Sunday, August 30, 2009

Still Not Done

Well, we're ALMOST out of the rental house! >:-P

After several major trips across town today, and packing both our cars to the rafters, only the tops of my earlobes are not hurting from all the packing and moving...and we're still not quite there. We brought the last load of the day over about two hours ago. I spent the rest of the time getting our fridge here clean so we could load in all the food we brought over. I also tried to get our washer and dryer hooked up, but the dryer hose I bought is too short by about two feet. Luckily, we both have enough clothes for tomorrow, so I can go rectify the dryer hose calamity on my way home tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, I have to go BACK to the rental house one last time to make sure the cleaning people did a good job, and to pick up the last few things we couldn't get today. I still need to bring over the lawnmower, Everlasting SoulMate's gardening tools and the propane tank for my BBQ. Once I do that, we should be all done and out. Finally. And if I EVER have to pack another moving box,!!!

The kittehs seem to have survived the day without incident, even without us being around much. Treelo seems much more calm today, although she is still a bit jumpy and gets startled easily. I'm sure she'll become more comfortable with each passing day. Tomorrow is a big day for her, as we plan to move her litter box, food and water out of my office upstairs and down into the main part of the house, and let Hubbard start to have the run of the second floor. We'll see how that works out. Also, I plan to move back into the master bedroom tomorrow night as well. I'm tired of sleeping apart from my ESM.

I'm sorry, I wish I had some pics to post, but we've been SO BUSY today that I did not get a chance to take any. Will get some up as soon as I have the energy to do so.

I'm off to peel my shoes from my feet (remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon anyone?), eat several Advil and hit the sack. Nighty-night.

One More Day...

Yesterday was our first "full day" in the new house. I was hoping it would begin to feel like home with all our stuff in it, even packed in boxes. But, not really. It still feels like I am somehow just passing through, before having to go back to the old house. It's hard to describe the feeling in's somehow a mixture of sadness, trepidation and even a little lonliness. Almost like I'm homesick. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are also times when I am excited about getting to mold this house into what I want, and not what a landlord will let me do. But, the times I feel overwhelmed outnumber the excited ones by a large margin. I know that will begin to change at some point, I just hope it's soon!

The kittehs are adjusting to their new environment somewhat better than I am. Treelo let herself downstairs yesterday, a little ahead of schedule. She slipped past the gate as my Everlasting SoulMate was headed downstairs yesterday morning. Treelo seemed a bit overwhelmed as well by all the new space. She stayed very close to us, and was going back upstairs frequently to check that her stuff was still there. However, by evening, she was beginning to go off and explore on her own, and not cling to the area where my ESM and I were all the time. She really likes looking out the sliding glass door in the kitchen. It opens out onto a patio with a grape arbor over it, then out into the back yard. We had the door open yesterday, and just the screen closed, so she could sniff the air. She sat there for quite a while, watching the little white butterflies making their rounds amongst the flowers. It was fun to watch.

It does bring back memories of Ziggy though, for both of us. We have remarked to one another several times about something we've found in the new house that Ziggy would have liked. I think the space wouldn't feel quite so empty with him here. We both miss his calm and curious nature right now. I know it would help me ground my own displaced feelings a bit.

We are unpacking some more boxes this morning in anticipation of going to the old house, filling them up with the last stuff we left behind and getting out of the rental for good. I will be happy to finally be able to work here full-time, as it were, and be done with all the box-packing and car-loading. But, I know it will also be the last connection to the memories we made in that house. When we're done, all we'll have are those memories. And, unfortunately, the last few were not pleasant. I don't know how I will deal with those after the physical connection to the house is gone. No one does, I'm sure. But I know I will have to deal with them someday. I can safely say, with no reservation...I'm not looking forward to that day.

Wow...heavy. Didn't mean to bring the mood down, but my mood has been more down than up lately! I'll take some pictures today, and maybe I can get a few posted tonight of the kittehs amongst their new surroundings. That will cheer me up, and should bring some positive energy to my writing. Take care everyone.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sorry for the Delay!

I just got my laptop back up and running, and got all your comments posted. Whew! They were starting to pile up!

We are officially "moved in" now, but we still have some things at the old house we need to go get this weekend to be officially out of the rental house. But for right now, everything is good.

