Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dental Surgery

Well, the day that Argos had to go to the vet for dental work and the removal of the lump on his forehead came.  I had taken the day off from work so that I could be on-hand for drop-off and pick-up, and because quite honestly I didn't think I'd be able to focus at work.  (I know that our vet is very good, I know that anesthesia is very safe these days, but there IS still something of a risk, and I always am on pins and needles until they call us to let us know that he's recovering.)

ANYWAY.  I dropped him off that morning.  He didn't even realize that I'd left, LOL, because there was a pretty vet-tech cooing at him.  Argos has always had a thing for the ladies.  I saw him following her into the backroom, with his tail wagging.  Poor guy.

Last time this happened, they called us somewhere between 12:30 and 1:00 to tell us that he was waking up, and that we could come get him sometime between 3-5.  This is what I was expecting again.

But...  1:00 came and went, then 2:00.  I held out until 2:30, then I called to see what was going on.  Apparently they'd had non-stop surgeries all morning, and Argos was still under anesthesia, and still being worked on.  I was told that they'd call me soon.  3:00 came and went, and both Jeff and I were getting antsy; I was literally pacing the floor, unable to focus on anything.   FINALLY, at 3:40, the phone rang, and the vet told us that they'd pulled three teeth (better than I had hoped for) and that his head lump had popped right out.  They'd let us know the results of the biopsy, but in the meantime we could come pick him up between 5 and 5:30.

Argos was still pretty doped up when we came to get him.  He was panting and drooling and dripping blood from his mouth.  His back legs didn't work 100% of the time, and would give out on him at random intervals.  Jeff carefully walked him out to the car and picked him up to put him in, while I stayed inside and talked to the vet and got his antibiotics and painkillers that we'd be giving him for the next several days.

It was a long night, but he did wake up the next morning feeling much more himself.  I breathed a big sigh of relief when he came out of his sleeping crate, looked up at my face, and wagged his tail.  

He's been doing great ever since.  His head wound is healing nicely, and he's got quite an appetite, now that it doesn't hurt to eat anymore.

The fly in the ointment is that we got the biopsy results back on Saturday.  It was not just a fatty tumor or an infected cyst.  It was a cancerous skin tumor; a myxosarcoma.  The biopsy results suggest that the vet got the entire tumor.  There is a chance that it will come back, so we need to keep an eye on him.  More than likely, though, it will not come back in his lifetime, as the prognosis was that it would come back in approximately 5 years.  (He's 10 now.  I've known a couple of greyhounds that made it to age 15, but most do not.)  As much as I would love to have him around when he's 15, I would prefer that the tumor never come back.  

We  just have to watch him.  Actually, we need to watch him for signs of skin tumors anywhere on his body.

So... perhaps not the BEST news, but the vet was fairly optimistic that this wasn't going to be an ongoing problem.  I do hope that she's correct.  \

Meanwhile, Maera is just happy to have her brother back.  OMG, she was so depressed the day that he was gone.  I've never seen happy, bouncy, perky Maera morose and sad before, but she was all day, or at least, she was until we brought him back home.  She perked up immediately, though was very concerned about him and kept walking over to sniff him while he slept off the effects of the anesthesia.  So cute!

They try to act like they are constantly annoyed with each other, but when it comes down to it, they are pack.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Very Doggy Vacation

Two blog posts in one week!  The planets must be in perfect alignment or something.  (I really AM going to try to be a more frequent poster.)

I need to catch everyone up on our "missing months."  Yesterday, I told you about our two foster boys, and how we adopted one of them, Batman.  He's an adorably cuddly cat, who just enjoys being with his humans, snuggling on a lap, or up against a leg.  He also reacts very calmly to the other cats, which is a bonus when dealing with Miss Bit...  as LONG time readers might remember, she tortured Romeo (RIP, buddy) relentlessly because he would react to her by running away.  Batman doesn't confront her, he just looks at her, blinking.  Bit eventually got bored with trying to get a rise out of him, so doesn't bother him.

Summer faded into fall, and with fall came our vacation - we didn't plan to go very far, we just wanted to be able to get away for a few days.  Our requirements:  it had to allow dogs, and it had to have a hot tub.  Everything else was negotiable.  We found the Getaway Cabins, in Hocking Hills, Ohio.  The picture below is our cabin - the one that they call "The Guest Nest."  You can't see it, but it has a deck on the back, with a nice large hot tub.  It was a fantastic cabin.

It was a very relaxing time.  We took several easy hikes with the dogs, lounged in the hot tub, played board games, and watched movies.  Very low-key.  Very needed.  Well, sort of low-key.  I'll have to tell you about the stray cat in another post...  let's just say that I can't even head into the "back woods" without finding a cat that needs help.

Jeff and Argos, I believe on the descent to Cedar Falls.

Sunlight through the trees.  Serenity. 

Jeff and Maera cross a scary bridge.  (I'm not kidding.  It freaked me out.)

Stream bed.

Jeff, Argos and Maera, near Cedar Falls.
I took a lot of pictures, which is why you don't see any of me, haha.  That and I'm a camera-phobe.  I also learned a very valuable lesson:  when taking lots of pictures, do not leave the camera's battery charger at home.  I got quite a few pictures while we were hiking around Cedar Falls, but none the following day on the much more dramatic hike to Old Man's Cave or Stonehouse.  I was very disappointed.

We encountered several people on the trail that had never seen greyhounds before, so Argos and Maera had a lot of very excited people to meet!  They handled themselves with their usual grace and made us proud.  (Especially when compared to some other numbskull dog that was extremely dog-aggressive and barked at us the entire time we were trying to actually view the waterfalls we had hiked so far to see.)

