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.

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.

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.

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.

Whose bed is this anyway?

Ivy has grown up to be quite the polite young lady. When sleeping in her crate next to the bed, she scrabbles on the floor of the crate if she needs to go out. I’m a light sleeper, so I hear this, and let her out. If nice outside, she will want to sleep on a mat on the patio. One bark tells me she wants in.

This morning, she rattled her tags to go out. Why? Because she no longer sleeps in the monster-sized crate. How did this happen? I’ve never slept with a dog. Huskies shed all over.

Ivy has a routine for bedtime. My lovely goldendoodle goes unconscious on the couch upstairs at the same time every night, and doesn’t move. I say, “Time to go to bed! C’mon boys; c’mon Ivy!” That’s part one. The cats only get part one. Part two of the bedtime routine is going outside. If it is not too frigid, I go out with her, taking a flashlight to see what she does. Right now, it is zero, and she can go out and come back with lightning speed. Part three is “Go to bed” i.e, get in the crate, and part four is a biscuit inside the crate (take it nice).  She settles down and the five of us go to sleep. If I’m not ready for bed, and leave the bedroom, she barks, once. I have learned to tell her I’ll be right out here in the kitchen working. Then she goes to sleep.

But things have changed. When Keli was with us, born in 1982, there was no crate training. Tipper was born in 1996, and crate training was the real deal. Since huskies shed like yetis, they were only allowed in the family room and kitchen. Huskies are more solitary than doodles, so they were quite content.

Fast forward to about three months ago. Ivy would lie down in her crate, I’d get in bed, then she would sit up. What? I told her, “down.” OK, but two minutes later, she was up again. My slow brain figured out that she no longer wanted to sleep in the crate. As a confirmed couch potato, she wanted up on the bed. How wonderful! A fuzzy dog to pet, hug and move out of the way when I wake up at the edge of the bed. Cuddling all night. Sometimes I didn’t see her; she blended into the quilt.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, Earl and I were married twenty seven years. We had a king-sized bed. I did not like to cuddle when sleeping, had to tell Earl to turn over when he snored lightly, which he did without waking. And I could not sleep in a bed with E less than a queen-sized. Since our king bed was two twins put together with king sheets, there was a line between the mattresses. It was our joke to tell each other to get on your side of the line.

My bed now is a double (full-size). I sleep on it as do the three old cats and Ivy. Five of us. I cuddle with Ivy, and while we don’t do “spoons,” she arranges herself to be back to back. I don’t sleep through the night, but I like to listen to the radio or Dave Ramsey on my phone, so it’s all good.

Ivy wakes me in the morning to go outside either briefly, or to lie on the mat. I’m well trained now so she only barks once so she doesn’t disturb the neighbors. I hate dogs that bark non-stop. Ivy is a lady, well-trained and loving.

The clock is ticking

Resting on my lap, always purring, is Cowboy Joe. Cowboy and his brother, Franklin the author of part of my book, are fifteen years old. They are the sweetest cats. I got them in 2004 on our wedding anniversary. Earl was delighted. As I wrote in my book, Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarian’s Memoir, now available in audio book, we only wanted one cat. Well that plan fell through when Fletcher started defecating on the guest bed after I returned from a year working in Virginia. We got him a buddy, Kitty Al, who died of renal failure at, yep, 15.

At fifteen, there are the three most common conditions that cats get. The most common is renal insufficiency, or kidney failure. By the time the lab work shows this, 75% of kidney function is gone. It is treated by diet and later on, fluids.

The next is diabetes mellitus. It is treated by insulin and diet.

The third is hyperthyroidism. This last can be cured with radioactive iodine, but is very expensive. People with these cats have a decision to make. Most choose medicine and diet.

Cowboy has thyroid disease. The antithyroidism medicine, methimazole, used to  come only in pill form. It is a joy to pill a cat-not. Now, it is compounded into a plastic pen where you twist it to get the medicine out, then apply it to the inner pinna of the ear, where there is less fur. Cowboy prefers a gloved finger putting in his ear. I have to be careful because I have hypothyroidism, and I don’t need my thyroid gland suppressed any more.

