And then there was one…

Last night I returned home from a day trip skiing at Seven Springs to find my cat, Cleo, dead. She was curled up in one of the cat beds in my bedroom, as though she were just sleeping. I knew something was wrong when I walked into my bedroom, calling her name, and she did not respond with her customary “Ew” nor did I hear the purring that always began the moment anyone said her name.

I guess I’d been prepared for this for the last year, since she was first diagnosed with diabetes (last March?).  At first, I didn’t think much about how it would decrease her life span, only that it caused a major inconvenience in my life to have to give her twice daily shots, and find someone to do it whenever I went out-of-town. I thought I would have trouble learning to give her shots, but it turned out to be quite easy.  I was annoyed at how much the diabetic food cost. Still, I was up for the challenge of taking care of her. For the most part.

The medicine never really seemed to work. She still was urinating a lot more than normal (always in the litter box, good kitty!).  Whenever I did manage to give her a glucose reading, it was usually too low.  I took her to the vet once and we adjusted her medication down from 3 units to 2. But she still didn’t seem to improve much. Taking her to the vet was a hassle, and I probably should have kept trying, but I didn’t. I didn’t take readings from her either because I couldn’t consistently get a good reading. The only place you have to prick a cat to get a blood sample is the ear and it’s EXTREMELY HARD to get enough blood to get a reading.

So my laziness, in the end, probably killed her. I feel horrible. Like a negligent parent. Someone more responsible might have made her live longer. Someone less selfish with less of a social life.

Cleo’s health had been deteriorating for the last month or so. She stopped grooming herself and I couldn’t brush out all the snarls in her hair. I had to move the litter box upstairs into my office because she twice pooped on the floor of the office while I was in there. I hate having to bring litter boxes into human living space in fear of being that crazy cat lady with a smelly house. So that annoyed me too.

Over the last several days, she seemed even worse than normal. She was even more listless and she seemed like she had a cold. I heard lots of sneezing and her eyes were a little runny. She didn’t seem well. I think I felt it coming to some degree.

It wasn’t very surprising that she didn’t greet me when I came into the house. She didn’t always do that any more. But she usually ambled over to the kitchen by the time I’d taken off my coat. When she hadn’t done that, I immediately started looking around for her. This wasn’t the first time I’d done this in panic. Usually, though, it turned out she just hadn’t felt like walking out to greet me. The bedroom was the first place I always looked. At first, I thought she was just cuddled there as usual. But then, I knew, when she didn’t look up when I turned on the light.

I touched her, she was still a little warm. But her eyes were half-open and, admittedly, there was some oozing of some kind around them. I touched her back several times to feel for the rise and fall of breathing just to be sure she wasn’t just sick. But I knew.

Still, there is a disbelief when a person encounters something dead. You have to be sure. You have to keep checking, just to make sure you didn’t make the wrong determination. So I went back about three or four times to touch her body, half afraid of “death coodies”–things I didn’t want to see about a body that might be beginning to decompose.

After 15 minutes of trying to figure out if I should call an emergency vet to take her in right away for cremation–because the thought of having a dead body around my house creeped me out even more–I got an empty cardboard box from my closet. I lifted her out of her cat bed. Her body was stiff and stuck into the O-shape of a curled cat. Of course she was dead.  She hated being picked up and if she were alive, she’d surely have struggled. I set her into the box, assuring myself that because she didn’t move to get out of the box, she really, really was dead. I then left her in the box for 20 minutes more, just to be sure, as I furiously corresponded with my friend Mindy on Facebook to figure out what I was supposed to do now. Thankfully, Mindy talked me out of going immediately to the emergency vet and convinced me to wrap Cleo in two garbage bags and put her somewhere safe outside. I set Cleo on the work bench in the garage, worrying that it wasn’t cold enough in the garage to prevent her from decomposing… and smelling up the place… (God, why am I so selfish about everything?)

Once I did all that, I teared up a bit. I didn’t full-on cry. I don’t know yet if I’m going to do that.I felt bad because when Tanya died in 2006, I bawled my eyes out in a private examination room in the vet’s office where they left me alone with her recently dead body (she stopped breathing after having some sort of breathing problem that caused me to rush her to an emergency vet at midnight). Tanya was not even an affectionate cat. Cleo and Nicki had always been my favorites because they were affectionate and liked to be around people. Tanya was like a stereotypical cat–aloof and temperamental. Yet I cried buckets of tears for her.

Maybe it was because Tanya was Mike’s cat. They’d always had a special relationship with each other. Mike was the only one Tanya would let approach her on his terms. Mike loved her fierce independence and stand-offishness… Maybe those were  just a quality he enjoyed in the female gender (for he picked me as a mate).

