We’ve had quite an interesting time lately. The Wife had another kidney stone, requiring a trip to urgent care, then the emergency room, and finally short-stay surgery. That made for a long day. She ended up spending the night in the hospital for observation, leaving yours truly to be single parent for a day or two. I’m really not cut out for it.
Then, as my partner’s health improved, our cat Shadow started collapsing in mid-stride. He’s had hip problems for years, which the vet blamed on hip dysplasia, but it had gotten progressively worse. He was having more and more trouble getting up onto furniture, and often didn’t climb into a cat box before peeing. But, he was enjoying the new kittens. They would pile on top of him and engage in a three-way groomfest with purring so loud you could hear it in the next room.
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There have been lots of changes lately; at work, at home, and with the children. Almost too many to track, and far too many to readily accommodate. But we muddle on, for we have no other choice.
Today was the first day of school. The Girl is off to her first day of high school, and the Boy is off to his first day of middle school. They both have to get up an hour earlier than they did last year, so that was fun.
The Wife and I have been more or less obsessing about the Girl’s entry into high school. It’s such a huge transition that we worried that she would have a chance to find a rhythm before the reality ambushed her. Fortunately, she was in band camp for two grueling weeks last month, from 9 am to 8 pm five days a week. It took a grim toll on her physically (by the end she was wearing a knee brace, wrapping her ankle, and popping Advil to get through the day) but there was an unexpected benefit as well.
By the end of band camp, she knew the upperclassmen in band. She had spent two weeks on campus, and knew her way around, at least a bit. Most importantly, I think it just took the harsh edge of the unknown off the whole experience. The Wife and I were very happy it turned out the way it did, and we aren’t nearly as concerned for her now. She’s a band geek now, and she has her own support group, God bless ‘em.
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I’ve really got to start posting here more often. Not just for you, gentle reader, but because without a relief valve for all the snark that builds up inside my head I may just explode, leaving the walls dripping with ugly splashes of sarcasm.
I have to admit to being darkly amused by the furor over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It cracks me up that people actually have the huevos to act surprised that something like this could happen. Folks, this is simply the cost of doing business. If you want a petroleum-driven economy, then this is the check you get at the end of the meal.
In 2008 we (as a species) were harvesting 73.8 million barrels of oil per day. Given those numbers, an accident like this was inevitable. Frankly we ought to be amazed that we aren’t all swimming in black tar by now, and I can give you two reasons for that amazement:
Rule 1: Safety equipment fails.
Rule 2: People are greedy and stupid.
At this point, I would usually say something about the need for more stringent government oversight. However if I happen to have any readers who are hard-right conservatives, the phrase “government oversight” might just put them into a coma and/or trigger a stroke.
Funny how it’s perfectly OK for the government to regulate who you can marry, but it’s overly intrusive to prevent a corporation from destroying a thousand miles of shoreline habitat. But I digress.
On another tack entirely, we have unwelcome houseguests. I got up the other morning and noticed some scattered bits of something on my stovetop. I muttered something about them and my daughter came over to see.
“Looks like mouse poop.” she said.
“It’s NOT mouse poop.” I replied. Then looked a little closer.
It was mouse poop. All. Over. My. Stove. Including my cast iron skillet.
Needless to say two traps were speedily procured, baited, and put into place for the night. The next morning both traps had fine and robust specimens of mus musculus in them. GAH!
We have set them again for the last two nights, with no result. But I am not fooled. I know they’re down in the crawlspace, plotting their revenge. If things get too severe, we can always RELEASE THE KRAKEN!
From the relative paucity of posts recently, you would think we had been doing absolutely nothing worth mentioning. That’s not true. The last several weeks have been a blur, and NOT in a good way.
There were the taxes to prepare. I’m fortunate in having a wife that is willing to prepare our taxes. I’m slightly less fortunate that doing so will make her crazy as a soup sandwich for a couple of weeks.
Then there was the sinus infection that laid me out with a swiftness that was astounding. Monday I had a headcold. Wednesday I was congested. Thursday night I had an icepick driven into my head and wanted to die. Sleep was out of the question, and I staggered to Urgent Care as soon as they were open Friday. I then lost three full days to weakness and fever while the antibiotics worked their magic. Good times.
