Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bits of Scruffy to hold in my heart....

1) Yesterday, it was an amazing February day in Pittsburgh.  Although it was chilly, it was a beautiful day, and oh, the sunshine!  It just poured in the windows on the front of the house.  (Which would have been even more striking if I would ever get around to calling the window cleaner to come!)  There were a half dozen places on the cat trees where there was a huge droplet of sunshine, just begging for a cat to come and nap there.  The sky was the most brilliant blue...  All in all, it was stunning.

Around 3:00, I decided I had to drag myself out to get cat food and kitty litter.  But, when I sat down in my chair to put my shoes on, Scruffy came waddling over at his top speed, hopped up on the couch, walked across the end table, and plopped himself down on my leg.  And then he looked up at me like, "Well, put your hand over here so I can sleep!"    Which I did, because having him nap in my cupped hand is one of my favorite things in all the world.  And he immediately slipped off to sleep.  I was preparing to follow him - well, can't very well buy cat food and kitty litter if you can't get out of your chair, right? - and take just a TINY rest, when Milkshake must have noticed that there was napping going on.  He jumped up, too, and settled in between Scruffy's side and my right arm.  And then he put his tail, his head, and his left front paw around Scruffy - just encircled him with white furry body parts.  And the three of us slept until something woke me up two hours later.  We were still warm and snuggly and peaceful, and it made me so glad that I'd stayed home.

2)  For years, Scruffy has found it necessary to supervise my showering.  As soon as I turn the water on in the shower, there he is, sitting in the middle of the bathroom.  Except for the couple of months before he got cancer, when I was - and yes, I'm ashamed - so mad at him for peeing on the rugs repeatedly that I could hardly look  at him.  And he obviously got the message, because he pretty much avoided me.  This makes me so sad, but I guess there's nothing to do about it now....  He didn't come to sleep with his head in my hand any more, he  didn't show up when I got a shower, and I frequently had to hunt all over the place to find him to give him his pills.  When Claudia, the animal communicator said he offered to make a deal with me - if he could stop taking prozac, he'd stop peeing - I was dubious, but agreed.  And suddenly, we were back to normal.  No more hiding, no more avoiding me, and even, for a while, no more peeing on the carpet.  It lasted about four months, and then he started again.  I told him, as patiently as I could, that I couldn't live with that behavior.  But he didn't stop it, so last November or December, I started giving him the prozac again - half the previous dose, and I explained that it wasn't to punish him, I just needed him to stop.  (Yeah, I know, it sounds psycho, but....  you do what you need to do, I guess.) And it's been okay, oddly.  He never started hiding again, or avoiding me; he pretty much did stop peeing on the rug.

Anyway, so the other day, I was going to get a shower, and he didn't show up.  He was sleeping on the heated mat on the window ledge in the kitchen.  I went out and woke him up and said, "Hey, Puffy. Tubby Uppers?"  Yeah, baby talk, I know.  And he just sort of looked at me blankly, and then put his head back down.  So, I went back to the bathroom.  Got a really long shower - till all the hot water was used up! - dried my hair, got dressed, and when I opened the bathroom door, THERE, sitting in front of it, was my little Puffer.  He'd gotten himself up and dragged his poor sick little body all the way to the other end of the house so he could sit in the bathroom with me, and I'd closed the door so he couldn't get in.  I felt so bad.

3)Scruffy was the most laid back cat I've ever had.  Nothing bothered him.  The day I brought him home, back in 2003, he wandered all over the house, paying no attention to the three other strange cats - including Poor Psycho Picklefritz.  He poked around the basket the cat toys were in, he sniffed their food dishes, he stopped to look out the front windows.  And then,  suddenly, a half hour after he arrived, he started to shriek in pain.  I had NO idea what was wrong. Touching him was impossible - it was clearly agonizing.  My sister and I managed to get him into a carrier and into the car.  We drove to the closest vet that was open - where it turned out, he had a urinary tract blockage.  Apparently due to stress, oddly, for a cat who gave no appearance of being stressed.  This was the first of three blockages that had to be surgically undone.  Were they all because of stress?  Got me. He was still my calm cat that nothing bothered.  I had to poke him with the sweeper to get him to move out of the way.  He didn't mind the hair dryer, he loved when strangers showed up.... Just pretty much oblivious.  As long as no one touched his tail.

Three or four years ago, after a dental, he had a major personality change.  I don't know what could have happened to him - it was the same vet I'd been taking him to for years, and he'd had several other dentals.  No explanation, but all of a sudden, my laid-back kitty turned into a raving monster at the vet.  Hissing, spitting, howling, scratching, biting - I never would have believed it was the same Scruffy.  When he developed the melanosis/melanoma in his eye and we started having fairly frequent appointments with the ophthalmologist, I accidentally came up with a solution to what was becoming a real problem - I stuck a kitty pi in the carrier.  It was possible to just slide him in and out of the carrier, and as long as no one did anything to him that required taking him out of the pi - he was fine and dandy.  It worked at the regular vet, too.  He'd go back into the carrier and spit and carry on, but as long as he had his pi, he was good to go.

4)  Scruffy looooved riding in the car.  (This started before he got diabetes and I learned all the good stuff about feline safety and health from FDMB.)  He loved to sit on the lap of whoever wasn't driving and look out the window.  So, I hunted around and found a "Doggy Seat Belt", size small.  It was perfect for him.  Just a sort of harness, covered with fake lambs' wool.  You slipped it on the dog/cat, adjusted the straps, and hitched it to the car seat belt.  I was real proud of myself for coming up with such a perfect solution to how to take him in the car by myself.   Until......  I looked over, and realized that he had somehow figured out how to slither out of the Doggy Seat Belt, and he was standing on the seat, looking out the window.  Talk about panic - I pulled over so fast,  I hit the curb.  That was the last trip with the Doggy Seat Belt.  My other "good idea" for taking him in the car was to buy a baby sling sort-of-thing.  I thought I could just put it on, stick him in it, and he'd just sit there while I drove.  Another fantasy, unfortunately.  He didn't want any part of the "just sitting there." He lasted about five minutes, and then he wanted OUT.

