Arnold the Great

I took Arnold to the vet today.  I finally had back his carrier, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait until Monday to bring him in, not as bad off as he is.  So I called the vet, feeling very bad that it’s a Saturday, and his answering service promised he’d call me.  He did, a short while later.  Might I say I have the best vet in the world, only a step behind James Herriot (one of my favorite authors of all time, the English veterinarian of “All Creatures Great and Small” fame).  Anyway, my vet is similar to him…very caring with animals, never upset about being called on a weekend, truly just worrying and fussing over his charges like a worried parent.  For many years, at least a couple of decades, he donated for free his services to the Humane Society, and spayed, neutered, and provided care to countless homeless animals for free.  Not to mention that Arnold always senses that Dr. Svenson cares about him, and never tries to get away, but instead seems almost relieved to be there.


So kindly Dr. Svenson told me to bring him in at 5.  I did so, and the first thing he did was give him 400 mls of fluid (he lost another pound since he was last there in May), and a steroid shot.  He unfortunately concurred that probably the most humane thing to do, at this point, is put him to sleep.  I told him my grandchildren want to see him one last time, and may need to go to the clinic on Monday, to say goodbye, and he agreed, and said they’d keep him going until then. 


So I am relieved that he’s getting fluid, and not dehydrated, but sad as well, that it is likely the end of the road for him.  I’m just so thankful for a saint like Dr. Svenson, a man who truly loves the animals as if they were his own.



Am watching the news right now, about the plane crash at the San Francisco International Airport.  What a tragedy.  I think of the dozens of times I’ve taken off in a plane, or landed, perhaps more than 50 by now.  Always in the back of my mind was a sense of relief at both a successful take-off or landing.  I can’t imagine how these poor folks were feeling, going through that, and the survivors need our prayers, not to mention family members of those who perished.  Yes, it’s cliche, but we never know when the end will be, when our lives will be suddenly changed irrevocably, and forever.  How important to cherish what we have…and our family and friends.  I’m sure a lot of America, and the world, feels the same way tonight.


A slice of Americana…aka “Walmart”

As you know, I had my tonsils out, exactly eight days ago.  Prior to this I hadn’t had any surgery aside from relatively minor ones…a ganglion cyst removed from my wrist, venous ablation on my legs.  Since I’m in good health, active, and can tolerate pain pretty well, I thought whew, I’d bounce back in no time!  Young kids will have nothing on me!  Well, now I humbly have my tail between my legs, feeling like not just a truck but an 18 wheeler with a trailer attached ran over me, and who knows when I’ll be feeling back to normal.

Not to say that it’s been all bad.  I can’t tolerate the pain meds (make me nauseous and dizzy), so I’ve been getting by with acetaminophen.  According to the message boards I’ve been reading, that’s very rare, the majority of people not only take all their medicine, but often call the doctor and beg for more.  So I am glad about that.  No chance of a painkiller addiction for me, haha, I can’t stand the stuff.  As far as activity, I WANT to be active, but was cautioned not to by my doctor.  Too early of activity, before the scabs fall off, can cause severe bleeding.  That doesn’t sound like anything I want a tiny part of, so I’m spending my days going from the couch to the kitchen, downstairs to pet Arnold (more about that later), sitting on the couch for an hour, then sinking down cozily for an hour’s nap.  Wow, don’t know how I’ll manage to go back to work, I feel like a newborn baby who’s sleep schedule is entirely messed up.

At any rate, the pain wasn’t too bad until the last couple of days, when it got way worse.  The doctor warned me that it would, and I stoically nodded, sure I could take it.  Well, I can, all except for that is, eating.  It is so difficult to eat when your throat feels like little men with ice picks are merrily pecking at it, especially when you attempt to swallow food.  Soft things go down okay, but anything with a tiny bit of substance…a piece of bread, pasta, rice, baked beans…yikes.

So at any rate I’m out of ice cream, and wishing desperately that I had some.  I finally decided to make a Walmart trip, and join the land of the living.  It will be fun to get out, fun to see people, life in general.  To smell the fresh air, drive the car.  Little things that you take entirely for granted until you’re housebound and going out of your mind.

So in the car I went, drove there, and first thing I saw, when I walked in, was a very pleasant looking African American family.  They had their carts huddled together, and were talking.  I was struck by how cute a little girl was, in bright pink, with barrettes in her hair.  As I walked through the store I saw the mixture of people that have marked Aberdeen as of recent years…many more black people, Mexican, people from Burma (Karen), and several other nationalities.  I am ashamed to say that I have heard people in town speak disparagingly of this, that they don’t like the diversity.  I, however, relish it.  It reminds me of when I lived in several big cities.  The people have been nothing but nice to me, and I think it’s good for our children to see that not everyone is the same on the outside (although a good opportunity to teach that we’re the same on the inside).  I was explaining this to a friend, a friend who says she doesn’t like or trust Mexican people, and she said that maybe I didn’t know that several years ago a Mexican man grabbed her purse, knocking her down in the process, as she was going into Kesslers, another grocery store in town.  I replied that yes, I did know about that, but there have been plenty of crimes committed by white people too.  The color of your skin has nothing to do with it.  I’ve never heard her say that she doesn’t trust white people now, after reading some article about a particularly nefarious crime that was committed by one.  In a way I feel sorry for her, and others…for them this is change, and many don’t like it.  For me it’s comfort, what I’m used to.  I like being a melting pot.  It kind of tickles me that little Aberdeen, in the middle of South Dakota, can be one.  It reminds me of how we all need to stick together, to love our fellow humans regardless of external trappings.

