I miss you most of all, my beautiful girl.
I miss you most of all, my beautiful girl.
This is more a family post, and of course by “family” I mean “people I’d hug in an airport after having not seen them in a while” or “people I’d give a jovial pat on the back to – of course, from a respectable distance. You know, the ones I’d still have cocktails with while trying to dust the cobwebs out of my memory ‘how is… oh, you know… him? That guy you’ve lived with for like 15 years'” (aka my “close” friends). (To my friends: I totally know the names of your significant others except that one friend who switches them out so much that I can’t keep track; I’m just too old – in your case, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve named the guy of the moment “Jeff” – seems generic enough, and I’m sure .01% of the time I might be right.)
Anyway, the rest of you are welcome to stay (who knows, one day I might hug you in an airport), but the post may get boring in bits. For the rest of you, particularly Drew (Sam’s favorite long distance uncle), here’s the update:
After surviving 7 years of kitty trauma, a new beast has entered the house. The smallish ball of fluff and claws goes by Quincy and appears to be easily amused by round things, tubey things, sproingy things, and all things Sam. Sam is the best!!! Sam would like you to know that despite Quincy’s best efforts to extend the olive branch of friendship (which usually comes in the form of tail batting and Quincy desperately trying to rub his head against her chin) that she is onto his clever ploys and not having it! Sam has explained in her disgruntled old lady way, on more than one occasion, that she’s wise to Quincy’s motives. He’s a cat. Sam would also like it noted that all of the food is Sam’s – Quincy’s food, the human’s food, food that may not be readily visible or in the house, food that may be a chef’s pipe dream – that’s all hers – move along. The joys of a furry kingdom.
The not as fun bits – Sam is almost 13 years old, and as all the other pet owners at the vet who ask Sam’s age like to point out as they sigh dramatically, she’s practically at death’s door. At Monday’s appointment a woman cheerily offered, “well, my friend’s beagle is 17 – of course, she’s blind and miserable – oh hey, good luck at your appointment!” Jay would say at this point, “that’s not exactly what she said,” but I have a blog, and well that was my take away. Sam was at the vet Monday, because the previous week she had become somewhat listless – she’d completely stopped her peppy runs to get food, or to get snacks, or to see what we were up to (just in case food was involved – paws crossed – hey, she’s a hound). Instead she walked slowly, face and ears drooped, and tail down. Normally, when she’s slowed down it’s due to a flare up of her arthritis (after two CCL surgeries she has arthritis in her knees as well as her hips and shoulders). I scheduled an appointment so we could get her pain managed – hooray for anti-inflammatories. However, right before we were about to take her in she staggered across the room, her legs went out from under her and she fell; this was a new symptom that was heartbreaking to see. We arrived at the vet carrying her in a blanket as she shook uncontrollably completely unable to walk.
After her examination, which involved me having to jump in with things like “she had Horner’s Syndrome in both sides of her face, which is why she’s not blinking as quickly for your eye test” and “she’s had surgeries on both her knees, and has arthritis which is why she taking a moment to recover from her paw being folded over,” the vet came back with her diagnosis. The long and short of it is that Sam injured her neck. We’re not sure how, and the vet couldn’t tell us if she had a spinal injury, a pinched nerve, or if it was muscle strain. The vet said “to x-ray her I’d need to sedate her and with her kidney issues (she’s old) I’d rather avoid it since what I’m going to recommend is the exact same thing we’d end up doing regardless of what the x-ray showed. This “exact same thing” equals more meds (steroids, muscle relaxers, and generic Pepcid to keep everything down), cold compresses on her neck, and neck massages. All of this is added on top of her old lady meds of glucosamine, fish oil, kidney meds, and pain killers.
The hardest thing is watching as she tries to get around – she stumbles, her paws cross awkwardly in front of each other as she does her best to remain balanced. Then there are the falls. She’ll be fine, and then she’ll go over. Thankfully, she prefers to lay down. The second hardest is her appetite. She’s a hound! Sure, your dog may have an appetite – that’s cute, but you clearly haven’t met a hound. Hounds are stomachs with legs and a nose. The vet warned before we left, “these steroids will make her hungrier than usual and extremely thirsty”. I thought, “ugh, a perfect beagle storm”. Sam will gladly recount the 2,685+ days that she’s been famished. Hey, what does it take to get some food up in this place? It turns out the new meds not only have not made her more hungry (that would be too easy), they’ve made it so she now has a strong distaste for all of her food. This includes all of the pill pockets we typically use to hide away the 100 pills she must ingest daily. Carrots, which were something we might kill a new kitten over a week ago, are disgusting. Food that had to be delivered in a slow feed bowl – disgusting. Green beans, which we loved – disgusting. In fact, she’s a little curious as to why we seem hell bent on insulting her with this garbage. Attempts to hide pills in peanut butter (which we loved, but now hate), cheese (which is fine, I suppose, but only if flat and not in a ball which might be secreting a pill), or the Kong bacon/cheese whiz stuff (which used to be super delicious) are met with contempt and a firm patooey. (Patooey’s always end with a happy wag that says, “you can’t fool me with your poisons! Silly mom!”) Then a light went off, “hey wait a minute, I can pill a 29 lb. dog”. I mean, I’ve pilled cats and Sam is a lot easier than any of our cats. Great thought. Points to me for having it – oh sweet, delightful hubris – but you see when it comes to a neck injury, you can’t get that throat into the ideal position for pilling. One small whimper reminded me, and we’ve been pilling as a last resort in the least ideal of neck positions. Least ideal neck positions equal more patooey’s and some unnecessary hurtful comments about the less than ideal flavor of my fingers. Thank God for hot dogs, which still do the trick (most of the time). As for food, we’ve also discovered that boiled chicken (YUMMMMMY!!!) and rice (meh) work. They can also be blended, along with glucosamine, into a lovely paste. How I miss the days I could simply put the glucosamine pill on the floor and it would be lapped up with a wag and a happy, “what else you got?” look.
