drinking straw.
Scratchy’s been eating like his old self for a while now. We stopped feeding him through the tube days ago and just continued to flush it with water as instructed back at the beginning of this saga. Scratchy had grown impatient with the whole feeding tube nonsense, too. He’d suddenly dart away while we were trying to feed him, leaving us holding the syringe and his uncrimped tube flapping in the breeze.
And he’s grown pinker and pinker in the tell-tale spots: inside his ears, his eyes, his gums, and his shorn (for the ultrasound) belly.
He’s been quite himself lately.
Anyway, Bill ended up bringing Scratchy to the animal hospital so they could make sure the tube was entirely out (it was) and to take his stitches out. Turns out there was no need for that – the stitches were gone, too. Apparently Scratchy borrowed some scissors and snipped them himself.
The final word? The holes in his neck will heal on their own, he looks great, and there is no need for another visit.
That huge hurricane-force gust of wind that rattled your house earlier this evening? That was Bill and I breathing a collective sigh of relief.
At this point, we just need to make sure the healing hole in his neck doesn’t get infected (he’s got a much smaller bandage thingy around his neck now – and he’s already chewing on it, trying to get rid of it) and to make sure he keeps eating.
This morning when I opened the bedroom door I was greeted by a white and gray cat who meowed cheerfully at me before brushing past my legs to inspect the premises.
I was so surprised I knocked on the bathroom door and hissed at Bill to open the door. He came out, brushing his teeth, and I pointed delightedly at Scratchy, who was meandering around the laundry baskets.
Last night after work I brought Scratchy to the animal hospital again so they could test his blood and check his liver levels and change his bandage.
I sat in the waiting room for a few minutes, then the tech came over with a clipboard and confirmed what Scratchy was there for. He started to take the carrier and said he’d be back in a bit after the bloodwork and the bandage change, and I said something like “So I’m not allowed to watch the bandage change?” I said a bit wistfully, not in a snotty way. In case you were wondering.
And he said there was no reason I couldn’t, it would just take longer because some reason I didn’t exactly understand but I said “okay” politely and resumed the magazine page-flipping I’d begun moments ago.
Within a minute or two, the door to one of the exam rooms opened, the tech guy came out and beckoned me over.
“We’ll take his blood sample and then the Dr. will do the bandage change in here.” I thanked him.
I sat in the room and waited, my thoughts drifting through various other animal/medical events in my life. And I thought, for a moment, that maybe I should have gone to veterinary school…I think I’d have done well, frankly.
But, it didn’t happen, no sense in regrets.
Soon I heard a familiar meow outside the room. The tech guy opened the door, Scratchy in one arm and the carrier in the next. Scratchy had a purple pressure bandage around his back left leg and the little closure at the tip of his feeding tube had been changed to a different style. (Bill said it had come out a couple times during the earlier feeding.)
I scratched Scratchy around the edges of his bandage and soon he was purring loudly and fairly relaxed.
The Dr. came in with bandaging materials. We chatted about Scratchy – she said he definitely seemed spunkier than the last time. I told her how he’d been doing, that little by little he seemed to be acting more like himself (but it’s VERY little by little), and that Softie is still not sure what to say to him, so she just stares and occasionally hisses.
Soon the various layers of bandage and tape were peeled away and I could see Scratchy’s shorn neck. With a tube sticking out of it. The tube, which is about the diameter of a pencil, maybe a hair smaller, is sutured in place on the left side of his neck, toward the front. The opening looked good – no swelling or discharge or anything like that. The Dr put a new absorbent square of something around the tube, then re-wrapped everything and taped the end of the tube back against Scratchy’s neck.
They’ll have the results of the blood work some time today. He’s still jaundiced, so his numbers won’t be down all that much yet, but just like it took a while for him to get so sick, it’ll take time for him to get better.
As I was leaving – hanging around at the front desk while someone went to get more of Scratchy’s high-cal food – I got to meet the three cats that live at the hospital.
They spend their days in what seems to be a couple of rooms connected by a tunnel just below the ceiling. The whole thing is glassed-in, and they have one of those huge carpeted cat tree-house things or whatever they’re called (obviously we don’t have one).
There are three of them – all males. And when Scratchy and I came out of the exam room late last night, the three cats were out and about in the reception area, prowling around, eating their dinner, walking across the desks and paperwork and receiving lots of love from the staff on duty.
I asked where they had come from. All three had had urinary tract blockages (something that happened to one of my male cats years ago) and their owners couldn’t pay for their treatment. So they turned the cats over to the hospital, the staff took care of the blockage problems, and now these three gentleman felines live like furry royalty.
I brought Scratchy home, let him get settled, and then gave him his final feeding of the day.
I don’t have a picture because it’s night time and too dark to get a decent shot unless I use the flash, so you’ll just have to wait til tomorrow to see him in his lovely blue ascot with the feeding tube sprouting from his neck.
I picked him up after work tonight and was given food, syringes, meds, and instructions. A bit later this evening (like in fifteen minutes) I’ll blend his high-calorie food with water so it’s the proper consistency for the tube…then I’ll flush the tube with a small amount of lukewarm water and feed him gradually, over about half an hour…plus his evening dose of antibiotic…then flush with a bit of water after all that.