I think that they enjoyed themselves as much as we did, though they were very nervous and unsettled in the cabin.  We constantly had dogs pacing about, and once Maera brushed past me and burst out the front door and started to run away!  Fortunately she immediately responded when I whistled for her to come back.  Oh, it took awhile for my heart rate to return to normal over THAT one.

Unfortunately, during the vacation, we had a bit of something hanging over our heads:  I'd taken Argos for his annual check-up a few days prior, and they weren't entirely happy about his blood work.  It seemed that his thyroid was a bit low, even for a greyhound (who are notoriously low.)  They thought it might have something to do with his weight loss.

However, upon our return and additional bloodwork, they determined that his blood was fine, and that he was very healthy for his age.  The weight loss was probably just due to Argos being Argos:  he's never been much of an eater, and when bored, upset, anxious, or frightened of thunderstorms, he refuses to eat.  We've tried to up his meals to three times a day now to give him some extra calories without increasing meal size, and I think he's starting to fill out.

This Thursday, he goes back in.  He needs dental work again, and is probably going to lose some teeth.  He also needs to have a lump excised from the top of his head and biopsied.  I try not to worry about it too much - the vet is fairly certain that it's a cebacious cyst, but it's hard to know for sure because it's covered in fur, and it's painful enough to the touch that he will fight you if you try to mess with it.  Hope with me that it's just a cyst.  I'm certain that I cannot handle any more pet medical drama for a good long while.

Fingers crossed for the boy!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A New Face...

So, a lot has happened since I went on my unintended hiatus over the summer.  To catch you up on the biggest highlights, I must backtrack a little bit, to right after Charlotte passed away, because there was something that I did not post about...

We took in two new fosters.  The shelter had a lot of sick cats at the beginning of summer.  The sick room was full, but the cats kept getting sick (upper respiratory infections - it's a problem for shelters all over the world, and very hard to prevent.)  The very best way to get a cat healthy again is to get them out of the stressful shelter environment, and into a home, with a course of antibiotics and a soft warm place to sleep in comfort.  This is where foster homes come in.  It's really an ideal foster situation - you get a cat to love and coddle, and you keep them for about two weeks until they finish their medication and their symptoms clear up.  Then you take them back - none of this long term stuff that comes up with behavioral fosters.

It was really only a couple of weeks after Charlotte passed that the active foster homes got an email from the foster coordinator telling us about the sick cats, and asking us to step up to take a kitty home if we could.  I came home from work and asked Jeff it it bothered him that I might go pick up a sick cat.  Even if it delayed us refinishing the upstairs floors, like we'd planned.  Being Jeff, he agreed that I should go, so I did.

I picked out this handsome guy, unoriginally named "Kitty."  His cage was eye-level with mine, and boy howdy, this one can use his eyes to lure you in.  (And he's a real sweet-heart too.)

A vet tech helped me put him into my carrier, and left the room for a few minutes to go get his meds for me to take with us.  As I waited, I felt a paw swipe out of a cage at ankle level, and grab onto my pant legs.  My hair felt like it stood on end... that is exactly how Charlotte introduced herself to me.  I looked down, and there was a little black paw.  I crouched down, and stared into this face.

He had a snotty nose at the time, and one eye was crusted shut.  But.  There was the whole pants-grabbing thing.  And I've always had a weakness for black cats anyway...  so when the vet tech brought Kitty's meds in, I looked over at her and said, "So...  I don't have two carriers.  But if someone could come up with another carrier, I could take one more with me..."

A cardboard carrier was produced, and the poor overworked tech went back out to get additional meds for... his name... was Batman.

I packed both boys into my car and took them home.  When I carried them into the house, Jeff looked at the two carriers and started laughing.  It is NOT the first time I've done this.  He now calls it "Melanie Math," which only pertains to cats, and always means that I just can't count when it comes to kitties.  I always bring home more fosters than I set out to get.

It was an... interesting foster time.  Kitty, a Bengal, had very high energy levels, and we learned just what it meant to have an exotic cat in our house.  That boy was afraid of nothing.  Dogs?  Let's run at them and head-butt them from across the room.  The dogs were absolutely terrified of him, LOL.  Bookshelves?  Let's climb them to the ceiling!  Flatscreen television screen?  Let's try to climb it!  At first, we had him and Batman quarantined together, but Kitty had a really tough time getting over his cold, and had to change his antibiotics.  We separated them, but not before Batman, who had gotten better, got whatever nasty strain that Kitty had.

Finally, we got Kitty's symptoms cleared up, and just in time, because I was contacted by a potential adopter!  I took him back to the shelter two days before she was to meet him, because now Bit was sick, and there was no way that I could manage a three-way quarantine in this house.  I felt terrible that one of my own cats got sick... usually a quarantine, in the form of a closed door, has prevented the sickness from spreading, but either one of us didn't wash our hands thoroughly enough, or she got it during one of the ten million times that Kitty ran into the hall when I opened the sick room door.  (Bit got better in a couple of days.)

We nursed Batman's symptoms for another week, and he was reasonably healthy again.  It was time to take him back to the shelter.

To make a long story short, Jeff approached me one night.  Actually, we were in the car together, and I was talking about how I was sad that we'd have to take Batman back to the shelter that weekend.  "You know," he said.  "I sort of already knew that we were going to keep him when you told me about how he grabbed your pant leg, since that's how Charlotte did it too."

