Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good News. Maybe.

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I might have some good news to share this weekend.  I say "might" because honestly I don't know what to believe at this point, and I'm hesitant to get my hopes up too much.

Jeff took Charlotte to the vet on Thursday for her regularly scheduled, twice yearly check-up to make sure that the condition of her heart and lungs isn't deteriorating.  The office has a brand new department of Internal Medicine, and they wanted us to take Charlotte to see them, instead of to the Critical Care specialists like we have been doing.  I'm sure that most of you that read my blog regularly have read (many times) that Charlotte, a little over three years ago, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  We've been treating her with lasix, benazipril, and a low-dose aspirin compounded formula ever since that diagnosis.  We've always known that this was not a forever-solution.  That eventually the lasix would stop working and we would have some painful decisions to make.

So every time we take her in for this check-up, it's anxiety inducing.  I always wonder if this would be the vet visit that confirmed my worst fears.

The new vet had reviewed Charlotte's considerable file.  She checked her lungs, listened to her heart, and said that everything sounded great.  Then, she went on to tell Jeff that she had serious doubts about the original diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

Wait... WHAT?!

We'd been fully aware of the fact that we were extremely lucky that Charlotte was still alive after three years. The original prognosis was six months.  Maybe a year if we were lucky.  (And yes, we often muttered, good-naturedly, that maybe Charlotte was simply too mean to die.)  But we hadn't examined the issue any further.  Looking gift horses in the mouth and all of that.  THIS vet said that not only is such a survival period with no signs of deterioration extraordinarily lucky, it was also, in the medical literature, unprecedented.

So, here's the timeline of events as I remember them.

September, 2008 - we adopt Charlotte.  We notice that she has several coughing spells, maybe one or two big ones, a day.  We chalk it up to hairballs and buy some PetroMalt for her.  The symptoms continue, and we start to get concerned.

October, 2008 - Charlotte collapses in the hallway, gasping for air, at 11 PM on a Friday night.  We rush her to the emergency vet a couple of towns over.  They rush her to the back room without us even fully checking in, and wind up putting her on oxygen to save her life.  They run some tests, take some pictures, and tell us that first of all, she has a nasty case of pneumonia, and has a lot of crud in her lungs.  And that her heart doesn't look right.  They suspect congestive heart failure, and the diagnosis is considered confirmed when Lasix helps her start breathing again.  She is hospitalized for three days, during which time they perform a procedure called a "lung wash" which is exactly what it sounds like.  She is also put on antibiotics for the pneumonia, and they work out what the proper twice-daily dosage of lasix should be.

*Humorous note:  they didn't want to let her come home because she was not eating.  Jeff asked what brand of food they were serving, and it was not the one that she was used to.  They humored him by letting him bring some of her own food in.  Which she promptly scarfed down.  Stubborn lady.

November-December 2008 -  One of the most expensive time periods of our lives.  We take her in for several different tests, and even drive her to the next state over to see the only small animal cardiologist around.  The cardiologist confirms congestive heart failure.  She also tells us that there is scar tissue around Charlotte's heart, which indicates to her that Charlotte has had a couple of heart-attacks already.

One thing that every doctor said after looking at her...  that she is not "playing by the text book."  Her heart shows some of the signs of congestive heart failure, but not all.  That where the heart walls for a normal cat with this condition would be thinning, hers are thickening.  But no one questions it too much, since she's never had the symptoms again.  We've always attributed that to the lasix.

And so this is why I'm so astounded at this new theory (and it IS still a theory) and really don't know what to make of it.  The only way to test it is to take her completely off of the medication and wait a few days to see if she starts to have difficulty breathing.  Of course if she started to have any difficulty at all, we'd put her back on the medication immediately.  The vet recommended that we do this at a time where someone can be home with her for those several days.  And that if she does have congestive heart failure, we should see signs of deterioration after a couple of days of no medicine.

