Thursday, November 16, 2006

Feel free to skip this you don't love cats.

As long as I'm posting cat pictures--here's a picture of my dearly departed boy Payday. Wasn't he handsome? He died last year of histoplasmosis--a hideous lung fungus that preys on those with weakened immune systems. He'd been on prednisone for several years to combat a bad case of kitty IBS. I'm not planning to turn this into a animal rescue blog, but his tale is worth telling, I think, and he's been on my mind. Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of the day I found him.

Payday was a true rescue. I was at work one day in November several years ago when one of our delivery drivers came rushing inside. "There's a kitten laying in the road. I ain't gonna touch it (he's afraid of cats) but I'll loan you my gloves if you want to pick it up." I rushed outside and, sure enough, there was a tiny gray scrap of a kitten in the middle of the road. The temperature was close to freezing, and that pavement was COLD. I scooped him up, and he immediately began to protest. "Mrow, mrow!" Well, he seemed feisty, all right. He had no obvious injuries, but he was shivering to beat the band, and when I peeked inside his mouth, his tongue and gums were nearly chalk white. I quickly asked my boss if I could run him to the vet. "Go, go!" he said. A co-worker pulled off her sweater to wrap him in, called the vet to let them know I was coming, and I was off. As I raced out the door, I turned back to quip "Thank god it's payday." On the way there, I alternately heated the gloves the delivery driver refused to take back ("No, you just keep 'em." They'd touched a CAT, after all.) on my heating vent, and draped them across him. Finally I arrived at the vet, and they rushed him into the exam room.

It turns out his temperature was 92--about 9-10 degrees below normal, and that was AFTER several minutes in a warm car. He had a huge hernia, but other than that nothing that was visible to the naked eye. We agreed on some tests and x-rays, and I returned to work to await the test results. Well, he was hypothermic, obviously, and dehydrated, and his CBC showed that he had less than 1/3 of the blood he should have had. The fleas and intestinal worms had apparently just drained him. He really shouldn't have been alive, much less "mrowing" at me the way he did. He had a slight fracture of the pelvis, and of course, the hernia. "So, what do we do?" I asked. My vet at the time was a very intellectual sort, and fond of the big words. He started reeling off options--blood transfusion, plasma, blah, blah, blah. "Or," he said, "you could try some good old-fashioned nursing and see how it goes." Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

After work, I went to pick him up. I could hear tiny screams coming from the back. "That's your baby," the receptionist said wryly. I took him home, and set up a kitty PICU with a heating pad in one end. For the next couple of days, I fed him special canned food, and squirted Nutrical and Pedialyte in his mouth. (He LOVED the Nutrical, setting up a lifelong addiction to the stuff, inhaling it straight from the tube.) Then one morning, I took him out of the cage and one of his back legs was enormously, cartoonishly swollen. I stopped at the vet on the way to work and was told he was just bruised, and that he'd only just gotten enough fluid in his body to swell. He'd been so dehydrated he couldn't even bruise, folks! I was advised to give him "therapeutic massage" to work the fluid back into his body. "It'll be good for you both," said the wry receptionist. "Nice and relaxing." (And it was. I'd sit in a rocking chair, holding the little scrap, massaging and rocking. "Oh, I can't worry about the laundry now," I'd think. "I'm doing his therapeutic massage.") It was at this point we discovered that his body temperature had now soared well ABOVE normal, and we put him on antibiotics. Yes, his body temperature had been only 92 even WITH a fever. Good lord.

Well, he got better fast from there. Wry Receptionist asked if I was going ahead with my initial plan to "find him a good home." "Sure," I said, "I'll give him to the first person who can correctly fill out my 30-page adoption questionnaire!" No, he was mine at that point. I let him out to join the rest of the household critters, and they all loved him. That never changed--through the years as new animals joined the household, Payday was always their first friend. Such a sweet, simple boy. I think actually he may have been a little brain-damaged from the cold and the lack of blood, but I never minded. He was SWEET.

A few months later, I decided to go to work for a vet I knew who was opening a new clinic. I only stayed there a couple of years, but it was a fortunate move financially, 'cause that free veterinary care sure came in handy with Mr. Payday. We fixed his hernia and neutered him. Then began the ongoing diarrhea adventures. I'll spare you all the gory details, but suffice it to say that there was at least one rectal probe involved, and at one point, we even did a full-out barium series. The only thing that helped him was prednisone. I knew, intellectually, that continued steroid use might cut some years off his life down the line, but we just didn't have any choice.

Sadly, "down the line" turned out to be last year. It took a while to diagnose the problem--it's very rare--and though we tried very hard to get him well, it wasn't to be. The anti-fungal medicine was hampered by the prednisone, but when we took him off the pred, his diarrhea came back and his breathing worsened. It was heart-wrenching. Finally, on Labor Day weekend, he started to wind down. One of the vets was nice enough to meet me at the clinic, and we eased him out of his pain.

I miss him still. I have other cats, and they all do cute things, but they don't do HIS cute things, you know?

Sorry about the long, sad post. But, as I said, he's been on my mind. And hey, it's my blog, after all. If you can't spin a long-winded, melancholy, slightly self-indulgent cat story on your blog, why have one? I know you all understand.


guinness girl said...

Oh, this story broke my heart. When my cat Charley died (okay, he wasn't even MY cat - he was my sister's, and he was living with me at the time) I cried and cried and couldn't stop for weeks. I still get teary just thinking about him. I still cannot face the thought that my Alex will not live forever. Sigh.

lizgwiz said...

Maybe Alex WILL live forever. We can always hope!