To make the story even shorter, Batman only went back to the shelter to get his vaccinations updated, then returned to our house.  Where he remains.  He gets along well with the other cats.  He isn't afraid of the dogs.  And he's the snuggliest comic book character ever.

Kitty did get adopted two days after returning to the shelter, but not before he caused havoc by climbing up into the shelter ceiling and going exploring up there all night long.  He was only discovered when the ceiling caved in, dumping him at the feet of a very surprised worker, who was just starting the morning cleaning of the cat cages...

I heard back from his adopter a couple of times, and it sounds like he's in a perfect home, where he is appreciated for his mischevous nature.  (And he got a better name.)

Batman's favorite bed also happens to be Maera's favorite bed.  They're still working things out...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Where have I been?

That is the question of the day, isn't it?

Any who have been following this blog for a time know that Charlotte, my heart-cat, died in early June.  It is something that I still struggle with, off and on.  Charlotte was such a part of this household that we all feel her loss, every day.

And I didn't realize what she was to this blog.  It's like the motivation to write just got sapped out of me.  Maybe it's coming back now, maybe.  It's not like I don't love my other animals dearly, and that they haven't given me things to write about.  I just haven't had the heart to actually write them.

We'll see.  I make no promises.

In the interim, I left you hanging about the feral kitties.  Mama cat, named Snow, was released in our backyard after she recovered from her spay surgery.  We feed her daily, and are going to be making a warm covered structure for her soon, now that all of our vacation stuff is over.  So she'll have a warm place to sleep at night when it starts to get cold (assuming that she consents to sleep in what we provide for her.)  She is slowly losing her fear of us, and doesn't completely run away when we come outside (she'll usually run off of the porch, but linger within eyesight until we go back into the house.)

The kittens are still being rehabilitated.  As I understand it, they are not making progress very quickly, but they are making progress nonetheless.  I am pleased that someone is working with them.

The dogs are doing well - we just got back from a vacation away in a cabin, and we took the dogs with us.  Argos is showing some signs of age, and a possible worrisome health issue - the vet took a blood sample to test for various things, because he's lost about 6 pounds since the last vet visit.  They thought that the sample looked like his thyroid levels are lower than usual (even for a greyhound, I guess, which are traditionally low anyway) and that his blood sugar might be low as well.  We need to take him back in one evening this week to have a vet tech draw some more blood to take a closer look.  Fingers crossed that it's nothing serious!  (My thought is that he lost a bit of weight this time of year last year as well - all of the thunderstorms make him nervous, and he often refuses to eat when the weather conditions are right for one to brew up.)

When I get a chance I will post some pictures from our vacation.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feral Cats

I've really resisted getting involved with the feral cats in the neighborhood...  most of the time, they didn't bother coming to our house, and if one or two brave ones did, usually once they saw our dogs, they'd vanish and not come back.  I personally resisted it because...  well, it seemed like a recipe for heartbreak.  Maybe that's selfish of me, but I had already had my heart broken a few times just rescuing pet-ready animals.  I didn't want to tangle with something that was wild, just to watch it hit by a car, or poisoned by a cat-hating neighbor, etc.

But my hand was forced this past February.  I started to see a black cat going through all of the yards on our street, including mine.  He wouldn't let me approach him, but seemed desperate for something.  I put some food out for him, and it was just GONE in about 15 minutes.

I can't stand the idea of an animal being hungry, so before we knew it, I'd purchased an extra bag of food for "the outdoor cat."  But then it wasn't just a black cat.  Then it became a black cat AND a white cat.  And then an orange cat.  (Though my wager is, the orange cat is owned - but is just an opportunistic feeder.  He doesn't have the lean and hungry look that the black and white cats had.)

We talked about trapping them, and having them spayed or neutered.  A neighbor told me that they'd actually been pets at one time, but had been abandoned a couple of years ago.  For a year, a teenager up the street fed them, but she went to college this spring, which is why they were foraging through my yard in February, I guess.

But they only came occasionally, and I figured that someone else had taken responsibility for them.  So I abandoned my idea of trapping them.  And I haven't seen the black cat for a couple of months, which doesn't bode well for him.  I find myself hoping that he just comes up after dark to eat.

But there have been plenty of "white cat" sightings.  In fact, just last week, she came up into the yard right under my nose.  Why do I know that she is a "She" you might ask?  Yeah.  Damn.  I should have trapped her and had her spayed back in February.  She brought three 12ish week old kittens up my front walk and showed them where the ever-full bowl of food was.  They were skittish of me, but happy enough to take my food.

Well, we decided that since she clearly wasn't ALREADY spayed (I guess it would have been too much to ask to have the owner actually spay her before abandoning her?)  that she needed to be, and soon, else there would be even more kittens.  Then there would be 50 cats running around our street, and I'm pretty certain that the neighbors would start to object.  And if we were going to have HER spayed, then we might as well nab the kittens as well.

We bought a live trap, and Jeff baited it with sardines.  Twenty minutes later, we had the mama kitty in our bathroom.  She is totally unhappy looking in this picture.

We've since captured three of her kittens.

There's still at least one more white kitten that needs to be trapped.  I don't know for sure if there are any others.

And this is where I'm a bit at a loss about what to do.  We're going to pay to have them "fixed."  That much is a certainty.  I would LOVE to tame the kittens down to where they would make good pets and could be put up for adoption.  I don't know that it's going to happen that way, though.  They're VERY frightened of us, and absolutely wild to get out...

Update:  I stopped writing this because I got too busy well, with the actual physical caring for of the ferals.