As of today, nearly a week out from the vet visit, Sam is walking better, wagging more, and even trotting – maybe not as steadily as she can, but it’s a huge improvement since Monday. Quincy has seen Sam’s injury as a real opportunity to become best buds,. Proper bonding involves leaping out at her while she’s trying to get some rest, flopping down and rolling on his back in her path, extra sniffs, and sticking his head in her bowl while she’s eating (and not getting yelled at – at least not by Sam). This is a super exciting time, and he figures they’ll be cuddling any day now. Sam mostly pretends that Quincy is a hallucination and does her best to ignore him.
Over the past year we’ve had some serious talks with her about not getting old, but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to want to listen. Still, despite the chatter of the other vet clients, she’s not at death’s door yet. She’s just an old lady – a little slow, a little arthritic, but still our happy girl. (And happier each day as she becomes more and more steady.)
The day I met her she burst out of a crate, puffed up into a large 1 lb. ball of defiant fur and hissed her displeasure at a very surprised German Shepherd. Thelma remained curious though a bit taken aback by the sheer hubris of this uppity, fluffy snack. Her sister, who later became known as Sage stood meekly behind her looking on. This was Hodi 호랑이 (Holang-i) or more accurantely 검은 호랑이 (geom-eun Holang-i) – the black tiger – named by an ex who spoke Korean fluently and clearly wanted to trip everyone up who happened to possess a tongue
After trying to pronounce the name time and time again (which to me always sounded more like Hodang-i) a friend suggested “Hodi” – much much easier. And that was the first of many names for our little fussy fuzzy 호랑이.
Hodi was an oddly shaped girl – a type of Manx called a “rumpy.” She was rather round with two oddly placed tiny back legs. We finally saw an x-ray of her spine last week and some of the way she moved (which was to hop more than run) was due to a compressed lumbar vertebrae right near her teeny tiny tail. Not a big problem when you’re an agile kitten, but something that affected her more as she grew older especially over the last year.
As the fluffy one, people gravitated towards her – hands outstretched. She got to the point where she really couldn’t be bothered with strangers and tended to hang back on top of a chair lest those hands muss her fur. Quite the opposite of her sister Sage who merrily greeted each new person at the door, letting them know, “hi! I’m available for all petting! Right here! I’m down here! Hello, I’m very friendly! Nice lap! Hey there, do you have hands? – psst, please take me away from here.”
Where Sage would go insane for a laser pointer, Hodi would only dain to slap it a bit if it were directly in front of her paws. No need to get worked up for a light that’s impossible to catch. Although, sometimes she’d forget and move a whole foot or two just in case her “it’s just a light” theory was wrong. She wouldn’t want me to mention this, but on rare occasion she’d roll over trying to catch that light. Of course, she’d quickly realize how undignified that was and then defiantly stare directly at me as I tried to entice her to roll one more time.
For her first two to three years she couldn’t quite figure out laps. They were oddly shaped and seemed to come apart at unpredictable times or be positioned in odd ways. They appeared interesting, but the best she could do was put two paws on my leg and lay her head down. Then one day a fluffy lap blanket appeared and that’s when we learned she loved loved loved fluffy blankets. If a fluffy blanket presented itself, she’d hop over to my newly fluffied lap and go to sleep. It took a bit longer for her to realize that legs were the things supporting fluffy blankets and once that light bulb went off, she became a lap cat (though a blanketed lap was preferred and the moment she’d see me lay a blanket in my lap, she’d perk up and start angling for quality lap (blanket) time).
She was funny. Her favorite pastimes included: stealing the dog’s beds (yes, beds – all of them), trying to steal the dog’s crate, stealing the dog’s under-the-desk cave, blocking the dog from going down the hall or approaching me (this latter pastime would cause serious protests in the form of pitiful whimpering and pleas for me to escort said dog around the kitty roadblock).
She was gentle. I could bathe her (something long haired rumpies need help with on occasion), I could pill her easily and I could drive her around without much complaint other than a mrr of protest. She never bit and rarely swatted (swatting was reserved for when humans would tease her with waggling hands). The vet and their assistants always said she was super easy to handle (like her sister); she just had a really pleasant temperament. If something unpleasant was happening, I only needed to extend my hand and she’d rub her face for comfort and I’d rub her forehead.
She would tuck me in. In fact, the whole house tucks me in and they wait until I fall asleep before clearing the room. If she was still hanging out on the bed and I was in the middle of tossing and turning, she’d gently pat my hand (how she’d tell me she’d like kitty rubs) and purr me to sleep. If I paced around the house, which I do sometimes at obscene times in the morning, she’d hop into my lap, pat me and in turn get her pats until I could settle down enough to sleep. And then my favorite, those moments where she’d rest her forehead against mine.