Oddly, one last thing about the car - his glucose level would drop.  I mean, DROP.  The first time I noticed that he had a kind of wild-eyed look in his eye, we were on the way to the chiropractor in another county.  I pulled over and tested him - yes, I took his meter where he went - and he was at 27.  He'd spent years in the 300's and 400's, put him in the car, and he's 27.....  At one point, he was in really high numbers for a long time, and I actually stuck him in the car and drove around to see if it would help lower his bg.   It didn't.

5)  It's kind of funny to think about how cats never get to go outside.  Well, probably not funny to the cats, but.... I feel very strongly that I do not want cats that have access to the outside - although we've never ever had a problem with fleas on the ferals I've brought in, I know they're lurking out there!  Along with garter snakes, and cars going up and down the hill too fast.  All good reasons why my cats are indoor cats.  But, in a moment of lunacy, I thought that it would be wonderful if they all had little walking jackets - with matching leashes!, and we'd go for little walks in the yard.  I ordered these cute little nylon "jackets" - just a rectangle of brightly colored nylon with a Velcro buckle for adjusting the size.  I started with Milkshake, who of course had to do that silly "oh, my god, what did they put on my back, it weighs a ton, I can hardly walk, I'm smashed into the ground, how could anyone do such a thing to a sweet cat like me...."  You know the routine.  But, eventually, he caught on.  And he actually DID walk and sniff the grass, and I took a lovely picture of him standing on the sidewalk, surrounded by the last of the pretty purple rhodendron blossoms.

Encouraged by all that success, I thought Scruffy could be my next victim.  I got him all strapped in - and he didn't need to flop onto his side in terror or anything!  And we went outside.  Walked around the house, pretty successfully, but as we came around to the driveway side, he took off around the car.  And wedged himself on the far side of the front tire of my car.  I'm shrieking and clicking on his retractible color-coordinated leash, when all of a sudden, it flew back toward me, and there was no cat at the end of it.  NO CAT.  I was in a panic.  He'd been a stray, and had never really shown the least desire to go outside ever again.  And  I'd forced him to!  Dumb.  I went around and around the house, calling him frantically.  (And trying to avoid the snakes that I knew were just lying there in wait for me.)  No sign of him.  After fifteen minutes of frantic, exhausting searching, I thought, maybe if I go inside he'll come to the door. So, I did.  No Scruffy.  I went to every door, opened it, and called him.  No sign of him, but then, all of a sudden, I heard a cat howl.  I ran outside, and there he was - sitting at the end of the house, yelling at the top of his lungs, and waiting for me to come and get him.  Which I did.  And then, I put away all the little walking jackets and the matching leashes, and no one here EVER goes outside, except to go to the vet.

6)  The day, the second week in January, 2012, when I took Scruffy to the vet for bloodwork so he could have a dental, I was totally unconcerned about the results.  Except for the occasional higher than usual cholesterol result, which was probably related to the diabetes, he'd never had anything in his bloodwork to worry about. We joked about how Scruffy "never not eats."  And then oddly, the next morning, he didn't want to eat.  No nuzzling all the other dishes, no gulping down his own.  Very peculiar.  And then the vet called with the results, and that very first high calcium level.  And ALT and AST were a smidge higher than normal.  The beginning of the end.  With no warning, no sign that inside him things were going horribly wrong.

Back to the prozac, and eating.  Prior to our "bargain", I was giving him his prozac every morning, in a pill pocket.  He's very hard to pill - it's like there's not enough space in the back of his throat or something.  When Milkshake opens his mouth for pills, there's all kinds of room back there, but Scruffy..... not so much.    So, every morning we had this big ordeal with the pilling.  It would take multiple attempts usually.  He could spit a pill out and it would land three feet away.  Or twine its sticky gooey self into his long, scraggly fur.......  So, anyway, eventually, I'd manage to cram the little pill ball into him, and he'd jump down to eat.  And he would sit and eat and eat and eat - I have never seen a cat eat the way he would.  Totally focused on how much he could get into his stomach.  And then, he'd throw up all the extra food - and the PILL - in a disgusting mess on the floor.  And in ten minutes, he'd be back in the kitchen, chomping away at the food that was left, while I  forlornly poked through the pile of barf to see if the pill was really in there or not.  And whether you believe it or not, it was INTENTIONAL.  He knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it every morning!

Oh, there's so much more.  Eight plus years, with this dear cat with the enormous personality.  Not nearly long enough. He's still sitting at the top of the steps waiting for me when I come home.  He wakes me up 12 times a night now, headbutting me so I'll scratch his ears.  I've been exhausted ever since he came home from the hospital.  He has been totally fixated on me, and on food, since he got here all those years ago.  He doesn't bother any of the other cats.  He has spent 8 years trailing around behind me, waiting for me to sit down so he can climb up onto my lap.  He has always been a barfer - ate and ate and ate till he threw up, and now, on chemo, he hasn't thrown up once.  That ragged fur that somehow always looked so smooth in pictures.  The giant fluffy tail that no one is allowed to touch, and the teeny-weeny, two-inch-high legs.  I always thought that his stomach was dragging on the ground until the first time I shaved him for the summer; he had a regular cute little cat body under all that fur!  The awful, horrible thing that was growing in his eye, and that could have shortened his life three years ago;  I guess that was lucky, wasn't it?   I talk to him 20 hours a day, because  he's always right there behind me.

How am I gonna get used to his not being here?

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