Category Archives: pets

Lightning

Lightning wasn’t my cat, he was Nick’s. Well, Nick’s and Linda’s and Athena’s, but Athena is in Spain, and Linda moved to San Francisco, so Lightning became Nick’s to feed and house, although he was still everybody’s to care for.

I first heard Lightning called by name last year (in March, as a matter of fact), when Nick wrote to me about how he wound up with Lightning in the first place:

My cat Lightning… he always smells like dirt. Not in a bad way, I guess he smells more like a dusty barn, which reminds me of home. I always pick him up, hold him in my arms like a baby and put my nose into his chest and sniff him. He’s a big old cat… about 18 pounds and all muscle. I was working in a steel mill in Stockton, Ca. His mom was a shop cat and she caught pregnant. Me and Larry (another guy I worked with) built her a house out of a cardboard box and lined it with rags. We also covered the outside with plastic so the rain wouldn’t get it wet. Anyway, she really liked us and she slept there while she was pregnant. We would feed her and watch out for her. She had her babies and they hung around for a while but all of them left. One night I was on the pay phone outside of the shop talking to my little brother and I kept hearing this really loud “meow!!!” Sure enough there was one of her kittens sitting under a car in the parking lot just meowing his head off. I spent about an hour trying to coax him out, and when I finally did I bought him some milk out of the vending machine and fed him, he fell asleep in my lap. I left him on my desk until the end of shift, put him in the car, and drove him home.

Originally we thought he was grey, but once Linda washed him up we realized he was white. Me and that cat… boy we sure are close.

Nick told me that when he would “boom out” on a job for weeks at a time, Lightning would disappear too, only to come home an hour or so after Nick did. Frankly, can you blame him? Nick gave him milk, and Linda scrubbed him clean in a sink full of water. Both are gestures of love, but to a cat, one is tasty and the other is… a sink full of water.

Lightning was an outdoor cat, obviously. A white outdoor cat. With pink ears and a pink nose, exposed to the sun all day. Now you and I, we know about UV rays and SPF and all that. But I dare you to explain it to a cat. Over time, Lightning developed skin cancer. The vet was able to surgically trim Lightning’s ears a little shorter to eliminate some of it, but not all. Ointments were prescribed, but anyone who’s had a cat knows how futile that endeavor is. And, after being able to roam around his whole life, keeping him indoors would kill his spirit, if not his body. So the cancer spread. By January, he was pretty sick. His nose was always running, and his ears had become a mass of scabs, which itched, so Lightning would scratch at them, thus continuing the cycle. Every day was a fresh wound. But those were “cosmetic” problems. Nick wrote,

Lightning even looked a little more bright eyed than he has in the past few days… I don’t get him. He’s definitely sick, sicker than I’ve ever seen him, but he likes to be petted and his purr-box is running strong! […] Yesterday, it was just me, Lightning, and Thumpkin in the house. We all split a can of tuna fish… It was purr-box and drool city, yo!

He didn’t go outside anymore, by his own choice, but preferred to spend his days on the back of the sofa or easy chair, or, if the dog was in the house, safely behind the television. His nights were spent curled up on Nick’s bed.

Nick warned me, before I was to meet Lightning in person, that he looked “gross.” In my head, I was picturing a white cat whose ears were covered in scabs. And that’s exactly what I got, although the reality of it was nonetheless startling. He was white, except for where blood had recently dripped or spattered. His nose looked as though it had melted somewhat. His ears… his ears. Wow. They were black with layer upon layer of dried blood. They looked sort of like marshmallows that have caught fire during toasting. And left to burn. I’m a cat person, but Lightning was difficult to look at, let alone think about developing a relationship with. And yet, within a very short time, he captured my heart. He was clearly nervous about this New Tall Animal in his house, but he slowly approached me and let me pet him (although nowhere near his tender ears, which was, frankly, fine by me). Wow, was he ever soft. Like rabbit fur. In a minute, he was quietly purring. I spent the weekend skritching him and avoiding his head bonks, in part because I didn’t want to accidentally reopen a wound, and in part because, well, euw. Nick tried to clean up Lightning with a warm washcloth. Lightning, of course, would have none of it.