This reminds me too of the Hutterites, the religious group here in SD (and in many other places, even worldwide).  They too have an (undeserved) bad rap, and some people treat them as vermin when they go into a store, watching them like crazy and having palpatations almost.  Well, I have visited many, many colonies from when I did respiratory home care, and these are some of the nicest, most generous, caring folks that you’d ever want to meet.  Rarely did I leave someone’s home without a gift of some sort…fruit, homegrown vegetables, a gigantic chocolate bar.  Often I was invited to eat with them too, and oh my the food makes me mouth water even now.  It was delicious, and totally homemade…I daresay their food rarely had a preservative or artificial anything.  It was salt of the earth, wholesome, and it filled not only my stomach but spirit as well.

To further cement my relationship with these wonderful people, at one colony in particular the gentleman that I saw insisted that I put the colony’s phone # in my cell phone.  “That way if you’re ever stuck somewhere you can give us a call and we’ll help you out.”  They would have too…in fact this same gentleman was absolutely aghast when I told him that I had recently moved to a different apartment (this was years ago).  “You should have told me!” he scolded me.  “I would have gotten together a group of men to help!”  Mind you, this Hutterite gentleman had a fatherly interest in me only, he was married, and his wife was the sweetest lady.  He always worried and fussed over me though, and as I don’t have a father it was incredibly touching to me.

That’s how it is with most of us…at a distance we look different.  Perhaps it’s our skin color, clothing, way of life, accent, or a myriad of other things.  Still though, if we resist fear, and look for things that bind us, we could open our lives to friendship, love, and joy that is there, just waiting for us to be open to it.  So, my Walmart, the quintessential tie that binds us, is fine with me.  It’s the American experience.


Not sure about Arnold today.  He’s still weak, still having diarrhea.  I would have taken him to the vet today if I had the carrier, but the woman who has it promises to bring it back tomorrow.  I have a feeling the clinic would have been closed anyway, being as it’s a Friday after the 4th.  At any rate, he slept all day, lapped up a tiny bit of water, and relished my pets.  I made him chicken broth, cooled it, and presented it to him, thinking that he probably needs some salt replacement.  He refused it though, and as I’m sure he really needs an IV I didn’t push it.

Anyway, when I got home from Walmart I wet with warm water a couple of the washcloths I bought specifically for him.  I figured I could clean him and throw them away.  So I opened the door to downstairs and to my shock he was at the top of the stairs.  I let him up, just by the stairs, and cleaned him as best I could.  His eyes are mattery, hair dusty, shedding, and with dried diarrhea on his hind legs and tail.  He’s so far from the Arnold he used to be, with a squeaky clean, silky coat.  The kids used to laugh, that he never quit cleaning himself, which is kind of true…he was fastidiously clean, and well groomed.  He never had dirt on his coat, and he always smelled completely fresh.

After cleaning him I brought him back downstairs.  I could tell he didn’t want to go, and I didn’t blame him at all…he’s always been a people cat, and wanting to be right by us.  So I sat by him for a long time, petting him and giving him attention.  He again lapped a tiny bit of water.  Then, to my shock, he slowly and painfully made his way up the stairs again.  I just couldn’t leave him downstairs again, and when he stood at the back door, wanting to go out, I know that I shouldn’t, but I let him go.  I’m sure my sons will be in horror that I let him out, but in my mind I don’t know how long he has to live.  I don’t want his last days to be stuck in the basement.  He loves to be outdoors, just lying in the grass.  (It has occurred to me that perhaps he’s eaten something poisonous, I will ask the vet about that.)  So I put a bowl of water by the door, and opened the door.  He crept out into the moonlight, and in the dark you can’t tell he’s sick.  I’m hoping perhaps the air and him being happy will help him.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll open the door again (he always comes back) and he’ll be there, happy and hungry.  Of course there’s another part of me that fears that he’ll disappear to die…I did have a cat do that before too.  All I know is that he wanted it so much, and if letting him out can give him a little bit of final happiness, then I’m glad I did.

Surfing to the end

Arnold, my seven year old, lovable, cuddly, mellow, and wonderful cat has gone downhill the past year.  I’ve taken him to the vet for diarrhea and losing weight…he was tested for parasites and feline leukemia, both of which were negative.  So, the vet put him on a new (and extremely expensive) hypoallergenic food, he was given fluids, and I took him home the next day, full of happy anticipation that perhaps things would be better for him now.