I miss her pats. Pats said, “I’m here.” or “I’d like you to lift me to my bowl” or “I just want you to stroke my face for a bit, please”. A pat followed by a mrr was her way to emphasize the importance of the request.
I miss that gentle paw softly tapping my leg – softly reaching for my hand.
I didn’t realize that the Monday before last would be the last time she’d hop into my lap at 2:30am and purr us to sleep; I wish I’d stayed in that moment a bit longer. By Friday, she was no longer able to move – unable to reach her bowl that was strategically placed next to her muzzle – all related to complications from her recently diagnosed diabetes that mysteriously almost sent her into an insulin coma (possible pancreatic tumor) with a glucose level so low it was “barely able to sustain life.” The incident left her so weak she couldn’t use her back legs (initially), which they believe led to her injuring her back. She appeared to be in great pain.
I rubbed her face on Friday and urgently explained that I really needed her to get up – that I didn’t want to be in a world that she wasn’t in, but she laid there looking vacantly towards the door, occasionally closing her eyes as I’d find that perfect spot on her nose. Gone were the days where we’d sit and quietly contemplate one another.
On Saturday we took her into the vet one last time and stroked her fur. The vet promised to give her kisses.
Kitten, I will miss stroking your nose until you fell asleep. I will miss your gentle paws and the way you’d nuzzle my head while sitting on the back of the chair. I will miss you stealing all of the pet beds and walking behind you – the world’s worst drum major in the slowest hall parades. I will miss sharing string cheese. I will miss sharing all the fuzzy things. I will miss your mrrs and the way you’d come to me for reassurance when you were nervous. I will miss wrapping my arms around you and stuffing my face into your fur; thank you for being tolerant. I’ll even miss your indifference as you’d block the dog from coming down the hall, or coming in from the back porch, and your refusal to move despite her pleas; you were funny… and beautiful… and fussy… and stubborn… and absolutely lovely.
I hope for a “What Dreams May Come” heaven where I will find you. I hope you’ll look for me, too.
A woman gleefully declared on Monday, “it’s time to find a new cat!” and my response, “the only cat I want to find is Hodi.” 16 ½ years just wasn’t nearly long enough for me. It will never have been enough.
Lori of Dotopotamus fame promised she’d give me an update on her life if I provided one on Sam. Ok, she may not have worded it exactly that way or even close to that, but that’s how I’m interpreting it. My brain is a fantastical place!
Who or What is a Sam?
Since I may have magically gotten one new reader (hi, new reader!) I feel I should give you (all of you or maybe just them) a background on Sam. Sam is our 11 year old beagle adopted 7 years ago from Hound Rescue. Some Sam facts:
As you’ll recall, this whole post is about using you guys to get to what I want – an update on Lori. I’m sorry guys. In a pinch I will use you, but be glad it’s for your eyeballs and not a trade for cigarettes or to get out of being poked with things like car batteries. I mean, I’d totally use you for that, too because well if I were in the pokey, cigarettes (facial scrub, toothpaste, or whatnot) is a fantastic currency. I learned this on Orange is the New Black. And for the record, I’m adverse to being poked with electricity, so well… I like you and all (even you, new person), but hey… you should take one for the team. The team being me. You’re the best.
You can search for Lori on this blog, but in case you’re not the typing sort, here’s a brief bit on her – I worked with her for years, and now she lives out in Washington State (my working with her didn’t cause the move, she moved on her own and then she met a boy!). Lori is pretty darn fabulous (funny, fun, smart and she’s “got STYLE!” – and while very true, this is also an inside joke. If you knew it, I’m sure you’d maybe smirk or perhaps snort in approval.) You’ll note on her blog (linked above) that her last post was in 2013, so you now understand I’m behind on over a year’s worth of updates and truth be told, more than that. Washington State needs to stop swallowing my friends and family. Yes Tony, I’m looking at you, too – feel free to update me as well. A cousin could call a girl once in a while.
Right, About that Update
Sam is doing great. She recently made it as the cover photo for Hound Rescue on their Facebook site. She’s been on there now for 6 months. I think they originally planned to change the photo out once a month, but hey I’m not going to point that out. I like seeing Sam as the spokes-beagle. Now the photo, should you venture there, is of Sam a lot chubbier. This was pre-carrots and green beans – back when we thought her “I’m starving” thing was because she was starving. Tricky beagle.
She’s become fairly bossy about food. If I’m eating a salad, the whimpering will start and if I ignore her, she’ll hit something with a paw. She will not be ignored! The love of lettuce is my fault, I may have taught her the joy of leafy greens. Her favorite is the crunchy spiny bit – not so much the leaf; it’s hard to lip off the floor. Have you seen dog lips? Anyway, when you have a “starving” beagle you have to get clever with your snacks. I also found out that she’s tasted marshmallows. How I found this out was from watching her demand one from Jay. You know beagles, once they’ve tasted the blood of marshmallows, they’ll frenzy at the smell. That’s what she tells me.
She’s still absolutely disgusted by her nerd parents who spend way too much time in front of a monitor. If it’s past 7pm, we will get a warning whimper that will quickly turn into louder complaints followed by pawing various things in the computer room. She’s also pretty insistent I get to bed on time.