Here's what has transpired:  we caught the final kitten.  Two pure white kittens, one gray fluffy, and one tabby that might be a torbie?  I'm not sure.  The orange in her fur, if it's there at all, is not very pronunced.

The shelter couldn't really help me with TNR until later in the month, which meant that I was a bit out of luck.  I was torn:  let them go again and try to trap them a second time?  Or keep them in a cage in my dinette?  Neither way sounded like a good option.

Before I did anything rash, I contacted a local group:  the Homeless Cat Management Team of Pittsburgh, and they worked some magic for me!  They got me into a clinic THAT Saturday to get everyone spayed and neutered and vaccinated,  which was fantastic!  As it turns out, only one of the kittens was male, the others female.  That's a whole lot of kittens that would have likely entered the world in the next year!

I still have them, but the kittens are actually going to a home this weekend!  A kind soul has agreed to step up and take them in and try to domesticate them.  I'm so very glad that this is a possibility.  We weren't able to do it:  absorbing four kittens into our household is just impossible at this time.  Four frightened, not-very-experienced kittens:  even more impossible.

Mama (who we have been calling "Snow") is most likely going to be a TNR.  She's been on her own for such a long time, that she just has zero trust in humans at all.  I haven't been able to convince her to soften her opinion of us in the two weeks I've had her.  BUT.  She'll be released where she has access to food, shelter, and she is freed from the breeding cycle.  So while I'd rather that she went into a home, I still feel pretty good that her life has been improved.

Everyone keep their fingers crossed that everything continues to work out so well.  I was very worried in the beginning, when I realized that SOMEONE had to be responsible for these babies, and that someone was us.  (I can't say ME, because Jeff has been part of this right alongside me.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letting Go...

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
                                       -Emily Dickinson

I think that, when I had to study this poem in college, I didn't understand it.  The loss of several family members in recent years, and of course the loss of my darling heart-cat Charlotte has taught me, bitterly, exactly what it was about.

So I guess the formal feeling is here.  Every once in awhile, something will happen that will bring fresh tears to the eyes...  I'll be in the grocery store, in the dairy aisle, and will have my hand on one of the smallest milk containers that I used to buy only for her.  Or I'll be cleaning and find a forgotten strand of fur.  Or I'll be looking for something on my computer, and stumble across a picture of her, in all of her imperiousness.  But the "in betweens" are getting longer.

While she was sick, we were fostering a litter of kittens, along with their mother.  We got them when they were 3-4 days old, and guided them through their growing weeks until they were big enough to be adopted.  They made me laugh.  Sometimes, I'd be laughing through my tears of grief, but they were good medicine, even after she died.

There was Lemmy, our little explorer kitten.  Mischevious, daring, bold, yet affectionate and kind.  He was, I am fairly certain, deliberately trying to make us laugh a few times there.

His sister Lita, who was a bit standoffish at first, but really came out of her shell towards the end.  She loved to cuddle with me.

Sweet, affectionate, cuddly, purry little Joanie.  She looks like a little teddy bear.

And Samantha, independent, brave, intelligent and wise beyond her age.

They've not only gone back to the shelter, but have all been adopted by what I truly hope are loving families.  May none of them ever be returned to the shelter when they are elderly and "used up."  Or be found wandering the streets, bedraggled, hungry and confused.  No, may their lives be filled with warm laps, golden sun puddles, bottomless bowls of food, and love.

Their mother is still with us.

Janis is a bit of a special case.  She is very frightened of people, and spent all of her time as a nursing mom hiding from us, and hissing from behind boxes or in the back of dark crates.  We gave her space, because she didn't need anything else to upset her... she was a young (10 months old) mom, who was learning how to take care of four babies.  And she did a good job, in the end., even if there was a bit of a learning curve.

She's coming out of her shell now...  just not with me.  (I'll try not to be insulted!)  She adores Jeff.  She not only lets him pet her without hissing, but is now coming out to see him.  Even jumping up on the bed to visit with him.  She purrs for him, and gives him face kisses.

So there's hope for Janis.  She had her first birthday with us this month, and we are trying to show her that we are not scary.

Our other cats have been very patient with us, though I think they're rather glad that we don't have kittens around anymore.  It was like they breathed a big audible sigh of relief, in unison!

The dogs have been good.  In the beginning, they were why I was able to get myself out of bed in the morning.  And, being the sensitive creatures that they are, they were constantly clowning to try to get us to laugh at them.  They were very worried about us.

We are coping.  My heart is still heavy, and the house definitely feels the loss of its queen.  The other cats are all joys to me, but none of them are Charlotte.  Her force of personality leaves a hole that will never be filled.  And I suppose that is how it should be.

I should add, thank you, thank you to those of you who sent me condolences and healing thoughts.  It helps so much, when one is going through this, to simply not feel alone.  It helps.  Tremendously.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

RIP, Charlotte

I am sorry to have to report that my beautiful tuxie muse has passed away.  She died tonight, at the vet's, covered in hugs and kisses from Jeff and I as she took her last breaths.

I know that I posted a cautiously optimistic post a little over a month ago.  I haven't had the heart to post since then, because she has been steadily on the decline ever since.  At that time, she was eating a few nuggets of food periodically throughout the day; a little less than normal, but enough.  As the month progressed, she ate less and less.  As  of today, she hadn't had solid food in 9 days.

The vet checked her out earlier today, and found that her kidney values had more than doubled since last week, and that the fluid around her heart and lungs had increased.  We couldn't give her more medicine without making her kidneys worse.  In short, there was nothing that could be done for her except make her comfortable.