The kittehs are here with us, finally. We have them sequestered upstairs for now, with Hubbard occupying the master suite and Treelo wandering around the other two bedrooms and my office. They are nervous and curious, simultaneously.

One of the closet doors in the guest room has a mirrored front on it, and Treelo discovered her reflection. She has not really been around mirrors much, so this other interloper was getting the "evil eye" earlier! *grin*

We'll keep them both up here for a few days, to get acclimated. Then Treelo will start to get the run of the house, as normal.

Well, it's time to order pizza and have dinner. We bought lunch for the movers (Mickey-D's), but that was seven hours ago and I'm hungry! So, I'll say TTFN and get a post up tomorrow sometime.

--Sundown, Out

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Man, This is Weird!

The whole experience of buying a house and taking posession is a bit surreal. I've never owned a house myself before. Of course, my parents owned their homes. And I've rented trailers, apartments and houses many times. But this is a first for me.

I have a lot of emotions all jumbled up. Thinking about the fact that now I am responsible for this house in its entirety is a bit scary. Thinking about the money I will have to spend to pay this off is daunting. The ability to customize absolutely everything I can afford to is exhilirating. And, its a bit sad and lonely here now...not just because the house is sans kittehs for now, but the fact that Mr. Ziggy won't be here to enjoy this with us. I know he is always with us in spirit, but we'd both like to see his reaction to all the nice windows in this new place. He would have been happy.

Our real estate agent informed me today that the whole process, from when we contacted him to closing only took two months. Wow! It felt more like four or five months. Another one of those ways stress messes with you.

My Everlasting SoulMate and I are working on painting the kitchen tonight. It is a bluish-purple color that neither of us care for. So, we are painting it a peachy-pumpkiny kind of color. We painted the kitchen of the rental house a little darker version of that color and really liked it in there, but the cabinets in that house were the more Eurpoean white fronts with just the wood trim at the bottom. Looked great. This house has more traditional wood cabinets in a nice oak. We figured by lightening the color up, it would look better with all the wood. I'll post a before and after shot in the future and let y'all decide.

Well, my break-time is over and I need to get back to it. I'll post again when our move is complete on Friday night. Take care everyone.

--Sundown, Out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moving Day Approaches

Well, this is going to be a short post, since we've been working most of the weekend on packing our house and I'm ready to hit the hay.

We're getting pretty close to being ready for the movers on Friday. The house is looking more and more un-lived-in all the time. And the moving boxes are beginning to really pile up. Treelo has enjoyed trying to sit on top of all of them! *grin*

We got the final numbers on our loan and cash amount we need to bring to closing. All of them are lower than we were expecting, so that was good news. Wednesday at 11:30am MDT is the closing and posession. I guess I need to start practicing my penmanship to get my wrist and arm in shape to sign all the documents.

Ziggy is never far from our thoughts. Susan found a few new pictures today on our server that we forgot we had, which was kind of a nice surprise. It also made both of us cry again. We all still miss him terribly.

We have made arrangements for our vet to board Hubbard and Treelo for the day of moving. That should make things less stressful on us. And, to make the transition less stressful on them, we got our Feliway refills and some Rescue Remedy in the mail last Friday. We'll get all that going in the new house long before we bring them in. It certainly helped when we introduced Ziggy, so we figure it will work in this situation too.

I'm figuring to do a post after the closing, and another one after the move. I have my work laptop, which has a cellular modem in it, to use while we await the installation of our high-speed line. Gots to have teh Interwebs!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good-Bye, My "Little-Buddy" - Part 3

My apologies for not getting this up last night, but things are complicated in our house at the moment. This last chapter was more difficult to write than I expected, bringing with it many tears. However, along with all the heartache and grieving, we are also closing on our first house next Wednesday, and moving on the Friday after. So, after working my normal job, I then spent most of last night trying to finish packing my office in preparation. I apparently used myself up on that, not realizing I needed to leave a little to get through my post. When I couldn’t even get through the first paragraph without crying so much I couldn’t see my monitor, I decided bed was a better option at that moment. After some much needed sleep, and half a box of tissues, here is the belated post.

Ziggy’s condition continued a slow, downhill slide the last day. He basically stopped eating very much, and his drinking slowed to just a drip now and then. His litter box went unused, except by Treelo.

