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A wonderful life

Something told me that day, October 4, 2001,  to go to the Humane Society.

Our new cleaning lady was starting that day, and I didn’t want to walk in when she was working. So I thought I would go look at the animals. I didn’t need one. We had Tipper the Wonder Husky, and Alexander, the twenty-pound cat.

I walked around the cat area just to see what was there. I had no intention of getting a buddy for Kitty Al. He definitely was not an alpha cat, and although the largest cat we ever had, he was always the most mild mannered . I got him because when I returned home after a year of practice in a Falls Church VA, clinic, Fletcher, our long-haired orange boy, started pooping on the guest bed. After Fletch died, Al needed a buddy.

There, in a cage was a short-haired orange kitten, three months old. Already neutered. Ready for a forever home. Would he get one?

Yep.

Short hair? I hadn’t had  a short haired cat since high school. But he was also an orange tabby. Orange boys are special. I have found orange females not that nice, but to me, orange boys had it all, love and kindness, polite (well mostly), and bravery. I brought him home, and he became in love with Tipper, and nursed on Al’s toe.

How about a name? Oh yeah, he needs a name. Humane societies give them names so you will give them a closer look and take them home. My orange boy was called “Pumpkin” because it was October 4th, almost Halloween. Cowboy Joe and brother Franklin were Chip and Dale. Please.

I tend to give pets people names. I can only remember one beagle from childhood that I named Panhandle. Don’t ask me why; I was a kid.

Although I  was not instantly in love with this orange tabby and white cutie, I took him home.

So what name would work? Dunno. As I’ve said to clients, they will tell you their names in a week or so. And so he did.

I had an unusual ninth grader in my biology class that year. Matthew was inquisitive, knew everything to know about the Titanic, liked antiques, and reading, but didn’t learn biology. A social kid, we talked often. I like to talk to students, just chatting about anything but school work. Matthew. Matthew. Although it was really coincidental, and not on purpose, the tiny kitten told me his name was to be Matthew.

And so it was for the next eighteen years.

I came home with my Goldendoodle, Ivy, last Sunday from a trip to my second home in Tucson for five weeks, and staying with new friends that had Ivy’s sister, Cali. What a fabulous 3 days we had after a nice, but short visit in New Mexico.

I left the three cats home with my next door neighbors, Sharon and Phyllis to care for them. When I left, Matt was fine, a specimen of good health and proper nutrition.

When you see something every day, you don’t notice subtle changes. At first, Matt looked fine. Later in the day, I noticed him crouching, looking toward me with totally dilated eyes, and he had huge lump on the right side of his upper jaw. It took me a nanosecond to know he had a cancer of the jaw, and he was blind. His heart was going at Kentucky Derby speed.

Matthew got around OK, but was slow, a little wobbly, and took a long time to lie down on his special throne, a brown cat pillow with a leopard-print border.

Since it was Sunday and not an emergency, I made several (only needed one, really,) calls to the clinic that Earl and I originally designed. He slept all night with us on the bed. I don’t think he urinated. He was dehydrated, but wouldn’t drink or eat.

I wanted at least one x-ray to say we had done an examination, which we did. The x-ray was a dead giveaway. A tumor right where we thought it was. Dr. Michelle Thomas and I knew it was also in the brain, probably in the area of the optic chiasm, where the optic nerves cross; and some of the fibers cross over to the other side of the brain to pass through two nuclei, one for each side, the Edinger-Westfall nuclei for us neuro geeks.

Blindness can come from  an eye problem, an optic nerve problem, a crossover problem, a nuclear problem, or a tumor of the part of the brain called the occipital lobe.

All staff knew I would not leave Matthew for any part of the euthanasia. The techs gently gave him a shot of anesthesia, and I stayed with him, holding him until I laid him on the table, and smoothed his fur and kissed his face.

The techs came back in to insert a catheter into sleeping Matt’s cephalic (arm) vein, and gave us some more time together even though he was sleeping under anesthesia.

Dr. Thomas came in with the euthanasia solution, and handed me the syringe, and another syringe to flush the catheter in his forelimb after the euthanasia solution was all in. Matthew was peacefully released.

The staff did what I always did in practice, pay the bill first, not to be sure to get the bucks up front; but make it easy to just leave after whatever time you want to spend with your pet. They also asked me what I wanted done with his body. Note: I have written about euthanasia in my book, Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarian’s Memoir. Cremation, save ashes was my choice. I picked the ashes up yesterday. The pretty box is in a safe but not noticeable place. I will take them to Arizona next fall and scatter them in my garden.

My cousin, Gail, and I reminisced about some of Matthew’s antics and how he would always talk on the phone if I was using a strong business-like voice, and how he was the head of my family. The details are in the book.

