Thursday, September 20, 2018

Kitty Update and Thanks

Hi Guys,

OK, first of all I wanted to thank everybody for all of your kind comments on my last post. Sorry I didn't respond individually - I was a bit overwhelmed.

Long story short, Jasper managed to avoid surgery for his urinary blockage - but just by the skin of his little pee-pee. He ended up spending a total of about 10 days in the kitty hospital, and while he's not back to normal yet, he's been home for about three weeks, and is much improved. He's still sporting a crazy haircut from where they shaved him for IVs and blood draws, but he's getting back to his normal little self.

The whole process was somewhat nerve-wracking because his status just kept changing from hour to hour. It would look like he was getting better, then he'd take a turn for the worse. They had surgery scheduled three different times, but then each time about an hour before the surgery he'd manage to pass a bit of urine and they'd call it off again. It didn't help that he kept chewing his way out of both IVs and catheters despite the cone of shame, and each time they'd call me (usually at around 3 in the morning) for permission to re-insert whatever he'd pulled out. I can't help but think that all of those re-insertions of the catheter helped to add to the cycle of inflammation that's made it so hard for him to recover.

They ended up breaking that cycle by putting him on a whole slew of drugs - anti spasmodics, muscle relaxants, and pain killers. When they finally decided it was safe to send him home with careful monitoring, he was so doped up that he could hardly walk, and I seriously thought that I might lose him simply from all of the downers he was on. I was soooo thankful when he was finally off of all the drugs.

So we still have a litter box in the middle of the living room - which I'm not thrilled about.

But it does make it easier to monitor his peeing, plus it did prevent him from having any accidents on the rugs or furniture. Hopefully as he continues to improve, we'll be able to move it out of the living room and eventually get back to normal with all the litter boxes in the basement.

The other part of this little adventure that we've been dealing with is diet. The vets want him on a prescription diet. Now, I know there are mixed opinions out there on these sorts of diets - some folks say that since the prescription foods contain byproducts, it's better to just feed them an all wet food diet of premium canned and raw foods. But, since that's basically the diet he was on (except for a small amount of his brother's dry food which he'd eat if I let his bowl get empty) when all of this started, I'm following the vets' advice and going prescription. It took a while to find one that he would eat (Science Diet is blick, according to Jasper) but fortunately he likes the Royal Canin Urinary SO (but only the paté - the chunks are yucky.)

The more challenging aspect of feeding has actually been Jasper's brother Smoky. The vets said it would be fine for Smoky to eat the prescription food, but he won't go anywhere near the stuff. Have I mentioned that the Smokster is the pickiest eater on the planet? It's virtually impossible to get him to eat anything but dry food, and even there he's ridiculously picky. In fairness to the little guy, I think he has some dietary sensitivities, because when I offer him something new he usually eats it happily and then barfs it all up a few hours later.

Sooo… this is sort complicated, but Smoky's favorite brand, Evo, recently was discontinued and we'd been searching around for a replacement. The one he decided he'd eat was Blue Buffalo. That's all well and good EXCEPT that when the vets interviewed me about Jasper's diet they said they'd seen a huge incidence of urinary blockages in cats eating... you guessed it, Blue Buffalo! Oy!!!

So I had decided to take Smoky off of the Blue Buffalo since I didn't want to risk any more problems - and we'd found another brand that he would eat... which was working OK while Jasper was at the hospital. But as soon as Jasper came home, instead of being happy to see his brother, Smoky became utterly convinced that Jasper had been replaced with some evil zombified replica, and he refused to go anywhere near him.

And of course, I couldn't leave Smoky's food out because I couldn't risk Jasper eating any of it. So the little Smokster was decidedly unhappy about the situation, and he basically went on a 4 day hunger strike. Seriously, I could not get that boy to eat ANYTHING, even solid white albacore, which is his favorite treat. I was really starting to worry that I might have to haul him off to the vet too. So finally, in desperation, I tried (you guessed it) Blue Buffalo, and he happily started eating again. Whew.

But... the situation was still really difficult because Smoky is a nibbler, and every time he'd get hungry he'd have to cry for me to put food out, and then I'd have to stand there and watch him eat, and take the food up as soon as he was done... and this was like every 2-3 hours including throughout the night. Oy.

