Monday, August 27, 2012


Little Amelia passed away this morning.  While she was still eager to eat, and interact with her environment, I held out some hope that she would get better.  But last night, she turned a corner, and not a good one.  She didn't eat her bedtime meal.  This morning, she refused breakfast, even though I gave her some of the most tempting, smelly food ever.  And I noticed that her eyes were cloudy.  They'd never been cloudy before.

It turns out that she had severe intussusception.  Jeff stayed with her through her final moments, and held her as she went to sleep for the last time, then came home and buried her in the yard with Romeo and Guido. 

I started bracing myself for this on Saturday.  Yes, I still had hope, but I also had a feeling in my gut that things weren't going to turn out well. Not this time.  She was just so frail, and got that way so quickly.  Her eyes, while bright and curious, were sunken and crusted.  I just wanted to cry every time I saw her.  

So I started carrying her around with me.  It might sound silly, but I wanted her to see things before she died.  To experience as much wonder in her short time as was possible.  So I carried her on my chest as I went about my business.  I let her play my new video game with me.  She sat on my lap while I checked my internet sites.  We went outside and sat on the front lawn, in the sun and the breeze.  I wanted this to be a gift to her.  And I like to humor myself into thinking that she saw it as a gift, as she tilted her tiny face sunward and let the breeze ruffle through her fur.  She closed her eyes, and started a gentle purr.  THIS, this is the image that I will always have of my little Amelia Earhart.

I did not get a picture of that image, because I was too busy wiping away my tears, so the one below will have to suffice.

At the end of the day, she crawled up my chest, and curled herself into a little ball under my chin, purring and kneading my skin with her tiny paws.  And I watched television, gently stroking her fur and willing her to magically get better.

There isn't really much to say about it beyond that.  Sometimes, even when all of the people involved do all of the right things, and there's love, and light, and care... sometimes all of that is not enough.  Lives are lost.  Hearts are broken.

And the rest of us carry on, because that is what the living do.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Sadness

One of our foster kittens, Amelia, isn't doing well.  She's had diarrhea for a few days now, and when the shelter's vet looked at her yesterday, she didn't have a good prognosis for her.  Amelia's intestines are very full, which probably means there's something blocking the natural process, which is probably a tumor.  If this is the case, then little Amelia probably isn't going to make it.  We have her on a low dose of prednisone with hopes that it will bring down intestinal swelling.  I imagine that we'll know in a couple of days if that is working or not.

So keep your fingers crossed for her.  She's so small and frail looking after even just a few days, and it breaks my heart.  If her siblings weren't doing so well, I'd feel like a failure as a foster parent.  (I know, logically, that it isn't my fault.  That doesn't make it any easier to swallow that I might not be able to help her.)  But we're going to try.  Our ray of hope is that she is alert, curious, eager to interact with her environment, and is eating and drinking.   Jeff said it best yesterday when he said that as long as she was willing to fight, we were willing to do whatever we can to help her.

The photo is of Amelia sitting on my lap while I watch t.v.  With greyhounds in the background because... well, because that's just how life in my house goes!

The other foster kittens are probably going back to the shelter as soon as I can get them in for spaying and neutering.  I haven't had them weighed yet, but judging from the past couple of litters I've had come through here, there's no way that they're not two pounds each.  And I should add, SO cute and adorable.  The whole litter is so affectionate.  They're always giving me nose bumps and nose kisses, and all of them have climbed up to nuzzle my face.  Even Amelia, as poorly as she is feeling.  They should get adopted so quickly.

Something that will please Bit greatly.  She is upset that we're spending so much time in the "kitten room."  And last night she was furious that I was holding Amelia while I watched t.v.  She wants to remind us all that SHE is the princess of this household.

So again, please send good thoughts Amelia's way.  And enjoy your Sundays.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Rules.  You know, those things that you say you're going to follow once you get animals in your house.  Or rather, those things that you think your animals are going to follow once they get into your house.

And there are some rules that I enforce.  The top few, in no particular order, that I do not budge on:

1.  No eating of humans.  This means you cannot put my entire face in your mouth, Maera.  Yes, even  if you don't use teeth.

