The Shadow

It has been 10 days since my last confession. A lot has happened in those 10 days.

But let’s back up for a minute. I very briefly hinted at a new addition to our family in a post about a month ago. It’s a bit of an involved story.

Veruca and I had seen a little black cat up for adoption at our local pet store. Its name was Raven. She was adorable. The information card on her cage explained that her one eye “gets goopy” sometimes, but it “doesn’t affect her health.” I wondered about it as we left the store and V was begging me to put in an application. I had reservations about it, especially about the eye. Long story short – eventually we did.

The day I picked her up, the staff there wasn’t expecting me. They had to call someone to verify, and then they rifled through a file for her paperwork. When I saw it I told them it wasn’t the right one, although it fit her description, because this paper was for a male cat. He IS a male, they said. I was sure he was a she, because everyone including the guy who handles the adoptions referred to her that way. A few minutes and a short physical examination later, we confirmed that he was, in fact, a he.

So he came home. The kids were ecstatic. Oliver, not so much. At barely seven pounds, he moved through the house like a ninja. One minute he was there, and the next – gone. So we named him Shadow. He was not fond of being held – like a toddler who has just learned to walk. Opac was the first to draw him in. He laid on the floor until Shadow came up to him and allowed himself to be loved on.

His eye would occasionally get “watery” and he’d blink a lot. The adoption guy told me that it was “congenital” and that as long as it didn’t become pus-y or mucus-y, that he was fine. I made an appointment with our vet to follow up after he seemed to develop something resembling a cold.

She put him on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, ointment for his eye for conjunctivitis, and drops for his ears because he had ear mites. And he was not a good patient. He defined fighting “tooth and nail.” We double-teamed him on the antibiotic – one of us wrapping him tightly in a towel and the other squirting the dropper down his throat, all in less than 20 seconds.

But Shadow kept getting worse. He breathed loudly, like he was congested, and he snored when he slept. He sounded terrible when he ate, like he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Worried, I called the vet. We took him the next day and she took a closer look. His blood studies from the first visit were normal. His x-ray showed clear lungs. She suspected a polyp in his nasal passage, but she was reluctant to let it go and sent us to the emergency hospital a half hour away.

Animal ERs are just as busy and the wait just as long as human ERs. Veruca and I arrived about 8 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Shadow was examined and x-rayed in more detail under a sedative, and placed in an oxygen tank to allow him to breathe better. The vet on duty told me the estimated costs associated with removing the suspected polyp – around $2600 – and I damn near fainted. Money I don’t have and can’t afford. The alternative was euthanasia, and I started to cry. V didn’t know what that was and after I explained it to her, she started to cry. I opted, come hell or high water, I was not putting this cat down. I would find a way to pay for it. They started the procedure and she couldn’t find the “stem” of the polyp, she said, and he would need to have surgery the next day with an internist.

We requested to see him before we left. He was lying on his side in the oxygen cage, still sedated, his one little paw taped up with an IV attached, and a soft blanket over him. He looked every bit the baby who stole our hearts just weeks ago. I reached out and stroked his soft head and back, trying to hold back the tears that had already washed my mascara away hours before. V pet him too, and together we walked out to the car, feeling relieved that he’d be fixed in the morning and would be able to come home later. It was the last time we saw him.

 

 

My Other Kids

The dog and cat are standing in the kitchen staring at me as I cook. They do this now. They stand side by side waiting for me, depending on where I am and the time of day. On weekends it’s by my side of the bed. Or outside the bathroom door. My kids are grown enough, so now I have pets who follow me to the bathroom and make messes with their food or refuse to eat it at all, and beg for treats 24/7.

Sabra will ask to go outside and will literally turn back to the door, waiting to be let back in and when you do, she has the audacity to wait for a treat. And when she gets one – because, spoiled – the cat comes over and waits for one too. I kid you not.

Oliver is very vocal about breakfast. He wants it NOW. The minute my feet hit the floor at 6 a.m. he’s standing there in the doorway like the ghost of breakfast past. He runs just an inch in front of my feet, so that I step on him in my early morning before-coffee clumsiness, and so I feel guilty for stepping on him. He will meow at me loudly until I feed him, no matter that I am holding the Fancy Feast in my hand with a fork already, and then when I crouch down to put it in the bowl he comes up under me and blocks my view. And meows. Loudly.

But that’s not all. He not only gets a small serving of canned food, he also gets a small serving of dry food too. And he will walk over to the pantry door where it is stored and sit down, alternately staring at the door and looking over his shoulder at me. I get it. He’s hungry.

Sabra will stand in the hall around the corner trying to be inconspicuous. She stands just behind the wall, so that she appears to be spying on me. Other times she’s more obvious, like just inside the kitchen, or by her bed in the living room, or looking out from under the dining room table. She just stands there, and stares at me.