Then CatMan found a brilliant techno-solution. Believe it or not, there's a company called Sure Petcare that makes feeders for this exact situation. It's actually rather amazing, but they have this contraption that scans the cat's microchip, and will only open the bowl for approved pets. I really didn't think it would work, but amazingly it did!

Here's Smoky happily eating out of his feeder.

He still won't put his front paws on the little mat where they're supposed to go, but he doesn't seem to mind stretching a bit to get to his food. The thing wasn't cheap, but compared to the $8000 we just spent on Jasper's hospital stay, it was a bargain!

So.... my plan is to slowly start adding small amounts of a vet approved brand of dry food to Smoky's Blue Buffalo and see how he tolerates it. I'm really thankful that he's not the one that has to be on a prescription diet, because that would be almost impossible.

Anyhow, that's the news from the funny farm. Hope you're all happy and well, and enjoying the waning days of summer.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Well, this Sucks

Well folks, it turns out my little Jasper kitty's urinary problems (which I whined about in my last post) weren't an isolated incident after all. Somehow I had a hunch it was gonna turn out this way.

So a week ago I noticed that there were footprints in Jasper's litter box, but nothing left behind to show for the visit. I also noticed that Jasper was acting kind of anxious and restless, and licking his little pee-pee an awful lot. So I followed him downstairs the next time he went to the litter box, and when I saw him squatting there for over ten minutes without producing anything, I knew it was an emergency that couldn't wait.

So I scooped him up and off to the kitty ER we went. Turns out he had a urinary blockage. They catheterized him and he got to spend two nights in the kitty hospital. When he came home, they told me to expect that he'd have some irritation - but on day two, irritation turned in to inability to pee once again, so back to the ER we went.

Long story short, he's been in the kitty hospital ever since, and will most likely have to have surgery tomorrow.

At this point they don't think he has a physical obstruction, it's just that they can't seem to break the cycle of inflammation so that he can get the urine out. We were all set to do surgery today, and then the vet called and said that he had peed. Alas, it appears that it was sort of a one and done thing, because he's been straining and unable to produce urine ever since, so now we're on for surgery again.

It doesn't help that despite the cone of shame, he's managed to pull out both his catheter and IV twice. Today they set us up in a private room hoping that he'd relax enough to urinate more freely. The counter had a hole drilled in it with a trash can below it, and around the opening was some sort of a metal ring. Well, guess who stuck his little head in there looking for an escape route, and came out with the ring stuck around his neck.

Fortunately it came off easily, but he's been quite the little pill. At least his little spirit isn't broken.

I'm not entirely sure I can say the same for mine... or my bank account for that matter! We do have kitty insurance, but we blew past what it would cover on the first hospital stay. Thankfully, I do have money set aside for these sorts of things - so I'm really grateful to be able to make decisions based on what's best for him rather than on what I can afford. But holy kazoli! I feel badly for people who don't have the resources to care for a pet in this way, and are left with no other choice but euthanasia.

Anyhow, the surgery is called a perineal urethrostomy, or PU for short. Basically, they remove the penis and shorten the urethra, creating a much wider new opening through which he can urinate - sorta like a kitty sex change operation. It's not minor surgery, but there is over a 90% success rate, so I'm hopeful - "hopeful" being a relative term. I still have a knot in my stomach about the size of Cleveland.

So I'll keep you posted. If anybody's got any spare healing vibes they can send our way, we'd be grateful.

Heavy sighs all around...

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Revenge of the Flies? ...and Random bits of Insanity

Well folks, the past few weeks have been, ummm... interesting.

It all started a few weeks ago when, after a bike ride, CatMan noticed a bug bite that just looked a bit "off."

He didn't think much of it at first, but after a day or two when it didn't get better, he finally when to the doctor... whereupon they took one look at him and nearly admitted him to the hospital! Apparently that red streak is bad news - it means that there's an infection that is heading toward the nearest lymph node where it can quickly become systemic and lead to sepsis. After some bloodwork they determined that it hadn't yet spread, so he got to go home with some hefty antibiotics, and he's now doing much better.

Fast forward a week or so, and we went for another bike ride... after which I noticed a strange bug bite on my leg. It was only about the size of a pencil eraser, but it had an odd dent in the middle. After CatMan's experience, I decided to watch it closely, and by the next morning it looked like this.