I guess when Tanya died, I felt like yet another piece of Mike was gone from me. I loved that cat more for what she represented to me than what she was. I was taking care of something of Mike’s that he loved. It made me feel closer to Mike. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I called my mom at 2am to tell her that Tanya had died, my mom pointed out that it was Mike’s birthday that day. Tanya died on Mike’s birthday. Serendipity, I suppose.

All of the cats were our children, though. Nicki and Tanya came with Mike–they were a set before I even knew Mike. Cleo, however, was our adopted cat–the one we got together shortly after we were married–after days and days of searching through kennels and shelters for “the perfect kitty.”  We always referred to our cats the way one would their children. We even gave them their own mailboxes on our voice mail. So the loss of each and every cat should punch me the same way.

We found Cleo at the Humane Society of Greater Akron. We loved her because she had spunk. They had kept her in the room with cats who can socialize with other cats but she was in a cage by herself that had a hammock. She was always a butterball. She sat on that hammock with a look of nonchalance on her face. She seemed calm and wise. I pet her for a little bit, then moved on to look at other cages, but she let out a quick meow that sounded to me very spiteful, like “Fine! Go over there! I don’t care.”

I turned back to see her sitting in the hammock, the same look of nonchalance. I fell in love with her at that moment.

Mike told me I could name her (since he had named his own cats already) and then he urged me, with a wicked grin, the name her Aurora because he hated that name and didn’t want me to use it for a future daughter. I refused to fall into that trap and called her Cleo because the little white spot on her black chin reminded me of an Egyptian empress like I saw in pictures of tombs. Okay, that was a little stereotypical, but it’s true. We ended up nicknaming her “Boogie” because we thought she had a “Boog face” which was something of an inside reference from my family… (My dad used to call a face I made the “boog” face.)

My dad called Cleo Jabba (after Jabba the Hutt). My friend Gwenn called her Pillow Kitty. My cousin Angy’s husband called her Roley-Poley Kitty. She reminded me of Miss Cleo from those late-night astrology commercials and I used to say that if Cleo was human, she’d look exactly like Miss Cleo. She was the favorite of at least two of my ex-boyfriends and possibly a third. Everyone loved her spunk. When I tried to tease my cats with a mini remote control car that my ex-boyfriend T gave me for Christmas, Tanya and Nicki ran away. But Cleo, she walked right up to it and knocked it over with a paw. She wasn’t going to take no crap from a little remote control car!

I did love her. I’m sorry that she possible died from low blood sugar or something awful. Preventable with a more diligent parent? Probably. I should have done a better job of taking care of her. I should have struggled to help her lose weight way back when she started to get fatter. I should have leash trained her and made her walk around. It would certainly have helped get her used to the outside world so that I could take her to the vet without her crapping in the carrier every time.

I got the impression, though, that Cleo was a little agoraphobic. She never tried to leave the house and when I did set her outside every once in a while, she would moan like an overwhelmed person until I put her back in the house. She hated every move I made–both across country and across towns. She was probably happy when I finally settled down in one place in Ohio in 2005.

I don’t know if I will cry. I will say that the house seemed kind of different this morning. Like some part of it was missing. I hugged Nicki fiercely to me last night in bed, even though she inevitably drove me nuts in the morning as she always has. Nicki wouldn’t stop pestering me this morning as I got ready for work. So I stopped and hugged her a few more times before I left. It’s just me and her now. I’ve come a long way from a small condo that once contained a husband and wife and their three cats to a new house where only a sometimes lonely widow and a single, waving cat remain. Nothing ever stays the same, does it?

I admit that the night was a little rough. I kept thinking about the box in the garage. What if I’d made a mistake? That always comes to haunt you when you face to death, the acceptance of the reality of it. I imagined that I was wrong, that she was merely in a deep sleep, and that I’d come to the garage in the morning to find claw marks from where she’d tried to get out but couldn’t and suffocated in the plastic of the bags. There was such a spell of relief that washed over me when I walked out into the garage this morning to find bagged box exactly as I’d left it.

I put the package containing Cleo in my car. In the trunk. Because, again, I was worried about smell, but it was an open hatch back so it’s not like we were separated. I drove to the vet before work. I paid to have her cremated and the ashes returned to me. I’m going to put some of them in my current backyard and then save the remaining for a future trip up Mt. Elbert. She was still Mike’s cat, after all, and he’d like to have what remains of her physical form with what remained of his. I put all of Tanya’s ashes there in 2008. Call me sentimental. Even an agnostic feels the need to complete an unfinished circle.