Treelo was so interesting during Ziggy’s last days. She knew something was wrong, which is not surprising. Anyone who’s had animals knows they are very sensitive to the emotional state of their people. Case in point, I’ve had all three of them come and snuggle up to me when I am sick, even on a hot summer day when they would not do so otherwise. They know. And Treelo knew things were not right with Ziggy. She would not leave the immediate area where he was. She was never right in the middle of things, but stayed on the periphery all the time. She did hiss at him when he first came home, I think because he “smelled funny” with all the things the clinic had used on him. But she stayed close around the whole time he was home with us.

Given his obvious decline, we had no choice but to accept that we had done the right thing by making the preparations to help him on his journey. However, Wednesday morning came much too soon.

We made preparations for the vet’s arrival, not knowing exactly how this all worked as neither of us had been through an at-home euthanasia. We covered the coffee table under the window with Ziggy’s favorite blanket, a piece of tan polar fleece with kitties all over it. It used to be folded up on the cushion of the chair he always liked to sleep in. We felt that would be comforting for him. We moved the kitty tree where it was in line to see the table, figuring Treelo would probably join us at some point. She immediately decided that was the best seat in the house and parked herself in the top perch.

As the morning progressed, I spent a little time working on my laptop at the kitchen table, trying to keep up a little bit with work remotely. I know, it sounds callous, but it allowed me a little time to focus on something other than events to come. While I was sitting there, I suddenly felt something rub up against my leg. I looked down, and with some genuine surprise, found Ziggy. He had wandered over to see what I was up to, true to his curious nature. I rubbed his head and spoke softly to him, asking what he was up to. He jumped up on the chair next to me, then onto the table. He came very deliberately and sat down next to my laptop and looked me dead in my eyes. Ziggy was not one to come and look intently at you, unless he wanted something. I began skritching his neck, where he always liked, and he leaned into my hand and enjoyed the attention. He then flopped over on his side, as was normal for him when he was getting attention and wanted it to continue. After a couple of minutes of loves, I moved my hand back intending to close my laptop so I could pay more attention to him. He reached out and put his paw on my arm. I broke down. I had the feeling at that moment of him saying, “It’s ok papa, you do what you need to. I’m ok.” I stroked his leg and paw, and cried my eyes out. My wife soon discovered me, and came to comfort me…but she broke down as well when she saw me holding his paw. As my wife put it sometime afterwards, one year was just not long enough for “forever”.

The vet (who I will call the “doc”), came around to the house right on time. She was a very nice person, and I appreciated her demeanor from the beginning. Treelo, of course, had to come meet this new person. She’s the social maven of our family and takes it as her solemn duty to greet every guest that comes to our home…whether it’s our extended family, friends, the TV repairman, whoever. The doc asked if Treelo liked catnip, to which I replied, “Is a fat puppy heavy?” She pulled out a small, heart-shaped tin filled with some of the freshest catnip I’ve seen since we used to grow it ourselves. She took a pinch out and set it in front of Treelo, who immediately began snarfing it up. What a good way to get everyone relaxed immediately.

The doc then got to meet our Ziggy. She remarked at how big a boy he was! Being a Maine Coon mix, he was a very

large kitty. When we first brought him home we had him quarantined in our guest room. At that time, one of the beds in there was a double (or full) size. When Ziggy stretched out, he could almost go edge to edge across that bed. Remarkable.

Ziggy had been laying on the kitchen table, and the doc set the whole tin down in front of his nose. He perked right up, and buried his face in the tin. She explained that in her opinion, catnip was a somewhat overlooked drug in the cat world. We let Ziggy have his fill, after which he laid back down on his side. You could just see the little smile on his face!

The doc then began to explain to us the events to follow, and how things would work. She then asked if it was ok to go ahead and do the little bit of paperwork needed before we got started. So while Ziggy enjoyed his catnip euphoria, we took care of the details.

Now, I understand some people have a bit of an aversion to the description of the process of euthanasia, so I will not share the rest of the events in their entirety. However, I will share a few notes of interest. Treelo did join us and was there through the end. She watched the whole proceedings from her perch on top of the kitty tree. My wife and I were with him all the way through. His passing was very peaceful, lying on his blanket in front of the open window. He got to hear the birds and enjoy the light breeze from outside one last time.