2.  One dog per crate.  Not to keep picking on Maera, but she IS the one that tries to crawl into Argos' crate with him sometimes.  This makes him crazy, and angry, and confused, and no one wants to see that in normally mild-mannered Argos.  That's HIS sacred space, and I let him have that privacy.

3.  No peeing on Maera's head, Argos.

4.  No tormenting of foster cats, Bit.

5.  No dogs chasing cats.  For any reason.  Even if the cat is being silly and needs to be chased.

6.  No eating off of my plate.  Maera.  Argos.  Tom.  Bit.

This house is simply NO fun, Mom.
But then there are the rules that fall by the wayside.  Either they're too much work to enforce, they were impractical to begin with, or they just don't apply to the situation.

Some of those in my household are:

1.  After reading some dog training materials, I determined that when the dogs and I came home from a walk, that I was to ALWAYS precede the dog into the house to show that I was dominant.

Ha.  This one went away within the first week we had Argos.  First of all, Argos was not trying to be top dog.  He was desperately trying to figure out what we wanted him to do, so that he could please us.  Second, greyhounds are LONG.  It was very difficult to manage getting me in, then him in, while holding open the door and not having it close on his tail without letting a cat outside.    Sometimes I have to give him a gentle PUSH to get him to go in before me, but it really, really is more practical.

2.  No dogs on the human bed.  I guess we do stick to it a little - we generally don't let them sleep with us at night.  They have crates with big soft beds in them.  Greyhounds do not make it easy for anyone else to share a space with them at night - plus putting them in crates doesn't set the dogs and cats up for an unfortunate nocturnal misunderstanding.  (And actually, Argos wants to crate at night.  We call it auto-crating.)

 But they nap with us during the daytime.  And Maera sleeps on the bed sometimes when we're all upstairs.  It keeps her happy, I know where she is, and she isn't hurting anyone.  So, another rule bites the dust.

3.  No scratching on the furniture.  This is actually a rule that I would LOVE to enforce, but anyone with cats knows that this one is a difficult one.  Yes, they have scratching posts and pads.  They seem to just enjoy scratching the furniture.  I stop them when I'm in the room, but I can't and won't monitor the furniture 24-7.   I haven't gone so far as to get Soft Paws, and of course I would never dream of declawing them...  I'd rather deal with scratched up furniture, and the Soft Paws just sound like something that is going to get eaten by someone. So, it's throws and slip covers for the rest of my forseeable future.

4.  No cats on the dining room table.  I lost that one a couple of years ago when Romeo (RIP) starting sleeping on it to keep away from Bit.  I could hardly fault him, so didn't enforce it like I should have.  And I have caught glimpses of Annie on the table.

This is Tom, last week, being pretty blatant about it.  He looks like he's getting very stroppy with me about it, but in all fairness, I just caught him in mid-yawn.

I stick with my rule that the dogs are not allowed on the dining room table, though.  I will hold firm on that one.

So what rules did you imagine that you'd have that you abandoned?  Or what rules did you have to enforce that you never dreamed of needing to?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Black Cat Appreciation Day

I didn't even realize that it was Black Cat Appreciation Day until I started to see blog and Facebook posts...  I'm pretty far out of the loop.

But I couldn't help but to pause and think about the black cats that have shared their lives with me.  I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

Susie -  a little black ball of fluff that I brought home from a farm when I was a teenager.  She lived 18+ years, and though she started out as an outside cat, she always knew that she was meant for a life of luxury indoors.  She became a house cat after a couple of years, and never looked back.  She never even wanted to go outside.

Harley -  a half-starved alley cat that I rescued while it was begging for food in a McDonald's parking lot.  I was 18 at the time.  He lived with my family for a few months before he came to a tragic end, but he was HAPPY with us.  You'd see him riding on my dad's shoulder as my dad fed the horses, and he'd wait for me to get home from my part time job, well after dark, to leap out at me from his hiding place in the bushes.  Harley was a fun-loving cat, and my only regret about rescuing him was that we didn't get to spend more time with him.