There’s a lot of stuff to pay attention to, and I’ll be showing Bill and the kids what needs to be done so they can do it if I’m at work.
I am already planning to make a chart with dosages and meds and places to check off what’s been done.
I love charts. And this seems like the perfect opportunity to make a really BIG chart.
Forgive me – it’s past my bedtime, and it’s been a strange, worrisome bunch of days.
And in the midst of all that, my kids went back to school – something that sort of ranked second, far below the Scratchy And His Fatty Liver Crisis.
Scratchy, for his part, was very happy to see me and didn’t complain too much on the ride home (he does not like riding in the car). And when I got home, most of the lights in the house were off, but – no surprise here – I heard small feet padding quickly down the stairs, and as I let Scratchy out of his carrier, Alex appeared.
So at this point it’s looking like Scratchy has Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, or Fatty Liver Disease, which is kind of what I was thinking, based on what I’d read online.
So what that means is he’d stopped eating, or stopped eating the usual amount of food, and then his liver started shutting down or malfunctioning. Which made him jaundiced, and made him feel sick, and not want to eat.
So the main thing is to get him to eat, and since food isn’t all that appealing, he’s been fitted with a feeding tube. I haven’t seen it yet, but I believe it’s inserted in the back of his neck and goes into his belly or throat. We will have to feed him about four times a day through the tube, and each session will take about fifteen to twenty minutes.
They’ve also aspirated his liver, which is kind of like a biopsy only smaller – they stick a needle into his liver to get a small sample and then have it tested for other things like hepatitis and leukemia. That was done yesterday and we should have at least some results today.
I’ll be getting a phone call later this morning, and if all is going well, I’ll be able to pick up scratchy on my way home from work. I’ll also learn to feed him through the tube, and then I’ll teach Bill and the kids as well.
One thing I discovered, while I’ve been doing my research on the internet, is that there are quite a number of blogs devoted solely to people’s cats with Fatty Liver Disease.
I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me, as there are blogs devoted to anything and everything. I don’t think I’ll go that far – but I’ll probably be posting Scratchy updates from time to time. I’ll most likely write a post (with pictures) about how we feed him through the tube.
I’m being cautiously optimistic. Still don’t have the results from the liver aspiration yet, so I don’t want to turn cartwheels (not that I could do that anyway), but I am fingers-crossed hopeful.
I’ve got this slipcover thing on the loveseat in our living room, but it’s one of those that’s supposed to fight great but never stays put. And, of course, no one ever rearranges it when they get up, so it’s constantly pulled forward and forward, until it’s like this, barely covering anything.
The cats don’t help – they like to scoot in between the cover and the couch and creep along, waiting for unsuspecting feet and ankles.
Yesterday afternoon the sun was streaming in the front window and Softie was snuggled in the slipcover, toasty warm in the sun’s glow.
We have a large, shallow, rectangular basket on a shelf underneath where the toaster and coffee pot are in our kitchen, and we use it to hold newspapers and broken down cereal boxes until one of us (usually me) brings them out to the recycle bin.
The card is filled with sympathetic messages from some of the staff at the vet’s office where I brought Blur this past Monday. Not just “so sorry for your loss,” but sentences. Small paragraphs. Sweet and stunning.
And then there’s Blur’s left front paw print. It’s hers alright. Small, double-pawed.
I never expected this. The card, yes, but not the paw print.
After a couple weeks of squirrels and then birds hopping around on these two platforms, looking around for food (and with the squirrels actually making eye contact through the window, as if to say “You open yet?”), I finally put some seed out on Saturday and the uneaten crusts of a couple of peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches yesterday.
I spent a couple hours yesterday cleaning out/cleaning up my work area in the basement. It was cluttered with plastic bins of beads and wire and other jewelry ingredients…recycled paper tags that I made but I’m not happy with how they came out, so I’ll be adding them to the next batch of paper pulp…scraps of fabric from my recent and future sewing projects…accumulated stuff that needs to be put away.
I bought a couple of gauzy white drapes the other day to hang in the center section of our big front window. Partly for a bit of privacy (after 9 years) and partly mainly to use as a backdrop for my witch silhouette.
Last year when I first put her up there, she looked cool (of course), but if the room was dark, you couldn’t see her from outside.
This year I wanted to do something about that, so I got the curtains.
So I'm downstairs, in my work area in the basement, uploading more papery things to my Etsy store, and I heard a crinkling sound behind me. Behind me is the tall work table I made (with Bill's help) out of the doors that used to be in our big closet before we turned our bedroom into the kids' two rooms.
Well look at this...here's a whole series of shots I took back in MARCH, people. MARCH. At least it was March of this year, but still.
I haven't put up any cat pictures lately, have I? They're all doing fine, even Blur (the 18-year-old). Scratchy is HUGE. He's this big mostly-white behemoth of a cat who loves to curl up on the darkest chair in the living room (the better to leave visible cat hairs) and on the very comfy office chair in the computer room.
He is very sweet and affectionate, but still doesn't like to be picked up. Snuggling is done on his terms or not at all.