I’m pretty certain that she hasn’t had a baby bunny recently. I suspect either the adult bunnies got wise to the fact that the backyard was a bad birthing yard or it could be the early Fall-ness of things has made them less frisky. Since I randomly decided they were my totem animal based on me seeing them all the time and well, I wanted to say I had a “totem animal”, it was disheartening to hear their squeaks as she gobbled one down. No one should hear their beagles eat their totem animal. I may need to find a new one that’s a bit sturdier and can’t make it down a beagle’s gullet in two-three bites.
We also learned she doesn’t particularly like other dogs. While we’ve been good at socializing her with people, we haven’t been so amazing with other animals. This lead to a very brief attempt at our fostering a super sweet dog this summer. I still feel awful about this failure, because it was such a huge let down of a very good friend. You know when your adorable dog turns into a slavering mess of teeth and rage… yeah, that was her this summer. That incident led to my only bout with either gastritis or an ulcer; it wasn’t determined. Good times. Good times.
That’s about all I have for now. Nothing too exciting, which is great news since Sam has had way too many exciting (health-related) things in her little life. Fingers crossed that this trend keeps going.
Soooo… Lori, about that update! Tony? Tony?!? Don’t think I forgot about you.
My good friend Julie has an amazing opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to practice medicine in New Zealand for a year. The downside, aside from not being able to see her at all during that time and only getting to live vicariously through her adventures, is that she can’t take her beloved dog Sami.
WE NEED YOUR HELP! SAMI NEEDS A FOSTER FAMILY!
Sami is a senior girl. She has a goofy smile, long legs, big ears and an even bigger heart. From the time we’ve spent with her, we can tell she loves soft pats, ear scratching (right there, yes right there), naps, showing off her toy for the kitty, chasing wild rabbits and eating. She’s easy going, mellow and super friendly.
If you chose to foster her for a year, you’ll receive:
WE NEED YOUR HELP! SAMI DESERVES A LOVING FOSTER FAMILY!
Sami is house trained, crate trained, and dinner trained (she’ll always come for dinner!).
She’s 60 lbs. and her vet believes she may be part Catahoula, Australian Shepherd and she is definitely all heart. She needs to be able to come in from the extreme Texas heat and of course the cold.
Beth, why can’t you keep her? Great question! We’d love to, she’s a great house guest. Unfortunately our dog attacks her. Please note: all fighting is initiated by our dog. Sami is not responsible for any of the aggression; she’s easy-going and seems to want to make friends, but ours isn’t having it. Sami and our dog have to spend most of their time separated and food cannot be out when they’re both out (or a trash bag that you’re trying to seal up and take out). She needs a better place where she doesn’t have to be stressed out by our aggressive beagle. (Who knew beagles could be aggressive?)
SAMI NEEDS YOU!
Can you help? Do you know of anyone who can? Have any questions? Please leave a comment here or send me an email at bigbluemess at gmail dot com.
I’ve never been good at eulogizing. The words I write and say fail. How can you possibly sum up a life in a sentence? How can you convey the depth of love you have – the multiple layers of complex feelings and emotions woven around this single point in your life – limited by a vocabulary that is never quite big enough? I’ve never been a writer. I can’t paint a beautiful picture with words. I’m merely an anecdotist. My apologies, Sage as I look at my list of words and stories trying not to let you down one more time.
This post is for my kitten and for me.
15 years ago I was sitting on the back porch of my parent’s house with a dog crate in front of me. My not-yet-ex and I sat in front of it waiting to see these two Manx kittens my stepmother had rescued from her tree. A tiny “rumpy”, Hodi, who didn’t have a name quite yet, sprang out and fluffed up as big as she could to hiss at Thelma, my parent’s German Shepherd. Thelma had the audacity to take a sniff of this tiny precocious ball and Hodi needed her to understand that she’d made a huge mistake. Fueled by Hodi’s bravado, Sage (a “stumpy”) confidently pattered out behind her. “Do you want the kittens?” was the question that lingered in the air. I didn’t. I had my cat Jones and I was content. However, I didn’t have the final word. No, that was my not-yet-ex’s call who enthusiastically replied, “we’ll take them!”
She didn’t have a name for a while. My not-yet-ex had declared we could each name one kitten. As I saw it, I had. His name was Jones. That didn’t get me off the hook. I had to name mine. He had already named his Horangi (this eventually was shortened “Hodi” – pronounced Hoe-dee, thanks to Kati, which made things easier on her and everyone else). I turned over the naming to a friend since I wasn’t particularly attached and she offered up “Sage” and so Sage it was.
Sage was tiny – skin stretched over jutting bones, with short sleek hair – a contrast to her larger, fluffier sister. She was hard to pat at first – all you could feel were the vertebrae along her spine and tiny little kitten ribs, but she desperately wanted to be loved. Early on I realized everyone gravitated to Hodi – she was big eyed and fluffy whereas no one really touched Sage. Sage became my project to make sure she was properly socialized – a little project that eventually got out of hand as I turned her into an attention seeking love monster. Once she realized hands were maybe the best thing ever (right next to freshly opened cans of tuna) and all of these people seemed to come with a pair of them, she made it her goal to make sure that happened If they weren’t touching, she’d start talking to them about how they should probably bend over a bit more and get to the touching. She would also let it be known that if bending presented any special trouble, she would be ok with perching on their laps. Very accommodating. Until recently she would greet everyone at the door waiting for those lovely arms to lower themselves and bestow some patty goodness. She was the one who would stomp on us at night or curl up in Jay’s lap when he’d sit at his computer.