Guido -  Guido was Jeff's cat more than mine when I moved across the continent to move in with them.  He was a loveable, fluffy, enormous cat.  He eventually went to live with Jeff's parents, and lived out the rest of his very happy life that way.  He just passed away last year, probably of age-related complications.  I still miss the big guy.  He is buried in our backyard alongside Romeo, who joined him just a couple of months later.

Guido about to be carried off by a strange woman

Annie - Annie is the first mentioned that is still with us.

Darling Annie
What can I say about Annie that I haven't said before?  I love her through and through.  I love it when she climbs onto my lap, purring and kneading me with her paws (even though she rarely retracts her claws to do this.)  I love her when she marches in front of me making bossy screeching sounds, at me, at the dogs, at the other cats, sometimes just at life in general.  I love her when I'm petting her, and try to take my hand away and she reaches out to smack me as if to say, "Hey, you're not done until I say so." She is one of the most affectionate cats I've ever had.

Mitchell:  My first foster cat.  I got him and Patches together, when both were under a six month quarantine and just needed someone's extra bedroom to hang out in.  I loved Mitchell, and only the knowledge that he got a good home of his own keeps me from missing him TOO much.  Mitchell is a sweet-tempered cat, and a talker... he would meow and meow just to hear himself make noise sometimes.  He was so laid-back and gentle that even my girl kitties seemed to fall a little bit in love with him...  sometimes we'd come in and find him and Annie snuggled together like best friends.  I think that Annie was a little sad when he left.  Bit was happy, because Bit doesn't really like ANY cats except for Annie and she got all of Annie's attention back.

The one and only time Mitch ever posed in the doll baby bed for me.
And then there are the kittens.  Most of the foster kittens that have come through our house have been black.  There was the first litter, which we took in back in December 2011.  Kittens for Christmas, I thought giddily.  What could be better?  What could be better indeed, then SIX black kittens.

Those kittens were hilarious and energetic, and the defining moment in their stay with me was when I was showering and opened my eyes to see one of them hanging from the shower curtain at eye-level, staring in at me.  Ophelia, Hamlet, Lara, Ellie, Horatio, and Violet.

They were so much fun that I took in even more black kittens in June.  This time it was two black kittens, one tuxie, and one gray, but still... there was some black.

Pictured above:  Storm.  We also had Logan, Rogue, and Jeanie.

And our current litter of foster kittens has two black kittens  in it:  Clark and Amelia.  (The non-black kittens are Lewis and Nellie.)

I have loved all three of these litters of kittens so much.  Each kitten has his or her own personality, and each of them has enriched me for having known them.  As have the adult cats.

My point of all of this?  Obviously I think ALL cats of any color are awesome.  But I wanted to give a special hat-tip to the black cats in my life.  There have been many, and I have not regretted knowing any of them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures in Anxiety

I haven't had much to say lately, on my blog or otherwise.

I've been sifting through some rather weighty issues in my life, and there just hasn't been a lot of oomph left over for blogging, as much as I miss it, and as much as I really do want and intend to get back to it.

The fact is, it's difficult to blog when you have generalized anxiety disorder.

After all, I can't be blogging if all of my animals are going to get inexplicably sick at the same time (despite the lack of proof that they're ailing,) that the house is going to fall apart and we won't have the money to fix it, that I'll lose my job and REALLY not have any money to fix it, that meteors are going to fall and destroy us all, etc. etc. etc.  There really is no rhyme or reason to anxiety...  it just happens.  It flits from topic to topic to topic until I am completely exhausted and there just isn't enough of me left over to deal with things.

I do try to keep my blog solely about my pets, but in some ways, it is also about ME, one of the two caretakers of those pets.  So, that is where I am right now.

I'm learning some good coping strategies...  I KNOW some good coping strategies, it's just a matter of learning to "turn down the volume" of the worries enough to employ one of the coping strategies.

Coping Strategy Number 1:  Live in the moment.  And this is one that I've learned from my animals.  When I start to have out of control anxiety, it is always thinking about the future.  Because you know, the present isn't all that bad.  I enjoy my life, when I am not worrying about things in the future that I have no business worrying about (I mean, c'mon.  Meteors?)