By that evening it had swollen up more (the yellow is magic marker so I could judge if it was growing)

And by the time I went to the doctor a day or two later it had progressed to this vision of loveliness:

Holy Kazoli! So I'm on hefty antibiotics now too, and CatMan and I are left scratching our heads trying to figure out what the heck is going on!

I mean, up until this whole little adventure started to unfold, neither one of us had ever considered that something as trivial as a bug bite could get infected to the point where it would require anything more serious than some antibiotic ointment. Then suddenly within the span of a few weeks we both end up with serious infections from bug bites?!? It all strikes me as a very odd and disconcerting coincidence.

To make it all the more puzzling, neither one of us has any idea what bit or stung us. In both cases we didn't notice the bite or sting as it happened - only later. And in both cases it either went through our clothes or somehow got into our clothing. Yikes!

It sorta has us wondering if there's some strange new insect out there carrying an infections bacteria or maybe we've karmically offended some force in the insect world. I suppose we'll probably never know, but we're both just hoping to avoid any further encounters.

Anyhoo… to make matters stranger, I was walking my neighbor's dog for her when she was out of town a few weeks back, when suddenly this woman a few houses down came running out of the house and started screaming a pile of obscenities at me, accusing me of having an affair with her husband. She had a truly bizarre litany of accusations dating back at least TEN YEARS! WTF!?!?

It totally freaked me out, so I called the cops who said there's nothing I can do other than avoid her. So I called my neighbor (the one whose dog I was walking) and she promptly erupted into "Oh my God... she did the exact same thing to me!"

Good Gawd! I mean, I think this woman probably has serious psychiatric problems, but I really don't relish the idea of ending up on the receiving end of her psychosis. So I've installed a security system and rearranged all of my routes so I never go past that house anymore. So far the only things the cameras have picked up are the comings and goings of the neighborhood cats, and an occasional raccoon.

Oh, and speaking of cats, my sweet Jasper kitty got sick.

We think it was just a bladder infection, and he's much improved after a round of antibiotics... but both his bloodwork and an X-ray turned up some somewhat concerning things - like he may be in the early stages of kidney failure and his bladder seems very oddly shaped. At the moment we're just keeping an eye on him and we'll do further tests if he starts to show any more symptoms... but honestly, it just makes me sick to my stomach to contemplate having to get back into sick kitty land. Sigh.

And don't even get me started on the insanity unfolding on the nightly news. Lordy! It sorta feels like the whole world (nature included) has gone stark raving mad.

OK, perhaps that's venturing into hyperbole just a tad bit, but I do admit I haven't exactly felt either centered  or gounded lately.

In other news, my little feral friend is doing well.

He's a boy, BTW - and while he still has to hiss at me every time I bring him food, he lets me get within a few feet as long as I don't look directly at him and move very slowly.

But craziness aside, CatMan and I have been riding up a storm and having a great time, so I'll leave you with some slightly more positive photos from recent bike rides:

Hope you're all having a wonderful summer, and staying clear of biting insects, crazy neighbors, heat waves, fires, floods, and random infections!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I'm Not Playing

My senior year in college there was a story going around about a giant water balloon fight that had taken over the campus of one of our neighboring universities. As the story goes, people had become so utterly obsessed with the battle, that nearly the entire student body had picked a side and taken up arms... or balloons as the case may be. For those poor souls who didn't wish to participate, it was necessary to wear a large sign proclaiming "I'm Not Playing!" in order to avoid being mistaken for a member of the opposing team and ambushed by an over zealous balloon lobber on one's way to class.

I have no idea whether there was any truth to this outlandish tale, or whether it was simply a campus myth, but either way, the story struck a chord with me. At the time, I was preparing to graduate with a degree in music - a questionable choice to be sure, but one that I sorta backed into because I found I couldn't tolerate anything else. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life, but one thing was clear: just as all of my classmates were preparing to jump into society... to launch careers, or begin graduate school, or get married, or start businesses... all I wanted was to find a way out.