In the early years my cat Jones didn’t take to her. In fact, truth be told, there were never “later years” that he did. His one and only love had been for a ferret named Apple Juice and Sage was neither a ferret nor did she sound like a fruity drink. Within in a couple of weeks the novelty of Sage had worn off for Jones. He was 5 and well beyond kitten antics. He decided that as the oldest he should address the problem, since clearly I wasn’t going to handle it, so he walked over her and plopped himself down on her body. Jones weighed about 23 lbs. (a big guy) and easily had 19-20 lbs. on this tiny kitten. I couldn’t see a single bit of Sage peeking out from under him and Jonesy just stared ahead like nothing was going on. Jonesy’s only attempt to rid himself of this obnoxious bony upstart and I unceremoniously ruined the moment by making him move. He was incredulous in the way that only a cat can be properly incredulous.
When my divorce happened, I had three pets. Jonesy had passed away and I had a fairly new puppy named Dakota. My ex was in no position to keep these cats he had insisted we get and most apartments were not going to allow three pets. Since I had a more adoptable lab puppy, I had to give up my dog for his cats. I wasn’t going to take a chance on these two being euthanized, since they were into their awkward teen phase – well past “cute”. That decision sometimes made things hard. They were “his” cats and “my” cat and one of “my” dogs were dead due to his idiocy with animals (one reason he’s an ex) while my other dog had to be given away. (Another story for another time.) I’d remind myself it wasn’t their fault and that they needed me to protect them – to give them the best life they could have. I used to ask people, “do you want two free kittens” as a way to add levity to my feelings. It was never a real offer and they were never going anywhere. I began working on appreciating them for their different personalities – their idiosyncrasies – their goofiness, which takes me to:
What I loved about Sage over these 15 years:
She never stopped being a kitten. While her sister is content to pick out the best pet bed, Sage always wanted to bat something around.
She loved feathers and mousies and this ball that went round in circles in its track. She loved the laser pointer and she loved batting my earrings off the nightstand.
She loved nuzzling into my hair and pressing her nose against my scalp especially if it was wet.
She always appeared on the edge of the tub whenever I was taking a shower or a bath and only fell in once, but proved she could fly once her haunches hit the water.
She loved to nuzzle my blush brush, burying her face between its bristles.
She loved being touched to the point that she’d allow us to put her in cat hats for her thanks to those hands we seemed to have. A few of her cat hat photos were even selected to appear on a Cats in Hats website (which seems to have disappeared) and she also won “Fashionista” for one of those photos at our office’s charity fundraiser for the ASPCA.
She had this one little pink toe and the game was always to declare “pink toe” and then stroke her paw, which made her flinch, but again there was touching so she didn’t want to run away.
She deeply loved Jay, her pet human, whom she always wanted to be near and would let him cradle her like a baby.
Both she and Hodi were indoor cats, going out occasionally on the balcony when we lived in our apartment. I met my neighbor, Jessica, because of Sage when she jumped the wall that divided our balconies and a couple of hours later Jessica appeared holding her. She’d scared Jessica, because Jessica had walked by her bedroom and seen Sage asleep on her bed. Sage looked just like Jessica’s cat who’d passed away and Jessica had to call her boyfriend over to make sure she wasn’t seeing things.
When she stopped being able to clear the fence, she finally got to spend more time outside here. (We had done a test run early on, but behind one of the fences was a pit bull who had a bark collar on. He was silent and I felt instant death waited for her if she went to that yard. Incidentally, that was her favorite yard. Of course.) When she got to spend all the time she wanted outside, she’d hang out in the shade under the picnic table or bury her face in a tuft of grass. She was always the last pet to come in if it rained. I imagine she just enjoyed the feel of the water as it gently fell on her fur.
As a Manx we tried to encourage her to grow a tail. She let us know early on she couldn’t be bothered. She was absolutely fine with her sassy little nubbin. Then we tried to convince her it was time to find a job and she scoffed as both Hodi and Sam have done. Cats these days.
Where Hodi had her special issues and Sam has had her bouts with Horner’s Syndrome, torn CCL’s (yes, plural) and physical therapy, I always knew Sage would outlive all of them She was the healthiest. Sure, we had to give her subcutaneous fluids a few years ago once we discovered she wouldn’t drink standing water and needed water constantly flowing to stay hydrated. Yay Drinkwell! And even when she started dropping weight last summer and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, I knew her condition was manageable – just part of her aging process – still in the best shape of the pets.. Sure. the vet noted raised kidney enzymes, but that was largely due to her age.
Then I came home in June and found her laying in a puddle of urine. She hadn’t moved all day. I rushed her to the emergency vet where they placed her on an IV. The test results showed e-coli in her urine. A round of nausea invoking meds was started to clear that up and it didn’t clear up, so a new round of meds started at a higher dosage where I had to force feed her to help with the nausea and it didn’t clear up, then a newer round of a different/riskier medication that could impact her kidneys started; we had to clear that infection out. When the vet said the latest meds could be hard on her because of her pre-existing kidney problems I focused on the “could”. I knew Sage was the most resilient of my pets and “could” meant the 1% of the pharmaceutical test study where the animals had a bad reaction. Sage was in the 99%. I knew that. Unfortunately, she was the 1%. Monday, after a vet visit on Saturday, we had to make a choice since she wasn’t improving. I broke down. I failed her. Today they ship her body to the crematorium. A clay cast has been made of her paw print and then some time next week I’ll pick her up from the vet for the last time.