Here is what we have decided, with the vet's help:  the medications are not hurting her.  We're leaving her on them for a couple of months.  Then, on a weekend of our choosing, Jeff will try to get permission to work from home either on a Friday or a Monday.  We'll take her off of the meds and watch her closely.  After the weekend, whether or not we had to put her back on the medication, she needs to go back in to the vet for a check.  Hence, the real reason we're waiting a couple of months... these specialist visits are not inexpensive!

Jeff did ask this vet about the entire collapsing and unable to breathe thing.  The theory is, that is was mostly to do with the pneumonia, but that she might also have a touch of asthma.  The reason that we haven't seen asthma symptoms since...  lasix would treat asthma symptoms just as effectively as it treats congestive heart failure.

So everyone send some good thoughts our way.  I would obviously love for this diagnosis to be the correct one.  It's still not perfect, her heart probably is still not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than the original diagnosis, which was a long, slow death sentence.  I am having some difficulty wrapping my mind around it though.  And I can't get the image of me lying in the hallway, curled up around a gasping Charlotte, willing her to live long enough for us to get her to a vet, out of my mind.

Of course, Charlotte is as unconcerned about all of this as she ever is.  Give her a patch of sunlight or a box to sit in, and she's as happy as can be.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 - A Review

I was asked to write an honest review of, a website that sells pet food and treats, and other supplies.  (Full disclosure:  I was given a $50 coupon for this review.)

But even with the coupon offer, I never would have gone through with it and gotten to the point of writing a review if I couldn't say anything good about it, or if I felt uncomfortable recommending the site to my friends.

As it was...  I LOVED it!  It has every kind of pet food imaginable, for both dogs and cats, whether you're looking for dry food or canned or treats.  There's also kitty litter and potty pads and flea and tick treatments available.

First, the website experience itself was great.  It was very easy to navigate, and I was able to quickly find the brands and types that I needed.  This particular shopping trip, I decided to shop for cat food, as we're nearing the end of our current bag.  We feed our cats Nutro Natural Choice/Healthy Weight dry food, and I was able to find it right away on the site.  And they even sell it in the 15 lb. bags!  (I can't say how much I appreciate this.  In my experience, when shopping at other pet websites, I'm forced to buy smaller bags.  When you're feeding three cats and the occasional foster, anything smaller than the 15 lb. bags just doesn't seem worth it!)  I topped off my order with some dog and cat treats to surprise my gang with.  There are over 70 brands to choose from, so if you feed your dogs or cats commercial pet food, chances are your favorite brand is here!

The prices were at least comparable, and in many cases, cheaper, than I've found elsewhere.  And what's more...  any orders over $50 ship for free.  And I don't know about you, but it's a rare day that I ever go on a  pet food/pet supply shopping expedition and spend less than $50.

It was easy to check out and make my purchase.

Another thing not related to the product, but to me just as valuable is the tone of the website.  It's very friendly and laid-back and upbeat.  It makes me feel good to shop there.

So you should definitely check it out yourself.  As for me and my cats, we'll be anxiously awaiting those bags arriving on the front porch in a few days!  It was not lost on me that by shopping this way, I save myself carrying the bags up our external stairs from the car.  (I still have to carry them up to the second floor of the house.  Oh, who am I kidding?  My husband still has to carry them to the second floor!)  Once we go through our current bags of cat litter, believe you me, I will be doing it this way.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wonderfulness Award

I have been recently told that I am wonderful!  Which makes all of us at the House of Carnivores very happy to hear.  But not only was I told that I was wonderful, I was given an award for it!  It was given to me by my good friend over at Cat to Self, a fantastic blog that I have been following avidly since I first laid eyes upon it.  If you haven't read it yet, you should!  It philosophizes, it contemplates, and it chronicles the life and times of Bugs, a cat that was surely very near feral when rescued, and shows how he is adopting to life as a housecat.  (And I daresay, it will  also be about a new member of the family - Trex - that she is adopting from Chrystal over at Daily Dose of Dogs (aka Cats with your Coffee.)  Another blog that I can't do without.