I had been a tremendously successful student. Valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Laude, the whole 9 yards. Yet with all of that achievement, I didn't feel validated, or important... and I most certainly did NOT feel happy. I just felt like I had wasted my youth chasing an illusion.-And I had come to the conclusion that, in this culture at least, that was all sort of by design. Basically the way our society functions is by making people feel like they don't measure up, which then sets them on a hopeless treadmill of trying to earn, or accomplish, or prove, or buy their way out of their own hopeless inadequacy. It's just a trap.

So I decided that I just wasn't playing.

Thus began my long pursuit of the outsmarting of the system. Thirty years later I'm still at it. But boy... I've gotta tell you, I often feel these days like I need to don that sign again, because I'm frequently beset with the feeling that I'm living in a completely different world from the people around me.

Like the other day I logged onto Nextdoor and discovered that there was a heated argument going on over crab grass. Apparently someone has been going around the neighborhood putting anonymous notes on the doors of people with crummy lawns asking them to please clean up their acts and have some consideration for their neighbors. Oh my.

I guess this is what gentrification looks like, because in the course of a few years my neighborhood has gone from being one of the most economically depressed parts of the city... where there was a tacit understanding that people were working hard just to keep a roof over their heads... to one where the average house is selling for over $350K and people are busy berating their neighbors over things like "curb appeal." So much for slummin' it in the barrio!

I guess you can try to outrun the trappings, but apparently the things grow legs and eventually come running after you. Don't get me wrong, It's sort of nice that my little house is now worth about 5 times what I paid for it, but honestly, I'm not sure I'm prepared to live among young professionals with decidedly middle class values. Plus, what about the poor people who were renters? Where are they supposed to go?

Well anyway, I guess it's giving me further incentive to step up my xeriscape game because I really don't relish the idea of being publicly shamed over bindweed.  But yanno, a tiny little snarky part of me did toy with the idea of  putting anonymous notes on the doors of all the people with perfect lawns asking them to please stop polluting the air with their mowers and poisoning the land with their weed killers. Of course I wouldn't do it, but it was tempting. Sigh.

Then I signed on to FaceBook to see what some old friends have been up to, and I discovered that everyone was all torn up about the suicides of two prominent celebrities… neither of whom I'd ever heard of. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all making light of suicide, but "famous handbag designer?!?" Seriously? That's a thing? I just don't get it.

Anyhow, people seemed genuinely shocked that anyone who was so successful could possible be depressed and want to take their own life. Sad as it might sound, this does not surprise me in the least. It's not merely that success does not make people happy, I think that feelings of inadequacy predispose a person to try to chase fame and prosperity in a doomed attempt to outrun their own emotions.

I saw this all the time in the music world. Trying to make it as a musician is really hard, and it seemed to me that, aside from a few folks who lucked into their success, the only people who stuck with it were the people who really needed the extraordinary sense of personal validation that one gets when one is on stage performing for an audience. Seriously, in the real world, people don't cheer and applaud every time you go to work... and getting that sort of "you're wonderful" message can be very seductive.

But ultimately, the holes that our society produces in people cannot be filled through cheers or applause any more than they can be with granite countertops or a perfectly manicured lawn.

I don't know where I'm going with all of this, so I should probably just stop blathering and go pull some weeds. (She says without the slightest hint of sarcasm.)

I guess I just wanted to throw a little life line out there to anyone who might be struggling with the game. Seriously folks, if you feel like you just can't win, it's not because there's anything wrong with you, it's because the whole thing is rigged. The only way out is to simply stop playing!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Pretty Kitty Report

Well, my new feral friend seems quite pleased with its little house, and with the never ending stream of cat food that I've been providing. It rained and snowed several times, but the little house stayed dry, so I think it chose a pretty good location.

I'm still not sure of the gender, but given the fact that it hasn't left the yard in days, I'm guessing female. The males tend to roam, even if they're fixed.

Anyhow, I think this little kitty has been running on empty for some time now, because it's eating like a horse. Seriously, it's eating at least twice what my indoor kitties do. But for the time being, anyhow, I'm content to feed it as much as it will eat. It's probably behind on nutrition, plus it needs extra calories to stay warm at night, and since feral cats often end up with tape worms, I'm sure it needs the extra nutrition.

I still can't get very close to it, but I went out with my telephoto lens yesterday and got a few shots.

So that's the pretty kitty report.

Meanwhile, CatMan and I have been riding up a storm. So here are a few snapshots from recent rides.