At the same time, the Boy has been suffering from a nagging cough that makes him sound like an asthmatic 90-year-old. Of course, every time we get him in to see his pediatrician, his lungs are clear and no coughing is in evidence. We’re contemplating taking video of him to show the doctor.
We unexpectedly had to replace our dishwasher, which required research and shopping and finding the time to actually go out and look at them. At the same time the Corolla went into the shop for body work (Thanks, Tri-Met!), then shortly thereafter went into the garage for a new clutch.
However all this trauma and drama pales when compared to the rapid decline of our cat Seeker. Although I had many friends tell me their stories of cats with kidney disease leading comfortable lives for years, in our case it was not to be. Seeker has been rapidly going downhill, and even sub-Q saline can only make him a little more comfortable. Our daughter is inconsolable, which is a pretty figure of speech until it becomes literally true. None of us understood the strength of the bond she has formed with Seeker, and watching him die is killing her.
I try to explain that this is the price you pay for the companionship of a good animal — you outlive them. I try to explain that it never gets easier, and that I can remember the death of each of my animal companions vividly. I try to explain that escorting your furry friend into the hereafter is the last obligation any loving pet owner must fulfill. But I think she knows all that already. And by this evening she will understand it, because we are having our old man put to sleep this afternoon.
It’s very dark and gloomy in the PAgent household these days, and it has nothing whatever to do with the weather.
I came gradually awake to the realization that my wife was speaking to my daughter. As she climbed out of our bed, I turned and looked at the clock. It was around 4:30 am. #%$@&!!
Pulling on sweatpants, I came out into the hall only to be passed by my daughter who was carrying one of our cats like a sack of flour, and heading into her bedroom. I went looking for my wife.
“You should see this,” she said when I found her. Our pantry cupboard was standing open, and a bag of brown sugar was on the floor. This was getting curiouser and curiouser. And the Girl had apparently rounded up at least two of the cats and taken them back to her bedroom, chattering the whole time. We walked back down the hall to try and get some answers from her.
As we opened her bedroom door, we were greeted by a tableau that took us right into David Lynch territory: Our daughter was hunkered down on the floor behind an enormous pile of … stuff. Mostly (but not exclusively) items gathered from the pantry and the kitchen. In her room with her were all three cats. Her mother tried to talk to her using an enormously calm tone of voice:
Mrs. Agent: “What’s going on, sweetie?”
The Girl: “I have to make sure the kitties are safe.”
Mrs. Agent: “Safe from what?”
The Girl: “You told me to make sure the kitties are safe. So they don’t explode.”
At this point I stifled a giggle. She glared at me.
The Girl: “That’s not funny. First the bad one will explode (indicating Seeker) then that one (indicating Shadow) and then that one (indicating Sparky)”. I have to make sure the kitties are safe.”
She grabbed one of them and hugged it tightly to her chest. Then just as quickly she started chattering away again.
The Girl: (picking up several bottles of water) “This is for me, and the rest are for the kitties. (Picking up some fiber supplements) These are for the kitties.”
She started opening the fiber supplements and her mother gently stopped her.
Mrs. Agent: “Those aren’t really for cats. Sweetie, did you already give the cats anything?” Eyes wide, my wife pointed to two prescription bottles among the scattered piles of fresh fruit, canned goods, yogurt, and other sundries. They were for my wife’s anti-depressant. This could be very bad, indeed.
Mrs. Agent: “Why do you have to keep the kitties safe?”
The Girl: “You TOLD me to. You told me to keep the kitties safe. I have to watch them so the bombs don’t come and blow them up.” I was astonished to see tears running down her face. “I’m so tired. But I have to make sure the kitties are safe. They have to be SAFE.”
She was sleepwalking. She had clearly been up for a long time, long enough to move half the pantry into her bedroom. She was, in her own crazed way, behaving perfectly logically — She had put the perishables into an ice-cube bucket with ice to keep them cold (apparently the kitties wouldn’t be safe if she fed them expired yogurt). And she was emotionally raw and utterly exhausted. But she couldn’t abandon her obligations to the cats. She couldn’t go to sleep. Someone had to keep the kitties safe, and that someone was her.