I gratefully accept that award.  And there are some rules to my acceptance.

1.  I have to link to the blog of the person who awarded me, and of course follow that blog.  Done and done.

2.  And I need to pass the award on to three other deserving bloggers.

This one is tough.  I follow so many of you and would be hard pressed to say that any of you were not wonderful.  But I must choose three, and so I shall.

#1  24 Paws of Love.  If you haven't read this blog yet, you really should.  She is truly an inspiration to me, and the love that she has for her dogs shines through with every word.  She shows courage and devotion with these dogs, some of which need lots of her help to learn to cope again.

#2  House of the Discarded.  This blog is about cat rescue in Toronto, Canada, and while the cats that she writes about are so far away, her writing always touches me.  The good, the bad, and the ugly about running a cat rescue.  This is what I dearly want to be when I "grow up."

#3  fourwhitepaws:  feline inspired reflections on life and all things cat  I knew that I would like this blog when I saw that he "likes cats, likes cheese."  But I've thoroughly enjoyed reading about the cats, indoors and outdoors.

Sooo...  I will enjoy the award, as I hope that my awardees will enjoy theirs from me.

And a note from the House of Carnivores:  I haven't posted a lot this week, but it has been a truly busy time.  And I'm going to have a cautiously good announcement to make, but I think I'll save that for tomorrow, when I can get an appropriate picture to go with it.

Meanwhile, enjoy a picture of my mom-in-law's cat Patches (former foster cat HERE) who is staying with us for the week.  He thinks that all of this human babble is boring.  And has been finding numerous ways to tell me that it's time for gooshey food the entire time I've written this post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cruel and Unusual

I was stunned when I came across something on Life with Dogs today.

It described a situation that made my blood run cold, and then very, very hot.

Because somewhere in New York, there is a woman who decided that because her son was not keeping up with his homework that she would dump his dog, a pit bull, off at a high-kill New York shelter as punishment.

She was willing to kill his dog to make a point.  To teach him a lesson.

First and foremost, I should say that I have not been able to find anything stating whether Jewel, the poor dog, was rescued by anyone.  One of the articles that I found after a hasty internet search said that she was scheduled to be euthanized today.  I really, really hope that she was able to escape that fate, that maybe she'll once again be able to be happy someday, despite the fact that she was wrested away from her best friend.  Because I'm sure that she was best friends with "her" boy.  Otherwise taking her away wouldn't have been the mother's threat of choice.

(Happy update:  After checking the shelter's website, I see that Jewel DID get adopted.  Hooray! That does not change the rest of my post, though.)

To say that I was filled with hatred and loathing for this woman is an understatement.  I don't know her entire situation.  I don't know what her son is like.  I don't know any of that.  But I say that what she did went totally beyond what is acceptable.

Like I said, I don't know their specific situation, so because I don't know their situation, I'm going to talk about MY situation.  When I was a child, and then later a young teenager.

I've talked about my childhood dog before, a Pekingese that I named Wicket.  He was EVERYTHING to me.  I was attending a school that, to put it mildly, didn't want me.  I was ostracized by many of my peers, and mocked by the others.  While I did eventually make friends (after several years)  it was only after I systematically killed off all of the parts of me that I felt were socially unacceptable.  I was shy...?  I became brassy and loud.  I was studious..?  Not anymore!  Homework sucks!  I started acting out more and more, in fears that if I did not, I would turn invisible and no one would ever even know that I was there. I was desperately unhappy, and felt trapped.  At that age, it is impossible to see beyond the middle and high school years.  I had no idea that things would get much better when I finally put those years behind me.