Joe has lost about ten pounds so far. That’s a huge amount of weight. He was a huge cat, eighteen pounds. Now, he is what we called in vet school a “rack of bones.” The funny thing is that he has such a luxurious coat, and the longest, fluffiest tail in history, that you can’t see now thin he is. As time has gone by, I can feel all the parts of the bones we learned first year in vet school. He likes to eat Ivy’s dog food; but I recently took all three types of cat food I have tried, three bowls, and the cats can eat what they want. I fill the small-size bowls to the top so I can see if food has eaten.

Matthew, 17, is doing fabulously. He has renal failure with normal blood work. His urine is just very dilute. He is still Top Cat. He has surpassed Pruney’s record, and is the longest-living cat Earl and I have had.

Cowboy Joe is comfortable, rests on my lap or the bed, and purrs all the time as he has always done. The medicine keeps the litter plans drier, and he is calmer because his metabolism has calmed down.

I worry a little because I am only taking Ivy to Tucson. Lately, he has started to labor when he breathes. Frank, with his heart murmur and kidney failure, does too, but they are comfortable. Open mouth breathing is a sign of major distress.

That will be the time to give up, and remember what great brothers they have been. It will be hard, because I named him Cowboy Joe in honor of the University of Wyoming sports teams, and Earl was a rabid fan. One day, they will be in the Wyoming stands, Cowboy Joe resting on Earl’s lap, cheering on the ‘pokes.

Warm day, unconscious dog

After I ate breakfast today and read two papers (skipped yesterday [I mean the day] to sleep,) it was only 11:30. Ivy kept putting her head in my lap, one of her dog signs for “I want exercise.” So, we went to the dog park.

Usually we don’t do the dog park on weekends, especially this Sunday, because the Broncos dumped another game last night, Saturday, instead of today. There are too many dogs and their idiot owners usually, but today’s crowd was pretty good.

Ivy’s orange tennis ball that came with her Chuck-It broke, and she doesn’t like other balls. So we walked around  the park, with her running and looking for balls and practicing tricks, and me practicing walking without my hips falling out of my jeans and landing on the ground.

We went home to find a text from Nancy, my 50-year friend. Would Ivy like to come to her house to play with their chocolate Lab, Roux? Roux is Ivy’s best friend, even though Roux weighs twice what Ivy does.

Ivy and Roux played non-stop, chasing balls, wrestling, going in the garden, getting thoroughly filthy; then came in the house to play some more. I hadn’t had lunch, so David, who had prepared mac and cheese along with croissants filled with pepperoni, mozzarella and some marinara sauce to boot fed me. Yummy. Thanks, David.

Ivy and I got home around 4:30. Ivy promptly went out to sleep on her patio for hours. One bark at 9ish, and she came in to go into a coma on the couch.

Now she’s up again, wanting to formally go to bed, ie, out to pee, “go to bed” “take it nice (Milk-Bone)” and she settles down. I want to stay up a little longer, as I am reading a really good book: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Life.” Ivy is sitting on the couch with her head on the back as if looking out the window-except the blinds are closed.

I guess I can read in bed while Ivy sleeps, and Matthew begins his nightly round of loud meowing, trying to settle down on my left shoulder. Frank will come in later. Cowboy Joe, still losing weight, we’ll see in the morning for his meds.

All in all, a nice day for us, and for Ivy, a “two a day.”

Special thanks to my cousin, Kathy, Earl’s cousin really, for always remembering me and sending me a Christmas card with a letter and pictures. Her mother was Wild Bill’s sister, my beloved Aunt Elaine, so it is the other side of Earl’s family than the one that ceases to acknowledge that I exist. I called Kathy in New Jersey to thank her for always thinking of me, and we had a nice long chat.

A totally satisfying day.