And we couldn't even do that.  We got her home, and she lapped up a little bit of milk, but didn't finish it.  (Which is a HUGE clue that all was not well in Charlotte's life.)  She kept standing up and shifting around, like cats with an excess of fluid do.  Then when we saw her sitting there, barely able to raise her head, but trying to sleep standing up, that was it.  We made the decision.  We needed to end it TONIGHT.  Making her tough it out so that we could have "one more night" with her was selfish.

And so we opted for one last act of selflessness and took her back in.

God, that's such a hard thing to do.  Even when you know that it's the right thing.

Charlotte won my heart the day that I laid eyes upon her at the shelter; a frightened, angry young tuxie, who wanted OUT of that cage and NOW.  Even when she hooked me with her claws and drug me over to her cage.  Even when she bloodied me in the "meet and greet" room when she panicked about a barking dog.

I grieve that I will no longer have her around to steal my baskets for her own purposes.
Or that she won't be able to give me such perfect photo opportunities like this one.

Or demand a bowl of food with her demanding, queenly "Mrrowr" noise that she would make when she was bossing us around

Whatever it was that she was doing at any given time, Charlotte was a definite presence in this house.  She was the queen.  

We loved her very much.  And I don't know how I'm going to cope with that.  Oh, I will, I know that we humans are good at that in the end, but we'll both feel the after-effects of this one for a good long time.

Good night, my queen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Charlotte: An Update

Just a quick post tonight, but Charlotte is feeling much more herself.

Her appetite continues to return, and she's starting to get her spirit back.  I know that when she first got home from the hospital, Maera became obsessed with her.  Charlotte couldn't flick an ear without Maera coming over to thoroughly sniff every inch of her.  I KNEW Charlotte wasn't herself because she just lay there and tolerated this treatment... sure, her ears were back, but there was just no fight there.

Well, yesterday Maera came over to sniff her, and Charlotte slapped her across the face.

And she is regularly begging for milk at the refrigerator, and using her hyponotic eyes on me.

So.  Her prognosis might not be a good one, but for the moment, we have our Charlotte back. Grumpy, demanding, sweet, imposing, talkative, loving Charlotte.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Well, Charlotte is home from the hospital.

I'm still concerned about her, but maybe a little bit more relaxed than I was when she first arrived...  because when she initially got back home (Thursday) she wasn't eating.  And she didn't eat all day Friday.  Friday night, she started throwing up stomach bile.  We got up a couple of times when we heard that horrible pukey noise that every dog or cat owner has learned to dread, then once more after dawn this morning.  Throughout all of this time, the only real comfort is that she was still drinking water.

We called the vet's office, and they determined that it was probably a reaction to one of the four (!) medications that she is now on, and decided that it was safe enough to take her off of it.  And so we did.

And she went all day without eating.

At 4PM, Jeff called the veterinary hospital again to update them about her still not eating, and they said that it had now gone on long enough that they would prescribe an appetite stimulant.  (The original hope had been that she would decide to start eating on her own, naturally, without outside help.  It's not like she isn't on ENOUGH medication as it is.)

We decided that I would go pick up the appetite stimulant, while Jeff stayed home and watched her.  (We wanted to be absolutely certain that she wasn't sneaking away and puking behind furniture.  We MUST know if she's still having trouble.)

Unfortunately, on my way home, I got caught in an hour and a half traffic jam due to tunnel closures (which I should have anticipated, but didn't.)  Sometime around the 45 minute mark, Jeff texted to say that she'd taken a couple of bites on her own!

So, despite good-natured grumbling about an unnecessary trip followed up by an even more unnecessary traffic snarl, I was and am delighted.  And we have the appetite stim if she doesn't continue to progress.

We're thrilled to have her home, and thrilled that she seems to be a bit more interested in eating.

The nature of her illness is still very serious.  Congestive heart failure is always bad, and cats have fewer treatment options than we humans do.  It's a particularly hard blow, because she HAD the terrible prognosis of a six months to a year and a half to live, then outlived it, THEN we were told that she didn't have congestive heart-failure.  We had just begun to accept the idea that we might actually get to have her with us for a normal cat's lifespan.

And now they're giving a guarded prognosis of six months to a year again.


But we're going to do the best we can with the time that we have left, however much that might be.    Charlotte still has some improvement to do before her quality of life can be as good as it was before.

Charlotte before, bright-eyed.  Empty(ish) bowl.

Charlotte tonight, exhausted.  Food nibbled at.
But she's a tough girl.  If any cat can fight to live a normal life with heart disease, it's her.

And we will fight the fight alongside her for as long as we can.  For as long as she can, and is willing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Charlotte is Hospitalized

I should have known that the other shoe was about to drop...  things have been going SO well lately, and I'm maybe kind of sort of a little superstitious about that.  Or maybe it's just that I'm well aware that life has its ups and downs, and we hadn't had any serious downs for awhile.

Well, it started last night.  No, it started over the weekend, but we just didn't put it all together until last night.

When I got home from work, Charlotte was in the recliner.  Nothing really odd there.  I said hello to her and gave her a quick scritch, then grabbed Maera and took her out - Maera was due for her annual vet check-up and vaccinations.  So I took Maera to the vet's, and we came back a little under an hour later.  Charlotte was STILL in the recliner.  And she stayed there all through dinner, and didn't jump down until we made it obvious that we were going upstairs for bed.  I remarked about it, but still wasn't that alarmed.

Until she started choking and vomiting in the hallway.  And her breathing was labored.  She was only able to bring up clear fluid.  All of this was starting to look distressingly familiar.