Wicket was my lifeline.  I really, really don't know how I would have coped if it weren't for him.  He was my one support - the friend that I could always count on.  He didn't care that I wouldn't win any popularity contests, that I was made fun of for just about everything.  He was just there for me.  When I was giddy with girlish enthusiasm about something, he was there, wagging his tail, just happy to be beside me.  When I was in tears because of something nasty someone had said (which happened more often than not) he was there, licking away my tears, snorting in my face, playing with my hair, all in desperate attempts to make me smile again.  He delighted in me, and I in him, and it was the child-dog friendship that all of the truly good dog stories are written about.

Thank God my parents never used the life of my dog as a bargaining tool.  I would have turned into a very different person had they done so.  I don't even want to think about it.  I can't think about it.

I don't even understand where this woman was coming from.  I'm not sure that I WANT to.  There are some people who don't deserve my empathy, so I'm not going to give it.

I've made some posts about kindness in the past.  And this brings around another side to my philosophy on kindness.  That is, those that are incapable of showing it are undeserving of receiving it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kittens, Revisited

No, I do not have any more kittens in the house.  We are preparing for a familiar face as a house guest for the next week instead...

Some of you may remember Patches, we who fostered for six months before my mom-in-law adopted him.  This is a shot that we took of him over the summer, when it was still gloriously green out the window.  Anyway, he is staying with us for a few days.  I wonder if he'll still sit on my chest in the morning, like he did when he lived here?

BUT, one of the long-time volunteers at the shelter emailed me last night to tell me that Ophelia, one of our recent foster kittens, had been adopted!  That makes me so happy to hear.  It sounds like she is going to get a lot of love and care and attention.

That leaves five more of "my" little bitties that need homes.  I hope that they all get one soon!

Their profiles, which I wrote, are at:  Obviously, under the cat section.  They are for the little black kittens near the bottom of the cat section:  Hamlet, Horatio, Lara, Ellie, and Violet.  Take a look!

Update:  Hamlet, Horatio, and Violet got adopted too!  Everyone keep paws and fingers crossed for Lara and Ellie!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back from Vacation

We are back from Jamaica! We had a great time, for all that we had to leave our babies behind.  And they all survived the experience, the house did not burn down, NOR did we all get hit by a giant meteor and die.  I worry about the darnedest things.  I knew that I was a worrier, but the laid-back atmosphere of Jamaica actually turned me into a person that did not worry for three whole days!  I think that I've had an epiphany or two.

The view from our resort.  I think it was lunchtime, which is why there isn't anyone out there.  This is part of Negril Beach.

I did manage to find a couple of dogs to pet on the beach, which helped me miss my pups a little less.  Someone told me afterward that they were probably feral dogs, which makes me sad for them.  They were well-fed feral dogs, and accustomed to humans, if so.  I suppose living behind a dozen or so resorts does have its advantages, though I'm sure it's not an easy life all the same.

Anyway.  We got home well after midnight on Tuesday.  Our cats were so thrilled to see us that they forgot to be angry, which is actually how it usually happens when we come back from a trip.  Bit was the only one who acted miffed, but when I awakened later that morning, she was sleeping in her customary spot, which is on top of my hip.

We had to wait until 9:00 AM to go pick up the dogs, but I'm pretty sure that we were there at 9:00 straight up, or maybe just a few minutes after.  They were ecstatic to see us.  Poor Argos apparently chose that moment to jump up on one of the staff, and wound up slipping and falling and doing the splits.  He limped out to the car, giving me this hurt look like he was blaming his injury on me for leaving him there in the first place.  That being said, he'd recovered by the time we got home.  At least, recovered enough to leap up on "his" corner of the couch, curling up with a very pleased look on his face.  (Did he miss us, or the couch more?  Do I want to know the answer to this?)

Maera was thrilled to see us and jumped up to give us kisses on the face.  She did not pee everywhere, which I will choose to consider progress!  Jeff also reports that when he got home from work this afternoon, she did not pee either.  (Have I even talked about this yet?  I honestly can't remember.  Maera has this issue where she gets SO excited to see us come home, and wants to please us SO badly that she pees all over the floor.  It's been difficult to train her to do otherwise, since you're not supposed to reprimand for this behavior - it only reinforces it.) More on that later, since I never intended this post to be about dog pee.  I will say at least that we have made progress.