When he was gone, the doc brought in a very nice basket lined with soft sheep’s wool, and so very carefully laid him in it. She then tucked him in with a nice silky blanket, and he looked so much like he was just sleeping. She took such good care of him, all the way through. She then asked if we had anything we wanted to send with him, and I handed her a small coil of the thin blue cord that was his favorite toy. She tucked it in with him and said she would make sure it made the journey.

The doc asked my wife if she’d like to carry him out, which she did, with tears in her eyes. When we got to her station wagon, which she backed into our driveway, the doc opened the back and she had it all decorated with wonderful blankets with kitties on them, lots of pillows and a special place in the middle sized just for the basket. What a superb touch…it just shows how much she cares about her job. In fact, she talks about this as not being a job for her, but rather her calling in life. I can’t imagine doing that myself day in and day out, and I applaud her for being able to.

We set Mr. Ziggy in the back and my wife and I both kissed his head one last time and said our good-byes. The doc then asked if she could give us both a hug. We both happily hugged her, and thanked her for what she had given both us and our beloved Ziggy. We said our good-byes to her, and then I put my arm around my wife and led her, slowly, back into the house. When we were safely back inside, the doc departed, and we hugged and the tears flowed like a thunderstorm.

Ziggy, as some of you may remember from my posts to The Adventures of Space Paws, was individually cremated and returned to us. My wife still sleeps with Ziggy’s blanket on our bed. We had the doc make a paw impression in clay for us, which we got back with Ziggy’s cremains. The polymer clay she used is the same color as the blue cord he loved to play with so much. And, his urn has not left my wife’s bedside table since we brought him home. Once we are moved and settled, we plan to purchase a nice wooden box with a spot for a picture on the front to keep his cremains in. It will have a place of honor on our home until we depart this earth.

I did get one piece of interesting news just today. We sent an email to the director of the shelter we adopted Ziggy from the day before he departed, to let them know his status. We figured they would want to know, again so someone else maybe doesn’t have to go through what we just did. The director sent us a note back the next day saying they would put a note in his file and pass the information along to their resident vets. We thought that was the end…but it was not. We got an email today with more information on Ziggy. Apparently, he came into the shelter from a hoarding situation. We don’t know any more than that, but it is very possible he was infected shortly before his rescue by the shelter. We’ll never know. The director also offered that if we wanted to adopt another kitty in the future from them, they would be happy to waive the adoption fee for us. Now, as nice as that is, and I do appreciate the gesture, I won’t take them up on it. They struggle for every donation dollar they get, and it is not a hardship for us to pay the adoption fee. So, we will certainly look at adopting from them again, but we’ll pay the fee. The kitties deserve it.

In all of this, I learned a couple of life lessons from our Ziggy. One is to just be calm. Take things in stride, don’t let the hustle and bustle of life get you all wound up. I think he was the calmest cat I ever met. That’s not to say he didn’t play hard…he did! But he knew it was just play. I never saw him rattled or uptight over anything. I like to think he just wanted to experience everything life had to offer without prejudice...both the good and the bad. I aspire to be more like him, in that respect. Not to shy away from something, even though you know it will be sad, or painful, or not very pleasant. Everything that happens to us in life shapes us in ways both visible and not so visible. And we should embrace those changes, as that is how we learn and grow. I plan to learn and experience all I can from now on, no matter what. And I will say his name out loud every time I think about shying away, to help me remember.

He, like most cats, knew the value of a warm lap (or chest or neck) in the winter, and a cool, quiet spot in the summer. I know he valued his relationship with us, probably in ways I don't even have a clue about. Even when he was sleeping, you always knew you could stop and rub his head and he would open one eye and purr loudly. All as if to say, "Oh, it's you. Thank you for the loves. I love you too." And then he would stretch, sigh and go back to sleep. I know we've all heard this at least a thousand times, from all sorts of places. But, I think it bears repeating, if not for you than for me. Take advantage of the time you have with loved ones and friends. Enjoy their company, learn all you can from them, and do your best to continually show and tell them how you feel. You just never know when the time will come that you will no longer have that opportunity.

Another lesson I learned I eluded to earlier; the value of play-time. He was always up for a game of chase-the-blue-cord, or why-can't-I-catch-that-stupid-red-dot with the laser pointer. He never said, "Come back later, I'm busy." He was always raring to go. We all get wrapped up in our own lives, and sometimes don't remember to take time out to just have fun. You don't have to have a reason...just go be silly and have fun. I'm very lucky to have a wife that I can be silly with, and I hope one day soon, when I can finally remember Ziggy without the tears, to feel like I can be that way again.