Diabetes Cat + Volunteerism + Life = Stress

I have been searching for a pet sitter willing to feed my cats and give Cleo a shot twice a day… and so far, no luck in that department. The first person I approached–a pet-sitting small business owner–refused to take Cleo on because she’s apparently a “liability.” What the hell does that mean? If she dies in the sitter’s care, she’s afraid I’ll sue? Whatever. It makes me wonder if someone would be afraid to babysit a five-year old with diabetes. Too much of a liability risk? A cat? There must be some awfully bitchy, vindictive people out there ruining it for all of us.

I have to admit that I felt really hurt by this unknown sitter’s swift judgment. I mean, she claimed on her website to be able to administer medications to pets for the owners. Giving Cleo a shot is easier than trying to give a cat a pill. Or even eye drops, which I’ve had to give to Cleo for her persistent cherry eye. Cleo doesn’t even notice when I give her a shot. It’s barely a bother. Liability, my ass. I feel as though I’m the mother of a special needs kid who has been picked on in gym class by the popular older kids. Rejecting a potential sitting job from me is like rejecting my kid from a prestigious private school. I’m admittedly hurt.

And now I’m afraid other pet sitters will back similarly back off. So I’m freaking out because I can’t ask my friends to watch my cats unpaid for a week and a half while I’m in Seattle. Coming in twice a day is a lot of work. I’ve already got myself scheduled for three small weekend trips (just registered for Roscoe Ramble) in addition to my long vacation. I guess I’m going to ask my vet if any of the vet techs would like the job for $20/day. But I’ve been stressing about the thing all day.

I feel kind of trapped. I can’t help but feel this is the same kind of panic I would feel if I ever accidentally got pregnant. I just don’t like to be tied down by responsibility. I buck it the entire time. Even when I was married, I struggled to call my husband to tell him when I was meandering home from work or when I’d suddenly decided to meet up with friends somewhere. He bought me a cell phone because he never minded me changing my evening plans to go out, he just wanted to know what I was up to. Admittedly, I’m still bad about calling people to let them know I’m running late. I just like to be able to spontaneously change my mind about something at a moment’s notice. Some would call that fickle, I suppose.

On top of the stress of my cat, I’m currently in the middle of coordinating my bike club’s Adopt-a-Highway clean up project, the Memorial Day bike ride, and I’m filling in as interim ride leader for the Wednesday night ride while the regular ride leader recovers from an injury. Not that I mind doing these things–I’m ecstatic to be serving my club in this manner because I truly love to ride and I love sharing my love of riding with others by giving back to the club. However, in the middle of stressing about my cat, I’m also worried about pulling these other projects off right. All of them are mostly ready to go without much more work, but I have a few small loose ends to tie up, such as where we’re going to eat at the Burton lunch stop on the Memorial Day ride and letting Country Maid in Richfield (which is where our clean up area starts) and the county coordinator for Adopt-a-Highway know what day the club’s coming out to clean. Agggh!

I feel so much pressure to run everything perfect without any mistakes because the people in my club can often be very critical. And I never let criticism roll off of me; no, I hold onto the criticism and let it eat away at me. I’m also not one who takes criticism well. I stress constantly about perfection. I still love ride-leading; I love it better at the end when everything has worked out.

I’m also dealing with my own inner demons. In addition to enjoying the great people in my club, I have to deal with the presence of the ex-boyfriend, once friend, who hurt my feelings so badly that I have no desire to talk to him at all anymore. Ever. When I see him, anger wells up within me. The kind of anger that makes a person irrational to the point of insanity. The kind of insanity that makes you feel like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. NOT that I’d ever act on that sort of thing. I’m just saying, that’s how I feel. Feelings are one thing; actions another. All said, I’d say I’ve contained myself quite well. Not that I’ve acted civilly, either. I’m just not the type of person who can smile and pretend nothing’s wrong when I feel this kind of anger boiling inside of me. Mostly, I just play the fifteen year-old’s game of avoidance. I pretend he’s not there. Even when he’s talking to people standing right next to me. It’s dumb. But I’m so afraid that if I say something, I will say something truly awful and everyone will be shocked and deem me the total jerk. Or worse.

And I’m totally capable of being completely and utterly mean. The whole way home from a ride last weekend, I was imagining an entire dialog of madness with said ex-boyfriend after I spent the afternoon in the same room as him. I was so angry. I believe he was there with his new girlfriend, which just drove the knife in further. Oh, the email messages I wanted to write. It took everything I could to step back and just let the situation alone. It’s a good thing that vengeance demons (Buffy reference) really don’t exist because I could totally see how one could fall into one’s spell. It’s so easy to say things you really don’t mean when you’re angry.

