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.

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.

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.

E. coli, or how I got sick when my dog shook cattle-infused water all over me

I like to take Ivy to the dog park. I don’t use the regular one close to home on the weekend. Too many obnoxious dogs and their more obnoxious owners.

I have a not well known dog park to go to on weekends. Sometimes, we are the only ones there. Good thing Ivy finally learned how the “Chuck It” works so she can fly after tennis balls.

At this park, there is a dying Ponderosa pine tree. Heck, with all the water they are using, it’s probably drowning. I know it’s there, but check every time by chucking the tennis ball in the opposite direction so Ivy doesn’t see me.

One day about three weeks ago, by golly, there it was, a gray, stinky pond with a tree in the middle. In she splashed. OK, I thought, I’ll wash her off when we get home.

When Ivy got out of the water, of course she came up to me and shook herself off hard. I was covered by greenish dots smelling suspiciously bovine. We headed for home, she got rinsed off, I put the dirty clothes in the wash, and took a shower.

A few days later, I was nauseous in the morning. I stopped eating. I finally called my GI doc, and got an appointment with his PA. He put me on Peptobismol, and told me to go to the lab and get a stool sample kit. Did you know PB turns your, er, stool black. Totally gross. I thought my colitis was kicking up, but it turned out to be E. coli. Yep, from a bovid. I actually ate cow shit. Eeeewww. I called the facility where the dog park is, and they were shocked, and would look into it. What’s to look into? I’m part Holstein now. I also notified the county health department.

So the treatment really is Pepto, and a magnesium oxide tablet when this turns the other way. I have my book launch coming up in 10 days, a film crew wants to film Ivy at the care center-they are working on permission forms, and I feel like crap. Maybe that’s not such a good word to use.

Ivy, by the way, is just fine, thank you.

Franklin, mine son.

Oy Frank. Mine son. You have been through the ringer; but you still come up purring.

On April 27, I took you to the clinic for euthanasia. You are fifteen years old. You have a Grade III heart murmur, a BUN off the charts indicating your kidneys are on the way out, and you have to breathe extra hard. I initially took you in to Earl’s old clinic because you used to be eighteen pounds, and now you looked like normal weight. You looked horrible.

Yet, when I took you out of the carrier, you looked like the healthiest cat on the planet. Dr. Gaffney looked at me like I was nuts! I could hear her thinking: “Why are you here to put this happy cat to sleep?” So was I! He came out of the carrier  to purr at and bump all the staff, eating snacks, leaving me scratching my head in puzzlement.  She did hear the Grade III murmur where the other vet had called it a Grade II.

We decided then to take a chest film. With a Grade III mitral murmur and dyspnea (difficult breathing), surely we would find something. That film was of the healthiest looking heart and lungs I ever saw. Dr. Gaffney laughed when I told you, “Well, Frank, I guess you aren’t going to die today.” We went home and you ate some kitty fud.

Fast forward to July. We-you three elderly cats and the puppy with their mother were watching TV in the loft upstairs. I had put an empty bowl of ice cream on the flat top of the loft banister to remember to take it downstairs. You do have a bad habit of checking out my feeding dishes, er, bowls. My eye just glanced over to the flat top just in time to see your paws on the top and nothing else. The paws went off, and in a microsecond, I heard a body hit the stairs. I screamed and ran down to find a dead cat. But there you were, alive and crouched on the floor and still. I touched you, and you cried. OMG!

I called the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and told the woman on the phone I was coming in pronto, and would stay with my cat.

After all the struggles over the years I’ve had with you, Franklin, about getting into a carrier, you walked right in.

I broke all speed records to get you to the hospital.

CSU now has a Patient Liaison. She is wonderful with crazy people, when the resident introduced herself to me as did the new senior student. They only took you away from me to do an exam. You were fine, but I wanted to see a film of your chest and spine. Totally normal.

I took all the paperwork home with  you, now in the pouring rain. Thanks for the hundreds of dollars I spent. All the stuff on the balcony is off, but I can’t keep you off. Has this happened before? How would I know?

Still good ‘ol Charlie Brown, er, Franklin. Charlie Brown was my very first cat. Now, you sleep next to my head, purring and  cuddling all the time. You are an old cat, so is your brother, and so is Matthew, who is seventeen.

I remember when I told Dr. Kainer, my anatomy professor, that I decided to go into feline practice. His comment? “That’s good. It’s hard to kill a cat.”

Myra Kanter

The storm raging the East coast and a FB comment from a law professor prompted me to this memory.

When I was at Highland Park High School, at the end of the semesters we had a final exam schedule. You only came to school when you had a final. There was a special bus schedule. If you left the building, you could not come back in.

At the end of my first semester, the final exam schedule was fixed for January (this is before Fort Collins, and hurrying to finish the semester with the college students to get out early.) It also happened to be the time of the Great Blizzard of 1967.

Myra Kanter, a school friend who was a genius, finished her final, and went out to the bus area. With the snow and wind swirling around her and seeing no busses, Myra realized she missed the bus. She tried to get back inside, because the next bus was in an hour. School officials would not let her in.

First, imagine a Chicago blizzard. Then imagine a skinny genius with the sweet temperament actually standing in the raging snow looking through the door at the guard watching her suffer. There were no cell phones to call her mom, and even if she wanted to use a phone, she wasn’t going to be let in.

I have never forgotten that. It’s one of those memories I have stuffed in my brain. My friend, Linda, always says to me, “How do you remember things like that”? I don’t know, but I do.

Stay out of the northeast for a few days, Myra.

Really creepy

My childhood friend, Marcy, disappeared off the radar. No one knew where she was after she took her mother from Florida, went to New Orleans, and ended up on the North Shore of Chicago where we grew up. She touched base with friends from her Highland Park days. Her mother stroked out and died .