If I could make a thousand paper cranes and get one wish it would be for her to understand that I always loved her. That she was both a good and beautiful kitten.
A couple of years ago I was polling my friends and family for blog ideas. Normally, I can make an anecdote out of anything, but at that moment the best I could do was stare and quietly drool (actually, I’d like to think of that as a favorite past-time – my hobby). My friend Lori threw out a ton of ideas which included a regular update on Sam, our rescue beagle and for a couple of years now I’ve been providing those updates.
Sam has made for the perfect subject. Not only is she cute, sweet and a bit mischievous, she has also gone through a lot of personal struggles along the way. From her two bouts with something akin to Bell’s palsy, which left half her face paralyzed, to two knee surgeries to repair torn CCLs, to rehab and finally to her struggle with arthritis. These posts allow me to bring folks updates on her adventures and her health.
Our ultimate goal with Sam has always been to give her the best life possible given her limitations. While that doesn’t include people food (although the occasional popcorn kernel or green bean may find its way to the floor) or eating the kitties (yet!), she enjoys pet beds in nearly every room, pet stairs to her favorite spot on the couch, a ramp that takes her down to the backyard and according to her, a well stocked yard filled with bunnies for her to chase and occasionally nom triumphantly.
Lately our focus has shifted from Sam to our aging cat Sage. Sage is a 14 year old DSH who still believes she’s a kitten. I’m sorry, I misspoke. Sage is our 14 year old kitten. Sage had started dropping weight over the summer due to undiagnosed hyperthyroidism – something that’s not uncommon in older cats. To try to correct the weight loss, pre-diagnosis, I started buying a lot of fancy smelly wet cat food. My thought was, “hey, she’s old – she can eat what she wants as long as she eats”. Her sister (litter mate) Hodi, who does not suffer from hyperthyroidism and is a walking ball of fuzz with tiny hidden little legs was very interested in this new change. New food started appearing on the cat stand – a small independent table that Sage can leap to with ease, that is too high for the beagle and that Hodi must be delivered to (thus allowing time for the special food to be cleared and the boring dry food to be spotlighted once again – all to the grumpy one’s (Hodi again) great dismay).
The wet food smell was heavenly. I know this from talking to both Sam who started licking the pet stand and Hodi who frowned every time I took the wet food away.
Once the wet food began to appear, I noticed Sam was spending extra time in the kitchen. I could tell she was carefully working out the geometry involved in getting to that table. Lines danced through the air as she worked out the various angles, assessed jump points, imagined opposable thumbs, and sized up the relative weight of kitchen furniture to beagle mass. It was all very complicated and I was sent away on several occasions, because I was being distracting. I take the blame for this fixation. If the smell weren’t compelling enough, I had also started pulling a chair out to see if that would help Sage since she was growing tinier by the day. Once Sam saw the chair, the final bits of the equation fell into place. “AHA! A chair! That’s the last piece. Puzzle solved!” Now she just had to wait for an opportunity.
One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I’d done my morning pet chores and headed back to bed. I tossed around a bit then realized I couldn’t sleep, so I got back up, went to the kitchen, and flicked on the light. That’s when I found Sam standing in the middle of the table looking very surprised. She had finally worked out a way to get up there and was trying to work out how to make the final leap to the cat stand. Sam wagged excitedly while I tried to take a picture. Let me say it’s hard when you’ve got a dog who really wants to get down, knowing this might fall under the list of “bad girl” things – so sadly, there were no pictures that weren’t incredibly blurry.
As I looked at her, as she nervously stood on the edge of the table, I was torn between being a bit mad and, “my arthritic dog with her repaired CCLs got onto the table without any help! You go, girl!” I settled for an indulgent, “you’re lucky you’re funny.” Sam wagged and scampered off with a promise to never do that within my eye-shot again. The same promise she makes whenever she’s caught in the litter box or sneaking something off of the counter. “Right! You guys “see” things, I’ve really got to do something about that.” We sleep with one eye open.
I surveyed the crime scene one last time before leaving the kitchen. The chairs were barely touched. In fact, I’m not sure which once she could have used on her way up. Very sneaky this one.
Since then, Sage started receiving her thyroid medicine – a little dollop twice a day in each ear. Sam has moved on to other interests, namely working on solving new food puzzles like how to deal with a table that’s now further from the cat food stand.
As we change our focus to getting Sage healthy, I look forward to Sam having more grand days like that Saturday. For years my only wish for Sam was that she would have more good days than bad – that she know some amount of happiness and joy – things denied her in her early life. I never imagined I’d find her proudly standing in the middle of our table.
I hope life continues to surprise her and us.
Sam in her guise as the The Mighty Huntress returned the weekend before last. I was sitting inside and heard some peculiar noises coming from the backyard and found Sam merrily bouncing and biting away. I ran through the list of proper responses and settled on, “turn the sound up on the TV and rock in place”. I’m probably not the person you want in a crisis. After a few moments of willful denial, I decided I should go see what she’d captured just in case she had done something like cornered a raccoon or worse still, was tangling with a rattler – both things would require some kind of club and me pretending to be brave, so I was kind of hoping for anything but one of those. I tromp out to discover Sam is celebrating Easter early by snacking on a baby bunny.