View of the Foothills on a cloudy day

Chatfield Reservoir

Downtown in the Distance... WAY off in the distance!

The crabapple trees are in full bloom!
Hope you're all having a wonderful spring!

Friday, April 20, 2018

I Caved.

After my last adventure with feral cats ended in heartbreak, I swore up and down that I would NEVER do it again. I had myself convinced that they'd be better off on their own than risking the dreaded feline leukemia test, and the inevitable euthanasia that would follow if it didn't go well.

And I stuck to my guns... for a few years anyhow.

Then this happened.

It's been hanging around for a few months, and I was hoping against hope that it belonged to somebody. It sorta matched the description of one of my neighbor's cats, so I kept telling myself "it has a home, it has a home, it has a home."

But it just kept coming around sniffing in the bowls of squirrel food, looking longingly at the sparrows in the neighbor's bush, and acting hungry. So I finally called my neighbor to see if it was, in fact hers, and no.

So seeing it looking skinnier and skinnier, I finally gave up and put some food out. Oh my gosh... it gobbled that food like it hadn't eaten in months - and it may not have. And you know, once you feed it, you pretty much own it.


I'm batting about 500 with stray and feral cats, so I'm preparing myself to have my little heart ripped out and stomped on again.

I don't know if it's male or female, but the tipped ear would seem to indicate that someone's had it fixed, and presumably that means it's also been vaccinated at least once - which is a good thing since there's been an outbreak of rabid skunks in the neighborhood.

And the fact that it's not an unaltered male means there's less chance of it having FIV or FeLV. But at this point I doubt I could catch it anyhow, so I'm not sure it's worth worrying about. Once they've been trapped, they tend to become quite wary of those things, so taking it to the vet probably isn't even a possibility unless and until I can get it to trust me enough to get it in a carrier.

So far I've just been feeding it once a day and then it goes along its merry way. But yesterday I realized it's "merry way" wasn't taking it very far, because it was hanging out in a little sheltered area next to the front porch. And late last night when CatMan left, it bolted out of one of the compost bins in the driveway, so I now know where it's been sleeping. Sigh.

Anyhow, a big storm is moving in and it's supposed to pour rain for the next day or two. So I crafted a little house for it out of an old covered litter box that I could never get anybody to use, and put it in the area next to the porch where it's been hanging out.

I also fortified its little nest in the compost bin with a make shift rain cover...

...and put some extra straw in there for warmth.

So at least my little kitty friend has some options for getting out of the rain.

I have no idea where this will lead, but I'll keep you posted. I was so hoping that I wouldn't have to fret over any more outdoor kitties. Oh well... best laid plans of mice and cat ladies.

So that's the news from the funny farm...

Hope you're all happy & well.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alphabetically Speaking

So April is the month that many brave bloggers are doing the A-Z challenge, which involves writing a post every day, one for each letter of the alphabet (with Sundays off.)

I tried it once, but honestly, it sorta wore me out. Nevertheless, I do like the idea, and I'm having great fun reading Live & Learn's posts.

Anyhow, her post on poetry got me to thinking about words... there are some words that I just like. Some I like for the meaning, some for the things they conjure up in my brain, and others are just fun to say.

So... for no particular reason, here are some words that came to mind when contemplating the alphabet.

A is for alabaster
B is for beckon
C is for calamity
D is for dromedary
E is for epiphany
F is for fanciful
G is for grace
H is for hullabaloo
I is for idiosyncratic
J is for judicious
K is for kleptomania
L is for lapidary
M is for mystic
N is for nefarious
O is for opulent
P is for persimmon
Q is for quintessential
R is for rhapsody
S is for sumptuous
T is for tapioca
U is for utopia
V is for voluptuous
W is for whippoorwill
X is for xenophobic
Y is for yearning
Z is for zealous

I'm sure on a different day I'd choose different words, but those are the ones that struck my fancy today.

What words are you liking today?

Sunday, April 1, 2018


A week or so ago, I started a post entitled "The Mysteries of Motivation." I wrote about 3 sentences and then... well... I got distracted and somehow lost my motivation to finish it.

I know it's been forever since I've written, and I'm not exactly sure why. I keep forming posts in my head, but I just don't seem to be able to put into words the things I've been feeling lately.