It’s kinda creepy, actually. I can feel their eyes on me. Always watching. Sometimes Oliver follows me to the rec room, like a prison guard assuring that I won’t escape these walls unnoticed. He rarely openly monitors the litter box maintenance, but I know for a fact that he’s watching from somewhere because I no sooner leave the vicinity and he’s in that box, adding his own special brand of air freshener to the atmosphere.

It’s almost funny how much more demanding he is, than the dog, and yet – is the epitome of feline. Demanding, selfish, indifferent, seasoned with an occasional cuddle on the couch… on HIS terms, of course.

Now that the fire place is officially working, he maintains a circle of space in front of it. It’s not on right now, and he just stood on the edge of the hearth and pawed at the screen. Because, yes – the fire is for him.

We are contemplating a new addition to the household, but timing is everything and I keep having second thoughts; however, Todd and I made a deal whereby I get what I want, when he gets what he wants. So far, the score is Todd: 1, Tara: 0.

Stay tuned.

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Hello?! Over here!

 

Diabetes, and Emails, and Mice

I’m working though my emails this morning and there was one from Kohl’s. It’s their “best Black Friday deals early” email. Um, WHAT? We barely have one foot in the door of November. My God, I haven’t even begun to think about Thanksgiving.

There were also several “store” emails taunting with coupons to save money by spending money, daily recipes I will never cook, endless Pinterest pins I have to see, and a new bill from waste industries. Which I find ironic seeing as this week they didn’t even have to leave the comfort of their truck because Opac forgot to take the trash cans out. Oh, and another email with 5 Trending Ideas for the Living Room and Where to Hide the Litter Box in the subject line. This sounds like one I can’t afford to miss. Hopefully the trend in Living Rooms is not where we hide the litter box.

Speaking of litter boxes, I was watching American Horror Story last night, alone, when I suddenly became aware of some shuffling noises coming from my kitchen. Both kids were already in bed. Then the dog stood up and stared into the kitchen. A moment later, Oliver came barreling into the living room chasing a small gray thing that appeared to be fast-limping in circles until it found the entertainment center and scuttled under it.

Long story short, we live in the country and the nights are growing colder. This is the second night this week that Oliver has had a live toy to play with. The first night, he and his furry buddy woke Veruca – and then me – at 4 o’clock in the morning. She and I followed them in horrified amusement until the mouse disappeared into one of our guest rooms in the rec room. I figured it’d take a miracle for them to end up back in Veruca’s room, so we went back to bed. By morning, Oliver was playing with the body just inside the front door.

Last night Todd came home from working late and found me sitting on top of the back of the couch, simultaneously watching AHS and the cat, and said – what are you doing? I stood up and walked across the couch to greet him, and pointed at the cat. Fifteen minutes later Oliver chased this thing down the stairs, I opened the front door, and Todd swooshed it outside with a dustpan. It is an unnerving and slightly hilarious thing to watch your cat capture a mouse in his mouth and then let it go several times, and not know which way the mouse is going to run or if it’s going to end up in your bed before morning.

So, back to that first night… where I was up at midnight and 3 a.m. for blood sugar checks. Veruca went to bed high (high blood sugar, not drug-induced high) and after an insulin pump site change, at 9:30. She continued to run high all night – 452 and 343 respectively – probably due to the pizza and birthday cake we’d had earlier for Opac’s birthday celebration.

My alarm was set for 3 and I got up to find her stable again at 162. Less than an hour later I was awakened to shuffling noises and then a soft knocking at my door – Veruca standing wide-eyed in the hallway – and for a brief moment I panicked, thinking she might’ve gone very low after correcting those high numbers.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I commit myself every year to advocacy and awareness for Type 1 diabetes – the chronic illness my daughter has lived with for 9 and half years.

The JDRF has a new “thing” on their site where one can calculate their diabetes footprint. My daughter was diagnosed in June of 2007 at the age of 2. She began with a terrible, old-school regimen of insulin shots that turned her blood sugars into a ride so wild they made the Kingda Ka look like It’s A Small World.

Her calculated diabetes footprint looks like this:

3,425 Days living with T1 Diabetes

1,952 Hours of sleep lost (this is waaaaay off base)

20,550 Finger Pricks (also way off base)

964 Insulin Pump site changes (off base)

There were far too many nights I had maybe 3 hours of sleep total, after constant monitoring and vigilance. Night time is the scariest time for T1s – when many can suffer low blood sugars that can go unchecked if they don’t wake up to test. Low blood sugars, if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness, and even death.

We used to test her every two hours. Every. Two. Hours. Every day. That’s a minimum of 12 finger sticks per day. Based on that, and given that we’ve backed off of so frequent checking – her total number of finger pricks to date is more like 30,000.

She’s had T1 for 9 years and 5 months. She’s worn an insulin pump for just over 8 years. The site gets changed every two days. Except when there’s a “bad” site, or we have two consecutive blood sugars over 240. Then it gets changed again. There were many, many times it was changed nearly every day, and on a rare occasion, more than once in a day. Therefore, I’d recalculate the above number to more like 1500.