Argos, living in the moment.
So, it's time to do some lolling on the couch, with or without my tongue hanging out, enjoying my rest and relaxation time WITHOUT worrying about meteors, or financial disaster, or whatever the worry of the moment is.  This doesn't mean bad things won't happen, but I don't have to spend as much of my precious energy worrying about things that I have no control over AND may never even happen.

Coping Strategy Number 2:  Surround yourself with supportive people.  And this is where I've made some mistakes.  My go-to reaction to the avalanche of worries that life and my brain dump on me is to hide, preferably in a deep, dark cave, where no one can find me.  I find myself avoiding people:  friends, acquaintances, even those in the blogosphere.  Not because any of these people wouldn't want to be supportive of me, but because it's just me, shutting down.  My tendency is to want to focus 100% on whatever I'm worrying about.  People are a distraction from that tendency, so I avoid them.

And that is exactly why I am going to stop doing that right now.  I need to be surrounded by supportive people.  Not necessarily holding my hands and whispering "Poor Melanie" in my ear, but to keep me focused on the here and now.  To force me to think about other things.

Coping Strategy Number Three:  Avoid triggers.  This is a tricky one, because it is possible to take it too far.  I am not interested in burying my head in the sand and pretending that nothing is wrong or can go wrong.  But there are certain things that I KNOW set off my worry avalanche completely unnecessarily, and I am slowly teaching myself to stay away from them.  My two triggers, completely unrelated to one another are:  negative, critical people, and sugar.  Negative, critical people are easy to stay away from, once you know who they are.  The sugar... well...  that's another story, and probably for a different blog.  Nevertheless, I am slowly learning that neither one of these triggers is worth it.

Coping Strategy Number Four:  Have confidence.  One of the "features" of my anxiety is the fear that something bad will happen AND IT WILL BE MY FAULT.  Our house will burn down... not because of bad luck, faulty wiring, or a lightning strike, but that I left the iron plugged in.  The cat can't just be sick, it has to be because I fed her the wrong food, that I left something out for her to get into.  I won't just lose my job because the economy is rotten, it will be because I did something so huge and so horrible that I will never be able to work again.  The list goes on and on.  I haven't found a way to blame myself for the coming meteor strike yet, but I'm working on it.

Charlotte does not have self-doubt.  She is the queen.
A little bit of self-confidence goes a long way.  I don't mean arrogance, or completely disbelieving that I can do anything to negatively impact the world around me...  that would be stupid.  But confidence that I can most likely get through most days without causing catastrophe.  That my mistakes are no worse than anyone else's, and that I can relax and stop scrutinizing every single thing I say or do, trying to do damage control before the damage is even done.

Coping Strategy Number Five:  Get more rest.  I fight with anxiety a lot, and probably will my entire life.  But it REALLY rushes in when I am tired, and worn down and less able to think clearly.  I don't get enough rest as a general rule; I don't think that many of us do.  I am trying to take steps to slow down.  To make sure that I get sleep at night, and that I spend some time relaxing instead of constantly finding chores to do.

Annie is so relaxed that she oozes.
Coping Strategy Number Six:  Focus outward, not inward.  One way that I can shed some of my anxiety is to help someone else who really needs my help.  To focus on their needs instead of my own. Which is why I have a new litter of foster kittens.  (Oh yes, I had to bring them in somehow.)

This can backfire sometimes...  when you take on too much, and are so busy taking care of everyone else that you fail to take care of yourself.  But sometimes it does nudge me just enough to get me back on track.

Clark and Amelia
Lewis and Nellie.  (Lewis, front, Nellie, back.)
Nellie, alone.
There are four foster kittens.  Lewis and Clark, Nellie and Amelia.  All explorers.  All precious sweethearts that love to snuggle with me.  They will all climb on top of me if I sit on the floor with them, and Lewis and Clark like to snuggle into my hair.  They purr with pleasure if I pay the slightest bit of attention to them...  a really nice litter of kittens.

But.  Back to me.  So now my readers know where I am.  I don't necessarily care for being so honest in such a public forum, but I've finally decided that if I'm going to be able to learn to cope, then I need to learn to talk about this issue.  I need to learn to be honest about it and how it affects me.