Then we started talking.  I remembered commenting over the weekend that she looked like she'd put on some weight.  As I was petting her last night, I realized that quite a bit of the weight was in her front legs.  Then I had a light-bulb moment:  that wasn't fat, that was fluid.  She was retaining fluid.  And the clear cat vomit that I'd stepped in earlier that day probably wasn't from Bit bolting back her water like she sometimes does.  It was likely from Charlotte.

I felt sick.  I HAD seen all of this happen before.  Four years ago.   The only thing keeping us from rushing her to the vet in the middle of the night was that she didn't seem to be in too much distress.  After her bout of vomiting, her breathing seemed to return to normal.  We resolved to call the vet first thing in the morning.

And Jeff did.  After he described her symptoms, they told him to take her to the emergency vet clinic.  And so he did.

And it's congestive heart failure.  Again.

I don't understand how this could be.  How she could be diagnosed with congestive heart failure 4 years ago.  How she could outlive her prognosis of 6 to 12 months by so long.  How she could be on medication for three years until the vet said that it was medically unprecedented that she still be alive.  How we could take her off of the medication for 13 months, and have her be fine. No symptoms.  Not one.  And then to have her hospitalized today for congestive heart failure.  How does this even work?

They pulled 100 ml. of fluid out of her chest cavity today.  (How can there even BE that much fluid in a little tiny chest?)  We got a call around 7:00 PM to tell us that she seemed to be responding well to the doses of lasix that she's received there so far.  She's still on oxygen to help her breathe.

They're going to try her on three medications tonight:  if those seem to help her, they will probably be what we have to give her for the rest of her life.  (And I'm so, so okay with that if it means that we get Charlotte back.  For however long that may be.)

And they want to do an ultrasound on her abdomen in the morning.  The cardiologist and the team of vets there are concerned about the legs retaining fluids.  They normally don't do that with "mere" congestive heart failure.  They want to be sure there isn't something else causing it.  Which freaks me out so much because there can be nothing good in her abdomen causing fluid retention.

So now it's a waiting game.  Will the medication work?  Will the abdominal ultrasound find anything of concern?  Will they be able to wean her off of the oxygen?  Will we get her back again tomorrow night?

Charlotte in the oxygenated cage at the hospital.
I hate it when a pet is hospitalized.  There's no way to tell them that they haven't been abandoned.  That we WILL come back for her if she survives.  That said, Charlotte has always handled this kind of thing rather well in the past.  She alternates between bossing around the vet techs and sucking up to the staff.

So everyone keep their fingers crossed, send prayers and good thoughts Charlotte's way.  She needs them.  We all need them.  It's been a very emotionally draining day.

And while this post is about Charlotte, and she dominates my thoughts and emotions tonight, I just can't leave it on such a "down" note.  I want to show you a picture of what we've been up to the past week and a half.

What is that, you say?  How can one cat have so many feet?

Yeah, we're fostering a nursing mama cat and her four kittens.  The babies are two weeks old at this point.  The picture is a little dark because they're at the back of the "den" that I made for them, and the lighting is poor.  Mama (we're calling her Janis) doesn't like it when I over-handle them, so I keep that to a bare minimum and just let her do the work.

I went in to feed her and scoop her litter box, feeling heavy-hearted, sad, and worried about Charlotte.  I poked my head into the den, watching the four babies nursing.  And then I heard it.  Purring coming from two teeny, tiny little babies.  It brought tears to my eyes.

Dare I see it as a sign of hope that one of them looks a lot like a miniature Charlotte?

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I don't know about you, but my animals, cats and dogs alike, HATE change.  Of any kind, unless it means a new kind of treat.  They're usually down with that.  (Well, the dogs are.  The cats are very suspicious of new kinds of food.)

Last weekend, we had a rather large get-together at our house.  The cats usually get pretty upset when we have people over, and there were some allergy-sufferers in the mix, so we shut them away in bedrooms, split up so that they didn't get on each other's nerves too much throughout the event.  (Later, when the numbers of guests had dwindled, we did let the cats out of the rooms.)

The dogs got to stay downstairs with us, and helped us entertain.  Don't get me wrong, unlike the cats, the dogs LOVE guests, but they do get rather unsettled when we change stuff.  People are hanging out in the dining room!  OMG, there's people in ALL THE ROOMS!  OMG, there is a person in my favorite spot on the couch!

Argos waits for the first guest to arrive, anxiously.
But I've learned to just keep an eye on the dogs, and if they start to get too worked up over the fact that there are SO MANY PEOPLE to pet them, or if they start pacing nervously, or panting, that it's time to go outside, or pull them off to the side for a quiet pet, or a treat.  It usually goes fairly well...  and was definitely smoother this year, now that Maera has matured a bit, and doesn't pee with excitement every time she sees someone she likes.  (Imagine our first party, after adopting her.  She'd go into a room, see one of her favorite people, pee.  She'd race to the next room, see ANOTHER person she likes, pee.  Repeat process, all night long.)

So I guess it's not really DURING the entertaining that we have a problem, with the dogs or the cats.  Cats get isolated, which is what they prefer anyway, dogs are allowed down with the guests, with a sharp eye on them.  It seems to work.

But where I seem to have trouble is during the preparation.  I can't believe that we're the only pet-centric household that runs into this problem.

Whenever I clean, it upsets all of them.

Well, maybe not Charlotte.  She just stayed nearby to keep a close eye on me, to make sure that I did everything up to her specifications.

You missed Item #3 on the checklist, just so you know.

