The art of saying goodbye…

silly OreoHis mother was a barn cat, brought to our building to have her kittens. Then he and his littermates were placed in a cardboard box labeled “Free Kittens” and brought downstairs to the lobby. I knew nothing about this until after the fact, it was my neighbour and former friend who informed me that she’d got the last kitten, one who looked just like Angel except he had a black nose.

The former friend picked him up on a whim and, three months later, gave him to us because she no longer wanted three cats. Of course she blamed her father at the time but I watched her abandon four more pets in a couple more years and, well, she can’t blame him for everything. And, yes, that’s why we’re no longer friends.

But I digress. Oreo became ours then, still a kitten but an older kitten. We quickly realized he’s a complete and utter clown who routinely sleeps on his back with all four paws in the air. He’s also known for his tongue bleps, those times when a cat’s tongue sticks out and stays out. He’ll even fall asleep on his back with a tongue blep so his tongue is falling towards his nose.

When Oreo was a young cat he was an excellent mouser, something I likely would never have known if our neighbour wasn’t as bad at containing his live snake food as Oreo was good at catching it. We lived on the third floor of a highrise so they weren’t just wandering in on their own. These days though, he’s nearly fourteen. I have the feeling that if a mouse ran past, he’d look at it and go back to sleep if he a) even woke up or b) could see it. He’s passed that task on to Smudge and Lara, who will likely never see a mouse in their lives.

Oreo has always been the “good child”. Good natured, even tempered, friendly with everyone. Angel hisses at the other cats when they get too close, Blackie needs careful monitoring and CBD oil because she’ll wet in corners, Lara grabs your hand when she wants to get petted… and often forgets to retract her claws, and Smudge likes hiding and jumping on Angel to get a reaction. Oreo does none of that. He just sleeps cute, licks compulsively when his back is scratched, and purrs like a motor when it’s feeding time. Oreo loves his food. So, unfortunately, Oreo gets a bit overlooked. It’s easier to see the others when they’re Right In My Face. Which is why the last time he saw a vet was when he got neutered at 6 months old. He turns fourteen on September 15th.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about the Iams Checkup Challenge. It was open to Canadian residents until July 31, 2021. You went out and bought $40+ of Iams food in one go before taxes (they had a list of qualifying products) and kept the receipt. Then you took your pet to the vet for a checkup and kept that receipt too. Finally you went onto their website and uploaded a picture of both receipts. They reimbursed you up to $150 before taxes. Finally! This was Oreo’s chance to see the vet… and the first time out of the apartment (other than moving) in thirteen years.

He 110% did not like leaving the apartment and started yowling before we even reached the elevators. We live beside the elevators. Luckily for both of us, the vet office is directly across the street. Due to covid I couldn’t go inside. Instead I called into the office and then the vet called me back so I could voice any concerns and then they brought Oreo in.

I mentioned the lump on his side but also that it had been there for several years and never changed shape. Then I decided I might as well tell her about the other lump too, the one I figured was probably a pimple of some sort or maybe a small boil. The location bugged me, a nipple seemed like an odd spot for a pimple to form.

They scooped up Oreo and went inside, leaving me on the sidewalk without even a chair. At least it wasn’t raining (there was a 90% of rain). And then the phone rang. That lump on his nipple… it wasn’t any sort of pimple. It was a tumour with a 90% to 95% chance of being aggressively malignant. There’s no such thing as easily treatable or relatively easily treatable breast cancer. All the nipples on that side are connected so the vet can’t simply remove the lump, she’d have to remove that whole side. And, since it’s highly aggressive, there’s a good chance it’s already in his lungs and/or lymph nodes so he’d need a chest x-ray first. No point in doing hugely invasive surgery if his lungs are riddled with tumours.

She’s talking and all I could think was “what’s the cost?”. And I don’t just mean financially, although that is a definite concern. What is the cost to Oreo? We adopted Oreo in 2008 and he didn’t leave the apartment again (other than getting neutered) until 2012 and that was to go into a carrier, into a car, and then out of the carrier into the new apartment. And then again in 2020 with the same routine. He doesn’t know the outside world. He doesn’t like the outside world. Blackie and the twins will sometimes venture into the hallway outside our apartment. Oreo and Angel don’t even try. Oreo would be miserable with multiple vet visits and terrified by staying at the hospital… especially in pain and attached to things. And it’s not permanent, he’s got a 50% of it coming back in a year even with the treatment.