Matt, my golden boy, you were definitely top cat in the house no matter who were your buddies: Alexander, or brothers Cowboy Joe and Frank. You knew how to be a good cat right from the start of our relationship of nearly eighteen years. And you also won an award at your passing: You lived the longest life of any cat I ever had, even Pruney.

I’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge, my love. Love from me, your cat-mother, and everyone who knew you. Peace.

Matthew Fletcher Carlson

2001-2019

May your memory be a blessing.

So much for the clean dog

Well, Ivy made it through last week until today. Then I took her to the dog park. Yes, THAT dog park, where I did a header and skinned my nose and knees.

Honestly, this dog will chase the ball launched from the dog ball launcher until she fell down in heat stroke if I let her. She had a great time playing with a husky until he and his owner left. Then we had the place to ourselves.

An update on the townhome: I had garage remotes fixed, put in a keypad, had the vanity (80’s) painted, and removed the twisted poles where there is now a spacious looking place to put dog boxes. Things dry fast around here.

Ivy loves the patio and chasing her ball. Thing is, I can’t just leave her out there-coyotes would have a lovely lunch of Goldendoodle. Not on my watch.

While I was gone, I meant to set the thermostat to be cooler. It was 85 in the house when we got back. Darwin’s Law I guess.

Happy Passover and Easter!

Wow, what a busy week. Highlights are that right now I’m in Scottsdale at my cousins’ house. Ellen (my first cuz John’s wife) is preparing Passover Seder for 30. The real first night was yesterday, but Ellen does it on Saturday so people can get up here.

I got here yesterday so I could stop in at bookstores for meet and greets. I got two done in Tucson a couple of weeks ago, and three here. I couldn’t find the other two. I went so far out, I thought I was in Mongolia. I stopped for a slice of pizza, and the server wrote me a map that perfectly got me back to John and Ellen’s. I’m done with that. I do have GPS on my care-brought the Subaru because Ivy was invited too-and map app on my phone with a car phone charger was a little better, but there was no voice telling me where to go. It just showed where I was supposed to end up. Oh well. The important bookstore I was supposed to sign the books they bought only had three, and I was fifty miles away. Sorry.

Ivy and Lucy, her new cousin, got off to a rough start. Ivy is so not an alpha dog, and Lucy went after her. No bites. But when John came home, and he saw her do this to Ivy, it was like the heavens opened up and a monster lightning bolt hit that dog. After taking Ivy out three times last night, Lucy didn’t do anything. They are true cousins now.

I walked Ivy this morning, trying to stay out of Ellen’s way-she likes to work alone, and will ask if she needs something. 100 degrees in the morning.

So I have an ‘office’ that used to be Doug’s (younger son) bedroom, and am sleeping in older brother Greg’s room minus the two snakes. There are in here with me. John came home early to help out, and he has the fourth bedroom office, hence I was given a table and chair, wifi codes, and here I sit, pining for dinner. No lunch today! Breakfast was good,  but that’s it until dinner.

Thursday, Cyndi, her husband, and her daughter came to my wonderfully comfy townhome. They have Cali, Ivy’s sister. I well remember socializing that litter. If Cyndi is home when I go through New Mexico, we will stay with them and see Cali (short for California where Cyndi is from.) Maegan loves horses, and rides weekly in a special needs riding club. They had the time, so we drove over to the Randall’s ranch, where our horses live. She also got to see the sheep and goats next door, and we walked down to see the other horses. My sister’s two and my horse are kept up near the really neat ranch house.

A good time indeed.

A long good-bye

I needed some ear cleaner for Ivy, so I contacted a classmate’s clinic, which is just around the street for me. I asked for my friend, and was told she was out with medical issues. I contacted my go to vet, and was told, “The news is very bad indeed”.

I’m 66 years old, and other than horrible migraines, I’m fine, even with the orthopedic injuries I have had. I count my blessings every day.

The “very bad news indeed” turns out to be early onset Alzheimer’s that is rapidly progressive. My God, she isn’t even sixty!

I talked to her husband this morning, and could hear the pain in his voice. He had told his wife that I was in town, and she remembers me. This week is crazy prior to the holiday weekend, but I will go see her with Ivy in full therapy dog mode. Her husband thinks it will be good for her.

I kept telling him how sorry I am. Then I said I wouldn’t say that any more. We had a long chat, and he offered information about her condition. I did not ask.

This bright and brilliant lady is in the throes of the “long good-bye” as Ronald Reagan put it when he wrote a letter to everyone in 1994. While I’m not using any names or locations, please pray for her, and especially her wonderful husband who will care for her always. Thank you.

Staying close to home today.

Greetings from Tucson, where it will be 95 degrees for the second day in a row; then it will “cool off” to the seventies. Fort Collins has all kinds of storm warnings.