It’s not all his fault, either. It was a mutual decision for us to break up. We gave it a good run of two years, but we were too different. Politically. Religiously. Some people say that opposites attract, and while that may have been the case at first, it really worked to totally erode our relationship to a point where I think we both started to really lose respect for each other. I can’t speak for him, but that’s what happened on my end. The final straw that broke the camel’s back–the one thing that ruined all potential for a relationship of any kind, even friendship–was just emotionally crushing for me. And it’s probably my fault for taking things so hard. The whole thing ended badly.. And I just wish to heck I didn’t have to run into him anymore. Especially when he’s decided to start bringing his new girlfriend everywhere (they weren’t going out, then they were going out again, I think)…

I’m working really hard on not being so angry any more. But I’m not perfect; I’m only human (or Martian) and I’m subject to human failings. I know that anger eats you alive and is really pointless to waste energy on. That changes nothing with how I feel. I hurt, I feel anger about the hurt. I can’t pretend it’s not there. I just have to learn to contain it. At least I’m able to repress the anger to show a good face. I hope.

Anyway, to make myself feel better, I went to Pier 1 tonight and bought the papasan for my library that I’d been obsessing about for weeks. Shopping therapy. Always works for me. I couldn’t fit the top part into my car, though, so I won’t have the whole thing together until my dad stops by the store to pick it up for me. I’m super excited about the way it will look in my library, how it will feel to sit in it while reading books. I got 10% off for opening a Pier 1 credit card. Eh, why not? I should have bought the foot stool, but I was having buyer’s remorse. Maybe I’ll go back later this weekend and get the foot stool. You need something to put your feet on to get really comfortable in a library, right?

My cycling’s been going well. I rode Monday and Tuesday evenings, topping off my Tuesday with a trifecta of the Valley’s southwestern hills: Wheatley, Everett, and Martin. Martin’s a real “pisser” of a hill. I actually said that under my breath when I got to the top–“This hill’s a pisser, ” I said, panting. It must be from watching too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike. (Did Spike ever say “pisser”?)

I rode to work Wednesday. It was a chilly morning. I had a flat on the ride home while climbing the hardest part of Truxell. I fixed the flat in 20 minutes so I think my maintenance lessons paid off in some way. I didn’t pinch flat the spare like I did last Thanksgiving and I made it home with daylight to spare so all is good.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do for riding this weekend. I would like to do two days of 50+ miles each (no more than 60), but I don’t know if that is going to be possible. On Saturday or Sunday, I need to take glucose readings on Cleo every three hours so that the vet knows where she’s at in her treatment. I figured I’d do this Saturday and maybe fit in a 55 mile ride to Bedford Reservation where I can climb Gorge Road. I’d like to get up on Sunday and do a 57-mile club ride, but I’m going to a spa party Saturday night and I don’t know how late I will be out or how I’ll feel in the morning (read: there will be wine to drink). Next weekend should be my 80+ mile ride before TOSRV. I’m going to try to either hit a club ride Saturday May 1st or do a ride with Medina Bike Club that starts in Norwalk or Oberlin on Sunday May 2. I’m hoping to get it over with Saturday because I’ll be at a play in downtown Cleveland that starts at 8pm. I can’t fathom getting up early enough to drive to Lorain County after coming home at 11pm the night before.

Either way, I’m probably in shape enough for TOSRV. I’ll probably have around 800-900 miles by the time the ride starts. I think I’ve been training adequately. It’s not that hard of a ride–the weather is the worst thing to contend with. I’m slightly worried about riding by myself if there’s obnoxious headwinds. I know it will work out somehow because I’m damned stubborn. Sometimes that’s a good quality. Most of the time, it just makes me a major pain-in-the-butt to be around…

Cleo Update

Everyone’s asking me how Cleo the cat is doing and I must say that I really appreciate all the fond well-wishing and concern. I did take her to the vet on Saturday and, it turns out, giving her the insulin shot is pretty easy. In fact, it’s the least of my worries. No, the hardest part about this whole diabetes thing is keeping my cats out of each other’s food. Cleo’s new diabetic food is too expensive to let Nicki eat; Cleo cannot eat regular cat food. Therefore, I have to give them food and stand there and watch while they eat so that they don’t go for the other’s dish. Which is totally Nicki’s habit after she inhales her portion of the food first while Cleo picks away at her food–licking and nibbling.