Nine years in, and we know when it’s a site issue, or just some other anomaly. We know that highs happen, and that lows happen, and that that’s just how diabetes rolls.

I know that to outsiders we make it look easy. We don’t piss and whine about how horrible Type 1 diabetes is. After 9 years, it is our way of life… and it is all my daughter knows. But there is so much more to this disease. So much more, and it’s scary and unfair and there are children dying from it. Just one child dying from undiagnosed diabetes should be too many, and last year there were at least 5 that I can count.

 **Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP. NOT YESTERDAY, NOT TODAY, NOT – EVER.

Two Poodles & a Housecat

Oftentimes, I come up with titles for posts before a post even exists. I jot them down, somewhere, and hope not to lose them. I had something along the lines of Fur Magnolias, The Long Goodbye, and My Life Is Shit, Part 3. This post wants to be funny, but in many ways is equally sad.

Let’s start with the cat. Oliver, like any hot-blooded feline, loves to sleep on things. He likes backpacks and fallen cushions, dining room chairs and – the one that really pisses me off – the top of the dining room table. Now I’m not stupid – I know that cats love high places and definitely those with a view. The dining room table is no exception. Not only does it have a fantastic view of our driveway, birds, stray cats, and passersby, it also has a pad over which is a damask tablecloth. What’s not to love?

Ordinarily, it might not be so bad were it not for the moment we go to sit down for dinner and tufts of fur roll across the table. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully (as any cat owner worth their kitty treats knows), to break him of this. But I know I’m failing miserably when I return home from errands and he’s lying there, dreamily squinting at me like he’s just awakened from the most marvelous dream, and making no move to get up.

I have armed myself. I recently purchased a weapon and Oliver, until this week, was uninitiated in the aquatic assault I aimed at him. And, as expected, after one lesson I have only to pick up said weapon in the next room and he’s GONE. Meanwhile, the canine population continues to assault me.

Sabra, at 9 years old still the “baby” of the house, remains a nudge – only she’s getting worse. Where she was once the shy, almost shrinking, poodle of the house, she has become emboldened by her security and the peace we have here. When Pi is called to one of us, Sabra will push her way through and insert herself between us. She is unapologetic about stealing Pi’s snack right out from under her, or finishing off Pi’s food before her own. She follows me so closely when we’re outside, she steps on the back of my flip flop and makes me trip. She will routinely poke me with her nose, or mouth my hand if I’m holding it down at my side. I know what she’s doing. I also know what she’s doing to Pi and that it’s “pack” stuff, and I know she’s not maliciously inclined.

Pi isn’t getting old, she IS old. She is four months shy of her 16th birthday, and the recent months have seen an increase in weakness and falling down, and general senility. She falls down a few times daily, but can pick herself up, usually. She has an increasing habit of falling down on or near the food bowl, a scattering of nuggets following the familiar ping of the stainless bowl. She routinely walks through the water bowl, which I have strategically centered against the end of the island and with five feet around it to avoid just that, and one time she fell into it – ass first. (Don’t even ask me how – I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

It’s all very funny except when it’s not. Like the time she managed to get herself stuck under Ava’s bed when we weren’t home one day. We were gone about 4 hours, and I have no idea how long she was stuck that way but she couldn’t walk – at all – afterward. She’s done this a handful of times in our bedroom as well. Which is one of the growing reasons why we can’t leave her at home alone for very long anymore. I went to pick Opac up from practice and stopped at the grocery store one afternoon, and came home to her lying on the dining room floor in a pile of poop. I was gone an hour. This is the stuff of heartbreak.

The accidents are becoming more frequent, urinating in the house (usually after falling down) and this morning – after I had let her out and she came back in – I found her asleep in the hall just two feet away from a giant turd, and there were two more in front of her bed in our room. It’s My Life Is Shit, revisited. Only this time, I’m no longer laughing, or angry. I’m sad.

Before the animal rights people get their panties all twisted – she is NOT suffering. She is NOT sick, or crippled, or incapable of going outside. She is just …. Old. She eats well – she enjoys plenty of home-cooked meals and broth-soaked food, and more than her share of cat food (which I’m certain Oliver purposely meows for, so that she can have it). She runs across the deck with me like a puppy, with these happy bursts of energy where she remembers who she is. And, while I often find her staring off into space in a room somewhere, there is still light in her eyes when they meet mine.

I am the human who is with her every day. I am the one who is here to pick her up when she can’t get up, the one who feeds her, and bathes her. I am the one who lets her out when she wakes me up at 2, 3, 4 in the morning and I am the one who walks back and forth to different doors while she decides which one she’s coming in. I am the one who defends her, as Sabra steals “head dog” position and circles her tightly until she falls down.

I know her. And I will know when she’s no longer thriving. The hardest part is the knowing that we are on that inevitable path already, and that one day either she will choose, or we will have to.

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Clockwise from top left: Pi, Sabra, & Oliver. Ever watchful of the foodkeeper. The Tara Chronicles, 2016.