This phrase is apparently a new command that means, “please, bring that baby bunny into the house.” Thankfully, the door was shut, so she held her limp prize and pawed at the door demanding entrance. I mean really, what could be better than eating your dead bunny than eating your dead bunny on your favorite blanky.
Realizing she wasn’t allowed in, she dashed off with the bunny and found a nice spot in the grass. I mean, it was a beautiful day and bunny with fresh greens makes for quite a delectable dish. I acted quickly. I ran into the house and sent Jay an urgent instant message: “Your dog killed a bunny.” . Again, you might not want me at your side in a crisis. Hey, it was either IM Jay or try to perform a Google search on “how to get a baby bunny away from your feral beagle”. The Jay thing made more sense. Of course, when talking to Jay I had to refer to Sam as “your” dog, which loosely translates to “‘our’ dog is doing something I don’t want her to do”. Everyone knows that when Sam does something cute, she’s my dog. When she eats bunnies or scours the yard for “yard biscuits” she’s Jay’s dog. It may be unfair, but that’s how it goes (according to me). Jay’s response was basically, “offer her something in trade”. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed several dog treats. Normally, she gets one small dog biscuit a day – surely, she’d want 5 RIGHT NOW – it seemed like a fair trade for a bunny.
I go outside and throw down one biscuit, which caused Sam to pause briefly. I could see she’d made a lot of headway on devouring the bunny. She clearly knew her bunny time was coming to a quick end and was attempting to polish off the rest quite quickly. Well, it turns out one biscuit buys you about 2 seconds to grab 1/3 of the remaining bunny (the other 2/3 were long gone). I wasn’t quite that fast. I then tossed the other 4 biscuits further away and was barely able to grab the rest of the bunny remains. By barely, I mean Sam and I had a scuffle that thankfully I won. There are some advantages to being bigger than a 29 lb. dog.
While I can be quite squeamish about many things, I’m lucky this isn’t one of them. Bunny bits were quickly double and triple bagged leaving Sam quite perplexed as she desperately searched and re-searched the area where her bunny 1/3 had been. She looked up at me as if to ask, “have you seen some back legs and a tail?” I shrugged and acted just as confused.
After so many hard years, I figure Sam deserves an Easter bunny or two (well, I’m really ok if it’s just the one). Plus, its is the season. Let’s just hope this mighty huntress doesn’t bring home any Leprechauns next. I can’t imagine there’d be much good luck in that.
Earlier this week, I got a great email from my friend DeAnne. You should refer to her as HRH DeAnne, like we all do and if you could genuflect a bit or possibly approach on your knees, that would not only be a welcome gesture, but one that would be encouraged and save you from being royally thwapped. No one wants a royal thwapping. This email was one of the best I’ve received in a long time. You know how I crave a good story? Well, this email wasn’t just a story – it was an adventure! There were misread maps, weest (a combination of East/West), punching, stitches tearing apart, Lacrosse, chili, starving teens, a crazy woman wielding a Christmas gift card, and a surprise move to North Dakota. I’ve saved this email because it’s simply that great and it’s a reminder that writing has become a lost art. No one ever writes letters anymore – we just quip each other to death with what amounts to email tweets. Her email reminded me how I really miss well thought out letters (or emails). Of course, in response to DeAnne’s great email, I email tweeted a thanks. I completely failed to rise to the occasion and offer up my own real letter. Sorry Miss DeAnne! (Yes, I did use “Miss” when addressing her; you should still stick with HRH or something else that shows a proper amount of deference.)
DeAnne’s vote for one of the top posts was the one titled True Beth North; she completely empathized with my sad lack of direction. Well, it’s not a lack of direction. Everything is North depending on where I stand. As one of the smartest people I know, DeAnne confessed that she has sometimes struggled with direction, thus the term “Weest” was born – a term that will get you (or anyone directly related to her) punched if you dare speak it within earshot. Her next vote was for any post dealing with Sam.
Sam actually showed up as a couple of people’s favorite topics when I polled them about their favorite posts. Since there are a few of you who are fairly new to the blog, I’ll just give you some background. Sam is our 9-year-old beagle that we adopted 5 years ago from a local group called Hound Rescue. Sam has had a harder time then most of our pets having suffered from a condition known as Horner’s Syndrome (similar to Bell’s Palsy) and tears to both of her cranial crutiate ligaments. What I’ve taken from this is I’m a pet person. I don’t have a pet because it’s convenient or easy. I have Sam because she’s a great dog who makes me laugh. The next time someone suggests, as a co-worker did in the past couple of weeks, that it would be cheaper to euthanize Sam that pay for knee surgery, they should come with a figure on how much it would cost to euthanize them. I mean, with food and housing going up, not to mention health care I’m thinking a single shot would cure anything that ails you (or me), because frankly you’re more expensive to maintain in the long run than my dog. Oh, and I like my dog more. Truce? I won’t say a word about how you throw your money away on unnecessary expensive little toys and go on your vacation jaunts. In return, don’t suggest I kill my dog because she’s inconvenient. Last I checked, you weren’t in charge of my finances. Thanks.