Unfortunately, I made the drastic mistake of buying Cleo the canned diabetic food. I had to buy more of the canned regular cat food for Nicki. And now I’m pretty damned sure neither of them is ever going to eat dry food again. I went with the canned food to entice them to eat at the moment I put food down. I can’t leave food sitting in dishes all day like I could before. So they need to learn that when I put the food down, that’s their only chance to eat until the next time I put food down. It’s very exhausting. Cats don’t like to be molded into schedules or told what to do when. (Why, oh, why do I love cats so much? Maybe they remind myself of me? Is this the Universe’s way of getting me back for being a pain-in-the-butt to my parents since I’ve decided to not have kids? Arrrgh!)

Anyway, the insulin shot part is going much easier than I ever would have imagined. Most of the time, Cleo doesn’t even seem to notice I’m doing it. I will have to take a blood sugar reading on her this week, which will be a little harder since I have to prick her ear with a lancet and then squeeze a tiny drop of blood onto the strip. Normally, the whole idea of something like that would totally gross me out (I fainted once when a doctor was taking the same sort of blood sample on me) but I watched the vet do it and I didn’t get dizzy, so we’ll see how this goes. Her first reading at the vet was 450, which I’m told is quite high. I need to get her between 150-200. We may have to increase the dosage if it’s not working…

Everything is so expensive. The insulin–which my vet assures me will last about 3 months–costs $60. I wish I could put her on my insurance. A ten-pack of needles is $2.99 at the pharmacy, but I just bought a pack of 100 off the internet for $16. Some people say you can reuse the needles, but both the vet and my mom reiterated how bad of an idea that is because I could cause Cleo to get an infection. So I’ll play by the rules and dispose of the needles properly. It would be an awful shame if in trying to help her with one illness, I gave her another because I was trying to be frugal.

So far I haven’t seen a whole lot of change in her activity level. Interestingly, she’s taken to sitting on the bay window, which was what I’d hoped the cats would start doing when I replaced the regular window in the living room. No, I did not put a bay window in just for the cats… But I admit that it gave me pleasure to imagine my kitties sitting in the window, looking that squirrels and birds in the tree just outside. Like a reverse fish bowl–the “fish” looking out at the curious world. Except, even after I stuck a cat cushion on the window sill (color coordinated with the room, by the way), neither of the cats seemed all that interested in going up there. Until now. I hope it’s a good sign. The fact that she can even get up there is nearly an amazing feat in itself.

Now over the whole hurdle of anticipated difficulty with the insulin shot, I have to focus my energies on training friends to give Cleo the shot while I’m out-of-town… It’s really not hard. Admittedly, I’m a little apprehensive about leaving her in other people’s hands. Like a mother unwilling to leave her sick kid to a nurse’s care. No one else can take care of my baby like I can… No one loves her like I do.


Cleo, Christmas 2007

My cat Cleo was diagnosed with diabetes.

The vet called Monday to let me know the results of some tests I had run on her last Saturday. I’d noticed a sudden increase in urine in the litter box (fortunately, it was all in the litter box) and I immediately became suspicious. I had a hunch right off the bat that it was Cleo–being severely overweight, she was the most likely candidate. And people had been warning me for years that I had to find some way to keep her weight down because she could get diabetes. I listened, but didn’t alter my cat parenting. It was a lot easier for me to free feed the cats because when I go on my little weekend trips, I don’t need to worry about having anyone come in to watch them. I didn’t have to worry about rushing home to feed them regularly. I could have my pets and my lifestyle too.

Making a cat lose weight is hard. The best bet I had was perhaps not letting them free feed, taking the food away as soon as they were done nibbling, and bringing it back later in the day. But, again, that required me to actually think about something other than myself. So. I view it as a fault of my parenting that Cleo got diabetes. Yes, she has the propensity to be overweight; she’s been overweight since the moment I selected her at the Humane Society of Akron. Her little tubby body with too-short legs are what endeared her to me, in fact. That and her general sassy personality.

At the Humane Society, Cleo was housed in the room where cats who got along with other cats were kept. Cats in this area are kept in open cages where, if they are not “roomed” with another cat, they could see other cats in other cages. There’s a separate room in the Humane Society for cats who don’t generally get along with other cats and those cages fill a wall and each cage can only fit one cat. They can’t see each other within their cages.

When my husband and I went looking for our new cat–we called her the child we would have together, as opposed to my “step-children” Nicki and Tanya who Mike had since before he met me–we purposely sought cats who were easy-going and could get along with other cats since we would be bringing a new cat into a two-cat home. So we were in the room where the social cats were housed and we were looking at all the friendly little kitties who were rolling about and mewing in their cages. And Cleo was sitting alone in a cage, looking up at me with her wise old eyes. I put my hand to the cage and she nudged it with her head and began to purr loudly. I thought she was adorable; with her white whiskers and the white spot on her chin, she looked like she had a fu manchu.