The back-and-forth continued for a little while. At some point she demanded to have her Lion, one of her oldest stuffed animals, one that has been loved so long and so hard that he now looks something like a giant flat hairball with stubby lopsided legs. Finding him, she clutched him fiercely to herself. “I’m so tired.” she said again.
Slowly, she was convinced that we would watch the kitties, and we promised to keep them safe. Slowly she agreed to climb back up into her bed and go to sleep. But off course, she WAS asleep, and had been the entire time. We had stumbled into some nightmare of hers, one that had taken her out of bed and across the width of the house, gathering and scavenging, to make sure her kitties were safe. It was absolutely terrifying to see, and at times deeply moving, and a couple of times downright hilarious.
It does not take a degree in psychoanalysis to see what was going on. Seeker’s diagnosis of kidney disease has affected her more deeply than we knew, probably more deeply than even SHE knew. Somewhere, deep down, she feels like she didn’t do enough to protect him, to keep him safe, and now he’s going to die. That’s why when she explained why she was doing all this, she indicated Seeker was going to be the first to explode. “The BAD one” she called him, and I don’t think she was referring to his disposition, but rather to his disease.
Once she climbed back into bed, I left the room. After counting the Wife’s pills and verifying that none had been taken, I climbed back into my own. Her mother, who has always been a trooper in these kinds of situations, sat in her bedroom with her to make sure she slept, and to be able to reassure her that the cats were being watched if she should wake. She didn’t come to bed until after 5:30.
This morning, when I tried to rouse the girl, she was understandably surly. I simply couldn’t get her to wake up, but I did ask her if she remembered having any dreams. She didn’t. I wish I could have been there when she saw the pile of groceries in her bedroom.
We’ve gotten through spring break, but things have not gotten better, really. Seeker, one of our older cats, has been refusing food and growing very thin. We initially attributed it to the incredibly disruptive presence of the new cat, Sparky, but when he got to the point that his bones were sticking out of his back, we figured he should go to the vet.
The vet’s physical exam hinted at, and the subsequent lab tests confirmed, kidney disease. At nine years old, Seeker is pretty young for that sort of thing. There’s a chance it’s a result of a kidney infection, or hypertension, but most likely it’s untreatable. We’ve already ordered the lab test that would look for infection.
My daughter was able to take part in the vet visit, so she has a full understanding of what is going on, and after some initial depression has jumped into Seeker care with a great deal of enthusiasm. We got the old boy some special cat food that’s high in protein and low in potassium, and should therefore be easy on his kidneys. The vet said you can do a lot of good with fluid injections a couple times a week. The vet tech said it’s easy enough that we could do it at home to save on money.
I’ve fed cats, watered cats, stuck pills down cats’ throats, retrieved pills that were coughed across the room, bathed cats, and even lanced and drained cat abscesses. But I did not sign up for feline injections. This should be interesting.
Interestingly, Seeker seems to have genuinely perked up over the last several days. His energy is way up, his eyes are bright again, he’s eating, and he seems to be filling out rapidly. At the same time that I am sternly cautioning my daughter not to get her hopes up, and that kidney disease doesn’t just go away, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit hopeful. Maybe it is just an infection, exacerbated by the stress of the new cat. Maybe it isn’t a death sentence. Time will tell.
The joys of having animals in the family. I know someday I’ll be facing this sort of thing with an aging Gus, and I’m not looking forward to it.
As for Sparky/Gus interactions, the road is a slow one. They can be in the same room as long as Gus is asleep and Sparky is on top of the china cabinet. Last night Sparky climbed down while we weren’t paying attention, and Gus awoke to find him at ground level. After a couple of laps around the family room, they took off into the kitchen. The good news is that after Sparky made it under the dining room table and up onto the bench, Gus left him alone and came back to me. And then there’s the semi-good news that Sparky is defiant enough to climb down with the dog in the room. It’s progress, of a sort. I’m no longer quite as concerned that Gus will eat/maul him.