He’s not a kitten, he’s an old cat. Her next news was that his gums are bad and he’s lost most of his teeth. Her final news was that he has cataracts but still seems to be able to see. I’ll keep the furniture where it is, just in case. I have a mini trampoline (a rebounder if you’re fancy) at the foot of my bed and my senior kittens use it as a step up. Blackie uses it just fine. Angel uses it during the day but she’s sore by bedtime and needs to be lifted up from the trampoline. Oreo? He doesn’t even make it into my room. He just cries from wherever he is then I lift him and carry him to the bed. No point in leaving his poor bones on a hard floor. Maybe if he was as young as the twins and bounding around the apartment I’d have a harder decision but he’s not. I’m not going to fight, and pay a fortune, to have him “cured” so he can get carried from the kitchen into the bedroom because his joints hurt to much to walk. The phrase “pick your battles” comes to mind. Sometimes you just have to walk away, even if it hurts.

To be truthful, I want him to continue on being Oreo forever. Bumbling through life forever cheerful, being a total goofball but being real… genuine. It’s not often that pure goodness comes into your life. It has for me and I don’t want it to go. But that’s the art of saying goodbye. Everything comes to an end. There’d be no room for beginnings if nothing ever ended.

And so I watch Oreo, sprawled across the cat mat under the table. His eyes are bright as he waits in anticipation for a head scratch and a scratch under the chin. Later, before I go to bed, he’ll sit beside the stove and yowl until the other cats join him and I relent and sprinkle cat treats on the floor. And, at some point when my room is dark, I’ll climb out from under the covers to carry Oreo to bed. His life will have happiness, peace, and routine until it’s time to say goodbye and may I have the art to know when that time is.

A cat and mouse tale…

If you want to know what kind of day I’m having, I can tell you. It’s a “which cat pooped in the food bowl?” kind of day. Although to be fair I think it was more of an Olympic kitty litter kick kind of incident and not an actual squat over the dish. The end result is the same though.

It pales in comparison to my experiences exactly two weeks ago.

Angel sleeping on my bed filteredFirst I saw my grandson on Saturday and shortly after got a gazillion scrapbooking kits (where a gazillion equals six). The next day was Valentine’s Day my cat Angel’s 15th birthday which is obviously very important and required plenty of attention, yummy food, and her favourite stuffed catnip carrot. I didn’t get much done on the computer that day. And finally Monday rolled around and I decided to devote the day to scrapbooking. The kits were already downloaded and sorted into the right folders and albums (I’m just a little organized) and all I needed to do was save my pictures from Google to My Photos then I was good to go.

Except the mouse. just. stopped. Right there in the middle of the screen.

Okay, that was irritating. Obviously the battery must have died, the downside of having a wireless mouse. So I got a freshly charged battery and nothing. Tried Ctrl-Alt-Del and tabbed my way to the shut down menu then the computer restarted with a frozen mouse. Moved the dongle to several different ports and… nothing. I even pulled the second mouse out of the closet (it was a set of two) and that one didn’t work either. At this point I was getting worried and so I called Colin.

His first suggestion was to try remote desktop which, luckily he’d already installed on my computer so I had no problems added it to my phone. I must say that trying to repair a computer by controlling the cursor via a tiny phone screen and one finger ranks just above getting a root canal.

*thinks for a moment*

Marginally

I tried for hours, both with and without Colin, before giving up. I uninstalled that damn mouse so many times!!! Colin wished that I could try with a wired mouse but I didn’t have one and didn’t have any money to go buy one so that was out. His only solution was for me to buy an SSD drive and then he’d coach me, via video chat, on how to transfer all my files over and then format my hard drive. You can imagine my enthusiasm.

Then I remembered my friend has an older computer and, sure enough she had a wired mouse and it worked!!! So we traded mice because my mouse worked just fine on her laptop. And, because of anxiety, it took me two days before I attempted to finish downloading those pictures and over a week before I could bring myself to complete this post. But there hasn’t been a single hint of trouble from the computer since we traded mice and I (thankfully) haven’t needed to buy a new drive of any sort.

And I still don’t know who the Olympic poop flinger is although, if I had to play money, I’d place my bet on Smudge. Then, a couple of days before the flinging incident, I had to give Blackie Boo a bath. She thought I was trying my hardest to drown her which made bath time very enthusiastic with lots of extra bath toys in the water like the pot scrubbie and the dish soap and very nearly a small vase of artificial flowers. Poor kitty. I picked her up to put her on my bed and she started flailing like it was bath time round two. She seems over it now, hopefully, or well maybe I should keep checking my slippers before I wear them for just a little longer. Just in case.