I turned from her cage to look at some other cats–I was browsing, I’d just got there–and I heard this bold, flippant, “Ew!” from Cleo’s cage. It was as if she said, “Fine! I don’t need your attention, you stupid human!” I turned around and she had tossed herself, somehow, into the makeshift hammock that was strewn across her cage. She was laying like a person would–on her back, paws in the air. I fell in love with her at that moment. She was taking no shit from anyone. If I wasn’t adopting her, she was showing me that she was just fine without me.

We didn’t get her right away. We were trying to look around at all the shelters to make sure we found the perfect new daughter to adopt. But when I left the Humane Society that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cleo’s cute little face, her sassy demeanor, and her tubby, stout little body. Plus, she was black and white; she fit into the color scheme of my currently existing cats (Tanya being fully black, sleek like a panther; Nicki, a black and white “tux” cat.)

Tubby and stout,  Cleo is a solid mass. Mike and I liked to call her “big-boned.” I often thought that if Cleo were human, she’d look like Miss Cleo, the so-called psychic who used to advertise on television late at night. Right down to the Jamaican accent. But I think my Cleo is a lot wiser. Like a Buddha.

A pissed off Cleo, post-bath

Mike and I used to jokingly refer to her as a “gaseous anomaly” (borrowed from some episode of Star Trek) because she used to lay down some nasty gas. Okay, she still does that sometimes. I guess we had all sorts of funny inside jokes about Cleo. She was always a constant source of entertainment for us. When Nicki and Tanya would hiss and try to fight with her, Cleo would fight back with the calm persistence of someone who was above it all. She did what she had to do to get respect.

I named her Cleo (though Mike wanted me to name her “Aurora” because I always wanted to name a real kid that and he hated the name). But we called her “Boogie.” I don’t know why, but it’s permanently her second name. She will respond to either Cleo or Boogie. Some of my friends have little nicknames for her, too, such as “Pillow Kitty” (Gwenn) and “Rolly-Poley Kitty” (my cousin’s husband Peter).

Since I first noticed she might be having health issues, I’ve paid closer attention to her and I realize that she’s not 100% herself. A cat is lazy, but her level of activity has dropped considerably. She spends a lot of time laying in front of the water dish, perhaps for easier access to quench her frequent thirst. She hasn’t been managing care of her fur–there’s more mats than usual in her hair. She’s lying around in general a lot more. And I notice every time she starts down the steps to the litter boxes.

I take her in to the vet again on Saturday to learn how to give her insulin shots. She’s going to get all new food and I’m panicking about how I’m going to keep Nicki from getting it at it. The last time I tried to feed Cleo a special prescribed diet food, I ended up having to give it to Nicki too because Nicki would only want the food that wasn’t in her own dish if she figured out it was different. That’s why I stopped feeding Cleo the vet-prescribed diet food that could have, perhaps, prevented her diabetes. It was too expensive to feed both cats on it. I’m sure the special food for diabetes cats is the same sort of expense. And I’m sure that Nicki is going to want to eat it because it’s different.

How'd she fit in there?!

My lifestyle is altered. I’m trying to think of it as the same thing as having a dog except that I still don’t have to run home to let the cats out before they use the floor as a bathroom (as is the case with most dogs). So now I’ve got to find a “baby-sitter” who has no problem coming to my house twice a day to feed the cats and administer shots to Cleo. I’ve already got dates coming up: TOSRV, the MS 150, the mid-week trip to Michigan for the U2 concert, and my trip to Seattle for a week and a half in July. I’ve been fretting for the last couple days about what I’m going to do about all these events. And I’m bumming because I wanted to sign up for Roscoe Ramble in August. Because I hate to impose on my friends, I imagine I’ll be paying a lot of pet-sitting fees. Which might ultimately cause me to cut back on the number of weekend trips I go on.

I guess I’ll work it out. I see no other choice right now because I can’t let my cat suffer. I don’t want to give her away to someone else because she’s become inconvenient to my single life. That’s so shallow and mean. The vet says that after some treatment, cats occasionally will clear themselves of the diabetes symptoms and go back to normal. But she warned me not to expect that. The symptoms came on so suddenly–within the last couple of weeks–so I’m hoping her case of diabetes really isn’t that serious. I’m praying for some recompense for my bad parenting. Maybe I still have time to undo the damage I’ve done.

Admittedly, a part of me would not forgive myself if I bailed on Mike and my “love child.” The only conversations Mike and I ever had about death was about who would take custody of our cats if we both tragically died. That’s how much we were attached to our pets. In fact, I’ve told myself many-a-night that it’s a good thing I came into Mike’s life because I dread to think what would have happened to Nicki and Tanya had Mike left them orphaned. And who knows what would have happened to Cleo if we had never rescued her from the Humane Society. It is a no-kill facility. Cleo had already been there 9 months; maybe she would have been there for life. That’s no life for a cat.