I cannot stress enough the value of FIV and FeLV testing. I know, I know…you’re saying, “But, they DID test him and it was negative.” Yes, however, he just happened to slip though somehow. Maybe if we had taken him in a couple of months after we got him, maybe we would have discovered the problem and things might have been different. I know those illnesses are incurable now, but with treatment we possibly could have prolonged his life at a reasonable comfort level. It’s all academic at this point, but I will make my point again. If you adopt a kitty, good for you. Just make sure you get them tested. And don’t test right after someone else has done one…wait two months and have them tested again, just to be sure. Please don’t repeat our mistake. I know I won’t.

We're all unique, and it would be a very boring place if we weren't. But, I wish Ziggy wasn't so unique. At this moment, I would very much like to have another one just like him. He was a perfect fit for our little family, in every way that matters. I know it isn't possible, and I know that at some point in the future, we will adopt another little life that needs rescuing who will be different in many ways. And they will also become an integral part of our hearts and lives. But, for now, I'm selfish...I want my Ziggy-Bean back.

I have one final wish and it is for myself and my wife. I hope that we, upon our own passings from this earth, will be able to meet up with Ziggy at Rainbow Bridge and once again enjoy his company, his love and his bigger-than-life personality. Godspeed on your journey, my little buddy. Always remember that we love you.

Vaya Con Dios and R.I.P.

Good-Bye, My "Little-Buddy" - Part 2a

I apologize. This last chapter has been a little harder to write than I was expecting. I am working on it, somewhat slower than usual through my tears, and I promise to get it up later today. Keep watching this space.

To tide everyone over, here's a picture of Ziggy at Christmas time. My sister is laying next to him and I'm sitting in the chair. Ziggy enjoyed wrapping paper, but the ribbons were his favorite toy! He chased and subdued every last one of them! Click on the pic for a larger version.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Good-Bye, My "Little-Buddy" - Part 2

Our house is kind of a house divided. Let me further explain that. Our eldest cat, Hubbard, is an orange and white Maine Coon mix and probably around fifteen now. We don’t know his exact age as we adopted him from an animal control shelter in Laramie, WY. He had been brought there as a stray, and they had no idea of his exact age (somewhere between 3-5 years it was estimated). Hubbard never did get along with Treelo, our long-haired calico, from the moment we brought her home. We adopted her from an animal hospital when she was one year old. The vet there at the time was a good friend and former college roommate of my wife. Treelo had been brought in by animal control with a large gash on her front right leg. Our vet friend fixed her up, and called us knowing we were looking for a "companion" during the day for Hubbard, as we both worked at that time. I should have known better, but we went to meet her. I fell in love from the moment I saw her. We just had no idea she was going to turn into the holy terror she did!

Hubbard has always been a lover, not a fighter. He would just not stand up to Treelo when she started in on him, and she just delighted in pushing all of his emotional buttons. So, we have always kept them separated, to keep him healthy and sane. When we moved into the rental house we’re in now, we purchased a 42” pet gate and put it at the top of the stairs. This effectively divided the house into two areas; the “upstairs” with the bedrooms and the “downstairs” living areas and the basement. Hubbard’s domain was upstairs, sleeping with us in the bed. Treelo’s domain was the rest of the house, but she would only get to sleep with me occasionally, especially when I would fall asleep on the couch. I have tried to compensate for this inequity over the years, by occasionally moving into the guest room for a night or two, and letting her sleep with me. True to her nature, she enjoys waking me up at 4am by standing on my chest. [grin]

When Ziggy came, he was literally the cat who could bridge the gap. Ziggy was so laid back, and as cool as a mountain lake. Nothing could ever rattle him. He just took everything and everyone in stride, neither showing fear or anger...even when those would have been a normal reaction. It was the very quality that drew us to him in the shelter. He was in a room with several other cats, including one who emotionally was the twin sister to our Treelo; Getting by on her looks, high-strung, with just a touch of persecution complex. Ziggy would simply walk too close to this other female cat, and she would hiss and wave a paw at him menacingly. He would just look at her and keep going, as if to say, “Yeah, whatever…I’ve heard it all before from you.” When my wife and I saw that, we looked at each other and said, if anyone could survive Treelo, it would be this cat. We never intended to become a three-cat household, but fate has a funny way of sneaking up behind you, tapping you on the back of the head and handing you a kitty.