It turns out that Marcy died last August in the Denver area. I didn’t even know she was in the state. My friend, Michael L., said the Arapahoe County coroner said the death was of natural causes. She was 65.

Fast forward to yesterday. There was an email on Marcy’s address. Anonymous, but the person, who of course said she was not Marcy, said she was handling the estate. She had read our letters over the last two years, and seemed gleeful that I stopped all communication with Marcy, and took her off my FB account.

I wrote back and asked, “Who is this?” We went back and forth with the writer getting more vitriolic about Marcy with each letter. I said I would not communicate without knowing who this was.

Then I got a FB note from Michael W., another childhood classmate. He said the writer was her sister, and was spewing hate to all Marcy’s friends. The sister and brother are over ten years older than Marcy was, but Marcy was stuck taking care of her elderly parents who were in their 90’s. Her mom died at 98.

I don’t know who put the fun in this dysfunctional family, but leave me out of it. I’m sorry Marcy had a hard life after being the most popular girl in school, but I remember us being good friends at Braeside School. I’d play at her house after school. She lived right across the street from Braeside Elementary.

We are taught to forgive those who do bad things to others. I’ll never know the truth about what happened, but that happens. There is only one person in the world I do not and never will forgive. Marcy’s sister, I forgive you, but leave me the hell alone.

John McCain, American

I wanted to write this while the good gentleman from Arizona is still alive. Unfortunately,  the clock is ticking for Senator John McCain. He has glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest of all brain cancers. No matter how long he stays with us, the tumor will take him in the end. Sooner rather than later, I think. It’s the same cancer Senator Ted Kennedy died from, and also Beau Biden, son of the former vice president, Joe Biden.

When that sicko now inhabiting the eighteen acres on Pennsylvania Avenue was campaigning, he said McCain was not a hero because he got captured. He “liked” people who didn’t get captured. He didn’t like McCain because he was captured and suffered five years of torture? Is that how people should judge others, and “like” them or not like them based on their success or failure?

John McCain has served his country. Period. He is a role model for all who want a life in the fishbowl inside the Beltway. I wanted to write this before, not after his time is finished. Don’t be afraid, John, go easy and be reunited with those you loved here on Earth.

 

Urine in the office

I went into my office yesterday to get something my writing coach, Judy, needed. I shooed the brothers, Cowboy Joe and Frank, out of the office. I type in my chair, so I don’t have to crutch back and forth.

This morning, I got up to let the dog out, and I heard frantic meowing upstairs. Matthew had gotten stuck in the office. I close the door because I don’t want the cats in there. Bad idea.

Of course, Matthew, 16, can’t go all night without urinating. He has chronic renal failure, and gallons of stinky cat urine is a part of it.

You can imagine the smell. You can understand I couldn’t go in because I was in stocking feet. Somewhere in there is a pile of kitty turds, I’m sure. Since I can’t vacuum or anything, I took a can of Resolve carpet cleaner, stood at the doorway, and sprayed the entire carpet. Poor Kayla, she has no idea of what she is in for next Monday, my biweekly cleaning day.

Trash Day

Well, Ivy the Golden doodle went out earlier at 5 this morning to pee. Usually, I go outside to watch her at night, then she sleeps in. I can’t do that right now, as I am on crutches. I assume she has peed.

So, an hour later, after sleeping outside until 6am, Ivy barked once to come in. She is a good dog about this, and my new neighbors are pleased. Ivy knows that when she comes in in the morning, it is time for snoozing on the bed with me and the cats. She loves Matthew, my tough guy, 16, and he really likes her kisses. He will jump on the bed if Ivy is there. I adore sleeping with Ivy on the bed, but I don’t trust her for all night because she chomps up pens and pencils. She sleeps in her crate. Besides, the bed is for the cats at night.

The rest of the day, no animals are allowed in the master. One time, Matt woofed up such a potent hairball as to take the finish off one of my mother’s old dressers. Because the cats also leave prodigious vomit on the bedspread and sheets, that the door is closed all day.

I was awake, the earliest since my accident at dog school on the 27th, so we all got up. I let Ivy out, and stumped around getting my breakkie. I never appreciated having an island before. I can just push stuff around. The best kitchen I had in the best house I had was in Lubbock, Texas, and it was a galley kitchen with tons of storage space.

I’m trying to do the “homework” my editor, Judy, gave me. She is out of town, so we won’t have our weekly meeting this week. She said to read my publisher’s book, Green-light Your Book by Brooke Warner of She Writes Press. Very good and informational book.

I started to get tired and snoozed a little. What do you know, Ivy went ballistic. Lovely little dog, big bark; still pees submissively when people come whom she doesn’t know. Waiting for her to outgrow that. Today is trash day, and also recycle day. I heard the recycle truck, which comes in the morning, and stumped downstairs thanks to Ivy’s keen watchfulness for trash trucks.

First, I put the little trash can out. On crutches, this is problematic. You take the bad leg’s foot, and make fit it so the container can roll. Hang on because it’s downhill, and try to advance the crutches without killing yourself. Next, do the large recycle can. My neighbor next door did this for me last week, but now that I can put a little (15%) weight on my surgicated hip, I tried it. Phyllis saw me fumbling around and asked if this was all my trash. I said all but what is in the kitchen trash can. She took care of it, and I was so proud of myself-I put in a new trash bag.

Phillis and Sharon are going to Trader Joe’s, and I gave them a list for me. Mostly comfort food. Sharon went to Safeway for me yesterday, and I gave her a check made out to Safeway with my signature. A blank check. Also gave her my Safeway card. Safeway didn’t like it, so this time, I’ll just pay her back. I did drive to my dr. appt. last Thursday, because I hadn’t used any pain medicine. But hauling groceries is whole another thing.