Like Nick said, Lightning’s purr-box was strong, and his eyes were bright. It was easy to forget that this was merely the surface effect of a cancer that was ravaging him from the inside. I pleaded for Nick to take him to the vet for more ear trimming, but Nick, living with this day in and day out, knew the reality of the situation. I was convinced that an Elizabethan collar would protect Lightning’s ears long enough for the wounds to heal properly, and stop the constant bleeding. When the steady blood loss started to physically take its toll on Lightning, Nick went out on a fruitless search for a collar in the hopes that my crazy idea might have some merit. Hearing that he couldn’t find one, I went on my own search, but was sorely disappointed in the available options. Plastic cones that would cause an echo and hinder Lightning’s ability to duck behind the TV weren’t what I had in mind. Soft collars that were, in my opinion, too thick and padded, like wearing a life jacket around your head. Perhaps appropriate for a large dog, but not scaled well for cats. So I decided to make my own. I must have been in JoAnn Fabrics for an hour, selecting and reselecting my materials and plotting a pattern in my head. I spoke with the gal at the cutting counter, and together, we revised my idea once more. Finally, armed with ripstop nylon, Peltex, fleece binding tape, and Velcro, I set off to make The Perfect Collar.

I did the best I could, but I still haven’t figured out how to cleanly machine-stitch along a bias. And two layers of fleece, two of nylon, and a heavy-duty layer of Peltex make for some wonky seams. Still, when all was said and done, I thought Lightning would approve. Okay, I thought he’d hate it, but if he only knew the options, he’d have to change his mind. Maybe Nick could add some patches or studs to “coolify” the collar to better match Lightning’s tough-guy stature. I popped it in the mail on Friday, for Monday delivery

On Saturday, Lightning stopped eating. He took up residence in a cardboard box left in the living room. He was having trouble breathing. He soiled his box. Nick found him a new, clean box, and said Lightning was just skin and bones when he transferred him. By Sunday night, Nick had to make a very difficult decision. At first, he wasn’t going to tell me, but he knew I’d be upset, and I’m sure it helped him to share the burden. Together, we wept.

The appointment was at noon on Monday. Late enough for Nick and I to talk, and grieve a little, and secretly harbor just a small flicker of hope that the vet would offer a viable alternate plan. Late enough for Nick to do the same with Linda. Late enough for Nick and Lightning to spend some time together. Late enough for the mail to arrive. For which I’m thankful, I suppose. I think it would hurt that much more to come home from the vet’s office and see that last-ditch effort to stall the inevitable.

The vet agreed that it was time. The staff treated both Nick and Lightning with care and compassion. Lightning went out snoring and, finally, without pain.

If only they could take away the pain left behind.

3 Comments

Filed under doctors and dentists, friends, pets, sewing

love

I haven’t written in a while. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve already noticed this. Not that my blog was ever “about” anything, but I’ve felt as though I have even less to add these days. I’m picking up the odd design job here and there, and busying myself with jewelry-making in between. I’ve been experimenting with new materials, since, outside of the pet tags, nothing seems particularly popular with the masses. And the dog tags? I don’t make a dime on them. Even if I kept the “profit” portion of their price for myself, it would be tough to live on $2 a month.

My usual flurry of Halloween activity was tempered this year. Halfway through my second costume, I just gave up. I didn’t care about it. I was relieved that I already had one finished, but to be completely honest, that one wouldn’t have come together without the dedicated assistance of Megan doing my hair at the last minute. (I did have a great time helping Megan and Joe decorate for their party, and while I know they think that I was doing them a favor, it is I who really appreciate spending all of those days with them.)

In August, I finally started sewing Butterick 4790. I bunged up my sewing machine, and spent hours/days trying to figure out how to affordably fix it. Finally, with some ingenuity (and a metal kebab skewer) I was able to clear out enough thread from the innards to start sewing again. My (single) costume dress was back on, and it came out rather well if I may say so myself (very forgiving material) but that Walk-Away dress is still unfinished. And will likely remain so. I love the chrysanthemum fabric I chose for the front panel, but I went too cheap on the wrap-around solid, and I just don’t want to work with it. Even if I liked the fabric, I am faced with stitching on 300 yards of bias tape. Ugh.

Yesterday, things were picking up. I successfully made myself a cup of tea, AND drank it before it got cold. I’ve been typing out, longhand, a 13-chapter story, one chapter at a time, for a friend, and I managed to find an entire chapter already online. Copy-and-paste! I finally got myself started with my Blue Book, so I could be an informed voter AND still vote early. The beads that I had ordered specifically for an exclusive bracelet design being sold at an online shop FINALLY came in. I swapped some good email with a potential client, and worked on a business card design for another. I cleaned up a section of the kitchen, which has become my cluttered food-prep-and-jewelry studio.