Everyone in my family is a sucker for animals. My parents have kept their dogs well beyond senility. My brother and his wife have two cats. It seems none of us can be without a pet. As much as I begrudge my situation now, and as many times I swear that I will not have any more cats after these ones, I know that it’s not true. I would feel incredibly lonely without the company of a pet. At times when I was going through the worse moments of grief, my cats were always there, demanding attention, purring on my lap, and letting me know that I wasn’t alone. Their simple love cheered me on lonely nights. Petting them soothed me when I cried. Pets are often used to help sick people in hospitals and I understand why. They coax the nurturing nature out of us, even when we think we are totally devoid of a nurturing nature.

A relationship with a pet is give and take. I suppose now it’s my turn to give.

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Cat haiku

I just got back from taking my cat, Cleo, to the vet. It’s always a joyful experience as she poops and pees in the crate. Every time. I mean. EVERY TIME. So it’s an all night ordeal. First, the shame and embarrassment of sitting in the vet waiting room as people move away from you because the smell emanating from your crate is obnoxious. People come by to admiring neighboring kitties, but everyone leaves you alone because of the STINK. I’ve got the shameful, embarrassing retarded kid in the doctor’s waiting room–the one everyone gives you a pitying eye as they watch. Gacks. I feel like I’m dying of shame. I know this is why I could never have kids. My real life kid would probably be the reject who doesn’t learn to potty train at 13 years old either. My luck.

Second comes the ordeal of giving my cat a bath when I return home. Now, granted, she’s usually pretty good about baths. Yeah, she whines like a drama queen in the bathtub as I cup water over her body. But she submits to her fate; she does not move even if I’m not touching her. And the sad thing is, I don’t feel an ounce of sorrow for her. I take out my aggression of having to deal with her excretions and the shame associated with it on the cleaning. “Hey,” I think off-handedly, “you’re the one who put yourself in this predicament. If you didn’t poop and pee in the carrier, I wouldn’t have to give you a bath.”

Of course, really, I feel horrible by the time I’m brushing her off with a towel because I know she’s just scared and she doesn’t understand. I let open the bathroom door and she’s off to go lick her wet hair–lick her wounds–on her own. She’ll forgive me eventually, she always does. I wish she could understand that I don’t take her to the vet to bring her pain.

Her eye has been irritated all week. I’m told she has allergies (I hope not to me). The doctor gave me a triple antibiotic and I know the routine because she’s had to have this done before. More torture to inflict on my child–twice a day–as I squirt goopey crap into her eyes. Thankfully, she always forgives me. She probably just thinks Momma goes insane twice a day and tries to hurt her. Gack. I’m not cut out for this mothering stuff. I hate cleaning poop and pee.

The doctor–a nice looking young man, by the way–also put Cleo on a little diet. She’s 18 lbs. So now I have to feed her some prescription cat food twice a day–just two-thirds of a cup each time. This will be a chore because Nicki will want to go at it. I’m going to have to watch both of them eat. More fun, more fun. I hope Cleo loses weight, though. She’s far too fat. I’m also a bad mom for letting her balloon like this. Further proof that I can’t have kids–I just am not responsible enough to even take care of a cat! I suck in the realm of parenting. I hate that I have to give her diet food. I probably should play with her more. I’m always so busy, away from the house. Ugh. I shouldn’t own animals.

But I love the little varmits. Dammit. They own my heart.

In the spirit of love for my cats, I wrote these two haiku poems for them today. These little varmits and all I put up with in raising them, I guess I can spare 17 syllables of my time. So here they are:

Nicki: waving cat
Always under foot, begging
Lil’ attention whore.

(And I mean that in a loving way!!)

Nicki, post-wave.

Cleo: the wise cat
Waddles on four stubby legs
Raspy voice squeaks, “Ew!”

(And it’s a wise “ew!”)

A wet, simpering Boogey (Cleo)

A feel good animal story

Take a break from arguing the ethical issues of the doctor who implanted that weirdo lady with six embryos that resulted in eight births, or the Michael Phelps “bong” picture/pot use debate, and tune to the feel good story about Sam the koala bear rescued from a devastating forest fire in Australia.

I’ve been following this story for the last two days as a break from the usual crap and because, quite frankly, I am such a damned softy when it comes to animals. In fact, I think in most cases I probably love animals more than I love people. In movies, I will always be brought to tears when an animal is killed while I tend not to bat an eye while the main character suffers from cancer. Well, that’s not entirely true. I used to react stoically to the death of people in films; since my husband died, I completely turn into a teary mess when even a character dies who has only been in the film for five minutes and to whom the audience has developed no emotional attachment. Every week, I cry like an baby at the last five minutes of Ghost Whisperer even when the plot of the episode was hopelessly ridiculous dribble.