But the dogs paced nervously.  I mean, guys C'MON, it's not like I never clean around here.  But maybe a combination of the super-duper heavy cleaning plus the anticipation that I was feeling for the party did it.

The cats were complete pests, getting in the way, and sometimes actively hindering the process.

What, you weren't trying to dust here, were you?

I do the best that I can to make it easier on them:  I take the dogs for walks, make a point to take play or snuggle breaks, but it's clear that they all want for me just to sit down in a chair and stop with all of the activity already.

But it doesn't seem to help even when I do.  They're so attuned to us, they KNOW something is going to happen, and it makes them nervous.

Maera, post-party.  It's exhausting being a host, she says.
We all had fun with the party, but I think they were all glad to have the house back to normal the next day.

And then Jeff and I went and upset them all again this weekend by moving furniture around.

Sorry, guys.

Next weekend, I promise will be boring.

Does anyone have any tips for how to make this easier on the pups and kits?

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Adventure in Living Room Seating

Maybe, maybe life is slowing down a little.  I've said this before and been proven wrong, so don't hold me to it.  But...  there is hope.

One of the things that we noticed, after things started to calm, was that our recliner, well-loved and well-used as it was, was simply not comfortable any longer.  And a couple of "mystery bolts" fell out of it, leaving us scratching our heads on exactly where those bolts belonged.  But it left the chair somewhat lopsided, and it felt unstable.  I was sure that someone was going to sit in it some fateful day, and the entire thing was going to collapse.

So, to make a long story short, we went chair shopping last month.  We went into the store with the intention of buying one replacement recliner, but we actually bought two.  Since we have two greyhounds that hog up the entire couch.  :)

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Now we have two chairs for humans.

Actually, we have one chair for humans.  The other one has been adopted.

Annie was first.  Look at that sassy face!

Her Royal Majesty Queen Charlotte was next.
And finally, Bit, who was actually scared of the new chairs at first.
As you can imagine, if I am this fascinated by the new "cat chair" then at this moment in time, things are actually very quiet.  You will hear no complaints from me.

Some other factoids:

  • Argos and Maera are in great health, and high spirits.  It's almost as if they can smell spring in the air.  Though I can't smell it at ALL.  I think that they're calling for 4-8 inches of snow on Sunday night, and I am not pleased at all.  This winter needs to end!  I need tree buds!  Green grass!  Daylight until 9:30 PM!  I'm looking forward to the sunlight that comes with summertime, because it was really hard to get any good pictures this winter!  The pets have had next to no pictures taken of them; not because I don't love them, but because there are just too many shadows.  First sign of true spring, the dogs and I are SO at the park, with a camera.  

  • Sally, the timid and defensive foster cat that I wrote about last month, became a little less timid and a lot less defensive.  She and I had many an evening of good quality snuggling.  She was adopted on Tuesday night!  A good thing for her, but a sad thing for me.  I miss her crawling under the quilt with me, purring all the while, or standing on top of me and meowing in my face when it was time to feed her.  It was so very rewarding to watch her come out of her shell, at least a little bit.  She still has a way to go, but she got an understanding adopter, who will continue to work with her.

  • The cats are in good health.  They are thrilled that the guest room, previously Sally's abode, is now open to them again.  They are doubly thrilled because at the last moment, as we were about to take the old recliner down to the curb on trash night, Jeff figured out how to fix it!  It's a perfectly functional recliner, albeit old and a bit shabby.  We now have it set up  in a corner of the guest room.  I figure it will come in handy when I'm in there babysitting kittens.  But in the meantime, our cats can have another perch to squabble over.

  • We have no new fosters.  I don't anticipate that this state will last long, but I do feel like we need another break.  The cats need a break, and so do we.  Also, we are having an event at our house in a couple of weeks, and may need the guest room to not have feline visitors in it.  AFTER that, we'll probably be ready for the next needy kitty.  Or kitties. I've decided to try a nursing mom with kittens this year, assuming it's needed.

Anyway, it is my intent to not only start blogging again, but to start reading blogs again.  I miss reading everyone's stories and seeing their pictures!  Be patient with me, though.  I imagine that it's going to take awhile to get up to speed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Really, at this point, everyone should know that when I "go silent" for several weeks at a time, I'm probably fostering again.  I've tried and tried, but it's a major strain to work a full time job, deal with the commute, tend to my own pets, then tend to a foster, THEN blog.  Sheesh, I'm lucky to be able to throw in "take a shower" or "cook a meal" or "do the dishes."

But, all of that aside, I am indeed fostering again.  This time it's only one cat, whose name, you may have surmised, is Sally.

I was on my way home from work one night on the bus, and checked my email on my phone.  There was a message that had been sent out to the foster list, saying that a cat was not doing very well in a cage, and had started hissing and swatting at people.  But once someone picked her up and held her, she curled up into a little tiny ball in their lap and just tried to hide from the world.  She was obviously frightened out of her mind, and could a foster please PLEASE step up to take her in and give her a quieter environment.

Well, that story tugged at my heart-strings, so I emailed to say that I was willing.  And...  two hours later, I was loading a very frightened little gray tabby into my carrier and taking her home.  I remember being worried about transporting her because the temperatures were down in the single digits that night, so I had the carrier in the front seat with me, with the heater blasting.  I went through a drive-through to get dinner to take home, and Sally complained, quietly but steadily, the entire time.

This is Sally.  She's a gray tabby, and is so tiny... only 5 1/2 pounds!  She's an adult, though a young one, at a year and a half.