Anyway, folks, good night.  I promise to be more active in writing my blog and reading your blogs as I adjust to living a life that involves going to a job every day, cooking my own meals, making my own bed, etc. Oh.  And I also need to adjust to a life that involves frozen precipitation falling out of the sky.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winding Things Down

Tomorrow, the husband and I leave for beautiful, sunny Jamaica, to attend a wedding and to enjoy a few days on the beach.  I've never taken a vacation like this...  and am really looking forward to the time away.  That it is in such a beautiful location won't hurt!  Everyone keep fingers crossed that flights and connecting flights and shuttles and taxis and transportation oh my all work out and that we get to our destination safely and without drama.

None of the animals are coming with us (for some reason, the airline balked at letting me put the greyhounds under our seats, haha) so we're in the process of making sure that everyone is going to be taken care of.

Even though the kittens could have used another week with me to get over their URIs, another foster mom came and picked them up from our house Monday evening.  I was sad to see them go, but with the looming vacation, I needed to be sure that they were somewhere that was not the shelter until they were healthy again.  I will miss the little ones!  Kittens are a lot of work, but I found it so rewarding when they started responding to me.  I feel like I pushed them out the door as adoption-ready as they can possibly be, so my job there is done.  *sniffle*

The dogs are going to be kenneled at the Golden Bone Pet Resort.  This also happens to be the place that donates space for the adoptable greyhounds of Steel City Greyhounds, so both dogs are at least somewhat familiar with it, and are content enough while they are there.  (Though of course they would rather be with us.)  The two times we've had to board them they stayed there.  Who knows, they may enjoy the heated walkways so much that they don't want to come home!  Anyway, we will take them over there later this afternoon.

We're doing WHAT?

Moo-ooom!  I want to go to Jamaica too!
Which leaves us with just the cats on our last night before the flight (they will be so pleased.)  They will stay here at the house - there's no sense in upsetting them by uprooting them.  The dogs can be reasonably content anywhere as long as they're fed and someone pays attention to them.  The cats...  would be completely traumatized by the environment change.  So my wonderful mom-in-law has agreed to come in and take care of them for us.

We don't travel very often, and it's mostly because it's difficult to leave the animals behind.  I always worry about them, and worry that they will think that they've been abandoned.  That Charlotte will get sick while we're gone.  That there will be thunderstorms and Argos will be afraid and alone.  Which is why I'm taking a deeeeep breath, and putting it all out of my mind.

I will not post this week and weekend, but I'm sure that I will when we get back next week.  (It's not a long trip.)  I'll talk to everyone then!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Joy of Living

If you ever want to vicariously experience pure joy in just living, being, you should agree to foster a litter of kittens.

Kittens have it.  I cannot believe what a happy, exuberant bunch these six are!  Whether they're chasing each other around and around the bathroom, climbing the radiator cover, playing with the feather toy, or trying (make that succeeding) to crawl up my legs in order to say "hi,"  giving me nose-bumps and kisses, playing with my hair, or tucking into their food, they do it with complete and utter joy and a complete lack of self-consciousness or fear.

They don't know that they were brought to the shelter with their mom because they were unwanted.  They want and expect to be adored.

And really, what kind of person would I be if I withheld that?

We are going to be "losing" them over the next couple of days.  That makes me very sad...  I spent a lot of time with these little nuts, getting to know their personalities and making sure that they became as sociable and human-friendly as I could.  (And they ARE super-friendly, just all around great kittens!)  I know that it's part of the process, and that we won't make a good foster home if we can never give them back up (as well as being a house with 9 cats and 2 dogs!)  but that doesn't mean that I don't feel a pang of sadness.