I know that a cat is just a cat.  They don’t have souls like people, and of course I don’t put an animal on a pedestal.  Still…he loves children, and let my granddaughter put a baby bonnet and blanket on him, his head on a pillow, and read him stories, and he didn’t try in the slightest to get away but just laid there, happily purring.  My boys used to wrestle with him, which didn’t upset him at all, he was mellow and happy, always glad to get attention.  When I pick him up he isn’t tense, like some cats, he melts into me, purring loudly and snuggling.  The kids are convinced he’s part Rag Doll, which wouldn’t surprise me.  I’ve never had a cat who liked people so much, a cat who followed me from room to room, a cat who would always be at the door, happy to see me.  A cat who, when the grandkids came over, didn’t run and hide, but sat amongst them and their toys, making them feel special and happy.  He never bit anyone, never scratched, he was just…Arnold.  A very special, sweet boy.

So now, this is hard.  The past couple of months I noticed I had to feed him less and less.  I tried to tell myself it was because the new food was more nutritious, and maybe he didn’t need to eat as much of it.  His occasional vomiting I attributed to hairballs.  The diarrhea I told myself was due to his sensitive system.

Until today.  It hit me that he was strangely absent when I came back after tonsillectomy surgery.  He was sleeping as much as I was, and once I remember thinking that he didn’t look like he was even breathing…had to get down close to make sure.  Today I was petting him, as he laid in the living room, and his coat is rough and unkept, eyes mattery, and as I ran my hand over him diarrhea came out and went onto the carpet.  He, my old friend, was too sick to care, didn’t make an effort to get up, or clean himself, just laid there, thankful for my hand on him.  So I carried him downstairs, cleaned him (and the carpet later), brought his soft bed downstairs, freshened his water, etc.  He did sit and look at his cat box, but he was took weak to get in.  It’s a covered one, so I took the cover off, and he looked positively grateful, getting carefully in and using it.

So, I hoped that things were okay, that he just needed to lie by his box for a while, and rest, but he’s had diarrhea in his cat bed twice since then.  My poor baby.  He was always so proud, and took immaculate care of his coat…now he doesn’t even try to clean himself, so I wet paper towels and clean him as best I can, also wipe his eyes gently with a clean wet one.  He seems so thankful for the help, is lying and purring.  I feel like a traitor though, climbing up the stairs and shutting the door behind me.  I don’t want diarrhea all over the house, and he needs to be close by his water and cat box.  I feel horrible though, leaving my friend, and the only thing that helps is that he’s probably sleeping most of the time.

So, tomorrow I’m hoping the grandkids can come by, and see him.  Of course not to play, but to say good-bye.  I’ve been reading on the internet how important closure is for them, how they need to have some last memories of him.  Then I will call the vet, and explain the situation.  The fact is, I can’t afford expensive treatment, no matter what it is (I’m guessing gastric lymphoma, as he has all the symptoms).  I know there’s chemotherapy that can be done, biopsies, meds.  It all prolongs the inevitable though…so if it’s hopeless I just want him put to sleep.  I want to hold him in my arms and thank him for the love he showed us all.  For being such a good boy.  For loving us.  I will think back to so many times that I should have had more patience, more time for him, more pets, more snuggles.  I know he won’t be thinking that though…he’ll just be thankful to be in my lap, getting pets, as I see him to end of his journey.

As I write this tears spill down my cheeks, and I can’t imagine life without him.  Maybe the vet will tell me a miracle, I can only hope.  I don’t expect that though, feel a knot in my stomach at what I’m guessing I’ll be told.

I guess all of us who own pets can relate…they’re extensions of us, give us unconditional love, loyalty, and their hearts.  I will let you know how the rest of this journey goes.

The random, awkward, psychotic side of life

Well, this is it, Day 1.  Feel an intense need to create something magical, something that will inspire people to read this.  Instead might get something that will drive people away, certain they can wallow in their own misery instead of mine, lol.  One thing about blogging, it’s narcisstic…you can blog all about yourself, as long as you can possibly want, publish it for the world to see, and bam, you’re out there!  Kind of validating, especially for a still-wallflower girl like me.  Yup, still am, decades after high school…you know the person who comes in the room, and instantly the energy is changed, and the atmosphere fairly crackles, as all eyes look with anticipation at this wonderous person who commands their attention, perhaps without saying a word.  Well, that would be so not me.  I’m the type who can enter the room, do my best to be helpful and kind, yet you might not even know I’m there, just be vaguely aware of some presence.  My life has been a potpourri of events, swirled into a stew that can either be wonderfully uplifting and incredible, and also dismal and dank.  I am hoping that blogging will help me to develop the former part of myself, and perhaps, with your help, I can become the person I want to be.  Nothing wrong with that, even if I am a woman of 50 now.  Hah, funny, when I was a kid I was convinced that adults had it all together, and at my age a woman would be happily married, financially stable, with a lot of friends, and fun in life.  Nay, and nay and nay.  Nothing says it has to stay that way though!


For all of you who are undergoing similar journeys, I feel for you…I might not be an electrical presence, but I am empathetic and understanding.  I have been through bad times, and I do relate to others who have been as well.  Hopefully we can be there for each other, and both grow in the process.


…and oh, Happy 4th of July everybody!