Ziggy, after his initial quarantine, continued to show that supreme calm in our house. He and Treelo quickly worked out their relationship, which I would describe as a one-sided truce. Treelo would try to provoke him, and he would try to walk away. Even when he got to the point of retaliation, it was never excessive. He always just defended himself enough to get her to go away. That confused the crap out of her! And he went on like nothing had happened. Classic.

Ziggy and Hubbard were also able to work out a truce, of sorts. Hubbard unfortunately is blind. He developed cataracts in both eyes recently, and due to his age we did not want to risk losing him to the anesthetic that would be needed to operate. So, he could not see this new interloper clearly, but he could hear and smell him. At first, Hubbard would leave anytime Ziggy came around. Too many memories of Treelo's mistreatment of him, I guess. We worked and worked with both of them and it took quite a while, but Hubbard eventually came to tolerate his presence, as long as Ziggy stayed out of his way! Ziggy liked Hubbard, and I think really wanted to be friends with him…but Hubbard would not permit it. Many days Ziggy would come and sleep on the bed close to Hubbard. Not right next to him, but as close as he felt Hubbard would tolerate.

Ziggy was the cat who could come and go through the gate with us without issue. He became a unifying force in our little family.

I hoped when we brought Ziggy home from the clinic after his diagnosis with cancer, we would maybe see the Ziggy I remembered from our earlier times. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

I knew the first little bit would be him getting over the sedative they had given him. I knew he would be lethargic and kind of “out of it.” And that stuff was all true. He did wander around a bit to investigate after being gone…but not much. He ended up staying in our living room, lying on the hardwood floor. His breathing was better, but not what I would consider normal. When our calico, Treelo, stopped breathing while under anesthetic during a routine procedure, I took it upon myself to study more about a cat’s physiology. Treelo was resuscitated, due to the quick action of our family vet and her staff. But I learned that a normal cat’s respiration rate is about 20-30 breaths per minute, and hers is somewhat faster due to a heart abnormality and a touch of asthma. Ziggy was taking a few more breaths per minute and you could tell he was still laboring slightly. Only when he was asleep did his breathing look normal.

As he started coming out from under the sedative, his appetite returned somewhat and he began drinking a little more. He was using his litter box as well. I caught myself looking at these positive events and saying, “He’s getting better. Maybe he’s not as bad as they say.” Then I would remember…well, no, he’s not ever going to be the same again. This is just the eye of the storm. Nice and calm…but short-lived.

He enjoyed being home and in familiar surroundings. We even got to see a couple of glimpses of the old Ziggy, but only for short periods. His two favorite toys of all time were a spool of thin blue cord that he pilfered out of my wife’s sewing basket, and a laser pointer. He was thoroughly convinced that the blue cord was just evil, and it needed to be subdued at every turn. He would play with either of us for long periods, chasing the cord around, fighting with it, chewing on it, until he was satisfied it was dead. And whether he was watching us or not, he could hear you pick up the laser pointer. He would come at a dead run, chattering his teeth, ready to do battle. He would chase that red dot until your arm got so tired you’d have to give in.

But now, most of that spark was gone. He played with us a few times for a minute or two, but he got winded easily. And when he would lie down, he would only stay in one position for 15-25 minutes. Then he would have to shift and try to get comfortable again. I think that was the hardest part of having him home; seeing that he just wasn’t the big, strong boy I brought home from the shelter anymore. That still tears me up inside.

Ziggy was never much for human food. He would come and sniff what you had, but rarely did he want any. Tuna was the one exception, but I haven’t met a real cat yet that would turn down tuna. The vet clinic suggested meat baby food was generally a good option, but as I expected he turned his nose up at that too. We did get him to eat a little tuna a couple of times, but I think it only made us feel better.

He did get to enjoy his window during his last few days. We always kept a tall kitty tree next to the living room window for our brood. Ziggy thought that was one of the best spots in the house to nap. He could see out the window, and in warmer weather when the window was open, listen to the birds in the tree in our front yard. We had to help him up to the top perch a couple of times during the last days, but I think he enjoyed the morning sunshine as much as ever.