For some reason, the Parkland shooting and its aftermath really hit me hard. I spent several days sobbing my eyes out. In a funny and sad way, it's wasn't so much the horror of what happened, because it's almost become commonplace these days to turn on the news and hear that some crazy person with a semi-automatic rifle has murdered a pack of innocent people. No... it was more the reaction of the kids that got to me.

Much has been made and written about the eloquence and articulateness of the kids who have been spearheading the #neveragain movement. And listening to them speak does fill me with hope. But the images that really got to me were the videos taken the morning after the shooting, of kids in the streets holding signs and screaming.

There was just something about the raw emotion they were expressing that really tore me up. I mean, on some level, the protests are wonderful... and I'm so very heartened to see these kids channeling their grief into action... but the very fact that they should have to do it in the first place... it's all just so very, very wrong.

And then there was the very distressing news coming out of the Arctic. Not sure if this made it into the consciousness of people who aren't as obsessed with the topic as I am, but back in February, some very strange and unsettling things happened up north. Basically, a surge of warm air burst through into the upper layers of the atmosphere (called a "sudden stratospheric warming event") and split the polar vortex into several pieces. This caused freakishly cold weather to descend into Europe and the eastern half of the US, but it also caused freakishly warm air to surge into the arctic.

There was a general freakout in the scientific community as places that should have been frozen solid and still gaining ice for the season were instead melting in the dead of winter.
I realize this is just one weather event, and one can't necessarily draw deep conclusions from one event, but it certainly felt ominous, and I just don't think it portends well for the future.

You know, waaaaay back in my early 20's I had an experience that sort of altered the course of my life. I was still living with my Ex. It was the weekend, so we had his young daughter staying with us, and for some reason it was just me and her home together. She was about 3 years old at the time, and some event (which I can no longer remember) caused her to melt down into a complete and total temper tantrum.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, I heard my mother's voice come out of my mouth.

I'm sure this is a fairly common experience among young parents, but given the fact that I had recently become an "insta-parent" ... or "insta-step-parent" well, it totally threw me. It wasn't fear of becoming my mother, it was more that it brought up a whole pile of emotions from my own childhood, which, until that moment, I had pretty successfully shoved into submission.

Part of me wanted to have my own little meltdown, but, of course, I couldn't. I mean, really... what was I gonna do? "Sorry sweetie, I know you're screaming at the top of your lungs, but this episode has triggered some unresolved feelings from my childhood and I really need to go deal with them."

Anyhow, in that instant a whole bunch of things became crystal clear to me. Both of my parents came from abusive alcoholic families, and both had vowed that they would never do to their children what had been done to them.

And to their credit, they didn't... sort of.

While neither of them drank or was physically abusive, they both became masters of psychological torture. The thing is... they weren't bad people, they were both just hopelessly trying to outrun their own personal demons... as were their parents, and their parents before them.

The whole experience didn't last longer than a few minutes, but it was like I could suddenly see generation after generation vowing to "not be like them" but never being willing to do the difficult work of dealing with their own shit... and thus dooming themselves to pass along some new and different version of the same old shit to their own children. Because, you know, will power is simply not enough.

So that was the moment in which I decided that unless and until I could be damned sure that I'd dealt with my own demons, I wasn't gonna have children of my own. I just couldn't face the possibility of creating another incarnation of the family bullshit.

So what does any of this have to do with school shootings or climate change? Honestly, for the past 6 weeks or so, I just haven't been able to shake the feeling that we, as a society, have collectively failed our children. It's like we're all part of one giant dysfunctional family, and we're all just, as a society, doing the same things that my own personal dysfunctional family did.

We see the problems, but we can't bring ourselves to face the reality behind them. So we simply dress them up in different clothing and pass them along for future generations to deal with.

I don't know where any of that leaves me. As the title of this post would imply, I'm still processing...

In the meantime, life goes on. CatMan and I have been enjoying long bike rides. The scenery is amazing as usual.

And I even got up early this morning to open the curtain on the front window so Jasper and I could enjoy "Easter Sunbeam Services."

So it's all good. I can only hope that this new generation will be willing to tackle things in a way that previous ones have not.

Happy Easter everybody. May the season of rebirth fill us all with hope for a better future.