The little Chevy Sonic I keep here is in the shop. I was at the dealership for service, and the place is a maze. So I couldn’t get out of a row of cars and I had to back up. Crunch! Backed into a concrete light post. The car will be there a couple of days, but I have the Subaru, and won’t worry about squeaking two cars into the garage.

The reason I’m staying home is the heat later; and I am doing a phone interview with the Highland Park (IL) Landmark, a local publication. I wonder if it replaced the weekly Highland Park News, which we looked forward to every Thursday.

Ivy loves it here. She learned how to use the dirt surrounding the patio for her potty, and I keep it clean with a pooper scooper and a child’s beach bucket.

The minute she set eyes on my sister, Ivy fell in love. Margo is so good with animals, and Ivy is now her slave. We usually ate in the dining area. Now, we can close one door to the kitchen, and slide the pocket door so she can see us.

We walk in the early morning-you have to, here, and spend lots of time together as I get going with my meet and greets.

She spied the home-grown grapefruit Margo gave me, but no-no, not getting any. Sorry, Ivy.

Ivy trying to steal my grapefruit. Don’t you keep them on the floor?

Princess Ivy of Wrigley Field goes to the spa

Hands down, the best doodle groomer in town is April Castillon of Spa 4 Paws. Two weeks ago, when Ivy had just a “fluff and buff,” I reminded April that Ivy was scheduled for her Arizona haircut in two weeks. April said she would be out of town for business. OK, I thought, Ivy will be fine. April keeps records of what the owner likes the dog to look like. She knows if anyone touches her four inch eyelashes, a funeral will be involved.

So this morning we went to the spa. Who’s at the front desk? April! I said, “What are you doing here”? She replied that she postponed her trip because no one wanted to cut Ivy’s coat. When I picked Ivy up, I asked April if I was a helicopter mom who yelled at everyone about my perfect dog. I didn’t think so. The staff preferred not to do Ivy because she is so beautiful, and I want her to look a certain way. April also said one groomer cut the eyelashes short on one dog. Oy.

Ivy was gorgeous, and will not go to a dog park until we are in Tucson. She will get walked on a leash.

What a fine place of business where the staff knows the dogs and owners so well, and the owner postpones a trip to cut one special dog who brings smiles to the world.

The horrible secret behind Lippazaner shows.

One day, Earl and I went to a traveling Lippazaner show at the Larimer County Fairgrounds. Apparently, there are several groups that travel the nation so people can look at these magnificent horses which were saved during World War II by General George S. Patton.

We watched the magnificent jumps. The highlight of the jumps is the Cabriolet, where the horse jumps high into the air, then kicks his rear feet back. Astounding.

Since we were veterinarians, after the show we went behind the curtain of the arena to see the horses up close. We were promptly yelled at to get out. We explained that we were vets, and just wanted a closer look.

The mood changed immediately.

The head person in charge said they were out of Adequan, a powerful anti-arthritis drug, ridiculously expensive. I said I could get some, and would meet them there the next morning. I bought some at the veterinarian supply store, not a store like PetSmart, but one focusing on medicine and specific supplies.

I bought a box of Adequan with the caveat that I would be allowed to return it. The manager agreed. I went back to The Ranch, the name of the fairground complex in Loveland, and was told to get out by the security guards. When I explained myself, I was allowed to the area where the horses were.

In veterinary medicine, you must have a doctor, client, patient relationship to sell pharmaceuticals. In other words, you have to examine the animal. The head man said he just wanted to buy the stuff because he had some lame performers. I said I brought my horse bag, and would look at the sore animals. No, the man said.

I turned and walked to my car to the swear words of this man because I wouldn’t sell him drugs improperly and risk losing my license. I returned the Adequan to the store.

I got a horrible feeling in my gut. These people were using these magnificent horses daily, lame or not, and pumping them with drugs so they could perform. Then they traveled to the next city. Horses can develop stomach ulcers by daily travel and stress.

I stopped going to circuses long ago. I will not have anything to do with performing elephants. I have such high regard for the elephant. Circus animals are so abused so the companies can make money. Sick.

Thank goodness that now, Ringling Brothers shut down because of complaints by the public on how animals were treated.

There are many other ways to watch an amazing show. Cirque de Soleil uses human performers. These people have the gift of choice. Animals do not.

Please boycott traveling animal shows. My exception is a good rodeo if there is no steer roping, which is incredibly cruel to the steer. Steer roping is only allowed in two states.

Earl and I went to Chicago when my stepmother died. On the Hertz bus was a total cowboy in full Western dress. We asked him where he was going. For the first time ever in Chicago, the Built Ford Tough circuit of bullriding was in town. The rider was Wiley Peterson, 27, already a millionaire.

How are these animals treated? With the utmost care. Earl, I and my vet friend, Ruth, went to look at the stock. The man there pointed to a phenomenal looking bull. “See that bull?” he said. “That’s a million dollar animal.”