And then the tape came loose. Megan called. In and of itself, unusual. The middle of the afternoon only made it more so. It turns out that their oldest, tiniest, sweetest cat was sick. Very sick. Always plagued with respiratory issues, Wheezer’s breathing had been getting more labored. She had just taken him into the vet, and some cells had been swabbed for testing. He was scared, not feeling well, test results weren’t back yet, and Megan and her husband were supposed to be leaving for vacation on Friday morning. Assuring them that staying home wouldn’t help our dear fuzzy friend get any better, I agreed to stay with him in their home so he wouldn’t have to be kenneled while they were gone. I was nervous about the possibility of the prognosis being Not Good on my watch, but I love that little guy like my own and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him (and my friends). Besides, the vet have given three possible diagnoses, so statistically, things would probably be okay. I’d pick up some meds and take care of whatever needed caring.

A few hours later, Joe called, and the bottom fell out. He and Megan had gone back to the vet’s to pick up our little pal, but the vet had assessed the situation with more observation and test results, and my friends had a very difficult decision to make. It wasn’t so much a choice as it was a necessary kindness, but that doesn’t make the pain any easier to swallow.

Too soon, I am again left with a hole in my heart that aches for my friends’ loss, knowing that there isn’t a damn thing I can do. This time, that loss feels more personal, because of the relationship that little Wheezer had with everyone who ever walked into his house. Every person he ever met was his best friend, and possessed his most comfortable lap in which to sleep. His only emotion was contentment. I am consoled by the fact that his last weekend was spent in a houseful of hands ready and willing to pet him, an assortment of laps to test, and that so many people, though they didn’t know it, got a chance to say good-bye. I am glad that I stole a few minutes to laugh and play with him on Friday when I should have been setting up more décor, and glad that he slept at my feet, wheezing of course, when the party was all over.

Wheezer brought love with him wherever he went, and no matter how much he gave away, he always had more. His capacity for love was bigger than his physical size. It filled him, spilled out, and if you sat still long enough, it would fill you, too. I hope I can learn from him.

6 Comments

Filed under blogging, cute and fuzzy bunny, friends, Halloween, jewelry, pets, sewing

Furminator 2: Secondary Review

Thursday was my second night of Fur Madness. Using a more “enthusiastic” method as recommended by Ms. Britches in the comments to yesterday’s post, I was able to remove a larger quantity of fur from the Happy Cat.

Review: The removed fur still suffers greatly from loose, fluffy, static-yness. Great tufts of it stick to the cat. I’m not sure that two nights of Furminating removed any more fur than the slicker brush would have, although Test Cat does seem less shedderrific. How much loose fur he manages to create by tomorrow remains to be seen. Of note: Test Cat thoroughly enjoyed the new brushing style. Secondary Test Cat was still nonplussed with the idea.

3 Comments

Filed under pets

Fur-meh-nator

A couple of weeks ago, I had a group of friends over to watch the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. Now, a group of people in the house, as far as one of my cats is concerned, only means that many more hands available for petting and scritching. And this would be, of course, the cat that sheds. As the fur flew about, human conversation turned to various pet brushes. Marge, Binky, and I talked about the Furminator, and I vowed to buy one for myself.

Last weekend, I went to PetSmart. HOLY CRAP, they want $38 friggin’ dollars for a CAT BRUSH?! Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s a satisfaction guarantee. And the packaging shows all sorts of deshedding success. What really sold me, though, was my own friend’s testimonial. Still, though… $38…

Dave was with me, and within seconds had checked Amazon’s site from his nifty iPhone. $22 for the same model, plus free 2-day shipping for those of us with Amazon Prime. Oh, right, and I won a $5 Amazon credit through Blingo! Score! Okay, I’ll buy that brush for $17. It’s still three times the price of my other cat brush, but this thing is supposed to be the shiznit, right?

The Furminator arrived Wednesday, and I “unboxed” it as soon as I got home. Heeeeeere, kitty kitty kitty! Come here and get Furminated! Brush, brush, brush. Brush, brush, brush. Bruuuuuuuuush brushbrushbrushbrush.

Results: The Furminator removed the same amount of fur as my slicker brush, if not less, before the cat decided he didn’t like it and could he please be excused? The slicker brush never resulted in such a reaction. The Furminator is a lot easier to clean; but the tiny, fluffy bits of fur pick up in the air current and fly about. The slicker brush makes little hair mats, for lack of a better description. Much easier to dispose of.

I will give it another go tonight. If the cat is still shedding a half-pound of fur, and I achieve the same brushing results, I will look further into that satisfaction guarantee.

7 Comments

Filed under pets