One of my most enduring memories of him was in the morning when he would suddenly hear the kids walking up the street in front of our house headed towards the elementary school at the end of our block. Ziggy would run full-tilt into the living room and with one huge leap, he would slide across the coffee table we kept under the window for the cats to sit on and end up with his face almost touching the glass. He so enjoyed watching the kids. He never missed a morning when school was in session. I hope when school started this fall just one of the kids noticed his little gray face was missing from our window and wondered where that kitty went.

I brought down a mattress from our guest room, so my wife and I could sleep with Ziggy during his last days with us. That became our world for a bit, while we sat and watched over him. We would leave him alone for short periods of time, especially when he would fall asleep. He was not sleeping as much as a cat should, and I know it was because he felt uncomfortable. So, we would just let him be while slept.

During a calm moment, when my wife and I were sitting on the bed with him, we made one of our toughest decisions. My wife was gently stroking his head as he dozed, and we began to talk about the fact that we knew he was uncomfortable, and even though he might last the week the vet thought he would, it would be increasingly painful for him. We did not want him to suffer just for us. We decided that euthanasia was the only humane option, and we felt strongly that an in-home one would be much better for him and us. We were so lucky to find a vet here in the Denver area that would come to our home to help relieve Mr. Ziggy of his pain. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to take him back to the vet to do that. I know it would have been so much more painful for all of us.

So, I called the vet and scheduled the appointment for noon on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009.

Tomorrow, the final chapter and Ziggy’s rules to live by.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good-Bye, My "Little-Buddy" - Part 1

I try to keep my blog upbeat and positive, with only the occasional rant. This is neither. This is my memorial to someone very special.

No one can ever be prepared for the death of a loved one from a terminal illness. But when that death comes to one so young, it makes it especially painful.

My Everlasting-SoulMate and I have no human children, and no plans to change that. But, we had three funny, furry, feline children. And, as all pet-owners know, they are as much (or sometimes more) a part of your family as any human could be. Unfortunately Ziggy, our youngest kitty, has passed over to the rainbow bridge and is with his family and friends on the other side.

For those of you not familiar with the poem about the rainbow bridge, or maybe you just want to read it is a link to it.

Ziggy was a large, Maine-Coon mix gray tabby. We know he was just over two years old when we adopted him from a large, no-kill cat shelter here in the Denver area. We had the joy of his company for just over a year. And, in that time I learned much about him, and I feel he taught me a little more about myself and life in general.

The final saga of Ziggy's life begins when we discovered at around 10pm on Saturday night, August 1st, 2009, that he was laboring to breathe. So, we immediately packed him up and took him to the emergency care clinic near our house. When the night-shift vet had a look at him, they decided to do an x-ray of his chest to see what was wrong. When they looked at the pictures, they discovered his chest was full of fluid! They drained almost 180mL (6 oz.) from him and put him in an oxygen chamber to bring his blood-oxygen saturation level back up. That made him more comfortable, for sure. They called for a cardiologist to come in the next day and do a cardio-ultrasound on him, as they felt he was suffering from a heart issue of some kind. They also sent a sample of the fluid they drained out for analysis. We then got to see him for a few minutes. He was looking and acting much better, but you could tell there was something not quite right about him. My wife and I told him we'd see him in the morning, thanked all the staff for their help and went home to get a little sleep. We got home somewhere south of 2am, and didn't really get much sleep as we were very worried for our boy. As it turned out, we were not worried enough.

The night-shift vet called us the next morning around 8am, as she was leaving, to let us know the cardiologist would be there in the afternoon to look at him. We asked if we could come see him before then, and she said they were very happy to accommodate us. We made plans to see him around lunchtime.

We then got a call around 10:30am from the day-shift vet, who delivered the devastating news that Ziggy was FIV and FeLV positive. The vet had acted on a hunch, and run the tests on him to make sure. He then offered to run the much more accurate ISA test on him to confirm, but cautioned that it would take 24 hours for the results to come back from the lab. We agreed that we needed to know for sure, and authorized the test. The vet also suggested that instead of the cardiologist, we needed a technician to do an ultrasound to confirm the presence of lymphomas (tumors) in his chest and abdomen that the vet had noticed on some of the x-rays. He said he had a technician coming in just after lunch that day for another case, and he would have Ziggy looked at as well.