Bon voyage, kittens.  You've made me laugh, you've taught me a lot.  And now it's time to let you move on to the next chapter of your lives.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Maera Spazzes Out

Oh, the things that can make you laugh.  

Maera can make me laugh, because she is such a goofball.  Please enjoy this short clip that shows Maera's personality perfectly.  

Please excuse the trashbag out in the middle of my yard.  I am really not a redneck.  There is a hole in the middle of the yard, thanks to Mr. Argos, and because I am "blessed" with clay, it is not draining.  And Miss Maera likes to drink out of it and make herself sick.  

So until I can fill in the hole, this bag of leaves (or something else more attractive, if I can think of it) is staying there.

Okay *sigh* that is kind of redneckish.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year, and a Reflection on the Old

I'm glad that it's 2012 at last...  2011 was not a gentle year for us.   I don't want to complain too much, because I know that there are so many that had it far worse.  We still have jobs.  We still have a home.  We still have our health. We don't live in a warzone.  And yet...  I'm still relieved to see that particular year behind us.  (It says a lot about my feelings about the year when I have to say "Gosh, at least we don't live in a war zone...")  I don't want to go into the ways that 2011 was a bit rough on us, so I'll highlight some of the good things that happened, as a way to keep things positive.

Foster kitten Ophelia who will NOT HOLD STILL for the camera.
- We started fostering kitties on an as-needed basis.  We've had fun, had some great temporary guests, and got to play a role in saving lives and finding homes for cats that might not have otherwise had a chance.  It is enough to give me a warm glowey feeling.

We watched Patches and Mitchell get their very own homes, and hope that we will see the kittens get snatched up quickly by families that are going to adore them.

Argos with Dove and Casper, two "adoptables" that have since been adopted.  
- I started blogging for Steel City Greyhounds. (Not here, at least most of the time, since this blog isn't just a Pittsburgh thing.  It's linked to from the organization's website.)  The group has found two of the best dogs in the entire world for me, and I wanted to "give back" to them, and to the hounds that are up for adoption.  It makes my entire day, no, week, when someone adopts one of these deserving dogs.

- We adopted Maera!  She is a fantastic addition to our family and we really enjoy her personality.

She is young, and has a very young soul.  This means that she is wildly curious about so many things that I take for granted.  It's like seeing the world through fresh eyes.

It has also taught me lots on how to "dog proof" a house.  I thought that I learned these lessons with Argos, but I was so so wrong.

- Charlotte is still with us!  I know that it may seem morbid to celebrate the fact that your cat is still alive every new year, but you have to understand that her prognosis was not good.  In 2008 she was given six months to a year to live, and on this first day of 2012 she is perched on the back of my chair, watching me type and twitching the back of my head with her tail every once in awhile to remind me that she's still the queen.  Fortune smiles upon us.  I know that the day is coming, but it hasn't come yet.

- Our animals have enjoyed reasonably good health, with a couple of minor and one major exception.  (RIP, dear Romeo.)

-  I met so many of you for the first time!  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I truly appreciate the pet bloggers that I have met.  This lovely group of people has been an excellent support network.  I was stunned and honored at the outpouring of sympathy that people, friends and strangers alike, gave us when Romeo passed away, and have greatly enjoyed reading your stories, updates and looking at your pictures...  It's great to see so many people so dedicated to animals, and really helps me to see these glimpses into your lives.  As someone who has many, many non-pet and non-pet-friendly people in my life, it is good to get confirmation that no, I am not crazy (or if I am, at least I am in good company!)

I hope that this first day of 2012 is a good one for you, and that the year is a gentle one for all of us.

As for the belief that what you spend New Year's Day doing being what you'll do all year long...  hmm. Let's see.  Doing dishes.  Taking dogs outside.  Cleaning up kitten poop.  Letting kittens run all over me.  Petting cats.  Snuggling dogs.  Yeah, you know what?  That sounds pretty awesome to me.  I think just to be safe and to lock in some "leisure time" I'm going to have my husband take me out to lunch.