These prize animals are cared for with the utmost of patience. You won’t see handlers begging for pain killers. A veterinarian travels with them.

Pease be aware that there is a dark side to animal shows.

Our boy Fletcher

Howdy! Most people like videos of cats doing odd and funny things. Take a look at my regular FB page to see some.

Earl and I had a wonderful cat, long haired orange boy we named Fletcher. The techs who managed the shelter animals in for spays and neuters knew I had lost my beloved Pruney. They were saving this huge six-month kitten from the Cheyenne Humane Society for us. He stuck out his slab paw, and in doing that, captured my heart.

When I brought him home, it turned out that we could do anything with or to Fletcher, and he’d just put up with it. You couldn’t hear him purr, but he never stopped purring. You had to put a finger on his throat to know that. Nothing bothered him, nothing scared him. He was a huge ball of love and laughter.

The funniest thing we ever saw Fletch do was a day when we were sitting on the bed chatting. Do you remember those hair ties that had a plastic ball on each end? You put your hair in a ponytail and put one ball over the other. They were great, and have been in existence for as long as I’ve been alive.

We had an empty large Kleenex box. Fletch went over to check it out on the floor. I dangled a hair tie over the opening, dropped it in the box, and went back to the bed. We watched. Earl and I roared with laughter as Fletcher stuck his whole head into the opening, and came up to a sitting posture with the Kleenex box on his head. OK, no problem.

Except when he went walking in the room. He got as far as a wall and bumped into it. He turned go go in another direction. He did this about three times until he got his head out of the Kleenex box.

I put the hair tie in again. We absolutely could not believe that he would do that again, but by golly, he did. And we two idiot people could do nothing but howl with laughter, tears running down our faces.

After Fletchie got his head out the second time, he was done. He never did that again. Ever. We were so happy to have seen a huge orange cat with a large Kleenex box stuck on his head walking into walls. Fletcher was fine, of course. We would never let anything bad happen to him; but this cat was one taco short of a combination plate, and we adored him for the thirteen years he was with us.

Oh, and yes, he made a fine kitty burrito when we wrapped him in a blanket and he just stayed put.

How much is enough?

Euthanasia is a gift we in which we vets can release suffering animals. But vet med has changed so that many clinics no longer do euthanasias. Why? Because a specialty now is euthanasia at home or a special homelike facility. Veterinarians specialize in humane euthanasia, taking special care to take care of the family.

I still do euthanasias, but my method in cats is different than other vets. It is much simpler, and easier when a sick and old cat’s vein is the diameter of dental floss.

All vets anesthetist the patients first, I am sure. Then they put a catheter in a vein. Then into the sleeping cat goes the solution. I don’t need a catheter. Horses, yes, dogs, some, cats, no. The problem is, euthanasia solution is as thick as sludge. You draw it up in a syringe with a large needle. Then, I switch out needles to the smallest regular needle, not an insulin needle, for instance. With a sleeping cat, it makes no difference which needle size you use, but if you use the large needle, you do need a catheter so the vein won’t blow.

With the smaller needle, you can hit the smallest vein, and the cat dies just as humanely as the catheter method.

There are many solutions used. The oldest one was deemed inhumane, T-61. It is no longer made. It was horrible when used on an awake animal. It was ok with a sleeping patient, such as one on the operating table that was not to be recovered.

The two solutions now are Beuthansia D and Fatal Plus. Now think about Fatal Plus. What is the plus after fatal? Anything more that needs doing after the animal is dead? I think more vets use this product. In the movie “Gifted”, the little girl’s one-eyed cat, Fred, winds up at a shelter. It is his last day, and the girl’s uncle breaks into the room where a technician or vet is getting ready to unnecessarily kill the three cats of the day, and rescues Fred. On the Mayo table, there is a  bottle of blue solution, Fatal Plus.

I don’t get it. I don’t know what’s after life that needs “Plus.” I guess I’ll wait until someone from the company reads this post and explains it for me.

Once a month

I just gave Ivy her monthly Heartguard and NexGuard. The Heartguard chew is for heartworm prevention, and the NexGuard chew is for other parasites like fleas and ticks.

To Ivy, these are treats. To me, they prevent the evil worms that circulate through the body. Actually, we don’t have much of a problem with worms, except that pups and kittens are born with them. A quick mosquito bite from the nasty proboscis, if infected with heartworm, then infects the animal.

I once was in anatomy lab opening a feline heart. I never did learn how to properly open a heart. What I found stunned me-one heartworm. One. That all it takes to kill a cat.

Treating a dog for heartworm is dangerous, and the medicine contains arsenic. It used to be just treating for prevention was in spring and summer. Now, it is year ’round. I don’t treat the cats with anything, they don’t go anywhere.

Even though Ivy has been tested and treated for worms, she still must have an annual fecal test for worms to remain a certified therapy dog. Oh well, there are worse things.