We immediately went to see our guy. He was lying in the litter box in the oxygen chamber, looking forlorn. He perked up immediately on seeing us and wanted to come out. The vet-tech said they were slowly weaning him off the oxygen and he was progressing well, so they let us open it up and get him out for a bit. He immediately wanted to rub on both of us, trying to say he missed us and was a little scared. But, once he did that for a few minutes, then he wanted to go exploring! I'm sure he had been watching everyone in the clinic, as the front of the oxygen chamber was clear. He was such a curious and social bug, I'm certain he just wanted to see what this place was all about! We obviously did not let him wander off. We spent some time with him, then the day-shift vet came over and talked with us for a bit about the tests, Ziggy's prognosis, and what we thought our next steps might be. The gentleman was very nice to us, and told us how sorry he and the staff were to give us the news about his FIV and FeLV status. We thanked him, and talked for a bit about the ultrasound testing and all the particulars. The vet was then called away on another issue, and we were once more left alone with our Ziggy.

While we were huddled around the oxygen chamber, I noticed there was a fair amount of his fur lying around in it from after they shaved his tummy for the ultrasound. I picked up the few clumps of fur and tucked them into my pocket. I knew my wife would want them at some point.

We then said our good-byes again to him, and went out to our car to go home. After we both sat down in the car, we looked into one another's eyes and broke down. We hugged and cried uncontrollably. Neither one of us wanted it to be true, we wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare and have everything be fine. However, sadly, we also knew in that small, rational part of our brains that was still functioning, that it was a fool's hope. Once I managed to regain some semblance of my composure, I drove us home safely.

The vet contacted us later in the afternoon and said they had confirmed a large mass in his chest that was indeed interfering with his breathing and heart function. He also said that the tech had found a multitude of tumors in his abdomen, and that they had started to invade his intestinal tract. The vet apologized several times for the news and wished he could have given us some hope. We asked how much time he figured Ziggy had left. About a week, was his reply. My wife and I had already made the decision that, if possible, we wanted to bring him home before the end. We felt he deserved to try and enjoy his last few days with us in a comfortable environment. We asked if we could do that, and he replied that we certainly could. The vet then offered that even he felt Ziggy would be better served to be at home with us. He also offered to recommend another vet that could do an at-home euthanasia for Ziggy, when the time came. We both decided to think about that, and asked him to provide the contact info for this vet. We then made the arrangements to come and pick him up from the clinic that afternoon.

When we arrived, they led us to an exam room and asked us to wait as they still needed to remove the catheter they had in his leg to give him medication. As we waited, we talked quietly about what we needed to do when we got home to make him comfortable. The front desk person came in and asked me to step out to the front desk so we could get the final bill taken care of. Almost $1,900 for one day. Wow. But, he was worth every penny of it. As my wife said later, she would have given them everything we had, if it could have fixed all of Ziggy’s problems.

Finally, the tech came in with Ziggy in her arms and gently handed him to my wife, who promptly cried all over him. Ziggy’s eyes were still dilated and he was obviously a little woozy. The tech explained that they had been giving him a very mild sedative to keep him calm as they were working on him, but they had discontinued it shortly before our arrival. It would take 12-16 hours for him to recover fully. I also noticed they had bandaged his leg with a bright blue wrap-around bandage that was designed to only stick to itself. Very clever.

The tech then explained the discharge paperwork to us. It was simple and straightforward, since there was no medication they could give him that would help. They asked us to keep a close eye on him and if he worsened significantly before the end, to bring him back in. They also gave us strict instructions to spoil him and feed him anything he would eat. At this point, he might as well enjoy himself! The tech expressed to us once again how sorry the whole staff was. She commented on what a calm boy he had been, even with all the poking and prodding. She then shared how much they had all come to like Ziggy during his short stay. We thanked her very much for all they had done for him, loaded Ziggy into the carrier and departed.

On our way home, the emotional relief of Ziggy being with us again exposed a new problem...our tummies were both rumbling! After a short discussion we discovered that we hadn’t eaten anything since lunch the day before. Isn’t it funny how stress can do that to you. So, on the way home, we pulled into a drive-in and got some food to take with us. Ziggy thought that process was all very interesting!

Tomorrow…Ziggy’s last days with us.