For the love of a pet…
I get very attached to pets, but more specifically to cats. I actually went through a stage where I was fairly anti-dog. I’ve relaxed on that stance fairly recently, perhaps because I haven’t had to care for one. But I think that helping care for dogs during the year I lived in Georgia, as part of a volunteer group, actually helped me see a variety of dogs and be a little less annoyed with them.
I still connect more deeply with cats and while I will agree dogs can be very rewarding, I think I see the relationship with cats as being on a more equal balance. They have more autonomy and less of a pack mentality. As a result, they see you as a partner… maybe as a parental figure but just as often a litter mate. Dogs need a leader, and if they don’t have one they attempt to be that leader. Cats are okay with no one being the declared leader, although they will work within guidelines and rules, and actually prefer a schedule.
The attachment part can be an issue for me. When I had to make the decision a little less than 2 years ago to let Domino go it was heart-rending. I had been very upset when the cat of my teenage years was put to sleep due to health issues when I was a young adult, and when we had to make the decision for Francis who we’d adopted as an adult, but it wasn’t anything like letting Domino go. He was my baby. I’d raised him from a kitten. I’d gotten him through a near-death experience as a kitten with a spider bite. I imagine it was a fraction of what it would be like having to help a human child through a horrible life threatening ailment and saying goodbye. Although it seems odd to admit, it hurt worse than helping both of my parents through hospice care.
As a result, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to adopt a new cat anywhere near as soon as we did, and I certainly had no plans of adopting two. The second one came about because the vet pointed out that as a kitten, Shadow might socialize better with a playmate. So we went back to some of the shelter pages we’d been looking at, found another adoption event at one of the pet stores in town, and went out and met Phoenix.
Terry had liked both of them. Shadow for her quirky tail (although when she climbed up my arm to look around better, I admit I appreciated her curiosity), and Phoenix (well, really his brother Battle) for their silvery blue fur. (The shelter supposed they might be Russian Blue mixes… the vet said they were probably just grey tabbies, heavy on the grey/blue coloring.) In person, Battle turned out to be a major handful and not particularly inclined to cuddle or socialize with us. Phoenix on the other hand, was willing to play with his brother, bat feathers and balls around, AND be picked up and snuggled and purr. So I asked if we could consider Phoenix over Battle. Also, I liked Phoenix’s face more. It seemed more calm and amused at the world, whereas Battle was incredibly focused and hyper all at once. We passed approval and Phoenix went home.
I was not dealing well without cats in the house. I know that. I know it was worth it to bring them home. I don’t regret that decision. They have brought us a great deal of joy and love and made the house feel inhabited again.
Both were shelter cats. They had issues with upper respiratory problems. The feline version of kennel cough, basically. Phoenix’s lymph nodes in his back legs were pronounced enough that I knew that’s what they were and was concerned. He’s always had an amazing attitude, and aside from a slight fever early on, been playful, eaten, and done well.
Until this last month. He started isolating and eating less. His paw pads were swollen and I thought the lysine to boost his immune system and various allergy fighting things we were doing wasn’t helping as much as it ought. The isolating really bothered me. Hiding behind the couch to sleep isn’t his style.
So we took him in. Vet couldn’t see anything wrong, but did a blood draw and we gave him a steroid shot to try to help the allergies … he’s over a year old, so his system should be able to handle it better now. Then I got the very worried call on his blood count: his white cells were through the roof. He’d lost almost a pound. So we got a good general antibiotic and put him on a week of that. He gained a smidgeon of weight, looked much better, but we did another blood draw to be sure. Another worried call. White cell count was good but hematocrit had plummeted. His glucose levels were also odd, but that COULD be stress and the fact that we had not fasted him. So another focused antibiotic to fight bacteria. That helped. The hematocrit levels came up to almost normal. But he still wasn’t gaining weight. On the plus side, his appetite was returning, his paw size was down, and the steroid shot seemed to have helped. He was playing. The next week, he’d lost a bit of weight again, so… we went ahead and did an ultrasound of his abdomen to see whether he had a blockage. Something confusing his tummy and not working through his GI tract.
I wish that’s what it was.
Unfortunately, we got the call last Friday that his spleen, kidneys and other organs are not well. They suspect lymphoma or mass cell carcinoma. To be sure, they’d need to do an aspirate test on his spleen. Either way, it’s cancer.
At best, he has less than a year. At worst, a month or two.
And I’ve fallen in love with him, now. He’s attached himself to me and trusts me. And at some point, I’m going to have to say goodbye. Yes, with Terry’s help. He’s OURS, not just mine. I know he’s had a good life, but it’s so damn short.
I can almost understand how people at the end of their rope threaten people who can’t really help them. Because if I had a cancer researcher handy I might shake them thoroughly, and ask why such a frustrating, complicated disease still exists. I know logically it’s not because they aren’t trying, but just at the moment, it really doesn’t matter to me.
He’s not even 2 years old.
Obviously, I had to work up to talking about this. I might not talk about it anywhere else for a while. I’m prone to tearing up if I try in person. Well, and just typing this.
We have some decisions to make based in part on whether to do the aspirate test (which might come back negative for everything as these things do) and how best to keep him happy, which he is currently. He wakes me up for breakfast, begs for treats, plays tag with Shadow, snuggles on the couch, and basically, aside from being too thin, is acting normally. Occasionally, now that I’m hyper-vigilant, I will see momentary flashes of dilation in his eyes and wonder if he isn’t experiencing a bit of pain, but he doesn’t isolate too badly, and seems able to distract himself. So we’re trying to take things day by day as best as possible, and do everything we can to spoil him rotten and love him dearly, just as we have since adopting him.
So I’m sure I’ll blog about it again, but don’t be surprised if I lurk more than be active in social media, or blog about something completely different as well.