Above: Angel on her birthday
Below: Angel’s birthday layout (because that’s not extra at all). It’s the first layout I made after the computer started working again.
 
Angel's 15th birthday

One more day until Christmas…

I’m in a nostalgic mood today. Something’s off with Blackie. I don’t know what. She’s eating, drinking, and using the litter box. It’s something I can’t put my finger on. She turns 13 years old tomorrow so she’s definitely a senior kitten. And then there’s Angel, my most senior kitten who turns 14 years old in February. She growls at the other cats and has arthritis in her hips. But pain medication doesn’t work on cats, or so my vet told me. She’s happy as could be once she’s snuggled up someplace soft but her back legs are noticeably weaker.

So when I went to look for a song this morning, I decided to pick one that I loved decades ago when I was pregnant with Kait. Back then my favourite CDs were Solitudes. I loved how he wove nature sounds into his music. I didn’t have any problems finding Solitudes music on YouTube. My problem was finding a single song. So I present to you the entire CD of Christmas Wonder. Listen to as much or as little as you want… and enjoy!

The Operation…

Yesterday found Colin and I up and getting ready at 7:15am. The cat carrier was ready to Colin’s liking, absolutely stuffed full of blankets so Blackie wouldn’t get cold (she’d overheated by the time she got to the vet). Then he looked at me and said, “Mom, don’t forget your bag!”

My bag? Oh my purse! I’ve never forgot my purse before and reminded him of that. Then we bundled up, stuck Blackie in her nest, and slogged out through the snow. We’d been standing at the bus stop for several minutes before I went to reach into my purse for a Kleenex and my purse wasn’t there. I’d left it at home. At that point the bus was due in one minute so there was no time to run home and grab it. I was pretty sure I could get on the bus, not so sure I could take the bus home. Colin was grudgingly willing to walk home with me but so grudgingly I knew I’d get attitude and snark the whole way back. So I walked home by myself instead, leaving Blackie and him at the bus stop.

I’d barely got home when my phone was ringing. It was the vet. Of course Colin had no idea when Blackie last drank or ate. That got sorted out and we were told to expect a call to pick her up around 4pm.

I’m in the middle of switching meds and am quite depressed at the moment so the afternoon was full of worst case scenarios. I was so relieved when I got the call at 3pm to say Blackie was awake and ready. When we got there, the vet assistant put her immediately into the carrier before giving us her instructions. Apparently her teeth were worse than they thought and she had several more removed than expected. It sure hasn’t stopped her energy though. She literally dove through the air when she saw me, she was so excited.

She’s on three different medications now. She does not take medication well by syringe. She writhes and squirms and contorts herself until she’s wriggled free. But she’s a hungry kitty and is willing to eat all her medication laced food (before wandering around the plate and eating Angel’s normal food).

I am so glad she’s still here and absolutely grateful for the vet and the Farley Foundation. My vet bill would have been $1060. I don’t have that money at all. As it is, I might have to pay $60. I can manage that.

I am so looking forward to moving into my new apartment with Blackie leading the way for the other kitties; she truly is the queen of our household. I’m looking forward to her nose licks and her imperious walks to get more wet cat food. You’re only twelve Blackie, I don’t want to lose you this soon.

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Turn around bright eyes…

I gently stroked my hands down Blackie’s back, paying close attention to the prominence of her spine and how her hips sunk in. And I thought to myself, “Oh no, not again.”

Last year my clue had been how awkwardly she curled up to rest. I hadn’t noticed the weight loss until then. Black fluffy fur hides a multitude of sins and she prefers head scratches, not over all pets. This year was different. I knew the vet couldn’t offer much other than an appetite enhancing injection and a can of food Blackie hates. Plus I was still feeding the cats wet food that she liked.

I immediately separated a portion of each can for Blackie, microwaving it for 15 seconds so she could smell it better, adding a tiny bit of water so she could lap up more, and serving it in a different room. At the beginning she needed to be coaxed to eat. I had to carry her bowl and her to my room, often after searching out her hiding place. Then I’d have to follow her around the room with the bowl until she finally got tired of running and started to eat. Every time she startled she’d bolt from the bowl and needed to be coaxed back. And she startled at the smallest things, a slight foot movement could send her running.

She’s still skinny but she’s moved up to eating half a can now and is hurrying to the room to be fed. She’s also eating her whole meal, something she wasn’t doing even a few days ago. I’m so glad she’s turned around. She’s 12 years old but she’s still feisty and I’d like her to be here for years to come!

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The cutest excuses for an unmade bed ever!