To veer off that rant a bit, I’ll tell you a little more about her. First off, as a beagle Sam is basically a stomach with legs, soft ears and a very keen nose. The sound of a kibble plummeting off of the cat’s food perch will wake her from a dead sleep and send her running into the kitchen. Beagles are never satiated, which is quite awful if you think about it. Sure, you may have known hungry dogs, but anyone with a hound, particularly a beagle can tell you crazy stories about their appetite and the lengths they’ll go to in order to eat.. Sam doesn’t know how to play unless playing involves dancing around for food. The only way I could get Sam to play with a stuffed animal or a ball would be to wrap it in bacon and smear it with peanut butter. I tried talking to her about it, but I suspect she just likes hearing her name. According to Sam, she has three command driven names. They are “Sam”, “hey, Sam” and “I love you”. “Hey, Sam” knows to look at me and pay attention, there might be food or something interesting to sniff. While, “I love you” tells her to wag insanely, because that Sam is going to scritched from head to toe.
Sam is scared of our cats and our cats are aware of this. They like to set-up gauntlets in the hallways. If I hear Sam whimpering, it’s usually because a cat (probably Hodi) won’t let her come down the hallway or enter a room. However, this fear disappears if anyone is eating chicken, despite not getting table food, or when she’s enjoying her rawhide. It’s only under these circumstances that she will chase Hodi and Sage all over the house. Without the false bravado instilled by a yummy leathery chew; she’ll return to the whimpering mess we adore when faced with a kitty obstacle..
Sam Update: The Long Overdue Installment
I haven’t had a “Sam Update” in awhile, but that’s mostly due to things being fairly normal in the house. This is a good thing. Yes, I am knocking on wood. So, I’ll leave you with two recent happy moments. First, I came home a couple of weeks ago and released Sam from her crate. She was full of silly and dashed all over the house as fast as she could without pinballing into any kitties. She was the embodiment of joy, so I did my part to keep her going. Her final move was a dive under her blanket, which as I recall used to be MY blanket. She wiggled in one end and worked her way to the other finally kicking the blanket so her head peeked out. I declared, “you’re ridiculous!” which caused her to leap out of the covers and zoom around more. Where she doesn’t play with balls, she does love running at break-neck speeds that sometimes make me wince as I think of her knees (she’s clumsy and has torqued them performing this maneuver). Still, it’s hard to discourage her when she’s having fun.
From last weekend: There was whimpering from the kitchen so I got up and to make sure Hodi wasn’t pinning Sam in somewhere while cackling maniacally. I go in and find that Sam would really just like Hodi to hurry up and let her have a turn at the water bowl. (We have three, incidentally, but this one is deemed the best by all the pets. It’s a fountain where water pours constantly purchased because Sage wouldn’t drink from still bowls.) I looked at her and said, “no, you have to wait”. All of her nervous energy eventually drove Hodi away. Sam then asked to go outside, so I open the back door and there sitting against the fence is giant a tom cat. Sure, Hodi and Sage are horrifying, but that 20 lb. tom cat is clearly a big sissy and chose the wrong yard. Sam went tearing out sending the cat over the fence. (He’s sprayed our porch, much to Hodi’s great dismay that she vocalized in long mrrs and hissing one night.) Sam marched around proudly at having defended the yard, then came in and resumed her spot at the bottom of the pet totem pole. Hodi won’t tolerate uppity beasts and made it clear, “get any idea, Ears and I will smack them out of you.”
Thank you, DeAnne for inspiring a new Sam Update and for taking the time help me out on those blog posts. I know, I still owe you a real letter.
So, yesterday we had to have another frank talk with Sam. As you may recall, we recently had to educate her on her kind’s not so proud history of hunting rabbits and foxes in packs. We tried to explain that it’s not exactly fair when you have 30 of your closest buddies along when you’re running down a single opponent. Of course, Sam whole-heartedly agreed, because that’s 29 other beagles and hounds, not to mention pesky humans and annoying horses, who could get in your way and prevent you from snacking on the very best bits. I said, “you’re missing the point” and she responded, “you’re having an imaginary conversation with a beagle.” Fair enough.
Yesterday’s conversation was about beagles being used for testing and the importance of not being a docile, easy-going creature. It went something like this, “hey Sam, now if a lady in a lab coat comes at you with mascara, what do you do?” Sam wagged. “I don’t think you’re getting this. How about a different scenario. Say some skinny science geek says “lick this blush” or he rubs a scented Kleenex all over your face, what do you do?” More wagging from Sam. I sighed. “No Sam, wagging isn’t the answer. You rip their throats out. Got it? You’re a vicious little demented killer. You’re no longer Sam. You’re Destructicus Canine Slayer of Evil! Wow, that’s a ridiculous name. Good thing I didn’t choose it.” *wag**wag**wag* “You know, I think you’re getting the hang of it. Just like that only more vicious and less panty! Now do squinty eyes! No, no, less soulful! You’re a beast! A force to be reckoned with by mammal kind. Now let’s go storm a lab champ!”
“You know i have no idea what you said, but I bet it was about food. I like to CUDDLE! You’re nice! Now, let’s storm the kitchen!”
Ok, I may have really given this one-sided speech to Sam yesterday. I think she appreciated it and is on the road to becoming a ferocious attack beagle. Tomorrow I’ll try to introduce her to camouflage and how to stealthily sneak past guards. This recruit has great potential. Mental note: must bring treats to hold her attention in training.