As soon as we let her out of the carrier in our guest room, she hissed at us, and ran into the depths of the closet.  Having dealt with scaredy cats before, I knew to leave her alone for a time, and just got her litter box and food and water dishes ready.  Then we turned the lights out and left her alone for the rest of the night.

I was, as I always am, immensely relieved the next morning to see that food had vanished and the litter box had been used.

It's taken us a couple of weeks to earn her trust (made a bit more difficult due to the need to give her daily antibiotics for part of that time.)   She likes to hide in a little blanket-lined basket that I have in the window; when I come into the room all I can see are the little white tips of her ears.  Sometimes she goes into the closet, if something scares her.  But wherever she goes, she is eager to jump over on to the bed to snuggle up to me when I lay down.  She purrs and kneads the bed, rubs her cheeks on my hand, and will eventually go to sleep like that.  Sometimes she will even sleep on top of me.

She's finally stopped trembling when I pet her... when she first started "coming around" she'd lie there purring  when I was petting her, but she'd be shaking like a leaf all throughout.  Talk about conflicted!

She is still very easily frightened though.  If you move too quickly, she might still hiss and run.  If she hears the dogs racing up the stairs (even though she's safely shut away from them) she gets nervous.  She gets nervous and hides if we talk too loudly, or if a toilet flushes, or if my phone makes any noises when I'm in with her.

I think it's just going to be a process.  And every time I start to get discouraged about it, I remind myself of certain OTHER scaredy cats that I've encountered.  Annie.  Thomas.  Junior.  They all came through it, and so will she.

Everyone send good thoughts Sally's way!  We need to convince her that the universe is not actually out to get her, no matter what her past might have been.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thoughts on 2012

2012 was a good year for the House of Carnivores, overall.  It was certainly a lot kinder to us than 2011... not that it didn't have its low points.  We lost another family member.  We had some issues with our foster cats.  But we kept our health, we made some friends, we have jobs, we have a home, we have our fur friends.

Some of the highlights of the year:

We fostered 20 cats over the year.  (Not all at the same time, whew!)

All of those cats and kittens found safe, warm homes except for one, Amelia.  Little Amelia passed away in my husband's arms, when she was 8 weeks old.  Even though she was "just a foster" this one was a blow.  We knew, intellectually, that this kind of thing just sometimes happens, especially with kittens, even though everyone did everything right, but having it actually happen to us was harder than I expected.  I swore off fostering after that happened, saying that when the rest of her litter went back, that was it.

And that didn't even go as planned.  Those that follow my blog closely may remember that the remaining kittens in this litter were diagnosed with feline leukemia.  So when we took the two boys in for their neuter surgery, I did so with the expectation that I'd never see them again... they were highly adoptable:  cuddly, super-cute.  To get that phone call that they had FeLV was devastating.

So they came back to stay with me, under strict quarantine from the resident cats, until the shelter could find something to do with them.  And they found a home!  After a couple more months, during which I despaired of finding them a place, a wonderful person found this blog, and decided, over the course of several days, that it was in everyone's best interest if she took them ALL to go home to live with her and her current FeLV+ kitty.

Of course I didn't stop fostering.  We took in a group of four young adults just a few weeks later.  And although I don't currently have any fosters, I'm sure that we will do it again.

Charlotte was taken off of her heart meds.  After the vet told us that she suspected that Charlotte's congestive heart failure was a misdiagnosis, we carefully took her off of all of her medications, and watched her closely for several days.  She never did start suffering the ill-effects of not being medicated, so has been pronounced healthy.

 I can't even begin to describe what this means to me... for the last three years, I've lived with the knowledge that Charlotte could die at any time.  (And I guess that's still the case; none of us get any guarantees, but the death sentence hanging over her head has been lifted.)

We have chosen to view it as the blessing that it is:  the surprise of good health where it was not expected, rather than to think of all of the vet expenses that we paid to "keep her alive."  (Though I obviously haven't forgotten that part or I wouldn't be mentioning it, haha.)

We went to Greyhounds in Gettysburg for the first time.  For a couple of years, I've read other greyhound blogs, and been envious that these bloggers would pack up their greyhounds and go to some of the gatherings, namely Greyhounds in Gettysburg, or the one out at Dewey Beach.

Then I realized that there was no reason to be envious.  We are adults and in a position that  if we want to make it happen, then we could just make it happen!

Gettysburg was certainly closer than Dewey Beach, so we decided to try that one first.  We had a great time, the dogs had a great time, and we came away with some wonderful memories.  I don't know if we'll be able to do something like it every year, but we're definitely interested in going back.

Maera celebrated her first Gotcha Day!  In July, we celebrated Maera's first anniversary in our home.  It's significant because she has come so far since that first day.

Her sparkly, sprightly personality is still there:  her joy knows no bounds and sometimes needs to be... umm... tempered.  But she snuggles with us like a champ, has stopped her "submissive urination" problem that I've wrote fairly extensively about, and has just turned into a fantastic young lady.  We couldn't possibly love her more, and she's an essential part of the household.

And like any year, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of little moments that are difficult to write about and do justice to, yet still make such a difference in our lives.  How Bit has lost her fear of the dogs, and will now willingly come into the same room with them.  How awesome it is when Argos jumps up onto the couch and curls up beside me.  Or when Charlotte, still alive, stands in front of the refrigerator and yells at me to make me get her more milk.

I look forward to 2013, and the joys and even the sorrows that it will bring.  I'm glad for all of you, with whom I can hopefully continue sharing snapshots of our lives, both the joys and the sorrows.  So... Happy New Year!  May the upcoming year be filled with joy and prosperity for you and yours.