But animals. I get so emotional about animals dying that I have started to refuse to watch films that involve them dying. If I’m watching a horror film and an animal character is introduced, I see its fate, and I am screaming, “Please don’t kill the dog!” before even the first human head rolls. There’s just something really horrible about having to witness animal deaths in film, the same kind of way, I suppose, you would feel if a baby or young child was killed (the first five minutes of Pet Cemetery, where the child Gage is hit by a semi, are unwatchable to me). Some examples of such animal deaths I can’t watch are:

  • all of Old Yeller – saw it once, but never again.
  • the bunny boiling n the pot in Fatal Attraction.
  • the decapitated dog scene from Fear.
  • the “beat the dog” scene in Amityville Horror.
  • this nameless movie I once saw that takes place in a women’s prison where the fat warden lady steps on a kitten the prisoners secretly adopted.

And I’m sure countless others that don’t come to mind at this moment because psychological shock has blocked them from my memory.

I haven’t seen Marley and Me, but I’m educated enough to see where the plot of that film is going (and people have hinted enough) so there ain’t no way I’m going to voluntarily put myself through that. I learned my lesson from Old Yeller. I just get hit in left field every once in awhile when I’m watching a movie. And it’s the dying animal scenes that I remember the most. I think it has to do with the fact that you perceive the animal as innocent–separate from the comings and goings and doings of its owners–and, therefore, the animal is more undeserving of its fate than the characters in the movie.

Once I was driving back to my apartment in Colorado–the first place in which I lived out there–and as I came up to the driveway to the complex, I noticed two cars stopped with people bent over the street. As I got closer, I realized the people where trying to help a dog that had been hit by a car. It was a yellow lab. I turned into my apartment complex, sick to my stomach, and I started to bawl–I mean, really, really let it out. For days, I couldn’t get the image of the dog lifting its head over a limp body whenever I came to that spot in the road. I didn’t even go over the help because I didn’t want to know if the outcome was going to be fatal.

So when I see uplifting stories about little koala bears being rescued out of a forest fire and treated, my heart just glows! They say koala bears are generally mean, not the cuddly little critter we see here in this video, so you really have to recognize how seriously injured this little girl was to allow so much human contact and petting. Anyway, my capacity to love an animal is not limited to its interest in me as a person. I think tigers and lions are magnificent creatures even though I know I could never cuddle up with one. I’d sure hate to see one dying out on a grassland somewhere.

The koala, which they named Sam thinking probably that she was a “he,” seems to be doing fine now according to the followup article I read yesterday. She has even found a boyfriend–a rescued male koala named Bob. See, sometimes good things happen in the wake of tragedy!

Of course, I think the articles mentioned that about 180 people died as a result of this forest fire. Once again, I’m more concerned about the little critters they’ve saved. I’m hopeless.

Lazy Sunday

Laundry day. I took the blanket off my bed to wash it. Cleo (aka Boogey) has been sitting on it since I returned from church. I’ve done all the other laundry in the color piles I made on my floor and now all that is left is the blanket. But I still can’t bring myself to remove her from it to wash it… She looks too happy there…

Animal’s Christmas

Once again, I introduce my furry brothers and children as they experience Christmas Day.

Brother Kerbe attends the present-opening festivities. Poor guy walks with much discomfort these days. It’s painful to watch, but his tail is still a’wagin’ so we know he’s happy to be with us.

Brother Foster is tired out!! He had a long day because he rode with me all the way back to Stow in the afternoon, and then back to my parents’ house, because I’d left the Christmas gifts at home.

My cat children, Nicki and Cleo, enjoy a feast of “turkey and cheese” wet food when I finally return home for good for the evening.

Cat hair everywhere

On a less depressing note, I spent the last several hours trying to exterminate the tumbleweed of cat hair rolling around my house. It’s a futile effort. There’s cat hair literally everywhere. The next animal I get is going to be hairless. Or no more animals. Egads, what a mess. I’m sure this is the source of my foul mood. That and tiredness.

To my former coworker (you know who you are), I concede: I am a cat lady. The sheer volume of cat hair in my house proves it. Ain’t no amount of Scotch tape, vacuum cleaning, and sweeping is going to extricate this mess from my house. It is utterly hopeless.

My dining room chairs have a nice fur finish.

I hope I can get this cleaned up by my big bash at the end of September… I swear, I do not live here!

Why won’t these damn cats sweep after themselves??